Posted in Advice/Helpful Sites

Co-Authoring

I’ve read books that have had more than one author and it made me curious each time how the authors managed it.

My sister suggested once that some authors might say they worked with another person on the book when in reality they let the other person do all the work and merely put their name to it for whatever reasons they worked out. Why would someone do that? There are tons of available reasons but the result remains the same – more money for both parties and the less-known author becomes more well-known. At the time I think she also suggested some authors who whip out a bunch of books in a relatively short amount of time were getting other people to write the books and then putting their own names on them.

I think we were a little young at the time and didn’t know any better.

In the January 2014 issue of Writer’s Digest Zachary Petit conducted an interview with four authors who have ventured into the co-writing world.

  • Blake Crouch – author of numerous novels, novellas, short stories, and articles; collaborated(s) with J.A. Konrath (thriller author of the Jack Daniels series, writes horror as Jack Kilborn)
  • J.T. Ellison – writes novels; worked(ing) with Catherine Coulter (author of recently released book The Final Cut)
  • Kathleen O’Neal Gear – writes solo and with husband W. Michael Gear
  • Douglas Preston – most recent non-fiction book is being made into a movie, The Monster of Florence, starring George Clooney; works with editor Lincoln Child on the Pendergast thriller series

Here are some things from the interview that you should probably take into consideration if you decide to step into the collaboration world:

  • Find someone you trust
  • Discuss the financials beforehand (and be concrete about it)
  • Make sure all communication is very clear (ie: how you both want to tackle the endeavor, what the story will be about, etc)
  • Figure out who’s going to break the tie on what you want/don’t want or go a third way that uses neither
  • Get a uniform voice
  • Criticize in a way that doesn’t hurt/attack
  • Make sure the person/people you collaborate with have the same kind of work/writing ethic you do (ie: if you’re on time and regular with your writing, you probably don’t want to work with someone who writes off and on “when the muse dictates”)

Crouch comments that,

If people are wondering, Should I do it?—it should be a life-enhancing thing. The idea is it makes it easier, because otherwise you could get paid 100% and do it all yourself. It should expand your creativity.

Gear adds,

I think the other thing, too, that you want to think about, is you’re trying to make the book better. And that should be your goal: that two of you can actually do something that one of you can’t.

Ellison brings up a very good point:

With Erica and Alex, we [co-wrote] specifically to introduce each other to the other’s fans. And it worked wonderfully. Now they buy me, and my fans buy them. So it’s something that can be an incredible enhancement to your career. I mean, Catherine’s going to be a career-maker for me. So many people have said to me … ‘I would never co-write.’ Really?! Why not? What do you have to lose.

Ellison’s right – what do you have to lose? Except half the paycheck of course. But keep in mind that it’s a paycheck that might not come in if it weren’t for the collaboration. Unless you have no intention to try to get the work published and it’s just something fun to do. Then all you have to lose is time.

Actually, I see friendships splitting from too many disagreements on how the story should go but let’s be mature here and realize that we can work past those problems. If you’re so inflexible that you can’t mesh your ideas, you might want to reconsider collaborating to begin with.

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Posted in Books and Authors

300 Stories in 1 Year

Here’s a shout out to a fellow writer who’s currently working on a year-long goal. I’ve been following his blog – 300 Stories – for some time now and have been tickled with his writing. Some of it’s funny, some thought-provoking, some weird. You name it he’s tried it looks like.

A one-year mission to produce 300 stories in 300 words (or less) 

He’s currently on 183 with Zodwa. If you enjoy flash fiction, you might think about taking a look at his blog. His ideas are unique and creative and never fail to impress me. It can be difficult to condense a story or thought into something that’s less than 500 words (or in his case 300 words) but he manages to do a brilliant job every time.

Dieter Rogiers lives in Brussels and works in communications for Belgium’s biggest political party. Having previously tried his hand at screenwriting, on his 35th birthday he decided he wanted to write more. Due to the amount of time at his disposal, he figured short stories were the way to go thus his idea of 300 stories in a year was born.

