Reinvesting in Craft

In May I will have published twenty books which when I think about it seems crazy because it wasn’t all that long ago that I was here talking about submitting my Golden Heart book (which never sold btw.) So to think seven years have passed since I first finaled in the Golden Heart and I’ve been actually living my dream seems…weird. But a good weird.

So way back  during those sweet, innocent days of being pre-published, I worked hard at not only polishing my manuscript, but also on developing my writing. My bookshelves were crammed with craft books on plot, character archetypes, grammar, etc. and those books were filled with sticky notes and colorful tabs. I worked on craft and making my writing better. When I sold to Harlequin back in the fall of 2009, I embarked on a whirlwind writing schedule that left little room for anything beyond deadlines, writing proposals, marketing (sigh) and more deadlines. Essentially, I wrote three or four books/novellas a year so I have little time for working on my craft.

Not good.

Oh, I don’t feel like I’ve put out slop, mind you. No, I feel like my books are pretty good, born from hard labor and supported by all the early preparation I did back in my pre-published days. I had an excellent editor and accomplished writers who vetted my plots and helped make my books shine. But I feel like there’s always room for improvement, you know? So as 2015 wound down and I faced a new year with no contracts, I made a decision – this year I would work not only on building my platform and readership, but I would reinvest myself in learning craft. Just after finishing the last edits on the October book, I hunkered down with a book I’d been meaning to read for years – Save the Cat by Blake Snyder. Though the book is geared to screenwriters, the information and techniques inside were designed to help a writer develop a high-concept pitch and logline. Essentially, if you want your book to have “movie” quality then it’s a great book. Next I bought a used copy of Jack Bickham’s Scene and Structure and attended a Bob Mayer workshop and scored his book on self-publishing. I also went through the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood archives and printed out some fabulous resources on writing a synopsis (Thank you, Hope Ramsay!) Just last week I bought The Naked Truth about Self-Publishing. And, friends, I’m reveling in learning again. As someone contemplating self-publishing, I figure the more I know the better it will be for me. I’m sure it won’t be easy, but if I feel better prepared, I feel confident. I’m determined to learn more, to grow and to take my writing to the next level.

You’re never too old or too best-selling to stop working on your craft. I’d like to think even Nora has to pull out her tired and true craft books at times and refresh her memory on what she should be doing. Or maybe not. She might just be THAT good. But I know I’m not that good, and I want to elevate my game. So this year I’m rededicating myself to tightening my sentence structure, utilizing subtext, and shoring up the pacing.

So what about you? Do you read the craft books you’ve bought over the years? Do you have any suggestions for books and resources that have given you a lightbulb moment?


(BTW, sorry the post was only half-finished. I would like to say it was because it was Monday, but I wrote this last week. Just didn’t get it all in place. My bad :()


16 responses to “Reinvesting in Craft”

  1. Wait … where’s the rest of the post?

    • Liz Talley says:

      LOL. yeah, I didn’t realize I didn’t have the whole thing in place, Arlene. And I was at my husband’s office with the post in Word on my home computer. So a big ol’ fail.

      Sorry. I finished it. Hope you make your way back over to give us some of your suggestions on improving craft.

  2. I have downloaded but not yet read How to Write Erotica: A Beginner’s Guide and How to Write Hot Sex. And now you know what I’m planning to do — branch out into a new genre … complete with new pen name. 😀

    • Liz Talley says:

      How exciting is that? Well, I wish you luck. I feel like I’m good at writing intimacy but not sexually driven books. I had to step back from that, but perhaps you will love it! Best of luck 🙂

  3. I love Editor-Proof Your Writing. It is priceless for cleaning up “foggy” writing. Also love K.M Weiland’s Structuring Your Novel Workbook – for all you plotters out there. 🙂

  4. Hope Ramsay says:

    Hey Liz,

    I just read The Virgin’s Promise by Kim Hudson. Y’all know what a geek I am about storytelling, and I gotta say this book is something I’ve been looking for for ages. For anyone who has studied “The Hero’s Journey,” and come away wondering why it doesn’t fit romance novels, this is the book for you. Honestly. Every romance author should read this book, it will give you story ideas. Here’s the link to the kindle edition:

  5. Wow, 20 books. Congratulations. I think I have them all. Although I think your last Superromance is on my Kindle instead of the shelf in my bedroom with all the others. In many ways you’ve been a mentor, and I hope to someday meet in person.

