Investing in your writing career: when, why and how much?

money-1090816_640Let’s start with a fact we all know: building a writing career is hard work. It’s hard to become a freelance writer and it’s much, much harder to become a successful fiction writer. Even the best and brightest among us put years of hard work into their craft before they see any measurable success. The few who do manage to become popular with their first published novels often wrote several others first; those who get the first book they wrote published have often spent years writing short stories.

Luckily we live in the internet age, which means there are thousands of resources to help you speed up your own career. You can learn about how to get excellent freelance jobs from Linda Formichelli of The Renegade Writer or Sophie Lizard of Be a Freelance Blogger. You can read about character development and fiction writing on Live Write Thrive or the DIY MFA blog. You can even take a free course in fiction writing at Open University or the Purdue Online Writing Lab.

Yet sooner or later it becomes crucial to invest real money into your career. You probably know you need to invest in a website, but have you thought about investing in yourself?

Why investing in yourself is key to your writing career

If you’ve already written a book you probably know how irritating it is when people assume anyone can write a book. If you’ve edited a book you know how frustrating it is to see people believe you can just write a first draft, publish it and become successful. And if you’ve been at this for a while you’ve probably realized there is always more to learn. You’re prepared to commit hundreds, even thousands of hours to building a writing career, so why not invest some dollars too?

Yes, there is a lot of great free content online, but a lot of the best content is locked away in some sort of paid course or ebook. Paid courses also often come with actual mentorship and feedback from the instructor as well as your other classmates. Not to mention encouragement in real time(ish) when you’re struggling with an issue. This feedback from real professionals can leapfrog your writing by years if you use it well.

Committing real dollars into your writing education also helps you stay committed to learning and to your career overall, even when you’re feeling tired and discouraged by all the things you have to do to become successful. Sometimes a financial commitment to your career propels you to take your career more seriously than before.

When is the best time to invest in your writing career?

Any time is a good time. Making a small financial commitment to your writing education every month or year can keep you constantly moving forward. Every time you study a new aspect of writing or even a new writer’s process you learn something about the craft. Every investment will speed up your progress towards success.

So what should you actually invest in?

Like so many things in writing it all depends on what kind of person you are and what goals you have. If you happen to be independently wealthy and have full control of your time you might want to invest in an MFA. If you work a day job you might want to take evening classes at the local community college or purchase an online video course you have 24/7 access to.

Generally, though, there are three main things worth investing in: actual courses(online or offline), books about writing craft, and one on one mentorship. I believe every writer should invest in at least a handful of excellent books about the writing craft that they can refer back to. Having both books about overall writing and books that focus on specific topics relevant to the genres you write in is a good idea.

Should you take a writing course? I think you should try to take a few, either advancing a specific style of writing or exploring a new style of writing. I also think every fiction writer should take a script writing course because even a basic script writing course can change how you think about storytelling forever, especially if you’re a novelist. What type of course you take is entirely up to you and your goals. How much feedback do you want? How much structure? Do you want to take an existing project in or work primarily on exercises?  How much can you afford to invest in an extensive course?

What about one on one mentorship? One on one mentorship is great, but depending on the type of mentorship and who you want to work with it can be quite expensive. A mentor who works with you one on one will often provide the highest level of motivation–at least partially because it is so expensive–and the most detailed feedback. Hiring a freelance editor is similar: you’ll pay a fortune, but you’ll learn a lot and jump several levels in writing skill if you apply the lessons from the experience to the rest of your work.

In short, only you know what you really need and can afford. We can all benefit from investing in our career but every writer’s path is different. A

Want something a little bit more specific? Here are some resources & classes I’ve loved:

For Fiction Writers

Worldbuilding: From Small Towns to Entire Universes by Kevin J. Anderson – I loved this book so much I wrote a review!

Writing Fight Scenes by Marie Brennan – I’ve also written a review for this excellent guide.

WritingAcademy.com – I’ve taken the YA fiction and screenwriting courses here and quite enjoyed the exercises and examples given. They do put the courses on sale every once in a while so you might want to watch out for those.

For Freelance Writers

Escape the Content Mills – I actually got to beta test this course for an extremely low price and I absolutely loved it. The hand outs were great and the community on the forum for this course was also amazing. I love working with Linda Formichelli(you might notice this) and would recommend any of her courses.

Freelance Writer’s Den – Run by Carol Tice and Linda Formichelli, this is a paid forum where you can network with other freelance writers, ask questions of experienced pros, get feedback on query letters and letters of introduction and even find jobs.

These are the best resources/classes I’ve invested in so far. Of course, everyone I listed above sells ebooks or online courses and there are also hundreds of other reputable writers and schools who can teach you new writing skills and offer excellent feedback.

