Tips for Writing a Page-Turner – Guest Post by Audrey Mei

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“I’m crying, your book is so great.”

It was one day since I’d sent my manuscript out to a round of beta-readers. I was nervous. Then I started getting real-time updates from people as they read my book.

“I have SO much to do this weekend, but I can’t stop reading your book!”

And I realized, I had written a page-turner. A 120,000-word, historical, literary fiction page-turner! Talk about an oxymoron.

It hadn’t even been my goal to write a big, fat, Chinese family saga that readers would eat up in two days, although I was very (cautiously) flattered when feedback started rolling in sooner than expected. My goal was just to write really well, to cleanse my manuscript of the most pernicious mistakes that writers make. However, in retrospect, I learned from writing Trixi Pudong and the Greater World that to create a true page-turner, you need two things.

The first is Suspense. That’s a no-brainer and it’s pretty easy. Most authors who have completed a manuscript already do this. Basically, it’s a natural law that readers want to know “What happens next?”. So you toss in a dead body, a mysterious new-comer in town, or a missing family member and the reader flips pages to know more. But suspense isn’t enough. Sometimes the reader still doesn’t finish the book, no matter how many loose ends you lay at their feet.

You need the important second element of a page-turner: Clarity.

While I was writing Trixi Pudong, my editor made a comment which I’ll remember forever. It pertained to “Edwin’s Story,” the longest chapter in the book. She had circled a minor character’s name in red ink and written:

“Who is this man again? I had to go back and re-read a few pages to find who this guy is. Be more clear. Don’t make your readers go back. After a while they’ll give up.”

Thus it clicked. Clarity is the real hidden secret to writing a page-turner. You need clarity on every page about who the characters are, where your story takes place, and what the motivations are, otherwise your readers will have to “go back and re-read.” The opposite of page-turning is page-turning backward. This makes a book seem like a slog. I notice this often when I read self-published books that haven’t been properly edited. Inevitably, I find myself asking at regular intervals:

Wait a second, where are we again?
Um, who is this person?
Why does he/she care?
Who’s talking again?
What does he/she mean?
Excuse me, but what’s the big deal again?

So I repeat: Do NOT make your readers go back.

A page-turner flows forward, quickly.

Novel writing is like stage acting. You must exaggerate. It’s not enough to open a chapter with “Wednesday in the car” and then expect the reader to remember this while your characters have a conversation that could’ve taken place in a kitchen, a school, or a train. Um… no. The reader has to feel the time and location, because in real life, we talk differently if we’re in a car, a night club, in an igloo, or in a room with a sleeping baby. We whisper, we yell, we misunderstand each other, we’re distracted. The location and time of the scene has to come across on every page. Same for characters: Their unique voices and motivations have to come across on every page. How is the sister different from the aunt? What’s the difference between the Sergeant and the General? I don’t want my reader to “go back and re-read” to remind themselves why it’s important that Whatsherface said Whatever.

Like many of you, I’m a writer of #DiverseBooks. It’s a huge risk to write a long Chinese family saga that no agent or publisher anywhere would want to represent. And that few readers would relate to or even want to buy. So I’m up against many odds. Therefore, the greatest feedback I have yet received came from the American Midwest, from readers who have never left the country:

“Your book is so exotic! I couldn’t put it down. I had no idea that I’d learn so much about China.”

Very interesting. I just sent my reader on a trip. That was an unexpected mission, accomplished.

And I hope readers also take a page-turning trip to all sorts of new places, with your books.

Many thanks to Quanie for setting up my blog tour, for hosting me, and for being an all-around wonderful, supportive, and inspiring fellow author. 
———————-
Trixi Pudong and The Greater World
Trixi Pudong and the Greater World is currently a top-selling Asian American Literature ebook on Amazon.
Find out more at www.trixipudong.com.
You can purchase it on Amazon.
Twitter: @TheGritlands
Bio:
Audrey in Oslo PicAudrey Mei was born in California. She studied in Boston, where she graduated from New England Conservatory with a BM in cello performance and from Tufts University with a BA in biological psychology. In 1996, she received a Fulbright Grant to study cello at Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, Finland. Although her field was music, the Fulbright Committee was deeply impressed by her writing and greeted her with the question, “When will your first book appear?” Audrey would like to thank the Committee for their enthusiasm and apologizes for the 20-year delay.
Audrey’s writing as appeared in Gangway Literary Magazine and Glimmer Train, among other publications. She spends her time between Berlin and San Francisco with her husband, daughter, and black Havanese dog.

