Who’s the boss of your story?

Learned MFI learned something this past week: My writing process, for each and every book, has been different. Which begs the question: Who’s the boss when it comes to story?

Well, let’s review.

First book, Sweet Dreams, a full length novel and the first book in my Sunset Dreams Series, came to me like lightening. My outline was written longhand in a notebook. The first draft was written by hand over a few days at a coffee house. That’s pen and paper, many a hand cramp, and many more hand cramps when transcribing said first draft into the computer, which of course then became my second draft. Several (more than ten, a few less than one hundred) drafts later and many more hours of self-editing and proofing, the book was born.

With the second book, Angels in Disguise, (in this case, a novella), I was writing within certain parameters and had a theme only: holiday romance, less than twenty-thousand words, bad boy/girl. I started writing the first chapter on my laptop with only NYE in mind. Then the story came to me. I created a very loose outline by hand in a notebook. I wrote the story on my laptop, including the first draft, and I finished the final draft of said novella in a month. My first experience with a professional editor and proofer was an eye-opener. I embraced it. Revised, edited, proofed, and published as part of a holiday anthology with twenty other writers. (Not currently available as a standalone, but will be winter, 2016.)

First book, Sweet Dreams, (you read that right.) I went back and had professionally edited and re-published, happier with the finished product. Lesson here: never, ever publish without a professional editor.

Third Book, Sea Breeze, (in this case, another novella) I created a more concise and professional outline, researched locations in depth. Created inspiration boards. Wrote the first draft on my laptop in about two months. Submitted to my editor for full edit. Revised. Submitted for a second edit. Revised, proofed, and published as a standalone novella.

With my fourth book, Choosing to Dream, a full length novel and the second book in my Sunset Dreams Series, I created character sheets, a timeline, and a scene by scene outline on my laptop. I reread its predecessor several times and created a list of important information to use as frame of reference for book two. I wrote the first half of the first draft by hand in a notebook, then transcribed it into the computer. More hand cramps and cursing of old school writing ensued. I finished the first draft in about four months and allowed it to sit, untouched for a month before starting the first rewrites, all while incorporating the information I learned from my first three experiences with my editor. After several rewrites and self-edits, I submitted to my editor for my first round of editing. I revised. I submitted for the second round of editing. I revised. I submitted for proofing. I proofed two more times myself, and finally I published. This book, by far, had taken the longest to write, but is, by far, the best out of all the books above.

Fifth book and current work in progress, is a full length novel. This book will be the third book in the above mentioned series and is taking me even longer to write than my last. I perfected my outline over three months during which I also spent a lot of time mentally plotting and writing key scenes out by hand in the old notebook. I updated my character sheets, and reread books one and two above to keep it fresh. I’m writing the first draft on my laptop and concurrently writing a chapter by chapter synopsis after each chapter is complete, so I can have an easy access summary of the chapters as they are written to refer back to. I started the first draft in January, meaning I’ve been working on this first draft for about three months, and I’m about 1/3 of the way through the story. I have the entire story plotted out, so there’s no confusion about what comes next. But with all that I’ve learned from book one until now, there’s a lot more to incorporate into my writing. And I’m paying attention. I’m writing slower and taking more care with this story. This is to be a finale of sorts, at least for the main characters of my series, and I want it to be the best it can be. That means making sure my plot and subplots are all hitting the mark. That means making sure the rise and fall of tension keeps the reader engaged. That means really working on crafting the language. I’m putting to use all the tools I now have at my disposal and making this one the best it can be. At least, that’s the plan.

With my sixth book— wait, what? I know. I’ve never worked on two projects at once. I always thought it was impossible and could never understand how other writers were able to do it. However, I now have a second work in progress. It’s a full length novel, and will be the follow up to my first novella, Angels in Disguise (book two mentioned above) and officially the first book of its own series, or the second. Not sure how that works; if the novella becomes book one, once I publish it as a standalone and the first novel is book two, or if the novella is a prequel and the novel is book one. I’ll have to figure that out when I get there. With this story, the scenes came to me like lightening again, just like with my first book. I created a story board and wrote a summary of each scene. This will eventually become my outline. But guess what? I’ve already written the first draft of four of the pivotal scenes, totally isolated and out of chronological order. Crazy right? But the words are flowing like mad. So I will be striking while the iron is hot. I will, of course, go through several rewrites, revel in the guidance and assistance of my editor and her awesome way of making me better, and eventually get it ready for publishing. But this process has been so different from anything I’ve experienced before, I had to write about it.

