11 Steps to Writing a Bestselling Novel

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.

I found this infographic created by Jodie Archer and Matthew Jockers interesting.



Keep On Keeping On

I’m happy to welcome multi-published author Marsha R West. Today, Marsha shares valuable advice and insights gleaned from her writing journey.

Here’s Marsha!

Thanks for hosting me, Joanne. I’m honored to be on your blog today. The title of this post is my mantra: Keep on Keeping on. I developed it early in my writing life. And thank goodness I did, or I wouldn’t be where I am today. No, I’m not a USA best selling author, but I have a following. Fans who ask, “When’s your next book coming out?”

So, let’s go back to the beginning. I started writing because my mother was ill. One day I said to a friend: “I’ve read so many romantic suspense books, surely I could write one if I just knew what to write about.” The friend reminded me of the $13 million embezzlement in the school district, resulting in jail time and loss of jobs. I had left the school board sometime before all that took place, but I knew something about it. I finished the book of 145,000 words, knowing nothing about writing genre fiction or the fact, 145 K words was a bit over the going standard! LOL

But I joined RWA and a local chapter, entered contests, found critique partners, I wrote, and I learned. This is definitely a learn by doing business. You must put in the time and effort to learn the craft. I give a lot of credit to Margie Lawson for my selling the fourth book I wrote, VERMONT ESCAPE, to MuseItUp Publishing, a small Canadian e-publisher.

This was after lots and lots of rejections. That’s one reason I say: Keep on Keeping On. You’re the only one who can stop you from being published. And that’s if you give up. There were many times I almost did that very thing. The year before I sold, I was president of NTRWA. That really saved me. I had to write a president’s message for our newsletter every month, and that’s when I developed the Keep on, Keeping on mantra. Each of those articles was written to me as much as to the members. That was in 2012. VERMONT ESCAPE was released in 2013. I’m so glad I hung in there. I now have 7 published books. All are romantic suspense with older characters; some call this “seasoned romance.”

MuseItUp bought my next book, TRUTH BE TOLD. They wanted the next one, SECOND ACT, but it was the first of a four-part series, and they weren’t printing my books. I had readers who wanted books in print. That led to me setting up MRW Press LLC. I got my rights back on the first two books and headed into the Indie Publishing world.

Right now, I’m teaching a four-part course for Texas Christian University Silver Frogs program called Indie Publishing: Who Me? It’s fun to feel like I can pay forward all the help I received with folks just getting involved in this writing/publishing world.

Book 8 is my WIP and as of now, untitled. Hoping to release it later this year.

In the meantime, I hope you’ll check out any of my stand alone books or The Second Chances Series about 4 women in their 40s who’ve been friends since elementary school. Picture of Book Series Books are on B & N, KOBO, iTunes, & Amazon where you can order print books, too. All my books are set in Texas even if the characters don’t remain there. Hint: VERMONT ESCAPE.

Love to hear from you. 😊

Vermont Escape Blurb

Two years after the murder of her husband, someone guns down Jill Barlow’s father, a Texas State Representative. The authorities suspect a connection between the murders but can’t find proof. Jill longs for the peace she found when she visited Vermont after her husband’s death. With the perpetrators still at large, she flees to the small town of Woodstock.

The gambling syndicate, believing she has damning evidence against them, pursues her, shattering her dreams of peace. Trying to protect her grown children, she doesn’t tell them violence continues to stalk the family.

Despite having lost so much already, with the lives of her family and friends at stake, will Jill be required to make more sacrifices including a shot at a second chance at love with a Vermont politician?

Bio

Marsha R. West, a retired elementary school principal, is also a former school board member and theatre arts teacher. She writes Romance, Suspense, and Second Chances. Experience Required. Marsha lives in Texas with her supportive lawyer husband. Their two daughters presented them with three delightful grandchildren who live nearby. Charley, a Chihuahua/Jack Russell Terrier mix completes her family.

MuseItUp Publishing released her first book, VERMONT ESCAPE in July 2013; her second book, TRUTH BE TOLD, in May 2014. In the Fall of 2014, Marsha formed MRW Press LLC to provide print and e-versions of her books. SECOND ACT, Book 1 of the Second Chances Series follows up with a secondary character from VERMONT ESCAPE and begins a four-part series. ACT OF TRUST is Book 2 of the Second Chances Series. She released THE THEATRE, a stand-alone in 2016. It was followed by ACT OF BETRAYAL, Book 3 The Second Chances Series in 2017. In 2019, Act of Survival, Book 4 The Second Chances Series released. A new standalone will be released in 2020.

