Thursday, July 28, 2016

Do You Want to Become a Prolific Writer?

I recently attended the Romance Writers of America conference in San Diego, and while I was there, I went to a workshop called “Being Prolific and Productive While Remaining Sane” with Robin Covington, Laura Kaye, and Rebecca Zanetti as speakers. Guys, this was an eye-opener, so I wanted to share some of the points that came up during their session.

First, let me say, these ladies write crazy fast. Don’t be scared by what I’m about to share ‘cause I’m telling you… This is insane. And, yes, you might detect a little bit of envy from this post. Just sayin’…

Robin said the book that took her the longest to write was 80,000 words. She wrote it in EIGHT weeks.

I warned you…

The longest it took Laura to write a full-length book (about 80-90K) was four months.

The fastest it took Rebecca to write a 95,000-word book was ONE WEEK.

Ready to pass out yet?

Not everyone can write this fast, but you can train yourself to write faster. Why would you want to?

The Pros to Writing Fast:

-You can publish often.
-You’re always in the story. You don’t have to go back and read the last scene or chapter you wrote, so you can jump right in and write.
-You can build a backlist quickly and make money off those books.
-Your publisher will continue to market all your books.
-You’ll rapidly build a readership.

The Cons to Writing Fast:

-The expectation (from your publisher and readers) is that you’ll continue to write fast.
-Promotion takes a lot of time, but you need to find a way to fit that and writing into your day.
-Your deadlines will stress you out.
-You might not make time to exercise or eat well, and your health could suffer.
-Your family might forget who you are.
-You could cannibalize your own sales because your books will compete against each other.
-You’ll get complaints from readers if you don’t produce as often.
-You could burn yourself out.

Want to learn how they do it? Check out some tricks on how to be a prolific writer. I’ll post them on my blog August 9. See you then.

Lynnette Labelle

Monday, July 25, 2016

Speculative Fiction - What the heck is that?!

Speculative Fiction is a term that can garner some debate in the publishing community. What exactly is it?

In general, it's an umbrella term that covers a lot of genres, such as Fantasy, Horror, SciFi, Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Alternative History and the like. But with the rise of genre mash-ups, sometimes it's used to classify a story itself when it's too hard to pin down a specific genre. 

An example of this is Holly Black's Curse Worker Series. This is an Alternative History as it's set in a world like ours, except that there are people called Curse Workers, and their existing has changed so much about history. So instead of convicts being sent to Australia, Curse Workers were. But when you look at what Curse Workers are, this isn't just about changing history. It's also about magic. That brings in a fantasy element. But wait - there's gansters too! When someone first talked to me about Curse Workers, they called it Speculative Fiction, and I believe that definition is apt. 

Speculative fiction means you are speculating - what if? So for Curse Workers it's, what if there is a breed of people amongst humans who can deliver curses. 

That 'what if' question is one that drives a lot of my writing, which is why I predominately write genres under the Speculative Fiction umbrella. 

I'm going to talk about my very first book DIVIDED, if you haven't read it yet, and are planning to, look away now or you will see the ending....








Right, you've been warned. 

The idea for DIVIDED came to me with the thought of 'What if a clone met her original's soulmate?' 

Once that question rattled around in my head I couldn't get rid of it, so I started writing Mishca's story. The world in DIVIDED was built around these two people meeting for the first time. I needed to find a way for them to meet, so I had Mischa going to university and Colin (her original's soulmate) being her university professor. But then I also needed a reason her to be a clone, and the story took on a life of it's own from there. 

Asking 'What if' can be such a powerful writing tool. And it can work for stories outside of the Speculative Fiction realm as well. One of my WIP is about 'what if' something had of happened to me as a teenager instead of as an adult, but it's a total contemporary. 

Speculative Fiction lets your imagine run wild. you just have to ask yourself 'What if?' and go from there. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Importance of Critique Partners ~ Kelly Siskind

For me, writing isn’t a solo endeavor. The words may originate in my mind and find their way onto the page, but I’d be lost without my critique partners.

We are so invested in our words that it’s often impossible to look at them objectively. The mere thought of losing a single line or character or nuance is horrific, because we are brilliant and the story is perfect and cutting even the smallest piece of our manuscript would be tragic.

Hell to the no.

This is the time to be ruthless. To cut and slash and burn the excess until you have a tidy package covered in glitter and sparkles. Since such actions are tantamount to torture for writers, critique partners become invaluable.

When critiquing work for another writer, it’s important to sandwich the negative between positive feedback. Start with what works, what you absolutely LOVE, then explain what you feel needs improvement. Once again, finish with some positive words. Honesty is the key. Critique partners who blow rainbows up my butt do me no good. They are a hindrance to my growth as a writer. The partners I work with point out issues with plot, pacing, character development, voice issues, poor word choices, and typos.

Being open to the process is tantamount, but, inevitably, when I read a critique, I go through the following stages of grief:


Stage Two: Okay…maybe she’s not completely insane. There might be one thing she’s right about.

Stage Three: Yep. She is a genius. I need to rip this sucker apart and glue it back together.

When attacking changes, remember that you don’t need to make every fix suggested. A big part of becoming a writer is learning how and when to trust your gut. This often comes over time. It’s still important to mull over issues brought up by your partner, but that doesn’t mean you have to follow suggestions blindly. I often sit with feedback for a while. I let the problems marinate while I’m exercising or cooking, or doing anything but writing. Once I have a sense of which things should be fixed, I make a to-do list. An order of operations on how to attack the piece. Baby steps are the key.