10 Must-Have GIFs for Writers

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As writers, we experience our shares of ups and downs. Nail a scene? Break out the champagne. Hit the proverbial wall? Cue the tiny violin. And don’t even ASK me how my novel is going if I’m struggling with revisions. Back, demon!

So here are 10 GIFs that I’m sure any writer can relate to. Happy Monday!

 

When they ask why your novel ain’t done yet

giphy (1)

When you agree to review a novel and then realize the shit is terrible

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When your beta readers love your novel

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When your beta readers hate your novel

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When you get a full manuscript request from an agent

giphy (5)

When you get that standard rejection letter

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When you get your first 5 star review

giphy (7)

When you get your first negative review

giphy (8)

When you realize you have to do a page-one rewrite

giphy (9)

When them revisions on point

Diddy Bop

 


Diverse Historical Fiction Blog Tour – Sign up!

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I am sooooo super excited to announce the release of Audrey Mei’s debut novel, Trixi Pudong and the Greater World. With the huge push for diverse books, Trixi Pudong and the Greater World is right on time: it’s a family saga with a magical twist that spans from Shanghai’s Golden Age to 2015.  I cannot wait to read it. You can add it on Goodreads here.

Trixi Pudong and The Greater World

 

Here’s the blurb:

Revolution rages in 20th-century China, a rusting container ship sails the world for two decades, and a tiny fairy is frustrated in a northern harbor town. “Trixi Pudong and the Greater World” is a family saga with a magical twist, spanning Shanghai’s Golden Age to Hamburg, Germany, 2015. It is a tale of four generations of a Chinese family, torn between their deepest dreams and loyalties.

And trailer:

I met Audrey at The San Francisco Writers Conference a few years ago. After a panel of literary agents gave me feedback on the first page of my then WIP, I realized that I needed to cut the first two chapters of the novel. But I wasn’t exactly sure how to approach the new beginning. Enter The Awesome Audrey Mei. We were sitting around in one of the sessions waiting for the speaker when Audrey asked me what my book was about.  I started telling her how the main character receives a mysterious yellow envelope the day of her wedding. “That’s it!” she said. “Start it there. Absolutely.” And the rest is history!

I’m so glad to celebrate this milestone in Audrey’s career. She’s having a blog tour to launch her book and I’m incredibly honored to help her organize it (and to participate in it myself).

If you’d like to sign up, you can do so here or below.

 

Meet Audrey!

AUDREY!Audrey Mei was born in Oakland, CA, and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area before studying cello and biological psychology/pre-med in Boston (New England Conservatory of Music/Tufts University). Following graduation, she received a Fulbright Grant for graduate studies in cello performance at Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, Finland.

Since 2006, Audrey has been dedicated to writing prose and poetry and has been published in Gangway Literary Magazine and Glimmer Train among others, as well as participating for several years in the Berlin English language literary scene. She lives with her husband, daughter, and dog in either Germany or California. Drop her an email to find out which one!


Don’t Even Get Me Started: Self-Publishing and the Need for Diverse Stories

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So last week I wrote about Why Your Whining Behind Needs to Self-Publish, and hopefully, it reached the people it was intended for– talented writers who have been rejected by traditional publishers, not because they aren’t talented, but because of industry rigmarole, the inability of the planets and stars to align on days that end in “y,” and good ol’ fashioned crappy luck (“Oh? Your story is about kung fu squirrels who take over Manhattan? Well, wouldn’t you know! I just sold a story like that last week for a staggering 7 figures, so I can’t take yours on at the time. Sorry, toots!”).

