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If you’re a seasoned writer, with a backlog of finished, unpublished books, you could decide to dust them off and polish them up with a professional edit.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

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

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

 

Writing isn’t always a walk in the park. Or is it…

Park PicI’m a master procrastinator. I can find everything under the sun to do except that which needs to get done. It’s frustrating. I know this about myself, yet I procrastinate about making changes. It’s a vicious cycle.

Over the past few weeks. I’ve been working on my current WIP. When I say working, I mean working through it mentally, but not actually getting words down on paper. I’ve known where this story is going for months, but how to get from point A to point B, has changed several times.

I know, not so deep down, I’m my own worst enemy when it comes to time management. I can do it, I just need to get out of my own way. I love writing, so why does it sometimes feel like such a chore to actually sit at my laptop and write?

Fear. I’ve come to the conclusion it’s fear that keeps the procrastination machine churning. Fear of not writing the best story I can. Fear of not being able to dig deep enough to provoke the emotions in the reader I want. Fear I may not yet have the skill to put the plot running through my head to justice on the page.

So my laptop has rested undisturbed on the table in the corner. What to do?

When I find myself in this situation, a walk in the park seems to do the trick.

I live right next to a park that links up to a beautiful trail which goes on for miles. And every time I take a few minutes, alone, to walk in said park, the inspiration flows. There’s a little pathway, lined with trees on both sides, I love. Beautiful. Serene. Children laugh and squeal on the play-structure to the left and packs of adults play Frisbee-golf to the right. It’s my little pathway of shaded heaven.

It’s on this pathway, alone with my thoughts, ideas and storyline run freely through my mind. I become excited again and eager to write. This is when the magic happens. I sometimes bring a notebook with me, but most of the time, I jot down notes in my phone so I won’t forget.

So, if you’re feeling stuck; avoiding your computer and/or otherwise getting in your own way, take a walk in the park. I think the key is undisturbed alone time, free of distractions. Don’t walk to the park, sit down, and proceed to spend another hour on social media. Focus on your characters and the scenes you want to develop. Ask yourself what their motivation is, why they are doing X when they should be doing Y. Put yourself in the shoes of the protagonist and antagonist and flesh out their backstory.

Don’t be afraid. Write down all those ideas that stroll through your mind before you forget them.

How do you motivate yourself into action? How do you end procrastination?

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

 

Stepping Stones: Level-up your writing

Stepping Stones MF

I follow many different blogs on writing. During my self-publishing journey, one of the most important things I’ve discovered is there’s a lot to learn about writing and writing well.

If you’re a writer, you probably know Chuck Wendig’s blog is always good for a swift slap in the writing-chops and a reality check on publishing. I follow him and if you don’t, you should.

There are also other fabulous blogs on writing and publishing, too many to name here, that offer really good advice. And when I say good advice, I mean as soon as I’m finished reading the article, I’m not only sharing it on social media, but jotting down notes for my current WIP.

Sitting up yet? Good. Below are links to three of the bloggers I follow and the articles they’ve posted which have greatly impacted my thought process lately.

 

 

These ladies and their insight into the craft have been extremely helpful to me and my writing. I suggest following via Twitter, Facebook, etc., and I believe all of those links can be found on their blogs.

I hope these articles get your writer juices flowing. For me, the insight and information these bloggers share are just the stepping stones I need to reach to a new level in my writing. Always learning. Always moving forward. Up and onward.

Do you follow a blog that has shaken up the way you write? Feel free to comment and share. Let’s all level-up our writing. (Ally, you’re an editor. Can I use level-up as a verb?)

Happy reading.

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

 

Writing changed my relationship with social media

lights MFYears ago, when MySpace was a thing, I contemplated creating an account. I can’t remember if I ever did. Facebook was next and I signed up. I used it to share photos with my long distance friends, but not for much else. Twitter was something I didn’t understand at all and stayed away from for years.

