Craft vs. Business

I recently attended the Writer’s League of Texas Agent & Editors Conference in Austin, TX. I haven’t been to a writer’s conference in forever, and I loved being back amongGreetings-From-Austin-Mural my people. Others who attended said that WLT is one of the best conferences around. In the future, I have some recommendations about interacting with editors, but otherwise, it was a wonderful experience – especially the great group of ladies I met during our practice pitch session, who are now my new writer’s tribe.

The point of the conference was to interact with agents and editors, and hear their input about the craft of writing – I honestly enjoyed the craft breakout sessions the most. If you barnes and noble bookshelfare at this point in your writing career, it’s a great opportunity, but it’s also a daunting one. As writer’s I’m pretty sure we are all aware of the realities of the publishing world, and the numbers involved with getting an agent or our word baby on a bookshelf at Barnes & Noble, but knowing these facts and having them presented to you first hand by agents, session after session, is a little depressing.

What I have learned during this process of trying to get published is the craft vs business ratio. We write because we love, BUT if you ever wish to see that love in print (not self-published), you must dig into and understand the publishing world.

The most important lesson I’ve learned so far is: When crafting your story idea, consider it’s potential market. Ask yourself:

  1. What is trendy in the current market? Keep in mind if you try and write for the current trend, it may take you 3 months to a year to finish your novel, then another year (or 2!) to get published and on a bookshelf.
  2. What is the current market lacking? As of July 2017, in my opinion, diversity characters in stories and diversity authors seem to be what the agents want.
  3. Is the genre you are writing flooded with similar stories, if so, how will yours be unique?
  4. Are you writing an entertaining story or one that has a message/lesson? If you can combine both, you’ve increased your market. Make sure your message is relevant. 
  5. How would you sell your story to an agent? Think about your pitch or query as your are outlining your story idea. If you are a pantser, this may be difficult, but not impossible.

I will always love the craft of writing more than the business side (as most of us do), but if you are serious about getting published by any publishing house – even the small ones, it is something I advise you to factor in. I’ve seen so many quote about not worrying about being published, and just write the story. I get it, but will I buy it? Factoring in the market doesn’t have to spoil the creative process, but being where I’m at now – just starting to query – I wish I would have thought more about it in the beginning. Just my two cents.

Good luck if you are querying too and keep writing!


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Out of sight but not out of mind.

How fast the pages turn over a year. Last spring (February 1st to be exact), I started writing my first ‘real’ book. I didn’t stop till May. Most of the book was written, but faaarrrr from done. I tried to start editing immediately, but knew I needed a break. At this time I was working full time and was still working events on the weekends, so it was perfect timing to let the book sit…and sit it did…for 8 months! Finally, spring rolled around again and I knew it was time to get serious.

This isn’t my first book or major writing endeavor, but it’s the first that I’ve actually taken seriously or stuck with over the age of 18. I know I have taken the editing stage a little too far, but my poor baby needed it. But now, after MONTHS of editing, cutting, revising and revamping I am getting close. So close, I’m starting to engage my beta readers and what can I say but “Holy crap I’m nervous!” I’m letting two very close friends (that enjoy the paranormal YA genre) give it to me straight and I am petrified of their honesty. I crave it, yet knowing that they could turn around and say, “It’s good, but…”

Yes, I’m actually asking for the harsh, honest truth, because at this point I am so lost in the sea of editing, I need some kind of life raft, even if it has a hole in it. I’m hopeful, yet realistic, meaning…we will see.

In the meantime, I’m going to keep plugging away as if it doesn’t suck and finally finish the ‘first’ draft. I only have about 100 more pages to edit, before possibly doing another skim read, then on to finish the last chapter in book 1.

What I knew but have re-learned:

  1. If you don’t LOVE writing, don’t start.
  2. Once you think you have your plot down, think again.
  3. If you are going to let your characters drive, you better make sure their GPS is functioning properly.
  4. SCHEDULE writing time – if you have any kind of life, this is the only way you will ever get anything done.
  5. Wine and editing ONLY mix when you need a serious ego boost!

More to come…

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The red pen is my new best friend.

I had some new post ideas lately, but none of them seemed “post worthy” and I’m finally realizing it may be because I’ve stopped generating large amounts of new content for the book and started editing instead. Only now, that I have been in the editing process for a few weeks, do I finally have something to say about it – “Me no likey!”

Don’t get me wrong, there are fun parts. You go back and re-read sections that really work or you massage the dialogue just right and get something so much better than your initial words, but I’ve been considering some minor plot changes that might cause some major re-writes, so it’s been tricky.

