Writing, promotion, tips, and opinion. Pour a cuppa your favorite poison and join in.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Dear Withdrawn Writer

NOTE: Since I am participating in the A to Z Challenge, I am only going to post today and Friday. I’m sorry about this, but I am pooped. I promise more posts the next time it’s my time to host. Xoxo Chrys Fey

Dear Withdrawn Writer,

Writers often put a lot on the back burner to write and to do all the things that writing and publishing entails. Sometimes, without meaning to, we even put family and friends behind our writing. Not long ago I realized that I was doing this and wanted to remedy that.
If you worry that you’re doing the same thing, you can try this:

1. The first thing you can do is send out a mass email to your family members and close friends, or post a status on Facebook, to explain your absence and why you don’t call as much as you should. Let them know about your responsibilities and that you’re not purposefully withdrawing from anyone. I did this a few months ago.
Here’s part of my message:
“This is a blanket message to all of my family and friends who may feel as though I've become distant. And I'm posting it with love. Every day I am writing, editing, blogging, and marketing. You may not know how difficult all of that is, but trust me when I say it's not easy and it's never-ending . . .Because of that I don't make phone calls, send messages or texts as much as I should . . . Anyway, I just want everyone to know that I'm still here...writing, of course, but here all the same and that I appreciate all of you.”
2. If you’re always writing or doing something related to marketing, it’s a good idea to designate a certain time every day to spend with your loved ones at home. This could be breakfast time or dinner time when you sit with your family and talk, or bedtime when you read to your kids or get a little one-on-one time with your significant other.

Image from Wikipedia
At least it's easier to talk on the phone nowadays.

3. Call at least one person a week for a little chat to catch up. Not only will you benefit from having a nice conversation, but your loved ones will love that you’re calling them to hear about their troubles and/or happiness.

4. Set up one day a week to bond with your family such as family game night, movie night, or a pizza party. Your kids and significant other will enjoy this, and having a little fun will erase any of the stress you have and even help you with writer’s block.

5. Plan a fun outing at least once a month. (You can do it every other week.) This doesn’t have to be expensive either. This can be a trip to the library or mall, garage sale hunting, a beach day, a lunch out with your girl friends, or a night at the fair. Every writer needs to get out of the house and have some fun!

By doing 2-3 of these things, you’ll strengthen your relationships, create memories, and de-stress.

QUESTION: Have you withdrawn from your family and friends to write?

Have a writing-related question? Leave a comment and I may turn it into a post right here!

Author of Hurricane Crimes, 30 Seconds, Ghost of Death, and Witch of Death. Blogger. Reader. Auntie. Vegetarian. Cat Lover.

Find Me:

Friday, April 24, 2015

How I Got an Agent: Guest Post by Mark Noce

Are you feeling frustrated with querying? Are you beginning to feel like nothing will ever come from sending out dozens upon dozens of query letters? Well, don't give up yet. Querying does work!


While some people find their agent through online contests, the majority of writers land an agent the good ole fashioned way—the query letter. All it takes is the right book, at the right time, and with the right agent. Sound like a piece of cake? 


We both know it's not...But it is doable!

With that in mind, I'm excited to have Mark Noce here today to share with us his story of how he got an agent and then a two-book deal! I'm so happy for Mark and all his success! Take it away, Mark!


Thanks for having me here, Kristin!

So, the big question…how to get an agent? Gosh, that’s like asking how to fall in love. It’s different for everyone. All I can do is share my experiences, and tell you from the bottom of my heart that you should persevere because good things really do happen to us all.

I wrote a bunch of books over the years, submitted them to just about every agent alive, and got hundreds of rejections each time. Not very encouraging math. I went to conferences and did “speed-dating” with agents, I read all the right books, put in the time, and did all the other stuff you’re probably already doing now. It all added up to squat. No agent, and no interest from publishers.

But I learned a lot, and made a habit of reading and writing a lot and getting feedback from others. More important than just my writing, I made sure to balance the things that really matter in life, like my wife, kids, job, etc. I’d rather be a good person than a good writer, but I’ve found that the two are definitely related.

