Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Very Talented Writers to Watch: They're on their way- what about you?

I am lucky enough to have some very talented writer friends, and many of them are moving forward into the publishing world at break neck speed and are willing to share their tales. Today I’d like you all to meet three of them! I’m calling them the Very Talented Writers to Watch, and I think following what they’ve gone through will be an eye opening experience for all “almost there” writers- plus you might find a few great new authors to read.  I asked them some basic questions.

The first Very Talented Writer to Watch is Melissa Cutler:

1) How long have you been writing? How long seriously writing (if different)

The big whammo that propelled me to write my first book happened six years ago and a random brain tumor made me re-examine my life. I thought, you fool, you might die without doing the only damn thing on your bucket list. So after the tumor came out and was determined to be benign, and I was all healed up, I got busy on my first book, a romantic suspense. Halfway through, I knew that writing romance was what I wanted to do every single day for the rest of my life. The decision to pursue publication came fast on the heels of that epiphany.

2) What do you write?

I write romance that focus on rugged, blue collar heroes and smart women, and currently divide my time between small town, contemporary romance for Kensington Zebra and romantic suspense for Harlequin.

3) Your darkest moment as a writer

Becoming a great writer and getting published are two very different goals. My darkest time as a writer was in the months leading up to "The Call". Over the course of two months, I endured several rejections and harsh critiques that devastated me. Mind you, this was five years into my journey and I'd powered through hundreds of rejections from agents and editors, along with an equal number of discouraging contest results and critiques. But the negativity I experienced in those two months topped it all.

I actually experienced a sort of drawn-out grief at how far away my dreams were starting to seem. That's when I realized that my publication quest was beginning to interfere with my goal of becoming a great writer because it was taking away my joy of the process. So on December 1, 2011, I decided to take a six month break from trying to get published to concentrate on growing as a writer. Four days later I got The Call.

4) Your best moment as a writer

All of my best moments as a writer involve me feeling like I'm improving my abilities as an entertainer and storyteller. My best moment lately happened this past April. I finished a book for Kensington that I felt was the best I'd ever written, and I'd done it in record time.

5) Where you are now, and what you look forward to?

My big goal in life is to write the kinds of books people want to take on vacation or that whisk readers away on a mental vacation right in the middle of their busy lives. Because, really, life is tough and we all deserve a break (along with some hot, swoon-worthy romance). Reading romance rocks because you can be sitting on a bus or watching your kids play at McDonalds and get swept away to another world populated with gutsy, smart women and sexy, larger-than-life men. My job is to provide that experience, and keep doing that consistently year after year, and that's what I'm looking forward to most. Genre-wise, right now I'm dividing my time between small town contemporary romance and romantic suspense, but you never know what the future will bring. The possibilities are endless and thrilling.

Thank you Melissa!  Interested in finding some of her books? 

Buy links:

Book Depository (free shipping and best prices on her print books):
Visit Melissa at her website!

Our second Very Talented Writer to Watch is Georgie Lee:
1) How long have you been writing? How long seriously writing (if different).

I started my professional writing career at a small TV station in San Diego. I wrote public service announcements and marketing videos and dreamed of being a screenwriter. I moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career as a screenwriter but I didn’t have much professional success. I’d always enjoyed reading romance novels, and one day I decided to try to write one. My first book, Lady’s Wager, a traditional Regency romance, helped me make the transition from screenwriting to novels and taught me a lot about the process. The book was later published by Ellora’s Cave Blush and so began my novel writing journey.

2) What do you write?

I write historical and contemporary romances for Harlequin, Carina Press and Montlake. My traditional Regency, Lady’s Wager and my contemporary novella Rock ‘n’ Roll Reunion are both available from Ellora’s Cave Blush. Mask of the Gladiator, a novella of ancient Rome is now available from Carina Press. Labor Relations, a contemporary romance of Hollywood is currently available from Amazon’s Montlake imprint. Studio Relations, a love story set in the golden age of Hollywood, will be available December 11, 2012 from Montlake.

