More Advice from Gail Bowen

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

In one of last month’s G.O.T.H. posts, I shared an excerpt from Sleuth, the latest release from Canadian mystery author Gail Bowen. This informative and entertaining guide provides excellent advice for writers of all genres.

In the Editing chapter, Ms. Bowen adds the following insights to “expert” rules:

1. “Vigorous writing is concise” (William Strunk Jr.). Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style will always be a writer’s best friend. Be concise; be concrete. Cut until you can cut no more. Almost every piece of writing can be improved if you cut it by a third.

2. “Try to leave out the parts people skip” (Elmore Leonard). Deep-six your prologue. The material there is generally back story and can be worked in later. Your first task is to bring your reader into the world of your novel; start the action and write an opening that will keep your reader reading.

3. “Using Adverbs is a mortal sin” (Elmore Leonard). British writer Esther Freud’s advice is even more draconian. Freud instructs writers to cut out all metaphors and similes. I’m with Leonard on adverbs, but when it comes to metaphors and similes I’ve been known to indulge myself. I always feel terrible the next morning, but nobody’s perfect.

4. “Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very.’ Your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be” (Mark Twain). Amen!

5. Don’t explain too much. Give your readers credit. Allow them to be come part of the creative process. If you’ve done your work as a writer, then your readers will do the rest.

6. Read aloud passages in your novel you suspect might be problematic. If there is a problem, then rereading the passage aloud will reveal it.

7. January 24th is the feast day of Francis de Sales, the patron saint of writers and journalists. I understand he’s available 24/7.

8. Enjoy the ride. Ann Patchett says, “Writing is a job, a talent, but it’s also the place to go in your head. It is the imaginary friend you drink your tea with in the afternoon.” Most people have to say goodbye to their imaginary friends when they start kindergarten; writers get to keep their imaginary friends forever.

9. Ray Bradbury says the most important items in a writer’s make-up are zest and gusto. I agree. If you can’t imagine your life without writing, then you’re a real writer. Stay the course.

Source: Sleuth by Gail Bowen, pp. 142-143.


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Ending on the Right Note

Last summer, I read several books with unsatisfying endings. In one case, I wondered if the novel had been worth my time and attention. The author had started with a compelling opening, the characters were well-developed, and each chapter ended on a suspenseful note.

Where did she go wrong?

Continue reading on the Sisterhood of Suspense blog.


On Writing Romantic Suspense

Writing romantic suspense involves the skillful juggling of romantic elements and nail-biting suspense. A daunting task but so rewarding when all the essential ingredients come together in a well-crafted, character-driven novel.

Here are eight tips:

• Ask yourself: what is intriguing about the premise? What will attract readers to the book? In Sue Grafton’s Alphabet Series, protagonist Kinsey Millhone is a twice-divorced private investigator who is permanently stuck in the 1980s. In the Gilda Greco Mystery Series, the protagonist is a teacher turned lottery winner who moves back to her hometown and then finds herself embroiled in murder investigations.

Continue reading on the Just Romantic Suspense blog.


How to Manage Your Writing Process

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

A long-time fan of Canadian mystery author Gail Bowen, I was happy to discover she had written Sleuth, a hands-on guide for anyone thinking of writing a whodunit. I highly recommend this informative and entertaining book chock full of solid tips and examples.

Here are ten tips on how to manage your writing process:

1. Write every day, even if it’s only for fifteen minutes or to jot something down in your notebook or to do a quick edit on your work from the day before. Day-by-day engagement with your work keeps the connection alive and the juices flowing.

2. Never leave your writing in a bad spot. If you know a quagmire awaits you, the temptation not to go back to your laptop can be almost irresistible. Some of my best writing moments have come after I’ve gritted my teeth and stayed at my laptop till I’ve worked through the problem. Ernest Hemingway said, “Always leave the pump primed.” It’s good advice. And novelist Jodi Picoult tartly observed, “You can edit a bad page, but you can’t edit a blank page.” If you’re in what a writer friend refers to as “suck mode,” then the process will be painful, but take a few breaths and forge ahead.

3. Many writers, and I am among them, believe that two quiet hours at 5 a.m. equal four hours of regular work time. Ignore this advice if you are a night owl.

4. When you’re stuck, leave your desk. Go for a walk. Make tea. Play with your dog or cat. Meditate. Whatever you do, don’t start surfing the net, don’t make a phone call, and don’t get together with friends. If you do, other people’s words will pour in where your words should be. Create a space. Be patient.

5. Use the Pomodoro Technique. Work for twenty-five minutes. Give yourself a five-minute break, and then get back to work. I’ve been doing this since I started writing. Until a couple of years ago, I had no idea this particular strategy had a name, but it does, and by any name the technique works.