I turned 30, had zero writing prospects, and was a bit sleep-deprived by my awesome, but energetic one-year-old at the time. Nonetheless, I went ahead and wrote a new book. My best book to date, by far. I knew I had something different on my hands than any of my previous novels, and some of my readers saw it too. I knew that if this puppy didn’t shine, nothing else I wrote would.

So I submitted it to agents. Guess what? Rejections galore. Worse, tons of non-responses. Just that deafening silence, a pain that only the lone writer can fully understand. But then I started to get some interest. A few partials, a couple full manuscript requests, but I’d gotten this far with previous manuscripts and knew that I shouldn’t expect these to pan out.

Nonetheless, I tried looking in some different areas, especially for new agents. This was key for me. It led me to blogs where agents introduced themselves, and even though a “new” agent could actually be someone quite experienced with lots of clients, what it really signified to me was that this was someone as hungry as I was to get a good story out there for others to read.

I sent an email query with the first 3 chapters to a literary agent named Rena Rossner. Yep, despite all the conferences, “speed-dating” face-to-face with agents, and trying everything else under the sun, I found my future agent via a simple email query. Like I said, good things eventually do happen to us all.

Rena emailed me back within a day. She said she was loving the story and would like to see more. I sent her the whole thing, and got a really nice, long email back from her several days after that. She told me she was seriously considering offering me representation, but like many agents she works as part of an agency and as a consequence, the whole agency must agree when taking on a new writer. What took days felt like centuries to me, but Rena was awesome and always let me know how things were progressing.

Everyone talks about getting THE CALL. For me, it was actually THE EMAIL. My agent lives in Israel and I’m in California, so time zones aren’t always cooperative. Although we did eventually speak on the phone, I signed with her via email first and it’s definitely been one of the most important and transformative moments of my writer’s journey thus far.

So I just signed with the most awesome agent on the planet, it should all be smooth sailing going forward, right? Nope. Let’s just say, dealing with rejection is a part of a writer’s life that never goes away.

We submitted my novel to publishing houses, all the big ones. Rena has great connections and got my manuscript in the hands of people who had never heard of me and would’ve been well beyond my reach as an obscure average Joe. If you think waiting on an agent’s response is hard, wait until you try it with publishers. Whew. They’ve got very limited time and a lot to do, and some people wait a very long time to get responses. But we finally started getting responses, and guess what? More rejections.

My agent was frustrated herself, because she knew my book was something special too, and yet we weren’t getting anywhere. Then we submitted to Peter Wolverton, the head editor at Thomas Dunne Books (a subsidiary of St. Martin’s Press and Macmillan). Pete was interested, but believed we should market it toward a different genre. At that stage, I would’ve pretty much added flying donkeys to my story if it sealed the deal, so I was more than happy to market my novel as historical fiction rather than fantasy.

So a couple months after signing with my agent, I signed a two-book deal with Peter. A real book deal that would actually get my book on the shelf in bookstores! Needless to say, my wife took me out and I had plenty of absinthe that night at a nice restaurant in the city. Because that’s what writer’s do, right?

Everything should be all peaches and cream now, yeah? Not quite. Time, time, time. Everything takes time. I’ve gotten great edits back from my publisher and have resubmitted my changes, but my publisher, understandably, has hundreds of other books to worry about during the course of the year. Which means that although I wrote my novel and inked a contract in 2014, my book won’t actually come out until sometime in 2016. Yep, that’s two years, and I’m lucky at that.

So my historical novel, Between Two Fires, will come out sometime next year, and I couldn’t be happier. In the meantime, I’ve sent the sequel to my publisher and have already written a first draft of another series. One plus side to having to wait on edits, is that I can always start writing the next book.

As you can see, I’m very much on the long journey to publication myself, and that story has only just begun. I wish I had some formula that you could follow that would get you an agent or a book deal, but like a lot of things in life, it isn’t that simple. Everyone’s path is different.

