Posts tagged with: advice for writers
Posted by Autumn Jordon Feb 27 2017, 12:01 am in advice for writers, Autumn Jordon, craft, Industry news, publishing industry, Writer's Education, writer's life, Writer's Support, Writer's Toolbox
I’m a firm believer that you should never stop learning. On my last day walking this earth, I intend to learn something about this world, or the world I’m about to enter, or myself.
I wince when I hear people say they don’t need to know this or that. Why won’t you want to know something about everything?
Since this is a blog for writers and we focus mainly on the craft of writing and publishing industry and elements related to both, I’ll speak to the authors reading this. Never stop studying the craft. Never turn a deaf ear to information that relates to your small business. Never stop learning about humanity and the world, because they feed your creative well.
No moment in time has offered us so many venues in which we can expand our minds. We have the ability to fly to the other side of the world in a day and experience cultures our forefathers never heard of. We can open a window to the worldwide web and learn about every uncover stone in history, and steps that will change our world today, tomorrow, in years to come.
We are friends to people all over the globe and share our daily lives, hopes and dreams, having never met them face to face.
Since the majority of information shared is through written word, we have a responsibility to humanity to never stop educating ourselves and share what we’ve learned, be it through poetry, screenplays, non-fiction or fiction, but the majority of us, on government income tables, qualify as starving artist. So how can we continue to learn, to improve ourselves as artists?
There are so many avenues that cost little or nothing. Here are ten ways.
- Blogs like the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood, where experienced writers who published, both traditionally and independently, and are willing to share their journeys and help guide others.
- Many authors have writer related archives on their websites where they share articles on craft.
- Local or National writing organizations. There is nothing like being in a room with other writers, even if the group is small.
- On-line writers groups. Check RWA for info on on-line chapters.
- Craft books. Buy used if on a budget, or trade off with other writers.
- Industry related magazines. Check for on-line magazines also. Many are free.
- Conferences or workshops. Many conferences are breaking down their venues and offering the purchased of one day, two day or entire conference packages, making attending more affordable to some.
- Conference workshop recordings. If you can’t attend the event, this is the next best thing.
- On-line classes. I, and several other Ruby Sisters, love Margie Lawson classes (margielawson.com). Intense, but worth the time and money! And I’ve taken Master classes from James Patterson and Arron Sorken through masterclass.com. I review classes constantly. Michael Hauge also offers a lot of information on his website, storymastery.com.
- Reading. You can learn about the craft just by studying your favorite authors’ works. Whether you write every day or not, reading, learning, every day should be a priority.
There are more venues to help you on your journey and I know some of the sisters will jump in and offer them up, but if something has helped you, please share in the comments below.
Autumn Jordon is the award-winning author of romantic suspense-mystery-thrillers such as her Golden Heart Finalist and Golden Leaf winner His Witness To Evil. After her family business was comprised by The Russian Mafia and the FBI investigated, she grabbed her note pad and pen and went on to interview the agents. Join her newsletter at www.autumnjordon.com and be privy to upcoming releases, sales, and events. Also, you’ll receive free reads and be entered into her monthly contest for great prizes.
Posted by Autumn Jordon Feb 6 2017, 12:02 am in advice for writers, Autumn Jordon, Ava Blackstone, craft, jeannie lin, Marketing, Rita Henuber, short stories, Vivi Andrews, Writer's Toolbox
Writing a great short story used to be the training ground for writers. Hemingway started his career by writing them, as did Stephen King, and many renown others.
For many years, the appetite for short stories, nearly disappeared, cutting the number of magazines that included them substantially, and leaving only classic short stories on the book shelves. However, I believe the tide is changing among today’s readers. Their time is limited and there are times when they just want something worthy and short while they’re waiting in a doctor’s office or school parking lot.
Also, many are now reading on their phones, and reading a short story is more feasible on the small device.
This month, I dove into the short market with a novelette titled Perfect Moments. It released on February first. I was nervous about writing it because shorts have a totally different writing style than a full length novel. It was a learning experience, but after receiving emails from readers requesting to know whether Elizabeth and Bob Kincaid (from Perfect) made it home from their overseas duty, I decided to give Elizabeth and Bob their story. Their short.