Good luck to Mr. Rogiers and looking forward to each new flash fiction he writes!

Posted in Books and Authors

Nora Roberts’ “Dark Witch”

61Iq0pxTOTL__SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_When I found out about Nora Roberts’ Dark Witch, book one in the new The Cousins O’Dwyer Trilogy, I rushed to put it on hold at my library. I was sixth in line for the hold but I I’m used to having to wait so I’ve learned patience even when I’m practically jumping in place from eager anticipation. When the hold came in, it took me by surprise and I was so excited I made an extra trip to the library to pick it up rather than wait another day. It didn’t take long to finish it nor did I expect to take long.

If you’re not acquainted with Nora Roberts’ work, she’s a romance novelist. As most of us know, romances don’t take a lot of brain work to read and they’re mostly filled with fluff. I’m only familiar with Nora Roberts’ romances but some others I’ve read can’t really be compared to hers. While hers are filled with sex (some of her books more than others), she creates the romance as well and her writing is top-quality. Of course, this is only my opinion but I’m sure plenty of others agree with me considering how popular her work is.

That being said, I was rather disappointed with Dark Witch. It’s filled with magic (cool), romance (sigh), friendship (wonderful), and steamy sex scenes (sweeeeeet). It ended happily and everything was pretty straightforward. I knew it all would be so what’s my problem?

It was all too easy and too predictable. I know romances aren’t difficult or complex but this was just too much.

Our heroine, Iona, travels to Ireland and is fully accepted at the barest glance. No time is wasted before she has her dream job, her dream family, the closest friends imaginable, her dream horse, and the love of her life in her bed. She’s blissfully happy pretty much the moment her story begins. The first chapter is interesting back story and promises us much conflict and excitement…which the rest of the book doesn’t deliver. I very much enjoyed reading about everything going right in Iona’s life but it gets a little dull after a while.

It’s true, there were moments of conflict but they were whisked away rather quickly as if Roberts or Iona was pretending the darkness didn’t exist.

Then it was all so predictable. In the other trilogies of hers that I’ve read, not all of the characters are introduced within the first couple chapters and you’re given time to play matchmaker. But in Dark Witch your main characters are immediately thrown at you after that first prologue chapter and it’s remarkably easy to tell whom will be paired with whom. Iona even comments on it. So much for having a little fun spent wondering who might end up with each other.

I’d say I’m about to give a SPOILER but the ending is so incredibly predictable that I can’t really call it a spoiler. Still…

*SPOILER ALERT*

……………………………….

………………

…….

Iona’s love proposing to her at the end was so clear I didn’t even need a crystal ball. It was the exact same set-up that she used in the Three Sisters Island Trilogy and The Key Trilogy.

I bet I can even call the order of the books and more of the details that come out in them too. The second book will likely be centered on Connor who will finally get together with Maera or however you spell her name. They’ll have some slight conflict (probably focused around Connor being a flirt with any pretty available lady in town) but in the end – after they all face Cabhan once more and come out all right – he’ll propose to her and she’ll accept. By this point Iona might be married already to her guy like in Three Sisters or they’ll continue on as an item like in The Key Trilogy. The third book will be about the eldest cousin (Connor’s sister…whose name I’ve forgotten). There will be much more emotional conflict for her (just like with those other two trilogies) but she’ll come to realize the guy with the F name (my brain is full of holes right now) really is on their side. This realization will come at the last minute before they fight Cabhan. Without this knowledge, they can’t possibly win against Cabhan but because the six of them are fully united at last, the bad guy loses and peace and happiness reigns supreme. They too will decide to marry at the end of the book.

Where’s the originality? Where’s the creativity? Where’s the conflict? I know it’s romance but Roberts has written some awesome conflict in her past work. I love her work not for the sex scenes (which I do love) but for the creativity and originality, the actual romance that builds and the conflict that makes you hold your breath or strains your brain to think. This…this just fizzled.

