June 8th, 2018

Why Co-Writing May Be My New Favorite Thing

In our last Pimp and Promote, I mentioned that I’m working on a joint project right now with my critique partner, award-winning author Christina Delay.

What I’m really doing is having so much fun writing right now, it should be illegal.

Not that writing isn’t still work — it certainly is — but Christina and I recently hatched an idea to co-write a novella, and so far this experience has buoyed my spirits and refreshed my soul. I didn’t think co-writing would be a good idea for me, but as it turns out, this endeavor has hit on so many aspects I enjoy about writing.

© Javier Sánchez Mingorance

The excitement of brainstorming

You know those moments when your novel and your characters are coming together enough that you can see them, but nothing is set in stone? That’s when you get to brainstorm all the great directions your story could take. And having someone to bounce ideas off can really help you hone your characters and your plot.

But now we’re bouncing back and forth, playing off each other’s ideas, feeling the synergy of two minds instead of one. And what we’re coming up with together is better than we would have done alone.

The advantage of collaboration

In some areas of writing, we are both strong, but in other areas one is weak and the other is strong. So while I struggle to write powerful viscerals, my critique partner is phenomenal at that. And I’m not half bad at dialogue and especially banter. By collaborating, we can turn out a story that shows both of our strengths.

We’re also able to edit one another in real time, so that we stay on track and draw out each other’s best writing.

The efficiency of word count

Writing a novella on my own means having to write 20k words or more. But having a partner means I’m only responsible for 10k words. You know how quickly this means we can turn out a book? In half the time! (Yes, writers can do math when it benefits us.)

There is more coordination required in plotting, characterization, scheduling, etc., but it’s more than made up for by the efficiency of getting the writing itself done. With each of us writing about 5k a week, we could conceivably turn out a first draft in two weeks. Even taking twice that long — which is probably more realistic — it’s still one month to reach a full novella, working together.

The element of surprise

Whether you’re a plotter or a pantser, there’s a point where you don’t know what’s going to happen next. And when you discover that, you feel surprised by the turn your story took.

But the way my partner and I are writing, we each just go in, add words, and edit one another—no holds barred, total trust. And instead of opening the WIP the next time and thinking, Oh no, what the heck did she do to my book?! I’m nearly giddy reading how she has twisted one of my phrases in a better way, deepened my characterization, taken us down a path I didn’t quite see.

Now we have enough of a plot that neither of us will go too far off the path, but there’s a delicious element of surprise as I experience our story both as a writer and as a fully engaged reader.

Will the fun continue at the rate it has been thus far? I’m sure we’ll have speed bumps along the way, but I’ve had that by myself with every book I’ve ever written. This time, however, I have someone right there to not only sympathize but empathize — and then resolve the issue and move on with the story.

If you’re considering a co-writing relationship, here are some tips we’ve already embraced:

  1. Partner with someone you’ve read a lot. Know what their voice and style are, so you can make sure you’re a good match.
  2. Decide your characters’ goals and themes early on. What’s driving this story or series? You need to be on the same page about the story arc.
  3. Discuss your strengths and weaknesses, so it’s clear where you want your partner to carry some extra weight for you and vice versa.
  4. Trust each other with your words. Be willing to edit each other and embrace the changes your partner makes. If you don’t agree, talk it out, but it’s often best to let the synergy happen.
  5. Touch base often. Tag each other when you’ve written something, or ask them to take a look at a scene you’re not sure about. Make sure you’re still on track with the plot and characters.
  6. Have fun. Brainstorm with excitement, let yourself be surprised by your partner, embrace the story that unfolds as the sum of your two parts make something bigger than either of you could do alone.

Is co-writing for everyone? I doubt it. But if you’ve been thinking about it, maybe it’s worth giving it a shot. Even just writing a short story for fun and seeing how it goes—no pressure.

You might be as gobsmacked as we’ve been at how wonderful this experience has been.

Have you tried co-writing or considered it? What tips do you have for a successful co-writing relationship?

ABOUT JULIE

Julie Glover writes mysteries and young adult fiction. Her YA contemporary novel, SHARING HUNTER, finaled in the 2015 RWA® Golden Heart®. When not writing, she collects boots, practices rampant sarcasm, and advocates for good grammar and the addition of the interrobang as a much-needed punctuation mark.

Julie is represented by Louise Fury of The Bent Agency. You can visit her website here and also follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

June 6th, 2018

Give Your Readers What They Want

Yesterday I opened an e-mail from a source that I usually delete without reading.  I’d purchased something from a “sister” company a month ago, and it seems that every week a new spin-off email touting the same information I’d wanted when I bought that resource book lands in my inbox. And though some of the teaser subject lines draw me in, I rarely get to the payoff, because page after page just hypes up the promise of how much I need the information, how useful it will be, for pages and pages. And it’s never been true. 

