4 Books to Help Improve Your Writing Craft #writing #writetip

Hi, all! Jennifer here.

I talked a little about one-word goals last month. But this month I wanted to talk about some individual goals I have for the year.

Here within my critique group every year, we all post writing and personal things we’d like to accomplish.

One of mine was to improve my writing craft.

Even though I am a published author, I still feel as if I have only scratched the surface of what I know and where I want to be as a writer. So in conjunction with me attending conferences and taking online courses, I also made it a goal to read at least FOUR craft books this year as well. In fact, I’ve already picked them out and read one of them.

Here are the four I’ve chosen to Help Improve My Writing Craft this year:

Layer Your Novel: The Innovative Method for Plotting Your Scenes by C.S. Lakin

I liked this book. It gave loads of examples from various books on how authors build upon their plots.

Writing Deep Scenes: Plotting Your Story Through Action, Emotion, and Theme by Martha Alderson (Goodreads Author), Jordan E. Rosenfeld (Goodreads Author)

I just started this book. But I chose it because I heard good things about it and was interested in going “deeper” with my writing.

Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel (Before You Waste Three Years Writing 327 Pages That Go Nowhere)by Lisa Cron

Picked this beauty up because of a critique partner who was reading it. I’m about halfway through and so far I’ve been nodding and agreeing with everything that was said.

Characters and Viewpoint (Elements of Fiction Writing)  by Orson Scott Card

I picked this one up because I was looking for something beyond plot. I wanted to work on my characters. I hear this author is a master on this subject so I’m looking forward to reading it.

 

Hopefully I’ll be able to read more than just 4, but I haven’t found any other craft books that interest me.

Maybe you have some suggestions of your own! If so, please let me know!

Until then,

HAPPY WRITING

Jennifer

 

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. Check out her latest sweet romance: BARGAINING WITH THE BOSS.

Self Care During Nano

We all do it.

Roll out of bed, park ourselves in front of the computer, hair not brushed and still adorning our favorite pair of pjs or sweatpants, coffee in hand as we pound out the words to our next novel. Maybe we brushed our teeth, maybe we didn’t (this is a judgement free zone). We cringe when we pass by a mirror, wondering if we were body snatched.

I’ve done it. Plenty of times. #noguilt #bedheaddontcare #pajamadayeveryday. Eventually though, I have to do something that allows me a mental break. I need a moment to reset or I fizzle out (and I was specifically ordered by some of my Nano-ing partners in crime that there will be no fizzling unless it involves a beverage).

Seriously though, if ever there is a time that we, as authors, should pay attention to ourselves, it is during the lovely month of November. We push ourselves to the bring, pulling our hair out, putting in the time and the words to hit that magical 50k+ in a single months time. Every man, woman, and child participating will need to take a step back, regroup, breath, and let themselves focus on something else for even a mere fifteen minutes.

My own personal take on self care probably varies from the many pieces of advice floating around. I tend to look at things I don’t typically allow myself the time for during even a low key writing month or work day. Here are my ideas for self care…

  • Read a book. I’m often so busy writing or dealing with family shenanigans that I don’t do this enough. It’s nice to read a book. It takes your mind on a journey not of your creating. You don’t have to think, you just go along for the ride.
  • Bubble baths. #luxury! I love a good bubble bath. As a parent, you are often lucky to find a single solitary moment in which you can have a peaceful moment in the bathroom, which is why this is a self care luxury in my book.
  • Go get a massage, manicure, or pedicure. Letting someone else do the pampering for you….you will feel like a king or queen for a day.
  • Take a hike. No not in the mean get the hell out of here sort of way. Literally go for a hike. So many great spots out there where one can convene with nature. I’ve found some great ideas from hanging out with ol’ Mother Nature.
  • Go have a girls or guys night out. Sometimes, just hanging with the friends is just what the doctor ordered.
  • Follow the family dog or cat’s lead and curl up for a little afternoon snooze. I don’t do this often, and I will admit to sometimes taking it so far that I wake up feeling a bit groggier than when I put my head to my pillow, but man when I manage a simple power nap, I come back refreshed!

I have many more things that go on my list, but these seem to be the ones that always seem to get my mind working again…and sadly they are also the ones I usually avoid like the plague. However, this month I am planning a #nanoselfcaresunday journey. Every Sunday, on my Instagram, I will post a selfie of how I am indulging in a little self-care.

