Tips for Writing the Middle of your Novel

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A few weeks ago I wrote about the first 3 chapters of a novel. I wrote the post after discovering a call for beta readers where the author said: “Well, the first few chapters are kind of boring anyway. It doesn’t get good until the middle.” If you recall, that statement made me cry real tears.

I think it’s safe to say that if the beginning of a novel doesn’t hook a reader, then, well…said reader will probably not finish the book. But I have to tell you, folks. I’ve been reading books for quite some time now and I have been duped several times by books with great opening chapters that fell flat as the story went along.

And that got me to thinking about novel middles.

One of my book pet peeves is this: don’t make promises to me that you can’t deliver. In other words, don’t start the book with so much momentum that you can’t maintain it throughout.

“But, Quanie,” you ask, “how do I maintain momentum?”

A little something we like to call rising action. A writing professor once said this to me about three act structure: get your main character up a tree and throw rocks at him until you get him down.

Say what now, sugar? 

Story beginning: get character up a tree. Translation: at the beginning of your story life for your main character will be normal. Something will happen to disrupt that normalcy. Said character will generally spend the rest of the story trying to restore order, or solve said problem. Example: Your main character, Lucy, is living life as normal until she finds her husband face down in a bowl of soup. She checks his pulse and discovers there is none. Good golly, Ms. Molly: poor Bruce is dead.

Story middle: throw rocks at main character. Translation: as the character attempts to solve the problem, they will face obstacles that will get increasingly harder to tackle. In other words: no more Mrs. Nice Author. Put your characters through the ringer and leave your readers on the edge of their seats as to how they are possibly going to survive/solve said problem/get the boy back/etc. Example: Lucy discovers that her husband didn’t have a heart attack, and that in fact, he was poisoned. But on her search to find out the truth, it’s discovered that:

1. Bruce was having an affair with Lucy’s sister.

2. Lucy has some gambling debts and a failing sporting goods store.

3. Someone increased Bruce’s life insurance policy to 2.5 million.

4.  Bruce and Lucy attended a charity event the night before and had a terrible argument. Lucy was heard screaming that she would kill him (she doesn’t remember it. Moscato always makes her black out).

5. Because of the affair, her gambling debts, the increase in life insurance, and the threat, the police think that Lucy did it and charge her with the murder.

6. To top that off, the money in her and Bruce’s checking account has mysteriously disappeared so she has no money for a lawyer.

7. Many years ago, Lucy had an affair with Bruce while he was married to the leading prosecutor on the case, so the woman wants her head on a stick.

8. On Lucy’s computer, someone had been searching “How to get away with killing your husband.”

9. Her children are against her and are now refusing her refuge. Her face is plastered around the city so she is forced to go on the run (with a bad wig and an even worse French accent) until she can find out the truth….

Story ending: get the character down. Translation: the main character solves the problem. Life has gone back to normal or perhaps things will never be the same. Hopefully, the character has changed or learned something throughout their journey. Example: Lucy finds out that her sister (that cow!) set her up. She proves it by faking her own death, sneaking into the sister’s house, and setting up a nanny cam that records a confession. She plays it at her trial as the prosecutor weeps. Lucy moves to Montana and starts a new life.

Of course, every story is different (especially those that might be more character driven), but I think it’s safe to say that if your middle falls flat, it’s likely that readers won’t continue to the end.

What about others? What are some of your novel middle pet peeves? And to authors: what are some of the strategies you employ to keep those middles interesting?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!


Feature Friday! Interview with Author Rochelle Campbell!

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It’s been an exciting week here at Quanie Talks Writing! On Monday I revealed the cover for my southern paranormal novel, The New Mrs. Collins, yesterday I interviewed author Chrys Fey about her latest release, 30 Seconds, and today I have the absolute pleasure of talking to paranormal author, Rochelle Campbell, about her newest novel, Fury from Hell.

Phew! Excuse me while I catch my breath!

Rochelle was kind of enough to answer some questions about her latest release and writing process so I hope you enjoy! And be sure to hop on over to Goodreads and add Fury from Hell to your TBR list!

 

What inspired your book?

Novel Writing Month, affectionately called NaNoWriMo, was the impetus for Fury From Hell.  In the spring of 2012, I knew I wanted to write a book but wanted to do it in an atmosphere where I could reach out for support.  NaNoWriMo is just the place for that as they have heavily trafficked forums offering mentors for all genres and personalities.

Secondly, I wanted to break out of the women’s fiction/literary short story writing rut I was in.  I decided to write something extremely different from anything I had ever attempted.  I immediately knew the new story needed to have a creature in it but I was completely against doing vampires.  Then, one day, I saw a plume of misty steam coming from an orange construction cone in the middle of the street.  It occurred to me that something could be hidden in that mist and could secretly invade any one of the hundreds of passerby on the busy NYC street.  After playing with this idea over the next several months, the beginnings of the story of Fury From Hell emerged in time for the start of NaNoWriMo.  I put down a detailed outline the week before NaNo began and on November 1st, 2012 I began to write the story that became Fury From Hell.

Where do you get your inspiration?

