Posted in writing, writing advice, writing thoughts

Runts and Writing

Calendar DeadlineI’m one of those people who likes to do the things they don’t like first…except when it comes to cleaning bathrooms. I put that off as long as possible. It struck me, though, as I was eating some Runts, that you can’t really do that with writing. As I was picking out all the bananas and oranges to eat first because I like them the least but feel bad just throwing them away, I had the thought that most of my least favorite parts of writing and publishing can’t really be done first just to get them out of the way.

My two least favorite parts of writing are editing and marketing. Editing, I just don’t like because it’s time consuming and annoying and I can never remember how to use a comma properly in every situation. Marketing is just plain tough and time consuming and will totally eat up your whole day if you let it.

In a perfect world, I could just do both of those first, get them out of the way, and then move on to the fun parts. Writing. I can do it with food and chores, so why not writing? Admittedly, it’s tough to edit something you haven’t written, and even though you can start to market a book before it’s published, you still have to have something concrete to market and know how to do it right.

So, how important is having a plan and sticking to it when writing?

Important. 

Here are a few thoughts to consider:

Marketing

The hardcore marketing will usually start once a publication date is finalized, but more general marketing needs to start 6-9 months pre-publication. How do you do that when you’re only on chapter 3?

Ask for input on social media. 

  • What do you think of these names for a (fill in the blank) type of character?
  • Anyone live in ___________? What’s a great first date restaurant, unique location, bad area of town, etc.?
  • Do you believe in ghosts/werewolves/demons?

Get them invested in the idea of your book before you ever even finish it. Make them a part of the writing process so they feel connected to it before they even read a single page. Just remember to include the title or working title in your posts.

Give readers sneak peeks.

Shark2 Teaser 3Post a short excerpt. Tell readers what your character said or did that made you cry/laugh/stare at your computer screen in shock. Make some promo teasers like the one below with interesting quotes or taglines that readers can share.

The more you get readers involved in the pre-publication process, the more excited they’ll be to finally get their hands on a copy once it’s released.

Tours, Guest Posts, etc.

On a more technical note, you also need to be setting up tours, guest posts, events, etc. well before the day your book is going to come out. Most good tour companies are booked at least two months out. Plan ahead.

 

Writing

Sadly, there’s really no way to knock out the editing before you actually do the writing. So, how do you stay on schedule with your writing? Everyone is different, but here are a few ideas that have worked for me and author friends I know.

  • Deadlines: whether this is a deadline for finishing the book, a chapter, or section, sit down and give yourself a reasonable time period to accomplish a set amount of work. Mark it on your calendar.
  • Writing Groups: Make yourself accountable to someone else. Readers can be great at keeping you on track when they’re waiting for a new book, but a writing group that meets regularly and requires you to have something for the other members to critique can help you stay on track.
  • Daily/Weekly Goals: whether this is a word count goal, set amount of time, plan a time that you will use just for writing. Your creativity often needs to be trained to come out and play at certain times.
  • Bribery: Seriously, this works. Give yourself a reason to meet your goal. Chocolate? Shoes? A night out? Whatever motivates you, use it.

 

Sometimes we’re stuck dealing with the order things just have to be done in, but there are ways to make it work for you. I’d love to hear your ideas and suggestions for dealing with some of your least favorite parts of the writing/publishing process.

Posted in writing, writing advice, writing thoughts

Falling Flat or Finishing Strong

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Ever feel like this guy when you’re trying to work out the ending to your book? 

I agonize over the endings of my books, series endings especially. I’ve mentioned this before, but instead of just whining about it, I thought I’d share some insights I’ve learned and some tips from other authors.

Tips From Other Authors

KM Weiland offered up some great tips on her YouTube video. You can watch the full video for her whole discussion, but here are the highlights.

1. Wait until the resolution to tie up any loose ends. In other words, don’t interrupt the action to talk about Carlos’s shoe size or Betty’s grade on her science paper. Rope 2

2. Tie up loose ends BEFORE the climax. If you really need to let everyone know whether or not Skippy found his lost shoe, spit it out before Joe and Susie head off to fight the zombie horde.

3. Make the unfinished business exciting enough to be included in the climax. If Clara’s long lost aunt is going to drop back into the picture, she better have something to do with the solving the mystery or winning the fight or it’ll just be a distraction that pulls readers out of  the story.

