Writing tips from other writers #authortoolbox post

For the next couple of #authortoolbox posts I decided to reach out to my writing friends both authors I know in real life and those I know virtually. Please learn more about their writing as well. They have a lot of insight into their own process and you never know what will work for you.

I love finding new nuggets of wisdom (I’m not talking about fool’s gold here!) or a twist on an old tip that helps me get inspired, write better, or grow as a writer.

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For every question you have about writing, read lots of blogs/articles/chapters on the topic, because there are so many opinions out there!

– Raimey Gallant: http://www.raimeygallant.com

This is particularly meta since anyone reading this post is reading a blog to gain some knowledge and help with their writing. I love that! Anyway, I agree wholeheartedly with this writing tip. Read as much as you can until something truly resonates with you. If you need help with plotting, read about it many places. I’ve tried a few different ways to plot out my novel, either ahead of time or while writing, and I often modify my approach based on a couple of different techniques. In the end, that felt right and I read enough to feel confident that I would, at the very least, move my story forward.

Find the joy in writing. Don’t be afraid to genre jump, write bad drafts or fail, it’s all part of the journey.
–Author/Freelance Writer Melissa Uhles  http://www.melissauhles.com/
This particular writing tip is one that I have dabbled with, but haven’t fully embraced. I tend to write literary and add twists of speculative elements. I’ve yet to write a full-on romance or horror story. I love the idea though. I’d love to hear from others who do this and how it informs the way you move forward in your writing.
I’m going to keep this short and sweet and let you all think about these tips. I’ll have a couple more next month from various writer friends! And if you are feeling like a longer post, check out my interview with poet, Carolyn Martin, her newest poetry collection launches March 13.
I feel like I should apologize for my bad humor, the whole “fool’s gold” thing. It’s just how my brain works.
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Letting go

Recently, a friend (Rebecca) posted an old “note” I’d written on FaceBook. It was called 16 things about me. The #11 thing was:

I think letting go is one of the most important things a person can do… and one of the most difficult things a person must do.

 

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Image from pixabay

 

There were other really insightful nuggets on the list (like the horrid snake tattoo that had the word Truth coming out of its mouth I wanted to get in high school), but that one stood out to me. I still believe this and it got me thinking about how certain lessons or trials come up over and over again and you must continue to choose how to react to situations. When I think about letting go of something today, most of the scenarios involve giving up control. It’s something that I don’t have anyway, but think I have. The other side of it is that I only have control of myself and my reactions to whatever it is I need to let go.

I like talking in the hypothetical about this idea. It’s easier to grasp and feels less intimate, though it probably leaves the reader a bit baffled. So, I’ll give a couple of examples…

Have you ever encountered a person who decides they are more important than you, and everyone around them? You know they don’t act in this specific way just around you, but it still gets under your skin. They are arrogant, unyielding, and rude. You have a choice. Let it get to you when they treat you this way and allow it to taint your day, or move on and let go. You’ll have to keep letting go any number of times with this same person until they no longer exist in your sphere or you have to face the conflict in a respectful manner (who wants to do that?). It won’t go away, but your reaction to it can help you cope.

Another example is when you have no choice but to let go. When it’s the hardest thing to do, but the only thing that will allow you to get through the day. It could be when someone dies or when a friend moves away. It’s something you can’t change so you have to find ways to figure out how to cope. You are in control of the way you move forward, but not in the act of moving forward. Does that make any sense?

Right now I’m struggling with a few things in relation to letting go. I feel conflicted most of the time and it’s not a mind space I like being in. I know I’ll figure it out.

I still my brain, breathe.

It will come when it’s time.

The only control I have is coping and striving little by little.

The only control I have is the way in which I allow for space for that which I struggle with.

 

New parent, must write: Author toolbox post

This parenting thing is relentless and I am only 20 weeks in. Duh, right? Well, somehow I am finding time to write. It’s different now. My resolve is bound to the conviction that if I quit doing something I love … Continue reading

Publishing Q and A with Sheala Henke

Today our Q and A takes a slightly different angle. Sheala Henke, fantasy author, talks about her path to a traditionally published fantasy novel.

