When Your Writing Misses the Mark

This post is for the writers. The aspiring authors, the seasoned veterans.

Sometimes, you write a story and it just flows. It comes together like it has a life of its own, fully-formed and perfect. This isn’t about those times.

Because even when you have those stories, you’ll also have stories that are just… off. They’re missing something, the something that makes them a story worthy of telling.

Maybe it’s your structure or conflict. For me, it was an under-developed character.

I couldn’t figure out: how did this happen to me? Me, who spends a month or two pre-writing. Polishing characters’ histories, their GMC, plotting out a story based on those things before ever putting fingers to keyboard and executing. I spend as much time pre-writing as I do writing the first draft.

But, there was no denying that’s exactly where my story was at. The bad news came from my editor. (Mistake number one–I was in a hurry and didn’t have it beta read by my trusted critique partners before submission.) My heroine’s backstory and motivation were… weak.

I couldn’t believe it. In the weeks following my grandmother’s death, I’d written Exactly Like You, edited it, submitted it, and it was published in June. It was one of the aforementioned stories–it just flowed together perfectly, seamlessly.

How could I have done that so well and missed the mark so completely in the other story? For one, I didn’t dig for backstory and motivation. I latched onto the first idea that came to me. The first idea is never the best idea–don’t let anyone tell you any different. (This would be mistake number two, in case you’re counting.)

I revised and then sent it out for beta with two very smart CPs (all my critique partners are smart, but I digress). They came back with the same verdict–I’d missed that mark again. She was still underdeveloped. Her motivation wasn’t quite believable. That’s what happens when you try to make your character fit your story rather than the other way around. (That, friends, is mistake number three.)

I’m very happy to say that I conferred with one of my CPs, sending her five pages of notes to address the specific issues she called out, then had another CP take a look at my opening and made adjustments again. This had become the story that would not live.

But I wasn’t giving up. All is well now (I hope–it’s been resubbed to my editor, so we’ll see). I can tell you that I don’t think there’s much more of me left for that story. If it’s not enough? This may become one of those stories bound for the far reaches of my hard drive.

I wish I had a happy ending, but don’t all the true life-lesson stories end ambiguously? Take what you can from this, writers. Dig into that back story, then dig some more. Don’t skimp on character, ever.

About Lori Sizemore

Lover of nail polish, pens, her Kindle, and fresh coffee. She likes romance filled with messy, real characters and lots of snarky banter. Reading was (and still is!) her BFF; when she discovered writing she fell in love. Come for the snark. Stay for the story.

Think like a Reader to Market like an Author

Hey, all!

Jennifer here.

One thing I’ve noticed around the Twitterverse and Social Media realm is what other authors are doing there. I can’t help it. I’m social. I don’t just post and leave. I linger a bit. It helps me learn as a marketer.

Let’s face it, we’re writers. We don’t have marketing degrees. (Well, most of us don’t) As a result, I see a bit of a hodgepodge of marketing tactics. Some are REALLY good. But most, I have to say, are not.

I’m still learning, myself, but I recently hit the USA Today bestseller list and have been growing my Instagram following nicely and so far, have had much better engagement with my Facebook and Twitter pages. So I’d like to share some of my observations in order to help with marketing our books as well.

  • One key factor is to THINK like a reader.  All writers are readers.  Readers/writers buy books. I’ve bought books because of Twitter. I’ve also bought or maybe checked out books I’ve seen advertised on Facebook.  Stop and PAY ATTENTION  as to WHY you buy a book and think about it. Where did you see it advertised? Who told you about it? What was so smart about the way the author told you about their book? Then mimic it.
  • Stalk your favorite author. Huh? Well, don’t technically stalk them, but pay very close attention to HOW they market. Do they post fun things on social media or is it ALL about their books? Do they do collaborations with other authors? Do they have an engaging newsletter? If so, what do you like about it? Can you do something similar? Are their social media graphics eye-catching and do they make you want to buy their books? Then do what they do, but add your own twist to make it unique and personalize it toward your brand.
  • Test your graphics and play around with them. Some authors have a knack with marketing and create sharp graphics for their books. It’s very impressive–or maybe someone else creates it for them. Whatever. In my humble opinion, simple usually works best. Think of it like picking out paint color.  One time I had picked out a beautiful rose tan that I thought would be perfect for my dining room. The painters had painted 1/4 of the wall when I walked in and yelled, “Stop!” The little sample paint color I had picked out looked pink once it was up on the wall, not the lovely tan rose I thought. (PS. I changed it to a plain tan and was very happy) Sometimes that happens with book graphics. You create something beautiful and different–and what you think will be eye-catching. But once it pops up on a feed, it ends up being hard to read and therefore missed by readers. If your post isn’t being “liked” or “seen”, it might be time to try something else.
  • Giveaway what your readers really want. If you plan on organizing a giveaway, make it worthwhile to your readers. I find most readers want paperback/hardcover books. But maybe YOUR readers want something different. Ask them in your newsletter or take a poll on your Facebook page.