Another reason I decided to try my hand at writing a short story was because today’s reader wants more product from an author, and quicker. I’m comfortable writing a full length novel in a year, sometimes nine months. But to write quicker, I know the quality of my work would decline. I want to continue to improve my craft, not hinder it. So to feed my fans cravings, writing short stories might be the way to go.
I asked my Ruby Sisters their thoughts on writing short stories.
Rita Henuber said she wrote her short stories because, “I have many stories bumping around inside my skull. Characters screaming at me to tell their story. Some are absolutely not full length novel material. All but one in my collection of short stories began with an experience of mine. I had to write them.”
And Jeannie Lyn said, “I actually LOVE shorts and think they’re a great way to pack a punch in a short amount of space as well as introduce writers to your voice. The last short story that I wrote was meant to be an introduction to my steampunk world for new readers and a little bonus for existing readers.”
Ruby sister Ava Blackstone stated she wrote a short after reading an article in her RWA chapter’s newsletter about writing for Woman’s World. “I decided to give it a try. I found that short stories were great palate cleansers when I was sick of my main WIP. I also liked the freedom to experiment with different writing styles without worrying that I was wasting months on something that might not work.”
And Vivi Andrews stated, “I’ve always written short stories for anthologies, usually with open submission calls that provided the opportunity to get my writing in front of more readers. My little gateway stories to lure readers into my world. 🙂 This spring I’ll be participating in the 2nd RWA Anthology.”
I then asked the sisters if they found writing shorts difficult? I know I found it challenging not to add more conflict, more points of view, more of everything.
Vivi said, “Actually, I don’t find them difficult at all. I was nervous initially about stepping out of my comfort zone, but I wound up loving the opportunity to tell more compact romances.”
Rita stated, “Not at all. I enjoyed writing the shorts and the side benefit of stopping those people in my head screaming. I view shorts as a moment in time. A snapshot event giving the reader something to ponder.”
Jeannie started writing shorts before she wrote novels. “I have a totally different mindset when I switch back to writing shorts. They’re not just shorter novel storylines — the way I plot and present a short story is entirely different than what I do in a novel.”
Ava said, “Writing that first short story definitely required a paradigm shift. I had to come up with a much smaller-scale conflict than I was used to writing so that I could wrap things up realistically in 800 words. It helped me to think about it as though I was writing a scene instead of a novel. So then it was just a matter of coming up with a compelling scene that could stand on its own.”
So why write shorts? I’d heard shorts help with sales on other books, especially if their part of a series. Perfect Moments just released, so I don’t have a track record to share, so again I questioned my sisters who had published short stories.
Jeannie stated, “I actually have found it helpful bringing in new readers with shorts. Since my settings and worlds are not so mainstream, I think readers find shorts an easy way to get a feel for me without having to commit to a novel. Short stories with direct tie-ins and characters from other series are the best way to go in terms of hooking readership. Teaming up with other authors in anthologies is a also a great strategy for getting that first look.”
Ava had a different use for her short story. “I give it away to readers who sign up for my mailing list, and it has worked great as an incentive to drive signups. I’m planning to write another short to go along with my next Ava Blackstone book.”
If you’re considering writing a short story, I have some advice.
- Read short stories. There are many; The International Thriller Writers have released collections titled Face Off. And, I know the Mystery Writers also release an annual collection. Then you have classics like William Faulkner’s That Evening Sun.
- Pick your story’s moment or moments that really matter and write about them.
- Stay with one main character.
- Write more words than you need and then pick the words that show don’t tell, show character’s change, and that moves the story forward.
- Go through the same editing steps as you would for a novel.
My sisters also offered advice or suggestions?
Rita said, “I go by what I love to read. IMO a short story is for a reader’s experience. I will also say I think there is a difference between what is considered a short story to a novella. With a novella, because of its larger word count, I expect story structure, GMC, story resolution, the whole enchilada. Shorter stories can certainly have all that good stuff but I think of them as a bite of the enchilada not the whole thing.
Vivi offered this advice, “I didn’t take any online courses or read any books on the subject. I will strongly recommend that anyone looking to write short consider the kind of conflicts that can be resolved quickly. If you give your characters more than they can reasonably solve in a short format, you’re going to have some very grumpy readers.”