Brian Klems offered up some great writing tips in his Writer’s Digest article, but here’s what relates to finishing a book:

1. The hero should be the catalyst. No one wants to invest time and energy in a character only to see someone else step in at Sexy young soldierthe end of the MC’s story and save the day. What was the point of that character going through everything they did if they don’t do anything in the end?

2. The hero should grow internally. What does this means? Basically, the problems the hero faced or struggled with in the beginning need to be resolved in the end and be part of the reason he’s able to triumph at the climax. If you’re dealing with a series, maybe the growth is incomplete, but there should be growth all the same.

3. A new and better hero should emerge. The MC needs to have earned the right to be called a hero by the end of the story. If they don’t demonstrate that they can do something the others characters can’t (and we’re not just talking supernatural abilities), why is he or she able to save the day over any other Joe-schmoe in the book?

What I’ve Learned

The ending can make or break a book. I’ve been disappointed too many times for it not to effect the way I write. I’m slightly obsessed with making sure my books don’t peter out in the last few chapters because, as a reader, I hate that! Here are a few of my own tips to avoid writing that ending that makes your readers cringe.

1. Complete your character arc. What was it in the beginning of the book that your character struggled with the most, that defined who he or she was and why they felt like they couldn’t meet their goals? Have you resolved it by the end of the book? I’m not talking situational problems. This needs to be deeper emotional wounds that have held your character back. Have they overcome some part of what’s been holding them back? If not, take note of what those wounds are and how they need to be fixed in your final chapters. Questions

2. Answer the freaking question! Okay, this makes me think of “Lost” and how confused and irritated I was when they wrapped up the sixth season and 90% of the hints and mysteries were completely abandoned. If you bring up a challenge, hint, clue, noticeable item, etc. and then never mention it again, readers are going to be left saying, “What about…?” And that’s annoying. Either get rid of those plot points that never panned out, or make sure they’re followed up on.

3. Redemption and justice are musts. Unless you want to end things ambiguously on purpose, take a look at the major players in your book and make some tough decisions about what they really deserve. Does your bad guy need to die, or will he find redemption? Is your MC going to save the day or meet with spectacular failure because of his less than stellar choices? If your readers don’t feel like everyone got what they deserved, even if it wasn’t the ending they saw coming or wanted, the ending will feel incomplete and leave them at odds when they set the book down.

Crafting the perfect ending can make you want to tear your hair out. Maybe it will never be perfect, but hopefully some of these tips will help you write a complete ending that will hold readers’ attention and leave them feeling satisfied and ready to go grab the next book!

Connect with me online:

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Twitter: @DelSheree

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Posted in writing, writing advice, writing thoughts

Holiday Writing…or Not Writing: Choosing a Genre

2014-12-08 09.13.19With the holidays approaching, I’ve been seeing loads of posts and promos for Christmas books. I was even a part of one promo for #ChickLit4Xmas, which was lots of fun. I’ve never been particularly into reading Christmas themed stories. I have nothing against them. I’ve simply never been drawn to them.

As I’ve been seeing all the holiday books being promoted, I realized I’ve never even written a single Christmas scene is any of my books. At least I don’t think so. It’s been a while since I’ve reread some of my early books. I’m pretty sure all I have are some birthday parties and a brief mention of Christmas in Shark Out Of Water.

One might start to think I have an aversion to writing holiday scenes. It’s kind of funny actually. I really don’t know why I haven’t written a holiday scene before, but it got me thinking. How do writers choose what genre they’re going to write? Obviously, I can’t speak for all authors, and I didn’t think about this early enough to take a poll, but here’s why I write what I write along with a few tips on how to choose your genre.

I write in several genres and subgenres ranging from YA paranormal/sci-fi/dystopian/urban fantasy, to straight up romance, to new adult (a rather new venture), to some unpublished projects that are just plain YA drama no otherworldly twists and turns at all. So what genre for what story?

Basically, the way I decide how to choose a genre depends on three things.

1: What is the main conflict of the story?

Is it personal or situational? Personal implies a lot more internal struggles while situational may be more event-driven. Figuring out what you want the driving force behind the conflict to be can be a challenge, but this question helps you narrow down whether you’re going to be thinking along the lines of faster paced/question driven writing or deeper emotional trials that won’t need bam-bam-bam events to pull the reader through the story.

2. What type of stumbling blocks will your characters face? 

This question in particular helps me chose the age range of my characters. With YA, parents are an issue, as are friends (more so than in other genres usually), limits on what they can and can’t do, firsts (big decisions, relationships, sex, drugs, alcohol, etc.), and self-discovery.