I truly cannot answer this question because there are so many answers.  ‘Fury’ came from a random walk where I spotted mist in the street.  A number of my short stories stemmed from dreams.  A couple of book ideas came out of research I conducted for other aspects of my life and I played the What if? game and extrapolated and found a kernel of a story and expanded upon it.

My inspiration to write a particular piece could come from anywhere.

How does your upbringing influence your writing?

Hmmm.  What a great question!  Off the top, I would say that my upbringing has absolutely nothing to do with my writing.  My family did not read much else other than the Bible and Danielle Steele novels (and Laura Goodman’s Zodiac signs!).  However, I was encouraged to read, read and read some more.  My aunt was a librarian which provided me access to millions of books.  I read so many books I’ve forgotten a lot of what I read!

However, a reading legacy was my childhood and an essential part of my upbringing.  Sneaking and reading books that would cause a ruckus in the household became a fun pastime.  Hence, books about witchcraft, demons, fantasies, goblins and that whole realm of otherwordly beings opened up a new vista of teenage rebellion.  Clearly, this became the foundation for my passion for the paranormal genre.

Do you write in other genres?

Yes, my other book, Leaping Out on Faith, is a book of four short stories that each depict a woman in a challenging life situation.  Each woman must decide what her next action will be knowing that the rest of her life will be irrevocably changed.

How have you dealt with criticism and rejection?

Another great question.  I am one of those that has kept every single rejection letter I ever received.  I have ‘good’ rejections and ‘bad’ rejections.  However, we all know that a rejection is a rejection is an “I’ll pass”!  LOL.

By saving all of these letters, I have accumulated over the years a mini database of what editors, literary agents and literary journals are seeking in that time period.  It gives me a clear indication of how I can improve my work and better my chances next time I submit.  Using feedback from a literary agent and an editor at a major publishing firm, I was able to adjust my work and develop it into a viable story.  From their comments, I knew the story was entertaining but there were technical things that had to be addressed in the manuscript.  I took a literary writing course to assist me in addressing those technical writing issues.  To answer your question, I use criticism and rejection to propel me to the next level in whatever I am doing.

What’s the best and worst piece of writing advice that you’ve ever gotten?

Best Piece of Advice: You must learn the importance of and how to plot out your stories.  I have found that I am a plotter.  I must have a sequence of events present in my work, or whatever book I am reading must have one, or else I get crazy.  This is partly why I never believed I would like, or even be able to write literary fiction.  The best fiction is well-written prose that has a tight plot and engaging tangential sub-plots that keep the story humming along.

Worst Piece of Advice: Write what you know.  What does that even mean??  It’s so trite and overused that it is devoid of meaning.  The only thing I can say is good about this piece of advice is to see if there is something that you do know well and see if you do want to write about it.  There are a ton of things that I know about that I would not necessarily want to write about.  I know how to clean a kitchen stove.  No one wants to read about that.  I know how to knit baby clothes, mitten and a cable-knit sweater.  I didn’t happen to notice any knitting books on the New York’s Times Best Sellers list…

You get my point.  If you’re going to write what you know then write with an eye to what would be of interest to others, what you may know that someone else may not.  Or, if what you know has a special twist to it that could add value to someone else’s life than write about that.  Write what you know is way to broad.  The other point is, sometimes you don’t want to write what you know about/experienced.  You want to write about something you don’t know about and come at it from a newbie’s perspective which also has value.  Okay, I’ll stop ranting now…

What are you working on next?

After working on ‘Fury’ for a little over two years, I am taking a bit of a sabbatical to regroup and recharge.  I will be reading stories on my to-be-read shelf including Tom Perrot’s The Leftovers.  I will finally be able to finish Deborah Harness’ The Book of Life.  Then, I’ll turn my attentions to a few WIPs I have been tinkering with for the past few years and choose one of them.

As a reader, what are some of your book pet peeves?

Don’t bore me.  While that is highly subjective if the story does not grab me by chapter 3, I will put it down.  Rarely do I pick it up again.  I prefer books to have creatures, angels, demons, and the like in them.  Or, if I shift genres, I want to learn something that I can potentially use in my life to improve my quality of living and being.  I can get this from fiction, or nonfiction.  For that matter, I can get this from a cookbook!  LOL.

How do you balance writing and marketing yourself?

Initially, in the first 3-4 weeks of your book’s launch there is no balance.  You must push and push to gain awareness and interest in your book.  This holds especially true if you are an independent (indie) author.  You live, or die, by your marketing efforts and your social media influence.  Once the first month or so has passed and you’ve generated buzz for your book, you can pull back a bit but not much.  Why?  Because now it’s time to begin another book!

What’s some advice that you’d give to aspiring writers?

Keep your day job!  LOL.  Seriously, if you want to write ‘professionally’ you need to not pressure yourself into deadlines, grids, formatting, outlining, elaborate schema, fancy writing programs that will do all of your plotting and story structuring for you (Sure!  And, I have a bridge to sell to you.)  Don’t get me wrong, there are many programs out there that are phenomenal in helping you to organize your thoughts and story scenes.  However, you are the writer and you should never relinquish the control of your creativity to a program, or a machine (shades of Asimov’s I, Robot…).

