Sunday, December 27, 2009

What?! A New Blog? Just for Writers?!

With my first novel in my debut 13 TO LIFE series hitting shelves June 22, 2010 I've been thrown into a strange position in the publishing realm. There is a not-so unwritten rule in the industry that says published authors are NOT supposed to read unpublished writing.

It stems from two things:
  1. the fear a published/established author will read an aspiring author's work and then steal some aspect of it (and be sued)
  2. the fear a published/established author will read an aspiring author's work and then be accused of stealing from it (and sued) even though the established author already had a similar idea (or even a manuscript already in the publishing "pipeline")
The part that sucks about not being able to read unpublished works is that, as a teacher previously, it is very much in my nature to want to pass along the lessons I've learned and as specifically as possible. I'd LOVE to read things by aspiring authors and give them specific praise and constructive criticism. I'd LOVE to help them become published authors. But I can't.

At least not directly.

So, although I'm not allowed to read your manuscripts and screenplays, I'm going to help you as specifically as I can.

This blog will be tailored to writing advice, free workshop-type posts, posts about goal-setting and writing prompts. I will include advice from authors I've interviewed as well as advice based on my own experiences.

We'll start by getting you into write-thinking...The way I suggest you think in order to increase your odds of getting published.

I hope you visit at least once a week and make 2010 the year you benefit from write-thinking!
~Shannon Delany

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Advice to Writers: Dehanna Bailee


Dehanna Bailee, one of my weekly featured authors during 2009's Dog Days of Summer BlogTour wrote "For Better or Worse."

When asked to name the three most important things for aspiring authors to do Dehanna said:


Write. Finish the project. Then find some really *honest* input. Oh, and can I add another one? Get an extra pair of eyes. Yes, I know you can spend plenty of time studying the craft, attending conferences, networking and rubbing elbows but in the end, all it comes down to is putting the words on paper--and to keep putting them down. The more a writer writes, the better they'll become, and it's the practice and dedication that will get them to where they want to be.

Great advice, Dehanna--it's like being a writer in theory versus being a writer in practice. So, writers... Are you writing at least as much as you're studying writing?

When asked how often she actually writes, Dehanna admitted:

Not as often as I'd like, but I think that is quite common for many who have to work their writing careers around other commitments. I have found that I write more if I stay offline and put everything work-related out of view; it also helps to close the door and unplug the phone. ;)

Again, absolutely agreed! Writing is a generally solitary art and craft for a bunch of great reasons. Often the more focus you bring to your craft, the better your results.

Ready to learn even more about Dehanna? Visit her website: http://www.dehanna.com

Advice to Writers: Mark David Gerson

During the 2009 Dog Days of Summer BlogTour I had the opportunity to interview award-winning author Mark David Gerson. Here's part of that interview.

What tips or advice would you give aspiring authors?

Trust the story. Trust that whatever you're writing is smarter and wiser than you are, that it knows what it's about better than you ever could. One of the best ways to stay in that place of trust, and surrender, is by writing on what I call "the Muse Stream" — setting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and writing without stopping, leaving all thinking, editing, correcting and figuring-out to future drafts and revisions. The Muse Stream also helps prevent judgment, self-criticism, self-doubt and second-guessing — all potent causes of writer's block.

Also, write your passion. Write what excites, thrills, angers, fires you. Write what you care about. Allow your emotions free reign on the page. Write what you know — not in the traditional, superficial sense of that statement. Write what you know in your heart. Do that and you'll never fail to touch your readers. Powerful writing comes from what links us, and nothing links us more powerfully than our emotions.

Mark David Gerson's links are:
http://markdavidgerson.com
http://thevoiceofyourmuse.com
http://newearthchronicles.com

Social networks? Connect with Mark David here:
http://twitter.com/markdavidgerson
http://facebook.com/markdavidgerson
http://myspace.com/mdg888

Advice to Writers: Diana Castilleja


During the 2009 Dog Days of Summer BlogTour I had the pleasure of asking author Diana Castilleja of the Aiza Clan shapeshifter books to tell me a little about her writing process and the advice she'd give aspiring authors.

Diana told me that not only does she try to write "nearly every day" with a goal of 1,000 words, but she also says: "Often I can get between 2-5K on a rockin' day."

When asked if she had or did anything in particular to get into a writing mood, she replied, "Not really. I just start concentrating on the immediate action of the story, whatever scene I'm in. I don't have candles or a soundtrack or stuff like that. I just...write. I know. I'm boring."

