Posts tagged ‘writing’

Hearts on the Line- Is writing Still an Art?


   I read a very heart-rending blog post today, which I highly recommend to anyone at any point in the writing arena. Whether you are just thinking of writing a book someday or a full-blown published author, this blog post will do nothing less than enlighten you.

Go ahead and read it, and the one it refers to, then get back to me and read my own personal response to all the feelings they bring to the surface for me.

Go here: http://welcometotheasylum.net/2011/06/27/hemming-the-bone-veil/#comment-1510

 

First of all, this is some really deep stuff. I suppose I had a dream a long time ago when I was writing my first book, not knowing a damn thing about the reality of the publishing clockworks. After I was published by a small publishing house- no advance, no marketing help, no tours or publicity- the previous naivete dropped away and I was left with the knowing that this is just another business. The art of it is quickly stripped away when an author transfers themselves from the art of the writing to the business of marketing; becoming, instead of an artist, a salesperson of sorts. I’ve spent way more time trying to hawk my four books than I have on doing what I felt born to do: write great stories. And as time goes by and I find I am a small fish in a big pond of bigger and better storytellers, the love I once had for the art has become so jaded that I now find it hard to write at all. After all, I have shared my very soul with this world; put my heart out there where it was judged just not good enough. That’s enough, I’d say, to have reason to put up a thousand veils. I just ain’t the sales type. But, hey, I still love every bit of what I’ve put down on paper. And I have to believe, nay KNOW, that that is enough. Because in the end, that’s where the only real happiness lies.

 

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Some Backstory on Me


I’ve been writing for what seems like forever. My mom taught me to read even before I started kindergarten, so I was highly praised in school for my awesome talent! My mother also read a lot, which made me want to read a lot, too. So I read and I read and I read. Finally, somewhere along the way, I started getting this little feeling inside me saying, “I bet I could write better than that.”

Since my self-esteem wasn’t too great it took me many years before I actually wrote something big: a play titled Angel in the House. It was for a women’s lit. class, and was highly acclaimed by the teacher and my fellow students. I got such a rush from writing down all this stuff that I had made up in my head that I wrote a novella titled Native Vengeance. I wanted to start small so I could see what it took to get a large number of words all together in one place. It worked! So I decided to write an entire novel this time, titled Quantum Earth.

I felt so ‘in the zone’ while writing. It was a high like no other! The next step was finding someone to publish my book. That took almost as long as writing the darned thing! But at long last, I ended up with two different publishers wanting it. I made that hard choice and waited for the revision process. My manuscript went back and forth between my editor and me a few times till we got it right. I was so thrilled at this point I could barely eat!

Of course the boom hit when I found out about the marketing aspect of writing a book. I did a crash course on marketing online, trying to figure out the best way to get my book and my name out there to the reading public. I won’t go into much detail as I’m sure you all know by now how much work and a pain in the arse all that is. And all that work seemed like it was for nothing because almost nobody was buying my book no matter what I did.

Nevertheless, the following year I had my second book, Deadly Lucidity, published. But, alas, nobody was buying much of them either. I consulted a book marketing pro, willing to pay him if I had to so I could just sell a few more books. I was surprised when he told me I didn’t need his services as I was doing everything possible, and it was just a matter of time before my books caught on. Very interesting, I thought.

Then I made friends with someone who was self-publishing his own books, and edified me on why self-publishing is really so much better for a writer than traditional for so many reasons. I was convinced. I published Earthwalker and Native Vengeance within a week. I was very happy with self-publishing for a lot of reasons, like having control of my own work, getting paid WAY more for each paper and e-book sold, having all the information about each sale and who bought it, etc. So I went to my publisher and asked for the rights to my first two books so I could publish those, too. I published Quantum Earth in January, and will publish Deadly Lucidity sometime in the fall.

These days I have what I think is a dynamite idea for a new book: a young reporter is assigned to do a story about the latest drug craze that is raging like wildfire across the U.S. To do the story justice she decides to experiment by taking this drug herself, the effects of which are mind traveling to other dimensions. I don’t have a title as of yet, but I’m pretty excited about starting to get it down on paper. So what’s stopping me you may ask? I have to kick some ideas around in my head a bit more before it is solidified enough to warrant actual pen and paper. Ya see, as most of you may know already, writing a whole gosh darn book is a huge commitment not to be taken lightly. You best be sure you have enough words to last the whole way through!

