Are you sacrificing quality for speed?

Are you sacrificing quality for speed-My peeps over at The Cerulean Project recently hosted a writer’s round table discussion (which you can watch here on YouTube) on writing faster vs. slower, a topic I’m particularly passionate about when it comes to exploring the art of writing and self-publishing. I’ve decided it’s time to vent my feelings on the subject. Most of my thoughts apply to my fellow self-published indie authors and/or writers who may be submitting to traditional publishers, but are not currently under contract. Remember, these are my thoughts based on my experiences. Feel free to agree or disagree in the comments.

Since I started writing with the goal of publishing, I’ve learned many lessons, some of which have been harder than others to swallow. What continues to fascinate me is why writers believe they need to rush to publish. As a new writer, I thought I needed to write fast and publish multiple books a year in order to be a successful self-published author. In fact, I was seriously considering writing several books in advance with the goal of stacking the releases. After all, many authors do exactly that. Many marketing coaches tell authors to do exactly that. I’ve since changed my mind.

When I first dipped my toe into the waters of the self-publishing community, I was overwhelmed with information. Some good. Some bad. But there was no mistaking the encouragement from my fellow “swimmers” to jump in. “Write faster! Get your books published as quickly as possible.” I soon learned that was one of the biggest mistakes I could ever make as a new writer.

If you’re a seasoned writer, with a backlog of finished, unpublished books, you could decide to dust them off and polish them up with a professional edit. This I understand. However, I am no longer of the opinion writers need to push themselves to publish multiple books a year to be successful. Consider this, in the long run, could you maintain that type of publishing pace without slap-dashing stories together?

Writing is an art. An art I’ve come to love and respect. An art that takes time to learn and hone. It takes time to learn story, character development, plot, and how to weave them together to create an engaging read. So why are most self-published writers pushing to publish 3-4 books a year? (See my blog post When did writing become a quick-buck business? for more of my thoughts on making money self-publishing.)

Interacting with your audience and participating in the reading and writing communities are part of a writer’s life. An enjoyable one. It also makes good marketing sense. Those that love books, love talking about them. This is the essence of your local book clubs and the idea behind Goodreads. We all know the single best way to sell books, other than making sure your book is fabulous, is through word of mouth. The more I think about it, the more I believe the theory writers must publish several books in quick succession or else risk losing readers is nonsense. Engaging with fellow writers and readers does not mean you need to shove a book in front of them every 2-3 months. How on earth would you be able to provide quality books at such a rapid rate?

“I’m a fast writer,” you say. Great. Getting a first draft down on paper can be one of the most fulfilling experiences we have as writers. But a first draft, is a first draft. How long are you spending on research, rewriting, and self-editing? And what about your professional services: editors, proofers, formatters, and designers?

If you’re a new writer and thinking, “But I can do all those things myself,” you are sorely mistaken, my friend. You cannot edit your own writing. Let me repeat… You cannot edit your own writing.

Nora Roberts with her bestseller status and dedicated fans, does not edit her own writing. Her publisher employs teams of editors to get her manuscripts ready for publishing. One article I found online says it takes her about 45 days to write a book. That makes her a full time writing machine. Granted, over the years, Nora has probably streamlined her process and can bang her stories out faster than the rest of us. Most of us don’t have the experience to even attempt it. If you search her published books online, Nora Roberts averages two published books a year. Two. So unless you have a staff of full time editors on call, and have enough writing experience to submit first drafts to your editing team (which you should never do), how in the hell are you able to publish more books a year than the great Nora Roberts?

The only answer I can come up with is books published that quickly are crap. There. I’ve said it. Agree or disagree, feel free to voice your opinion in the comments. The fact of the matter is, even if you’re a full time writer, with a team of editors on staff, writing a good book and editing it to make it ready for publishing takes time.

I’ll give the naysayers the benefit of the doubt and agree that these books may not all be total crap. There may be a few entertaining ones (not great) lumped in with the bad. But how do you grow as a writer if you leave yourself no time to do so? When do you have time to explore themes, language, plot, social issues, tension, emotions, and all the other aspects of this art?

And what’s the rush? If you publish a subpar book, it will follow you forever. Are you really going to miss out on millions by taking the time to write a quality, unforgettable book? I doubt it. A quality book actually increases your chances to make a few dollars.