Work from your heart.  Allow what’s inside of you – no matter what it is – to have the space and freedom to tumble out of your creative mind and onto your page, or screen.  Give yourself room to expand the idea without questioning your sanity.  And most importantly, grow and develop your fledging idea until it is a fully fleshed out ideal.  Then, it will be time to workshop your work-in-progress (WIP).  Some great places to workshop you work are:

Zoetrope – http://www.zoetrope.com/

Writer’s Carnival – http://www.writerscarnival.ca/

What’s something that people would be surprised to know about you? 

That I have not cut my hair in 8 years.

Well, that was fun! A big shout-out to Rochelle for stopping by. And don’t forget to check out the cover, blurb, and buy links for Fury From Hell, along with Rochelle’s bio and social media links, below.

Happy Friday!

 

3

Blurb:

Fury From Hell is a paranormal thriller about good vs. evil.  Here, the good is in the form of Detective Jennifer Holden, a homicide cop that is haunted by her own personal demons of a murder she committed when she was just a teenager.  The trauma she suffered at the hands of social agency after agency hardened Jennifer into a staunch atheist making her gun and her bank account the only things she truly believes in.

We meet Detective Holden, shortly before she begins working on her first solo murder case.  The victim is Kyma Barnes who was brutally raped and killed. As Kyma’s soul leaves her body, a demon being called by a coven of dark witches at nearby Prospect Park, is drawn to the dying woman by her death throes.  Fury Abatu offers to avenge Kyma’s death.  The price?  The dying woman’s soul.  Kyma gives it gladly to ensure the man who killed her pays dearly.

Buy Fury From Hell on Amazon

Connect with Rochelle online! 

Twitter: @NoteBkBlogairy

GoodReads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3434531.Rochelle_Campbell

Blog: thenotebookblogairy.wordpress.com

Amazon Author Central: http://www.amazon.com/Rochelle-Campbell/e/B007RHZNQ0

FFH Author Pic_Aug 2014

“Hmm, I wonder what form the demon in Book 2 will take…”

Rochelle Campbell has been writing on and off for over 20 years.  To date, the off-writing portion seems to have provided fodder for the writing phase of her career as she currently has, five novel-length works in progress.  Early in her career, she did legwork for The New York Times and freelanced for a number of local and regional newspapers and magazines.  However, her calling – fiction writing – became apparent after a two-year writer’s mentoring course in the early 2000’s.  From that course, several short stories emerged that readers and fellow writers urged Rochelle to develop them into longer works.

After a quiescent decade, story ideas abounded and are being developed and scheduled for bringing into full written form.

Along the way, two short stories have been published by literary journals.  They are Chambray Curtains Blowing in the Wind [http://www.bartlebysnopes.com/chambraycurtains.htm] and How Charlie Ray Saved My Life [http://litartmag.com/issue2/story2.php].

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


New Release! 30 Seconds by Chrys Fey and Author Interview!

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Happy Thursday, everyone! It’s an exciting week here at Quanie Talks Writing! This week I unveiled the cover for my paranormal novel, The New Mrs. Collins, and today I have the honor of hosting author Chrys Fey to celebrate the release of her novella, 30 Seconds. And honey, let me tell you: this is one action-packed story! The mob. Lost memories. Forbidden love. Hunky men wearing no shirts…isn’t this the stuff that great stories are made of?

Chrys was kind enough to stop by and answer a few questions about her release and writing process. Once you’re done reading the interview, be sure to add 30 Seconds to your shelf on Goodreads!

So without further adieu!

1. Tell us how you came up with the idea for 30 Seconds.

It all started with a dream. I was dreaming that I was spinning on a swivel chair to rock music when hands stopped me and lips touched mine. I opened my eyes to see a hot officer in full uniform who said, “I shouldn’t have done that.” When I woke up, I pondered a story where a woman falls in love with a cop even though she knows she shouldn’t. Not only did that dream spark the idea for 30 Seconds, but it actually became a scene in 30 Seconds.

2. Let’s talk 30 Seconds, the movie: who will play Dani? Who’ll play Blake? And tell us why:)

This is a hard question. Not because I haven’t thought of it, but because the actor who originally inspired Blake was Paul Walker, who passed away last year. I still can’t quite believe that. During the final editing rounds, I started picturing Dani as Rachelle Lefevre from the TV show Under the Dome. She once was on a show, Gifted Hands, where she was a doctor, and I think she’d make a great Dani.

3. There’s a scene in the beginning of the story where Dani is forced to hide in an enclosed space with the oh so hunky Officer Herro. If you had to pick someone to be trapped with, who would it be and why?

I thought about this question a while and finally decided on Criss Angel. Not only is he nice on the eyes but if we got stuck, he’d be able to free us with his magic. *wink*

4. The main character is a doctor. Did you have to do much research on medical terms or did you just wing it?

I did a little research on a scene when Dani is in the ER treating a young girl who has a serious head injury. I had to know what indications there would be of brain trauma and what Dani would do to treat it. But everything else came easily to me. I always used to say that I must’ve been a doctor (as well as a cop) in a past life, because it feels natural when I’m writing about it.