Writing Action Scenes by Julie Achterhoff


Somewhere along the way I had to learn how to write a good action scene. At first I started out with a wing and a prayer- but that doesn’t get you very far when you want your readers to experience what you’ve created in your head. I was terrified looking at that blank page the first time I tried to write one. They aren’t easy because of the simple fact that they happen so darned fast in real life- or the movies and T.V. Maybe that’s one reason we like them so much. They pump up the adrenaline, which is exactly what you want to do when writing a good piece of action.

My first suggestion, as always is to read, read, read. After you’ve done that, find a movie where you like a particular action sequence, and rent it. You want to be able to pause it at will. Then sit down with a pad and pen and write what you see. And remember above all: show, don’t tell! This will be a challenge, but if you try this a few times you should get the hang of it.

After you feel like you have a good one, show it to a friend or family member and ask them if they can “feel” it. If you’re privy to another writer or writing group, ask them what they think of it.

Action scenes can be hard if you’re not used to writing them, but they are also a lot of fun once you get them down.

 

 

Interview with Respected Author Amy Romine


As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?

A Charlie’s Angel. And am totally serious… so then I wanted to be a cop. Then an actress on a cop show (see a pattern here?), and then, finally, a writer. A Marine Biologist snuck its way in there too along the way. Basically I have always craved adventure and drama. It took me a little while, but eventually I figured out how to have everything I wanted. I needed to write.

 

What inspired you to write your first book?

I wrote my first book because of a crush. It was a fantasy of a ‘what if’ scenario. I still have it and the hero of my story will always have a special place in my heart.

 

Do you have a specific writing style? I would say yes, but to be honest I don’t know. I guess I do, although I wouldn’t know how to explain it. I just write.

 

Has your environment/upbringing colored your writing? Yes and No. I am a child of divorce and I suppose that has fueled a lot of the fantasy. I come from a family of strong women, so all of my female characters are strong women. So in that aspect, yes it has.

 

How did you come up with the title for your book(s)? Very carefully (lol!). Titles are tricky, my current release, Serenity Lost, is one in a three book series that in fact started as one book. When we decided to split it into three I had to come up with three new titles! I struggled with the three titles for a while until something fit, and here we are. I think the three titles I have selected reflect what is happening in that particular part of the series. Don’t know what I mean, guess you have to read and find out. To be honest, sometimes finding the title of a piece is instantaneous, other times it is a struggle. Depends completely on the book.

 

How much of your work is realistic? I am very conscious of anchoring my story and characters in reality, although I will totally use dramatic license when called upon. I try to stay within the realms of the believable, although I may bend it a little to suit my needs.

 

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing? Action sequences. We have a love hate relationship. I love to put them in…hate to write them. Although, thanks to my awesome editor, I have gotten better.

 

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book? Nothing. And I am even surprised by that answer. I can honestly say the Trust Me series is exactly how I imagined it. I am in love with the story and the characters. Everything about it, to me, is perfection, and I am very proud of it.

Where do you hope to take your writing in the future?

My writing has opened so many doors for me already. I will follow the path and see where it takes me!

What advice would you give to writers just starting out?

Write what you know. Write what sparks your inner muse, your passion. Stay true to it and the rest will come.

 

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?

On occasion, yes, and I write my way through it. I just keep writing until the spark hits and then I am back on track.

 

How did you deal with rejection letters?

Rejection is always hard. I tried to look at it as it was one more step towards yes!

 

What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?

First, dialogue. You can tell the whole story with dialogue alone if you are good enough. The other note that stands out in my favorites is a center, a core to the piece. It is called the theme, but I don’t like the term as it scares people. What is your story about? Beginning, end, down to the nitty gritty. When you figure it out you stick to it. Every line, and description, is attached to your core and it is the glue that holds your prose together.

 

How do you develop your plots and characters? Do you use any set formula?

Plot and characters are always fun and I don’t have a set formula perse. When I have an idea, I work out a loose interpretation of it in an outline. From there I start writing…the characters, the expanded plot and where it goes just grows from there. It may be a little unorthodox but it works.

 

What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?

A thesaurus, access to Google, a notebook, and a plethora of pens. For me, along with my computer I am set.

 

How long does it take you to write a book?

Beginning to end, including rewrites and editing, approximately six months.

 

What is your work schedule like when writing?

I write everyday, no excuses.Usually from 6:30am to 8am and then from 8 pm to 11 pm during the week. Weekends are as much as humanly possible (working of course around 3 kids a job and a so-called life)

 

What are your current projects?