New writers/authors make this mistake all the time. I did. We’re excited. We’ve finally completed this epic task of writing a book and are ready to send it into the world. It took me 10 months to go from first draft to publish with my first book, Sweet Dreams, and I definitely rushed it. I ended up going back and getting professional editing after the fact. I will never make the mistake of publishing without professional editing again.

So when new writers and not so new writers hold their hands over their ears as they tread water and ignore the lifeguards on the shore offering good writing advice in exchange for marketing strategies, it drives me a little nutty. Those that have rushed to publish and learned our lesson are here to reel you in, not drown you.

There’s also the argument publishing too quickly can turn readers off. I’m a fast reader. I can average 2-3 books a week, but I don’t read at that rate all 52 weeks a year. There are times I take a break from reading. There are other times, when I’ve read several books by the same author, I need to take a break from the author to read other books on my list. At some point, a reader will be in the mood for something different than your voice. We can’t eat potatoes, potatoes, potatoes everyday. We crave variety. Why not build some buzz or anticipation around your work as you strive to improve each book over the last?

Good advice, IMO, I’ve received and agree with:

  • Get your first draft down on paper and let it rest
  • Don’t write in a vacuum. There are many great writing communities out there. Join in and network with your peers. Get advice. Get feedback. You are not alone.
  • Whether you outline prior to writing or not, layout your finished manuscript on an outline to identify plot holes and review pacing
  • Rewrite and let it rest
  • Rewrite and let it rest
  • Rewrite and let it rest (as many times as it takes until you have done everything you can possibly do to make it great)
  • Self-edit and let it rest
  • Send to professional editor for full edit
  • Incorporate developmental changes into manuscript
  • Let it rest
  • Self-edit for language
  • Send to editor for second pass: line-edit
  • Incorporate changes
  • Send to editor for final copy edit
  • Send to proofer
  • Let it rest
  • Read through your finished manuscript with fresh eyes, once you’ve let it rest long enough to forget the words you wrote, to identify any remaining issues
  • Repeat any of the steps above if additional work is needed

That is a lot to do in three months, and I didn’t include personal critique, alpha readers or beta readers, not to mention the availability of your editor and proofer, who may take several weeks to edit your first pass alone. It all takes time.

Bad advice, IMO, I’ve received and am no longer fooled by:

  • Once you’ve finished your first draft, it’s ready for the editor (Nope. Please respect your work and your editor’s time. Both deserve your best effort. See above.)
  • I can start self-editing as soon as I finish writing my first draft (Probably best to let it rest. Your eyes will not pick up on issues right away that will be glaringly obvious a month later.)
  • I don’t need or can’t afford a professional editor (I call BS. I was naive and believed the same when I wrote my first book, knowing next to nothing about the publishing world or even where to look. Those of you reading this, who are just joining the writing community, I understand this misconception. But there are enough of us chanting, “Hire a professional editor,” now that it’s really hard to ignore. If you haven’t heard it yet, here it is… Hire a professional editor. You cannot edit your own writing. Put aside money while you write and save up. If you have questions about how to find an affordable editor that fits your needs, leave a comment. This bullet point is already too long to go into it here.)
  • I need to release a book every four months (or faster) so I don’t lose my audience (IMO, you actually run the risk of burning out your audience faster that way and you leave yourself no room to actually work through the good practices above. It’s a marketing strategy, but can it be maintained over time without sacrificing quality? I think not.)
  • I’m a fast writer. I pay for copy editing. That’s good enough (Why are you selling your abilities and your story short? You’re not giving yourself a chance to see what you can really do when you put all your effort into it. It should never be just good enough. It should be your best.)

These are all my opinions. If you disagree, leave a comment and tell me why. For my part, I care about the craft. I care about the art of writing. I want to learn and grow and discover. I want to write a book my readers will continue thinking about days later. There’s a huge difference between doodling and studying to become an artist. This takes time. Practice. Patience.

In short, write your heart out. Get that first draft out as fast as you can. Then, take the time to really mold that rough draft into a work of art you can be proud of. Put time and effort into your book. Respect your writing and your readers. Do the work.