What have you invested in/are you thinking about investing in? Let me know in the comments below!

Writing Fight Scenes by Marie Brennan

WritingFightScenesIf you’re anything like me, fighting scenes are among the most challenging. Even if they flow when you’re writing them, they sound wooden when you go back. You spend twice as much time on fight scenes as any other scenes in the book, sometimes more than that. So you might be pretty excited about the title of this book. I know I was. In fact, it was one of the most exciting titles I saw in the Writer Tools book bundle.

Marie Brennan is an author who has not only written many fight scenes in her time but who also has some practical experience in both martial arts and fencing. She uses examples from her own work and life as well as some well known books and movies including The Princess Bride(definitely one of my favourite things about this book).

Writing Fight Scenes goes through all the important aspects of a fight scene: who’s in it, why they’re fighting, where they’re fighting and what they’re fighting with. It focuses primarily on how to weave the fight scene into your story and goes into great detail about how you can write an excellent fight scene without getting into much technical details.

Out of everything in this book, I found the sections about emotions and pacing the most useful. Pacing is definitely one of my biggest issues in a fight scene. I’m always torn between impressively long scenes to show off my characters’ skills and short, punchy scenes that focus purely on the chaos of battle. Reading this book has given me some excellent tools for deciding how to pace battle scenes in my next project–and how to improve pacing in the ones I’ve already written.

The section about different combat styles and weapons wasn’t quite as extensive as I would have liked, but I’m the type of person who would have been completely fine if this was a 700 page book that went into extensive, gruesome details–and I’m also smart enough to know that even that wouldn’t have been able to truly cover every style of fighting. Brennan does talk briefly about different types of swords as well as other common weapons like bows, maces and slings.

Overall I think most writers whose work involves battle scenes will get a lot out of this book, especially if most of their battle scenes are one-on-one or small group fights. Purchase your copy today and prepare to take your fight scenes to the next level!

Writerly Goals 2016

DSC_0615_editLast week I shared my accomplishments of 2015 and–in the interest of both accountability and education–today I’m going to share my goals for the year of 2016. This year I’ve actually also divided the goals into quarters and even figured out how far to progress on each goal during the first four months of the year. Of course, this is always subject to change, but I’m pretty proud of the way I’ve broken things down:

1. Submit Good Bye to 30 publishers(or until I get a contract) — Good Bye is actually a novella so this is a somewhat ambitious number, but it’s totally doable.

  • January: Finish editing Good Bye and edit the synopsis/query(queries will be customized but the blurb will be the same for each one) 3-5 times. Submit the initial batch of queries at the end of the month, probably 10
  • May: By now I should have heard from most/all of the publishers in my initial submission batch and if I haven’t gotten any nibbles I’ll revise the submission package and send it to a second group of publishers
  • October: Again this is plenty of time to have heard from publishers so this is when I’ll submit to the third batch of publishers on my list if I haven’t gotten any nibbles. At this point I’ll probably revisit the actual manuscript and potentially make some small changes as well

2. Submit Moonshadow’s Guardian to 40 publishers(or until I get a contract) — As an adult fantasy novel of roughly 67,000 words there are tons of markets for this book so I think 40 submissions is totally reasonable. This is currently on submission so whenever I hear back I will immediately submit to the first batch of publishers unless I decide to make a few more last minute edits(or miraculously get a contract from the first publisher I queried).

3. Write sequel to Moonshadow’s Guardian — I actually wrote a sequel for this book initially but scrapped it years ago. This year I had some brilliant new ideas for it and I’m already a quarter of the way through the outline. I’m going to start on this right away once I’m done editing Good Bye so it will theoretically be in something like readable shape when I actually get a contract.

  • January: Finish outlining and start the first draft
  • February: Complete the first draft
  • June: I’ll have spent two months away and be ready to start the second draft of this novel at this point
  • July: Knowing me I’ll convince myself I can finish the second draft in June, hit a snag and have to do massive restructuring, so I’ll finish the second draft sometime in July

4. Rewrite Some Secrets Should Never Be Known Pt. 1 for submission — This used to be one book but has grown enough to almost be its own book. I’ll be adding a couple subplots to flesh it out completely and mercilessly editing the already existing scenes. I also want to make sure the second part goes through at least a couple rewrites so I can adjust the story in the first part as I need to before submitting.

