Saturday, September 28, 2013

"Where do your ideas come from?"

So I'm always getting asked where I come up with story ideas. I have such a hard time finding a way to answer this question. I mean my ideas come from everywhere but people tend to be underwhelmed with that response. Well, today I'm offering a glimpse into a writer's mind ... Brace yourself.
So in my neck of the woods it's harvest season. Today we gathered apples for cider. Yum! While spending half the day bent over picking windfalls my big, curious, goofy Great Dane stumbled on an underground bee's nest.
I look over and he's engulfed in a swarm. I immediately start running with him and swatting the bees off. One extra zealous bee even dive bombed me square in the eyeball. After all was said and done, all I wanted to do was get to my keyboard because I had the perfect scenario for my hero to get our heroine out of her clothes ...

And that's how it works.
So my answer is obviously bees.
My ideas come from bees. ;)

Monday, September 9, 2013

11 tips for aspiring authors

Recently I've been asked (frequently) for my professional advice. It's still strange to think of myself as accomplished enough to warrant giving others advice on writing and publishing but here I go anyway.

Advice from one writer to another.

11.) Be blindly optimistic.
It's the only way you're going to survive. There are so many storytellers in the world. There are so many of them who are better skilled with weaving a tale, they are smarter, and just deserve it more. You have to believe without a shadow of a doubt that you are worthy of being published too. You are worthy. Never ever lose this. It is your ticket. It's the only key. If you don't believe you are worthy, you'll never be able to withstand the beatings you'll take before you reach that first finish line. It's a tough ride but it's so worth it. Please believe that. It's worth it and so are you and so is your writing. Don't give up - no matter how hard it seems. Believe. Believe. Please believe.  
10.) Grow your characters.
Know your characters, inside and out. Get in their heads. You aren't just writing about things that happen to them you're building people - make them whole. No one is perfect, give them faults, give them a past, give them details that we may never - ever learn about. These are important steps because without knowing your character, you can't possibly know how they would react to whatever it is you're going to make them go through. If you're having trouble finding a plot - finding the conflict, then you don't know your characters well enough yet - keep on digging. Keep on building.
9.) Know the rules.
Beef up on your genre, know the rules for the genre, know the rules for writing, understand story arcs, and characterization. Know your grammar. Use the knowledge.
8.) Forget the rules.
Everything you just learned - forget. Give us some junk writing. Grab our attention. Illiterate! Fragment some sentences. Make your manuscript exciting to read but don't overdo it. A well paced, fluent, perfectly toned book with some tasty junkfood-type writing is not the same thing as a messy and riddled manuscript. Break the rules for a reason, not just for the sake of breaking the rules.
7.)Complete the R&R.
 If you get an R&R (Revise and Resubmit) do it. Revise it and resubmit it. You've got one foot in the door. They're handing you a map to your destination. An R&R is not a no it's a YES ... with stipulations. What's so great about this is that they are telling you upfront what it is they'd like to tweak about your manuscript. It's a heads up and most importantly a giant blinking sign that they are interested! Rejoice in it.
6.) Shop around.
Just because you are offered a contract doesn't mean that is the contract you deserve. Please, please, please read your contracts and take them to a professional and have them read your contract. Do not sign anything that makes you nervous. Talk to them about things that concern you, sometimes they will change the part you're having issue with, or at the very least explain to you why it's in your contract in the first place. If it seems fishy, get out, do not sign it. If you're being offered a contract by one publishing house, chances are another publishing house would be just as willing to publish you. Turning down a contract, even the very first one ever offered to you, is better than being locked (possibly indefinitely) into a bad contract - hands down.  
5.) Tighten your writing.
Your passion is a muscle and it must be exercised. Edit yourself and edit yourself and edit yourself until you are sick of reading your own manuscript and then stop. No one likes stiff writing and no matter how many times you go through that manuscript on your own you're never going to negate the need for someone else's eyes. You will need an editor. The most skilled and most honed author on the planet would still benefit from someone else's eyes, so long as that someone else has the manuscript's best interest at heart.
4.) Let go.
Yes, your manuscript is your baby. You created it, you birthed it, it is yours and no one will ever understand it or love it quite the same way, or with the same intensity that you do. You have the right and the responsibility to protect it but for it to reach it's full potential you'll have to make some tough decisions, and to do this you have to step away from it. Love your manuscript, woo it, treasure it, bask in it while you write and then put it away and pull it out again once you can look at it objectively - objectively enough that you can take a knife to it and start slicing away the pieces that (while probably wonderful and gorgeously written) may not be necessary to the story.

3.) Share only with people you most trust.
This is maybe not only important with your work but with everything in life. Create a vibrant, wonderful, safe environment with the people around you. Let go of negativity and the people who tend to brew it. Protect your work (and yourself) from people who only want to taint it and bring you down. You work hard, you poured your heart into your manuscript, it came from your mind. It's a piece of you. It deserves honesty and constructive criticism - what it and you don't deserve is cynicism and jealousy.  
2.) Write.
It's that simple and that hard. Write everyday. Write all the time. Write in your mind even when you can't physically be writing. Write. Write. Write. Write. Especially write when you don't want to. Force it when it doesn't want to come naturally and eventually you'll have it mastered - it'll be tapped and ready for you whenever you need it. Write. That's the most important part of being a writer. Write.
 1.) Step away from the keyboard.
I completely understand the allure of that thing. I understand what it feels like to be married to the story. I get it. I really do. But the best thing you can do for you and for your writing is to get away from it every once in awhile. Do not turn down that party invite, I don't care what your inner recluse writer wants or that the tiny quiet introvert voice is whispering for you to stay in, finish the book. No. Get up. Get dressed. Go out. That's where the living are and after all that's what and who we write about. You can't possibly write about anything interesting if you never experience anything interesting. Take chances. Say yes. LIVE! It feels good and your work can only benefit from it.
Good luck! I'm rooting for you!