Everyone is different. Writing fast can be a great way to get the basic story down, but do not sacrifice quality for speed. Your audience will wait. Make sure your book is worth it. #WriteBetterBooks

Thoughts???

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

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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

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

Diversity in books is not just black and white

Live For This

Diversity is a hot topic amongst authors and readers who are tired of not being represented or being misrepresented in fiction. But diversity is not limited to the racial background of the hero and heroine. It’s so much more than that. We should consider not only race, but religious backgrounds, cultural backgrounds, economic backgrounds, and people with emotional, physical, and mental disabilities. Everyone deserves love and happy endings.

Recently I was given an advanced reader copy of Live for This by Kathryn R. Biel. Check out my Amazon Review.

Here’s the official blurb:

Samirah Lundgren is living the party girl life. While she’s trying to forget about her past and put off having a meaningful future, her lifestyle catches up with her, leaving her in a wake of personal destruction. Alone and homeless, she encounters Michael Salinger, a man carrying his own baggage in the form of a spinal cord injury, not to mention his former fiancé is marrying his former best friend.

Can a man with a broken body and a woman with a shattered soul help each other find the redemption they need to become whole again?

Samirah comes from an Iranian/British background, one she has totally disconnected with. She masks her heritage behind bleach-blonde hair and her nickname Sam, allowing her acquaintance to think of her as Samantha. The sad fact is, I believe this is true of many people. We all try to fit into the accepted concepts of what’s considered beautiful or perfect. But in whose eyes?

Tall and handsome, Michael had no problem approaching women. Until he was paralyzed. Now women won’t even look at him. All they see is the chair. His fiancé leaves him, unable to cope with the reality of his day-to-day, even though he is totally self-sufficient. Even women he would normally not find attractive regard him with contempt. The sad fact here is while ideally we can all say a disability would not change how we feel about someone, how many can say they would consider dating someone who was paraplegic?

This book hit the mark on so many levels. I stayed up reading until almost 2am to finish it knowing I had to get up the next day for work at 6am. This well written emotional read knocked my socks off. This piece of fiction matters. It will change your view of life, love, and the power of the human spirit.

My takeaway: Love may not be blind, but we shouldn’t let stereotypes blind us to the potential for love.

More about the author, Kathryn R. Biel.

Author Bio:

Telling stories of resilient women, Kathryn Biel hails from upstate New York and is a spouse and mother of two wonderful and energetic kids. In between being Chief Home Officer and Director of Child Development of the Biel household, she works as a school-based physical therapist. She attended Boston University and received her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from The Sage Colleges. After years of writing countless letters of medical necessity for wheelchairs, finding increasingly creative ways to encourage the government and insurance companies to fund her clients’ needs, and writing entertaining annual Christmas letters, she decided to take a shot at writing the kind of novel that she likes to read. Her musings and rants can be found on her personal blog, Biel Blather. She is the author of Good Intentions (2013), Hold Her Down (2014), I’m Still Here (2014), Jump, Jive, and Wail (2015), Killing Me Softly (2015), and Completions and Connections: A Romantic Holiday Novella (2015).

KRBiel-Photo

Kathryn R. Biel, Author Telling Stories of Resilient Women

Website: bit.ly/KRBOnline

Facebook: www.facebook.com/kathrynrbiel

Twitter: @KRBiel Instagram @krbiel

 

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.

Author Pic Final 2016

 

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

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

When did writing become a quick-buck business?

Fountain Pen MF

Growing up, I developed, as I’m sure many others did, stereotypical opinions of what I thought it meant to be a writer.

I placed them in two distinct categories:

The romance writer – The creators of paperback fantasies shelved on the bedside tables of women everywhere. They inspired hushed whispers about heart-throbbing heroes and an equal amount of snide comments from critics. After all, they were just trashy romance novels, not to be taken seriously.

The fiction writer – The introspective creators of literary fiction, suspense, horror, mystery, and fantasy. They spent years perfecting the next great American novel. They agonized over their notebooks and typewriters in darkened coffee houses and bars. Often loners, they were intimidatingly intellectual, and consumed by their goal of winning a Nobel Prize in literature.