6. Trust your instincts. If a character begins to surprise you, follow him to where he takes you.

7. Trust your instincts even when you don’t want to. Sometimes, despite your best efforts, a character is lifeless, a plot line is limp, a symbol is leaden, or horror of horrors, your whole manuscript has the vitality of a long-dead mackerel. Give that draft of the manuscript a decent burial and start again. Try some creative recycling of the characters and plot points that didn’t work in the first draft. You might be amazed at how they snap, crackle, and pop the second time around. Remember P.D. James wise counsel: “Nothing is ever wasted.”

8. Never give up.

9. Learn to be your own editor. I begin every day rewriting the last page or so I wrote the day before. I always find something to shift or change. And working on the familiar material helps me to reconnect with the manuscript and gets the juices running again.

10. E. L. Doctorow said that writing “is like driving a car at night: you can never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” Keep the faith.

Source: Sleuth by Gail Bowen, pp. 40-42


Recipe for a Successful Synopsis

I’m happy to welcome award-winning author Elizabeth Fortin-Hinds and acquisitions editor Janet Schrader-Post. Today, Elizabeth and Janet share their recipe for a successful synopsis and their new release, The Young Adult Writer’s Journey.

Writing a synopsis is probably the hardest thing many writers face. I’ve sold a lot of books just using a well-written synopsis. I sold Tell-Tale Publishing the Vagrant Chronicles, a three-book series, with a synopsis. There’s nothing as satisfying as selling a book you have yet to write. I’m so spoiled, I hate writing a book I haven’t sold. So, here’s the recipe I follow. It’s simple and it works.

I set my synopsis up with characters first. I list each character. I give them goals, backstory and motivation. It’s important to explain how they interact with each other and what their role encompasses in the book.

For the third book in the Vagrant Chronicles, Descendent, the character layout looked like this.

Logan Hall: Logan led the rescue of his girlfriend and friend from prison on the moon. Logan’s role in Mutant is to lead a party back to Earth to save the Vagrants of New LA who are being eliminated by a new threat, a mutant Vagrant named Tegu who has allied himself with New LA’s new director Humphrey Coleman. Logan’s goal is to return to Gliese where Shayna is waiting.

Eddie Chou: Eddie was part of the Vagrant resistance before he went on the raid to the moon to rescue Logan’s two friends. His part of a greater plan to free Earth was dumping a Sopore cleansing drug developed by Professor Goswami into huge holding tanks on the moon containing melted space ice. This water was transported back to Earth and supplied a large portion of the water for new Washington. In Mutant, Eddie will be the leading agent in a mission back to Earth. Eddie’s technical genius will be critical to the mission.

Shayna Nagata: Shayna is Logan’s girlfriend. She grew up feeling like an outcast because she was allergic to corn so she was never addicted to sopore. Shayna stays behind on Gliese to help Declan’s woman and her daughter take care of the rest of the new colony. She loves Logan and their separation is very painful.

Enoch Loughlin or Knock: Knock helped in the escape from the moon. He forms a relationship with one of the girls in Declan Hall’s colony and joins in the trip back to Earth.

Fenfang: The daughter of Declan’s woman Mai Li. Fenfang has studied all martial arts under the tutelage of Declan. She knows all weapons especially knives and swords and is an expert in Jujitsu and Karate. She accompanies Knock on the rescue mission to New LA and is an integral part of the success of this mission using her skills to help defeat Tegu and his band of rogue Vagrants. She and Knock fall in love.

Rajan Kumaran: Professor Goswami’s nephew. He was captured in Book I and rescued from prison on the moon where he was scheduled to be sent to a mining camp. Raj has to stay behind on Gliese when the rescue mission leaves because he is too young.

Professor Depak Goswami: The professor is also a doctor taking care of Vagrants in New Washington. He was also heavily involved in a growing resistance and in an alliance with Eddie Chou to clean the water of new Washington by placing a sopore cleansing agent in the water supplies on the moon. When Eddie contacts him from Gliese, he tells him of the growing trouble in New LA and the threat from mutant Dr. Drey to the efforts of the New LA Vagrants to escape Earth by building a spaceship.

Once you have all your characters treated like this as completely as you can, and I mean every character who has some bearing or impact on your story, outline your story. Make sure you hit all the major turning points.

Once you’ve outlined your story, you must include the ending. No editor or agent will be interested in your book if you don’t tell them how it’s going to end. Don’t tease or be cute, just write the ending.