    I too am hoping to get back into honing my craft. The second anniversary of my debut novel is coming up next month and I feel like it’s been a whirlwind of trying to figure out the whole life of a published author. I’ve gotten bogged down in the marketing thing. I find that part of the business to be overwhelming and for someone who failed at selling Pampered Chef, kind of sucky. It seems like the Gold Rush all over again, as more and more books are being published each year, more and more companies are popping up to “help turn your book into a bestseller.”

    But the only advice that seems to remain as true today as it was when your first book came out is to keep writing.

    Sadly, my writing has suffered. When I was a newbie just trying to figure out how to submit my books, the writing came easy. Sure, I made a lot of mistakes. Going back through an older manuscript that will be my fifth book in July taught me that I knew nothing about the Oxford comma or dialogue cues. And now I have this pesky inner editor, who sounds a little like my editor, a little like some harsh reviewers, and a lot like self-doubt.

    So. The best thing I can do is rededicate myself to the craft of writing. Hit my word counts. Finish the next two books on my contract and start thinking about the next series.

    This business is definitely not for the weak.

    • Liz Talley says:

      You are so right, Kristi. The publicity machine you start cranking when the book is about to come out can take over your life….and the reality is it’s a lot of squawking and not a lot of selling. So, yeah, that’s hard.

      But you’re right. Moving on to write the next book and then the next is something you have in your power. I’m thrilled to have been in some part your mentor. I’ve enjoyed watching you bloom into a good writer…and that you write about sexy baseball players, well, that’s icing 🙂

  6. I’m with you, Liz! Revisiting craft can be so motivating, inspiring, and (sometimes) eye-opening. I don’t read as many books as I’d like (craft or otherwise), but I have a long wish list. 😉 And, I finally read this month’s RWR and found some great articles that really spoke to me. One was on writer’s block and the other was on the 5 languages of love. The latter gave me some great ideas for upping the sexual tension in a book, though I think I do most of them already. But it made me much more aware of what I was doing, if that makes sense. 😉

    • Liz Talley says:

      Still haven’t gotten around to reading the last RWR. I’ll put that on my list 🙂 I think we always have a long list of TBR books whether they’re fiction or writing books.

  7. Great post, Liz!

    I love the screenplay book Save the Cat to help me with pacing. I don’t write screenplays, but the way Blake Snyder lays it out is perfect for novels. I highly recommend it.

  8. Thanks for the informative blog. It is a great reminder. Recently I read Take Off Your Pants by Libbie Hawker. It’s all about using outlines to write better books. I already used it to outline a book I already wrote, but didn’t publish yet. It really helped me figure out why one of my protagonists sagged.

    In the book, Libby also talks about The Anatomy of a Story: 22 steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller. She says it’s geared for screenwriters too, but that it really helped her get more insight on how to improve her books.


Subscribe to the Blog

The Latest Comments

  • Darynda Jones: I love this! I learned this fairly early as well. I also learned that sometimes I just have too many...
  • Heather McCollum: Thanks, Jenn! I forgot that you are also a free lance editor! Do you do both developmental and line...
  • Jennifer Bray-Weber: Very sound advice, Heather. I have done the same technique and often recommended it to some of...
  • Darynda Jones: Bwahahaha! I was so wondering where that was going! Did NOT see that coming. Great job, Evelyn!
  • April Mitchell: Congratulations Bonnie!