I pictured the classic starving artists: The, forty-something man in a sweater vest and glasses, drowning his sorrows in bourbon as he throws balled-up pieces of paper to the ground containing words he deems unworthy of publication. And Miss lonely heart who once loved and lost it all, smoking her cigarette while pouring out her lack of love-life onto the page causing women everywhere to swoon and blush. Both misunderstood and most likely suffering from depression. These were people who spent their lives perfecting their craft. They either traveled the world searching for inspiration and insight into the human condition, or shut themselves away, introverts to the core.

Those were my stereotypes growing up, before I really fell in love with the written word. My ideal of what it’s like to be a writer has since drastically changed. I know that each has their own method, desires, passions, drive, experiences, and motives. I look up to them, romance writers included. After all, wasn’t Jane Austen a romance writer?

However, the “I will write to get rich quick” philosophy was never part of my musings. Sure, we heard about the rare writer who through their prolific words inspired generations. They attained fame as a respected wordsmith, winning awards and accolades from the literary world. But even with modern fiction authors like Stephen King, John Grisham, Nicolas Sparks, and Nora Roberts, who consistently attain bestseller status and secure film adaptations of their work, it’s never crossed my mind that they do it for the money.

J.K. Rowling’s rise to fame certainly changed the image of the starving writer for many people. She wrote fabulous books and won the literary lottery, earning more money than any of us can even fathom. We are happy for her and look to her as an inspiration for struggling writers everywhere. But wait, let’s back up a minute. She wrote fabulous books; books that will forever be classics. That is the key. Her books inspired millions to read. Suddenly, children and adults, who never read for pleasure before, picked up her books and fell in love with reading. Her books will live on, well past her lifetime. Why? Because they were really well written, extremely creative and original, delivered a powerful message about friendship, love, and loyalty, and were freaking awesome books. Her fame is well deserved.

That kind of fame for writing is extremely rare and wildly misunderstood. Unfortunately, I think too many people have started writing for the money. Please don’t misunderstand me. Writers should be paid for their work and paid well. This business of giving away books that writers have spent months or years writing for free is total horse sh!t.

However, somewhere along the line, in my opinion, some writers went from being passionate about writing the next great novel, to passionate about making a quick buck. This is not to say I look down on the successful writer. I don’t. I’m happy for them and want my own success someday. Success is a funny thing though, and everyone has a different definition of what success means to them.

Would I be upset at achieving true bestseller status? Hell no. I’d be proud, excited, and a bit scared if I’m being honest. But I’m having trouble getting to the point in this post, which may be why I’m not a successful writer yet.

Okay. My point is this: Why is it so damn hard for writers to accept that writing takes time, effort, passion, experience, and practice? Why are so many writers complaining they aren’t making enough money? Why do authors get angry when they don’t make it big?

I don’t freaking understand. When did writing become a quick-buck business?

It’s the same reason I don’t understand why teachers complain they are underpaid. Of course they are underpaid. It’s a travesty how undervalued teachers are. My father is a retired teacher. I have two kids. Teachers deserve more money. Their job is one of the most important on the planet; shaping young minds. But for crying out loud, they knew when they became teachers they weren’t going to make any money. Teachers barely make a living, this is nothing new. So they must have become teachers because they were passionate about teaching. Right? Right?

So why in holy hell are authors complaining about the money? It makes me want to tear my hair out. Writers are not paid enough. Most of them cannot live on what they make writing and have other full time jobs to support themselves. It’s a sad truth, but a truth just the same and is nothing new. Just like other artists, few are financially successful. We know this. The big time financial success is an exception, not the rule. This is no surprise. So what are they bitching about?

The only thing I can come up with is this: They started writing with the goal of making a ton of money.

Again, I will reiterate, there’s nothing wrong with writers making money for their work. They should make money. I applaud those who have. Every writer who becomes financially successful is an inspiration. But they aren’t really doing it just for the freaking money? Are they?

What happened to inspiring a generation? Where’s the passion? What happened to wanting to win a Nobel Prize? Where’s the joy of writing? Are you an artist? Are you interested in learning a craft? Yes, you can be passionate and make money doing it, but that’s not what I’m asking.