Born and raised in the foothills of the Colorado Rocky Mountains, and local CSU alumni, Sheala Dawn Henke is a veteran educator, with nearly twenty years in the trenches. She’s the author of an honored title for the ‘What’s New in Young Adult Literature, 2018 Edition’ with her YA Climate Fiction series, IDEA33 and the new release with Pen Name Publishing of her Literary Fantasy novel, Story Bends. Sheala and her husband and two children thrive in Fort Collins, Colorado.

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Name a few of your favorite books/how they inspire you.

I find that the books that resonate most with me are the ones that pull on my heartstrings. They sit in very distinct emotional chambers in my mind that stays with me for weeks, months, sometimes years. I actually go through a process of grieving over books I’ve finished that have this quality. Only when I realize I can read them again, do I feel at peace. One of my favorite books that I read aloud each year with my students is A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd. This book is truly one of the most deliciously, tantalizingly magical books I’ve ever read for young and old. I particularly love to read this book out loud as I prefer the audio version of books with such a musical quality like this one. If “words were the sweets in the mouth of sound” this would be on my Top 10 list. Natalie is also very engaged with her audience, and she has been a source of delight for my students as they continue to fall in love with her prose. She shares her writing journey and is very responsive to independent inquiries. She even went as far as to respond personally to a letter from one of my students last year who wrote to her about how much she adored her book. She followed up by sending us some wonderful Snicker Swag.

Another author I adore for his unique and lyrical style is Neil Gaiman. His writing is leaps and bounds above anything else I’ve ever read and I’ve decided that if winning the lottery was in the cards for me, I’d happily trade it for a little whisper of his magical page dust to transfer to my own work. I also truly admire his dedication to improving his craft. I feel like he’s along the same lines as Steven King with his abilities and his commitment as a career writer.

I’ve also fallen in love with and stay true to a few classics that will always resonate with me. I’m a Jane Austin fan, through and through and I enjoy the disturbingly ethereal works of Nathanial Hawthorne, whose short story, The Haunted Mind was the initial inspiration for my Literary Fantasy, Story Bends.

I’m a fangirl for a good epic tale like Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series and Kent Follet’s Pillars of the Earth. I enjoy the way they both write with such sensory detail enhancing the reader’s experience to ‘live the days’ with the characters. It’s a writing style I aim to emulate in my work as well.

Tell us about your publishing journey. How did you decide to self-publish and what were some roadblocks and positive experiences you encountered?

My publishing journey began in a room with over 300 people at a conference for the National Gifted and Talented community. Like a burst of bumbling brilliance, it came while listening to the Keynote author, Stephanie Tolan speak about creativity. At that moment the seed of an idea came to me while I was taking notes. I sketched out the most god-awful Frankenstein rendition of a thinking map outline for what later became my first novel, IDEA 33-A Regeneration. What sparked the ignition to move it from idea to page occurred the following day when I went back into my classroom and shared the experience with my students. They were full of questions. They wanted to know about the story, the characters. There was a wanderlust in their eyes I couldn’t put down. They wanted to READ this story. This story that didn’t exist…yet. They wanted more, and it was up to me to deliver it.

So, what did I do? What anyone else out of their ‘write’ mind would do, I went home that night to hatch a story and stayed up until the crack of dawn to get enough of it down so I could share it with them the following day. Even then, I didn’t come to understand what I was doing. I was writing a novel. My first novel. I was not well-versed with the writing coat of arms or a lifetime of craft study. My writing journey was as organic an experience as any other happenstance, and as the days wore on and the yellow bricks on my road to publication evolved, I evolved with it, laying each ever-loving bricks with the support and encouragement of my family, friends and most of all, my students. I wrote the entire book that year with built-in Beta readers and they stayed with me years after the maiden voyage. In fact, we hosted a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund a full manuscript revision with a professional content and copy editor team.