My goal is to make each book better than the last. So far, I think I’ve succeeded. With each book I’ve written, my process has been slightly different. This newest project is way out in left field. It’s making me question everything I thought I had to do and everything I thought I could never do. Is it me that’s growing, changing, and implementing a different process with each book? Or is it the story itself that drives the way I write? Not sure. I’m having fun figuring it out.
Who’s the boss of your story?

Author Pic Final 2016I was born and raised in San Francisco, CA, and have a husband and two children. Music is an addiction. I can often be found in the car, singing along at the top of my lungs to whatever is playing. I work full time, and I split my spare time between family, reading, blogging, and writing. I’m a habitual quoter. Lines from films and TV shows constantly pop into my head—my kids are the only ones that really get it. I’m an only child, and so of course I married a man who is one of ten children. Other than English, I speak Spanish, Moroccan, and a little French. I love to travel, but don’t do enough of it. Reading has been a passion for most of my life and I now love writing. I’m klutz, and in my own mind, I’m hilarious.

Find me at http://www.yoursweetandspicyromanceauthor.com/

Signup to join My Dream Team: http://eepurl.com/bjAzz1

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No More Excuses

CellRecently, I came to the realization that my excuses for not having time to write were… poppycock. Yeah. I said it. I love old-timey swear words. I could have gone with horsepucky or shite… but I digress.

What really gets my goat (ha, there’s another one) is when writers preach about writing every day. Every flipping day? I don’t have time to write every day. I barely have time to go to work, eat, and sleep let alone give my children and/or husband any sort of attention. Oh and I’ve been sleep deprived for years. On average I go to sleep at 1am and get up at 6:30am. So there’s no getting up before the crack of dawn to write. If I could, I’d be out getting the exercise I desperately need.

But you know what? Those writers are 100% correct. I’m the one who is full of it.

A little background: I work full time and spend about forty-five minutes commuting each way to work. My job is high-stress and I vary rarely get an actual break, usually opting to shovel food into my mouth while continuing to work at my desk. I sneak out for a cigarette or two every five hours or so (I know they’re bad for me, don’t judge) at which time I catch up on social media or read on my Kindle app. When I get home, I’m bombarded with “Mommy, I’m hungry,” or “What’s for dinner?” before I’ve even closed the front door. Writing time comes in the form of either blocked time on the weekends in which I have more than five minutes to sit down and concentrate, or isolating myself at a coffee house. That’s what has worked for me in the past. That’s what I’ve been doing thus far.

Last week, I had a breakthrough. I’m part of a few writing groups that I’m deeply grateful for. They offer encouragement, share knowledge, and are full of genuinely giving people. Last week, my peeps over at The Cerulean Project were sitting down for some silent writing time as a group, which I’ve taken part in before. I’d been stuck, mentally plotting a scene in my current WIP for about ten days. And so even though I had yet to arrive home from work, I thought I’d experiment with writing the scene a few different ways to see which way would work best with my current outline. The commute train I take every day leaves its passengers just enough room to squeeze in like sardines and hold on for dear life. Getting a seat and opening up a laptop is out of the question. But I managed to write about 900 words anyways.

How did I accomplish the amazing feat, you ask?

I tapped out the words with my thumbs on the notes app on my cell. Yep. On my cell. As far as writing goes, I’d only ever used my cell for quick notes before, opting for anything longer to be handwritten in my notebook when away from my laptop, which is also impossible to pull out on the train. But I did it. Cell phones are not the devil. In fact, I was so encouraged, the next day I chucked my social media time on my morning commute in favor of writing again. I did the same on the way home. End result: Over 2700 words written on my cell during three train rides. Amazing. Of course, I didn’t know how much I had actually written until I went home that second night and transcribed it all into my WIP, but still…

So to all the naysayers, who claim they can’t find time to write, I call bullshit. You can write anywhere. Where there’s a will there’s a way. Stop making excuses. If you don’t have time to write, it’s because you’re not making time. Turn off the T.V. and social media. Make time. If I can do it, you can do it. Now, go write.
Author Pic Final 2016