One minor change means that I have to sit and think what that will change with dialogue or action later in the story. Will it mean a major cut? Maybe just a shift of some dialogue? Or add in an entire new chapter? And that is only for plot changes.

I went back to my old college days and dug up some of the dusty rules of style that are so key in writing lean and mean.

  1. Don’t mix tense! Big fat duh, but sometimes while you’re churning out ideas, you don’t think about past or present, you just write. And if you’re an amateur, you might mix your tenses. Big no-no.
  2. Every scene must increase momentum of your story. Scenes should be crucial to the advancement of plot, character or both.
  3. Characters should always be moving forward; doing new things, challenges, learning – keep them engaged so your readers will be too.
  4. Give each of your characters their own voice. Sometimes this happens during the first draft, sometimes you must bring this alive when editing, but you must be able to tell characters apart.
  5. Create dynamic characters that your reader actually cares about so they continue reading.

These are only a few of the key things every good story needs. I feel like a dolt for not reviewing them before I started writing, if not before every time I sat down at the computer. That’s the daunting thing about writing your first book though. If you get lost in the rules, the should and should not, you might never sit down and type out that oh so crucial first page that gets you rolling.

“What I have crossed out I didn’t like. What I haven’t crossed out I’m dissatisfied with.” Cecil B. DeMille

For being so close to finishing, I feel very far. I have to admit, it’s not as fun as churning out content, thinking, “If it’s crap, I’ll fix it during editing.” Fixing the crap can be challenging, however it will make me more accomplished, because honestly, what’s the big deal about spitting out a big ‘crappy’ book that would never have a chance at getting published and more so, that no one would ever want to read. Anyone can do this. I want to produce work that people actually enjoy.

So, I will forge forward, continue editing and I will learn. Next time, I may be a touch more careful when writing or maybe I’ll naturally improve with practice, meaning less editing, but at least now, I will accept the editing process for what it is.

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When characters come alive.

Entertainment Weekly’s June cover totes the ‘Greatest 100 characters of the last 20 years’. There are some I definitely agree with, and others – ehh – not so much. However, I knew or have at least heard of all 100! Meaning, whether good or bad, the character stuck in my mind (or I just spend way too much time in front of the TV/Silver Screen).

I bring this up because of something that happened to me Sunday night while writing. I was fortunate to write and edit all weekend so by Sunday night I was getting a little fried. I was about to call it quits but wanted to wrap up one scene.

The scene described some necessary details, but it was boring me, meaning it would probably bore you, so it either needed a drastic edit or to be cut. I went back to tighten it up and before my eyes, the scene turned and my characters came alive in front of me.

I admit that I LOVE my two main characters. They are alive and well in my head but I had some doubts that they were as alive on paper. I felt them, more than I saw them. I was hoping to clear this up during editing, but thank goodness, they had other ideas.

During this scene, the dialogue flowed as did the chemistry and they instantly jumped off the page. I was so damn giddy! For the first time in my 150,000 words of writing, I could see their faces clear as day and knew exactly who they were, they are and who they will become. Of course they might have different ideas in the next books, but I’m still open to suggestion.

It frightens me that it took this long for them to step up and slap me around a bit, but it brought back my belief in pushing through the doldrums so creativity can spark again. Sometimes, I think it may be better to write when you least feel like it just to get you out of your highway hypnosis, but I’ll save that for another post.

Soon the labor of love will turn to editing the first draft, weaving more life into the protagonists early on and watching them grow, so in the end (I hope), you love them as much as I do!

If you would like to see the Entertainment Weekly article, go to 100 Greatest Characters.

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If I’m so dang creative, why can’t I think up a stupid name?!

It’s very strange, I’ve been trying to come up with a working title for my book for a while and nothing is sticking. This may be a good thing since I have heard many authors say not to get too attached to any title because if a publisher does pick you up, they will most likely change it.

I’ve had some ideas but either something very similar has been used or it just doesn’t fit. Just now, I tried again. I thought to myself, “Ok, what is the true focus of my story – is it the characters, the place, what they experience or go through?” I’m not sure I have an answer yet.

Maybe this is because I haven’t finished the book or because I’m not willing to decide just yet or because I feel they are all so interconnected, it can’t be just one. Regardless, I feel silly talking about a book with no name. (And no, that can’t be the title!)

In time I guess it will come to me. Maybe one of my beta readers will have an idea. I have a sister-in-law that seems pretty creative with this genre. One of my best friends is a teacher and shares my love of reading, books and good fantasy so maybe she’ll have some input. For now, it’s still “The book” – sorry guys.

I’ll post again this weekend – I’m actually home and plan to get some writing done – freakin’ sweet! I’m not holding my breath but if I get on a roll, I may even finish the first draft!!! I’m that close. Once that is done, I’ll continue editing and fill in some blanks and possibly post some excerpts.