  • February: Outline Pt. 1 and Pt. 2
  • March: Start writing new version of Pt. 1
  • April: Finish new version Pt. 1 and start new version Pt. 2
  • May: Finish new version Pt. 2
  • August & September: Edit Pt. 1 & draft submission package
  • October & November: Edit Pt. 2, Start part 1
  • December: Finish editing Pt. 1 and start submitting

5. Blog Regularly — I really fell off the blogging bandwagon this year when a heavy workload and insomnia conspired to leave me without a lot of energy, but I’ve been working quite hard on my writing and I’ve also acquired a lot of books. So here’s my blog plan:

  • January — April: Reviews & Things! I’ll be exposing some excellent books with diverse casts that are far too often ignored, as well as reviewing all of the books I enjoy from a massive(think 30 books) bundle of ebooks about writing I purchased during a Nanowrimo special. This is the first time I’ll ever be reading so many writing related books in a relatively short period of time and I’m excited to share the best ones with you.
  • May — August: I suspect by this point I’ll be heavily into video production on some projects I’ve been sort of working on for the last month or so. Depending on where things are, I might be talking a lot about them and what I’ve learned as well as sharing them here. Otherwise I’ll probably continue to review craft related books.
  • September — December: I’ll definitely have some wicked video stuff to show during this part of the year, but I’ll also be taking some classes(both writing related and not) that I’ll be reviewing here.

6. Double my writing income(without working more hours) — It’s a fairly lofty goal with everything else going on in my life, but I’m fairly confident I can do it. Of course I will be working 5-8 extra hours a week at first to research clients and publications to pitch as well as working on the pitches themselves, but I’m going to get a strong start on this at the end of this month when one of my existing contracts wraps up.

For this one I have a simple goal: research and pitch 10 companies every month. It’s not a lot, but it’s enough to consistently get my name out there and a few excellent clients can easily double my income. I’ll also be applying for some grants this year in the hopes of taking a sabbatical to edit Some Secrets Should Never Be Known.

What are your goals for this year? How have you organized them? Let me know in the comments below!

Special Author Spotlight: Devorah Fox

MastersofTimeAn author I interviewed last November contacted me recently and let me know she’s going to be in an awesome anthology–coming out in just a few days! I normally don’t do two interviews with the same author in such a short period of time, but Devorah’s excitement is contagious so I’ve decided to bring her back.

Please give Devorah Fox a warm welcome.

1. We last spoke in November 2014. Can you talk a little bit about where you were in your writing career at the time?

November 2014 I was deep into National Novel Writing Month, endeavoring to write 50,000 words in 30 days. This was my fourth NaNoWriMo marathon and I’m pleased to report that I was again successful. Those words are the start of “The Redoubt,” Book Four in The Bewildering Adventures of King Bewilliam epic fantasy series. Many more words are needed, for example, the ending. I had hoped to finish the book in time for a July 2015 launch but Fate had other plans.

2. What are some of the projects you’ve worked on since then?

It wasn’t until June 2015 that I got back to writing “The Redoubt” so there’s absolutely no way it will be ready for a July launch. However, I have another book to crow about. “Masters of Time: A SciFi/Fantasy Anthology” will debut on July 13 and it include my short story “Turning the Tide.” I am thrilled to have my story in the company of work by talented, bestselling authors Samantha LaFantasie, Alesha Escobar, Timothy c. Ward, H.M. Jones and Alice Marks.

3. What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned since then?

I learned that I can write short fiction. When I first set out to write fiction I wrote novels, largely because I was trying to write the book that I most wanted to read. Later as I joined writers groups I became in awe of authors who wrote short stories and managed to achieve so much with so few words. It’s a very different craft from novel writing, especially marathon writing where the goal is to pour as many words as possible on to the page, as quickly as possible.
When submissions to “Masters of Time” opened I recalled a piece I had written in response to a prompt during a writer group exercise. At the time I thought I had the germ of a novel on my hands but I seized the opportunity to develop the idea. I found that I could say what I wanted to say in less  than 2,00 words.

4. How do you balance your schedule between writing/editing/marketing?

I wish that I could say that I have achieved balance. I spend entirely too much time on marketing and not nearly enough on writing and editing. After “Masters of Time” launches I plan to spend less time on marketing and devote myself to finishing “The Redoubt.” It’s a truism that if we spend all our time on marketing and none on writing we’ll have nothing to market, but it’s hard to decline the opportunities that come my way, such as chatting with you.

5. What’s your favourite social media network and why?

I would have to say Facebook. I find it’s a good way to stay in touch with friends whom I don’t see in person because of time or distance. OK, let’s be honest: it’s because it’s chockablock with cute cat photos and videos.

6. Of the marketing techniques you’ve tried, which have been most successful?

If sales are the measure, the most successful marketing I’ve done has been book launch signing events at the Port Aransas Art Center. I very much appreciate the support of the Art Center and the Texas Coastal Bend community.