I was born and raised in San Francisco, CA, and have a husband and two children. Music is an addiction. I can often be found in the car, singing along at the top of my lungs to whatever is playing. I work full time, and I split my spare time between family, reading, blogging, and writing. I’m a habitual quoter. Lines from films and TV shows constantly pop into my head—my kids are the only ones that really get it. I’m an only child, and so of course I married a man who is one of ten children. Other than English, I speak Spanish, Moroccan, and a little French. I love to travel, but don’t do enough of it. Reading has been a passion for most of my life and I now love writing. I’m klutz, and in my own mind, I’m hilarious.

 

 

Find me at http://www.yoursweetandspicyromanceauthor.com/

Signup to join My Dream Team: http://eepurl.com/bjAzz1

Twitter, how I love thee. Let me count the ways.

Group

140 characters. That’s not much. You have to keep your message short and sweet. People, in general, these days do not have the time or the inclination to read tons of long diatribes online. Their attention is already being pulled in a thousand different directions. It’s a miracle you’re reading this post now.

So in the spirit of keep things to the point, here’s a list of reasons I love Twitter.

  • Connecting with friends- With people I already know, this is an easy way to share a thought they could be interested in or comment on something they post.
  • One degree of separation- Yep. I’ve had twitter exchanges with authors and celebrities way outside my friend circle. It’s a squee worthy moment when someone you admire from afar comments on something you’ve said.
  • Extending my reach- Mixed in with conversations is the opportunity to market. Yes, I use twitter to market. It’s not all I do, but if I have a book releasing, you can be sure to see those notifications on my feed as well.
  • Linking up- There are days on Twitter like #MondayBlogs, #WWWBlogs, #WriterWednesday, where you can find content linked to headlines that you want to read.
  • Hashtags- This is where those hashtags actually work. Type in #amwriting and see every post that includes that. Type in #Romance and find every post including that hashtag. Type in #JaneTheVirgin and you may find yourself exchanging quips with the awesome Rogelio De La Vega.

As a writer, in my opinion, the key is to make the primary use of Twitter a way to engage and interact. Marketing secondary. You may say, “Well this week there were an awful lot of links to your books on Twitter.” Yes. This week I released a new book. I would be remiss to not get that news out there. But normally, I’m there to chat, share a laugh, link up to writing tips, and hopefully entertain.

You can find me, my social links, and all my books on my website at http://www.jennifersenhajiauthor.com/

Signup to join my Dream Team and receive sneak peeks,

and access to my sweet and spicy tips.

http://eepurl.com/bjAzz1

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Character Development- The Timeline

Old Cannon Emblem

Whether you are writing an epic saga or a serial short, it’s important to keep track of the events and timeframe of your story. The last thing you want is a reader calling you out on inconsistencies.

Solution: Create a timeline for each story. You can create it in word or excel, if you don’t have a fancy writing software that includes that type of information built in. Reference the date or point in time in your story, and include the event and which characters it affects.

This will allow you to go back and reference events, instead of trying to rely on that perfect memory of yours. This is especially helpful if you are writing a series. Maybe a character made a small appearance in book two, but that character can prove the innocence of the main character of a crime they are accused of in book four.

Keep a timeline. Keep it as a running document that you can add to and refer back to. It will save you time, and will make your writing tighter.

It also helps to keep a timeline of the characters backstory. Even if that backstory never makes it into the final version, it helps you understand why the character is the way he/she is. Everyone has memories, why wouldn’t your characters. Something to think about.

For more on character development, read my blog on The Personality Test.

Author Pic Find me and all my links online at www.jennifersenhajiauthor.com

Happy writing.

 

 

 

5 Tips to giving feedback on an ARC

Quick Tips

One of the benefits of being an author is knowing lots of other authors, many of which will offer free copies of their books in exchange for an honest review. You have a direct line to the author. It’s completely different than buying a book directly from the bookstore. In my opinion, receiving an ARC comes with a lot more responsibilities as a reader.

Let me explain. You just received an ARC or free copy for review. You’ve read the book, but there are… issues. What do you do?

Here’s what I do.

I agonize over what to say to the author. I weigh and measure what I should take into consideration and what not to. Is the book already published and available for purchase? Am I reading the final version, or is this a draft? The author may still have a last proofread and final edits to do.