What three tips would she pass on to aspiring authors?

1. Stay positive. There are a lot things that will turn you off of writing. Long waits, attitudes, reviews. Write what you want to write, how you want to write it, for the book that you would want to read.

2. Understand the basics of writing. Good grammar, self-editing skills, learning the proper concept of the story itself (story arc, character arc, pacing), understanding Point of View and how to use it effectively are important. They are all things that can be learned. Any well known, published author was once a new untried voice. Give yourself room to make mistakes, to learn what works for you. As you develop those, the essentials will solidify. But make no mistake. They are essential.

3. Be patient. There isn't a single aspect of book writing or publishing that moves quickly. For as long as it takes you to write a story, it will take as long if not longer to see it published.

I wondered how Diana chose the publisher she's currently with...

I watched Tease for almost year. I know the people behind the scenes, but have learned patience (see above) is a virtue when it comes to writing. I originally sent my vampire novel, THE ETERNAL KISS to them for their Dark Tarot Imprint, did the whole loop-de-loop of cover, edits and production and was very impressed on the whole with their attention to detail at every step. Since that first book, they've become my primary publisher and they have worked with me to get more attention to my books.

...And what she likes most about her publishing house.

I adore my primary editor. She's funny, and corny. Kinda like me. They don't accept just because I'm already there either. I have had stories rejected for different reasons. We have to work together to make each book a success and I really can appreciate the business sense behind that. Their cover artists are phenomenal.*

*Agreed! Holy heck, have you all seen this puppy--sorry, must show it again..
<

About research for Diana's writing:

I do geographical research for believability of their surrounding world more than anything. Most of their living world are straight creations. If there's anything that is the "expected accepted" I see if it will fit with my intentions, but it's not required. I like to create little nuances that make the stories individual.

An interesting note regarding the flexibility and openness we as writers need to maintain:

"As an aside, I had originally started the series with Selene's story, A Trust Earned. About two chapters in I realized it wasn't the first book that needed to be written. Roman, the hero in book 1 was all for that. After I knocked out Delilah and Selene the next two were a cakewalk, and just a ton of fun to get into to write."

Advice to Writers: Deborah Blake


As writers we often get advice and are asked to give some advice back based on our personal journey.

In 2009, Dog Days of Summer guest author Deborah Blake was kind enough to share a little advice with fellow authors and aspiring authors.
The three most important things for aspiring authors to do sound pretty simple:

Write. Read. Write some more.

Straightforward, right? And I'm guessing most blog visitors here do write (or try to write) pretty frequently. But do you read (and what)? Most artists study art before and as they create their works, crafters get hands-on with their chosen medium often learning from other crafters. What are our aspiring authors out there gleaning from what has come before (because, if it's currently on the market, it's "before")?

Deb also suggests aspiring authors:


"Don’t give up your day job? No, really—don’t assume, as most of us do when we get started, that you are going to be able to make a living at writing, at least right away.

"Write a lot. Write as much as you can, even when you don’t feel like it. Don’t wait until you have enough time (you never will) or a brilliant idea (although they’re good).

"Read a lot, especially in the area you are interested in writing. Pick the authors you like and figure out what they’re doing right. Have people you respect critique your work so you can figure out what you’re doing wrong. (Although don’t take criticism too seriously, either.) Take classes and workshops if you can, but don’t worry too much about getting a degree in writing. Just do it. And don’t forget to enjoy the journey. Getting published can be (is usually) a major struggle. But there is an element of treasure hunt/challenge/puzzle solving in there that can be fun, too. Enjoy the people you meet along the way, the things you learn, and the growing you do as a writer. Because once you are published, it becomes a job and not a hobby, and then it is REAL WORK. :-) "

Great advice from author Deborah Blake--learn more about her at DeborahBlakehps.com .

Advice to Writers: Melody McClarty

During 2009's Dog Days of Summer BlogTour we shared time with aspiring author (and poet with multiple books coming out shortly) Melody McClarty. Melody was kind enough to talk to me about her journey as an author (and I feel it's especially important that authors starting out connect). We all get advice as aspiring authors. Some's blatantly wrong (the economy's so bad nobody's buying books--pffft). Some needs major adjustment (write what you know--but I like werewolves!).