5. Dani has a thing for coffee flavored ice cream. If you two had a standoff over the last bowl, who would win? And why?

Hands down…Dani! She is feisty and would certainly get dirty in the battle for the last bowl of ice cream. All she’d have to do is glare at me and I’d pass the bowl to her and give her a spoon.

6. How is 30 Seconds different from your previous book?

“Hurricane Crimes” revolved around a category five hurricane, and the hero, Donovan Goldwyn, was a suspected murderer, so there was a lot of mystery around him. But with 30 Seconds, the only form of weather my characters see is snow, and Blake Herro is a good guy from the first page to the last.

7. Do you write in other genres?

Absolutely! I could never restrain myself to just one genre. I may be publishing romantic-suspense now, but I also write supernatural-thrillers, paranormal, and I’ve even dabble in science-fiction and western.

8. How does your upbringing influence the things that you write?

My upbringing influences a lot in my stories. I don’t really have the best relationship with my dad (we just grew apart), so quite a lot of my characters have dead-beat dads or absent fathers.

9. Did you have any moments of doubt with this book? How did you push through it?

I had a lot of moments of doubt and the biggest one came close to publication. I actually took it out of the galley phase to do more editing. I’m blessed to have a wonderful, understanding editor who wanted me to be one hundred percent satisfied with the outcome. I wouldn’t have been able to push through without her support.

10. Can you tell us about your writing process?

A lot of my stories usually start with an idea that manifests as a dream. I begin writing as soon as I can and I don’t stop until I type “The End” at the bottom of the manuscript. I always wait a while (maybe two weeks) before I begin editing, which usually revolves around 4-5 rounds for me. When I can finally read my story and appreciate it like a reader would, I pass it on to a couple of beta readers. With their eye and advice, I’m then confident enough to begin the submission process.

13. Tell us about your journey to publication.

You know the Great Wall of China? Imagine walking that from beginning to end. Twice. That’s how long my journey to publication felt. I was trying to find representation for a supernatural-thriller series when I realized I would have to break into publishing another way. That’s when I sent Hurricane Crimes to The Wild Rose Press and got a contract.

That all sounds very fast and easy, but I had been querying agents for my series for about five years, and struggling to even get flash fiction published. When you’re pursing a dream, it takes forever. But when it comes true, everything happens quickly.

11. Worst piece of advice you’ve ever gotten as a writer. And the best.

This one is kind of funny. The best advice I’ve ever received was from an agent who told me to cut out passive voice. The worst advice I’ve ever received was from a beta reader who told me to cut out phrases like “was walking” and “was sitting” because it was passive voice. Why is that the worst? Because it’s not true! I explain that in this post on my blog: Passive Voice Misconception.

12. What are you working on now?

I am currently working on three projects. The first is something special for anyone who enjoys 30 Seconds. The second is the third book in my Disaster Crime series. And the third is a brand new project I was not anticipating. I’m making more head way on that one than the first two works I mentioned. I’m not even sure how to define it, but it’s about individuals with supernatural abilities and the United States government.

14. What’s something that people would be surprised to know about you?

I don’t drive. I never have, because like Dani, I am afraid of being in a car accident.

15. Any advice for aspiring writers?

I have tons of advice, which I share on my blog, but the thing I always repeat is not to pay attention to every writing rule you hear. Authors and editors created rules based off how they wrote, and what they liked, but we don’t have to follow all of them. If you hear a rule that sounds absurd then you don’t have to follow it. If you hear a rule that makes perfect sense, then by all means adapt it into your writing. But don’t ever feel pressured to follow something just because people say you should. Other than grammar rules…those you should follow!

That’s it, everyone! Be sure to check out the cover, blurb, and buy links for 30 Seconds below along with Chrys’ author bio and social media links. Until next time!

 

30Seconds_w8707_750

Blurb:

When Officer Blake Herro agreed to go undercover in the Mob, he thought he understood the risks. But he’s made mistakes and now an innocent woman has become their target. He’s determined to protect her at all costs.

The Mob’s death threat turns Dr. Dani Hart’s life upside down, but there is one danger she doesn’t anticipate. As she’s dodging bullets, she’s falling in love with Blake. With danger all around them, will she and Blake survive and have a happy ending, or will the Mob make good on their threat?

Book Links:

Amazon US: http://amzn.com/B00N26EU9G

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00N26EU9G

The Wild Rose Press: http://www.wildrosepublishing.com/maincatalog_v151/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=5801

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22591698-30-seconds

Bio:

chrysfeyAUTHORPICChrys Fey is a lover of rock music just like Dani Hart in 30 Seconds. Whenever she’s writing at her desk, headphones are always emitting the sounds of her musical muses -especially that of her favorite band, 30 Seconds to Mars, the inspiration behind the title.

30 Seconds is her second eBook with The Wild Rose Press. Her debut, Hurricane Crimes, is also available on Amazon.

 Discover her writing tips on her blog, and connect with her on Facebook. She loves to get to know her readers!