3) Your darkest moment as a writer

Early this summer, I received a stinging rejection on a manuscript followed by some other bad news, both professional and personal. I was very frustrated with my professional progress and I was ready to take a break from writing. Then, two weeks later, Carina Press purchased a Regency novella. Two weeks after that, Harlequin called wanting to buy another Regency I’d submitted. I was blown away at how fast everything changed.

4) Your best moment as a writer

My best moment as a writer was the day before the Romance Writers of America 2012 national conference when Harlequin Historical called and wanted to buy my book. It felt wonderful to accomplish a goal I’d dreamed about since I first started writing romance. A week later, I signed with an agent, and between the two, made a big leap forward in my career.

5) Where you are now, and what you look forward to

Right now, I am grasping the first rung of a professional ladder with the Harlequin deal. I look forward to growing as a writer, to working with Harlequin and to experiencing the next exciting phase of my writing career.

Thank you Georgie! Interested in finding some of her books?

Visit Georgie at her website!

Our third Very Talented Writer to Watch is Lisa Kessler:

1) How long have you been writing? How long seriously writing (if different)

I have been writing for 16 years. I didn't start publishing short stories until 12 years ago and I first finished my novel and started shopping it 10 years ago.

2) What do you write?

I started out writing horror short stories and now I generally write paranormal romance.

3) Your darkest moment as a writer

Night Walker made it through two full readings with an agent who I really thought was going to offer me representation and finally they came back with an email telling me how much they loved the characters and the pacing, but they weren't sure about the world building. I was crushed because it was usually the twist on vampires that I complimented on for being original!!! LOL At that point I finally broke down cried and wondered why I kept doing this to myself. I set Night Walker aside and started writing a completely different series... In the end Night Walker still ended up being my first published novel! LOL And it's even won a few awards which felt like a healthy dose of redemption after years of being rejected! :)

4) Your best moment as a writer 

 Meeting with my agent and hearing her tell me she's read all my work and thought I was already agented or she would have approached me sooner! Best day ever!

5) Where you are now, and what you look forward to 

 Next month my Night Series prequel, Night Thief, will be released! I love the novella and can't wait to share it with everyone... Kane and Rita have really come alive for me...

I would add one other tidbit... Never give up! Keep writing and keep believing. Life can change faster than you realize and the more projects you have written and ready to go, the better!

Thank you Lisa! Interested in finding some of her books?

Visit Lisa at her website!

Thank you ladies!  So there you have it folks- some very talented writers who are making their dreams come true.  They are doing it- so can you! 
  *if the links aren't working- please cut and paste- I know old school- but Blogger and I are having a tiff and it keeps playing with them- thanks!*

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Sneaking up on creativity

Creativity is a free flowing stream, and authors drink as much as they can hold, racing to type fast enough to get all the wonderful, amazing thoughts down.

Heh!  That was so silly even I couldn’t keep a straight face while typing it ;).  There may be writers out there for whom that sentence is true, or mostly true, or they like to make their fans THINK it is true.  But for most creative folks- writers included- that’s not how it works.

Creativity is in EVERYONE, I don’t care if you’re one of those, “but I’m not creative “whiners.  You’re ARE creative, and unless you can provide notarized documentation that says that as a kid you NEVER made up friends, adventures, or basically never played at all- I am so not believing you.

You may have temporarily misplaced your creativity- but you still have it. You just need to let things go and it’ll bubble back.

So how to keep the creative side flowing when what you love to do depends on it?  (Or even just to give yourself a good kick in the creative arse?)

You find ways to play.  Ways to sneak up on creativity without making your sub-conscious go on a “no,no,no!” binge.

Here are a few ideas-some of which I’m now doing, others are going to be phased in ;).

