As some of you know, I’ve completed writing and editing my romance novel and am now at the querying stage. Recently, I came across the most interesting agent with an unusual submission process which I found extremely entertaining. He also sound a little bit like Seth Rogan and I had a fun time watching his videos on submission.
Anyway, this agent talked about the importance of having a platform and having a good one. (My platform is my following on social media, my blog, and email subscriber list. This shows that people are interested in me and my work.)
I only recently began to work hard on growing my platform. I had a different one before for another name under which I wrote middle-grade fantasy novels. I severed ties with my publisher and deleted all my accounts and started over in November 2017.
It’s always been extremely difficult for me to ask people for help but I need some support. I need your help growing my platform. I know there are quite a few of you who come over from Twitter to read my blog posts and I really appreciate it. It would help me so much more if you would also follow my blog. You can use the subscription window that pops up when you visit this blog or sign up to “follow” with WordPress, or even better, do both. If you’re hesitant to sign up with the popup subscription form, I just want to reassure you that I won’t share your email address with anyone or spam you.
One more thing, I’d also appreciate if you’d follow my other accounts on social media sites where you’re active. I’m happy to follow back so if you’re one of my readers, leave a comment and let me know you followed because of this blog post and I’ll be sure to follow you back.
It’s only been a few months since I started writing my first adult novel. When I wrote the words “Chapter One” on the blank page, I have to admit, I seriously doubted I could reach the adult-length word count. I had only ever written middle-grades, and the thought of doubling my longest novel scared the living shit out of me.
I had so much doubt about whether I could do it or not but I didn’t let it stop me. And unlike before, I also didn’t try to write in any of the ways that I hear suggested by other authors. I stayed true to my creative process. Fast forward a few months and I’m nearing my target word count with no fear of not getting there.
The best part…I’ve had fun writing again. I haven’t struggled (much). Writing in a way that’s right for me (flying by the seat of my pants) and setting my doubts to the side has proven to be a winning combo.
So, lessons learned.
1) Don’t listen to anyone on HOW to write. Trust your intuition.
2) Believe that you can do it. (And if you don’t believe, just pretend you believe and get started)
I did, and now I’m a #NanoWinner2017 with less than 20,000 words to go to reach my word count goal.
I keep making the same frustrating mistake in my writing over and over. It’s not punctuation, grammar, spelling, dialogue or action tag errors (although, I do make these too.)
No, it’s that I keep thinking I’ll remember things.
The other day, I was in the shower (a place where I do the majority of my best thinking), and an exciting new element of my book was revealed to me. Oh, it was so exciting and excellent I knew I’d never forget it. So, I didn’t bother writing it down. I got a little busy the rest of that day and didn’t have time to start the next chapter. By the next day, I couldn’t remember quite what it was. The problem is that I have so many ideas, they tend to blur together, and I confuse them.
I spent yesterday doing another activity that produces ideas for me…walking around. But I never could quite remember exactly what it was I had thought up. I was like a donkey walking around with the carrot dangling from a string just out of my reach.
(I think the muse does this to punish me. I mean, she gave me this beautiful gift and I didn’t appreciate it enough.) Occasionally, I could scrape my teeth along the tip enough to get a little taste of what it was, thinking I was about to remember, only to realize I’d never get a good grip on the whole dangling, delicious carrot and it would slip away. Ugh, I really am a jackass!
So the lesson for you and especially for me….When you get an idea, no matter how big or small, write that s*$# down! Write it down!
You know, I’ve looked through my journal or picked up one of the approximately two million scraps of paper in my office where I did write things down. And I read things didn’t remember writing. True, some of it is written in the middle of the night in the most illegible penmanship on earth, but it amazes me how quickly things can fade from my memory.
Write it all down, pals!
One day I’ll follow my own advice and save so much wasted time walking in circles after carrots.
A: I write suspense/thrillers, so I love coming up with interesting, new, and exciting twists for my books.
Q: What is the most difficult part of the novel writing process for you?