I wrote my first book just to see if I could do it. It was on my bucket list and something I had wanted to do for many years. So I did. And I fell in love with writing. I continue to write because it has become a passion. The honest truth is I’ve published two novels, one novella, and one short as part of a larger anthology and still haven’t broken even on my costs. So what. I didn’t start writing for the money. I fell in love with it. If money never comes, I will still love it. If money comes down the road, I’ll be grateful, but money is not my motivation. I consider writing an art. I want to learn as much as I can about the art of writing. I want to create my own masterpieces.

So it comes down to this: Do you write because you are passionate about it or to make money?

Let me hear your thoughts.

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

 

Sucked Into a Vortex

Sucked Into a Vortex

I used to be a bi-weekly blogger, posting every Monday and every Wednesday, on two different blogs. One, dedicated to Romance for Real Life; the other to Exploring the Art of Writing and Self-Publishing. Both blogs feed into my website, which I also update regularly. Oh, and once a month, I posted on the Writing Wenches Blog in addition to guest posting on other blogs when time permitted.

But it’s been three months since I’ve been really active on any of them. Oh yeah, there have been a couple posts here and there announcing new releases by writers in my community, but my own posts have fallen by the wayside.

Why?

The craft vortex has sucked me in. No, I don’t mean the kind of crafts that others get lost in; making doodads for family members, scrapbooking, or shabby-chic home décor. I’m talking about writing. The beauty that is the written word.

Let me backtrack for a moment…

After my last novel, Choosing to Dream, was released, I took a big break from marketing and writing. It’s the exact opposite of what you’re “supposed” to do: Keep the momentum going. Get the book in front of readers. Sell, sell, sell.

Nope. After my release I pretty much collapsed into a heap of “I don’t wanna,” and took a break. Don’t get me wrong, I love writing. I love the writing community. I love seeing my books in print. My stomach flutters every time I hear someone has read my book(s).

But there was something about my last book that sucked the motivation right out of me. Maybe it was because I worked so much harder on it than my previous books? Maybe it was because I have a high-stress day job? I’m not even really sure. But there you have it; I retreated, overwhelmed.

Once I got over my exhaustion, I focused all of my extra time and energy on learning how to take my writing to the next level. I’m one of those people who knows a little about a lot, but I’m not an expert on anything. I am, however, a quick learner, and someone who always wants to be the best at whatever it is I’m doing. This includes any of the number of jobs I’ve had. From the hotel and restaurant business to my career in escrow, and all the weird jobs in between, I’ve always strived to be the best line-cook, bartender, hotel/restaurant manager, smoothie-maker, receptionist, waitress, and/or escrow officer I can be.

Writing is something that’s extremely important to me. I’m a veracious reader, which is exactly how I got sucked into the vortex of writing craft. I’ve found excellent resources—follow me on Twitter if you’re interested as I share often—to help me level-up my writing: Podcasts, blogs, broadcasts on Periscope, YouTube, and Blab, along with my writing gurus and writing community, have fed and continue to feed my appetite for knowledge. I binge on these lessons, taking notes and more notes, mentally plotting for hours on end how to use these lessons in my own writing.

The result: I’m writing my third novel. The stakes are high. Will I be able to incorporate all the beautiful techniques I’ve learned and continue to learn into my current story? I don’t know. It’s my biggest fear. It’s terrifying and exciting all at the same time. But I’m writing. I’m doing it. I’ve departed the procrastination station and have commenced my journey into the scary realm of better writing. I’ll still Tweet and Facebook and blog occasionally, but my main focus is exploring the rich land of well written words and how to use them to knock the socks of my readers. It’s an endless paradise.

If you’re looking for me, I’ll be there. Don’t worry, I’ll check in now and again. Feel free to check in with me too, once in a while. Heaven knows I have to leave the cave at some point.

Have you ever felt like going off the grid? Turning off all social media and mobile devices? What would it be like to leave the house without a cell phone? The only time I’ve ever completely unplugged was when traveling abroad. It was fantastic. Freeing. Not at all realistic for me on a daily basis, but still…

If you’re reading this you’re either some kind of voodoo psychic or you’re still plugged in. But could you unplug? Have you ever tried it? What was your experience?