She contributed to ROMANCE & MYSTERY AUTHORS ON WRITING, edited by JQ. Rose. Also, in 2018, she had a short story, “The Colonel & Her Major” published in her writing chapter’s anthology, LONE STAR LOVE.

She has lots of fun doing book club & library presentations. You can contact her at marsha@marsharwest.com or through her website where you can also sign up for her NEWSLETTER, Blog, or check out any of her social media sites.

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10 Ways to Build Writer Resilience

I’m happy to welcome mystery author and executive coach Melissa H. Blaine to the Power of 10 series. Today, Melissa shares valuable insights and advice about building writer resilience.

Here’s Melissa!

What’s the bravest writing action you took today?

Creative work is filled with failure and setbacks. Rejections. Bad reviews. Publishers closing. Declining sales. Unsupportive family and friends. The list could go on. Every time we fill up a page with words or put paint to a canvas or pull images into a design we are taking a risk. Because creative work like writing is subjective, nothing that we create will be loved by everyone. Likewise, our writing or other creative work always includes some of ourselves in it. We’re not just laying our work on the line; we’re laying bare a piece of ourselves for the world to see and judge too.

Building resilience is important for writers as we navigate the challenges. Being able to bounce back from adversity is a skill that we can develop and nurture—one that will keep us writing when things look bleak or we don’t believe in ourselves. We may not feel brave or resilient or tough, but finding the paths ahead make us all of those things every day.

Looking to nurture your resilient spirit? Here are ten ways to find resilience in those challenging moments.

1. Acknowledge the Emotions

Emotions happen. As humans, we’re going to feel disappointment, anger, doubt, shame, and hurt when setbacks happen. Identifying and acknowledging what we’re feeling can not only be a healthy response but also help us move forward. By accepting the emotions, we give ourselves that chance to learn how to manage it in healthy ways and the acceptance can take away some of the destructive powers that negative emotions can have. Did a writing group member take a snipe at you that made you angry or upset? Acknowledge how you feel and why you feel it. Our emotions can be complicated creatures so getting to the bottom of things might reveal truths that help us move forward.

2. Find the Comeback Stories

Whenever we face a setback or a challenging event like a rejection, it can be easy to feel alone or to compare ourselves to other successful writers. The truth is that all of us struggle at some point. Look for the comeback stories in the people you admire or see around you. Maybe they have their own string of agent rejections or have had their publisher close the doors. Finding the stories of others who have gone through what you’re experiencing can not only make you feel less alone but also reassure you that the rejection, setback, or bad review doesn’t have to be the end of your story either.

3. Take the Big Picture

Setbacks, rejection, and bad reviews can feel like the end of the world. In the moment, it can feel like we won’t recover or that there’s no way forward. Taking the big picture can help you focus beyond the moment. Maybe your dream agent didn’t love your book, but there are many other agents out there who might love it. A missed deadline can be defeating in the moment, but might not even be noteworthy in five years. Try to see above the fray. Will this matter in two months or two years? Does it really close off the paths forward or do you need to shift a little to find a way through?

4. Use Your Strengths

Everyone of us has character strengths that we draw on every day. These include positive traits like hope, humor, curiosity, perseverance, and bravery. When negativity seems like it’s hanging around us like a dementor waiting to pounce, consciously using a character strength can help you summon your patronus to banish it away. Learn to recognize your signature strengths and you’ll get better about being about to call them up to help you rebound. Imagine that you’re on a writers’ panel at the biggest conference of the year in front of your favorite author and you fall getting into your chair and then spill a glass of water down the front of your shirt. Disaster? Maybe not. You call up your humor strength, crack a joke, and your favorite author invites you to lunch.

5. Look for the Lesson

Whenever we fall flat, it can be difficult to peer into the dark and look for the truth. We’d rather hide or blame it on someone else. It’s OK to take some time, but don’t forget to look for a lesson in there. Does that hurtful bad review have a grain of truth in there that can help you improve the next book? Is the feedback from your critique group the same week after week? Is that typo that haunts your dreams a symptom of rushing through things or not hiring a copyeditor? Finding the lesson can help you improve and grow, as well as giving you good practice in learning from the adversity.