But what I can tell you is that whatever place you’re at right now, you are meant to be there. You’re meant to take in this moment and learn from it. Turn your disadvantages into advantages. No agents interested in your work? You’ve got no pressure or time limit to come up with your next book. No beta readers seem to like your last manuscript? Listen and see who your audience is and what they like. See what some of your favorite books have in common and see how you can incorporate that into your own story. Waiting on a publisher or trying to get your self-publishing efforts off the ground? Looks like you’ve got an impetus to start a new book.

I’m an optimist, in case you didn’t already guess, and I can tell you that the difference between a writer before and after their agent also isn’t as great as you might think. You still have to write, you still have to rewrite, you still have to read, you still have edits to do, and you will still get constant rejections. What you are doing right now, wherever you are in your journey, you are developing the skills and attitude that will see you through to whatever destiny your are meant to achieve.

So bottoms up, this life is meant to be enjoyed! Enjoy your writing and enjoy your journey! I’m Mark Noce, and I wish you all the best in your future endeavors. You can connect with me at my website where you can learn about my upcoming novel, Between Two Fires, and hopefully anything else you might be interested in. Many thanks!


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

My Agent Story: Guest Post by Beth Fred

Not all agent/client relationships go according to plan. 

For some of us, perhaps we feel that the moment we get an agent, it's smooth sailing from there on out. But, unfortunately, that's not aways the case. Bad things happen. Clients and agents end their working relationship for many reasons, just like once you have an agent it doesn't necessarily mean your book will sell to a publisher. 

For today, I've asked romance author Beth Fred to stop by and share her agent story. Beth was kind enough to take a minute and share some of her experiences. Thank you, Beth! Take it away!

When Kristin first asked me to write a post about how I got my agent, I hesitated. Why? Because I no longer have an agent. While it was a very mutual parting of ways (I started writing genres she no longer represented), it still felt like a huge step back to be in the slush pile again.
But at the time Kristin asked for this post, I was already thinking about what my next steps would be. I’d decided to query three agents with a YA novel I’m working on and begin work on a clean na/adult romance while it was on submission. Two of these agents were people who I’d pulled fulls from in 2013, and one works at an agency I highly admire. Here is something important to think about—and that I couldn’t help but think about. In 2011, I queried for the first time. 110 letters sent. 105 form rejections. In the fall of 2012, I was more confident in my writing and looking for something more specific in an agent. I’d decided to query less than 20 agents and if I didn’t get an offer self publish. I queried 19 and obviously signed. After my agent amicably separated, I’d decided I would query only 3 agents and self publish until someone queried me. This means one thing: I thought being queried as an author was a real possibility.

I got my agent with a query letter straight from the slush pile, but I had an offer from a publisher at the time. At this point, I don’t foresee myself querying again. I will write a more detailed post on this later, but I thought my story would help show that times have changed. The publishing industry has changed.

Her books:

Monday, April 20, 2015

How I Got an Agent: Guest Post by Beth Ellyn Summer

Are you ever drawn to reading authors' stories of how they got an agent? Do you find yourself hanging on to every word, hoping they will impart some bit of wisdom that might help you find your dream agent?

Everyone's story is different. For some it may take years to fulfill their dream of getting an agent while for others it may seem like they've won the golden ticket in life with quick response times and multiple offers of representation. But for this week—and this week only—I've asked several authors to share their "How I Got an Agent" story. I'm super excited to have the lovely Beth Ellyn Summer here today to share with us her own story of how she got an agent. Take it away, Beth!


I am so happy to be here at Unicorn Bell! :) Thank you so much for asking me to contribute, Kristin!!


"That will never happen to me."

Every writer has thought this at one time or another. It's hard not to when you read about the perils of querying: No response means no. Partials getting bumped up to fulls only to turn to rejections. A revise and resubmit request from an agent that doesn't end in an offer. Writing a novel that an agent really likes, but doesn't feel the timing is right for the current market. Developing an agent crush ("they love classic sitcoms and devoured the Babysitters Club series as a kid. It's fate!") only to be rejected just as fast as you fell in love with their bio.