Author Pic

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

Find me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jsenhaji13

Find me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/jsenhaji13

Blog: http://jennifersenhaji.blogspot.com

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/jennifersenhaji

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Amazon https://www.amazon.com/author/jennifersenhaji

WordPress https://jsenhaji13.wordpress.com/

Getting to know your characters

Mirror MFI’ve updated my series timeline and character sheets with notes from the previous two books in my series to insure accuracy and consistency as I finalize my outline and prepare to start the first draft of book three. (That was a mouthful. Sorry.)

And what did I find? That I don’t know my characters as well as I think I do.

How can this be? I created them. I birthed them from my fantastic imagination. They are parts of me.

True, and yet when looking at my character sheet for my main hero and the blank next to “purpose,” I know using “hero” as the answer is a cop out. Because I already know he’s the hero. That isn’t the question. What I really need to know is why he’s the hero.

That is a tough question. I don’t even know what my own purpose is in my life, even though I’m sure I must be the heroine of my life . Geez. This is a lot of pressure.

Let’s tackle the easy stuff first. Below is a list of the minimum information I need to know about each character I write.

  • Age
  • Appearance
  • Occupation
  • Family
  • Skills
  • Hobbies
  • Friends
  • Place of birth

Standard government form stuff.

Now a little deeper. When developing characters and what makes them tick, I need to know more than just the superficial. Below is a list of a few more details I need in order to develop a complex character.

  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses
  • Dreams
  • Fears

Now for the big one.

  • Purpose

Again. This is a tough one. Here’s a few questions I’ve come up with to ask my character in the hopes of uncovering the meaning of his life.

  • What do you value most?
  • What brings you joy?
  • What are you searching for?
  • What are you running from?
  • What do you live for?
  • What are you willing to die for?

These are tough questions for anyone to answer. However, as I learn more about writing and developing characters, these are questions I need answers for.

The questions above are not the only questions I have on my character sheets, and I can’t take all the credit for coming up with them. My sheet is constantly evolving and has many sources. But as I learn more, I add to it.

The more you know, the more you know. Right? Shouldn’t the author know more about their characters than anyone?

Now for some soul searching.

Author Pic

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

Learning to Create Tension

Tension Ropes MFThis week, I’ve been doing a lot of research on tension and the art of hitting tension points to keep the reader on the edge of their seat.

I’m an outliner. I like knowing and remembering what scenes I want to go where. It keeps the story moving forward in my head and hopefully moving forward for the reader.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t occasionally veer away from the outline when the characters decide to go in a slightly different direction. But having a map means my characters and I don’t get completely lost.

Many of us enjoyed watching the Back to the Future movies this week. Like most people, I’ve seen all three several times. This time, I watched with a writer’s eye and discovered something fairly interesting: Even though these movies are not classified as action movies, there’s a ton of action.

Let me break it down even further. There’s no soggy center. Each scene moves the story forward and keeps the audience engaged.

So, how do I apply this to my own writing?

  • Each scene should present a conflict for our hero/heroine which ties into the overall story conflict.
  • The reader needs to learn something valuable from each scene. If you can cut the scene out completely and have it not change anything about the story, then you don’t need it.
  • Backstory needs to be weaved into the narrative or dialogue gently. Dumping will bore the reader. Only details that reveal information critical to the story need to be included.

I’ve been using an awesome outlining tool I downloaded from Ally Bishop over at Upgrade Your Story, which gives you a clear cut layout of where the tension beats need to be. She offers it on her website Upgrade Your Story for free. I highly recommend it.

But I’m also trying to fine tune my outline to make sure each scene contains its own great tension in my current WIP. I’m outlining to avoid a soggy center from the get go. I want my future readers turning pages, eager to find out what’s going to happen next. I’ve learned that chapter breaks should not be a convenient place for the reader to put down the book, but rather only a change of scene, taking the reader right back to the middle of the next action.

I think by fine tuning my outline, I can develop the high-tension scenes I’m looking for and cut out the potential for any lull that could lure the reader into taking a break.

I’m excited to see how it changes the way my WIP comes together.

Author PicI 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

Exploring the Art of Writing and Self-Publishing

apple and books MFWhat am I passionate about when it comes to writing?

This is a question that I’ve been pondering all week at the urging of one of my writing gurus, Ally Bishop aka Upgrade Your Story. I knew the answer immediately, but it took some time to actually put my feelings on the subject into a succinct statement.

