FAQ for Writers

Welcome to my FAQ for Writers.  It's a work-in-progress, so feel free to send questions you'd like to see answered, and I will do my best to keep it up-to-date. For now, let’s pour ourselves a glass of wine or tea, sit back, and chat.

DO YOU TEACH WRITING?

I’m available to speak at conferences, seminars, and retreats throughout the year. Please see my ‘News’ page for details and links. This list is updated regularly, so check-in often. If you find an event or workshop that strikes your fancy, come join us. I’d love to meet you.

DO YOU DO MANUSCRIPT CRITIQUES OR MENTORSHIPS? CAN I SEND YOU MY MANUSCRIPT TO READ?

As much as I love to read, I am not able to read unsolicited manuscripts. There are people just like you, also in search of help with their craft. Go online, nurture honest relationships with other writers, find a local writers group you can be part of, share your work. One of my greatest accomplishments as a writer is the friends I’ve made along the way.

WHO IS YOUR LITERARY AGENT?

I am represented by Catherine Luttinger of Darhansoff and Verrill. Wonderful agent, fabulous agency. If you would like to submit your work to Catherine, research the guidelines and instructions on the Darhansoff and Verrill website: www.dvagency.com.

WOULD YOU WRITE A BLURB FOR MY BOOK?

Please contact my publisher, Driven Press, for blurb requests, and please understand I am only able to blurb specifically selected books

I AM A WRITER AND I WANT TO PUBLISH MY BOOK. WHERE DO I START?

First off, congratulations!  It takes a lot of work to complete a novel. Even more to edit, edit, and edit more. Here are some ‘next step’ suggestions:

  • If your manuscript is finished (really finished, as in edited-until-you’re-blue-in-the-face-finished), pick a select group of friends or family who like to read, and ask them to assist you. Set a mutually realistic time frame for the manuscript to be read, then book a private, in-person meet, to discuss details
  • When you sit down with each of your readers, you should have a thorough list of questions prepared, in writing, with lots of room to document answers. You want to know what this reader thought of the characters, setting, timeline, pacing, the start, middle, and end.  Ask relevant questions without expecting specific answers. Open your mind to possibilities, and check your ego at the door. If you handle this right, your reader will spill an endless amount of perspective, helping you in ways you never thought possible
  • Take all you’ve learned from each reader, and search for consistencies and points that make you think twice. Make changes to your manuscript based on these insights and gut feel
  • Then put your book aside for a while: three weeks, four weeks, more if you can stand it.  Let it breathe, and while you wait, read other books. When it’s time, read through your manuscript with a new set of eyes, looking for specific weaknesses. Zap each as they come, and if there are many changes needed, start the process over until you get it right
  • When you feel your book is complete and no more can be done to make it better, pat yourself on the back and pour yourself a glass of wine. Enjoy the moment. Finishing is a feat unto itself – be proud. While you’re drinking, Google publishing options. There are several roads to publication, and only research will lead you down the path right for you. Oh, you might need more than one bottle of wine
  • If you wish to publish with a brick-and-mortar publishing house, you’ll need a literary agent to represent you. Some publishers allow writers to submit their work, but most do not accept unsolicited manuscripts from writers. You’ll need to write a query, which is a standard one-page industry letter that agents use to evaluate your work, and you’ll need to submit your query to reputable, well researched agencies. There is a ton of online information available to assist you with writing a good query, but the best advice I can give is to keep it simple, professional, and clean (edited)
  • If you wish to self-publish, now is the time to do it. Today, author’s have choices galore. Again, you’ll need to do your homework, and understand YOU become the publisher, editor, agent, artist, programmer, salesforce, etc. It’s a big job, but many embrace self-publishing and find success. It’s a business. The best advice I’ve seen is from author Jamie McGuire, where she explains the basics of self-publishing in the FAQ’s for Writers tab of her website; a highly recommended read if you’re interested in self-publishing
  • Once you’re on the publishing track, grow some patience and write another book! The fun has just begun

WHAT IS YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS? 