Then I became a business owner. I created a website and created events on FB to share upcoming events happening at the business. This was before I even knew I could have a business page, and so I just shared them from my personal page.

Fast forward a couple years later and I was no longer a business owner and only logging onto Facebook once every few months.

Then I became a writer. Good GOD! I can now officially say that I spend more time on social media than anyone I know, including my 22 year old daughter.

I discovered a whole network of writers online and have been engaged with them ever since. I use social media every day. Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest have all become tools I use for my writing. I now have complete understanding of what the term “Social Networking” means.

Facebook is where I’ve met all my writer friends. It’s where my writing group meets. Twitter is great for following hashtags like #youknowyouareawriter #amwriting #amediting etc. and engaging in conversations. Pinterest is an awesome visual tool and useful to use as an idea board and for research.

I’ve also used social media to spread the word about my books. When a book releases, I post. When I run a sale, I post sneak peeks and teasers. But I also know when enough is enough. Lately, my Twitter feed has become an endless stream of advertisements. This is unfortunate, because even though I use Twitter and Facebook to advertise my book releases and sales, that’s not all I do there. I want to engage with other writers. I want to network with other readers. I want to hear the latest and greatest from bloggers.

Social Networking is like networking in person. You don’t walk around the event saying, buy my product, hire me, or pay me and I’ll tell you something interesting to every person you meet. No. You engage with people and discuss common interests. You make connections. These connections may lead to business in the future, but the goal in networking is the connection. When that connection comes to you, looking for your product, that’s when you make the sale.

So, notwithstanding my occasional slip ups during sales or releases, my goal is to make connections on social media. I’ve made some invaluable writer friends and connections so far. Social media is how I network.

What about you? How do you use social media?
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.

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

Find me and my books at http://www.yoursweetandspicyromanceauthor.com/

 

Writers: You’re not an island.

Beach view

Many writers tend to be introverts. The stereotypical fiction writer sits at home, on his/her computer, typing away in the hopes of creating the next bestselling novel. Alone.

We take walks, gaze off into the distance, and churn ideas into possible plot lines. Alone. Ooh, that couple over there, hushed whispers spit back and forth between them; agitated looks on their faces. That’s a story. Is he cheating? Will she strangle him later in his sleep? Sorry, I spaced out for a second.

Writers can sit at a table with friends and family laughing and talking, eyebrows furrowed, completely under the radar. Until someone notices that we’ve spaced out. In our own worlds, we memorize the scene that just came together, praying it sticks until we can get to a keyboard, or the very least, a pen and paper. She said something to me and made me forget that awesome idea, damn it. I should’ve stayed home.

But…There’s always a but isn’t there.

No matter how much of the writing process takes place alone, shut away at our desks, locked in our imaginary worlds, we can’t do this writing thing alone.

In my opinion, aside from loved ones, we all need the following:

  • Other writers we can learn from, talk to, bounce ideas off, who understand what it feels like to get a rejection letter or a bad review and who knows how much a good review means.
  • We need readers who tell us they stayed up all night reading our books. Who cares if we’ve only sold 100 books so far? That one reader, emailing or posting a review—that super-fan, is why we keep writing.
  • We need editors. Every writer, let me repeat, EVERY WRITER, needs an editor. A good one that knows what they are doing. An editor that teaches us how to show, not tell. One who pushes our writing to new heights. An editor that has our best interests at heart: Makes us better.
  • Proofreaders. We need them. Because even editors miss things sometimes.
  • Formatters. This last time around, I pulled my hair out trying to get Smashwords to accept my document and all I was doing was hitting the Upload Now button. Formatters work through all those coding errors and make your books and layout look beautiful. If you’re up to the challenge, great. My blood pressure isn’t. I leave it to the professionals.
  • Cover Designers. Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but no one will pick up your book if the cover looks like crap. Get a professional cover. You wouldn’t catch S&S publishing a book with a cover that looks like it cost less than a cup of coffee.
  • Publicists. These people know what they are doing: How to maximize your reach, how to time your marketing efforts, how to spread the word without hitting people over the head with Buy my Book.