Books 2 and 3 of the the Trust Me Series are in final editing at Ecstasy Books (Book 2 is due to be released in Dec 2010).

I am working on the rewrite of my second series, currently untitled, which I hope will premiere in 2011.

I have also become a contributor for the Red Lipstick Journals, an erotic blog anchored by some of the best erotica writers in the market right now.

Last, but not least, I have become a contributing editor at Bella Online for their Prime Time TV category.

 

Can you share a little of your current work with us?

Well, Book 2 and 3 of the Trust Me series get seriously twisted. While Rebecca struggles with her feelings for Eric, the stalker keeps escalating until the unthinkable happens, ripping everyone’s world to shreds. In Book 3, not to give too much away, but let’s just say an old face comes back to haunt Rebecca, and a string of unexpected events soon follow!

 

My new series is centered around the meeting of Jack Tucker, local celebrity player and Dallas Radio personality and the love of his life, FBI Agent Kate Weiss.

Jack has everything he needs, a life, a career, money. A complicated life wasn’t worth the energy in Jack’s eyes. Why make it harder than it needs to be?

Kate is recovering from an undercover operation gone wrong. Her physical and emotional wounds still fresh. She stays with her mentor for a few weeks, helping out at his radio station.

Take these two independent souls, throw in a little intrigue, a dash of conspiracy, and you have the makings of an edge of your seat thriller!

 

What is the last book you read?

I just finished Earthwalker by Julie Achteroff. What an amazing story, absolutely loved it!

 

If you could be any character in fiction, who would you be?

Diana Tregarde from the Mercedes Lackey novels She is a pychic and a romance novelist! All of my dreams rolled into one!

 

Tell us about one of your worst habit or quality?

Too nice. How can you be too nice? You don’t learn how to say “NO.” I overwhelm myself by not saying no.  I have gotten better though…

How do you tackle stress and define stress?

Stress. Funny you should ask this, I am going through a very stressful time at the moment. Stress to me is chaos. Now, I don’t mean regular chaos. I mean the train is running full speed off the track and you keep pulling on the broken brake in the hope of a miracle. I am a self-admitted control freak and I can handle a moderate amount of chaos in my life (I do have three kids after all, and choose to be a writer), but when real stress is one mess after another piling up, a girl can only handle so much!

 

If you were an animal what kind of animal would you be?

A house cat. I would love to be lazy all day!

What is your favorite color?

Green. To me it is the color of life.

 

What would I find in your refrigerator right now?

Yogurt, four gallons of milk, five bottles of Vault, hazelnut creamer, roast beef, and swiss cheese.

 

If you could trade places with any other person for a week, famous or not famous, living or dead, real or fictional who would it be?

Too many choices! Aghhh…Audrey Hepburn.

 

What was the last movie you went to see?

Cats and Dogs 2.

 

If you could be a superhero, what would you want your superpowers to be?

According to my kids Super Hugs and Super Kisses. Oh, and shape-shifting into a Hippo.

 

Finally, you know there’s a HUGE work up on Vampires lately. So: Vampire Diaries, True Blood or Twilight, and why?

True Blood definitely! Out of the three it is the most realistic. I do enjoy the other two, I watch the Vampire Diaries but my favorite is True Blood.

2-21-10


My oldest son died eight years ago by his own hand. I still struggle with the grief. I think we all suffer from some past grief, and it makes me wonder. Sometimes I don’t understand why we have to suffer on this world of ours. It’s such a strange setup in my opinion. I think that’s one reason us writers can reach into our imaginations and pull out the myriad of stories that want to be told.

I’ve been waiting for a dream to tell me what story I want to tell next. Nothing has been very clear as of yet. I know I want to have a strong, but quirky guy for the lead. I’m also thinking of maybe writing a screenplay instead of a novel this time. I have a software program for it that’s supposed to make it easier. I wrote a play called Angel in the House several years back. If I could do that, I think I could write a screenplay. And wouldn’t it just be the most exciting thing in the world to actually have it make it to the silver screen? I can’t imagine anything better. So maybe I’ll take a crack at it. I have some connections, too.

I wouldn’t want it like anything else I’ve seen. And it would have to have a love story sub-plot. I always have to have that. Except there would have to be a bunch of roadblocks. It won’t be easy. Maybe they work together. Maybe he’s a detective. Or he could be a poet caught up in something edgy. She could be his muse. Or possibly his enemy. He could be chasing her down, but find out later that he was wrong about her. She would be strong, too. But maybe she would be grieving over someone close to her that died. I want to put in a lot of atmosphere. Where should the story be set? I lived in San Francisco growing up, so I know the city pretty well. That’s option one. Option two would be a small town on the north coast of California just like where I now live. Humboldt County is about as screwy a place as you are likely to find in the U.S. It’s main sustaining economy is based on marijuana cultivation and sales.

