Friday, March 22, 2013

Persistence in Five Steps

“Someday I’m going to write a book.”

Occasionally I hear people with a lot of writing talent who don’t write regularly, say this, and I think to myself, well, you better get started! From what I’ve heard and seen and experienced, it takes the average writer ten years from the time they start writing regularly until they sell a book. And there are no guarantees. If I had known this when I started writing ten years ago, I wonder if I would’ve ever begun, but if there's one thing I have it's persistence. 

They say your first 1, 000, 000 words are just practice. But what about those writers who sell their first book in a year or less? Those are rare exceptions. Even five years is a relatively short time to publish a book after beginning to write on a daily basis. I’ve seen a lot of talented writers start and stop after so many years and so much rejection when they didn’t get published. I’ve seen other writers keep going pounding out a certain amount of words every day, year after year, until, one day, they accomplish their dreams.

Persistence is the key. Even wildly successful writers typically receive a lot of rejections before they get their first big break. Success is ten percent talent, and ninety percent persistence. That’s my motto. So, if you’ve always wanted to write a book, but haven’t started yet, there’s no time like the present. If you’ve been writing for years and haven’t published a book yet, keep going. You’re getting closer.

5 tips for being persistent:

  1. Set a time every day to write. Five or six days a week. Pick a time that works best for you. It could be early in the morning, late at night, or in the middle of the day like me when all my kids are in school.
  2. Pick a certain amount of time or a certain amount of words to write each day and try to stick to it as closely as possible. I write one to two hours a day. Depending on your schedule you may write more or less. You may have to sacrifice something (television, cleaning, shopping, talking on the phone, surfing the net, etc, to find the time).
  3. Create some rituals to help you get in the right frame of mind to write. Light a candle. Listen to music. Eat M&M’s.
  4. Pick a favorite place to write where you won’t be disturbed or distracted. A quiet room in our house. Or go to the library or a bookstore or a coffee shop, etc. One writer I know turned a closet into her writing space by adding a daybed.
  5. Submit your story. Once your work is revised, critiqued, and polished, send it out and keep sending it out, revising it as needed until you get an acceptance! In the mean time, get to work on your next book.

Monday, March 11, 2013

LTUE Conference Notes: First Time Author's Panel

My friend and critique group member, Heather Ostler, author of The Shapeshifter's Secret, was on this panel and she did an awesome job. Go Heather! You rock.

The authors were asked to tell the one thing they thought was most important about pitching their story. Here are some of their answers:

1. Concept is a big one. Narrow it down to one sentence.
2. Make sure your manuscript is clean.
3. Do your research. Look up guidelines and look at your pitch as a business pitch. Market your book as If selling a product.
4. Revise a lot. Have a critique partner read through it and give suggestions.
5. Be sure the pacing is good, that the story moves and flows.
6. Set realistic goals. Organize yourself. Meet deadlines.
7. Don’t’ take things personally (rejections, critiques, reviews)
8. Make sure your work is perfect before you send it out. Be wary of putting out your first novel.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

More LTUE Notes: Mary Sue and Gary Stu: Common Mistakes Writers Make

1. Many writers’ main characters are idealized versions of themselves. They can do no wrong. They are the biggest, most important person. This is considered Mary Sue or Gary Stu. There’s a difference between using aspects of self and your whole self as a character. No one wants to read about the most kingly king, most knightly knight. How to make characters interesting but not obnoxious: Don’t make character too vanilla. You want them to stand out in a way that makes us smile. When planning characters there needs to be something likeable about them, even in villains. For example: He/she sends a mothers day card to their mom on Mother’s Day or pets a dog. The Operative is best Villina ever!

2. Having your character be “The Chosen One” or “The prophesy.”

3. Having your character wake up from a dream or the first chapter is a dream.

4. A lot of exposition or back story history of the character or kingdom or world in the beginning of story when something starts to change.

5. Too many character points of view. Use only 1-2 characters as main POVs and skip to others less frequently.

6. Showing too much. Showing less is showing more

7.  Being too nice to your main character. You need to balance having good and bad things happen to your character. Use equal amounts of both. There needs to be tension and release, more tension than release. It’s a reward system for reader. Build up tension, release, feel better. For example, when you bang your head against a wall it feels really good when you stop. A reaction goes on in the reader to some extent when they read.

8. Your character doesn’t have to save the world. There need to be personal stakes in order for readers to make a connection with your character. Make the thing that’s most important to your characters be in jeopardy. A good example is the Dresden Files.

9. There’s been a rash of YA books where the MC gets raped. It’s become a dangerously sexist cliché.

10. A guide character who won’t tell the MC everything they need to know. Writers may think it’s a mystery when they know and won’t tell you things, but withholding important information is not mysterious, it’s just annoying.

11. There needs to be something in the main character that the readers can relate to. A shortcoming needs to be in way of their task or goal. They need to have a flaw to overcome.

12. In dystopian novels it has become cliché to have the government trying to stop you from falling in love.

13. Any trope can be enlivened if you put enough of a spin on it. Get off your stereotypical stuff. Don’t be lazy. It’s your book you can do it your way. You can’t avoid all tropes. Just be careful not to overdo them. Take tropes and make fun of them. Do it in a unique way.