I found my current critique partners through Pitch Wars. I usually work with three people, not as a group, but we swap chapters or manuscripts individually as needed. One reads, gives me feedback, I freak out, and then I revise. I do this one or two more times with someone new. Once I’ve revised the crap out of my piece, I give it to my agent, who offers her two cents, and then it goes into my editor. And guess what? I get to do content edits all over again! This is what makes a good book great. Willingness to rework a piece is what being a writer is all about.

Some other places to search for critique partners: Absolute Write Water Cooler, Agent Query Connect, Ladies Who Critique, Romance Critters, and Romance Writers of America. Even places like Goodreads and Wattpad have forums through which you can find partners in your genre.

Two important ground rules when choosing critique partners:

1.       Swap first chapters before committing to a longer relationship. Ensure your writing styles mesh.
2.       Discuss length of time critiques should take. If you need work back in a week or two, and someone can’t turn it around for a couple of months, you won’t be a good fit.

Not only are critique partners vital for the success of my manuscripts, but mine have become my closest friends—people who support me during the ups and downs of this crazy business, something all writers need. I would be lost without them.

Best of luck to you on all your writing endeavors!

Kelly Siskind

Kelly is the author of CHASING CRAZY, MY PERFECT MISTACE, and A FINE MESS, all published through Grand Central’s Forever Yours. A small-town girl at heart, she moved from the city to open a cheese shop with her husband in northern Ontario. When she’s not neck deep in cheese or out hiking, you can find her, notepad in hand, scribbling down one of the many plot bunnies bouncing around in her head.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

On Big Magic, Creativity, and Loving Your Book

I was going to write a post about polishing your manuscript for PitchWars.

In fact I DID write that post and while it had some useful tips, a lot of them have been covered in the PitchWars feed during discussions this week. The article felt a little redundant, plus I wanted to write about something else. Specifically, Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic.

I don’t read a lot of nonfiction, so when my CPs first recommended it, I resisted them. My fiction TBR list is already unmanageable.

Read it, they urged. It’s food for the writer’s soul.

Maybe later, I said, and read another YA thriller instead.
Then I had one of Those Weeks—the kind that makes you wonder why you ever thought you could, or should, be a writer in the first place. When all your ideas seem ten times worse than the worst idea anybody else has ever had. I capitulated and bought Big Magic. And I’m glad I did.

Elizabeth Gilbert knows a few things about the creative process, and she shares a lot of wisdom in this book. But the thing that struck me most came toward the end: an anecdote about an aspiring artist who was invited to a costume party. He misread the invitation and showed up dressed as a lobster at a glittering medieval court ball. The artist debated turning (literal, red) tail and going home, but instead he braved the stares, joined the party, and had a great time.

Why did that resonate so much? I think because at almost every stage of the publishing journey, all writers are convinced their book is the lobster in a room full of ball gowns. When first you start querying. When you reply to a full request. When your soon-to-be agent sets up The Call, and you convince yourself that this busy professional is taking time out of her day to explain over the phone why you should never, ever become a writer.

When you’re on submission. When you’re revising for your editor. When you have to wrestle your next book idea into a synopsis (shudder. Sorry, flashback). When your debut launches. And so on.

If we gave in to these fears and held our creation back all its vulnerable imperfection, a lot of wonderful books would never be born.

As Gilbert writes, “You must stubbornly walk into that room, regardless, and you must hold your head high. You made it; you get to put it out there. Never apologize for it, never explain it away, never be ashamed of it … You were invited, and you showed up, and you simply cannot do more than that.”

So when the PitchWars submission window arrives, go ahead and send your work into the world. Don’t miss the party. Wave your giant foam claws in the air and be proud of what you made. It’s beautiful and uniquely yours.

Also, get rid of filter words. (Had to get that original article in there somewhere).

Monday, July 11, 2016

Why Romance?

by Brighton Walsh

I get asked a lot why I write romance instead of one of the dozens of other genres out there. Why not fantasy or sci-fi or mysteries? (I get this especially from my oldest: “Can’t you write a non-kissing book?” No. No I cannot.) My simple answer is because I love love. I love reading about it and writing it. There is something magical and exhilarating about those first looks, first touches, first kisses. Imagine what it was like to fall in love for the first time. Now imagine getting to feel that over and over and over again without ever leaving the comfort of your couch. Romance leaves me breathless and happy. But that's not where it ends for me.

I read and write romances because I need to.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the world is pretty damn scary, and it doesn’t appear to be getting better anytime soon. It seems like every time I log onto Twitter, I’m reminded of another tragedy that’s happened. It’s a dystopian novel right in my timeline. I see enough horror in every day life. I don’t need to have it in my books, too. Not when those books are supposed to be an escape for me. 

That’s the amazing thing with romance novels… You can have a thousand different stories—contemporary, historical, paranormal, suspense. You can be taken on twists and turns, you can have your heart ripped out in the middle of the book, but the one thing you can bank on? Those characters are getting a Happy Ever After.

If there’s no HEA, it’s no romance.

Having that comfort there, knowing that when all is said and done, my main characters are going to be happy and together, makes everything else okay. I don’t have to flip to the back of the book to make sure the heroine isn’t going to die or to make sure the couple doesn’t end up with two other people. You can go to any other genre and gamble with the endings if that’s your bag. Maybe you like having your heart ripped out and torn to shreds. I don’t, and that’s why I rarely—if ever—stray from this genre. And it might be a small thing in the grand scheme of things, but it's important to me to know I can provide an escape to someone else who's looking for it—or maybe who desperately needs it—with the books I write.

So while this 1.4 billion dollar industry—the highest earning and double what the next genre (crime/mystery) is at 728 million—gets looked down upon because it’s “silly” or “predictable,” I’ll be over here getting lost in a book that might make me cry along the way, but I know will give me the HEA I desperately need before it’s over. I'll end that book with a smile on my face and my heart happy.