How do you take care of yourselves during this month of endless writing, yelling at the blank screen, and overall writing chaos? Join with me on my Instagram journey…who knows, maybe we can make it habit and it will just become part of what we do from here on out. I’m game.

About Kinsey Corwin

Kinsey Corwin, a contemporary romance author who really is drawn to small town stories, beaches, and cowboys (I know, that is quite a mix). She is a single mom of amazing boys, a fan of kitchen experiments, a lover of country music, and a dreamer.

The Path You Get #amwriting #NaNoWriMo @pawf1067

The Path You Get

Not that long ago, I got a book deal, my first. I couldn’t tell you the excitement I felt. I had reached my dream of being a published (fiction) writer. Finally, after multiple hours of writing notes and chapters in spiral notebooks, then typing it all in, I’d sold my first book. Someone appreciated the story that I’d spent countless hours constructing and reconstructing in my head. I knew I’d arrived…until I saw my book cover.

It was terrible. Truly terrible.

An attractive looking woman in a dark orange sweater and blue jeans stood winking at the camera. Behind her, a guy nuzzled her neck as he cupped her boobs. This would be the first thing people would see when they saw my title.

My work. My creation.

I sat there, staring at the screen shaking my head and talking to no one. With utmost certainty, this was not my story..at all. Not one stinkin’ thing about that cover reflected anything to do with what I’d spent hours creating. Along with the worst cover in the world, my name had been placed across the front of this woman’s crotch in dark red letters. You couldn’t even see my name!

After the shock wore thin, I had a complete meltdown, the likes of which my poor husband had never seen. Truly, I’m surprised he didn’t run to the airport and catch a one-way ticket to New Zealand. I talked to a writer friend who said I would have little pull being a brand new writer, but to talk to my editor about my very valid concerns. So I did.

Her response was, “Tough. This is the cover you’re getting or you can take your book elsewhere.” She followed that up with, “Oh, and we’re just going to print your book as is. No edits.”

No. No. No. No. NO!

Now, this is the part I want you to listen to very closely. When someone is so unbending, when someone isn’t listening to anything you are telling them about your book, when someone tells you they aren’t even going to edit your story because “it’s good enough”, run. I don’t care if it’s your first book deal or tenth. Run.

I did.

As a writer, you work is your face. Your image. Your craft. Don’t spend hours, weeks perfecting a chocolate cake and allow someone to pour gravy all over it and tell you it’s fine. Don’t let your worry of never getting another book deal ever cloud your good business judgment. Yes, I know you want to make that sale, we all do. If you’re writing in NaNoWriMo, of course you want to see results from all the hard work you’ve put in, but don’t allow your desperation of wanting to be a published author get in the way of a saying no to crappy book covers and awful editors. Every published author I’ve ever talked has at least one horror story like mine. Whether it was a dreadful book cover or bad editing or simply a bad business deal, stand back and think.

With a lot of tears, I canceled that contract and pulled my book. Not long after that, authors talked about bounced royalty checks and within the year, the publisher went into bankruptcy. Even after hearing of the publisher failing, I worried I’d never get my book sold, but I kept writing and writing and writing and finally in 2012, I sold my first full length book to Soulmate Publishing.

Since then, I’ve published four indie books set in Texas and contracted another two with Soulmate. To add to that, my book Burning with Desire from Tule Publishing, came out in April 2017 and just this week, I signed a three book deal with Tule to develop a medical romance series. When I received that first book deal, this isn’t where I thought I’d be. It’s not the path I assumed I’d walk, but it turned out better than I imagined.

Keep moving forward friends. Keep writing.

Patricia W. Fischer is an award-winning romance writer who loves telling a good story. After spending a decade in the ICU and ER’s, she turned to writing full time. She’s the host of Readers Entertainment Radio and has a monthly book picks TV segment on San Antonio Living.

You can find her at www.patriciawfischer.com, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Be sure to check out her books!

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. Check out her latest sweet romance: BARGAINING WITH THE BOSS.

It’s NaNo Time!

Hi guys! Okay, I admit, it’s been an embarrassingly long time since I’ve posted here. I would love to tell you I’ve been doing something amazing, like a book tour, but that would be a big, fat lie. I am simply lazy about blogging.