But surely if you write a great manuscript, polish it to perfection and do all your agent research you'll avoid all that, right?


I queried two manuscripts before AT FIRST BLUSH. My first had a good request rate, but there was no clear boundary between MG and YA. Looking back, I definitely gave up too soon. I didn't know about the art of revision.

My next MS had its own special set of problems. It was an 80,000 word tell-a-thon. I had no idea what it meant to show, therefore, I didn't do it. My request rate sucked, and the feedback was all the same. "Either lower or raise the ages. There's no market for twenty-two." Of course, less than a year later, NA became a thing.
And just like that, it WAS me. All the bad things that were previously hearsay were happening to me. By the summer of 2012 I had had enough.
I cried. I slammed my laptop closed. I swore as God as my witness I'd never write again.

An hour later, I had a few thousand words on a brand new YA.


Six months later, I knew this was The One. Everything about it felt so right. By the time I finished AT FIRST BLUSH it was late January, 2013. I queried and received requests instantly. Even better? The (very kind and helpful!) rejections were just as instant. Speed is this elusive, mythical creature in the publishing world, and I was experiencing it! I knew I had something here.

Then one night in mid-February I was lazily scrolling through my twitter feed when I saw it: a retweet advertising a "Girly YA" contest over on Monica Bustamante Wagner's blog the following day. I immediately booted up my laptop and proceeded to check out the agent.

Carrie Pestritto was with Prospect Agency, and had a really fun blog. I spent a good hour reading through her posts and learned that she had great credentials (phew), she loved Essie nail polish (I have two salon style racks filled with Essie nailed to my walls), and most importantly, she'd recently read THE SELECTION by Kiera Cass, and was on a girly, makeup/fashion fueled YA kick, hence why she was holding this contest.

My new MS was about a teenage girl who loves makeup so much she films YouTube tutorials, and has to decide how far she's willing to go for a million subscribers. I had to enter. I also had mixed feelings. If this agent didn't want AT FIRST BLUSH, I doubted anybody would. And then I really would quit for like a week forever.


I tried to remain upbeat. I tweaked my query and posted the pitch on the blog at about 8 A.M. the next morning.

The following day I wasn't thinking much of it anymore, to be honest. My parents were at the hospital for my dad's between-chemo-rounds-checkup for his rare blood cancer. Any time the phone rang or my email buzzed I'd tense up, thinking it was bad news about Dad. So when the email came through from Monica that I was one of 4 winners, I was just so excited to have some positive news to share. I called my brother, and then called my mom at the hospital. Everyone was extremely excited, but we've all learned by this point not to get our hopes up too high.

The winners got to email Carrie Pestritto our first 100 pages. After a quick sweep-through of my pages I sent them off to her that afternoon. Seconds later she wrote me back thanking me and saying she was really excited to read!! Yes, there were two exclamation points in there.

An agent, excited to read my MS? It had to be an overly upbeat auto-response message.

I decided to try and put it out of my mind to the best of my abilities. It was a Wednesday, which meant a good television lineup. So, that very same night I'm watching Modern Family when I get a new email from Carrie.

My brain: WOW. She must have hated it so much she can't wait to reject me.

But no, they were notes about a revision, and she said we could set up a time to chat on the phone.

My brain: A PHONE CHAT WITH AN AGENT? How will this go? How will I speak? What if I forget how to speak? What if I forget how to breathe? What if I forget everything my mind has retained since Kindergarten and I just recite vowels and consonants like a jumpy Wheel of Fortune contestant?

I spent hours composing my calm, cool, and collected reply. It said something along the lines of, "yes, Ms. Pestritto, I would very much like to have a phone discussion regarding revisions. I am free any moment for the rest of my life, which of those moments works for you?"