And guess what? The above mentioned are all people; human beings that every writer needs in their life to publish. You are not alone. The above mentioned is your tribe, your team, and you get to choose the players.

I believe a huge thank you is in order…

Thank you, Patricia, Melody, Samantha, and Katelyn of PageCurl Publishing and Promotion. You ladies rock. You make me look good.

Thank you Writing Wenches, 10 Minute Novelists, WLC members, Alliance Members. I truly appreciate your community and support.

Author Pic

Sign-up to join my Dream Team to receive sneak peeks and access to my sweet and spicy tips.

http://eepurl.com/bjAzz1

www.jennifersenhajiauthor.com

Click the photo below to join the celebration of release of Choosing to Dream.

Release Day Bash

It’s Not All About the Money

Finalist Medallion-CRW

This week, I received a notification from CRW (Colorado Romance Writers) that my first novel, Sweet Dreams, is a finalist for the 2015 Contemporary Single Title Romance Award of Excellence.

How did this happen?

Last February, a fellow author posted a notice in my writing group about this competition, and on a whim I entered my novel. Entered and completely forgot about it.

Earlier this week, a call came in on my cell from an unknown number in Colorado while I was at the day job. Naturally, I thought it must be a telemarketer. I was wrong. The message was from one of the contest coordinators who followed up with an email informing me my novel, Sweet Dreams, is a finalist.

SweetDreamsEbookCoverFinal For Promo

You can find the complete list on their website at http://crw-rwa.ning.com/page/2015-aoe-finalists

Congratulations to all the finalists. We did it.

Authors love reviews. I do. It means someone has read my work. Out of the millions of books out there, someone chose to read mine. It’s a great feeling.

I write contemporary romance. My goal is to entertain the reader with stomach-flipping chemistry and characters they can fall in love with. My messages are simple: Love conquers all. Friends can make the best lovers. Live life to the fullest. Be strong. Love is a gift.

I’m not expecting a Pulitzer, but this type of recognition, by my peers is really touching. I rarely monitor my sales. In fact, I don’t know when I’ve sold any books until I see a deposit in my account two months later. I haven’t broken even yet on any of my books, but the knowledge that readers enjoy my work is so much more gratifying than a couple of bucks.

Thank you, readers. Thank you, CRW. I truly appreciate your support.

You can find the CRW at http://crw-rwa.ning.com/

Author Pic

 

Signup to join my Dream Team to receive sneak peeks and access to my sweet and spicy tips.

http://eepurl.com/bjAzz1

You can find me online at http://www.jennifersenhajiauthor.com/

Online Book Parties and Author Events

 

Online Events and Parties

Online parties… What are they? How much do they cost? What do I wear? Where do I go?

The goal of this post is to provide a little clarification for readers, new writers, or those who are just new to this aspect of social networking as to what an online event or party is and why you keep getting invites.

Facebook parties, Facebook Events, Twitter Chats, Google + Hangouts, Goodreads Events, etc, are all basically real time gatherings of hosts and attendees to support or discuss a specific topic. It’s like being in an old school chat room.

  • They are free.
  • They are accessed from your computer, tablet, or phone on the specific app you are using.
  • You can join in from anywhere.
  • No one cares what you wear because unless you post a selfie during the event, we can’t see you.

To keep it simple, I will go over Twitter and Facebook, since these are the ones I most attend or participate in.

Twitter Chats– These you will most likely find by accident unless you belong to an online group that sends you a reminder that one is coming up. I attend a few regularly on Thursdays that are writing and reading related. I also join discussions based on random subjects I’m interested in, but one thing at a time.

