Posts Tagged ‘Writing’

New Year’s Resolutions 2018

Thursday, January 11th, 2018

Each year, I try to write down my New Year’s Resolutions…and instead of shrinking, the list seems to be expanding each year! I find that writing down goals makes one more accountable for them.

Anyhow, without further ado, here are my writing-related resolutions for 2018:

  • Draft one book per month. I still want to achieve this, and one year, I will. If it’ll be this year… we’ll see. Either way, getting to focus on new content each month allows me to be more creative and to get inspired faster. The best way for me to write books is still to fast draft them, so this is still the way to go for me.
  • Write 2k a day Monday-Friday. This isn’t a hard rule, it’s more of a guideline. If I aim for about 2k words a day, then I can finish a book in a month. It’s not a hard rule, though, so as long as I achieve the previous goal, I’m happy.
  • Write one short story a week. I always fail this, even though I love writing short stories. Well, this year that will hopefully change. I already have a short I need to write for Ghost Slayer, so that’s a fun way to get started.
  • Finish editing A Study in Shifters, the first book in The Adventures of Marisol Holmes series (round four of edits, almost there!)
  • Complete the first draft of The Sign of The Serpent, the second book in The Adventures of Marisol Holmes series.
  • Work on edits for The Sign of The Serpent.
  • Complete the first draft of the third book in The Adventures of Marisol Holmes series (no title yet).
  • Keep up with blogging regularly, at least 2 times a week.
  • Update my website with my new books and upcoming books.

Those are a lot of goals! Wow. I hope I get to complete them all. Did you set any writing goals (or other goals) for 2018?

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GIE reads at Arisia!

Wednesday, January 10th, 2018

Hello, my pretties! This weekend, I’ll be a guest author and panelist at the Arisia sci-fi/fantasy/fandom convention in Boston, MA.

I can’t recommend this con enough! There’s tons to do and see, from hundreds of panels on writing, science fiction, fantasy, anime, fandom, publishing, lifestyle, crafting, filking, and science! to amazing events like DJ Xero’s Dance Party and the costume Masquerade to the Art Show and Dealers’ Room.

As for me, I’m on a number of panels, and I have my first reading in a looooong time–since I presented my thesis at Seton Hill back in <koff! koff!>2011. I’m excited (and nervous!) I haven’t yet decided whether I’ll read from MORIBUND or from the upcoming Moribund prequel novella, DERAILED.

I’ll also have copies of MORIBUND to sign and give away. Come say hi!

Here’s my schedule:

Saturday, January 13

7pm – Young Adult Fantasy Reading @ Hale (3W)

10pm – No Safe Words: Writing Erotica 18+ @ Douglas (3W)

 

Sunday, January 14

10am – Writing Realistic Young Adult Fiction @ Adams (3W)

1 pm – Policing Diverse Creators @ Marina 1 (2E)

4pm – Fight Science for Writers — Hands-On Demos @ Otis (2W)

7pm – Ask an Editor: Five Minute Critiques @ Alcott (3W)

Hope to see y’all there!
~GIE

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Looking back on 2017

Thursday, January 4th, 2018

Now 2017 has come and gone, I like to reflect on the past year, and see what I’ve accomplished in the past year, and not just writing related, but in general.

  • My boyfriend and I bought a piece of land, and next year we’re going to start building our house on there. We already have an architect lined up who finished some draft versions of our plans for the house. I’m so glad we’re taking this next step of building a house together.
  • We adopted a new cat, Teigetje. While our first cat (Snoebels) didn’t really get along with Teigetje at first, they’re best friends now. And they’re so adorable when they’re playing together.
  • I found a job as Legal Counsel, and I really love my job so far. Having a steady job is huge, especially if we’re going to build a house, and the work hours allow me to combine this job with writing.
  • My best friends and I went to Disneyland in Paris, and it was an amazing holiday. I’ve only visited Disneyland once, when I was a kid, and it was wonderful to go back after all this time.
  • And of course, I signed with Monster House Books (yaaay!) and got to write my first book for them, A Study in Shifters, which will release this year (2018!).

Those are some huge steps forward, and I hope 2018 is as productive, challenging (but in a good way) and exciting as 2017 was.

And to you, dear readers of this blog post, I wish you the very best in 2018! Happy New Year!

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From the Editor’s Desk: GIE’s 5 Writing Protips

Thursday, December 21st, 2017

Every year at this time, I do a year in review where I take a hard look at my writing process and look for ways to improve. This year, I’m sharing those insights with you, my pretties!