We spoke the following evening and I felt like I'd known her forever and we could be best friends. I was shocked that she was asking me questions that sounded suspiciously like pre-offer questions. I loved her ideas and completed the revision in a month.


Unfortunately, since it was my first real, major revision, I didn't really know much about them. It still needed some more substantial work. So no offer.

But nope! It wasn't over. We had another great call, and now I had a clearer idea of what needed to be done. Carrie is incredible at giving authors chances to develop and grow as artists. She saw something in this manuscript, and in me. I was more determined than ever.


 A couple of months later in May, I was about halfway finished. It was a beautiful but very miserable spring day. My dad was coming up on two weeks in the hospital due to a very bad reaction to his stem cell transplant (he's fine now and in complete remission!) but it was a really really scary, bad time. I was trying desperately to concentrate on my MS when my phone rang. I was shocked to see it was Carrie. Also, a little nervous. Did she change her mind? Was she calling to tell me to forget the whole thing? Except she sounded too excited for it to be bad news. All I remember thinking is, it can't be healthy for a heart to pound this erratically and fast. I glugged some water and sat down.

And then the offer came.


She was having lunch with an editor and started pitching my book as though I was her client already. That's when she realized she should make it official with me. I was shocked. She said she loved my voice, the MS, me as a person and had enjoyed working with me. She officially offered me representation.

Before I'd even finished that second revision.


I was gobsmacked. I was also happy that I was able to instantly say yes. I stopped querying while revising, because I really liked Carrie and didn't want to spread myself too thin. The other requests had been passes, and one agent really liked it but the head of her agency was leaving to form a new agency and she wasn't sure where she was headed.

So yes, it DID happen to me. The bad stuff, but also the good stuff.

If you're currently in the query trenches, please do NOT give up. Don't stare at the clock or calendar and panic that time is running out for you to achieve a dream. Time doesn't exist in dreams. You will get there, and it will happen for you, too.


About Beth:

Beth writes girly teen fiction, because writing about a smoky eye look is a lot easier than actually doing it. She used to work at 30 Rock, where she laughed a lot and learned some stuff too, interning for Conan O'Brien and Jimmy Fallon. She lives on Long Island and can usually be found watching Wheel of Fortune, and tweeting too many pictures of her kitten, Penny.

Friday, April 17, 2015



In keeping with the A-Z theme that’s running around the blogosphere right now, today’s post begin with the letter O, which in this case stands offer to help another writer.

Writing can be a lonely endeavor, especially in the beginning when we’re doing it all by ourselves. I remember when I found my first writing buddy, who used to come over on Friday nights. We’d exchange what we’d written and comment and then write some more. When I started blogging, I found other writing friends, and one of them became my first and very awesome critique partner. We started exchanging our work and oh boy, I can’t tell you how helpful her comments were. And not just the good comments. The bad ones helped, too, helped me see where things weren’t working. I am eternally grateful to her for taking the time to reach out to me and for her friendship. I’m a better writer because of her and because of her I’ve reached out to others to offer my help. Heck, that’s why Unicorn Bell is here! Because a few us got together and said, hey, let’s create a place where we can offer lots of helpful stuff to other writers.

Have you reached out to another writer? Had one reach out to you? How has it impacted your writing?

Thursday, April 16, 2015


April 16 – N –

In keeping with the A-Z theme that’s running around the blogosphere right now, today’s post begin with the letter N, which in this case stands for nourish your creativity.

Some people thing all we writer’s have to do is sit down in front of our desks or laptops and start happily typing away. And sometimes that’s exactly what happens. But sometimes…not so much. One of the things that helps me keep those creative juices flowing is to get the heck away from desk and out into the world. I can’t count how many times ideas or resolutions have come to me while I’m out walking. After all, if we never see what’s beyond our desks, how can we write about any of it? I’ve also found that engaging in other creative endeavors can help put me in a better state of mind. Painting/drawing is one of my faves because it totally focuses my mind on what I’m doing, allowing all the other parts of my mind to take a rest. Even watching television/movies can be a way to nourish our creative sides. Just think how many times you’ve said, yeah, but if they did it this way no one would’ve seen it coming…

What nourishes your creativity? Do you engage in any other creative activities besides writing?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015


In keeping with the A-Z theme that’s running around the blogosphere right now, today’s post begin with the letter M, which in this case stands for manage your time.