1)      Idea book.  Ok this is just a small, carry it with you book, but each day (date them so you know you didn’t miss!) you have to write SOMETHING.  A single line is fine, an idea of a character, place, event, plot, song, image- SOMETHING.  Lines of dialogue are good too.  They do not, nor should they, need to be related to a current project!  This is just to get your little brain poking around.  You probably will never use most of the ideas.  Doesn’t matter- get the brain working in a different direction!

2)      Draw with crayons.  Ok, unless you have kids, you probably do not have crayons in your house.  Go buy some (Even if you have kids- don’t snurch theirs!  Get your own set.).  Also buy something to draw on. Now draw.  If you’re really stuck, you can go buy some cheap coloring books.  The thing is to play- enjoy the smell and feel of the crayons as you draw.  Who cares what you make- just play!

3)      Make a collage.  Now this can just be cool things you find in old magazines, or actually try to make it have meaning.  Thing is use the creative power of others (the magazine folks) to pull it out of you.

4)      Find a cool image and mosaic it- again, you can just do it with paper if you want.  The gathering of lots of little pieces of color into something bigger helps you see beyond a single shade.

5)      Take your characters, and in a page or two- put them (or just the main one) in your favorite book or movie.   This is again bouncing your creativity off that of another.

There are many more I’m sure (please post anything you know of).  But the main thing is to keep in mind that creativity breeds creativity.  So while NONE of these are directly designed to impact your current work-in-progress they all will improve your writing J.

Creativity can be a wily beast, sometimes ya gotta sneak up on it.

Thanks for coming by!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

World Building: It's your world, don't screw it up

World building is a crucial element to creating a great world for your reader. It allows us to be drawn into a new and magical place- whether it be a distant, unnamed moon or a farm in Nebraska during the depression. But many times authors are stymied as to how to do just that. It feels, sometimes, that there is a massive cover up of the secret to creating a great world.

But like all elements of writing, it can be sussed out with some work, logic, and restraint ;).

First, I think we have to figure out if we’re more plotter or pantser. If you plot more, and like to have things laid out before you dive in, then setting aside world building time might be a good idea. Many plotters have full world bibles laid out (more common with SF/F since these worlds are most unlike ours, and having few if any common references.).

Pantsers (at least me ;)) are more likely to integrate their world building along with their first drafts. It’s pretty much as new to me as it is to the reader ;). I obviously have an idea (for example: “This is an alternative world-circa late 1800’s, the fae invaded Earth through a portal 15 years earlier and the war is still going on.”). Now that idea of a world does give a general feeling, but obviously there’s not a lot there to hang onto. I could think of 10 different directions that could go (other than the one my current story does) just off the top of my head.

To start your attack on the world building concept- look at your own style. Also look at what level of world building you like to read. A conscious examination of the types and levels of world building in your favorite books can help you build a better understanding of the process. Don’t worry about matching other authors though! Some folks love TONS of heavy and nuanced world building, others like a more fast and light approach- there are readers for both. Just make sure your style is consistent.

What ALL writers need to keep in mind is just how much information does the reader REALLY need to feel at home in your story? NOT how much world building do YOU need to write the story. These two should be very different. You need to know minute details that the reader really doesn’t need nor want. Sadly, many newer writers (and even published ones) don’t get this and get so caught up in their Very Cool World (or VCW for short) that they want to share all of it with the reader. I just finished a book in which it was clear the author was just tickled pink with his/her world. At first the excessive world building was charming, then it got repetitive, then old and annoying. I began to care less and less about the character because the author was far too focused on his/her “VCW”. The world was cool- but I didn’t need new reminders of it when I had already “bought in” to it. I was there, I just needed a great story. Don't chase off a reader who has already agreed with your world building and buys into it.

World building, like lots of details in general, should focus on the new and novel- not something the reader either a) knows how it works (a car in NY probably functions the same as one in Hawai’i) b) has already been explained (if you show me how magic works in your world- don’t rehash it unless there is a change.). Give me what is unique.