A: I have a bad habit of “info dumping” in my first manuscript drafts. I tend to get a bit verbose sometimes and go a bit overboard in trying to expose my characters’ backstories.
Q: What inspired you to write Like Father Like Daughter?
A: I watched a documentary one night about a girl whose father was a serial killer. It made me wonder…what would life be like if your father was a murderer? And then, what if you were also accused of murder yourself? That’s how I came up with the idea for this book.
Q: How long did it take you to write Like Father Like Daughter?
A: About eight weeks for the first draft. Then I spent about 2 months editing with my editor. So in total about four months.
Q: Do you plot out your stories, fly by the seat of your pants, or some combination of the two?
A: Usually, I just let it flow and write as the ideas come to me. But I’m currently working on a manuscript for a psychological suspense novel with 3 different characters written in all three POV’s. With all of their stories to keep track of, I typed up an outline and it really is helping.
Q: How do you select the names for your characters?
A: Every time I hear a name I like, I type it in my “notepad” on my phone. Then when I go to write a book, I just refer to my list of favorite names and go from there. But, I will admit to using an online name generator from time to time.
Q: Are you working on anything new?
A: Yes, as I said, I’m working on a new psychological thriller about a psychic with a dark, secret past who is hired to help two men (a detective and a search and rescue coordinator) find a missing six-year-old girl. It’s my favorite novel so far. So fingers crossed!
Q: Do you prefer to write in the morning, afternoon, night, or whenever you find a spare moment?
A: I usually write at night, but with a full-time day job as a paralegal, I have to just write whenever I have the time.
Q: Do you have any writing rituals?
A: Not really. I know some authors write to music, etc., but I can’t do that. I need absolute silence in order to write.
Q: What do you think makes a good story?
A: I think if you can create characters that readers will care about and want to root for, and combine that with a story that is somewhat original and intriguing, you can capture and hold the readers’ attention to the very end.
Q: Dogs or Cats?
A: Dogs. Although I do have one of each.
Q: Savory or Sweet?
Q: Beach or Forest?
A: Beach. Always the beach!
Q: When you’re not writing, what do you like to do with your free time?
A: What free time? With a full-time job as a trial paralegal, two teenage daughters, a dog, and a cat, not to mention my writing, I rarely have any “me” time. But when I do, I love to read.
Q: How can readers keep in touch with you? Do you have a website? Are you on social media?
This didn’t start out as a blog post idea, or anything to do with writing at all really. I was washing dishes and thinking about the show Roseanne. Wanting to watch a few episodes, actually, but Netflix doesn’t have the beginning seasons anymore just those later ones. 😞
Oh man, I LOVED LOVE that show. Well, the first few seasons anyway. What happened after that? Does anyone know?
Remember the episode where Becky farted at school? Ahh! I die every time I watch it. Darlene kills me every time. Or how ’bout the episode where Roseanne is in the car accident and comes home all hopped up on painkillers. Hilarious! Remember when Roseanne and Jackie had a fight and Darlene goes to Jackies and she’s drunk. HA HA HA!
This family reminded me of my family and still does. I’ve got a great big ol’ teddy bear of a dad like Dan Conner. There were two older sisters and a little brother in my family. My mom was a lot kinder than Roseanne, but she sure loved her kids. I had a cool single (for a while anyway) Aunt that I looked up to.
Then, the show got weird. It changed slowly at first, and by the end, you wouldn’t even know it was the same show except that it had all the same characters actors–well except for Becky.
I think the worst thing that happened was that the show didn’t stay true to the characters personalities. I know people change and grow over time, but they all changed too much. Invasion of the body snatchers different!
Becky started out as the smart, studious one and then was this blond bimbo. What?
Darlene was a witty, bad student, tomboy-type then was all of a sudden the smart one and teasing Becky about being dumb.
Who knows with DJ!
Jackie was this cool chick who turned into a whiney obnoxious character, and somehow it seemed like her nose got bulbous. Or maybe I just got nit-picky because I grew to hate her.
Roseanne was this fantastically funny and smart mom, but the fun went away, and she was just plain…mean.
