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For Writers

Now 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.

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* If you’re a romance writer and want more information, support, resources, and a community to help you with writing, publishing, and marketing your book, please check out Write With Harte.

1) How do you find the time to write?

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 out.

My current schedule is to write at least 3,000 words every morning on my current book. Usually I get over a 1500 to 1800 in about an hour if I’m typing and the full 3,000 in an hour or less if I’m dictating. 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. I’m a pantster by nature, but when I started ghostwriting, I had to learn to plot. When I write from a plot the writing goes soooooo much faster and without getting stuck, which I love. Unlike other pantsters, I don’t feel stifled or bored. I feel excited because I’m writing and I feel more attached to the story. I’m eager to get it down. But if I feel like the story needs to change, I change it. Plots are guides not rules.

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, major plot points, and key scenes. I do better at not getting stuck with a chapter by chapter plot, but I can usually work with having the major elements of the story.
  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. Now that I plot more, I tend to write in order, but if I do get stuck, I’ll write whatever is in my brain which could be the ending.
  5. Revise. During this time, I flesh or weed out scenes. I usually revise several times.
  6. Edit. During the edit, I’m looking for errors and other problems, although revising often occurs during that time as well.

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).

I highly recommend critique groups for this reason. Other writers can see things in your writing that you can’t because you’re too close to it. You write what is in your head and that vision is layered over it when you read. Only another reader can let you know if your words adequately articulated what you intended.

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 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. Lucky for me, my last few edits have been minor! I must be getting better!

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. Most times, 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 costs nothing to work with a publisher. However, it can take forever (a year and half or more), and you have to play by the publishers rules, which means you may have to make changes. I haven’t ever been asked to make significant changes, but I have heard from other authors who say they did.

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.

The final option is to do both, which is what I do. The Valentines have always been self-published. The Southern Heat series was initially traditionally published, but I got my rights back and now self-publish. The Sophie Parker Mysteries are traditionally published.

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 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).

Again, if you’re a romance writer and want more information, support, resources, and a community to help you with writing, publishing, and marketing your book, please check out Write With Harte.