Jeannie recommended, “Rather than craft books (which I normally love), the best way to learn for shorts is to read how others do it. I think there’s MORE of an art to writing short than writing a novel. The good thing is that they’re short. 🙂
Some authors I love: Ray Bradbury (for voice, tone, memorable setup and hook). If you can find it, read “A Laurel and Hardy Love Affair”. Edgar Allen Poe (check out his word choice and how effective his opening lines are)
For romance, these authors’ shorts are actually novellas, but they establish character and emotional stakes in a relatively short amount of time. Courtney Milan – The depth of characterization is amazing. They feel as emotionally complete as full novels. And Ruthie Knox – She sets up emotional tension wonderfully between hero and heroine”
Thank you, sisters for sharing your experiences in the short story market.
Please ask any questions that you might have and we’ll try to answer them for you.
Autumn Jordon is an award-winning author of romantic suspense/thrillers and contemporary romance. Join her newsletter at www.autumnjordon.com. And don’t forget to check out Perfect Moments.
Ava Blackstone is a winner and two-time finalist in the Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart® contest and has five short romance stories published in Woman’s World magazine. She is currently hard at work on the next contemporary romance in her Voretti Family series. You can find her on the web at: http://avablackstone.com PRETTY IN INK
Jeannie Lin is known for writing groundbreaking historical romances set in Tang Dynasty China starting with her Golden Heart award-winning debut, Butterfly Swords. Her Chinese historicals have received multiple awards and starred reviews in Publishers Weekly and Library Journal. SILK, SWORDS, AND SURRENDAR
Rita Henuber; I’ve always had stories in me and now I’m sharing them. I married a Marine, a man I’d known since I was fourteen. I’m fortunate to have lived many places and traveled to the states and countries I didn’t live. I moved back to the barrier island in Florida where I grew up and now spend time writing, weaving my experiences into my stories. My first books have heroes and heroines in the military or government service. But, I’ve started on a new series of books with collections of short stories. LET ME TELL YOU A STORY
Vivi Andrews is a Golden Heart winner & 2-Time RITA finalist. As Lizzie Shane she writes contemporary romance with a pop culture twist, and as Vivi Andrews she writes paranormal romance. ALWAYS A BRIDESMAID
Posted by Autumn Jordon Jan 2 2017, 12:01 am in advice for writers, Autumn Jordon, craft, First pages, Golden Heart finalist, writer's life, Writer's Toolbox, writing, Writing the Beginning
Next week, during the Ruby Winter Writing Fest, we begin the quest to bring our imaginary friends to life.
Reading that line, I’ll bet some of you immediately had this mental picture of yourself sitting at your favorite work spot, downing carafes of coffee or tea (or in my case, Diet Coke) while drilling the key board, writing an entire novel, and within six weeks, finishing it with ‘the end’. Good for you. You have a goal.
Yet, I’m sure some of you froze at the word begin because the choices you have to start your story are limitless. The question where do I begin? haunts you. Which one start should I pick? Is it the right place? Fear not, I have some advice for you.
Every writer knows the importance of the first line, the first paragraph, the first page, the first chapter. Failure to immediately gain a reader’s interest is the vilest death to your story. Your work is like a shooting star that speeds across the sky and disappears without a big bang. The dreams and hopes pinned to such a star are gone in one quick moment. It’s far better to be that twinkling North Star. So today, we prepare to start our masterpieces.
#1 Great beginnings are the hard work. Rarely do they come easily and quickly and without dozens of rewrites. Sometimes they appear freely in later paragraphs or even chapters. We only need to recognize them when they do. Know that fact. Owned it.
#2 First impressions are the most lasting; Proverbs.
A magnificent first line must be lean, powerful, and provide the reader with a question or promise. Here are some examples of great lean and powerful lines.
It was a pleasure to burn. ‘451 Fahrenheit’ Ray Bradbury
All children but one grow up. ‘Peter and Wendy’ J.M. Barrie
There was a bloody man walking down the road. ‘Discovering You’ Brenda Novak
Brilliant. Each of those lines not only asks questions but they also laid the foundation of book’s theme or its characters’ persona. Knowing your story’s theme is important. Try outlining ahead of starting your story to learn the theme, but if you finding outlining is not your thing, don’t sweat it. The theme will come to you.