7. Where would you like to see your writing career in 5 years?

I have so many works in progress. In five years I would hope to have finished Books Four and Five in The Bewildering Adventures of King Bewilliam epic fantasy series and “A Whale of a Tale,” a spin-off from the contemporary Coastal Texas thriller “Naked Came the Sharks” that I’m co-authoring as well as a sequel or two to that book. During Camp NaNoWriMo last summer I revived a novel that I started in 1993 and I’d like to finish that. I have several detective-series drawer-stuffers that I’d like to dust off and get between covers. I’m a huge “Warehouse 13” fan and I have three pages of ideas that would make great short stories in the steampunk genre.

8. If this was your last interview ever, what would you really want to say?

Thank you, everyone who has read my work and asked for more. It’s your encouragement that tells me that writing is what I ought to be doing, as opposed to brain surgery or mixed martial arts.

About the Author:
“What if?” Those two words all too easily send Devorah Fox spinning into flights of fancy. Best-selling author of The Lost King, The King’s Ransom, and The King’s Redress in The Bewildering Adventures of King Bewilliam literary fantasy series she also co-authored the contemporary thriller, Naked Came the Sharks with Jed Donellie and the Masters of Time: a SciFi/Fantasy Time Travel Anthology. Publisher and editor of the BUMPERTOBUMPER® books for commercial motor vehicle drivers she is developer of the Easy CDL test prep apps. Born in Brooklyn, New York, she now lives in The Barefoot Palace in Port Aransas on the Texas Gulf Coast where she herds rescued tabby cats and writes the “Dee-Scoveries” blog at http://devorahfox.com.

Pre-order Masters of Time today!

13 Inspiring quotes from awesome authors

Every week for most of this blog’s lifetime I’ve interviewed a different author. After four years of regular interviews, The Dabbler’s archives have become an invaluable resource, filled with advice on every part of the writing process.

So I’m making an ebook. This ebook will be a compilation of quotes from various authors I’ve interviewed over the years. So far the ebook has 22 quotes from more than 10 authors–and I’ve still got more than 30 interviews to go through.

This ebook will be my next subscriber freebie, so if you want to see it when it’s finished you should take a moment to sign up for my newsletter.

In the meantime, here’s a preview–13 of the quotes I’ll be including in this awesome ebook.

What authors have to say about planning

Writing is easy. Planning is difficult. But the reason writing is easy is because I have a good plan. So I spend a lot of time making sure I know exactly where I’m going before I even start. This avoids what a lot of people mistakenly call “writer’s block,” which isn’t really writers block, it’s just that they get stuck if they don’t know where they’re headed.

~Steve Alcorn, multi-published author and founder of www.WritingAcademy.com

The history of trains is hugely connected with the development of the United States as a singular entity. So, my first suggestion would be: find some time period appropriate museums, and go there. If you have a train museum nearby, visit one. There’s nothing quite like seeing the history to put you in the right frame of mind.

~Meggan Connors, author of Jessie’s War, a novel set during the American civil war

Typically I write a skeletal outline of the main events of the story first, then add in details between the ‘bones’ and flesh those out independently. Sometimes those won’t need additional work, but if they do I’ll keep breaking down the scenes fractally until I can write them out in prose. It helps me reduce plot holes significantly and make sure there are valid reasons for everything that happens. I hate having things happen arbitrarily so I’m always checking my characters’ motivations and making sure the progression is as tight as possible.

~Hugo Jackson, author of Legacy, a fantasy novel

What authors have to say about writing

I hate the first draft. Most writers love that part and hate the editing. I’m the opposite. The first draft is like running through mud. However, when I sit down to write fiction, I do not get out of the chair until a chapter is written. Doesn’t matter what time it is. I’m a night owl anyway, but I’ve often written until 3 and 4 in the morning because I was not quitting until I’d ended the chapter. Not sure that’s easier in any way, but it’s what I do. It’s a driving force to reach the end so I can enjoy the edits.

~Hope C. Clark, mystery author and founder of FundsForWriters.com

Writers write (as opposed to just talking about it).

I see so much terrible advice it makes me want to scream – but the thing I don’t like the most

is writing advice in and of itself. I wasted a lot of time reading about how other authors wrote

books, when I just knuckled down and worked hard to discover my own process, I made a

hell of a lot more progress.

~EJ Newman, author of 20 Years Later and the Split Worlds Series

Listen, listen, listen. And watch. Everything you need for your writing is there in front of you. Watch and listen and get it down as honestly as you can. Of course, you adjust to your own story, characters and situation. As for dialogue, you have to tidy it up and take out the ‘y’knows’ and ‘likes’ and hums and haws. Stephen King, in his book about writing, stresses honesty. I agree with him one hundred per cent.