*image from Amazon.com*

Posted in Advice/Helpful Sites, Agents

Dealing with Contradictory Feedback

I’m one of those lucky people who’ve never have contradictory feedback…mainly because I’ve never really had feedback. That is to say, I have had feedback but from writing groups and it’s always been pretty vague such as “I like this part,” and “this part is tedious,” etc. They always pointed out different parts as well so none of it ever really overlapped. Some feedback has been super helpful while others has gotten more of an “Oooookaaaaay” kind of response from me.

But I’ve heard mind-bending horror stories from others who’ve submitted their work to contests, made it close to the end and therefore merited feedback from the judges (some of whom were celebrated authors and others of whom were credited agents and still others who were nobodies – no insult intended because I’m really a nobody as well). What did their feedback consist of? Contradictory statements. One section really moved a judge while that same section was deemed pointless and scrap-able by another judge.

What?

How do you sift through critiques that butt heads with each other? Which one is right? Which view should you have in mind when you revise?

If you go with your first reaction then you’ll probably ditch the negative side and bask in the praise of what remains. This is certainly easier and more convenient but is it better? Not necessarily. It’s true, you don’t have to listen to any of the comments given but you should probably take them all into consideration at least for a short while. Search your brain for your true opinion of your work. Just because you wrote it doesn’t mean it’s gold. Do you honestly like what you’ve written? Are you sure you’re satisfied with it? Or are you settling for something because you just want to move on?

Think about it. Could this section be tedious?

Weeeeell, perhaps it could do with a bit of extra speed.

Or…

No, I want it to read like this. I think the slower pace is more meaningful and puts more emphasis on what’s going on.

But why settle for a few critiques? As the saying goes, “Two brains are better than one.” Why not four brains? Ten? Twenty even?

Good luck getting twenty people to give worthwhile feedback in any decent amount of time.

Barbara Poelle, the vice president at Irene Goodman Literary Agency, answered questions submitted by writers like ourselves in Writer’s Yearbook 2014. The article in question is aptly named, “Ask the Agent.” One person asked what they should do with contradictory critiques. Her advice is stellar.

“…Look for a common thread among feedback from a wide sampling of agents before driving yourself crazy taking every single piece of criticism to heart. [If you’re only using feedback from two sources] pull on the thread that resonates with you the most. (Have you been told before that you tend to ‘overwrite’? Or have you been told before that your descriptions are atmospheric?) Follow your instincts on what you feel could benefit your craft.”

Don’t keep comments simply because they flatter your ego. Don’t throw others out because they tick you off. Keep them all, consider them all. Go with what feels most beneficial to your writing. If people contradict each other, get as many more people to critique that part as you can. I’m sure you’ll be able to solve the dilemma soon enough.

Posted in Advice/Helpful Sites

Don’t Quite Your Day Job

I used to wonder sometimes if I would make it solely as a writer. This was something I dreamed about in high school. Dreams of life far down the road when I was a big success and could own a summer home in whatever movie setting I currently had stuck in my head. I dreamed that I would live there perhaps full time like in the movie The Secret Window except I wouldn’t have a nasty divorce and then go crazy and start killing people.

My favorite English teacher in high school was writing a book when I knew him. I have no idea if he finished it or not as we lost contact after I graduated and left for college. He gave us (his class) some advice that I never forgot and that ensured that I wouldn’t do anything stupid like quit my only source of income and either live off my parents or live in debt.

Don’t quit your day job.

For 15 years those words have ruled my writing life. I adopted his strategy of writing too – work during the day, write at night. Except I was so undisciplined that I wasn’t writing at night. I was tired and miserable first from college classes I disliked and later from jobs I hated. Then I got married and had a baby. We were so poor it was cheaper for me to quit my job and take our son out of childcare. Thus it’s been ever since.

I’m one of the lucky ones I think. I didn’t have to choose between having a steady income and writing. I had to stay at home to raise my son. Nap time soon turned into writing time. Through trial and error I discovered I’m not much of an article writer. My biggest weakness was the most important strength an article writer should have – ideas. I just don’t have them on the scale needed to make my way in the business. I keep trying through blogging but, for the most part, I’m sticking with short stories and novels.