2014-12-08 09.22.48With New Adult, some of the YA issues still apply, but you add in facing the grownup world with jobs, bills, being on their own, dealing with consequences without parental backup, failure, and so much more. There’s more freedom for the characters in some ways, but a new set of responsibilities can limit them as well.

With fiction for adults, you’re facing day-to-day life with work and family, dealing with past mistakes, reality of the life they’ve chosen/ended up with, wanting more or something different, having to grow up and actually be an adult, serious relationship issues, etc. Asking yourself these question can help point you in the right direction for ages of your characters, which will help you narrow down your genre choices.

3. To paranormal or not to paranormal? 

Maybe this isn’t a question every writer asks, but I do. So far, all of my published YA books have some sort of paranormal/sci-fi/urban fantasy element, but I have other projects, finished and unfinished, that just didn’t work as anything but straight drama. Why? Because the source of their main problems are real problems, not imaginary ones. My adult romance series, Date Shark Series, doesn’t have a single ghost, demon, curse, or magic power anywhere. I wanted to focus on actual relationship problems we’ve all faced at one point or another and I didn’t need anything outside reality to do that.

Figuring out the driving force behind your conflict will help you decide whether or not your story needs something paranormal.

So, these are the questions I ask myself when I start a new project. Sometimes I already have these worked out when the idea hits me, but sometimes I don’t. If you’re uncertain about what direction to take your story, try asking yourself these questions. If you have questions you ask yourself to help you decide, I’d love to hear them! 

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Posted in writing advice, writing thoughts

#TensList: 10 Ways To Avoid Writing

Sometimes, writing feels like you’ve turned into a dog with a bone. You can’t stop. You’re obessesed. Other times…you’ll do just about anything to avoid it for one reason or another.

Why? for me, it’s usually finishing a series or facing a deadline that makes me want to hide from my computer. So, what can you do to avoid writing when you need a break?

#1

Watch Supernatural. Seriously, Sam and Dean (mostly Dean) can take you’re mind off anything.

#2

Read a book. When I’m really burnt out on writing, I pick up someone else’s book and let them do all the work for a while. If it’s good, I’ll want to write because I’ve been inspired. If it sucks, I’ll still want to write because I’ll want to prove there’s something better out there.

#3

Do some yard work. Seriously, you’ll be too tired to think or write when you fnally sit back down.

#4

Bake. Cookies, brownies, cake…do you really need a reason to make yummy snacks anyway? You can always share with your fellow writing buddies in an inspiration session if you want.

#5

Draw. Okay, maybe this isn’t for everyone, but use it as therapy to vent your writing frustration. Sketch out an action scene with stick figures. Make your character look ridiculous in payment for driving you crazy. Trust me, it’s fun 🙂

#6

Take some pictures. Whether you’re the master of Instagram, only take pictures on your phone, or are sporting a Nikon D-200, take your creativity out of the office and get out and find something that will inspire you to get back to writing.

#7

Break out the sticky notes! Organize your to-do lists, events, thoughts, whatever needs organizing. Forcing your thoughts to stay focused will shut out all those nagging “you should be writing” whispers.

#8

Play video games. Hours gone. No writing done. You’re welcome 🙂

#9

Be social. I’m not talking social media, either. Go have lunch with a friend. Get away from the computer and talk to some real people for a while. You’ll be amazed how much it will help with writing drudgery.

#10

If you’re really desperate to avoid writing, work on marketing. This will suck up lots of time, but it will be useful! Read some articles, work on your marketing plan.

Get out of your own head for a while and give your characters a break. They need it as much as you do.

Posted in writing, writing thoughts

#TensList: Top Ten Reasons Writers are Crazy

If you know any writers (which you must if you’re here), you probably already know that they are usually a bit strange. Well, here’s just a few of the reasons why…

#1. 

When you’re standing in line at the check out counter or sitting in a restaurant and someone inevitably makes a scene because the line doesn’t move or your waiter has disappeared, most people look away and pretend nothing’s happening. 
Not writers. We may not outright stare, but we’re listening closely and catching all the glorious details out of the corner of our eye. Why? Because we love to make our characters lose it. Sometimes over completely silly things like bad food or poor service. Sometimes at the end of a long line of

tragedies. Most writers, however, tend to be introverts, and don’t make a lot of big scenes, so we need inspiration for turning our characters into raving lunatics. Just keep that in mind next time you want to lose your cool in public. There are a lot of writers out there. 😉

#2. 