~Cecelia Frey, author of A Raw Mix of Carelessness and Longing

There are plenty of days that your writing will suck. You’ll want to just throw your hands up and walk away in disgust. Just remember that you can always fix it in rewrites, and plow on through.

~Elaine Corvidae, Author of Daughter of Snow and other fantasy novels

What authors consider the most important advice for new writers

I would council aspiring writers to not be afraid to make mistakes, or to start over. I would advise them to be persistent, get to know themselves, and continue to make new friends who are positive, supportive, and well grounded in their goals and ideas.

~Judith C. Owens-Lalude, author of The Long Walk: From Slavery to Freedom

Never give up! The published author is the aspiring writer who never quit!

~Marcella Kampman, author of Inanna, Goddess of Love: Myths & Legends from Sumer

Fight not only to write daily, but to write BETTER daily. If editors aren’t buying your work, you’re doing something wrong. We too often try to argue with that truth. Keep struggling to improve until someone bites on your manuscript. Never stop tweaking.

~Hope C. Clark, mystery author and founder of FundsForWriters.com

Writing is a lonely slog. Be prepared for that. Find ways of dealing with it – socialize with other writers, get out to literary events, spend time with family and friends, schedule recreation and fun time, try to have a normal life. Don’t let your writing devour you. Destructive geniuses are all very well, but the trick is to survive to write another day.

~Cecelia Frey, author of A Raw Mix of Carelessness and Longing

Be persistent. Writing is a huge commitment, not just in getting the words on the page, but in all the other, less-fun bits that come after. The will to keep going is the biggest factor that separates the “aspiring author” from the “author.”

~Elaine Corvidae, author of Daughter of Snow and other fantasy novels

Follow your heart when you’re writing. Listen to your editor. They’re there to help you, to make your manuscript shine. So don’t take it personally, they’re there to help you catch all of the mistakes and plot holes before it goes into print. And read your contract. Sometimes authors forget that publishing is a business. Once contracts, royalties and money are involved it’s all business. Learn as much as you can.

~Liz DeJesus, multi-published speculative fiction author

Did you find these quotes inspiring? Want to read more? Sign up for my email newsletter and you’ll get the book when it comes out this summer! (Not to mention you’ll get the Ultimate Novel Planning Resource List)

Author Spotlight: Michelle Mogil

all-threeToday’s author writes science fiction and fantasy, short stories and novels. She’s also got some interesting thoughts on what it takes to be a writer.

Please give Michelle Mogil a warm welcome.

1. Can you tell us a bit about your most recent novel?

The Melancholy Man is the third novel in my Love Eternal Series.

The Blurb: Esther Blackwell thought she had written works of fiction: two novels about a middle-aged couple who, through an odd series of circumstances, become blood-sucking creatures of the night. Then, her characters start showing up in her life and stirring everything up. Esther finds herself drawn into their surreal world by one particularly long, lean ancient Irishman who can’t seem to keep his hands — or his teeth — off of her. It would seem she had finally found the love and devotion she’d always longed for. Unfortunately, he’s already bound to another mate, a green-eyed, red-haired beauty who is not ready to let go and more than willing to cause trouble.

2. When did you realize you wanted to pursue writing as more than a hobby?

A number of years ago, my brother self-published his book about life on the USS Guadalcanal, and I realized how easy it was to put my stories out there. I was terrified when I pushed that “Publish” button, but was amazed when people — utter strangers, even — enjoyed my work. It encouraged me to put more out there. I now have three novels and short stories in four anthologies published. Currently, I have three projects in the works with a fourth one hatching in my feverish little brain.

3. What’s your favourite genre to write in & why?

Fantasy and science fiction, which are sometimes intertwined. I’ve always had a vivid imagination and I spend a lot of time in it. My favorite leading question is, “What if?”

When I was in school, I nearly always had my nose in a book and the books I read were mostly science fiction: Arthur C. Clark, Ray Bradbury, Ursula LeGuin, Isaac Asimov, and so forth. I was teased unmercifully, of course, because I was a nerd and nerds weren’t yet considered cool.

4. What modern author do you admire most and why?

I fell in love with Ursula LeGuin when I read “The Lathe of Heaven”. What a concept: your dreams can change reality! After that, I read every book of hers that I could get my hands on. She could write in fantasy AND science fiction, mix them together, and do it well. She created characters and worlds I cared deeply about.

5. Can you give us a brief rundown of your writing process?

I don’t really have a process. The writing pretty much does its own thing. Inspiration comes in spurts, usually at 3:00 AM. My brain will say “What if?” and I’m off on a weird journey. I’ll scribble or type furiously for a while, and then it will dry up and then my brain will say “What if… you suck at this?” I hate my brain sometimes.

