For Writers

writer-605764_640Now that I have a few books under my belt, and am both self- and traditionally published, I get asked a lot of questions about writing. I don’t share a lot of information here on writing per se, but I thought I’d go ahead and provide answers to the most common questions I get asked.

1) How do you find the time?
I’ve wasted a lot of time not writing. I’m busy, like most other people, but in truth, I’m not too busy to write. What I’ve learned over the years is that I’m more likely to get my writing done if I do it first thing in the morning. In the afternoon, I don’t have the mental energy, and in the evening, I don’t want to do anything but veg.

My current schedule is to write at least 1,000 words every morning on my current book. Usually I get over a thousand in about an hour. If I’m in the middle of edits, I’ll work on those instead.

Ultimately, if you want to write, you can’t find the time, you have to make the time.

2) What is your writing process?
I’ve been trying to pay much more attention to this because I get asked this a lot. My writing process is pretty much panster (by the seat of my pants); however, that doesn’t mean I don’t know what I’m doing when I sit down to write. For the most part, my my writing process is:

  1. Get an idea.
  2. Idea percolates: During this time, I get clearer ideas about what’s happening to whom. While I don’t have a whole outline, I usually have characters and key scenes.
  3. Create a crime board. If the book is a mystery, I try to at least make a list of suspects, means, motives and clues. I don’t always fill in the board completely, because so much comes during the writing process.
  4. Start writing. I’ve always been able to write the beginning and it rarely changes. After that, I’ll write whatever is in my brain. For example, I have the opening, a few middle and the last scene written of Wed to You: Southern Heat Book Three. Then I have to hope the rest of the book comes to me.
  5. Revise. During this time, scenes are fleshed or weeded out. I’ll usually revise several times.
  6. Edit. During the edit, I’m looking for errors and other problems, although revising often occurs.

3) How did you learn the “rules” of writing?
Many beginning writers aren’t aware of the rules, beyond grammar. Some of this I learned by reading books on writing. The only problem with this method is that you think you’re following the rule when you’re not. Or the rule isn’t listed. The best way to learn how to be a marketable writer is through feedback from someone who knows the rules (other successful writers, writing courses, agent, etc).

4) What is the hardest part of writing for you?
There are three areas I struggle with:

  • Figuring out the complete story. So much of what happens in my stories comes during the writing, but sometimes, I get stuck and have trouble figuring out how to get from where I am to the end.
  • Plucking the right words and providing depth. These are related issues and usually are a problem when I’m telling instead of showing. Especially in romances, where you need words to convey emotional and physical feelings, having the right word is crucial.
  • Editing. In this case, I don’t mean my editing, but instead, dealing with edits back from a professional editor. It feels a lot like getting homework back from the teachers. The amount of markups can lead to feeling like I’m a bad writer. This is especially true if I can’t figure out how to fix what the editor thinks is wrong. Other times it’s frustrating because I may not agree with the editor.

5) What is the most rewarding part of writing.
There are a couple of things:

  • When the words and story are flowing, it’s completely awesome.
  • Writing “The End.”
  • Seeing the completed work, especially in print.
  • Having people enjoy the work.

6) Which is better; self- or traditional publishing?

Each has their pros and cons. Self-publishing gives you total control and you can get your book out into the world faster. In many cases, self-publishing can earn you more per book, even when selling it at a lower price than traditionally published books. But it has greater expense because you need to hire an editor (yes…you have to do this!!) and a cover artist (yes, you should pay for that too).

Traditional publishing continues to carry greater prestige and has greater distribution for print. It doesn’t cost anything to work with a publisher. However, it can take forever, and you have play by the publishers rules, which means you may have to make changes (or sometimes they’re made for you without your knowing it).

Both require a commitment to sell the book when it’s published. Don’t expect your publisher to spend money or time marketing your book for you. To make money with either option, you need to tell the world about your book. If you fail to sell the book, a traditional publisher may drop you. If you do well self- or traditionally publishing, you increase the odds of selling another book to a publisher.

7) What is your advice to writers?

If you want to make money writing, you have to really love writing. You’ll have an easier time making money doing just about anything else. Very few authors, including many who have deals with Big 5 publishers make a living with their books.  Along with enjoying writing, you should:

  • Learn about writing through books, courses and others who are successful.
  • Read.
  • Get and listen to feedback about your writing. You don’t necessarily have to do what others say, but you should listen, especially if the person knows about writing.
  • Write.
  • Write.
  • Write.

And if you want to sell your writing, you should also start building your author’s platform now. It’s never too soon to start selling your book. In fact, if you want a traditional book deal, it will help if you already have the base in place from with to reach readers (blog, social media, etc).

Let me leave you this video from Mike and Molly, because it resonates with me and most authors I know. When you’re feeling like writing is too hard, it’s a fun one to watch. And then get back to writing.