But then, I’m an optimist. And I clicked yesterday. The second screen gave me a fraction of information, though the text was dense. The next screen another fraction, but with more hype. Determined to make it to the end, I continued clicking, skimming the words, becoming more and more irritated. When I noticed the scroll bar at the edge of my browser, I scrolled to the end. It was quite distant from that first page. I’d blown almost half an hour running after my “carrot.”

And at the end, a screen wanting my e-mail address to take me to another site, from which they would send me what had been promised as only a click away, thirty minutes before.

I went to each of those five “sister” addresses and unsubscribed I was so angry. They’d promised me something, given me the terms for that first click, then never delivered. I’m not going to spend time deleting one more of their unread e-mails. They get no more of my time. Or money, beyond that initial purchase.

Last night I thought about how, as writers, we make the same “deal” with those who purchase our books. As a genre fiction author, I better deliver the expectations of those who read my genre. For instance, if I write a murder mystery, a dead body better show up fairly early in the page count. When I read a romance novel, I expect to be caught up in the highs and lows of falling in love by the 25% mark. If I’m known for my space battles, there better be at least one big one in the manuscript. When someone purchases one of my books, they are purchasing a message in a bottle. It’s my job to make that message one that delivers on the promise.

Though I’ve never thrown a book across the room, I’ve heard people talk about getting upset with the progression of a story or the non-progression of a character. Instead of setting the book down for another try later, they heave the book against a wall, accompanied by colorful language, followed by stuffing it into the trash with a promise to never buy a book from that author again.

I’m a very loyal person. And reader. But my favorite authors have changed over the years. Maybe because I’ve changed. Maybe because I haven’t and they did. I can name each author and the last book I read—and why that book was the last one of theirs that I purchased. It’s always because I expected one thing and got another.

As we begin the summer pitch/submission season, I’d like to remind you that as you write, whether you are a debut author or a much-published best-seller, remember to deliver the goods to your readers. Stay true to your brand. Stay true to your reader.

Write the best story you are capable of writing. Make the approach for your current WIP fresh, different from what you’ve published before. Stay out of the ruts that are easy to fall into. If this is the third book in a row where the main characters meet at a waterfall, you may want to rethink that meet, unless that is the hook that sells your series. In which case, get them to the waterfall in different ways, have unexpected things happen at the waterfall or on the way home. 

Think of the last book you read that you really enjoyed. What made that book special? Chances are it made you feel something. Check your WIP again. What makes it special? What makes it sparkle long after the last page has been read?

That’s our challenge. Deliver the same goods, but in a different way. Satisfy the promise of your genre, but in a way your reader hasn’t thought about before. 

Not an easy task. That’s why it’s a challenge. But if you take the time to do it, and do it right, you’ll build a loyal following. And isn’t that the whole point of putting your stories “out there”?

As a genre fiction writer, have there been times when you’ve felt your story strayed from the given structure of your genre? What have you done? Do some of your stories fall between two genres? When that happens, how do you deal with meeting the expectations of both types of genre readers?

*  *  *  *  *  *

About Fae

Fae Rowen discovered the romance genre after years as a science fiction freak. Writing futuristics and medieval paranormals, she jokes  that she can live anywhere but the present. As a mathematician, she knows life’s a lot more fun when you get to define your world and its rules.

Punished, oh-no, that’s published as a co-author of a math textbook, she yearns to hear personal stories about finding love from those who read her books, rather than the horrors of calculus lessons gone wrong.  She is grateful for good friends who remind her to do the practical things in life like grocery shop, show up at the airport for a flight and pay bills.

A “hard” scientist who avoided writing classes like the plague, she now shares her brain with characters who demand that their stories be told.  Amazing, gifted critique partners keep her on the straight and narrow. Feedback from readers keeps her fingers on the keyboard, putting the finishing touches on P.R.I.S.M. Book Two.

P.R.I.S.M., a young adult science fiction romance story of survival, betrayal, resolve, deceit, lies, and love.

When she’s not hanging out at Writers in the Storm, you can visit Fae at http://faerowen.com  or www.facebook.com/fae.rowen

June 4th, 2018

11 Steps to Find and Connect with Other Authors in Your Genre

Donna Galanti

I’ve befriended many bestselling authors, online and in person, who want to help new writers. They’ve advised me, allowed me to guest post on their blogs, and have written blurbs for my work. They pay it forward. Someday you will too.

You are an author (or will be!) and it’s important to surround yourself with your author community. You are a member of the party now. And every party needs people to make it successful! 😊

Act respectful, professional, and positive in your reaching out to other authors and they will reciprocate. These people can be your biggest influencers when it comes to industry advice and connections with agents, editors, and publishers.