I’ve hit on five basic elements that can vastly improve your writing, whether you’re a pro or a beginner.

My Top 5 Takeaways for 2017 are:

 

1. Have Daily Goals

I’ve said it before, but I cannot stress how important daily goals are. Writing daily not only helps you break that 50,000 word manuscript into smaller, manageable chunks, it also develops connections in your conscious and subconscious mind–connections that will keep your work fresh and help you solve the problems of plotting and planning that naturally come up during the writing process.

Plus, it saves you time in the long run. With your work fresh in your mind, you don’t have to start “cold,” and review every time you sit down to write.

Protip: After a writing session, leave yourself a brief note on where to pick up for the next day. 

 

2. Write Your Back Cover Copy First

To clarify, the back cover copy (BCC) is the blurb on the back of the book that tells you what the book is about in 2-4 short paragraphs. The BCC tells you the Who, What, When, and Why of your story.

Write this first because the BCC is the essence of your story distilled down to its most component parts. Writing it first will clarify the story question and keep you from going off the rails into scenes that don’t forward the plot.

Protip: Keep your BCC close. Print it and post it near your computer. Refer back to it, especially when you get lost or feel unmotivated. 

 

3. Keep Going!

If you’re anything like me, you know how tempting it is to stop at a difficult point in the manuscript. Maybe you have to hurt your main character (MC), and you’re dreading writing that scene. So what do you do? You convince yourself it’s okay to go back to that first chapter and tweak it here and there.

Don’t. This way lies madness, and it’s largely a waste of time. You’ll need to revise those beginning chapters in your next draft anyway.

Keep going! Pushing ahead through difficult scenes will reveal amazing revelations about your characters, your plot, and your story in general.

Protip: If it’s a tough scene, write out a short summary: MC loses the big game, his boyfriend breaks up with him, and it rains on the way home and push on! 

 

4. The “What it Says/What it Does” Outline

Once you have a completed draft, go back through the manuscript. For each chapter, write down two things: 1. What it Says and 2. What it Does.

What it Says is essentially what, exactly, happens in the chapter. For instance, in Chapter One of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, you might write:

As an infant, young Harry is dropped off at the Dursleys, a Muggle home where he will be safe. Hagrid expresses concern, but Dumbledore assures Hagrid that Harry will be all right.

Now let’s look at What it Does:

This scene touches on Harry’s mysterious background. It establishes sympathy for Harry, who is an orphan and foreshadows his eventual return to the wizarding world. It introduces the characters of Hagrid and Dumbledore.

Why do this? Because the What it Says establishes the arc of the story, and the What it Does is an excellent place to see where you have repetition–the doom of any story.

Protip: Combine repetitious scenes or eliminate the weaker scene and keep the stronger. 

 

5. Learn From Your Process

Many people track their word count, and that’s great! But truly excellent writers track their process. That is, they look at every element of their writing–their progress, their writing habits, their successes and failures–and they learn from each.

Do you have more success when you write in the morning? Do you have a lot of interruptions? Does it take you three drafts to layer in the external arc? Are you consistently making your goals? Missing them? Is your dialogue well written? Do you have too little white space on the page? Do you have issues with pacing?

Taking a hard look at questions like these, and addressing them, is the best way to improve as a writer.

Protip: Having a critique group at every level of your draft is invaluable to analyzing your process. 

And that’s all for now, my pretties! I hope you found these insights helpful.

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Happy holidays!

~GIE

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NaNoWriMo: Preptober Week 4

Wednesday, October 25th, 2017

Hello, my pretties, and welcome back to NaNoWriMo: Preptober planning! If you missed an earlier post, have no fear! Here are some helpful links:

Week 1: Preplanning

Week 2: The Who, What & Where of Your Novel

Week 3: Outlining Your Novel

And now, for Week 4! We’re in the home stretch, so this post will focus on the practicality of writing, creating a habit that will get you in the chair every day for thirty days.

Because remember: butt + chair = productivity.

1. Break it Down

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: 50,000 words in thirty days is a huge task. The best way to tackle it is to break it down into smaller, manageable chunks.

Breaking out (and dusting off) my handy calculator, I note that this translates to 1666.66 words/day. I recommend rounding that up to 1700 words/day or about 5.5 pages. This gives you a 1000 word cushion because, yes, my pretties, you will have some days when you write 2500+ words like a freaking goddess and other days where you’re struggling to get 10 words on the screen/page.