6. Fall Forward

We all fail. At some point, something isn’t going to work or go our way. Falling forward means that we take what we’ve learned through the failure and fall forward with growth, new insights, and better skills. What we try might not work, but it can move us forward, if we let it. Maybe that story you wrote isn’t garnering rave reviews from your critique group, but you gained experiences and new insights so you’ll fall forward from where you started. If you fall forward, you use those experiences and insights to help you succeed on the next step.

7. Write Your Own Comeback

What if you could write your own success story? Try journaling about your next steps and successes in the future. Writing down what you’re feeling or where you want to go can help give you perspective about what’s happening. Research has also shown that talking to yourself in the third person or as “you” can help people perform in stressful situations better than if they use “I.” Give it a try in your journaling. It can help reduce feelings of shame as well as help us be more objective in our feedback to ourselves.

8. Build Your Community

We can’t always choose who we interact with but finding your community can help you foster resilience. Look for people who you can trust to both give you honest answers as well as who want the best for you with no strings attached. Your inner writing circle can have an effect on your self-talk so it’s good to be choosy and find your people, including the people that you hire and entrust your work to like editors, coaches, and marketers. Lean on your community in those moments when you need support and a boost up. That’s what friends are for, after all.

9. Use the Muse

Those hard moments can drain our creative well. It’s not unusual to find your creativity flagging along with your spirits after you read that not-great review or your book isn’t selling well. Sagging creativity then feeds into the negativity because if you can’t write, you can’t find your way out of the pit. Bolster your muse by doing something new, taking yourself on an artist’s date, or getting in some quiet time. Your muse might not make a sudden, dramatic appearance, but a new idea or story will eventually start itching in your brain. Give yourself the space and use the muse to pull yourself back into writing.

10. Delete the Doubt

Whenever those setbacks happen, imposter syndrome likes to show up right behind them. We doubt our ability to write, to be a writer, to succeed as a writer. Deleting the self-doubt that tries to keep us from moving forward can help us bounce back quicker and easier. If we believe that we are resilient and brave, we’ll act more resilient and brave. If we know how to kick self-doubt to the curb, we can find that healthier, stronger relationship with ourselves and our writing that lets us skip over some of those challenges like a pebble on water.

Online Course

Is doubt holding you back from writing or publishing your book, blog, or dissertation? Writing is hard; doubt makes it harder. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Delete the Doubt is an online course designed to help you learn to use good doubt productively and banish the bad doubt from your writing life. When you embrace the good doubt, you’ll be able to use it—because that’s where creative genius happens—and spot when good doubt starts to turn to self-doubt so that you can stop it in its tracks before it stops you. Through the course, you’ll develop your own roadmap for deleting doubt so that you can draw on the strategies that work best for you. Choose the Delete the Doubt course option that works best for you: course only, two-month course program with weekly group coaching and discussions, and premium three-month course with 1-1 coaching sessions each week.

Get 50% off any course through February 17, 2020.
Visit this website and use the code prelaunchhalfoff.

Bio

Melissa Haveman (aka Melissa H. Blaine) is a mystery author, Michigander, and executive coach. She has almost eighteen years experience as a developmental editor and writer, and she’s also served as the Director of Content for an academic publisher. She’s taken hundreds of writing projects from start to finish, working with experienced and beginner writers alike.

Melissa is the owner of Creatively Centered, an executive coaching business that specializes in making remote work, work. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, the SinC-Guppy chapter, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and the Grand Rapids Region Writers Group (GRRWG), as well as the Center for Executive Coaching and the International Coach Federation.

Her sociology degrees have led to many hours researching gravestones, urban legends, and how villains are created in history. When she’s not in front of her computer screen, Melissa is off hiking with her (hell)hound.

Author Website | Coaching Website | Instagram | Twitter


In Praise of Series Bibles

I never intended to write a series.

Fifteen years ago, I couldn’t imagine anything beyond a novella, possibly a novel, about the following What-If scenario that had invaded my daily thoughts:

What if a teacher-turned-lottery winner returns to her hometown, only to find herself the primary suspect in the murders of four blondes? Can she prove her innocence and solve this case before it’s too late?

I even had a title—A Season for Killing Blondes—for what I thought would be my one and only foray into the world of publishing.

All that changed once the book was accepted and published by The Wild Rose Press. My editor, writer friends, and readers asked about the next book in the series.

Continue reading on the Sisterhood of Suspense blog.


Inspired by C.S. O’Cinneide

Sunday afternoon, I attended the “How to Write Frightening Fiction” workshop facilitated by author C.S. O’Cinneide (Carole) at the University of Guelph. A former IT business analyst with 25+ years of technical writing experience, Carole has written Petra’s Ghost, a novel that resonates with both literary and horror communities.