First — how to FIND Comparable Authors

  1. Start with authors you are familiar with in your genre and connect online and in-person.
  2. Conduct research to find other successful authors in your genre and connect with them online.
  3. Are you a debut author? Connect with other debut authors. Search online for “debut authors” and the year your book releases, plus “your genre,” to locate comparable debuts. On Goodreads, search in Lists for debut books by year and genre to match yours.
  4. Go to the Amazon page of a similar author in your genre. Click on their books and scroll down the page to see books readers also bought like theirs. Hop on over to those book pages and check out those authors to see if a good fit for you to connect with as well.

Second — How to CONNECT with Comparable Authors

  1. Add new author connections to a special private Twitter list called “Comparable Authors” and connect with them there on a regular basis and give them a shout out.
  2. Engage on their Facebook author pages with useful, positive comments. Share their posts to your audience.
  3. Comment on their blog posts with a useful remark or refer to something that you connected with in their post. This is a helpful tactic to draw the author and their followers into a conversation there, and they may connect back to your website and follow you online.
  4. Connect via a conference, book event, or convention. In connecting with authors online, check out their events page to see what events they may be attending in person. Are any local to you or ones you have an interest in attending? Be sure to connect in person at the event. Share why you love their books or follow their blog. Ask them a question that shows you’re interested in their work or ask for their best bit of advice for new authors on how to build a reader audience. Email them or post on social media after the event, letting them know you enjoyed meeting them and thank them for their time.
  5. Ask the authors you engage with to guest blog on your blog. Authors love to be interviewed and provide guest posts, if they have time. It’s exposure for them and you – and content for your website!
  6. Ask if YOU can guest blog on their blog and pitch an article idea that fits their audience (most folks love content for their blog!). I’ve had authors on group blogs ask me to fill in their monthly date spot if they are too busy.
  7. Join a group of debut authors. Start your own group if none! A book marketing collective is a strong way to help boost other authors and your own books. There is power in numbers. Banding with similar authors is a wonderful way to reach potential new readers while building a writer community as a resource

Be Sure to Avoid This Rookie Mistake:

Spamming an author’s Facebook wall and tagging them with your book or other promotion.

Go the Extra Mile:

Reach out to co-author blogs in your genre and ask if they are accepting new members as well as guest posts.

Banding with similar authors is a wonderful way to reach potential new readers while building a writer community as a resource.

Have you banded with other authors to build your influencer network? What worked for you? What are you willing to try that you haven’t done yet?

*  *  *  *  *  *

About Donna

 

Donna Galanti is the author of the bestselling paranormal suspense Element Trilogy and the children’s fantasy adventure Joshua and The Lightning Road series. She is represented by Bill Contardi of Brandt & Hochman Literary Agents, Inc. Donna is a contributing editor for International Thriller Writers the Big Thrill magazine and regularly presents as a guest author at schools. She’s lived from England as a child, to Hawaii as a U.S. Navy photographer.

Donna has long been a leader in the Mid-Atlantic writing scene as a workshop presenter and is a writing contest judge at nycmidnight.com. Donna also loves teaching writers about building author brand and platform through her free training series at yourawesomeauthorlife.com.

Visit her author website at donnagalanti.com.

Connect with Donna:
Twitter  
Facebook
Goodreads 

June 1st, 2018

Summer is Coming — Let’s Pimp & Promote!

Summer

Photo from Pixabay

Summer is coming up fast, and here at Writers in the Storm we’re marking the occasion with a little “Pimp and Promote.” Of course, this always costs us some money, because we have to go out and buy lots of books. But there will be awesome “beach read” sales in next few weeks, so let’s go for it!

How does this work?

To quote the genie in Aladdin, “There are a few provisos, a couple of quid-pro-quos…”

  • Pimp out somebody else’s work – this can be a favorite author, blogger, post or book you’ve read, a wonderful teacher or just someone who had profound influence on you as a writer or a person. Please limit your comments to one work.
    AND
  • Promote one of your projects that you’re excited about – a hobby, a blog, a book, or a new direction your writing is taking you. You decide. Just tell us about it in the comments! (Please restrain your enthusiasm to just one of your WIPs.) The rest of us will jump in and “ooooh and ahh” at you, and likely promote your project even further because we’re just so darn excited today.

We’ll start things off by doing some P&P with the gals here at WITS…

Fae Rowen launched her amazing PRISM series into the world and she’s hard at work readying her Keep Sphere series. Two words: Space Battles! Find out more at her website, http://faerowen.com

Jenny Hansen is in the middle of three marketing campaigns that include WordPress site updates, social media marketing and copywriting. Currently, she’s working on a memoir she describes as “Like WILD, but with pregnancy…and funny.” You can enjoy her silly fun at her personal blog, More Cowbell

Julie Glover has been copy editing, planning more writing workshops to offer in person or online, working on a cozy mystery, and plotting a new, hush-hush series with award-winning author Christina Delay. She’s also looking forward to having an empty nest in the near future — though she’ll miss her sons, they’re ready to launch and she’ll get more done!