And you know what? That’s perfectly normal. I’ve written 7 novels and 1 novella now, and that’s been my daily experience. Having daily goals helps me let go of my disappointment if I don’t hit goal every day. With some days better and some days worse, it’ll all come out in the wash.

But yes, it does mean writing every single day, which is good, because even more important than getting your 50K novel written, NaNo is best for creating a habit of writing.

So lock in those daily goals and track them somewhere you can see your progress at a glance. I use this Writing & Revision Tracker by Jamie Raintree. It’s worth the cheap price, and it will tally your productivity through the whole year. I love it.

If you’re not into high tech, a simple notebook or Bullet Journal will do.

2. Butt in Chair

Carving out writing time can be a serious challenge because a lot of us are super busy. The best way to do this is to look closely at your daily schedule and make a change.

Do you linger in bed for a half hour, looking at your phone? Do you spend hours on FaceBook? Are you level gajillion in your fave RPG? Are you binge-watching Netflix?

Use that time to write instead.

Get up early. Stay up late. Miss your favorite TV show. Get off FaceBook. Do you want people to remember that you Liked their page 10,000 times or that you wrote that awesome book they loved?

3. Turn off the Inner Editor

Okay, so you have your daily goals and your butt is in the chair. You’re staring at that blank page, and it is intimidating you the way Darth Vader intimidates Death Star employees. Your inner editor is telling you how much you suck, that your writing’s no good.

What now? 

Relax. Turn on some music that inspires you. Light a scented candle. Take a few deep breaths. Go over your outline.

Most importantly, let go of the idea of writing perfectly. Give yourself permission to suck. Give yourself permission to write crap. 

No writer, not even the most famous, most talented writer gets it right on the first try. You may have heard that “perfect is the enemy of good.” That’s more true than I can say.

More importantly, you can’t edit a blank page. And NaNo isn’t about creating a perfect bestselling novel right out of the gate. It’s about gathering your materials, getting the bones of your story down, shoveling sand into the sandbox so you can build sandcastles later.

So shovel away, my pretties. Silence the inner editor and let the words flow. Even when they suck.

4. Shut Out Those Distractions

You’ve probably also heard that writing is 10% getting words on a page and 90% staying off the Internet. This is also true. We have a million distractions at our fingertips every day. Cell phones, Internet access, TV, family, work…

First, I use noise-canceling headphones to cocoon myself in music. Not only does this close out unwanted sounds, it also signals to others in my vicinity that I don’t want to be engaged. Even if you don’t actually listen to music, have the headphones in, especially if you write at the local Starbucks.

The rest is about looking shrewdly at your habits and changing them.

  • Do you check your phone incessantly? Leave it on your nightstand.
  • Do you check the Internet all the time? Use Write or Die or another program that shuts you out of your fave sites.
  • Do you have trouble focusing? Break up your writing sessions into sprints. I use the Pomodoro technique, which breaks up your sessions into 25 minutes of work with a 5 minute break. This allows you to stretch, freshen up your coffee (tea for me!), hit the bathroom, check to make sure the kids aren’t playing Hunger Games… You know, normal stuff.

Getting rid of those distractions is key to productivity, and who knows? Less time on the Internet might just be a good thing, too.

5. Keeping motivation high

You might find that the first few days you’re really excited, and it’s easy to get motivated, but then, as the month plods onward, you realize what a lot of writers already know:

Writing is super isolating! There’s no one to pat you on the back, no one to loom over you and make sure you’re hitting your goals. It’s just you, baby. And that can be hard.

That’s where NaNo really excels. NaNoWriMo has an entire community you can engage with. From pep talks by famous authors like Neil Gaiman and Charlaine Harris to forums to special events, there’s enough here for introverts and extroverts, plotters and pantsers alike.

One of my personal tricks when motivation is low is to watch short scenes that inspire me. Those climactic battles, tear-jerker endings, heartfelt admissions. I find that reminding myself of the story moments I love helps motivate me to go write my own.

You can also try things like: taking a walk, working out, taking a shower, drawing, coloring–any endeavor where your body can move and your subconscious can be free to just…drift.

All right, my pretties! That’s all for now. I hope these posts have helped make your Preptober the best one yet!

If there’s a topic you’d like me to cover in NaNo November, drop me a line here, and I’ll do my level best.

Slán go fóill!