6. What’s the hardest part of the writing process for you and how do you make it easier for yourself?

The very hardest part is when my editor does a face-palm over something that I thought was terribly clever. Actually, no. The absolute hardest part is highlighting that offending thing and pushing the delete button. I make it easier on myself by challenging my imagination to come up with something better.

7. Do you ever find it difficult to move from one novel to the next? If so, how do you make changing projects easier?

I don’t find it difficult because, as I finish one, I’m already writing the next one. Things happen to my stories that suggest another story needs to be told. That’s probably why I find it difficult to write the ending for my novels. They simply don’t want to end…

8. You’ve also written a number of stories for Theme-Thology anthologies. Can you tell us a bit about this process?

I am always a little bit surprised by how difficult it is to write a short story. You have only a short period of time to develop characters and a plot and this “economy of words” thing often escapes me. I love the English language, so I use as many words as I can. I find it hard to limit myself to a set number of these beautiful, beautiful words.

9. If you could give an aspiring writer only one piece of advice, what would it be?

Grow a thick, slippery skin. In other words, learn to take constructive criticism and let the nasty stuff slide off your back.

Some will praise your work, some will give thoughtful critiques. Then there are those who will slam your writing because… well, who knows why? Maybe they were neglected as a child or are caught in a bad relationship. Or maybe they have a painful, itchy rash on an unmentionable body part. Who knows? Never, ever respond to your critics. You will not come out in a good light if you start a snark war with one of these people. Write a nasty email about it and send it to yourself, make a voodoo doll and stab it repeatedly with hat pins, or burn them in effigy. Whatever it takes to make you feel better. But don’t ever respond in real life.

10. What are you working on now that readers can look forward to?

As I said earlier, I’m currently working on three projects, two of which are related to the Love Eternal series.

The first is a novella (which is threatening to grow into a full-blown novel if I don’t rein it in) about the buffer period between Ana’s “change of life” in The Gentle Man (Book One) and Ethan’s attempt to rebuild his marriage with her in The Loyal Man (Book Two). I guess I should call this Book One-and-a-half…? Anyway, I’m focused on the difficulty of forgiveness in this one. Ethan needs to forgive Ana for what she did and Ana needs to forgive herself, except that she can’t help doing something stupid all over again. She’s created another situation after which she’ll have to seek forgiveness yet again.

Then there was a particular character in The Melancholy Man (Book Three) who decided her story needs to be told. So I’m beginning to outline a novel that features her. She’s delightfully snarky — my favorite kind of person — and she’s got something to say, usually in a sarcastic tone.

Third, I’m working on a solo anthology for HDWP Books featuring four previously published short stories and several brand-spankin’-new stories, all just a little bit weird, all just a bit twisted. Much like their creator…

authorphoto1Michelle Mogil is a late comer to the publishing world, but she’s working hard to catch up. She has three self-published novels thus far and four short stories in anthologies. Science fiction, fantasy and the supernatural are her first loves. Her Amazon author page is here:

http://www.amazon.com/Michelle-Montague-Mogil/e/B00AAISZTK/

Michelle has always loved to write, filling notebooks and journals with her thoughts and observations, but has only just now found the courage to show it to complete strangers. She is humbled and gratified to find people like to read the words that come out of her brain. She posts some of those words for free at http://www.michellemogil.com.

Why patience is particularly important for writers

I waited 10 years to get back to Scotland and it was totally worth it!
I waited 10 years to get back to Scotland and it was totally worth it!

To write a great book, one that leaves emotional impact, you need a great many tools, but one of the most important tools is patience. In fact, patience is as important as passion.

Why is patience so important? Well, I think this quote explains it nicely:

“A good book isn’t written, it’s rewritten.” ~Phyllis A. Whitney

Rewriting is a natural part of the process, and every book needs a different number of rewrites to be transformed from a first draft into a great novel. Even the best writers sometimes go through seven or eight rewrites. And these rewrites often take varying amounts of time. Your first rewrite might take six months and your third rewrite might only take one–it all depends on how extensive the rewrite is and how much time you devote to it.

I like to joke that I’m often impatient with people because I’ve used up all my patience writing books, and to some extent it’s true. I don’t want to publish anything less than a great novel. So the only fiction I’ve ever submitted are a couple short stories and a novella. I have three novels in different stages of editing, and I refuse to let them go until they meet my personal standards.

A great novel requires you to feel with your characters. How else are you going to make your readers feel with them? When you’re crying during a death scene, it’s probably a sign that you’re on to something. If you can’t feel the anguish or joy of your characters, you’ll have a much harder time portraying those emotions successfully in your work.