#3 Ground your readers as quickly as possible in time and place. However, settings should be shown in small bits and either add to the conflict or become a character itself. Examples:
On the day of the miracle, Isabel was kneeling at the cliff’s edge, tending the small, newly made driftwood cross. ‘The Light Between Oceans’ M. L. Stedman
It was a cold, bright day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. 1984 George Orwell
ONE HOT AUGUST Thursday afternoon, Maddie Faraday reached under the front seat of her husband’s Cadillac and pulled out a pair of black lace underpants. They weren’t hers. ‘Tell Me Lies’ Jennifer Cruise
#4 Write the first chapter as if it were the entire story, with its own escalation of action and conflict. And let it end with mystery and unanswered questions. Mystery demands answers. It propels readers to read on. Do not tell all. Exposition kills drama and backstory is boring.
#5 Write tight. Write fast. Let your voice ring true. Voice is what is truly unique about your story.
#6 All the boom, boom action or fast paced dialogue will not keep readers flipping pages unless they care about the characters. A great story is an emotional ride. A reader must connect with the characters and care what happens to them immediately. They don’t necessarily need to like them (leads to character growth) but they must understand the character’s actions and feel for them as a human being. Establish your hero/villain goal, give him/her a familiar quality, and then add a ticking bomb.
#7 Dialogue is action. It’s fast paced (quickly drawing a reader farther into the story) and it’s an excellent way to show character and conflict. Here are a few great examples.
“Your title gives your claim to the throne of our country, but men don’t follow thrones. They follow courage.”
William Wallace in Braveheart.
“It’s not the broken dreams that break us. It’s the ones we don’t dare to dream.”
Will Schuester in Glee
“The problem is not the problem. It’s your attitude about the problem that is the problem.”
Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean
“Get busy living or get busy dying.”
Andy Dufresne in Shawshank Redemption
Wow! Wow! Just wow!
#8 Big or little, internal or external, conflict is a reader’s addiction. Add it where ever and whenever you can. You hear me. Big or little. Internal or external. Pile it on!
#9 In order to understand a character fully, we need to know the world he came from. Show the character in his or her world in an interesting way, but make that world change quickly. He can be making toast, but why not have make toast over the gas stove. His method of making toast is interesting and says something about his character, doesn’t it?
#10 The most important bit of advice on making your first pages awesome I saved for last. Have faith in yourself that the story ahead will be adventurous and fulfilling and go for it!
Anyone else have advice on producing great starts?
Autumn Jordon, one of the sneaker Rubies, is an award-winning author who writes Romantic Suspense, Thrillers, and Contemporary Romance under the same pen name. Join her newsletter at Autumn Jordon.com
Posted by Autumn Jordon Nov 25 2016, 12:08 am in advice for writers, Autumn Jordon, business of writing, small business advice, writer's life, writer's small business, writing advice, writing through the holidays
Small Business: Writing Through The Holidays
If you Google writing through the holidays, you’re going to find dozens of articles written on the subject, including a great one dated last December by our own Ruby Sister Addison Fox. Many authors offer the same advice, and I’m going to bring up the same points too later, because they’re good advice. However, today, and for your sanity and mine, I want to approach the subject a little differently.
If you look at my post title, you’ll note the first two words. Got them? Good. Unless you’re writing to stick your work in a drawer only to be found upon your demise by a nephew or niece who you didn’t hold close to your heart and who will probably either burn your bloodwork or see the wonder in it and use your work to start their own writing career, then you need to think of yourself as a small business owner. And as we all know small business owners have a lot to do during any holiday in order to remain competitive with the ‘Big boys, girls, sellers, box-stores or A’. You pick the noun. So let’s think of our self’s as small businesses during this holiday season and beyond.
The first thing every SB owner does every single day is take care of the foundation their business. You are the foundation of your business. You need to take care of you. You need to eat well, drink plenty of water, exercise (yes running through the mall counts), get the right amount of restful sleep that is good for you and most importantly don’t add stress on yourself. How can do you do that during the most stressful time of the year? Please, read on.