Ever been stuck in a conversation where the other person just won’t stop talking about the most random things? Most people politely listen trying to come up with a polite excuse to escape. What do writers do? Pull out a pen and start taking notes! We love random facts, fun tidbits of knowledge, and bizarre happenings. Why? Because you never know when a story might call for knowledge that there’s a guy who’s job it is to roam the world weighing a garden gnome to test the effects of gravity at different heights. 

#3. 

People watching is a lost art for most people. It used to be an actual thing back in the day. Now, it’s a trick just to get people to put their phones away long enough to walk from their car to the front door. Writers may be some of the few groups left who still love to people watch. Not that we go around staring at people all day… well, not usually. Why do we watch people, though? It’s not just to see how they talk and interact with people so we can write more realistic characters and scenes. We might be looking for our next over model too! Be sure to pick your outfits for the day with that in mind. 

#4. 

Conversation skills are important, but writers aren’t always the best at this particular talent. We may write great dialog, but we’re also highly distractible when immersed in a project, and half our conversations with real people end up starting with things like… “I need you to read something for me.” or “How hard do you think it is to drag a body in high heels?” or “Which of these sentences sounds better…” 

#5. 

Speaking of conversations… at least half, probably more, of our conversations take places with people who don’t exist. It’s not just working out dialog, either. True, I’ll repeat pieces of dialog out loud, acting out the voices and intonations to see if I’m getting the right effect, but many writers take it beyond that as well. You get to the point where you find yourself consulting your characters, asking things like, “Would you really do that?” or “How could you do something so awful?” If we zone out while talking to you, don’t take it personally. We probably had at least two other conversations going in our head at the same time and forgot which one was taking place in the real world for a second there. 

#6. 

Writers tend to be contradictory by nature. We have this dual concept of ourselves that on one hand we are creative geniuses to some degree, and on the other hand have this crippling fear that we are utter failures. It’s boggling, even for us, but a tough one to shake. Please forgive us when we jump around like crazy to celebrate a great idea or contract, then have to be drug out from behind out desks to face actually letting someone read our work.

#7. 

Writers may be the only group of people who are selective perfectionists. Our houses may not get cleaned the week we’re trying to finish those last blasted five chapters, appointments may be missed, and we may have forgotten to shower once or twice that week, but by golly… every freakin’ word in our manuscript will be absolutely perfect! That will likely be the only thing that’s perfect, and even that’s a big delusion, but we’ll certainly work at it until our fingers go numb. 

#8. 

There’s something to be said for becoming an expert on something. It takes a lot of hard work to learn that much about a certain topic. Experts are a writers’ best friend, but most writers are not experts on anything, even writing. Sure, there are some writers who become experts on a specific topic while writing a particular piece, but most writers can really only claim to be semi-experts on about a hundred different topics. Why? Book research. We’ll research anything under sun, but only enough to make what we’re writing believable. We have to get back to writing, after all.

#9. 

We all know that friend who constantly asks you for advice but doesn’t listen to a single word you say, right? Sorry, but a lot of writers are that friend when it comes to writing. We constantly ask people’s advice about words, phrases, ideas, and concepts. We take in all the comments and suggestions, and then we do whatever the heck we want, which is often exactly what we planned on doing in the first place. It’s not that we don’t value what other people say. Most of the time, we already knew what we wanted to do, but just needed to talk through it from twelve different sides before we’re sure. It’s nothing personal. 

#10.

There are times when writers really HATE writing. It’s can make us miserable at times, but we still love it. Why? For many writers, it’s simply part of who we are. Writing is like an appendage. Even if it hurts or refuses to work properly, we can no more ditch it than we could an arm. Bear with us when we rant about characters and plot holes and endings that fall flat. We may want to quit at times, but we never will because writing is a part of us. 

What are you passionate about that makes you a little crazy?

Posted in creative writing, writing, writing thoughts, writing tips

#Perfectionism and #Writing…

I think a lot of writers will agree that making sure their books are “perfect” is a bit of an obsession. 

We obsess over every word, line, paragraph, chapter… you get the point. We’ll research something until our fingers are about to fall off from too many internet searches. Our friends will be sick of hearing about a particular troublesome scene and threaten to throw a book at us if we ask them to read it one more time. 

Having said all of that, I completely agree with Anne Lamott when she said… 

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life.”