~GIE

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NaNoWriMo: Preptober Week 3

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017

Welcome back, my pretties, to Preptober: Week 3! Last week, we discussed the who, what, and where of your story–your main character (MC), their Goals, Motivations, and Conflicts, and how to detail your setting.

This week, we’ll go a little deeper into the what. Namely, what happens in your book, the plot.

But first, it’s good to know that there are two basic different types of writers: plotters and pantsers. Like it sounds, plotters plot out their “what happens,” while pantsers dive right in, writing away until their plot becomes evident. They “fly by the seat of their pants,” as it were.

Full disclosure: I’m a plotter with pantsing tendencies. That is, I plot heavily, using a structured outline, but if/when my characters diverge from that, I let them. Especially in the early drafting stages.

Why am I telling you this? Because my Week 3 is mostly about plotting. If that’s not your jam, don’t worry! There are plenty of articles out there for pantsing like this one from Janalyn Voight.

All righty, plotters, get ready.

Step 1: Write the short version

Through much trial and error, I’ve found that having a one-sentence pitch or summary is a great way to stay on track. It condenses your story, distilling it into its component parts.

So, write this first! In the dark of night, when you’re out in the weeds with your plot, you can come back to this to remind yourself “What in the heck am I writing again?”

I use the following template:

When [OPENING CONFLICT] happens to [MAIN CHARACTER], they have to [OVERCOME CONFLICT] to [COMPLETE QUEST].

Let’s try it for a few well-known books:

When Katniss Everdeen volunteers for the inhumane and violent Hunger Games to save her sister, she finds herself a pawn in the corrupt Capitol’s plan to pit teenagers against each other in a brutal game of death.

When Harry Potter finds out he’s no ordinary boy but a famous wizard, he must master the classes at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to fight the world’s most deadly and infamous evil wizard, Voldemort.

See? I told you it works. 😉

If you’re having trouble with this, go back to Preptober: Week 2 and review.

Another great side effect is that you can use the one-sentence summary to query agents, publishers, editors, etc. Also, say goodbye to dreading the question, “What’s your story about?” Now when someone asks, you have a ready-made answer!

Step 2: Outline

I know, it sounds like a horrible waste of time. I promise you, it’s not. To “win” NaNoWriMo, you have to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Even the most professional writer needs help to stay on task at that rate!

There are many different ways to outline, and I’ve found it’s more of a personal choice than anything else. Here are some of my favorites:

1. Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat: A bit dated, but this book on screen-writing is invaluable for breaking down story into its necessary “beats.” Its easy to read and concise, and the website has beat sheets from several famous movies like Guardian of the Galaxy, Jaws, E.T., and many other movies.

Save the Cat is what I use, but try it out for yourself. Every writer is different, and your mileage may vary.

2. Donald Maass’s Writing the Breakout Novel: This novel from an industry expert details all the necessary elements of a next-level story–from emotional impacts to universal appeals and ways to make your story rise above the crowd. There’s also acompanion workbook with exercises.

3. Robert McKee’s Story: A lot of people swear by this book, which is why I’m including it. McKee breaks down story structure and character and how they relate. Very intensive and exhaustive.

In addition to these fine sources, there are tons of sites and blogs about NaNo outlining like this one from Sofia Wren on using postcards to plot out your characters, setting, etc.

No matter what outlining style you use, there are a few things to remember when plotting your story:

 

1. Remember your favorite books? Chances are, the characters were interesting and dynamic, and the plot was filled with dramatic, memorable events

2. To hook readers, use universal emotions: love, hate, jealousy, hope, anger, fear, etc. Readers relate easiest to characters who feel the things they do.

3. Don’t be afraid to hurt your character. A story in which nothing bad happens isn’t much of a story.

4. Have internal AND external conflict. A story with only internal conflict will seem to happen only in the MC’s head while a story with only external conflict will make a character feel emotionally distant. Ask: what does the MC stand to lose–emotionally and physically? To gain?

5. Don’t be afraid to be original. This is often the challenge of writing–how do you create something original yet also appropriate for your genre? You learn the rules of your genre, and then you break them. Purposefully.

6. Keep tension rising. In Star Wars, notice how Luke fights Tusken raiders, then stormtroopers, and only AFTER THAT, he fights Darth Vader. If he fought Vader first, the rest would seem anticlimactic. The same goes for your story–keep the action rising, the stakes rising, and the tension will rise as a result.

 

And that’s plotting in a nutshell. Go forth and conquer, my pretties!