In that time, we began an after-school writing group called the Write Muses, operating on one mission statement, grounded on the ‘If you build it, they will come’ theory and working on our craft together. And, THEY KEEP COMING! The group has grown and changed over time, with a membership of over thirty young aspiring writers and purveyors of their own inner guide to feed their passion. We meet twice a month and the membership is free and voluntary. They mentor one another, they learn the art of critique and find a space where they can cultivate their interests. Many of the original group members have gone on to accomplish amazing things outside of our space. They are artists, speakers, engineers, and musicians and they know what it means to feed a curiosity with every breadcrumb of success.

How did you find your way to getting traditional pubbed and why did you decide to go down this path at this time?

I have always been somewhat of a closet writer, journaling the days away and writing poetry, and although some may see my experience with how I came into publishing as a Cinderella tale, I happen to believe in the magic of perseverance and grit. Where I’ve landed today didn’t happen on accident or with the swipe of the magic wand or as a result of my Fairy God Agent. I’ve had nothing but my core conscience and a drive to keep improving my craft. I believe I will be agented one day in the near future, and I look forward to that day, but I look more forward to a future of ‘manucripting up’ to write more quality books that alter perspectives for readers of all ages. It was with pure spirit and grit that I’ve moved from point A to point P in publishing. I also believe it was due to the fact that the kids have always served as my direct muse. Without their persistence and cajoling, I might not have been enticed to take the first, second and twelfth step on a journey toward the first traditionally published Literary Fiction novel, Story Bends with Pen Name Publishing. It was a promise I made to myself and to them and our story continues…

What advice do you have for other writers about deciding what pathway to publish to take?

Choosing the path to publishing is a very intimate, personal decision. In today’s market, it can take on an overwhelming number of forms, and it really depends on each individual’s goal. I would offer the advice to consider joining a writing group or take a platform building class on branding to really dive into the ‘Why’ behind your writing. That is what success-minded people do in every industry. If writing is just a hobby, and it fills you up, then that’s all it should be. If you want to pursue it further, join a local writing group or organization to start learning more about the industry and the market and take on the beast of the craft by writing each and every day. I’d recommend you sign up for one of the myriad of social media groups who share and create together. These communities are priceless, and you can stay as anonymous as you’d like as you choose what level of engagement you wish to pursue. I also highly recommend some low-cost conference opportunities like WriteOnCon which hosts an amazing three-day intensive online conference with an even more amazing lineup of writers, editors, agents, and industry professionals in a safe (put yourself out there at your own pace) space. For more information visit their website and full conference admission is only $10! It’s probably the best deal in the industry for anyone who needs a little help navigating where they stand and it is a great place for writers of all levels.

https://writeoncon.org

What three words describe your writing.

Versified, Lyrical, Expressive

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I would like to express my sincerest gratitude to those in the industry who embrace and support debut writers and who take a chance to build relationships with people like myself who are new to the industry. I am humbled by the kind and generous individuals, editors, agents, publishers, authors/agents who offer support and a safe commune for those of us who are new to the experience.

 

Find her here:

http://sdhenke.com/

Twitter: @HenkeSheala

Insta: @shealadawnhenke

FB: @authorshealahenke

Author Q and A with Erica Steele (this week includes author toolbox blog hop)

Before we dive into our next Q and A, I wanted to mention that I signed up to be part of a Blog Hop with Raimey Gallant. She contacted me a few months ago and mentioned that she would be … Continue reading

It takes more than long locks & a killer one-liner

(previously written) I am closing in on week two at home with a newborn. Whoa. The whole experience is rather indescribable, the word that best describes it is ineffable. My husband and I were talking about how surreal, wonderful and awe-inspiring this whole pregnancy and birth thing is and when he was trying to describe it to a friend he said that word popped into his head.

in·ef·fa·ble

inˈefəb(ə)l/

adjective

1 too great or extreme to be expressed or described in words.”the ineffable natural beauty of the Everglades”

2 synonyms:

3 indescribable, inexpressible, beyond words, beyond description, begging description; More

4

◦ not to be uttered.”the ineffable Hebrew name that gentiles write as Jehovah”

The word aptly describes the birth of my son and the days following it. Still, words only describe the feeling but they can’t fully explain the physical or emotional aspect of this adventure.


