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If you’re a seasoned writer, with a backlog of finished, unpublished books, you could decide to dust them off and polish them up with a professional edit.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

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