This means taking the time to learn about your characters, how they feel about themselves, each other, the world. And to do it for all your important characters, not just the main character but the antagonist and the secondary characters as well, even a few of the tertiary characters.

And that’s just the work you need to do outside the novel. You have to do self editing and at least one edit with multiple beta readers. You might even want to hire a professional editor, whether you choose to self publish or seek out a traditional publisher.

Once you’ve finished rewriting, it’s time to write a query letter and a synopsis. These pieces might only each be a page long, but they can still take you a few weeks to perfect. And if they’re your first query letter and synopsis, you might want to get feedback on these too before submission.

When you send out your submission package, you’ll find yourself playing the waiting game. This can be frustrating when your novel is with a critique writer, and it’s a lot more unpleasant when you’re waiting to hear from a publisher. Traditional publishers can take one to six months to respond, and if they want exclusive submissions–meaning you can’t submit elsewhere until they respond–this can be six months of hope crushed in a two sentence form rejection.

I’m experiencing this first hand right now: I submitted a YA fantasy novella to an ebook publisher in March and every time I think about it I start to feel restless. This is the first time I’ve waited more than two months for a response on fiction, and it’s definitely a learning experience.

So how can you cultivate patience?

Unfortunately there is no easy one-size-fits-all cure for impatience, and it’s often a struggle spanning years or even entire lifetimes. In the fast paced world we’ve built it’s easy to want everything to be efficient, to obsess over how long everything takes.

But there are strategies we can use to build patience–or at least to stop obsessing over things we can’t control:

Submit often. The thing about submitting often is that you end up waiting often. In the age of email you can get a response within as little as a few minutes, but usually you’re going to wait at least a month. If you’re submitting to a big publisher, you’ll be lucky to hear back within three months.

You’re going to spend a lot of your career waiting even after your first publication. Working on another book? That means another submission process. Even submitting short stories and poetry can involve a long wait time, depending on the publication. And once you have a contract you’ll also have to wait for edits, galleys, ARCs and finally publication.

Remember that many great novelists take years. One of my favourite writers, Hope C. Clark of FundsForWriters, took 20 years to publish her first novel. A writer I worked with at Musa took almost 40 years to find a publisher. Many authors have devoted entire lifetimes to a single series.

If you’re trying to write great books, you have to be in this for the long haul, just like these authors.

Waiting should be a passive activity. It shouldn’t take up much of your mind at any given point. You should be concentrating on moving forward. Writing the next book. Working on your next short story. Getting a few freelance clients to supplement your income and keep you writing. Taking a writing class.

If you’re always working on the next thing, it’s easy to forget about the things you’re waiting for. Stay focused on the next project, the next goal, and by the time your response comes in you’ll be a better writer and maybe even have crossed some other things off your goal list.

Are you patient enough to rewrite a novel as many times as it takes? What about waiting to hear from a publisher? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Great writing isn’t about structure, it’s about emotions

 

I read this book in London!
I read this book in London!

What separates a great novel from a good one? What makes one book stand out in your mind forever while countless others drift off to be forgotten? What keeps you coming back to an author, time and time again?

Your first instinct is probably to say something very writer-y. Something about the kind of plot, the worldbuilding, the characters.

But it isn’t really any of those things. I mean, it is–these things are all important–but these are the superficial things. What really makes a great book stand out from a good one is deeper than that. It’s emotion, the emotion being poured out of the book and into you.

The best books can make us laugh in one chapter and have us crying in the next. They keep us awake at night, afraid or excited for what comes next. When you finally put the book down you’re exhausted, because the best books are like emotional roller coasters. You feel every success, every defeat as if it were your own.

Let me give you an example: Clariel by the amazing Garth Nix. Clariel is the fourth book in the Old Kingdom Series. Most of these books have been published for a while, but Clariel only came out last fall, right around the time I started re-reading the other books.

Clariel is actually a prequel. It’s a shocking glimpse into what the Old Kingdom was like before Sabriel, when you find the kingdom in dire conditions, but it’s more than that. It’s the kind of book where a character can die only a few sentences after you realize you really do like them.

About two thirds of the way through you realize exactly how this book sets things up for the future you encounter in the other books. It’s a heartbreaking moment, and I spent the rest of the book holding onto a faint hope that I was wrong. In fact, this book is written so well that right near the end I actually believed I had made a mistake.

By the end of Clariel I was in complete shock, with about four different emotions battling inside me. I actually had to take time to process it and come to terms with it, and I read the author’s note at the end (which explained a couple things, including the next book) about three times before I processed it.

But I wouldn’t think this was such a great book if it didn’t break my heart. The best books leave you with strong emotions, emotions you’ll have again whenever you talk about them. They don’t just have good characters. They make you feel with those characters.

