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If you’re a seasoned writer, with a backlog of finished, unpublished books, you could decide to dust them off and polish them up with a professional edit.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

The Perfect Romantic Setting – Guest Post by Susan Ann Wall

Please welcome guest blogger, Susan Ann Wall.

Thank you for joining us, Susan.

Hello!! Thanks to Jennifer for hosting me as I prepare for the release of The Sound of Circumstance, book #5 in my Puget Sound ~ Alive With Love series.The Sound of Circumstance

 

If you caught my post a few days ago on the Fierce Romance blog, you’ll know the setting in this series comes from some of my personal experiences. I don’t currently live near Seattle, but I did for a short period and fell in love with the city the first time Hero Husband took me there.

Seattle may not be labeled the city of love, but in my contemporary romance series, it is definitely alive with love. Puget Sound has a little bit of everything, the Cascade Mountains to the east and the Olympic Mountains to the west, with 14,000 foot Mt. Rainier standing tall in the distance like a snow-covered beacon. Seattle is enclosed by Elliot Bay to the west and Lake Washington to the east, with Lake Union accessible right downtown. What an incredibly romantic setting with all that water and those beautiful, snow-capped mountains.

I love a naturally romantic setting, someplace you can enjoy the tranquility of the water and the beauty of the mountains. In the story, Stacie escapes to Alki Beach to gain a little clarity and cool her heals. Stacie loves the beach because the first time Owen brought her there (The Sound of Consequence) they shared a romantic interlude under a full moon.

One of my favorite locations in Seattle to write about is Gasworks Park. Sitting on the edge of Lake Union, it’s the perfect place for a romantic picnic (The Sound of Consequence) or a cookout with friends (The Sound of Deception). I’m not the only one who thinks Lake Union is a romantic setting … the house where Tom Hanks lived in Sleepless in Seattle sits on Lake Union!

I also have many scenes in the series that take place on the ferry and the image on the cover of The Sound of Circumstance was taken from the lower deck of the ferry returning from Bremerton. Aren’t sunsets so romantic?

I could bore you with all the places in Seattle that inspire romance, or you can just dive into the series and lose yourself in those settings!!

Tell me, what is your favorite romantic setting (that you’ve been to, read about, or dream of visiting)?

Bio:Susan Ann Wall
Big dreamer and certifiable overachiever Susan Ann Wall embraces life at full speed and volume. She’s a beer and tea snob, can be bribed with dark chocolate, and the #1 thing on her bucket list is to be the center of a Bon Jovi flash mob.
Susan is a nationally bestselling, multi-genre author of racy, rule-breaking romance and women’s fiction. Her bragging rights include nine books in three different series,  three perfect children, adopting an amazing rescue dog, and a happily ever after that started while serving in the U.S. Army and has spanned nearly two decades (which is crazy since she’s not a day over 29).
In her next life, Susan plans to be a 5 foot 10, size 8 rock star married to a chiropractor and will not be terrified of large bridges, spiders, or quiet people (shiver).

Susan’s new release, The Sound of Circumstance can be found at the online retailers below.

SOC Cover

The Sound of Circumstance Purchase Links:

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1jA1sXU

Barnes and Noble: http://bit.ly/1j5yGPa

iTunes: http://apple.co/1jA1pvo

Kobo: http://bit.ly/1O4RZ6k

Blurb:
To finally leave the past behind, they’ll have to trust … their friendship, and especially their love.
Stacie Nightingale doesn’t what the 2.5 million dollars of blood money she’s been awarded as a result of the lawsuit she filed. She also doesn’t want the memories that are flooding her mind, causing her to remember everything that led to the car accident that killed her friend and left Stacie with a traumatic brain injury. Neither of those circumstances matter though once her boyfriend Owen Landry proposes to her. She doesn’t want his proposal, not due to the circumstances that drove him to it. The mysterious woman he seems to be keeping company only fuels her insecurity and doubt. Stacie loves Owen, but with her past continuing to haunt her, she questions if their love is strong enough to survive.
Owen Landry has been carrying the ring around for months, waiting for the perfect moment to propose. He has a plan, but when a gallery owner starts swooning over Stacie – and not just her paintings – Owen once again has to face the demons of his own past. His insecurities spike when Stacie not only refuses his proposal, but confides in her brother rather than Owen. He doesn’t believe she would betray him, but his past has proven he can be a bad judge of character.

You can find Susan online at:

Social Media Links:

www.susanannwall.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/susanannwall.author

Twitter: https://twitter.com/@susanannwall

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/susanannwall

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Susan-Ann-Wall/e/B007NZU7X0

Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/susanannwall

Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/nQ7wH

 

Thank you for joining us today, Susan and good luck with your latest release.

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

 

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

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

 

What do writers think about?

Commute Train MFWriting changes everything. At least for me it has. It’s changed how I see the world, what I notice in movies and other books, and how I think in general.

Now, when I’m on the commute train, or have a few uninterrupted moments to myself, I’m not thinking about what to make for dinner or what chores are waiting for me when I get home. Nope. Those things are unimportant. I figure dinner out, if my husband hasn’t already, once I get home. And the chores get done when I have time. When I’m on the commute train, I’m either thinking about a scene I want to write, listening to dialog around me, or catching up on social media.

So far, most of my writing has been done by working with an outline. Right now, I’m working on the third book in my series, and even though I have a general outline and idea of the main plot and how I want the story to flow, the story itself has been coming to me out of order, scene by scene. This is new for me. I haven’t ever written anything that wasn’t in chronological order. I know there are writing tools like Scrivener that allow you to do this, but I haven’t ever needed to try them out. I’m still using Word to write. Lately, I’ve been writing in my notebook again, instead of straight into the computer, writing the scenes down as they come to me, out of order. So when you see me gazing out the window on the commute train, I’m not looking at the traffic. I’m thinking about a scene; how best to compose that scene. At some point, I will string all these scenes together into a hopefully cohesive story, but for now, I’m still in the developmental stage.

I also use my time on the commute train to observe people and what they say. Sound bites of conversations that pique my interest usually get shared on Twitter in the form of commute train quotes of the day. Other times, I’m following the advice of my editor by observing the flow of conversation between two people. This helps when writing dialogue.

Lastly, I use my spare time to catch up on social media. Social media is one of the biggest ways for an author, other than writing a fantastic novel, to connect with potential readers and network with other writers.

What does this all mean? Writing has changed my down time to writing time. It’s time to brainstorm story ideas, time to network with others in the business, and time to observe human interaction.

In what ways has writing changed your down time?

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.

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

Find me and all my books at www.jennifersenhajiauthor.com