Author Links:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/chrysfey

Blog: www.writewithfey.blogspot.com  

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/ChrysFey


The New Mrs. Collins – Cover Reveal!

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Some of you may already know this, but I’m getting ready to release my first paranormal novel and today I’m sharing the cover with you! Woo-hoo! *Cues marching band*

And if any of you kind folks would like to sign up for my blog tour, you can do so by following this link.

So without further adieu….

collins_promo (1) (3)

 

Title: The New Mrs. Collins
Author: Yours Truly!
Genre: Southern Paranormal Fiction
Length: 250 Pages
Format: eBook
Cover Artist: The truly fantastic Ravven
Release Date: 10/13/2014

Blurb:

In the small town of Carolville, Louisiana, no one knows that Adira Collins inherited mystic powers from her great-grandmother. All they know is that she’s beautiful, poised, graceful, and ruthless—especially when it comes to love. And no one knows that more than Leena Williams, who was all set to marry the man of her dreams until Adira swooped into town and stole the man’s heart.

Being left at the altar is bad enough, but Leena and her ex share custody of their son, so she has to see the new Mrs. Collins on a regular basis.

And it burns every time she does.

But soon, Leena starts to suspect that there is more to Adira Collins than meets the eye. And it’s not because she owns some kinky lingerie shop or allegedly insulted the pastor’s wife: it’s the strange way she can make a door close without touching it, or take one look at something and make it drop dead at her feet. Leena starts digging for answers and soon discovers that, unlike her public persona, Adira’s true nature is somewhere on the other side of grace. She also learns, a little too late, that some secrets are better left buried.

Add the book on Goodreads!

So what do you guys think? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Now excuse me while I go and get down with my bad self….

praise-dance-o


Overcoming Fear of Completion

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It’s the first Wednesday of September and you know what that means! Another installment of Alex J. Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group!

InsecureWritersSupportGroup
Co-hosts for September are Laura at My Baffling BrainMark KoopmansShah Wharton, and Sheena-Kay Graham. Please be sure to stop by their blogs and say hello! And happy anniversary IWSG! Today marks 3 years. Woo-hoo!

 

A few months ago, YA author Dawn Brazil wrote a blog post titled “Are you Sabotaging Yourself?” In the post, Dawn gives some tough love and cautions us against setting ourselves up for failure.

She ends the post with this: “Are YOU the real reason you haven’t reached all your goals? Stop making excuses and make opportunities.”

 *Goes in the corner. Hides. Writes letter that goes something like this: Dear Dawn, please stop spying on me.*

I am pretty much done with my current project (when I say “done” I mean that I’m at the point of having read it so many times that my eyes are bleeding so I’ve taken to reading it while standing on my head so that I can actually make sense of the words) but, as it always happens when I get to the tail end of a project, I find myself dragging my feet. When the mornings come, I have several excuses as to why I can’t do those last few edits:

1. I’m preggers, and who in their right mind sets a publication deadline for right before they’re scheduled to go into labor???
2. I need to be outside, making sure that the neighbor isn’t trying to steal our recycling bin again.
3. I don’t want to miss those Brazilian Butt Lift commercials because, dude, I like, really need that in my life.

There are other reasons I give myself, most of them weak, all of them B.S, and you want to know the fascinating part? This happens with EVERY project I work on. Every project? Yes. Once, someone (apparently a mind reading friend of mine), forwarded me an article on the fear of completion. I didn’t read the article, but I imagine that it defined F.O.C. somewhat like this:

Fear of Completion: That very wicked thing that happens to all writers right before they are done with a novel. Causes writers to avoid their novel at all costs. May cause writers to watch an excessive amount of television, take up gardening in the winter, or abandon said project all together and start a new novel from scratch.

Remedies: none.

I also imagine that there was a picture of yours truly right next to that definition. Confession time: my novel has been back from the proofreader since February. Yes, February. And no matter how much I’d like to blame not having it ready to send to the formatter on pregnancy brain, the truth is that I’m afraid that after I publish the book (gasp!) people won’t like it.

There. I said it. My fear of completion stems from the fact that I’m afraid of being laughed out of the city. I mean, just because I like my novel doesn’t mean others will. What if I’m like those delusional contestants on American Idol who think they’re going to win the competition even though when they sing they sound like a moose being thrown over a balcony? I worry about that. Oh my God; am I one of those people? I think I’m a good writer but what if I’m really delusional?

I tell myself that if I were then someone would have told me a long time ago, “Honey, maybe writing isn’t for you. How about fencing? Have you considered it?” (But then again, apparently no one has told those poor American Idol contestants that they can’t sing, so maybe, I tell myself, I should bury my project in the back yard and get out while the getting is good.)

I want to curl up on the sofa, pull the covers over my head, and never have to think about people reading my novel, hating it, and writing a horrid review.

But you can’t do that.  Why not? Because you’re a writer, ditzo. And if you don’t confront this fear you’re going to spend the rest of your life being one of those writers who is always talking about their writing career but never doing a darn thing about it. I could always take up fencing. Hush up and finish the darn thing, will you?