Weirdly enough, this post somehow only was published for a short time. Maybe it was my embedded link of the Guns and Roses song Patience? This music is something that I listen to while breastfeeding and I also pondered why more songs don’t include whistling nowadays! I’ll try it again so you can have the pleasure of watching Axl, quite the showman in his day.


In any case, I mentioned that I am not planning to make this blog about motherhood or child rearing now that I have a son. I have a son! Soooo, a quick update on my writing . . .

Shortly after giving birth I received a rejection from a Literary Agent that had my full manuscript. I wallowed a bit and felt like I’d never publish a novel as long as I live (the drama usually dies down within a day or so). The next day, I received an upgrade request from an agent who had a partial (about 50 pages) of my manuscript and she asked for the full! More confident again, I sent out the full and am trying to forget about it, which is kind of easy when I am constantly taking care of my son. I still have another partial out and some queries so I have a few more chances to catch someone’s eye. If nothing happens this round, I’m planning to research small presses to see if any of those would be interested.

Q & A with Author Rain Sivertsen

In this Q and A Rain Sivertsen answers my questions. Let’s learn a little more about her.

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Rain Sivertsen is a 25-year-old fantasy writer currently working on her first novel, a YA fantasy she intends to self-publish by 2019/20. She is also working on a darker fantasy trilogy about vampires. Everything Rain writes takes place in a fantasy world called Hurst where she spends most of her time, while her corporeal self is located in the beautiful city of Prague –which might be the ideal home for anyone writing fantasy, with magic hiding around every corner.

 

  1. What do you write? (genre etc.)

Fantasy. Everything I write, pretty much everything I read, is fantasy. Doesn’t matter if it’s epic, urban, YA. Anything with even a sprinkle of fantasy and I am there for it.

  1. Favorite book that you think is underrated?

You couldn’t start with an easier question? J I stare at my bookshelf and there are so many wonderful books that I wish were the kind everyone knew about and talked about. Kristine Cashore’s books Graceling and Fire are beautiful stories about strong women making the best of impossible situations, with love stories I can respect and admire, which I wish I saw more of. Ash and Huntress by Melinda Lo are lovely fantasy stories with queer women. Ask was the first book I ever read with a non-straight main character. It blew my mind.

  1. Favorite book from childhood?

I don’t remember much I read from childhood – mostly Norwegian books designed specifically to get kids to read more – but there was a series of five books called “Sofie and Kathrine” by Grete Haagenrud that I would borrow from the library almost every month. It’s about two young sisters during the war when Norway was occupied by Germany. Their family is forced to flee their hometown and travel through Norway. The stories were so funny, heart-warming and heart-wrenching, and though my life was so different from Sofie, I could still relate to her and a lot of the things she went through. That might be the first series that made me properly fall in love with novels.

  1. Use three words to describe what keeps you writing and persevering?

Love, persistence and forced discipline (because discipline does not come to me naturally).

  1. Where do you draw your inspiration to keep writing?

I never really choose where I get inspiration from. Sometimes I’ll try and kick-start some inspiration by looking at beautiful digital art or reading passages in my favorite books, but really it tends to come out of nowhere. It’s really important to me that I write even when I don’t feel inspired, so I’ve trained myself to do that and then be pleasantly surprised when genuine inspiration does hit. It’s the best feeling. I guess you could say that the idea of inspiration is what inspires me. Too complicated? 🙂

  1. Do you have any tricks/tips for aspiring authors you’d like to share?

Write. Down. Your. Goals.
You can’t hit a target you can’t see. If you write down your goals – both long-term goals and the smaller milestone goals along the way – you will be more motivated to work towards them. Put them somewhere you can see them every day so you never forget that you wanted this badly enough to commit it to writing. Writing down your goals helps to turn a dream into a plan. It’s pretty much the tip that helped me start taking writing seriously.

  1. As a writer who/what is your inspiration (animal, vegetable or mineral ☺)? 

Beauty. Beauty in anything – nature, music, art, architecture. Surrounding myself with beauty in all forms is what inspires me to create, to take all that beauty and try and make something magical out of it. That’s why I listen to epic instrumental music when thinking about my writing. It’s why I enjoy long walks in the most beautiful parks in Prague. I inhale beauty and hope to absorb some of it for later use in my writing.