In any case, my favorite season is here, which always brings me new energy–weird, I know, given that winter is coming. Autumn brings beautiful colors, cooler weather, sweaters and boots, my birthday (hurray for cake!), squirrels eating pumpkins I never get around to carving, Thanksgiving (a food-centered holiday which is, of course, my favorite), and National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).  If you don’t know about NaNo, it’s an event in which  thousands of writers all over the world commit to writing 50,000 words during the month of November. NaNo’s website provides advice, pep talks, and word counters, and local NaNo groups provide write-ins where you can meet actual people outside of your house and write with them.

I love NaNo, because it gives me the impetus to get a lot of words on the page, words I then massage for the rest of the year to turn into a book. Eventually.

Last night, I was on a panel of writers who have “won” NaNo (reached the 50K word goal) at the Cuyahoga County Public Library (such wonderful support for writers there!), sharing experiences with other writers who want to do the same. I came up with a list of tips I thought I would share with you.

1. Plan, just a little.

Some of us are planners, some of us are pantsers, and others are somewhere in between. No matter which one you are, do at least some planning. Have some details ironed out before November 1, such as:
• What is your setting? Contemporary, historical, futuristic, fantasy? City or small town?
• Who are your main characters? What are their overarching goals? What motivates them?
• If you’re writing historical fiction, have you researched the time period? If you’re building a new world, have you ironed out the basics, such as names, languages, places, technology, etc.?
• Map out the main events in your novel, the main turning points, so when (not if) you get stuck in the middle, it’s easier to get yourself back on track.

2. Discover how fast you write.

I learned this tip in an online class I’m taking this month called “How to Write Fast,” taught by Peter Andrews. (Super helpful, and I’d recommend it if you see it anywhere–check out his blog too.) Do this before you start: set a timer and write for 15 minutes. Write anything—a description of your dog, a dissertation on the weather, a synopsis of your story, whatever—just write for 15 minutes. Do not edit as you go. When the timer goes off, count the words you wrote. Multiply by four. That’s the number of words you can write per hour. That gives you an idea of approximately how much time you need to devote per day to write 1,667 words.

For example, I wrote 425 words in 15 minutes, which is 1,700 per hour. At that rate, I only need to write one hour each day to reach my NaNo word count. When you look at it that way it seems far more manageable and easier to schedule. Admittedly, it can be harder to write that fast when you’re trying to figure out where your story is going next, which is why #1 above is helpful.

3. Turn off your inner editor.

Seriously. Turn that sucker off. If you try to polish every scene during NaNo you will NEVER FINISH in time, or possibly at all. There will be plenty of time to polish later.

4. Write with other people.

I find writing with other people—whether in person or virtually—to be the single most helpful thing I can do for my productivity.
• Go to a NaNo write-in.
• Sprint with NaNo on Twitter (@NaNoWordSprints).
• Get together with friends to write in person and/or start a chat group on Facebook Messenger for sprints.
Savvy Authors has a sprint room; membership is free.
• My local RWA chapter, NEORWA, has an online workshop during NaNo for sharing ideas, sprinting, etc.  It’s free and open to anyone; you just need to register, which you can do here.

5. Winning isn’t everything.

Sometimes even if you plan, schedule, turn off your editor, and write with other people, the words just won’t come. I have done NaNo six times. I only won twice, and neither of those books has been published. I didn’t win with the three books I have published.  Do try to win, because it’s awesome and fun and feels fabulous, but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t. Like many other things, NaNo is simply a tool to help you get words on paper. It doesn’t work for everyone.

My tips will almost certainly conflict with that of other folks, but no one technique works for everyone. Please feel free to share your own tips in the comments, and happy autumn!

 

About Marin McGinnis

A lawyer in real life, Marin McGinnis feeds the more creative part of her soul by writing Victorian era romance and mystery. She's spent almost half her life in a tree-lined, unabashedly liberal suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. She's been married to the same great guy for over 20 years, and has one teen-aged son. They all live together in a drafty old house with their two standard poodles, Larry and Sneaky Pete. While her very first book will languish under the bed, the next book, Stirring Up the Viscount, won two contests in 2013 and was published by The Wild Rose Press in January 2015. Her next two books, Secret Promise and Tempting Mr. Jordan, are also available from Wild Rose Press. Marin currently serves as President of the Northeast Ohio chapter of Romance Writers of America and is hard at work on the next book. You can find her here, at marinmcginnis.com, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

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.

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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