All that obsessing over how we write our books or scenes can really kill a story. When you over think while writing, you second-guess your decisions, which leads to endlessly rewriting particular scenes, changing whole passages to try it another way, or scrapping the whole project. 
Now, yes, sometimes these things have to be done, but not every time you sit down to write. If this is your process, it’ll be awfully hard to ever finish a book or story. Every writer has to develop their own process, but here are a few tips I’ve picked up over the years. 
Tip #1: Whether you like to outline or not, don’t limit yourself to sticking to your outline or notes verbatim. If you feel like the story needs to take a left instead of a right, or a U-turn in a whole new direction, go with it. Let your plot develop organically and don’t feel like you have to go back to an outline and re-outline after every change. Just write. 
Tip #2: Don’t edit while you write. You’ll kill your progress if you go back and edit what you’ve just written. Give yourself some time to let that chapter or scene sit and solidify. Even if you have to reread a chapter or two when you come back so you know where you left off, DON’T EDIT, aside from maybe a few typos. Even when you finish the entire book, don’t jump right into editing. Work on something else. Give it at least a week (longer if you can) and come back to it when you have fresh eyes. 
Tip #3: Sending your work out to beta readers (readers who read an early draft in order to give you feedback and suggestions) can be anxiety laden. It always is. Waiting to send it out until your book is perfectly edited and all the holes are filled in just isn’t reasonable. Find beta readers you trust to be honest, let them know it’s not a perfect story and you need helpful critiques, and hit the send button. There are always problems with a manuscript that you as the author won’t be able to see. Waiting until it’s perfect just prolongs the inevitable and often leaves you with more revisions to make than you would have had otherwise. 
Tip #4: Give yourself permission to make mistakes. Don’t want to put a scene on hold to do a little research? Not sure if what you’re writing is possible, but the scene is just begging to be written? Great! Keep writing! You can always go back and correct mistakes. In fact, you usually learn a lot from making those mistakes, and then you don’t make them as often in the future. It’s tough to get into a writing groove sometimes, and if you’re in one, let yourself just get your ideas down on paper and worry about refining later on. 
Tip #5: Accept the fact that your book will never be perfect. That’s just how it is. There will always be something you think could have been better, or should have been changed. Reviews will make you doubt scenes or chapters or endings. It will never, ever be completely perfect…and that’s okay. 

What perfectionist habits keep you from getting things done? 

Posted in writing thoughts

A different way to look at #Quantity and #Quality

The debate between quantity and quality usually has to do with producing more books by sacrificing quality. Here’s a different way to look at these two important Qs. 

In the words of Ray Bradbury, “Quantity produces quality. If you only write a few things, you’re doomed.” 

While I’ve only been publishing books since 2010, I’ve been writing since I was a teenager. The first full length book I wrote was absolutely terrible. It will never see the light of day. The short stories I attempted to write when I first started out have suffered a similar fate. I had notebooks and notebooks full of scribbled down story ideas that were only ever half developed. Yes, I started writing before the day when everyone had laptops and tablets. Everything I wrote in my teenage years died a slow death… except for one. 
Escaping Fate was the first book I published, but it was actually written when I was sixteen. And then rewritten. And then rewritten again. It took me ten years from first, lousy draft to having something capable of entertaining a reader. 
While I was rewriting Escaping Fate half a dozen times, I was working on other projects, improving my skills. One of those other projects was a mystery novel, which I seriously doubt will ever make it past my computer screen. Soft boiled mysteries are clearly not my genre. I don’t know what possessed me to write a mystery novel. There were various other random things I wrote during that time. None of it amounted to anything, but it was great practice for me. Trying different lengths and genres helped me figure out what I really wanted to write… what I was actually good at writing. 
Even once I started publishing books, nothing changed. I have 13 published books right now. Guess how many I’ve written over the past fifteen years. About double that. Some of them are still works in progress that need fleshing out or more researching or a total revamp. Others, completely fizzled out and will never be touched again. 
Every book I’ve written, every book I’ve half-written, every book I’ve finished and then promptly trashed… they were all part of what Ray Bradbury is talking about. Quality and quantity isn’t always about pumping out books by sacrificing quality. It’s about writing good stuff and crappy stuff and mediocre stuff. It’s about writing until you’ve honed your skills enough that you write more good stuff than lousy stuff. I don’t think you ever get to the point where you only write good stuff, but that’s okay, because it keeps you from getting lazy. 

So when you think about the Quality and Quantity, think about how you need one to have the other.