Slán go fóill!

~GIE

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NaNoWriMo: Preptober Week 2

Wednesday, October 11th, 2017

Hello, my pretties, and welcome back to Preptober: Week 2!

Last week, we went over a few things to prepare you for diving into NaNoWriMo on November 1st. This week, I’ll talk about my own process for outlining and developing a novel.

And now the obligatory credentials post: I’m a senior editor for a romance e-publisher, and I’ve helped hundreds of authors design, develop, and outline their novels.

I find it’s helpful to start basic: with the who, what, and where of your novel.

 

1. Who is the story about?

Every story needs a protagonist/main character (MC), and this is a great first step in planning. Designing your MC can help you nail other details down, too. As you develop her, you’ll naturally answer some questions that can be great fodder for conflict and development.

Let’s get started.

If you’re anything like me, it helps to have a few pictures for reference. I find working from a picture can give me things beyond a character’s appearance. It can inspire attitude, wit, strengths–three of the things that make your MC stand out.

My default is Pinterest, and you can see some of my Pinterest boards for Syl Skye, Rouen Rivoche, and other characters from CIRCUIT FAE here.

Once I have my picture, I start asking questions like the ones below. Feel free to skip questions entirely or skip and come back to them.

The idea is to kickstart your creative brainstorming by creating a “character sheet.”

Here are some of the questions I ask:

  1. What is her occupation? Does she enjoy this?
  2. Where was she born? Parents? Siblings?
  3. Where does she live? Does she like it there?
  4. Physical Description: What does she look like?
  5. How do her friends see her? Her enemies?
  6. Who are her friends? Her enemies? Why?
  7. Who are your real-life or fictional inspirations for this MC?
  8. What are her strengths?
  9. What are her weaknesses?
  10. What quirks does she have?
  11. What does she have to overcome in the story?
  12. Does she have a love interest?
  13. How is she better when she’s with her love interest?
  14. What’s keeping them apart?
  15. Describe her bedroom from her point of view (POV)
  16. Add any question you deem important

 

The goal is to create a memorable MC with strengths, weaknesses, quirks, wants, desires, and conflicts to overcome. To keep the reader’s interest, your MC must be interesting and out of the ordinary in some way, however small. 

For more on in-depth character creation, I recommend Donald Maass’s Writing the Breakout Novel.

 

2. What is your story about?

This one can be tough to lock down, but I find that if you’ve done your homework above, some of this is already taking shape, especially if you are writing a character-driven novel.

The “what” will be shaped by your MC’s Goals, Motivations, and Conflicts (GMCs).

This can be boiled down to three questions:

Goals: What does the MC want?

Motivations: Why does she want it?

Conflicts: What’s keeping her from getting it? 

 

Take Luke Skywalker in Star Wars: A New Hope

Goals: To join the Academy

Motivations: Tatooine is hella boring

Conflicts: His aunt/uncle need him on the farm

 

I know what you’re thinking: Luke’s GMCs change as the story progresses. That’s true! And it’s perfectly all right. As an MC grows, he’s bound to change. Thus, his GMCs change. For now, though, worry about starting GMCs.

NOTE: the more “universal” you can make your MC’s GMCs, the easier you’ll snag the reader’s sympathy/empathy. So use universal emotions: love, hate, fear, jealousy, desire, honor, sorrow, etc.

I’ve always said, No one wakes up in the morning and says, “I’m going to save the world today!” No. Luke wants to go to the Academy, to follow in his father’s footsteps. This is something most people understand. It’s also what leads him to saving the world.

Likewise, Rey wants to find her family, to find acceptance, to survive. Bilbo just wants to be able to have second breakfast in peace.

So, for GMCs, universal emotions are best. Your MC’s GMCs will form the backbone of your plot.

 

3. Where is it set? The time and place

Setting is super important! A good setting is like a character in and of itself, and it’s good to have a bead on this early on.

Again, go back to your character sheet. Have you designed a plucky space pilot? A New York caterer? A down and out gumshoe? An MMA fighter? A dark Fae exiled from her people? Likely, details from your character sheet will inform the type of setting you’ll want.

In addition, if you’ve done your reading-in-the-genre homework, you’ll have a good idea of what settings your genre supports. But don’t be afraid to mix it up! While many fantasies are set in a secondary world like Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, others are set in near-modern times like Clare’s The Mortal Instruments.