If you’ve heard the terms ‘plotter’ and ‘pantser,’ I’ve been both, but prefer the first. I wrote the first draft of A Keeper’s Truth by the seat of my pants. Thrilling, but a lot of work to edit. I learned my lesson, and read a ton of books on the craft, plus plotting and planning, before writing GOT. This, for me, proved to be much more productive. I had dozens of pages worth of notes (character profiles, historical research, locale, world building, timelines, etc) before writing word one of GOT, and never once questioned where the story was headed. This allowed me to focus on how I would write instead of what I would write. Now, I doubt I’ll ever fly blind again.

WHERE DO YOU COME UP WITH YOUR IDEAS? WHAT STEPS DO YOU TAKE TO LAUNCH AN IDEA AND MAKE A NOVEL OUT OF IT? 

Great questions. I find ideas everywhere, and if I keep my eyes open, I’ll catch them passing on a breeze. The smallest thing can spur my curiosity, making me wonder why, how, or what.  If 33% of the world believes in a Catholic God, what does the remaining 67% believe?  How did dinosaurs jump from imaginary to real in less than a generation? What if the automobile was never invented? The possibilities are endless. The key is spotting an idea that really strikes my interest, enough to make me dive deep, uncovering a character’s secrets. Juicy stuff.

DO YOU WRITE PARANORMAL, ROMANCE, WOMEN’S FICTION, SUSPENSE, THRILLERS, OR WHAT?

Hold on while I climb on my wobbly soapbox… Genre doesn’t matter, and I write what I love to read. I think one can legitimately label my work as paranormal, suspense, fantasy, romance, or simply fiction. I believe my books are literary, because they make you think, and commercial, because they appeal to the masses. Marketing departments need to label an author, to promote a book to a specific audience. But I think the best books straddle genres and attract a variety of readers. 

HOW LONG DOES IT USUALLY TAKE YOU TO WRITE A FULL LENGTH (80,000+ WORD) NOVEL?

My first book, A Keeper’s Truth, took 10 weeks to write. I was seized with an idea and the characters were relentless. It happened at a time in my life (family death and illness) I needed an escape, and writing provided an outlet. Don’t be impressed. A Keeper’s Truth took over two years to edit. Writing is one thing. Writing well is another. And I had  a lot to learn. 

My second series, GOT, took 9 months to write. Only this time, I had more tricks up my sleeve, and by the time I wrote ‘the end,’ I was many edits closer to done. Among other things, I’d learned how to plan better, plot better, and edit as I go. My agent and I did final edits before submitting GOT to publishers, but these only took a few weeks.

My advice: don’t rush it. I’ve never once forced my rear into the chair to write. Write because you love to, like there is no hour glass.

WHAT IS THE BEST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU’VE EVER RECEIVED REGARDING WRITING?

Do it for yourself. Write for you, because you love it, because writing makes you happy, because there is no other way you’d like to spend your time. Life it too short to have it any other way. Oh, and read A LOT.

WHERE DO I GET MORE INFORMATION ABOUT WRITING?

The internet. Books. Writer friends. 

Online, I suggest you check out the following websites. These are my go-to sites that not only provide amazing information, but motivate:

Craft books I couldn’t live without: The Elements of Style by E.B White, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne & Dave King, Essentials of English Grammar by L.Sue Baugh, Wired for Story by Lisa Cron, and anything written by Donald Maass, although my favourite is Writing the Breakout Novel.

The best places to meet fellow writers: writer clubs, book clubs, seminars, conferences, writing classes and courses, webinars, book signings, readings, and online forums such as twitter, facebook, and blogs. People of shared interests gravitate to others who want to learn the same things. Keep an open mind, explore, and build honest relationships. Friends might not make you a better writer, but they will toast your successes and hug away your heartaches. And what, my friend, could be better than that?