Hope this gives you some things to THINK about the next time you’re scrolling through your social media feeds. Really look at what makes you ignore posts and what makes you pay attention to posts. Start thinking like a reader and market accordingly.

Good luck and happy marketing!

Jennifer

Praise for Wrong Brother, Right Match

“Wrong Brother, Right Match is basically a Hallmark Christmas Movie in book form and I love it!” – Stephanie’s Book Reviews

If you want to be swept away into a sweet read that will keep you glued to the page then this is the book for you. There was just something about this storyline that was the right amount of sweet, romance and fun that made it unputdownable.”- The Sub Club Book

Amazon:  B&N: KoboIBooks:

Sign up for Jennifer’s newsletter for a chance to win an ARC of her upcoming sweet romance!

About Jennifer Shirk

Jennifer Shirk is a USA Today bestselling sweet romance author for Montlake and Entangled Publishing who also happens to be a mom, pharmacist, Red Sox fan, P90x grad, and overall nice person. 🙂

2017: Year of the Coarse Corn Cob

At the rate of sounding indelicate, I’m going to phrase the next couple paragraphs as structurally-sound and innuendo-laden as I can. Gird yourselves as I discuss… duh, duh, duuuuhhhhh… the year of the Coarse Corn Cob.

“Capital,” you say.

Eh?

“Letters,” you say.

Indeed, friends, this year deserves some alternative language (and horrifying visuals) as much as it deserves honesty, integrity, and a slew of other words we haven’t seen being used in speech or action. My year started out with big plans, rocket-to-the-moon size plans. I wanted to write X (being a number) of books, submit to agents/publishers, and get on to the next part of my 5-year plan.

Then the Coarse Corn Cob appeared and started it’s unholy pursuit to choke me on dry, kernels and wiry silk. Everyone thought I was joking, making up stories, and speaking the ridiculous rhetoric of the Negative Nancy. Then the Coarse Corn Cob came for them, their family members, their pets, computers, cars, and bank accounts. Soon everyone had crusty silks in their teeth and a bad taste in their mouth.

Hopes and dreams were crushed, jaws left hanging open and in pain. The battle became real for so many. The Coarse Corn Cob, relentless and thick, tried to stuff itself where the sun don’t shine and soak up any moisture remaining, in an effort to spread its putrid seed across the globe.

While I battled, attempting to pry said cob from my over-extended maw, I discovered that I need not fall victim. I spoke with over would-be victims who fought back and found regurgitation a form of defense. There were other methods to wrench control over the Coarse Corn Cob, to make oneself an uninhabitable environment for the cob to sprout spawn.

Such survival required patience, determination, planning, and strength of the mind and body. None of these are easy when being attacked in such a brutal, invasive manner. While the war is not over, I’m slowly winning battles, taking back control, and granting my face much-needed moisturization and relaxation.

So remember this, dear reader: Only you can stop deep cob pummeling and it’s only a matter of time before we shove 2017 Coarse one back in the dark hole it belongs in.

 

Shameless plug: 

Landra recently released a book. The second in The Raven series called The Raven Who Caught The Canary. If you like action-adventure/speculative fiction with some romance, this book might be for you. If you don’t appreciate inter-racial romance or people fighting Nazis, stay away. Check it out at all major ebook retailers. Don’t like searching for stuff? Neither does, Landra. So, she posted them below. To the right, you can see her pretty cover.

Check it out at all major ebook retailers. Don’t like searching for stuff? Neither does, Landra. So, she posted them below. To the right, you can see her pretty cover. Psst, there are more books coming in The Raven series, more Nazis getting their butts handed to them in an alternate historical timeline.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Google Play | iTunes | Kobo | Smashwords

About Landra Graf

Landra Graf consumes at least one book a day and has always been a sucker for stories where true love conquers all. She believes in the power of the written word, and the joy such words can bring. In between spending time with her family and having book adventures, she writes romance with the goal of giving everyone, fictional or not, their own happily ever after.

Sale Blitz: Wrong Brother, Right Match–Jennifer Shirk

Two brothers. One Christmas. One matchmaker’s mistake…

 

 

Wrong Brother, Right Match

Anyone But You #3

Jennifer Shirk

Entangled Bliss

Matchmaking guru Kennedy Pepperdine’s life is perfect. Perfect job. Perfect friends. Perfect boyfriend. Except…when she gets trapped in an elevator with a handsome stranger, she accidentally confesses a secret: maybe her perfect boyfriend, Justin, isn’t so perfect for her after all. But a matchmaker should be able to successfully match herself, right? Thankfully, she’ll never see the handsome stranger again. Until she heads home with Justin for the holidays and learns that the sexy stranger is none other than Justin’s older brother, Matt.

Matt Ellis is trying to be on his best behavior for his mother—it is Christmas, after all. But when he recognizes the beautiful woman from the elevator—the one he hasn’t been able to stop thinking about for months—his best behavior is being held by a thread. Matt’s always sacrificed for his family, and nothing is more important than their happiness, but the more time he spends around Kennedy, the more he wonders if her supposed “right match” might just be the wrong brother.