And Dan, okay, I loved Dan throughout. I don’t remember wondering about Dan (other than the affair which turned out not to be true according to the final episode, so I don’t know if I count that)
Did they get all new writers who had no idea who the characters were and had never seen the previous episodes? Did they forget what it was that made so many of us love and identify with the Conners, to begin with? What the heck people? Who F-ed up that incredible show? And how do I avoid that in my writing?
I know that last episode “explains things, ” but it didn’t make the time we spent watching those later episodes enjoyable, for those of us who hung on until the end that is. I’m sure the majority of fans tuned out long before the finale.
I guess it’s important to remember who my characters are and not to force them to do anything they wouldn’t do. Yeah, they may change and grow but in a way that stays true to who they are inside.
I’ve admitted before that I’m a reluctant reader. I don’t ravenously devour books. I don’t have the kind of swoony love affair that others seem to have with them. Now, when I do find a book that grabs me, I fall head over heals in love. Like those Matthew McConaughey movies where he’s this big playboy until he meets that one special girl.
When I find that special book, you know what it’s like? It’s like I’m Angela Chase obsessing over Jordan Catalano!
Unfortunately, there aren’t many Jordan Catalanos leaning against lockers waiting to steal my heart (Ah, I love the way he leans). For me, the book world contains a lot more Brian Krakows.
Now, I LOVE to tell stories. I think people assume that all writers love to read, but it’s just not true for me. They are two different activities. I mean, I like to eat but don’t necessarily like to cook. Ya know what I’m sayin’?
But I know I have to read to be a better writer. It’s studying. I have to do it because I want to be the best at what I do, so I’m willing to put in the work. (Keeping my fingers crossed each time I open a cover that love is waiting inside!) And I’ve been reading a lot more. A LOT more! It’s gotten easier. How? Well, I’m glad you asked.
I’ve made a list of all the things that make it easier. I’m sharing because maybe it’ll help other reluctant readers.
1) No guilt over how long it takes me to read a book. I’m always slow. And who cares? What does it matter how fast you travel from cover to cover? Maybe us slow readers are the ones who are stopping along the way to smell the roses. Besides, anyone who cares how long it takes you is kind of a jerk.
2) If a first chapter is painful to read, toss it aside! It’ll only reinforce your belief that reading is a horrible task. Reading isn’t horrible, the crap book is.
3) I take recommendations. This is how I found THE WHEEL OF TIME series. I’m enjoying it, and I plan to finish the whole thing (slowly).
4) When I do take recommendations, I don’t care to pretend I think it’s awesome or even that I’m willing to finish it. “Good, but not my cup of tea” is a good line to throw out there.
5) Read outside the stuff you’d find at Barnes & Noble. There are a lot of good books published by small presses that don’t make it into the stores as well as good self-published books. Did you ever consider that you just may not like the stuff that’s meant to sell to the masses? Sure, there’s some self-published crap, but then you return to number 2 on the list -you don’t have to read the whole thing! And a lot of times, the ebooks are free or 99 cents on Amazon. That’s better than picking something up at a bookstore, paying a lot more, and it ends up being crap too. I’ve started quite a few books I hated recently and was glad I got them at the library instead of the bookstore. You don’t have to have a big bookshelf to impress anyone.
6) I require absolute silence when reading! I’ve learned not to try to read anywhere women gather and have unreasonably loud conversations. There are always these loud moms roaring on about their Disney Cruiseline vacations and who booked a more lavish trip! And by the way, WHY do people talk so loud? Especially when the person they’re talking to is sitting right next to them? But loud-talkers are a whole other topic. I used to constantly try reading in places that weren’t silent, and I’d end up reading the same line over and over. It was frustrating! Once again it reinforced the belief that it was the reading I hated and not what I now recognize as a hatred for overly loud people. I want to fall into a different world, and I can’t do that when some lady is bragging about the size of her husband’s SUV.
7) Most importantly – I read what I want! For the longest time, I was embarrassed to read middle-grade fantasy in public. Then I stopped caring what other people thought.