I’m going to throw some keywords at you; the first already was tossed, care. The second is flexibility. Writers are creatures of habit. But remember we’re also small business owners. As a business person you need to be flexible every single day. Every single minute of every single day. The world is ever changing and it affects you and your business constantly. If you go into this holiday by setting non flexible goals (More on this later) and your kids get sick, or the car breaks down, or your boss at your ‘real job’ demands that you get a new must-have report done by Christmas Eve, you will be adding a ton of stress on yourself. Setting a non-flex goal in the month of November is one of the reasons I’ve never done Nano. Stress, leads to guilt, which leads to depression. We don’t want to go there. Flexible is a key word.
Self-awareness is the next key word. What is your regular writing schedule? Do you write every single day? Do you take time off on the weekends? Do you write when you can? Which of these scenarios is the most flexible? Right. The write when you can. If you can write every day, but now find that during the holiday festivities you can’t, you will feel stressed. Stress is bad. Be flexible. Flexible is good.
Don’t try to do a 360° turn with your writing habits in the eleventh hour, trying to accomplish what you haven’t done already. It doesn’t work. Change of habits needs to be done over time, and there is no time of year when our desire to change is greater than right now. Plan your change.
Realization is the next key word. If you had a goal to have a project done by December 31 and you haven’t put the effort into it by now, well, that boat has sailed. Small business owners think months ahead, even years. Because the calendar will flip and your project isn’t done doesn’t mean the world is going to end. It means you will complete it in 2017 with the enthusiasm and the focus that it deserves. Flexible.
Now, I want to prove something to you. During this busy holiday season, you can accomplish a lot of things that benefit your small business by following my advice below.
If you write for publication, there is so much that needs to be done, whether you’re an indie author or a traditional pubbed author or a freelance writer. Grab a calendar; one that has the month in blocks. During the day or at the end of every single day, write down what you did relating to your business. I do this every day. It’s my record for the IRS that I am working my business. Here are examples of things I might get done any given day. Email, social media, word count achieved, number of pages edited, articles or blogs written, articles or blogs posted and or commented on, ad copy worked on, design ads, place ads, worked on a plot, talk or meet with critique partners, agent or editor. Trips to office supply store or post office. Time spent researching. Time spent reading craft books or industry blogs (like the Ruby Sisterhood). Write everything down. Now, look at what you have accomplished. How can there be guilt?
If you’re like me, you can’t take days off during a project. Maybe a day or two, but weeks? No. I need to stay grounded in my project. Does that mean I need to write fresh pages every day? No it does not. Simply writing a page a day, or editing a scene or layering a character will keep your muse alive and you’ll be working toward the end of a polished wip.
Here are the little tidbits of advice I mentioned at the top of this blog. The ones that will help you move forward during the busiest of times.
- Set the goal of I will work my business every day. Notice I didn’t say write every day. Be flexible.
- Write first (get up early), write last (after everyone else has gone to bed), or in between with a notebook if need be.
- Set a timer for twenty minutes and write nonstop.
- I sit my laptop on my kitchen counter while cooking dinner and I try to get an extra page written or edited before the meal is ready to plate. In fact, I write, standing more and more. I find walking around helps me think in between lines.
- Join an on-line group and sprint. On Twitter, I think, you can always find someone to sprint with by using a specific hashtag. I think it’s #1k1hr. If anyone knows for sure, please place in comments. (And remember the Rubies Winter Writing Fest Begins mid-January. Very productive and tons of fun!)
- Not working on story at the moment? Just be creative. Write a blog, article, poem, or short story. Hey, those writings can come in handy later for to use as promo when you’re on deadline.
- If it’s hard to write at home, get away. Pack a Go-bag now (pen, pencils, notebook, snacks, bottled water, and a little cash) and store the bag in your car. Anytime you slip out the door to run an errand take a few minutes to yourself while gone and write. Heck you could say you’re going to the garage to clean out the car and just sit in your car and write.
- Take a walk and dictate a scene. (Just get out of your comfort zone and use a different method to producing words)
- Too noisy with all the kids at home, invest in earplugs. Listening to an audiobook is also work.