I think this is one of the hardest things to do, because unless you’re independently wealthy most of us can’t spend as much time as we’d like with our writing. There’s work, family, chores, the internet…all trying to pull us away from our stories. The trick is to give each its due, and that means managing your time so you get everything done while not neglecting those things you have to do.

How do you manage your time? Do you set aside a certain amount of time to spend writing? Do you have a schedule?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


In keeping with the A-Z theme that’s running around the blogosphere right now, today’s post begin with the letter L, which in this case stands for love what you do.

Pretty simple in theory. I mean, that’s why we spend as much time with our stories as possible right? We love them.

But what happens when we don’t love them as much, or, worse, not at all. Sometimes we have to let those stories go. Maybe not forever. I don’t delete anything. I still have a file cabinet full of stuff typed on an old-fashioned typewriter from back in the day. I save it all because you never know when the magic might come back. But in the meantime I have to devote myself to what moves me or figure out a way to make it move me.

How do you sustain the love for your story? What do you do when the magic’s gone?

Monday, April 13, 2015


In keeping with the A-Z theme that’s running around the blogosphere right now, today’s post begins with the letter K, which in this case stands for know the biz.

My thought is, if you want to be a writer, especially one who gets published, you should know the business you’re getting into. I think most of us come into this with the notion that we just want to write stories and then progress to wanting to see our stories in print. The problem is, if we don’t learn how to make those stories as good as they can be and find out how to get them out in the world, our chances of success are pretty slim.

When I first started writing there weren’t nearly as many resources for writers. Heck, there wasn't even the internet! These days, however, there are tons of resources, which make it easier than ever to learn the craft and business of writing.

One of my favorites is Writer’s Digest Magazine. It has been consistently helpful and fun. What are some of your favorite resources? What’s helped you know the biz?

Friday, April 10, 2015

A Writer's Tool Box?

Do you have one? You know, certain websites, real life places, people, whatever you need in order to get you through tough writing spots. It could be a naming resource, an idea factory, favorite research place or person you bounce ideas off of. We all have them, but do we recognize how important they are?

Share your resources and links with us in the comments today!

Here's what my toolbox looks like.

Google--my go to when starting any kind of research. The internet is so full of articles on everything! You just have to be careful to find credible sources.

seventhsanctum.com--My naming go to! There are also generators for combat moves, organizations, settings, equipment/technology, skills/abilities/traits, etc. I mostly use it for naming, but I did get my miniblasters from the equipment generator. When I get writers block I just browse this site and it sparks all kinds of ideas. I love to mix and match stuff here.

Grooveshark or Pandora--great for creating moods with music. I noticed today that Grooveshark has changed their format and it took forever to find where to log in.
Pandora is easier to use. However I like having control over exactly what songs play in my lists for each novel. Can I do that on Pandora?

Writers Helping Writers--this is a great site for resources. It's run by Angela and Becca of the Emotions Thesaurus. They have a toolbox of free pdfs as well as lots of links.

The Emotions Thesaurus--I have it. It's a great way to get past the telling words and think about the visual cues and internal sensations to help show those emotions. Mine is a print version because it's easier to flip back and forth.

When things are really tough and I know I just need to write something, and it doesn't matter what. I head over to Write or Die. It really helps me to get over myself and let the words flow by turning off the inner editor. You just don't have time to edit yourself when the screen is flashing at you and sirens are going off.

The last site is one I should probably visit more often. I saved it thinking it would help me avoid cliches. The truth is tropes don't really change, but we can shake things up a bit if we know what's overdone. TV Tropes covers everything. All genres, any situation, all character personalities.

There are other places I frequent, but they come and go. Those are the ones in my writing bookmarks folder on my browser.