  1. What was one of the hardest scenes for you to write?

I’m best at writing violent things, like fight scenes and torture, or just people being miserable. For the story I’m working on now, the MC spends a lot of time figuring out clues and working on solving a mystery. I’m not very good at that, at figuring out exactly which clues to reveal at exactly the right time. It’s why I could never really write crime and detective novels like Beth Green writes so brilliantly. I love to read them, but those details and clues… I’m better with the big stuff, less so with the fine print.

  1. What do you think helps you to become a better writer?

Setting clear goals and working my ass off to reach them. Not just big goals like “finish this novel and self-publish it”, but goals that aren’t so far away. Milestones. When I’m drafting, my goal is to write 30.000 words a month, approximately 1000 words per day, and when I’m plotting and outlining I also have a plan and try to spend at least 1-2 hours daily working on that plan. If I didn’t set these goals and have a clear, achievable plan, I would never write anything at all. I’m one of those people who think structure is a good thing, and I thrive on it.

  1. How do you think being someone else’s beta reader helps inform your own writing process? Or helps you become a better writer?

Being a beta-reader helped me better understand the research I’ve done into beta-reading, it helped me see which parts of that research I want to keep and which aren’t going to work for me. It’s also super motivating when you’re drafting, to read someone else’s nearly-finished work. It’s a reminder that not too long ago they were suffering the same way, but look! They got this amazing thing at the end!


Where to find Rain:

Website

Twitter

Another revision and another day

My current project, Lana Bong’s Shanghai Market, just underwent another revision. I cut something like 10,000 words from it and then added another 2,000. I’m more confident that the pacing is quicker and more urgent and that my character development has improved, but I still question myself. Most writers will tell you that they never really feel like they are finished with a project. I can’t dispute that. I still feel like I need to go back and double check that everything flows just right and that I didn’t take out any characterization important to the story.

This time around, I mostly took out flashbacks, long rambling scenes of one character’s genesis or defining childhood moments. I’m good at creating that backstory, but not all of it needs to be added into the project I’m working on. That’s why it’s so important to have beta readers and why I feel sorry for my early readers. There is so much more muck to wade through in my early drafts.

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Lots of muck to wade through . . .

I’ve already started sending query letters to agents, gotten a few requests for more pages, and sent those out. I felt confident in the pages I sent and hope to feel confident moving forward in the agents I’m sending queries to. Recently, that has become more challenging. I won’t name names, but there are a number of literary agents being called out for their predatory practices. It shakes my belief in humans and the publishing industry. I don’t get it, but it just goes to show that as a writer you have to go with your instinct. Really, with anything that’s all you have to go on. If something feels off, listen to that feeling.

In the next few months, I’ll be bleary-eyed and taking care of a newborn. I’m hoping to continue posting on the blog every so often and I already have a couple of posts scheduled for September. Look for the Q and A with the author, Rain Siversten.

Feel free to drop me a line anytime as well! I love hearing from people!

Q & A with Author, Erin Kettle

I met Erin at The Attic Institute in Portland. We took a novel writing class with Whitney Otto that connected us and kept us writing. I’m so glad we’ve kept in touch and now you get to learn a little more about her.

Erin Kettle is an author of women’s fiction. Her career is also in communications and EPatterson_Photopublic relations, most recently as a spokesperson for NIKE, Inc. As a result, Erin has written countless statements, manifestos, and press releases. Prior to her career in communications, she wrote for several publications as part of their editorial staff including The New Yorker, BRIDE’S Magazine and GQ.

Erin’s last two books were chosen to compete in a variety of unpublished fiction contests including Writer’s Voice on “Team Coffeehouse,” Query Kombat 2016, WriteClub 2016, PitchWars Setting Critique 2017, Query Kombat 2017 and Nightmare on Query Street 2017 and Nightmare on Query Street 2017.

When not writing or consulting, Erin enjoys spending time with family and friends and trying to catch her two young girls and two dogs, as they run circles around her.

What do you write?