It’s never easy to tell someone you have found flaws in something they’ve worked so hard on. You don’t want to hurt their feelings, but at the same time, it’s important to communicate the information to the writer. If you don’t tell them, how are they going to know?

Here are my tips to giving a critique on an ARC or free review copy.

1. Be honest. This is the most important and sometimes the hardest thing to do.

2. Send your feedback privately. There’s no need to post all the issues you found in a public review. If you received an ARC, you have direct contact with the author. Send a private message or email.

3. Be humble. Tell the author what you liked and what you would like to see more of. A pill is a lot easier to swallow with a little honey.

4. Be respectful. Explain to the author your comments are not meant to not to hurt, but to help them. It’s up to them to decide what to do with them.

5. Don’t be a Yes Man. It does no one any good to inflate their ego by telling them their book was amazing if there were issues that you should have mentioned. Their book may be a two star in its current state, but with a few revisions could be a five star.

In the long run, most authors will appreciate your honest feedback. Some may not.

In the end, wouldn’t you want to know? I would rather have the honest feedback and decide what to do with it than read it in a review. What about you? Would you keep the information to yourself or tell the author?

For more on this subject read my blog post Supporting Authors- The Ugly Truth.

You can find me and all my links online at www.jennifersenhajiauthor.com Thanks for reading.

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5 Tips to help you Stay on Task

Quick Tips

It’s really easy to become distracted by—ooh, I have a new comment on my blog! Sorry.

See what I mean. Writers have a million different ideas pulling them in a billion different directions, not mention all of our blogging and social media commitments. So how do we stay on task and actually get any writing done?

  1. Turn off all social media- This means, when you sit down at your computer, or with your notebook, turn off your social media apps. If you cannot resist checking the notifications that pop up on your phone, then turn the darn thing off completely.
  2. Isolate yourself- I don’t mean lock yourself away, let yourself go, and become a hermit. I mean find a quiet place away from family distractions. If you don’t have a room or office you can be alone in, find a corner, plug in your ear buds, turn on your favorite playlist, and tune all others out. Let your family know that the ear buds are just as good as a do not disturb sign.
  3. Set personal goals-Make a goal for the week. I prefer weekly goals rather than daily. If I get in my weekly word count, it doesn’t matter if it was all in one day or over seven days, it’s still an accomplishment.
  4. Get support- Find a partner or whole group, that is interested in encouraging word count. It keeps you motivated to keep up and keep track. Cheer each other on. Go team!
  5. Stay in the zone- When you are in the zone, do not stop. Keep beverages, food, music nearby, and family at bay for as long as you can. It’s not easy to get in the zone, so make the most of it. Write and let the words flow. This is the moment you want to maximize, not when it’s forced.

 

Well, time to follow my own advice, and get back to work on my WIP. For more thoughts on time management for writers, check out my blog Staying on Task-Time Management for Writers.

Do you have any tips for staying on task you can share? Leave a comment.

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You can find me and all my links on my website at www.jennifersenhajiauthor.com

 

Quick Tips for Self-Editing

Quick Tips

Everyone likes a helpful tip or two, so here are a few you may find useful when self-editing.

Before I begin, any tips listed here in no way are meant to replace hiring an actual editor. Hiring an editor is a must. I only mean to help you through your pre-edit so your editor can concentrate on the nitty gritty of helping you become a better writer. I work with PageCurl Publishing and Promotion and I highly recommend their services.

Now let’s get to it.

Here are five quick tips that I’ve learned through the editing process:

  1. Be careful with the details; i.e. if you have already stating something in the dialog, don’t restate it in the prose.
  2. Foreign words should be italicized; i.e. your heroine is traveling in Italy and she greets someone in Italian. “Buon giorno” should be in italics.
  3. Toward and towards are both correct, but you need to choose one and stick with it for consistency.
  4. I feel can often be replaced or omitted. It can be passive; e.g. use I’m sad instead of I feel sad.
  5. Also -ing verbs are often passive. I’m going to school.  I go to school is cleaner.

If you are looking for more quick tips, remember to check out my blog post on Self-Editing Tips and Tricks for January.

Do you have any tips you can share?

You can find me online at www.jennifersenhajiauthor.com

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