What's in your bookmarks?

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Basics of Story Telling

There are so many novels being released into the world every day that you might think you're biggest challenge is being unique--finding some way to stand out. That's partly true. You need to find your own voice and take on things that will make those tried and true tropes (say that five times fast!) feel fresh and new.

However, there are certain things every story should have. I'm going to share them with you by linking to some of my favorite posts about them.

The 5 Essential Story Ingredients--Totally different from what I'm listing below. Great post though on how to help keep your reader engaged in the story.

A complete structure (plot)--you know, a beginning, middle and end and all the stuff that keeps the story moving? This link takes you to another page with links. Links to a powerpoint, a youtube presentation, etc. Definitely worth your time! Especially if you're a visual audio learner. :)
How to Build a Story

Characters. These characters don't have to be human. They can be animals or even a planet. I read one book where the people didn't make any sense to me and kept getting in the way of the real star of the show--the world.
7 Common character types
How to Craft Compelling Characters
How to Create a Character Profile

Setting that pulls you in and helps you understand the world and how the characters relate to it.
The Basic Elements of Setting in a Story
How to Employ All 5 Senses in Creating Your Setting
Writing Dynamic Settings

Suspense and Tension. Yeah, it's not just for mysteries or FBI thrillers.
6 Secrets to Creating and Sustaining Suspense
41 Ways to Create and Heighten Suspense  There is so much good info in here!

Conflict--yes, this is different from suspense and tension. They are closely related, but different.
The Secret to Creating Conflict
External Conflict Vs. Internal Conflict
7 Types of Narrative Conflict--just in case you've forgotten.

What have I missed?

Monday, April 6, 2015

What I Wish I Had Known

Since many of us are participating in the April Blogging A to Z Challenge, I thought we would keep things simple this week. Let's simply talk about some of the things we've learned during the course of this writing journey we're on.

Today I thought it would be great to share some posts I stumbled on that I wish I had read years ago before starting out as a writer. Perhaps they would have helped me enter the path with a better sense of reality. (I mean, come on! I write fiction for crying out loud. Reality is just a thread sticking out of my sweater sleeve.)

I'll also ask you to share what you wish YOU had known before becoming a writer.
  • I wish I had known how time intensive this process would be. 
  • I wish I had known how hard it would be for my family to support my desire to give this "hobby" a try.
  • I wish I had known from the very beginning that my writing style doesn't (and probably never will) fit perfectly in a well labeled box. It would have saved me much heartache.

I'm glad I didn't know what wonderful friends and support I would find in the online writing community. That's one surprise that helped me to press forward.

21 Thing I Wish I'd Known Before I Started Writing by Robin Black
What I Wish I Knew Before I was Published-- a list from many authors
5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Becoming an Author--I love #3 even though I don't drink. :)
And this most excellent post...
Nice Things I Wish I'd Known About Publishing by Alison Cherry

So, comment now. What do you wish you'd known about writing, getting published, marketing, etc?

Friday, April 3, 2015

How I Juggle Projects

Every time I update on my goals and people see how much I actually want to get done in a month, there’s at least one person who says that he/she doesn’t understand how I can work on so many projects at one time.

So I thought some of you might find it interesting if I explain.

At one stage, I used to work on only one project at a time, but even then, never quite. If I was working on one project and another idea came up, I’d postpone that idea until I finished the rough draft of my main project. In other words, I’ve pretty much worked on at least two ideas since half way through Doorways. (In case you missed it, Doorways was split into two halves for a publishing deal and I generally refer to either half by their individual titles.)

I’ve never worked on only one project from conception to final edits. I guess my brain just doesn’t work that way. Usually I’d take a few weeks off from one project before starting to edit it. In that time, about a month or so in, I’d start another project. Only rarely, though, would I work on another project while drafting another.

NaNoWriMo 2012 made me reconsider this. That year, I’d written an entire rough draft in two weeks, but it came short of 50k words. And because I hadn’t had time to think about something else to write and had only two weeks left, I had to give up.