So there it is; the beginning of a possible book or screenplay. I’ll be thinking of the storyline as I daydream in my head of all the different possibilities for these two characters. I feel like starting on it very soon.

2-7-10


Right now I’m very excited about my upcoming novel, Deadly Lucidity. I’ve already gotten a lot of great feedback about it and it’s not even out yet! I got to pick out the cover last week and am jazzed about that. I went through a long and grueling editing process to get everything just right. But it is definitely worth it. I’d like to thank everyone who have been visiting my little website. I’d also like to thank everyone who responded to my call for reviewers for Quantum Earth. I already have two nice reviews on amazon to show for it. There are about 25 of you out there reading Quantum Earth this weekend. I can’t wait to read your reviews, even if they have some criticism. We can all use to learn from that.

I will post when Deadly Lucidity is officially available and where to get it. I know a lot of you are looking forward to it. It’s been a long time coming due to a death in my publishers’ family. They are a husband and wife team. I have to give them a lot of credit. They make their authors feel like one big family, and do all they can to help us on the road.

I will be writing updates like this one more often. Until next time-

take care,
Julie

An Interview With Christina Katz


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An Interview with Christina Katz

Christina Katz is the author of Get Known Before the Book Deal, Use Your Personal Strengths to Grow an Author Platform and Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids for Writer’s Digest Books. She has written hundreds of articles for national, regional, and online publications, presents at literary and publishing events around the country, and is a monthly columnist for the Willamette Writer. Katz publishes a weekly e-zine, The Prosperous Writer, and hosts The Northwest Author Series. She holds an MFA in writing from Columbia College Chicago and a BA from Dartmouth College. A “gentle taskmaster” to her hundred or so students each year, Katz channels over a decade of professional writing experience into success strategies that help writers get on track and get published.

Q: What is a platform?

CK: Long story short: Your platform communicates your expertise to others, and it works all the time so you don’t have to. Your platform includes your Web presence, any public speaking you do, the classes you teach, the media contacts you’ve established, the articles you’ve published, and any other means you currently have for making your name and your future books known to a viable readership. If others already recognize your expertise on a given topic or for a specific audience or both, then that is your platform.

A platform-strong writer is a writer with influence. Get Known explains in plain English, without buzzwords, how any writer can stand out from the crowd of other writers and get the book deal. The book clears an easy-to-follow path through a formerly confusing forest of ideas so that even the most inexperienced platform-builder can get started building a solid platform.

Q: Why is platform development important for writers today?

CK: Learning about and working on a solid platform plan gives writers an edge in selling books. Agents and editors have known this for years and have been looking for platform-strong writers and getting them deals. But from the writer’s point-of-view, there has not been enough information on platform development to help unprepared writers put their best platform forward.

Now suddenly, there is a flood of information on platform, not all necessarily comprehensive, useful or well organized for folks who don’t have a platform yet. Writers can promote themselves in a gradual, grounded manner without feeling like they are selling out. I do it, I teach other writers to do it, I write about it on an ongoing basis, and I encourage all writers to heed the trend. And hopefully, I communicate how in a practical, step-by-step manner that can serve any writer. Something we never hear enough is that platform development is an inside job requiring concentration, thoughtfulness and a consideration of personal values.

Q: Why was a book on platform development needed?

CK: At every conference I presented, I took polls and found that about 50 percent of attendees expressed a desire for a clearer understanding of platform. Some were completely in the dark about it, even though they were attending a conference in hopes of landing a book deal. Writers often underestimate how important platform is and they often don’t leverage the platform they already have as much as they could. Since book deals are granted largely based on the impressiveness of a writer’s platform, I wanted to address the communication gap.

My intention was that Get Known would be the book every writer would want to read before attending a writer’s conference, and that it would increase any writer’s chances of landing a book deal whether they pitched in-person or by query. As I wrote the book, I saw how this type of information was being offered online as “insider secrets” at outrageous prices. No one should have to pay thousands of dollars for the information they can find in my book for the price of a paperback! Seriously. You can even ask your library to order it and read it for free.

Q: What is the key idea behind Get Known Before the Book Deal?