Make sure you include in this ending how you resolved your characters’ conflicts, explain what your characters learned and how they changed and grew throughout the story.

This is how I write a synopsis. Using this method helps you give anyone you’re trying to sell your story to, a much clearer picture of how your story works. It’s all about the characters. They are the ones who move your story, and if your clearly explain who they are and what they will be doing in your story, it makes writing the story outline much easier.

Blurb

Finally, an all-inclusive book on young adult fiction must-do, don’t do and how-to. If you want to write a young adult novel, you need to read this book first. Coauthored by an award-winning YA author and an acquisitions editor, both experts on kids and what they like to read, this encyclopedia contains all you need to start or improve a career as a YA fiction author.

From an examination of the market, genre and its sub-genres, to mechanics and the business, everything is at your fingertips. This amazing writer’s resource is written in a relaxed and interesting style, with plenty of contemporary references and examples for clear understanding and easier application.

Excerpt

Most writing classes for Young Adult fiction and Middle Grade tell you the duty of your book’s opening is to hook your reader and to catch the interest of an agent. The truth is, that’s only one of the purposes of your opening. Too often we forget that, as Frank Herbert said in Dune, “A beginning is a very delicate time.”

When writing for young adults, you should know where you’re going, just as when you write adult fiction. Plot construction for stories with universal themes is the same in any genre. There is a plan, a plot, a diagram you can follow to create a satisfying read. Just as with painting, every artist who uses the same subject will create a different and unique work of art. So, using a basic outline to be sure you write a story that resonates to the inner psyche of readers is not a bad idea.

Some may argue that modern stories can’t demonstrate enough diversity when trying to fit the entire world into a single format such as The Hero’s Journey, but iconic success stories like Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, the Harry Potter stories and more don’t seem to mind. They’re hardly the same stories, are they? Do they seem like boring knockoffs to you? Millions of fans and dollars later…they are still growing their fan base. Lucas even spoke of Star Wars and the incorporation of Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey and appeared in his Bill Moyer’s series.

Book Trailer

Buy Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble

*******On sale for $0.99 during the tour*******

Author Bios and Links

Daughter of a Colonel, Janet Schrader-Post lived the military life until she got out of high school. She lived in Hawaii and worked as a polo groom for fifteen years, then moved to Florida where she became a reporter. For ten years she covered kids in high school and middle school. Kids as athletes, kids doing amazing things no matter how hard their circumstances. It impressed her, and it awed her. “How wonderful teens are. They have spirit and courage in the face of the roughest time of their lives. High school is a war zone. Between dodging bullies, school work and after school activities, teens nowadays have a lot on their plate. I wrote stories about them and I photographed them. My goal was to see every kid in their local newspaper before they graduated.”

Janet love kids and horses, and she paints and writes. Now she lives in the swampland of Florida with too many dogs and her fifteen-year-old granddaughter. She started to write young adult fiction with the help of her son, Gabe Thompson, who teaches middle school. Together they have written a number of award-winning YA novels in both science fiction and fantasy.

Elizabeth Fortin-Hinds knows kids well. She spent decades teaching teens and adults to write and improve their reading skills. As a literacy expert and certified coach, she helped both teachers from elementary to secondary and preservice graduate students learn to improve reading and writing instruction. She has taught at both the secondary and graduate level, everything from rhetoric, essays, and thesis statements, to poetry, short stories, and how to write a novel. She has learned to use both sides of her brain simultaneously, but enjoys the creative side the most, learning to play piano, draw and paint, and find time for her own writing since retiring from her “day” jobs.

A “true believer” in Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces, mythic structures, she uses that lens when considering manuscripts for Tell-Tale Publishing Group, a company she founded with some friends from her critique group a decade ago.

Wise Words Publishing, an Affiliate of Tell-Tale Publishing Group, LLC

We are a small press, a traditional publishing company bringing you the best in E-books, print and audio books to feed your body, mind and spirit. Our cutting-edge fiction includes old favorites and edgy speculative fiction for today’s eclectic readers. Our stories will grab your attention and take you on a fast, exciting ride that will leave you breathless. WW, our affiliate, publishes select literature under our Cosmos Imprint and nonfiction titles under our Ivy Tower Imprint. http://www.wisewordspublishing.com

Founded in 2009, in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. Our company motto of “excellence in creative entertainment and learning, ” informs our artwork, manuscript selection, editing and publishing. http://www.tell-talepublishing.com

Giveaway

The authors will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour. Find out more here.

Follow Elizabeth and Janet on the rest of their Goddess Fish tour. The tour dates can be found here.