But the advice Melody got is spot-on and I hope you apply it, too. It will change your attitude if you aren't already thinking in this way. Melody told me:

My first run in with a real writer was learning from Sophfronia Scott. She’s an absolute gem of a person. I hate to say it but she really did take the brunt of my initial trepidations about becoming a writer and my lack of focus. Sophfronia is a super coach in all ways. Her focus is amazing.

One of the first things she ever said to me was, I want you to say to yourself that
“you ARE a writer.” She had me walking all over town saying it out loud to people.

After a week or two of that I realized that all that was stopping me was me. I have the imagination and the passion to become a storyteller but what I lacked were the tools. Writing is like building a house only your imagination and your words are your materials. All you need is a plan, the passion and the right tools.

But first and foremost, you have to believe in yourself. Practice and discipline yourself. Just keep reading and writing. Most importantly don’t get discouraged. Accept the fact from the beginning that you will be getting rejection letters. Make them something positive by finding a wall in your home to hang them on and keep moving forward because every writer gets them. I view them as badges of honor from having been in the trenches. Each rejection is just gonna make you refine your craft and sooner or later its gonna all come together just write. It’s par for the course.

I think every writer has to come to uncomfortable conclusion that writing is an art but publishing is a business.

Pantster or Plotter?

This question always makes me chuckle.

To me whatever method achieves your goals that’s what I say. Do what ever works for you. Sometimes I plot, sometimes I just write and let the pieces fall where they may. Then I worry about the structure and formatting later when I know I have to go back and do rewrites anyway.

Every writer and every story is different. What ever works.

What about workshops and conventions? Any you like or would suggest?

Writers Digest is fantastic for workshops. Bob Mayer’s program is also
very excellent. Not to mention the wealth of information you can get
from the Maui Writers Conference and their website www.hawaiiwriters.org.

As far as conventions I can’t recommend one over the other. But I do
hear that the Maui Writers Conference and retreat is one of the best.
I’ll gladly let you know more after I attend the conference next year.

What resources online do you think are indispensable for authors?

There are many but I would recommend to anyone starting out to start
with Writers Digest and Hawaii Writers to find all the resources you need.

Great stuff from Melody!

Advice to Writers: Elaine Corvidae

During 2009's Dog Days of Summer BlogTour readers were lucky to meet Elaine Corvidae, author of the Shadow Fae series. Elaine's newest in the series, Daughter of Snow, comes out in May 2010.

I asked each author in our Dog Days of Summer BlogTour what they think their strengths are as writers. Here's what Elaine said:

Characterization. I strive to not just give my characters compelling back stories or interesting motivations, but to make them as real as possible. They’re conflicted; they make mistakes (and their mistakes have real consequences); they don’t always get along with one another. I want the reader so deep in their heads that even when the characters screw up, the reader understands why. And when the characters stand up at the end and do the right thing, again the reader should feel that this is the only choice that character could make, that it isn’t just some artificial requirement of the plot thrust on the hero from the outside.

I asked Elaine about the things that make her characters different (aspiring authors, consider these points).


"I’ve always been fascinated with the Slavic fae such as the rusalka, bannik, domovoi, and others... I have a tendency to take characters, who anyone else would probably use as the colorful secondary characters, and promote them to the status of main character."

(So consider using less common mythologies and traditions--they are still amazingly rich but have the advantage of still feeling beautifully foreign; and realize that characters support each other better in different ways and perhaps in different positions.)

For those aspiring authors and readers wondering about how much research goes into a book like Elaine's, Elaine pointed out:

"I do enormous amounts of research for every book I write. In the case of Daughter of Snow, I had to hit the library and read up on everything I could find, not only about Slavic faery lore, but about things like Russian bathhouses and insane asylums in the 1800s. Fortunately I live near a university, so I spend a lot of time in the library there during the planning phase of any book."

So, Elaine's advice?
  1. explore different mythologies and all options
  2. research all aspects of you book
  3. let characters find their proper spot/voice in your story
  4. work on achieving logical characterization
Thank you, Elaine, for being with us and sharing such neat information with us about your writing!

Don't forget Elaine's links:
Daughter of Snow (and the previous novels in the series: Winter’s Orphans, Prince of Ash, and The Sundered Stone) will be available in hardcover, trade paperback, and ebook from any of the major online bookstores, or direct from the publisher at http://www.mundania.com.

Website http://www.onecrow.net
Twitter http://twitter.com/ElaineCorvidae