CK: Getting known doesn’t take a lot of money, but it does take an understanding of platform, and the investment of time, skills and consistent effort to build one. Marketing experience and technological expertise are also not necessary. I show how to avoid the biggest time and money-waster, which is not understanding who your platform is for and why – and hopefully save writers from the confusion and inertia that can result from either information overload or not taking the big picture into account before they jump into writing for traditional publication.

Q: Why is there so much confusion about platform among writers?

Often writers with weak platforms are over-confident that they can impress agents and editors, while others with decent platforms are under-confident or aren’t stressing their platform-strength enough. Writers have to wear so many hats these days, we can use all the help we can get. Platform development is a muscle, and the more you use it, the stronger it gets. Anyone can do it, but most don’t or won’t because they either don’t understand what is being asked for, or they haven’t overcome their own resistance to the idea. Get Known offers a concrete plan that can help any writer make gains in the rapidly changing and increasingly competitive publishing landscape.

Q: What is the structure of the book and why did you choose it?

CK: Get Known has three sections: section one is mostly stories and cautionary tales, section two has a lot of to-do lists any writer should be able to use, and section three is how to articulate your platform clearly and concisely so you won’t waste a single minute wondering if you are on the right track.

Most of the platform books already out there were for authors, not writers or aspiring authors. To make platform evolution easy to comprehend, I dialed the concepts back to the beginning and talked about what it’s like to try and find your place in the world as an author way before you’ve signed a contract, even before you’ve written a book proposal. No one had done that before in a book for writers. I felt writers needed a context in which to chart a course towards platform development that would not be completely overwhelming.

Q: At the front of Get Known, you discuss four phases of the authoring process. What are they?

CK: First comes the platform development and building phase. In this phase you are developing authority and trust. Second comes the book proposal development phase (or if you are writing fiction, the book-writing phase). In this phase, you are leveraging your expertise and your persuasive writing skills. Third, comes the actual writing of the book (for fiction writers this is likely the re-writing of the book). In this phase, you demonstrate that you are a skilled writer, who understands how to craft polished prose. And finally, once the book is published, comes the book marketing and promoting phase. In this final phase, you leverage all your existing influence and connect with as many readers as you can.

Many first-time authors scramble once they get a book deal if they haven’t done a thorough job on the platform development phase. Writers who already have a platform have influence with a fan base, and they can leverage that influence no matter what kind of book they write. Writing a book is a lot easier if you are not struggling to find readers for the book at the same time. Again, agents and editors have known this for a long time.

Q: What are some common platform mistakes writers make?

CK: Here are a few:

  • They don’t spend time clarifying who they are to others.

  • They don’t zoom in specifically on what they offer.

  • They confuse socializing with platform development.

  • They think about themselves too much and their audience not enough.

  • They don’t precisely articulate all they offer so others get it immediately.

  • They don’t create a plan before they jump online.

  • They undervalue the platform they already have.

  • They are overconfident and think they have a solid platform when they have only made a beginning.

  • They burn out from trying to figure out platform as they go.

  • They imitate “insider secrets” instead of trusting their own instincts.

  • They blog like crazy for six months and then look at their bank accounts and abandon the process as going nowhere.

Suffice it to say that many writers promise publishers they have the ability to make readers seek out and purchase their book. But when it comes time to demonstrate this ability, they can’t deliver.

Q: You write, teach, speak and blog. What motivates you?

My mission is to empower writers to be 100 percent responsible for their writing career success and stop looking to others to do their promotional work for them. Get Known shows writers of every stripe how to become the writer who can not only land a book deal, but also influence future readers to plunk down ten or twenty bucks to purchase their book. It all starts with a little preparation and planning. The rest unfolds from there. But you’ve got to start working on your platform today, if you want to become an author some day. Get Known can help anyone get off to a solid start.

Christina Katz is the author of Get Known Before the Book Deal, Use Your Personal Strengths to Grow an Author Platform and Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids for Writer’s Digest Books. She has written hundreds of articles for national, regional, and online publications, presents at literary and publishing events around the country, and is a monthly columnist for the Willamette Writer. Katz publishes a weekly e-zine, The Prosperous Writer, and hosts The Northwest Author Series. She holds an MFA in writing from Columbia College Chicago and a BA from Dartmouth College. A “gentle taskmaster” to her hundred or so students each year, Katz channels over a decade of professional writing experience into success strategies that help writers get on track and get published. Learn more at ChristinaKatz.com.

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