To Hone Your Craft, You Need to Delve into the Worlds of Others


Everyone can write, if they triy, but that doesn’t imagenecessarily mean it’s going to be good, something that others will enjoy reading. There are plenty of ways to improve, from daily writing and using prompts to listening to constructive criticism and being willing to edit.

I firmly stand behind the idea that one needs to read in order to write well and I’m not just talking “How To” books, although those are helpful too. I can’t tell you how many pieces of writing I’ve seen in crit groups that don’t have proper dialog, thought or flashback formatting, that have stilted dialog with outdated or too old for the character vocabulary, that don’t know how to keep the plot flowing or how to build the tension to the climax.

Reading books in the genre in which you write can be helpful to teach you how to handle formatting and how to better build a world or well rounded characters.  Not only will reading help your writing, but it will show you what’s trending in your genre at the moment and the kinds of topics publishers are picking up (although that’s not to say you need to follow the trend because by the time you publish, the trend could have changed.)

I’d have to say I’m not sure I’d trust someone who claimed to be a writer and then told me they don’t read. To me that would signify that the person was more a hobbyist who writes for fun but isn’t really looking to improve upon themselves to hone their craft. There’s nothing wrong with that if they’re just writing for enjoyment, but if they’re looking to publish, gently point them in the direction of your local library and tell them to get readin’!

Do you think reading is an important aspect to writing? Why or why not?

Getting the Pieces in the Right Spots


imageWriting  a novel is much like putting together a giant jigsaw puzzle. You’ve got lots of pieces laying around, whether they’re in an outline, written free form scribbled on a napkin or just floating around in your brain.  You might start with an idea, or just a character. Maybe you only know you want to write something with a specific theme. Those little pieces have to come together to build the big picture that is your story.

When working on a puzzle we think may a piece fits somewhere but at second glance,  it seems a bit off. The color might work but maybe the fit isn’t tight.  You wouldn’t throw that puzzle piece away, would you? No! Without it you won’t have a complete image. Sometimes in the editing process we find better places for those pieces. Places where they fit snuggly and help make the clearest image for your reader.

When I was writing Heavyweight I originally had the story start differently. It wasn’t until I read it at a writing seminar that it was suggested to me that I change where the beginning started. I was able to rearrange things without cutting out what I thought was important information and it made the story much stronger. I really think it had a lot to do with selling my book to my publisher.

Yes there will be appropriate times to cut out information. We tend to add a lot of extras (especially in our early days of writing) that aren’t really necessary and will most likely slow down the flow of the story, but many times you will have beautifully penned prose that you can’t bear to lose. Most likely, with some rearranging of the pieces in editing, you can find the appropriate place for that section.

Don’t be afraid to move things around. If the beginning seems slow because you’re front loading the world building, break it up and add it as the story goes. You want to engage and hook the reader, not have them flipping ahead to see when the “real” story starts. Move those story pieces until you get the picture completed, each part fitting tightly with its neighboring parts, creating a seamless story.

When editing, do you just cut big parts or do you try to find new places in your story for them?

Persistence is a Necessary Key to Unlock Success


The cases of someone gaining instantaneous fame and success are far and few between. If you’re just sitting back on your laurels imageawaiting for stardom to come knocking on your door, you’re probably going be waiting there a loooong, long time. The “Greats” in any field have likely been knocked down, rejected, laughed at, spit on, etc. before they gained a solid foothold and made a decent name for themselves.

Having a successful career as a writer is no different (and we’ve discussed different forms of success in the past, so I won’t get into that aspect at the moment.) A quick Google search can have you finding how many times your favorite authors were rejected before they had a book picked up and published.

Scrolling through social media will have you seeing book deal announcements and others having self-publishing success. It can be disheartening, but you are not alone and that’s no reason to throw in the metaphoric towel. Many people who don’t write think it’s an easy task. How many of us have had a conversation similar to this?

Them: “Oh! You’re a writer? I could do that…I’ve got this idea that would definitely be the next great American novel, ya know? I could totally do it, if I just had the time.”

You: “Umm, yes well, let me know how that goes for you…”

But as us actual writers know, it’s not an easy task. It takes time and planning, more than a general knowledge of grammar and vocabulary. It take persistence. You have write, re-write, edit, re-read, edit some more. You polish queries and summaries. You have to send out letter after letter, suffering rejection and kind, but still hurtful, suggestions from those who think you have promise but the book is “just not right for them.” Without persistence, the novel would never get finished. Without persistence, the queries would never get sent. Without persistence, the book would never get picked up or self published. Without persistence, no one would have a chance to dive into your wondrous worlds and fall in love with your characters.

It’s a long journey with peril of rejection at every turn. But is it worth it to hold that printed book in your hands? Most definitely. If the first key doesn’t turn the tumblers, be persistent and keep trying until you find the one that will unlock your success. Your work is worth the commitment.

How do you stay persistent in your publishing journey?

Ideas Don’t Stop Coming to the Creative Mind


I think most writers have suffered from  writer’s block at some point in their career. It’s frustrating and can be a IMG_6669blow to one’s confidence, but it doesn’t have to be permanent. When we’re stuck, we need to change tactics to overcome the wall our brain has built to hold all those glorious ideas at bay.

Try your hand at free writing. Grab a crisp sheet of paper or a nearby napkin and jot down any and all thoughts that come to mind, regardless of whether or not they relate to your work in progress. You never know what’s going to come out. A turn of phrase or an odd idea can knock a hole into that wall and commingle with those previously repressed ideas, getting the words flowing again.

You can also try outlining. If you’re stuck on a specific area, skip past it and outline future chapters. If you’ve got ideas for those, mark the spot in your manuscript and move ahead. When you come back later, it will be easier to figure out how to connect the two.

Start re-reading. Go back to the beginning of your story and re-read it.  I find it helps reacquaint me  with the characters, their motives and smaller plot points I may have forgotten along the way.

If you’ve got a writing buddy, ask them to write up a few interview questions and answer them as your characters.  You might be surprised that the answers you come up with may move your story in a whole new directions, skirting around that wall or taking the secret tunnel underneath it.

When you’re the creative type, the ideas may get sidetracked, or seem elusive, but they never really stop coming. Our minds are turned on by the things around us: a beautiful landscape, an unusual looking person, a song, a television show, etc. When your pen runs out of ink, you don’t just throw your hands up and say “I’m done!”, you get another pen. When you’re struck by writer’s block, you find that other pen! You change your tactics and go about the writing process in a different way to work past it.

What tactics do you use to get past the dreaded writer’s block?

Don’t Overfill Your Plate


IMG_6623It’s not unusual for a writer to be knee deep in a manuscript when they’re struck with a brandy new sparkly idea.  That idea will sneak up on you in the shower. It will invade your dreams and try to work its way into your conversations.  It will use its literary wiles to try and lure you away from what you’re already working on.

Should you do it?

I know it’s tempting and it has certainly worked out for some, but I know others who have this problem chronically and therefore they never end up finishing a story.  It’s a shame but avoidable!

You need to focus, follow through and finish up that original project before you go back to that overflowing idea plate for more. Definitely take the time and jot down all the ideas and thoughts you have for that new idea and then put it into the freezer of your mind to be thawed and heated up when the time is right.

If you decide it really can’t wait, then focus on that idea alone and come back to your original project once you’ve finished. There are certainly people who can handle more than one project at a time, but I feel your writing can suffer when you’re trying to eat everything off that plate at once. You don’t want to choke! One at a time is best. Give it your all and then be fresh to finish up other projects.

How do you handle new ideas that pop up during current projects?