The opposite of this is not giving enough detail to specifically develop the unique world in the reader’s mind’s eye. These are the folks who you never feel completely vested in their world because it’s a bit too vague. It’s a great idea to leave enough open space, so to speak, to allow the reader to add their own mental imaging to the world. But if you don’t clarify your Universe, then the reader makes a falase assumption and you slam them latter with what you really intended-then ya have a problem.

The thing is world building is vital to your book- BUT, it's a skill you will be always learning and developing, it will grow as you do as a writer. It just takes a conscious effort, particularly for those of us who are very rarely in the "real world".

How about you all?  As readers, how much detail do you like to read?  As writers, what is your plan for building your worlds?  What authors do you really admire for their consistant world building?

Thanks for coming by!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Writer's Life: Solo or a Group Effort?

Today I'm pondering the entire concept of the writer's life.  By definition, unless you are working with a co-author, it is a solitary effort.  You sit down at your desk, table, bench, etc and pound out the story you want to tell.

But is it really a solo effort?  As writers everything around us impacts how and what we write.  What we read, what shows we watch, what music we enjoy,the news of the day - all of these build inside to contribute to what we write. Nothing is original, to one aspect or another everything we do will have some elements of having been done before.  The ghosts of writers ahead of us march alongside our work.

Another aspect is that of actual interaction with fellow writers- people on various stages of the same path you and I are working our way down. 

Some folks are completely without other writer contact (difficult in this day and age of social media over-load).  They don't contact other writers in groups, blogs, or websites.  Only through the reading of another's published novel will they have another writer in their lives.

Then, at the other end, are the writer-interaction-aholics.  These folks are in tons of writers' groups, may have more than one crit group and/or partners/ and probably follow a dozen or so writer-centric blogs. 

Neither side is wrong, it's just a matter of finding what works for you.  Thinking about it I'd have to say I'm somewhere near the middle with a slight leaning towards the solitary side.  I love my writer friends, and hanging around them empowers me and gives me strength.  But at the same time too much writer-centric interaction sometimes drains me.  I lose track of the writing.

I am a member of a major writing group, and have good writer friends, but am not part of a crit group, nor have a regular crit partner.  Right now this is ok, while I'd love to find someone at a similar point in their writing process for a crit partner at some point, I'm not sure if this is the time.

What do you all think?  Is writing solitary or not?  What is your level of "writer interaction"? 

Thanks for coming by!

Friday, August 3, 2012

You go back to the beginning....

One of my favorite movies is The Princess Bride (one of my favorite books too :)). There is one part where the “man in black” has bested Inigo and so he goes back to the beginning. He returns to the village where Vinnizi found them and hired them to capture Princess Buttercup in hopes of finding out what to do next.

While I’m working on getting my writing mojo back, I figured that following Inigo’s words wouldn’t be a bad idea. “When a job went wrong, you go back to the beginning.”

Different things can throw a writer off his or her game- emotional (crushing defeats and scathing rejections), chronic life stressors (day job, family), acute stressors (deaths, marriages, births- even a good stressor is still a stressor), loss of joy in the process. Any of those (and there are probably as many out there as there are writers) can stop a writer dead in their tracks.

So, how does one go about getting moving again? Two blogs past I asked for ideas to help me get my mojo back- and I received some truly wonderful ones (check them out!). I’m feeling a bit more back in the game now, but still something is lingering around the edges- something holding me back. I think in the effort to become published I’d lost my sense of joy in my writing.

So, now I’m going back to the beginning and looking at the basic question every writer needs to ask themselves- why the hell am I doing this?

And back here in my little village of beginnings, I have my true answer (for me mind you, your mileage may vary) I write because I love the adventure. I love meeting these new people and exploring these new places, I love writing the types of books I want to read.

Now I’d be lying if I said I don’t care about publication. I do want to be published, I want other people to share these worlds and these characters with me. But the very basic truth, the one that is leading me back is that I love to play. I can’t worry about what the market is or isn’t doing when I’m creating. I create because of the joy of it- back at the beginning- and that’s a great place to start.

What about you? What is back at your beginning?

Thanks for coming by!