I will say this again: just like spandex, self-publishing is not for everybody. I have friends who are, at this very moment, querying agents (and one friend with a novel so good that if he can’t get an agent this time around, I’ll think this whole darn thing is rigged). As I’ve said before: different strokes for different folk.

But I would also like to take this a step further. Some people assume that when a writer can’t get an agent/publisher, they are either not a good writer, or they are a good writer, but the story is just not where it needs to be. Is this true sometimes? Absolutely. Is this true all the time? Absolutely not. So why, if a writer is talented and the story is great, wouldn’t they get an agent or publisher?

For part of the answer, let’s take a look at author Tia William’s article, Why Aren’t There More Black Women in Fiction? The excerpt I’m including is long, but worth the read:

Last year, I finished my fourth novel, The Perfect Find, about a 40-year-old former superstar fashion editor who, after losing it all, risks her big career comeback for a deliciously steamy romance with a coworker nearly half her age. When my agent shopped it around to publishing houses, the editors loved it. They told me so in their rejection letters, many of which included some variation of the following critique: “Witty, juicy, timely — but given that Jenna’s a black woman working in a white world, we wish this aspect of her were more deeply explored. Can you give more insight into her struggles as a black woman in fashion?”

How could these non-black women decide that I, a black woman, hadn’t adequately explored my character’s race? Jenna isn’t struggling with her blackness, in fashion or otherwise. She’s struggling with starting over and her ticking biological clock and hiding from her boss that she’d just had an orgasm in the fashion closet with the guy three cubicles down — all multilayered, real situations that white characters are allowed to experience, no apologies. You think anyone asked Lauren Weisberger to play up her protagonist’s Jewishness in The Devil Wears Prada? So often, in order to make sense to mainstream audiences, publishers need us to speak to some aspect of the understood “black experience.” Hence, the popularity of Big Issue books on slavery and civil rights and literary tomes theorizing race in America. Where’s the black Gone Girl or The Girl on the Train? Where’s the Sophie Kinsella-esque rom-com confection starring a cheeky Spelman alum? Just once, I’d love for the best-sellers’ lists to include a book about a black coed intrigued by a creepy-hot rich dude who introduces her to whips and chains in his Red Room of Pain (for better or worse).

The fact is, black commercial-fiction heroines aren’t afforded the luxury of nuance. That’s because most of the people making decisions about what Americans read aren’t personally intimate with everyday blackness. 

And then this:

Many black female commercial-fiction writers are driven to self-publish — check out Amazon, Goodreads, and AALBC.com (African American Literature Book Club) to discover new voices.

Tia goes on to say that she found an indie press, Brown Girls Books, for her latest novel, A Perfect Find (which has fabulous reviews, by the way).

Let’s keep it real: if black, brown, and purple writers are not exploring race, or talking about their experiences as a black, brown, or purple writer and what that experience means and how it relates to a deeper meaning of life and society, MANY publishers don’t want to hear our stories. Is there anything wrong with these kinds of stories? Nope. In fact, we need them (and if you haven’t read The Bluest Eye or Nervous Conditions, stop what you’re doing right now and go buy and read these novels).

But.

We also need love stories. And comedies. And Christian fiction. And thrillers. And mysteries. And suspense. And horror. And paranormal. And science fiction. Because we come from all walks of life and have different experiences. And we are also not a monolith.

But there’s great news!  Many readers are starved for stories featuring diverse protagonists (see the “We Need Diverse Books” or the “We Need Diverse Romance” initiatives for examples). The even greater news? With the advances in publishing technology, we can let our voices be heard–even if we’re writing about Kung Fu squirrels who take over Manhattan (or a zany rom com that takes place in Silicon Valley).

Should everybody self-publish? Probably not. There are many people who self-publish stories that probably should have never seen the light of day. They either need more practice, a damn good editor,  a page one rewrite, or a handy-dandy blowtorch. But not everybody who self-publishes does so because their work is subpar. Don’t even get me started!