When I started writing, I had one purpose: To get the story out. I had a story in my head that wouldn’t leave me alone, and I knew I had to get it out on paper. I’ve been a big reader for most of my life, but it wasn’t until late 2013 that I started writing. Writing a novel was on my bucket list, but until that magic moment when I opened a notebook and the words started flowing, I never actually thought I could do it.

I did do it. I wrote a contemporary romance novel and published it. Dream accomplished.

Two novels and two short stories later, I realize you never really have any idea what you’re getting into until you’re right in the middle of it.

After joining a few writing groups, I knew my first book wasn’t going to be my last. Not by a longshot. I was hooked. Ever since, I’ve been soaking up as much information on the art of writing fiction I can get my hands on.

Can I explain and put down on paper my entire experience from start to finish? I started blogging in early 2014 about my self-publishing journey. Once the book was published, my blog posts varied from writing tips and things I’d learned, to book reviews, articles on romance, author interviews, and some personal posts here and there.

My one blog turned into two: This one which I’ve decided to focus on writing and another over on Blogger which is more focused on Romance. You can find it here if you’re interested. http://jennifersenhaji.blogspot.com/

The thing is, even though each blog had a specific purpose, I still hadn’t been able to pinpoint exactly how I wanted to use them, until recently.

I’m passionate about exploring the art of writing and self-publishing.

The more I learn, the more I want to know. Writing is an art. I want to explore that art. I want to take the information I learn from the experts and apply it to my writing to make it better. I want to know how to create better tension, structure scenes, develop character arcs, series arcs, and strengthen my language. I want to know how to use misdirection and subtext to keep my readers on the edge of their seats and anxious for my next book. I want to know. I can totally hear “Stangers Like Me” by Phil Collins from the Disney version of Tarzan in my head right now as I write this. “I wanna know, can you show me…” It could totally be my theme song, but I digress.

I’ve decided to soak up all I can and share it here. I’ve picked up so much information along the way I need to write it all down before I forget it. I will be sharing what I learn along the way, which I think will provide me with an endless amount of blog content. Yay.

Follow along. Let’s explore the art of writing and self-publishing together. 

Author PicI 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

 

Character Motivation: What every story needs to fly off the page

Blue Angels MF

 

The more I write, the more my process changes. Lately, I’ve been alternating between developing scenes and perfecting my outline to make sure the tension points are spaced out correctly. I know exactly what needs to happen in my story and where I want it to go. But instead of flying by the seat of my pants and only writing the main plot points, I’m working on deepening my characters and developing my subplot.

 

  • What are their motivations?
  • What happened in the past to make them who they are today?
  • How does this affect the other characters?
  • Will the resolution provide enough setup for the next book without being a cliffhanger?

The ups and downs we experience in life shape who we are as people. How I react to certain situations is different than the person sitting next to me on the daily commute train. The same is true for fictional characters. I want my characters to not only be likeable and easy to identify with, but complex and flawed. Real people have issues.

Currently, I have a character who is afraid to let herself be happy. She fears that something will happen to derail her happiness. Why? This is a tough question to answer the third book into a series and still maintain a credible storyline, but the character deserves to be multi-dimensional. Thinking through the possible scenarios is fascinating.

  • Did something happen to her, before our story timeline that was hinted at in the previous books?
  • Will she have an epiphany on own or will tragedy help her see the light?
  • How does she get over this fear?

Discovering the deeper motivations of my characters has been an amazing learning experience and a technique I will continue to cultivate the more I write.

The challenge is how to develop enough subtext to tease the reader, but not giveaway all the secrets. I want the reader to think about my story after they’ve finished reading, and wonder if their theories about the characters are correct without confusing them, but that subtext still has to be plausible.

I’ll be honest, this current story is testing my limits, but I’m all about learning and growing.

The goal is to fill the tank with enough fuel to make the adrenaline pumping loop-da-loops that will hopefully keep the reader’s eyes glued to the page with oohs and aahs.

Wish me luck.

Have you ever read a book or watched a movie and experienced that moment where the lightbulb goes off and everything the character does suddenly makes sense?

Author Pic

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