Back in April, I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo, and I feverishly wrote every day and finished a novel in record time. So when Nanowrimo came along, I thought, “Sure, I can do this!”
Boy, was I wrong!
I stalled out at 10,000 words. I tried to make myself write every day, but it just got harder. The more I tried to force it, the harder it got. And worst of all–I wasn’t enjoying myself like I did during Camp NaNoWriMo.
So what was the difference? Well, I think the only difference was that during Camp NaNoWriMo I had a story beating at the back of my head–begging to be written. During NaNoWriMo, I had a story idea that I didn’t let wait long enough for it to start begging me. I was trying too hard to be like other writers–to take the advice to “write every day.” That just doesn’t work for me. You’d think I’d know by now that I’m not the same as everyone else so why would I think that all the writing advice I read should apply to me. Sure, I have more in common with these people than most other people on the planet, but I’m still me. And I’m going to learn to trust my own advice because I know what actually works for me.
I’m not really a Nanowrimo failure. I tried and what’s ever wrong with that? I learned a little more about me and my writing style. I got to cheer on friends who sailed through Nanowrimo like Rocky Balboa running up those glorious steps. (Yeah, I know Rocky didn’t win at the end of the movie, but he won that training montage!).
Endings. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched a movie or read a book (this especially goes for books since I put a lot of energy into reading them–I’m a slow reader) and the ending is a real let-down.
I get so mad. And most of the time it doesn’t feel like it was just an ending where I’m left thinking, “Oh, I wish this would have happened instead.” No, it feels like the author or writers were like “Eh, I’m bored of this…and…The End.”
A book can be so good and then it just drops off…
And it seems like this has been happening A LOT lately with the books I’ve been reading. Is it just bad luck? Maybe.
But they’ve taught me a lesson. I need to put a lot of effort into my endings or it will sour the entire feel of the book.
I want people to finish my book and be laughing, crying, grossed out, happy, but never let down.
I have multiple “books” in the works. They range anywhere from a measly 200 words to 17,000 words, not to mention all the ideas in my “idea book.” Some of these I know I am going to keep working on. Others, well, they may have already been placed into the trash bin and retrieved once or twice. I never really had the heart to “empty” the trash bin with them in there and now I am glad I didn’t.
A new story idea seeped into my head and would not leave me alone. It was like when it’s 20 minutes to 5 pm, and my dogs stare at me until I get off my butt and feed them their dinner. So I give in, and banging away at the keyboard, I realize that a portion of one of my old stories will fit perfectly into this new story. I open the file, and there it is, a little pearl just waiting to fit seamlessly into this new creation.
So lesson learned…nothing I write is ever a waste.
Even though I wasn’t able to move forward with some of the stories after a certain point, it doesn’t mean I wrote them for nothing and wasted my time. These words sit and ferment in some file (pile) until I use them in something new and better.
Like on Fraggle Rock, how Madame Trash Heap had so much good advice to give out, I am my own Madame Heap. I call it my Compost File.
That’s what it is to me, Creative Compost
(Awww, isn’t that ridiculous? The image of the beautiful garden growing from the former coffee grounds, lettuce that was forgotten in the crisper, and egg shells. But that’s how it feels)
When I was about 14, I was shoveling horse poop in the barn and a wasp stung my inner thigh. It hurt like a bleeping bleeper! I still have the ugly, raised, and ghostly white scar. Even now, (many) years later, I transform into an Olympic sprinter when I see one.
I received nothing but rejection (mostly in the form of crickets chirping) on my first novel. Now, as I wait for the rejections to start rolling in on my second, I wonder if they will sting as much as they did the first time around, maybe more.
But this is what I do know. I’m not going to quit. I’m going to keep on trying. I have a lot more courage than I thought I did. I keep putting myself out there knowing that I may be dismissed over and over again. I keep heading back into that barn knowing that those hornets are going to sting me. But the sting of a hornet won’t kill me and neither will the sting of rejection.
This is what I want. This is who I am. Maybe a reject, but definitely a writer.