 


Why Your Whining Behind Needs to Self-Publish

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Warning: this is a rant. The original title was “Why your whining behind needs to self-publish and stop crying about how you can’t get an agent or publisher ‘cause don’t nobody wanna hear that mess, especially with all the tools and technology now available to help you get your story to market with no damn middle man.”

But it was too long.

Look. I get it. Some writers dream about being offered a publishing contract. New York Times Best sellerdom. The six figure advance. Validation that someone other than you, your mama, and your cousin Big Mookie thinks you can write. I. Get. It.

But, baaaybee. There comes a point in life when we need to stop begging to be let into the party and create our own party.

via GIPHY

Is that meant to disparage, belittle, or minimize any person looking to be published traditionally? Nope. Same destination, different journey. As a matter of fact, if you’re a friend of mine (or want to be a friend of mine) who is traditionally published, when you get that big advance, it would be totally kind of you to let your girl hold something.

15vdnz

Here’s a novel (no pun intended) thought: if you’ve been trying to get published traditionally and haven’t gotten any takers, maybe it doesn’t mean that you’re not a good writer. Maybe it just means that you’re meant to take a different route.

Or, hey; maybe your book sucks!  And if that’s the case neither traditional nor self-publishing is for you. But how do you know if your book sucks? I’ve made it easy for you to figure out with my super easy checklist below. If any of the following scenarios sound familiar, then you, my friend, just won yourself a free blowtorch, courtesy of the CABS (Citizens Against Books That Suck).

So here we go!

  1. Every time you send out a query letter, there’s a roll of thunder and flash of lightening. Maybe the weather’s just bad in your neighborhood. Or maybe God is trying to tell you something.
  2. You send out your manuscript to beta readers and they disappear without a trace. But not just some regular disappearing; their voicemail now says, “The beta reader you are trying to reach is no longer accepting your calls. Goodbye.”
  3. You find out that your writing group has been meeting without you.
  4. Literary agents send you a “cease and desist” letter instead of a standard rejection.
  5. As a kid, the dog ate your homework. But now, even Fluffy won’t eat your mess of a novel. In fact, when he sees you with your book, he plays dead.

    via GIPHY

  6. Every time you type “The End” at the conclusion of your novel, it rains. This is no coincidence. God is crying tears of joy.
  7. Lovers of Twilight fan fiction snicker when you walk by.
  8. Your significant other sat you down for the “It’s not you, it’s your manuscript” talk.
  9. You let your mama read your book. And then she slapped you.
  10. Publishers call you at 2 in the morning like:

15u8l2

All jokes aside, you guys, I totally understand that some of us want that traditional publishing credit to our name, but please don’t let not getting traditionally published deflate you to the point that you stop believing in yourself. Just because you didn’t get an agent or publisher doesn’t mean you aren’t good. And just because someone got an agent or a publisher doesn’t mean that they are any better than you.

What if you wrote the best book you could write and got the chance to connect with readers that love it? Oh, that’s right; you can! It’s called self-publishing. It’s up to you whether or not you’re going to sit at home and wait for the phone to ring (or for a “yes” from an agent or publisher) or if you’re going to write the best stories you can and get them out no matter the process.

Don’t believe me? Here are some Indie Pub All Stars, in no particular order. And if you’re saying to yourself, “Yeah, but their situation is not the norm and I probably won’t be as successful as they are because I’m too busy being a pessimist,”  I want you to raise your right hand quickly and swing it as hard as you can against your forehead.

New York Times Bestselling author Terry Mcmillan self-published her first book, Mama. Many of her books have been made into movies, including the smash hit Waiting to Exhale that starred the late great Whitney Houston.

Terry McMillan

Alan Weir self-published The Martian. Anybody seen the Hollywood movie starring Matt Damon???

Alan Weir

Kimberly Lawson Roby has been on more bestsellers lists that I can count. She self-published her debut novel nearly 20 years ago and has gone on to sell over 2 million copies of her books. As a matter of fact, my sister from another  mister, author Faith Simone, just blogged about seeing her speak recently. If you need an extra dose of inspiration today, be sure to check that out.