If you have any ideas or suggestions about naming a book, novel or story – please share! I can’t submit a manuscript without something at the top of the first page! (Besides “Please buy me!” of course.)

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Making (not finding) the time to do what you love.

I had the best of intentions to write this past weekend. I had three full days to get some words down on paper. Did I? No. Why? Because I let life get in the way.

I always want to write, even when I don’t know what I’m going to say. If I simply place myself at the keyboard and start typing – something – anything – in time, the right words will come out. Don’t get me wrong, this feeling of not knowing creates an emotional hurdle that I have to jump too, but if I sit long enough I find that I can jump quite high. Other days, I either don’t HAVE the time or I don’t MAKE the time and I find it’s importance to recognize the difference.

Monday through Thursday I work a 9-5 job, so often, I may not have time or energy to write – chores or plans with family, friends or husband interfere. I sometimes squeeze in a few hours at night, but if I don’t have 2-3 hours to sit down, look back over the last section I was writing, glance through my notes and then move forward, I won’t sit down at all. Can you say writer’s FAIL?

Friday through Sunday is a different story. I have options, many options, too many options. Sleep, more chores, errands, walking the dog, dinners – the options are all there, standing in line at my front door. Most weekends, I want to lock the deadbolt and nest in front of my computer, but instead I must balance that time with real life obligations.

This past weekend, I allowed real life won over. Part was fun and the other part dutiful, but in the end I’m left with the guilt of knowing I didn’t make time to put one new word of my story on paper. However, I did work on this website, so that has to count for something, right???

Today, instead of feeling guilty, I will remind myself that I made my choices and that I must plan better next time. That when I have the free time, grab it and accomplish whatever I can.

I also chose to not work by personal deadlines. This might be something I reconsider in the future, especially as my time commitments get tighter (I don’t even have kids yet!). I don’t like to structure creativity, but I also know that I am bit of a procrastinator (just a bit? OK, a BIG one!) but still, I must find the balance between the two since I am deciding to make writing more than just a past time or hobby.

How about you – how do you fit writing into your schedule? Let me know with the poll below.

*QUICK UPDATE* I realized (after my husband read this post) that even though I was a writer fail this weekend I was a wife success! 🙂 I told you about my procrastination issues. Well, I finally did my spring cleaning (yes, I know it’s summer) and attacked my house. It was very fulfilling and very much needed, but took most of my day Sunday and I was pooped afterward. I was a friend success on Saturday – hung out with my old roommate and bestie all day, which I hadn’t done in months, so that was fun too. Again, It’s all about balance, making time for everything you love and not feeling too guilty when you don’t.

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Am I crazy enough to write a book? Yes.

I started writing February 1st of this year and haven’t really stopped yet. I had an idea and started writing one particular scene that is a pivotal point for the main character. I began making notes anywhere and everywhere I could, which proved tricky while driving, but for once I finally felt inspired to start a new story.

I will tell you now, I’ve never wanted to write the next great American novel, so if that is your speed, then my writing will definitely leave you wanting. I’ve only ever be interested in fiction that entertains, distracts or stretches your imagination (not to say that I won’t write non-fiction one day, but I doubt it).

For the first month or two I wrote like a mad woman; morning, night, during lunch, whenever I could find a spare or not so spare moment. It was amazing how quickly everything flew out of me. Yes, I knew some of it was probably utter crap, but I kept writing. I would edit or re-read along the way. I’m definitely not one of those people who can simply spit out a novel then begin editing. I wish! That would drive me insane.

It doesn’t have to be perfect as I go, but I need to feel confident moving forward. Of course, if in the end, I need to go back and change some things and have some re-writes for the good of the story, than so be it.

So after two months of pretty solid writing, I hit a few road blocks. 1) Real life required more hours of me than my standard 9-5 paycheck. 2) I was intimidated by my own story. I had some general creative ideas about the world I was creating and knew I would have to explore them further in the book. Once I reached that point, I took a break without realizing I was taking a break. I let real life get in the way.

Then, one day, I felt the urge and dug in. My characters kept talking, the plot kept moving and the details fell into place. I remembered that I didn’t have to create a whole new universe – keep it simple and rely on your characters. If they behave (and you like them – good or evil) then they will come through for you.

This brings me to today. I’m about 400 pages in, through the thickest parts of the meat and now having fun with the revelations. I’m building to my ending that’s not really even an ending. There is so much more for the characters that I know I will write another book, whether this one gets published or not.

Real life responsibilities are calling once again (I haven’t won the lottery yet, so I still have a day job). I will write more soon with more specifics on the story.


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