Praise for Wrong Brother, Right Match

“Wrong Brother, Right Match is basically a Hallmark Christmas Movie in book form and I love it!” – Stephanie’s Book Reviews

If you want to be swept away into a sweet read that will keep you glued to the page then this is the book for you. There was just something about this storyline that was the right amount of sweet, romance and fun that made it unputdownable.”- The Sub Club Books

 Wrong Brother, Right Match WON the 2017 ©Desert Rose RWA® Golden Quill Contest- Sweet Traditional Category

 

99 CENTS FOR A LIMITED TIME

Jennifer Shirk is the award-winning author of sweet (and sometimes even funny) romances for Montlake Romance and Entangled Publishing. Her novel SUNNY DAYS FOR SAM won the 2013 Golden Quill Published Authors Contest for Best Traditional Romance. Recently, her novel, FIANCE BY FATE—a 2015 Readers’ Crown Finalist—became an Amazon #1 best seller for Series Romance. And recently, WRONG BROTHER, RIGHT MATCH won the
Sweet Traditional category of the 2017 Golden Quill Contest.
She resides in a beach resort in NJ, so when she’s not writing or working on her tan, she’s taking care of her most treasured possessions: her husband, daughter and puppy (Sox).

Check out her website for News and Links:

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And don’t forget to join her mailing list for a chance to win free ARCs:

 

About Jennifer Shirk

Jennifer Shirk is a USA Today bestselling sweet romance author for Montlake and Entangled Publishing who also happens to be a mom, pharmacist, Red Sox fan, P90x grad, and overall nice person. 🙂

Summertime Blues

Greetings HSG Readers!

As I type this we’re still in June. Of course the post will be live the end of July, maybe by then I’ll be a bit perkier.

In childhood, summertime is filled with the month’s each kid dreams about. From lounging around the house, sleeping in, library reading programs, vacation bible school, summer camp, and also those outdoor activities I can’t remember a summer I wasn’t ready to dive in to.

At least until adulthood came. I don’t get three months off work any more. In retrospect, this makes me wonder if I should have been a teacher.

Now the summers are filled with being stuck indoors, slaving in front of the computer, and I’ll admit the whole thing has turned me a little blue.

To perk things up, I’m creating the ultimate summer playlist. This is a list of the oldies, the newbies, and those unforgettable songs you grew up jamming out to during the summer.

So far, I’ve come up with a few that get me excited. Like, John Fogerty’s Centerfield, it’s the perfect summer anthem to the All-American sport, baseball.

Bryan Adam’s has his own summer ballad, Summer of ’69, that reminds me of youthful exploits.

And of course, the musical lover that I am, can never ever leave out Grease. Summer Lovin’ is the epitome of the high school experience. Those meet ups with someone new over the summer only to cut things short and return to regular life come the fall.

What am I missing? I know there’s some new stuff, like Will Smith’s Miami or LFO’s Summer Girls. Tell me your favorite summer-themed music and help me cure these blues. 

 

About Landra Graf

Landra Graf consumes at least one book a day and has always been a sucker for stories where true love conquers all. She believes in the power of the written word, and the joy such words can bring. In between spending time with her family and having book adventures, she writes romance with the goal of giving everyone, fictional or not, their own happily ever after.

When You’ve Never Been…

People say write what you know about. I’m not a total believer in that, but I have to admit it does make things easier. I’m English from Kendal, a small town in the north of England (though I now live on a mountain in Spain) and most of my books are set in England, mainly in London, where I lived and worked for a number of years.

However, I love to try different things, and so the book I’m writing now is set in a small town in America. I could have set my small town anywhere, but I settled on Virginia’s eastern shore, close to the island of Chincoteague, because when I was a child, I read a book called Misty of Chincoteague and fell in love with the area and the ponies.

Four wild ponies of Assateague Island, Maryland, USA crossing the water of the bay. These animals are also known as Assateague Horse or Chincoteague Ponies. They are a breed of feral ponies that live in the wild on an island off the coast of Maryland and Virginia. It is unknown how the animals originally populated the island, although there are a few legends.

So now I need to get a feel for my small town, what’s it like, who lives there, what do people do in the evenings, at the weekends, does everyone go to church, do they welcome newcomers with open arms or does it depend on who you are…?

Maybe I need to visit. I would in fact love to visit, but it’s not going to happen any time soon. So I’m attempting, from the comfort of my own home, to steep myself in all things small town and east Virginia in particular. Here’s my list of things to do in the name of research:

  • Read books set in small towns
  • Watch movies set in small towns
  • Google my chosen area (http://www.chincoteague.com/)
  • Google small town America – some fascinating articles come up.
  • Ask questions

What do you think is the best way (short of getting on an airplane) to get a real feel for a place you are writing about?

About Nina Croft

Nina Croft grew up in the north of England. After training as an accountant, she spent four years working as a volunteer in Zambia which left her with a love of the sun and a dislike of 9-5 work. She then spent a number of years mixing travel (whenever possible) with work (whenever necessary) but has now settled down to a life of writing and picking almonds on a remote farm in the mountains of southern Spain.
Nina writes all types of romance often mixed with elements of the paranormal and science fiction.

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