Writers Are Superheroes Because…

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

Earlier this year, I started following the BlondeWriteMore blog. I enjoy receiving a daily dose of inspiration from a blonde British writer and blogger named Lucy Mitchell. She has a delightful blogging voice that brings a smile and a thought-provoking pause to my day. I strongly recommend following her blog.

This past Sunday, she wrote about wanting to quit the NaNoWriMo journey, a common feeling among those of us participating in the month-long writing marathon. Here’s a short excerpt from that post:

You can read the rest of the post here.


Self-Publishing: The Great Equalizer

I’m happy to welcome Canadian author Janice Richardson. Today, Janice shares her thoughts on self-publishing.

Here’s Janice!

“Indie”. Depending on your point of view, the word carries possibility. Yes, you saw that correctly. Possibility. Never mind the connotative responses. This isn’t a self-published vs. traditional vs. independent press article. This is a celebration of potentials.

Remember the old joke punchline “I may be crazy but I’m not stupid?” If not, here it is – https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/tire-nut/.

53.7% or 70% or 64.2% of all authors make less than $1000.00/year. The accuracy of those stats is dependent on variables. Do you work as a writer full-time? part-time? Are you published by one of the Big 3? Big 5? Do you have a monthly advertising budget? A publicist? Is your author platform Prada vs. Thrift store?

Back to that old joke. Not all of us have disposable incomes. We may be poor, but we are not stupid. We can write. It has only been in the past few years that we can publish, using the same platforms as traditional and independent presses. All authors share the same air on Amazon, Ingram Sparks, Draft2Digital etc. It is no longer rarefied. Of course, there are a few differences. Getting books into stores is a challenge self-published authors face. But, and this one of the best things about being an author, you can get your books into libraries. Everyone and anyone, regardless of income, can read your books via Overdrive. You can donate your print books to your local library.

My advertising and build-your-author-platform budget was $0 for 15 months after my first book went live. It became $25, then $40 after 28 months. One good promo can make a world of difference. All authors should be reading blogs, authors FB posts and websites and learning from experts like Rayne Hall, who gives away books from her Writer’s Craft series if you can’t afford to buy one. Get the help for marketing from people like Derek Haines, Nicholas Rossis, Marylee MacDonald, Jane Friedman, and many more experts who freely share their skills online.

I cringed when I saw a series of blog post comments from published, well-respected authors who will no longer take indie requests for reviews. It wasn’t because the individuals making the request were indie. It is because they were rude. Read the submission rules! Being indie is no excuse for bad behaviour. Nor is being traditionally published or hybrid/independently small press published.

Traditionally published authors are now involved in their own promotion. Even some independent/hybrid press authors are required to present completely formatted manuscripts for uploading and then promote their books, equalizing the process.

If you put the work in, you reap the rewards. It takes time. Personally, I don’t measure success by my bank balance. Cliche – the joy is in the journey? Yes – authors have no arrival. Self-published authors have freedom as well. We don’t have contracts. We have all the rights to our books. We can change the prices of our books at will and we can make a book permanently free or discounted for a limited time.

“You are taking sales away from published authors!” “That’s not fair!” Just two of the comments I have faced by giving away the first book in my series. It stings. I don’t want to ‘take’ anything away from anyone.

A recent promo translated into sales as follows: with four books in the series, it was a 20/1 ratio. I gave away 2300, sold over 100 in a two week period. The benefits – readers whose budgets don’t accommodate purchasing books got the first book free. I heard from a few of them on Facebook. They made my day. The book made bestseller on Amazon in all categories and top 100 free Kindle. The promo resulted in nine ratings and two reviews on Goodreads. Even my non-fiction sold. All this was below budget. A tiny step – peanuts perhaps, compared to my published counterparts. Nonetheless, a reason to rejoice. I was doing my job.

As a special needs mom, I am reminded every day there are great divides in society. To translate my point to publishing, that great divide closed with the option to self-publish. It is no longer all about being published by the biggest, middle, or smallest. Giving freely (books and assistance) is my goal as an author and I remain steadfast and unapologetic.

Yes, having a publisher opens a wealth of opportunities. Hybrid/independent publishing can open the door to the Big 5. I read recently that one of the big publishing houses acquired another publishing firm, leaving them the option of accepting about 100 new authors/year. If it is true that every 8-15 seconds a book goes up on Amazon, (700,000 to 1 million/yr), the majority of authors must publish somewhere else. The discussion of indie vs published or somewhere in between will never go away, it is the elephant in our online rooms. There is no right or wrong, We are published.

Joanne – thank you for the opportunity to guest post on your blog.

Janice’s Books

Where to find Janice…

Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter | Amazon