I think the only way to combat this fear is to:

1. Write and know that there is no such thing as perfection.

2. Expect that some people will like your novel, some people won’t.

3. Realize that despite your fears, you might actually be successful. 

4. Accept the fact that your writing career is your responsibility. Fear or not, you owe it to yourself to let your voice be heard.

So I’m working on overcoming this fear, but it’s tough. What about others? How do you deal with fear of completion? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 


Why You Should Never Pay an Editor or Book Cover Designer Upfront

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I should have titled this post “Folks Behaving Badly Online, Part 3.”

Maybe I’ve been hanging out in the wrong places, but I’ve seen several instances lately of folks behaving badly online; from harassing book reviewers for posting a negative book review to asking strangers for 5* reviews, folks really seem to be in their feelings lately and, as my grandmother would say, showing their natural behinds.

I’m not a psychologist (although, I used to want to be one. A rapping psychologist actually, but please don’t ask me about that) so I can’t tell you why folks are running around showing their behinds. I can only assume that they all drank a big ole cup of crazy, made another batch, and then passed it around to their friends.

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve talked about authors behaving badly, but today I’m going to talk about industry “professionals.”

Here’s some background:

An author was unsatisfied with an editor’s work. Long story short: she paid the editor beforehand, but when the editor got the manuscript and started reading it she realized that the book wasn’t her cup of tea. So of course, the editor tallied up the amount of hours for work already done and refunded the rest of the author’s money, right?

Nope.

She kept the money. Now, during the online slugfest (more on that later), the editor responded, saying that she had already explained her actions to the author in a private message and would not stoop so low and ruin her already starting to be ruined brand by elaborating further. Now, I’m no psychic, but I’m assuming that the private message went something like this:

Dear Dude:

I’m truly sorry but I couldn’t get through this novel. I didn’t realize it at the time (even though your blurb is pretty much an encapsulation of, like, the entire novel) that the novel was about puppets. And I have to tell you: I hate puppets. So to mitigate your damages (please note: I use the word “mitigate” very loosely here), I am returning your manuscript. I won’t be refunding your money, however, because I am using it for a good psychotherapist to help me deal with my puppet issues. I will say this: I totally dug the part where the protagonist faces her stage fright. I do love a strong-willed heroine! Anyway, as I’m sure you already know, editing is a very subjective business, and I can’t, even after accepting full payment, take on every client. Anyway, if you ever have any stories about cats, please do send them my way.

Looking forward to working with you again!

Muah,

A very shitty editor

Dear friends: what do you think happened after that? Well, the author went online and lambasted the editor from here to Tchoupitoulas. She went to a very popular social media outlet and posted several scathing reviews (and called the editor out by name). And honey chile, let me tell you: it was NOT pretty. What resulted was a public back and forth between author and editor that got so crazy that others eventually chimed in and told them to quit it because they were both starting to look a little woo-woo.

My two cents? If the editor really behaved that way, she won’t be in business for long. But I understand the author’s frustrations because I went through something similar with a no-good cover designer who shall remain nameless. Did I go online and trash him? I wanted to. But instead,  I cut my losses and added him to my “never again, not even if there are icicles in hell” list of vendors.

Moral of the story: never pay anyone up front (not even your cousin Frank). Half before the service, and if all goes well, half later. That way, if you’re ever unsatisfied with the work you can at least walk away with some of your money. But if you happen to read this post too late and fall victim to a shady vendor, please don’t go on a week long bad mouthing tour, because as bad as the vendor will look for his/her shady behavior, you’ll look just as bad.

What about others? Any editor/cover designer/industry professional horror stories? Industry professionals: have you ever dealt with any nightmare clients?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!


How (Not) to Respond to a Negative Book Review

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I recently heard of an author who got a less than stellar book review and went ham, cheese, and bologna on the reviewer (for my readers who may not know: to “go ham” is slang for acting  a complete and utter fool). I won’t post any links (Mama ain’t raised no fool. I don’t want folks coming after me here on my precious blog, trolling me and what not) and I won’t name names but I will say this: nobody likes negative reviews. Everyone wants to believe that their book is so spectacular that it will end up on all the best sellers lists and that Hollywood will come a-knocking, begging to buy the movie rights.

But Linda. Honey, listen: not everyone is going to like your book. If you’re lucky, after you publish a book, you might get some reviews. Some will be good, some will be bad but keep this in mind: it is not a reviewer’s job to lift you up (that’s what your family is for). If someone has an opinion about your novel that is contrary to how you view your masterpiece, then guess what? That’s okay! It’s just an opinion. And if you can’t handle negative reviews don’t read them. Or, if you can’t stop yourself from reading them and then going out and attacking folk all willy-nilly, then chile, maybe you should stick to knitting cause ain’t nobody got time for that maybe this book publishing thing just ain’t for you.

And if you get the desire to respond to a negative review: don’t. What’s that you say? You’ve already written your scathing rebuttal letting the reviewer know how stupid they are and how they just don’t get your masterpiece because everyone, including your Grandma Fran, has been going on about how rad you are? And your hand is on the send button and it would be too much trouble to lift it? Hit delete. Immediately. Now back away from the computer and keep your hands where I can see them. Slowly. Slowly. Now that’s a good author.