Ever since I was little, whether watching a movie or reading a book, I was enthralled with how they would draw me into this fictional world. I wanted to find a way to write that could make people feel so deeply and would often find myself thinking of different types of story ideas. I remember writing my first short story in elementary school just for the heck of it in my spare time and wanted to create a whole book concept to go along with it. After college, I started writing editorials for magazines, moved into public relations and strategy work, but it wasn’t until I began writing novels that I realized how much if fed the soul.

Favorite book that you think is underrated?

I have to say that even though they are short stories, “The Body” (aka Stand By Me) and “Shawshank Redemption” are two of my favorites. Yes, they are both amazing movies as well, but if you read the book, the dialogue is literally verbatim. Stephen King is an amazing author, but the way he creates these characters that come off the page are outstanding in all of their faults and glory.

Favorite book from childhood?

There are so many from Shel Silverstein as the first shock and awe, to my first book love, “The Hunky-Dory Dairy” by Anne Lindbergh (1986) where a young girl stumbled upon a farm with people that somehow time traveled from the 1800s. I was fascinated.

Use three words to describe what keeps you writing and persevering?

Possibilities, dreams, survival

Where do you draw your inspiration to keep writing?

Inspiration is everywhere, and sometimes reality is crazier than fiction. Writing is a cross-pollination of ideas where you just keep pushing the narrative to see what could happen in a particular story. It’s exciting when it really starts coming together.

As a writer who/what is your muse (person, animal, vegetable or mineral)?

Sloth. Kidding! I just think they’re cute. I’d say I love snow leopards. I always loved their beauty as a child, and how stealth they were. That is until my mom told me they just wanted to eat me. At any rate, they’re unexpectedly interesting.

What was one of the hardest scenes for you to write?

To be honest, in my first coming of age book, it was the sex scene. I kept imaging my family and nieces/nephews reading it one day. I just had to let go of that idea and try to be true to the characters.

What do you think helps you to become a better writer?

Relentless learning. I just finished up a five-week class last night at the Attic in Portland, Oregon. It’s not easy to go to class 8-10 PM every week, especially when life is so busy, but it’s so important to get out of your head and just try something different. I’m always reading, usually three books at a time as well: fiction, non-fiction and some type of writing book. I’ve realized the thought process I have when working through these books is really introspective as well.

How do you think being someone else’s beta reader helps inform your own writing process? Or helps you become a better writer?

Thinking about writing structure and character development, among other things, as a beta reader really helps to build up that writing lens to also dissect your own work.


Connect with Erin here:
Website
Twitter
Facebook
Instagram


Check out previous Author Q & As:

Beth Green, Crime Fiction Author
Karen Hugg, novelist

Solitary

 

I just discovered this website, Sad animal facts. I love it! This particular graphic reminds me how much writers are like bees. So much of our writing life is done as a solitary endeavor, mostly in our minds and through our fingers. That doesn’t mean it isn’t awesome to have a writing group or other writers to go to happy hour or tea with.

Recently, I got this old familiar feeling surrounding the fact that I’m a writer. A crawling and awkward feeling. I feel uncomfortable talking about my writing to new people. It’s something that I feel often. Sometimes they are writers and sometimes not. Overall, I think the discomfort is based on fear. Mainly I’m afraid they won’t understand what I’m talking about when I talk about one of my projects or they’ll look at me and nod, but inside they are judging me, not understanding how important writing is to my emotional well-being, not to mention my soul. It’s dramatic but true.

Sometimes I wonder if I even know how to talk about writing. By that I mean, can I talk about it without sounding dramatic or odd. It’s so personal, but at the same time when a short story gets published or a creative non-fiction piece, it’s out there for all to see, for all to judge and I want it that way because I want to share my world with others. Once it’s out there it’s for everyone else to decide how it is perceived. Oh, my! That is pretty scary…

In the end, I know it only matters how I perceive the writing and the response, and I also know that I’ll keep trying new things both in writing and talking about it.

What makes you uncomfortable?


Next week I’ll have the next aspiring authors Q and A with Erin Kettle, women’s fiction writer! Don’t forget to check it out.