Kimberly Lawson Roby

Imagine what would have happened if none of these authors believed in themselves enough to take the leap!

 


New Romantic Suspense Release! Seismic Crimes by Chrys Fey and #Giveaway!

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Happy Monday, Everybody! Today I’m hosting blogger and author extraordinaire, Chrys Fey, as she celebrates the release of her novel, Seismic Crimes. And don’t forget to enter the giveaway below! Any lovers of romantic suspense in the house? How do you approach writing about cops??? Let’s hear about it!

***

Profile of a Cop – BURNETT

Name: Burnett

Occupation: Police Officer

Character Type: Good Guy

Location: Orlando, Florida

Likes: Coffee, protecting the innocent, and putting away criminals

Dislikes: Fellow officers trying to get away with crimes.

Favorite TV Show: The Blacklist

Favorite Movie: Die Hard

 

EXCERPT:

Her eyes lowered, her fingers tugged the string on his pants. “These are nice.” The look on her face and the way she batted her lashes told him she was teasing him. “You came close to wearing these for the rest of your life.”

“Would you have visited me?”

“Hm.” She bit her bottom lip as she considered his question. “I don’t know. I think things would’ve been different if they had hauled you away.”

He nodded, knowing she was right.

A throat cleared behind them. Burnett stood, hands on hips with a smugness tugging at his mouth. “Try to keep the PDA down, or I’ll arrest you two.”

Beth pulled free from Donovan’s hold. “Sorry, Officer.”

Donovan lifted his hands in the air. “I’ll do my best.”

 

SeismicCrimes_w10160_750

Title: Seismic Crimes

Author: Chrys Fey

Series: Disaster Crimes Series (Book Two)

Publisher: The Wild Rose Press

Format: Digital and Print

Page Count: 282

 

DIGITAL LINKS:

Amazon US / Amazon UK / Amazon CA

NOOK / KOBO / All Romance eBooks

PRINT LINKS:

Amazon US / Amazon UK / Amazon CA

The Wild Rose Press

 

BLURB:

An Internal Affairs Investigator was murdered and his brother, Donovan Goldwyn, was framed. Now Donovan is desperate to prove his innocence. And the one person who can do that is the woman who saved him from a deadly hurricane—Beth Kennedy. From the moment their fates intertwined, passion consumed him. He wants her in his arms. More, he wants her by his side in his darkest moments.

Beth Kennedy may not know everything about Donovan, but she can’t deny what she feels for him. It’s her love for him that pushes her to do whatever she has to do to help him get justice, including putting herself in a criminal’s crosshairs.

When a tip reveals the killer’s location, they travel to California, but then an earthquake of catastrophic proportions separates them. As aftershocks roll the land, Beth and Donovan have to endure dangerous conditions while trying to find their way back to one another. Will they reunite and find the killer, or will they lose everything?

 

HURRICANE CRIMES 99¢ SALE!

 

HurricaneCrimes_8342_300

DIGITAL LINKS:

Amazon US / Amazon UK

Amazon CA / NOOK / KOBO

All Romance eBooks

The Wild Rose Press

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

chrysfeyAUTHORPIC

BIO:

Chrys Fey is the author of Hurricane Crimes, Book One in the Disaster Crimes series, as well as these releases from The Wild Rose Press: 30 Seconds, Ghost of Death, and Witch of Death. She is an administrator for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group and has participated in the Blogging from April A to Z Challenge.

When Fey was six years old, she realized she wanted to be a writer by watching her mother pursue publication. At the age of twelve, she started writing her first novel, which flourished into a series she later rewrote at seventeen.

Fey lives in Florida and is always on the lookout for hurricanes. She has four adopted cats who keep her entertained with their antics, and three nephews who keep her entertained with their antics. You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and through her blog, Write with Fey. She loves to get to know her readers!