- Set up a mini-writing retreat with some writer friends for an afternoon, but be prepared to give your spouse some alone time too.
- Journal. The end of the year is all about change. People watch. Note changes in people and how they interact with others as the month ends.
- This is the season that your senses can go on overload. There are so many sights, sounds, and scents to take in. And the food and drinks. And the feel of the weather, the gifts and the hugs. Ruby Anne Marie brought up in her recent blog how hugs can be different. Made me think. Take note for future works.
By not letting our passion take a second chair to non-essential chores, we’ll feel less anxious, more balanced, and much happier. Start 2017 positive by taking care of you and your small business now.
If you have words of advice on writing through the holidays, please share. What works for you might work for someone else.
Autumn Jordon is an award-winning, sneaker wearing Ruby. She is the author of seven published novels, including a fun, contemporary holiday romance titled Perfect.
The holidays are never perfect. However, what happens during the holidays can inspire a perfect love. Christmas romance at its best! Amazon Reviewers http://bit.ly/Perfect-AutumnJordon
Posted by Elisa Beatty Aug 15 2016, 12:01 am in advice for writers, Beverly Jenkins, keynote speech, Pauline Hopkins, RWA Nationals
At RWA Nationals, I had the great pleasure of meeting the amazing Beverly Jenkins.
I got to sit at her table at the Golden Network retreat (where she gave an awesome talk about developing well-rounded and surprising characters), and saw her in the Love Between the Covers documentary and the post-screening discussion. (Bonus: the cover of her first romance for Avon was emblazoned on the elevator I took up and down from my room!)
Beverly Jenkins is hilariously frank and brilliant and generous of spirit; spending even a short time in her presence was one of the most inspiring parts of the conference for me.
On the morning of July 14, she also gave a very moving keynote speech, which drew a historical connection between women’s personal narratives of surviving slavery, and the 19th century romantic novels of Pauline Hopkins, both of which were about “telling our own stories” and claiming a space for the rich emotional personhood of African American women, in the face of the larger culture’s constant efforts to deny that personhood. Both kinds of narratives were expressions of “people looking for their HEA as individuals and as a race,” telling of “men walking plantation to plantation looking for wives who had been sold away,” and showing African-American women “still courted and adored by our men.”
She also reminded us firmly that “African-American is not a genre,” and that love stories about people of color should be enjoyed and embraced by all fans of romance, and should always be shelved with the whole wide range of romance novels. (“It’s about discoverability,” she said. “How are romance readers going to find them if they’re not there?”)
If you weren’t lucky enough to hear her keynote speech in person, I hope you’re able to listen to it on the conference recordings.
She finished her talk with a list of advice to writers. As she said herself at the start of her speech, “Coming here recharges me, refuels me, and fills my heart,” and she wanted to send us all home stronger than when we arrived.
Here are a few pieces of it, which I was hastily typing into my phone with my thumbs as she spoke (so apologies if I got anything wrong, or missed some of the best nuggets):
-“The only thing you as a writer can control is what you write.”
-“Don’t stop writing.”
-“Romancelandia’s table is very large…there’s enough light, silverware, tables and chairs for everyone.”
-“You can write with children in your life: find the time, make the time. Tell the damn kids this is your work.”
-“Build yourself an online community.”
-“You can’t have someone else’s blessings.”
-“When folks ask if you’ve done all the naughty things you write about in your books, tell them,’HELL YEAH!'”
-“Treat your readers like the precious jewels that they are.”
-“Don’t hate your editor…she’s there to make the book better.”
-“When you get that fat contract, don’t gloat: Karma is only a bitch if you are.”
-“Don’t be afraid to kill people who annoy you in your books.” (She said when a friend was going through a bad divorce, she made the evil ex a character who was picked up by a tornado and dropped on a pick axe. 😈 )
-“Embrace the ecstasy of writing.”
-“Read read read read read.”
-“Put your ego in your pocket and sit on it.”
-“You are the master of inspiration, not its slave.”
-“Build a lifestyle that nurtures and supports your writing.”
-“Don’t just start stories, finish them.”