What do you think makes an amazing book? Let me know in the comments below!

Author Spotlight: Ben Hennessy

WoD1Today I’d like to introduce Ben Hennessy, author of YA fantasy novel Queen of the World. He is also one of the final authors to be featured in my series of interviews  spotlighting Inspired Quill Press.

He’ll be sharing his journey to publication and some key advice for writers still on the quest.

1. Can you tell us a bit about your novel, Queen of the World?

Queen of the World is the story of a young girl named Sarene, who lives in a world where peace is maintained by the word of the Four, all-powerful mages with the ability to do anything they wish. The rulers of each nation act according to a single rule: if they wage wars with their neighbours or mistreat their people, the Four will punish them. As such Sarene has grown up to believe that her kingdom, Tamir, is a peaceful and safe place to live in and one she would like to explore for herself. However the further she travels from her childhood home the more she comes to understand that not everything is as simple as she was led to believe. This story continues on into my latest release, The Whisper of Dreams

2. When did you know you wanted to pursue writing as more than a hobby?

Writing a novel was one of those bucket list ideas. I’ve always been interested to know if I could work on a single piece of fiction for an extended period of time and come out with something I was pleased with, but was of the opinion that my shocking attention span and lack of motivation would combine to ruin my attempt. I found myself with some spare time while travelling through several different countries in 2010 and decided to give it a serious try. I kept plugging away until it was finished and things have snowballed from there.

3. If you could attribute your writing success to one turning point in your life, what would it be and why?
I left a pretty solid career job to go travelling, and I knew I had to have something to show for it at the end aside from wicked stories and a bunch of digital photographs. Getting a dodgy back-alley tattoo somewhere in Thailand crossed my mind, but instead I thought to use the time I had to try and get a manuscript ready for when I returned to the UK. if I hadn’t finished it I doubt I would have tried. As to whether that could be determined a success… Well, it’s for other people to judge!

4. Can you give us a brief rundown of your writing process?
When I’m working on a project I try to get myself into a routine of starting around the same time every day, usually with a pre-ritual such as a cup of tea and a snack, a certain album or musical artist and the same chair. I tend to have a ‘book album’, so something which I play every time I work on a specific manuscript. It tells my brain that it’s time to work, and I hear the songs so many times I stop paying attention to them and distracting myself.

I try to get the first draft down as close to what I want it to be. I’m not the type of writer who blasts through a draft and then edits the hell out of it. I try to fix typos and grammar as I go along, take time to consider the scene I just wrote before moving on to the next, and generally stop myself getting too carried away. I think if I found I had to wipe half a manuscript for an error I didn’t see pick up on it would utterly dishearten me from continuing.

5. What’s the hardest part of the writing process for you and how do you make it easier for yourself?

The hardest part is always starting. There’s too much other important stuff for any writer to be doing, such as watching cat videos on YouTube or browsing crab recipes on your phone. The best way to get past that is to always remember that it doesn’t matter if you write ten words a day or ten thousand. Eventually you’ll get to the end and have a piece of work in your library.

6. What’s your favourite part of the writing process?

Getting carried away and having your characters do or say things that you weren’t expecting. It’s weird, and it’s rare, but it’s completely fantastic.

7. Why did you choose to publish with a small press?

I got talking to Sara of Inspired Quill through a chance meeting on a literary website and talked about the state of fantasy at the time (when vampires and zombies were still huge). I mentioned I’d recently completed a heroic fantasy manuscript and she invited me to send it to her. IQ liked it, said they were interested in publishing and sent me the contract to review. I was really pleased with their focus on being a social media enterprise and future plans to include classes and local events, and thought it was a great place for a new author like myself to progress.

8. If you could give an aspiring author just one piece of advice, what would it be?
Just write. Doesn’t matter if it’s a little or a lot. Keep adding to your work and the rest will take care of itself.

9. What are you reading right now?

Right now I’m working through Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett. One of my favourite books as a kid. It was very sad to hear of his recent passing. I hope Death is treating him well after all those years together!

 10. Are you working on anything readers can look forward to?

I’m currently writing the third in the Queen of the World series. Check out www.hennessywrites.com for more information!

Ben Hennessy is an exciting new author from Essex, England. Brought up on a literary diet including the likes of Stephen King, David Gemmell, Terry Pratchett and David Eddings, he looks to take all these elements and create a unique style of fiction which blends heroic fantasy and a subtle sense of wry humour. Having spent the last decade working various jobs in locations such as Ireland, New Zealand and Vietnam, he is now hoping to forge a new career as a full-time writer.

Purchase your copy of Queen of the World today!

Do you have questions for Ben? Feel free to ask them in the comments below!