On Thursdays, I usually follow and participate in at least two writing related chats; #PageCurlChat and #10MinuteNovelists

Ah, the hashtag (#) this is what we use on Twitter to find a specific topic instead of just browsing through our newsfeed. At anytime, you can go on Twitter and use a hashtag to find your topic. The two above are chats that happen on Thursday evenings, and anyone is welcome to join who’s interested in the topic for that evening. People will also use a hashtag to discuss a topic that is an ongoing discussion and happening constantly. I often use #amwriting or #amediting to see what people are talking about that share my interests. Another way, is to use the hashtag during an event. While I’m watching my current favorite show, I will use #JanetheVirgin if I want to comment on something funny Rogelio said, or chat about the cliff hanger with other viewers.

You search the hashtag and you follow the tweets. To join in, you tweet using the hashtag as well so others will see your comments. That’s it. Try it. It’s easy.

Facebook Parties and Events- These are the ones that confuse a lot of people. I admit, they confused me too when I was first invited to them. Lots of people use Facebook to invite people to in-person events on location, like a baby shower, a birthday party, or a nightclub or show. The difference is an online party is something that happens online. When you click that Join button, it means you will receive notifications in your newsfeed when people post in the event. So if you would like to see the posts, comments, or updates in your newsfeed during the event time, that is when you Join.

For example, I’ve been attending a lot of author hosted events lately. I’m publishing two books this summer, and I want to be in the middle of where the action is so I can socialize with readers and other authors. The really cool thing about attending an author release party or cover reveal party, is that as a guest, I get to interact with the authors in real time. I also know that there will be games, prizes, and giveaways (like free ebooks) that I can participate in during the event. I have six books in my Kindle right now waiting for me to read that I won at parties recently.

Typically, an author will host a 30 minute or 60 minute slot during the event at which time they will introduce themselves, tell the guests a little bit about their writing, and then host a giveaway. Most authors will offer a chance to win a free copy of their book by liking their Facebook page or signing up for their newsletter. It’s a way for them to find new followers that may enjoy their posts and hopefully turn into future fans and customers. At the end of the event, they randomly select people who participated in the event, ask them to private message them on Facebook with an email address for delivery, and send the winners out their prizes by email. Most of the time, the prizes are free ebooks. Sometimes, authors will offer Amazon gift cards, and others will offer themed gifts (book marks, bracelets, key chains, etc) that can be delivered by mail.

In between the giveaways, the host will usually ask a question of the guests and the guests are encouraged to respond. Sometimes, a comical photo is posted with a “Caption This” tag to which everyone is encouraged to come up with their best one-liners. Other times, it could be a sexy inspirational picture for a book and the host will ask the guests’ opinion and/or for samples of their own inspirational photos. The possibilities are endless and can be really fun.

Again, the goal for the host or author that is working the event, is to interact with potential future readers. To reach people they are not already friends with online. There is never any obligation to buy anything. You can lurk and just watch from the sidelines, but it’s more fun to participate.

I have several Facebook events I’m attending coming up, including two I’m hosting. The first is hosted by a blog as a reader appreciation event. I will be hosting today, Wednesday, 4/29/2015 at 7pm Pacific, but the event is going to be happening all day long. If you’ve never been to one, click Join in the link and check it out. https://www.facebook.com/events/1631483840431089/

The other is a Release Day Event for a fellow author to celebrate the release of her latest novel. I’ll be hosting at 12pm Pacific on Sunday, 5/17/2015. Join me, and you could win an ARC of my upcoming release, Sea Breeze.  https://www.facebook.com/events/348681845327523/

In between those, I’ll be attending quite a few other parties and events as well. Since my book, Sea Breeze, is scheduled to release at the end of May, I may even be hosting one of my own. Stay tuned.

I hope that has clarified a few things for those of you that were unsure what these events really were. I admit, I didn’t know either until I started accepting the invites. Now, I’m addicted. I hope to see you at one of the events above.  Feel free to comment with questions.

Author Pic You can find me and all my other social links on my website at  www.jennifersenhajiauthor.com

For sneak peeks at upcoming releases and access to my sweet and spicy tips, join my Dream Team. http://eepurl.com/bjAzz1