*Update: the author somehow got ahold of the computer  when my back was turned and hit “send” anyway. What resulted was a good ol’ fashioned Twitter dragging and slugfest on Goodreads between author and reviewer, and now the author’s reputation is ruined. People are reviewing their book negatively on purpose now to “teach them a lesson.” They are receiving one star reviews and people are putting their book on the “Not even if the author paid me a million dollars” shelf on Goodreads and also the “Not even if the Lord came down from heaven and demanded that I read this mess” shelf.  The author has since moved to Bermuda and has adopted seven cats. She has quit writing and has taken up knitting.*

If you happen to get a less than stellar book review, here’s what you should do: nothing. “But Quanie!” you say, “What if people don’t buy my book based on some idiot one-starring it and saying how no one, not even Socrates, could decode that 70,000 word mess masquerading as a novel?”

Do nothing. Even if you have to sit on your hands: do nothing. Readers aren’t stupid. If your cover, blurb, and first few pages reel them in, they will more than likely still read your novel, despite the negative reviews. But whether or not other readers are going to like it and leave a stellar review…well, you’ll just have to see.

Bottom line: if you get a bad review it’s okay to feel bad about it, but for the love of God, please don’t respond publicly because word of a bad reputation travels fast in this industry and things on the internet live forever. Instead, focus on building your support system of writers but most importantly, honing your craft and writing your next book.

What about others? Do you respond to reviews? Have you seen instances of authors behaving badly online?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

 

 

 


Book Review Query Etiquette

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I was on Twitter last week when this caught my eye: “Writer sends messages to strangers on FB asking for 5* reviews.”

Of course, I clicked on the link (how could I not? I had to know who this person was, going around the internets asking folk for 5* reviews and to see if this method was working so that I could maybe employ this strategy for myself )and discovered author Terry Tyler’s blog. Her post had me in stitches. Sidenote: I am having a lot of trouble spelling “stitches” this morning and my spell-check is going haywire. But I digress.

Anyhoo, in the post, Terry talks about the brilliance the nerve of this author trying to solicit reviews from people who may not have even read their novel. You can read the post in its entirety here, but here’s what had me in stitches:

I have a HUGE but important favor to ask PLEASE!!! If you haven’t already: Could you PLEASE do a 5 Star review of ***name of book**** and maybe corral a few others? During this year I’m going to seek an agent to help me land the elusive book deal. I’m really trying to bump up the current 4.6 Amazon stars to 4.8! Thus I’m shamelessly networking for 5* reviews with a minium of 20 words from you and anyone else who has an Amazon account.

*Faceplants*

Folks, I couldn’t believe what I was reading! I thought “Is this how the kids are doing it nowadays?” Forget forging meaningful relationships with other bloggers who might read your book and recommend it to their friends or worse (gasp!) querying bloggers based on the genres they like and politely requesting a book review. Is this what’s going on nowadays?

Of course, this got me thinking about plain ole etiquette. I was contacted recently by a stranger on Goodreads who asked me to send out a message recommending his/her book to all of my friends. And someone else recently sent me an unsolicited email (not a personalized email, mind you) with (I’m not making this up), an attachment full of promotional material for their book. The person thanked me in advance for helping to “make this upcoming release a success!” What I wanted to say: “Excuse me, honey, but the last time I checked my name was not Boo Boo the Fool.” What I actually said? Nothing. I deleted the message.

We are all pursuing the same dream. I want reviews and promo for my novel just as much as the next gal, but do you see me going around all willy-nilly, asking folk for 5* reviews, or for them to recommend my novel to their friends, or sending you, my dear blogger friends, unsolicited attachments with my author photo, book cover, and blurb with the expectation that you’ll promote the novel for me because you’re too afraid or nice to say no? No, ma’am! (But I can if you want me to…)

I think that if you’re going to query people for reviews you don’t necessarily have to grovel (unless it’s specified in the blogger’s review policy). All you have to do is be professional and courteous.

Here are a few simple guidelines:

1. Address the blogger by name. Dear “You” or “Hey there” just won’t cut it.

2. Know the genre(s) the blogger reviews! This takes some time and research but if someone specifically states “no horror” please don’t send it.

3. Be nice! Even if someone doesn’t review your book after one query doesn’t mean that they won’t review another book of yours down the line. And if you were a real a-hole to them during your correspondence, consider that a bridge burned.

Here’s a sample, no-frills book review query letter:

Dear (insert blogger’s name),

I recently found your blog on ___________________ and really enjoyed your post on ________________. While looking around your blog I discovered that you also review (insert genre). I was wondering if you would be willing to review my novel, _________________.

Per the instructions on your website, I am also including the blurb (copy and past the blurb into the body of the email). If interested, I’d be happy to send the novel as (insert format: mobi, epub, PDF, print copy, etc).

Thank you for your time,

Your name.