Laura Drake’s next novel is due out in December, but available for preorder NOW! 

See? Easy-peasy. Only one of us wrote this, but all of us are represented – that’s the spirit of P&P.

Don’t be shy — tell your pals! 

We are open for as many entries as you want, and you’re welcome to send anyone who reads great stuff our way. We want to hear about it! Be sure to peruse the comments. You might find a few things you like in the plethora of pimping that’s about to ensue.

Thanks again for making WITS one of the top writer’s blogs. We appreciate you!

~  Fae, Jenny, Julie and Laura

May 30th, 2018

Summer Struggles for Writers

Aimie K. Runyan

Ah, summer. The season of calorie-dense cookouts, crowded swimming pools, board shorts in obnoxiously loud prints and mismatched flip-flops. Despite the need to coat myself in SPF 200 every fifteen minutes I love summer. Love it. My writing career, less so. I am very, very fortunate that I get to stay at home and write full-time. I’m living the dream. Unfortunately, in that dream it didn’t fully occur to me that when summer comes around, the word counts drop dramatically. Some of the reasons why:

Kids are home. (Obviously the biggest one.) My children aren’t just off school for the majority of the time from late May to mid-August. They want to be outside and active (huzzah!). However, this is not 1981 and I can’t let my kids roam completely unsupervised. While I have a fantastically situated office, I can’t count on them playing within view of my window. And I certainly don’t want to keep them cooped up inside when the weather is so gorgeous.

I want to be outside. Colorado winters are long, and there are generally 90 days of weather that are more or less bullet-proof (says the girl who had an indoor Memorial Day cookout due to thunderstorms) in which to get your fill of Vitamin-D heavy outdoor play. Trying to make plans with a Coloradan in the summer is almost impossible because we have hikes, pool trips, and park visits planned months in advance.

My muse prefers the rainy moors of Scotland. Picky woman. I find it much easier to eke out words while wrapped in a fleece blanket while the rain beats against the window pane. Summer is simply too *bright* to spend that much time focused on a computer screen.

In my very first post to WITS, I talked about the challenges of writing over Winter Break, and they’re similar. The advantage to Winter Break is that it’s shorter. I try to let the writing pressures go over the holidays because it’s a time for family and togetherness. And while deadlines can make this hard, it’s often possible to budget in 500 extra words a day for a few weeks to allow for a vacation. While summer is precious family time too, it’s just too long to take off entirely. Full-day summer camp, while appealing, isn’t really an option for my kids at this age, and I find a ton of value in giving kids chunks of unstructured time. So, that leaves me with full-time Mom Duty. And deadlines looming. What am I doing to survive?

Waking up early. This is painful, but it does give me a couple hours of quiet time before the sun is beating hard through my windows and calling us all out of doors. Working after the kids go to bed is another option, but I tend to be in Netflix Mode after 8PM. The reverse may be true for you.

Setting aside some downtime for the kids. Depending on the day, I set aside an hour or two where they have to come in out of the hot sun to relax with cold beverages and cartoons. They know this is Mom’s Working Time and they have to respect it. Not fool-proof, but it’s a window to at least do some social media stuff that doesn’t require the same concentration as new words.

Planned activities. For a few weeks, my kids will have half-days in summer school and/or day camps. It’s an opportunity for them to socialize with friends and learn some new skills. And you better believe my trusty laptop, noise-cancelling headphones, and I will be heading to the nearest Starbucks to get in words for the 3.5 hours they’re occupied.

A few hours with a Mother’s Helper. Full-time child care is expensive, but I’ve found that enlisting the help of a young babysitter-in-training can be an affordable way to manufacture productive time. Since I’ll be home the whole time, so long as this young sitter is responsible, it works out well. Their job is to keep the kids entertained, safe, and out of my office. Period. In the event of an emergency, I can be there in seconds, and it gives the young babysitter the chance to earn some experience for their resume. I take breaks to make lunch and check in, and for less than the cost of a full-fledged babysitter, I get some writing time.

It’s always an adjustment. What worked last summer may not hold to the next, but that tends to be true of anything related to parenting. And writing for that matter.

Tell me, parent-writers, what are you doing to make your way through the long days of summer?

About Aimie

Aimie K. Runyan writes to celebrate history’s unsung heroines. She has written three historical novels, including the internationally bestselling Daughters of the Night Sky and Promised to the Crown. She is active as an educator and speaker in the writing community and beyond. She lives in Colorado with her wonderful husband and two (usually) adorable children. To learn more about Aimie, please visit www.aimiekrunyan.com.