Carole’s Backstory

From an early age, Carole enjoyed writing fiction. While she liked her IT career, she hoped to write a novel someday. At midlife, Carole decided to seek inspiration and direction on the Camino di Santiago.

Her supportive husband looked after their two teenage daughters and a German exchange student while Carole was away.

Walking 30 kilometers each day, Carol completed the ancient five-hundred-mile pilgrimage that crosses Northern Spain in one month. During that time, a woman was abducted and killed on the Camino.

When Carole returned to Canada, she spent two years writing and editing Petra’s Ghost, a novel loosely based on that tragedy. Intrigued by the storyline, Dundurn Press offered Carole a contract within three days of receiving the manuscript.

At Sunday’s meetup, Carole shared information and advice in an entertaining and interactive session. A short Q & A period followed.

Here are seven nuggets that captured my interest:

• Terror and horror are not mutually exclusive—most scary fiction is a mixture of the two ends of the spectrum that has terror on one end and horror at the other.

• Horror gives people a safe place to face their fears. In one of the exercises, we were asked to list 10 things that frightened us. In the sharing session that followed, a number of “fears” emerged, among them sharks, earthquakes, and shame/embarrassment.

• Don’t terrify readers the entire time. Use a balance of light and dark to give the reader a break from the tension at regular intervals.

• Develop an inner struggle to match the external one. Publishers and readers want a deeper story to go with the thrills and chills.

• Make the threat real and present for the reader. Writing in the present tense can add to the immediacy of the danger.

• A “hook” is essential when writing frightening fiction. Write the first chapter and then find the place where the “hook” occurs (often halfway or near the end of the chapter). Rewrite, starting from the hook. The earlier prose can be reused as backstory or flashback.

• Speak the language to get your book published. Do your research and decide on the best descriptor (magical realism, psychological suspense, speculative fiction, etc.) for your manuscript.

Blurb

A man’s pilgrimage becomes something from his darkest nightmares when secrets arise and ghosts haunt his path.

A woman has vanished on the Camino de Santiago, the ancient five-hundred-mile pilgrimage that crosses northern Spain. Daniel, an Irish expat, walks the lonely trail carrying his wife, Petra’s, ashes, along with the damning secret of how she really died.

When he teams up to walk with vibrant California girl Ginny, she seems like the perfect antidote for his grieving heart. But a nightmare figure begins to stalk them, and Daniel’s mind starts to unravel from the horror of things he cannot explain.

Unexpected twists and turns echo the path of the ancient trail they walk upon. The lines begin to blur between reality and madness, between truth and the lies we tell ourselves.

Amazon (Canada) | Amazon (US) | Indigo | Barnes & Noble

Books on Horror

Danse Macabre (Stephen King)
Monster, She Wrote (Editors: Lisa Kröger, Melanie R. Anderson)
Horror: A Literary History (Xavier Aldana Reyes)
Writing Horror (Edo Van Belkom)

Helpful Links

Horror Writers Association (http://horror.org)
Ladies of Horror Fiction (https://www.ladiesofhorrorfiction.com)
Carole’s Website (https://www.shekillslit.com)

Thanks to Karen Ralph and Marion Thorpe for organizing this event.


How to Overcome Writer’s Block

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 her book, How I Write: Secrets of a Bestselling Author, Janet Evanovich recommends writing something every day, even it means just a few sentences on the screen. And not getting too hung up on rewriting the first page or chapter. Rewriting and polishing should be done only on a completed manuscript.

Here are Janet’s suggestions…

Do it by time. Start with five minutes and increase the time by five minutes a day. In two weeks, you will be sitting at your desk for about an hour a day.

Do it by pages. Start with one paragraph a day and work towards a page a day. By year’s end, you will have written 365 pages.

Do it by word account. Plan to write a specific number of words each day. Hemingway wrote around 500 words a day–approximately 2 pages. Those two pages a day produced nine novels and a number of short stories–with plenty of time out for game hunting and fishing.

Do it by appointment. Carve out a place and a certain time of each day for writing. Then show up for work.

About Janet…

Janet Evanovich is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Stephanie Plum series, the co-authored Fox and O’Hare series, the Knight and Moon series, and the Lizzy and Diesel series as well as twelve romance novels, the Alexandra Barnaby novels, Troublemaker graphic novel, and How I Write: Secrets of a Bestselling Author.