Sound easy enough, right? What about others? Has anybody else gotten any crazy review or promo requests? How do you go about querying for 5* reviews, I mean um, book reviews?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

*There are MANY review groups on Goodreads where authors can post book review requests. Some are peer review groups and others have forums where you can post your request and people who are interested respond. Some of the groups are even genre specific. This is a great way to get reviews!*

 

 

 

 


The Truth in Fiction

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I took a creative nonfiction course in college. At the time, I wasn’t ready to share personal (or even slightly personal) details about my life. As a result of that, my essays turned out to be sorry attempts at humor that only explored areas of my life that I felt safe enough to share. Truthfully? They were all vapid.

But lately, I’ve found myself wanting to write about more personal things; particularly, I’d like to explore certain real life issues, but through fiction, and I’m wondering about how “truthful” I should be.

There’s a movie called The Best Man where friends get together for a wedding many years after college. The main character has just written a novel based on him and his friends and a secret is revealed: in college, the main character slept with his best friend’s girlfriend. The friends read the novel and start to piece together which character is which, and before long, the groom-to-be gets his hands on the novel, realizes that it’s based on real life, and discovers before his wedding that his best man and wife-to-be were once intimate. As you can imagine, chaos ensues.

I recently found myself writing a character who was eerily similar to someone I know. Without going into too much detail, let’s just say that this person is probably the most self-absorbed person I’ve ever come across. So much so, that if I put him/her on the page as they are, it’s very likely that no one would find the character believable. I find myself wanting to write about this individual to explore possible reasons for their behavior. To make sense of it on the page in a way that I can’t do in real life. To right wrongs, even if I can’t do that in life. Even, perhaps, so that this person may experience some sort of poetic justice, even if only in a fictional world. There are other situations that I would love to put on the page but I find myself hesitating because I fear a “Best Man” scenario where everything is revealed and as a result of that, relationships are ruined.

We all write for various reasons: to entertain, to make people laugh, to explore things that happen in our lives and make sense of it, to get through pain, to sort out our feelings. Sometimes characters are reflections of the people in our lives but once characters are on the page, they take on a life of their own and the truths they reveal  may not end up mirroring the truth of our actual lives. But what happens when they do?

Does anyone else find themselves hesitating to put certain characters on the page because they resemble people that you know? Has anyone ever experienced a “Best Man” scenario as a result of writing things that are close to home?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

 

 

 

 


Writing Character Descriptions

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Lately I’ve been perusing the internets for a good book. I find a lot of books by indie authors (on Goodreads, Google +, and Twitter), and most of the time, I will click on the link and read the first page to get a feel of the author’s style. There have been at least three instances in the past week where I made a decision not to purchase a book because there was an onslaught of character description.

I won’t name names (I never do!), but here is an example of something I ran across:

“Jamison, when are you going to marry me?”

“Girl, you wish!”

Denise folded her skinny arms and whipped her sexy, black hair cut towards the window, so much so that her boyfriend, with his almond colored skin and mustache that looked like a handlebar, scratched his Mohawk and furrowed his pecan colored eyes in confusion, all while whipping his long, muscular arms in the air as the waitress, who had long, blonde hair and eyes so red she looked like she’d been crying, and a stain on her uniform that looked like coffee but very well may have been tea, walked by and offered them some more lemonade.

“I don’t want any lemonade!” Denise said in a huff, and as the waitress left the table (also in a huff), she realized that she was on rollerblades, pink rollerblades with little flashing lights at the bottom, in every color of the rainbow.

She looked at Jamison across the table. Although she was mad at him for not wanting to marry her, she laughed because he was still whipping his arms in the air.  Oh, how she’d always loved those arms! In fact, that’s what had drawn her to Jamison in the first place, the fact that he looked like a basketball player, and would have been one if his five foot nine frame had only been taller and if his mother, with her dark red hair, plus sized body, hazel nut eyes, and girlish smile, had only allowed him to leave their house, which was blue, not quite decrepit but getting there, and owned by his grandmother, who was sick and shut in, but still managed to gamble away the family’s fortune through online slot machines….

Obviously I had some fun here (tehe), but I think you get my drift: too much description can definitely be a killer.

When it comes to describing my characters, my personal preference is not to be too heavy-handed (I also don’t mind light description when I’m reading because my imagination fills in the gaps). I don’t describe every single character as they are introduced on the page because I think it reads a bit too much like Writing 101: Insert Description Here. I do describe the main characters, not just by giving what Sol Stein calls “Movie-house ticket taker” description: I try and tie the physical description with a trait that reveals something about the character’s personality or life: something that will (hopefully) add another layer to the character. Is the character beautiful? Well, this might be important if she often uses her beauty to get what she wants in life. Does the character have a strange birthmark? Well, that might be helpful when she sees a news article about a kidnapping that happened thirty years prior (and a picture of the stolen baby with the same strange birthmark…).

Or sometimes, I might just say, “The lady walked into the room. She was wearing a hat.”

Of course, everything depends on the story and genre, but I don’t think there’s a need to describe every single character (especially nonessential ones), and when we do describe characters, I don’t think there’s a need to go overboard with the description.

What about others? As writers, what’s your approach to character descriptions? And as readers, what are your likes and dislikes?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!