 

AUTHOR LINKS:

Website / Blog / Facebook / Twitter


The Power of Being Single-Minded: Focusing on One Main Goal to Achieve Success

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Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

 

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

The co-hosts for this month are Murees Dupe, Alexia Chamberlynn, Chemist Ken, and Heather Gardner

Twitter hashtag is #IWSG

***

 I have this AMAZING friend who is super talented. Like super, super, talented. She’s a photographer, cinematographer, makeup artist, maker of au naturel scrubs and body butters, event planner, and a master craftswoman. I am not making this up, you guys. She’s talented at each and every one of these things. So much so, that she had trouble deciding which thing to focus on.

Last year, she helped me decorate my table at a vendor’s event (I was there selling my world famous pralines, because that’s how I roll), and while there, we bumped into a business consultant. She said, “People keep raving about your candy,” and had a sample (and then of course, she brought herself some). We began to chat and my friend mentioned all of her different endeavors. The woman said, “You will not be able to be successful unless you focus on one thing.”

My friend said, “But I can’t pick. I’m good at all of these things. And plus, I love them all.”

“Okay. Maybe you can focus on a couple of things that kind of overlap, but if you want to see some real success, you’re going to have to narrow things down.”

“But I can’t.”

The woman shrugged, “Well, you’ll just have a bunch of hobbies, then.”

My friend was so upset! She was like, “How can this woman who doesn’t even know me and what I’m capable of tell me what I can and can’t achieve?”

Well, fast forward a few months, and guess what? My friend began making these pieces for children’s parties that really took off. And I mean really. Due to demand, she began focusing on her craft business only and you probably already guessed what happened: that business grew by leaps and bounds. Later, she said, “Oh my God, that woman was right! Ever since I started focusing on my craft business, it’s grown so much more than it would have if I was splitting my time between fifty million ventures.”

Why do I tell this story? Because it also applies to writing: in order to be successful at it, we have to become single-minded.

sin·gle-mind·ed
adjective
1.having or concentrating on only one aim or purpose.
synonyms:determined, committed, unswerving, unwavering, resolute,purposeful, devoted

 
If some of you are like me, then your creativity can be both a blessing and a curse. I have so many entrepreneurial ideas that I hardly have a place to put them. Some things relate to my writing, some things don’t. “I could totally do ______________________,” I’ll say to myself. “That should make me a pretty penny!” And then I’ll focus on said thing and then be totally miserable because I’m not focusing 100% on my writing.

What if you:

  1. Set writing goals and wrote as much as you could, even when you didn’t feel like it.
  2. Took the time to write the best possible story that you could write, even if that meant getting out of your comfort zone. Why not push yourself and write the stories that challenge you?
  3. Dusted off those old manuscripts and resubmitted them to agents/publishers or published them yourself.
  4. Conquered your fear of public speaking by reading your work in public.
  5. Really learned how to market yourself both online and locally (and not just doing a Tweet and run like I do )
  6. Weren’t afraid to promote yourself by actually telling people that you wrote a book–and even better, having a physical copy to either give away or show.
  7. Reached out to some of the book clubs in your city. Why not ask them to read your book?
  8. Got some press: small newspapers and local tv shows.
  9. Participated in an author’s expo either in your city or in a surrounding area. And if they don’t have one, why not start your own?
  10. Reached out to your local library and coordinated a reading. And why not submit a press release for the occasion?
  11. Went to at least one book conference a year where you could meet readers.
  12. Allowed life to take it’s course! Things happen. Many of them unexpected, but don’t let things derail you to the point that you give up. Take the time you need to regroup, get the support you need (hello, blogger community!), and get back at it.
  13. Were kind to yourself (GREAT advice from L. Penelope). We face enough negativity and doubt as writers. The last thing you need is to join the naysayers!

Inspiration

If you had put a hundred percent into your career five years ago, where would you be? Where will you be in five years if you vowed right this second to treat your writing like a business and dedicated 100% to it?

Side note: On my first go, I accidentally typed a dollar sign as opposed to the percent sign, but I think that “Where would you be if you dedicated $100 to your writing career is also a valid question:)

What say you, folks? I’d love to hear your thoughts!