The important part is to choose a setting the MC can have opinions and feelings about. The setting isn’t going to have dialogue. It’s not going to be overt. It’s subtle, and we learn about it THROUGH the MC.

Thus, we learn that Tatooine is desolate, sandy, and boring because Luke experiences it like that. Plus, it INFORMS his character and lets us relate to him. Being on Tatooine with him, we also long for excitement. That’s why maybe we don’t feel so bad when Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru get turned into crispy critters–because we know we’ll be leaving boring old Tatooine for adventure!

All righty! You should have your who, what, where now. Come back next week for bringing those together to drive your plot and conflict.

 

Slán go fóill!

~GIE

 

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The Adventures of Marisol Holmes: Writing Tough Scenes

Thursday, October 5th, 2017

Today’s post is a little different. Rather than sharing trivia with you about the shifters appearing in The Adventures of Marisol Holmes, I wanted to touch upon a more difficult subject. Writing tough scenes.

Sometimes, scenes are tough because you struggle while writing them. Action scenes are often like that. You need to visualize what the characters are doing, the way they move, what they do at presicely what moment. As such, for a lot of authors, action scenes are difficult to write. But today I’m not talking about scenes that are difficult to write because they’re complicated… I’m talking about writing scenes that are tough to write because writing them… hurts.

While editing A Study in Shifters, I had to add in a scene that features Marisol Holmes and her father, and the scene hit close to home for me. Without giving away spoilers, in the scene Marisol and her dad pretend to be Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. It was tough for me to write that because it reminded me a lot about my own father.

My father passed away when I was seven years old. My fondest memories of him were when we played “Robin Hood”. Whenever we played that, I was Robin Hood, and my father played just about every other role there was: the evil Prince John, Robin Hood’s sidekick Little John, and a bunch of other characters we came up with.

Writing that scene with Marisol Holmes and her father, reminded me so much of what I used to play with my own father, that it really hurt to write that. It hurt, but at the same time, it also made me happy, because people able to conjure up the fondest memories you have of a person, and then being able to incorporate them into a story, is a wonderful way to honor a person. I’m sure my father would’ve agreed with that. He loved books and always encouraged me to read and write.

Even though it’s been twenty years since my father passed away, it makes me happy to know the memories of the person he was still inspire me, and that he’s still close to me, even now.

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How to Deal With Rejection

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017

As a senior editor for a romance e-publisher, oftentimes, my job is to disappoint hopeful authors, to tell them that their work is not up to par.

I often joke that my job is to tell people their book baby is ugly.

As an author, I know how criticism and rejection can sting. I know the knee-jerk reaction to call that agent, that editor, that publisher a stupid stupidface who doesn’t understand you, your work, the genre, anything.

I get it. I really do.

As writers, we’re passionate about our work! And I think it’s okay to experience that knee-jerk reaction.

With a few caveats.

1. Never, never, never vent in public. ESPECIALLY not on social media. Not even for a second. Not even if you take it down in the next five minutes.

I can guarantee you someone somewhere has a screenshot, and that outburst will come back to haunt you forever.

Why? Because it makes you look like an unprofessional jerk. Rejection and criticism are part and parcel of writing. If you can’t stand the heat, don’t expect your writing to be well-forged.

So vent in private–in private emails, messages, and groups–and only to your Circle of Trust.

2. After you’re done venting in private, go back to the rejection letter and really read it. Look at what it says and what it doesn’t say.

These people are professionals in their field. They’ve read extensively in your genre. They’re also overworked as hell. If they are taking their time to offer you good, solid critique, seriously consider taking it.

Make something out of it.

3. If you find you’re getting rejected a lot, I highly recommend a critique group or beta readers who: a) know your genre and b) will give you honest feedback.

As tempting as it may be to ask your best friend or your mom or your SO to read your work, they may not be the best person. A good crit partner or beta reader is someone who doesn’t have a vested interest in making you happy, but will give you the good with the bad in a detailed and constructive way.

Why do I recommend this? Oftentimes, we can’t see the flaws because we’re so close to the work. Oftentimes, it will take the author 3-4 drafts to figure out a problem when simply talking it out with a crit partner can provide far quicker results.

Not to mention: many of the stories I’ve rejected were ones where the author clearly, clearly, clearly did not have even one person read the work before sending it off to me.

Do you really want that acquisitions editor to be the first one to read your book?

Spoiler alert: No. No you don’t.