Then in 2013, I started to think of how much writing time I actually lose because of the time I take before starting that second project. Worse still, I’m prone to writer’s block while drafting and in those times, I’d take weeks without writing anything while my mind figured out whatever was keeping me from continuing a story.

When November came, I decided to work on three projects: One main project and two others that I can skip to in case I wrote myself into a corner with one. It worked a dream. In fact, I think I almost hit 60k words in that time, and finished the rough drafts by the end of December.

Then came my five year goal, and I decided to push myself out of my comfort zone by running writing and editing projects concurrently. That, as it turned out, works even better for me.

How do I do it?

1) I always work on different genres to separate the stories in my mind. E.G. I have an epic fantasy, an urban fantasy, a contemporary romance, and a dystopian pipelined for rough drafts. For edits, I have the first two books in the same epic fantasy series as the one I’m drafting, a historical romance and a mythology retelling. Very little chance of confusion for me because everything looks and feels different from everything else.

2) Everything has a priority list. I’ll pick one rough draft, one rewrite and one edit at a time and then I don’t work on anything else unless it’s done or I get stuck.

3) In case of getting stuck, I’ll pick something else to work on until I get unstuck. It usually happens without much conscious thought from my side.

4) I never shelve anything indefinitely. If something doesn’t work and I can’t figure out why, I might move it down the priority list, but I never remove something from it. This prevents me from having a ton of unfinished projects in my wake.

5) Speaking of which, I write down any shiny new ideas I might have and add it to the priority list. And then I go right back to what I’m actually busy with.

6) I use spreadsheets to keep track of how many words I’ve written, rewritten and/or edited in a day, month and year by project. I also have a spreadsheet calendar where I outline each of the goals I set for the month, so that I can see if I’ve been neglecting anything when I shouldn’t.

7) On any given day, I pick what I want to focus on. Sometimes, it’s to edit, or to write a chapter, or to rewrite. I never move onto another project unless I’ve finished that task (or get stuck).

I wouldn’t be able to work on the projects the way that I do unless I had that priority list and a way to track my progress. Without them I probably would just end up going back to working on one or two projects at a time.

Now you know my secret.

Do you work on multiple projects? If so, how do you go about it?

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

When characters take over

I’m currently rewriting a dystopian story. It’s gritty, it’s harsh. It’s cruel. And even though I’d planned out the rewrite as I always do, the second chapter completely broadsided me. Maybe it happens to you too. You start by writing something. Then make a small seemingly insignificant decision that circles out into something much bigger than you’d ever anticipated.

That’s what happened to me. I’m not going to go into detail, but I made a small choice of having a nasty piece of work being in a confined space with my main character while she’s bound up and blindfolded. I’d planned that she’d be seriously freaked out by him, but that it would be the extent of it.

Thing is though, that my writing method basically requires one thing above all else: That my characters are alive in my head. That all of the characters are alive in my head.

Which means that all characters have motivations, wants, needs, likes, dislikes and pet peeves. And this creepy character hates the main character so deeply that he wants to hurt her in the worst way he can think of.

In short, I’d created a scenario that he could take advantage of in ways I didn’t anticipate and that have ramifications on the entire story.

Which leaves me with a big dilemma. Part of me wants to rewrite this chapter, with me changing the scenario so that the creep can’t take the same advantage. It’ll be easier. It will make the whole story fall back into the plan.

I just don’t know if I should. I don’t know if I’m just running scared. Maybe I am. I often write scenes I don’t like from a humane point of view, but go with it because it feels right for the story. In a lot of ways, this scene does. It illustrates how far the world has sunk. It can show a lot of stuff that might not feel as real otherwise.

It feels dicey to me, though. Is this the story I want to tell? Or is the original version in my head the one I should go with?

Honestly, I like the original version more.

But if…

No. I’m cutting that chapter. I’ll just keep it somewhere. In case I change my mind. 

Have you also had your characters take over and veer off your chosen path? What did you do? How did it work out?