As with any advice, your mileage may vary here. Becoming a successful writer is a different path for everyone. I hope my advice helps you on your way!

Slán go fóill!

~GIE

 

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What Makes a Pro?

Wednesday, May 24th, 2017

In my role as an author and editor, I am often asked, what do I consider to be the hallmarks of a professional writer? How do you tell the pros from the amateurs? And most importantly, how do you become a pro?

So, I’ve compiled this non-exhaustive-but-pretty-darn-close list based on my personal experiences and interactions on both sides of the publishing industry—author side and editor side.

Being a professional writer means:

  • Being creative when you’re down or sick or hungover or having a bad day.
  • Pushing words onto the page even when they suck. A pro writer knows you can’t edit a blank page.
  • Setting daily goals. Butt + chair = productivity
  • Meeting daily goals. Pros create a habit of writing, and the notion that pro writers spend all their time surfing the internet is largely inaccurate.
  • Writing in the small spaces– in the checkout line, in the bathroom, at an Idina Menzel concert, any time an idea strikes you.
  • Not really understanding those memes like “If you make me mad I’ll put you in a book and kill you.” Good writing is not about petty grudges.
  • Working a job to support your writing career. If you’re writing to “make money,” you’re going about it all wrong.
  • Getting up early and staying up late to make your daily word count.
  • Never getting to level 80 in World of Warcraft.
  • Realizing that “perfect” is the enemy of “good.” You can only obsess over a single word or phrase for so long before the ratio of impact vs. decline in productivity shifts out of your favor.
  • Reading, reading, reading. How can you write in your genre when you don’t read in your genre?
  • Accepting that you’ll be months, if not years, behind in watching the latest TV shows.
  • Being able to take and implement criticism. Treat your book like your baby, but let it get skinned knees, let it play in the dirt. It’ll be stronger for it.
  • Always seeking to hone your craft.
  • Being respectful of other writers and celebrating their successes. One writer’s success does not take away from yours. Leave your jealousy at the door.
  • Accepting that you can’t predict the market. Boy wizard? Sparkly vampires? Who knew? Answer: no one. So write what you’re passionate about.
  • Accepting that house-cleaning will probably have to wait.
  • Plotting, plotting, plotting. Plotting some more.
  • Pantsing at least a little. Even the most strict plotline needs wiggle room for magic to happen.
  • Revision, revision, revision.
  • Being humble and gracious. Without the agents, editors, readers, crit partners, bloggers, reviewers, etc, you wouldn’t be where you are.
  • Realizing there’s no one path to success. You can take every single step JK Rowling did and still not end up at Hogwarts. Own your path. Take whatever it brings and make the most of it.
  • Knowing when to take a break and step back. Writing at the cost of friendships or family isn’t healthy. Know when to unplug.
  • Giving back to the writing community. At some point, someone probably gave you a chance, an opportunity, a critique, a kind word, a good review, an “in.” When it’s your turn, give one back.
  • Making informed choices about your writing. Pro writers know when they’re breaking the rules and why.
  • Realizing you are your reputation and much of that comes from how you portray yourself on the internet. Maintain your integrity in your dealings with everyone.
  • Putting your writing over your hobbies. Do you write once/week but spend 40 hours playing video games or binge-watching Netflix? Maybe it’s time for a change.
  • Not needing a member of the Avengers or Neil Gaiman or anyone to tell you “You should be writing.” Memes are cute, but discipline is key.
  • Hustling and making your own opportunities. (see: there’s no one path to success).
  • Understanding it’s a marathon not a sprint. NaNoWriMo is EvRyDayO.
  • Practicing to condense your book’s plot into 1-2 sentences so you can intelligently answer the dreaded question, “What do you write?”
  • Getting used to disappointment. No matter how good, how thoughtful or engaging your writing is, some people will simply not like it. It’s okay. Let it go.
  • Forging on despite a bad review, a bad cover, or a missed opportunity.
  • Believing in yourself and the worth of your writing. If you don’t, no one else will.
  • Not waiting around for the muse to strike. Want inspiration? Go find it. Hunt the muse down and tie it to the desk.
  • De-ritualizing the act of writing. You don’t need special pens or a special notebook. The magic is inside you.
  • Not waiting for a special place or a special time. The place is wherever you are. The time is now.

 

As always, with any writing advice, opinions differ and mileage varies. Writing is one of those odd careers where there is no one decisive path to success. I hope some of this advice helps you find your path!

Until next time, slán go fóill!

~GIE

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