Roger Morris wrote an article in a special issue of Writer’s Digest – Writer’s Yearbook 2014. The article is entitled Grow Your Freelance Business and it’s really helpful for freelance writers. Informative. Scared me witless at the thought of ever becoming a freelancer. If I still harbored vague daydreams about it, I don’t anymore. Blogging will be as far as I go for actively seeking out freelance work, thanks very much. Why? Because he points out all my weaknesses, stressing how important it is for them to be strengths.

  1. Choose to specialize or generalize
  2. Cold-call like a pro
  3. Generate ideas – lots of ideas
  4. Leverage what experience you’ve got
  5. Don’t hide behind your computer
  6. Think in terms of relationship-building
  7. Find auxiliary writing and editing income
  8. Be smart about blogging and social media

Having ideas, being social, being able to go places at the last minute. These are things I either can’t do or am not good at. If that kind of life was important enough to me, I’d try to find a way to push through it and strengthen what I’m not good at but it’s not important enough so I won’t. I’ll be smart and acknowledge that that kind of life isn’t for me. No regrets, no dreams lost.

He also went on to list things you should consider if you’re thinking of quitting your day job.

  • Have you had enough important publications to demonstrate that your writing is strong enough to become a full-time career?
  • Do you have a steady anchor publication or project to use as a base?
  • Can you juggle a dozen different articles in various stages – at the same time?
  • Are you overflowing with article ideas?
  • Have you lined up any related work – teaching, editing, PR, etc. – to help out in a pinch?
  • Do you have the resources – your own or a partner’s – to tide you over for a year or two until you grow your income stream?

If you answered yes to the above, good luck with your adventurous endeavor! You probably won’t have a lot of people rooting for you because, let’s face it, writers get trashed a lot for being impractical when they give up that day job. May your endeavors succeed in every way! Unless they cross paths with mine as an opposing party, then I hope you crash and burn.

That’s a joke. Mostly.

*NOTE: It’s been brought to my attention that it looked like article writing specifically was my dream and that I was giving it up. This is not the case. I tried my hand at writing serious articles as I deemed them to be more financially practical. This endeavor, however, flopped for the reasons listed above. My lifelong dream is to write short stories and novels and I will NEVER give up that dream, especially now that I’ve finally gotten some stories published! Neither do I believe anyone should give up on their dream. I’m just giving advice I read on whether or not people should write after work or if they should quit their job to write full-time.*

Posted in Books and Authors

What’s In A (Pen)Name?

As Shakespeare (Juliet really but we won’t split hairs) once eloquently put it, “What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

So what is in a name?

If you’re J.K. Rowling, it seems as if there’s quite a bit in a name. Hers for example.

In April 2013 a crime novel entitled The Cuckoo’s Calling written by Robert Galbraith was met by the public with minimal attention. I’m sure people asked themselves, “Who is this Robert Galbraith?” They probably put down his book in the store and walked away (or clicked away if they were online) because he was entirely unknown. The book and author became worldwide news (supposedly, though I just found out now) later that July when The Sunday Times revealed Robert Galbraith to be J.K. Rowling. The book, which had previously sold about 1,500 copies (meagerly perhaps but still a number I lust after for my future manuscript), skyrocketed to the top of Amazon’s bestseller list.

Publishers who had turned the book down were embarrassed; critics who had initially overlooked it apologized; at least one reader tried to auction off his signed copy on eBay.

Wow! If you’re J.K. Rowling then there really is something in your name! For once Shakespeare had it completely wrong. It makes me wonder for the first time (I’ve never been big on thinking and analyzing during my reading experience) about that line, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” It’s true that a rose is a rose and will smell like a rose no matter what you call it. But if you told me, “Hey, smell this clover,” I’d probably shake my head and decline. Smell a clover? Does a clover even have a scent?

Read a book by Robert Galbraith? No thanks. Who’s he? Oh! J.K. Rowling! Of course! That book of hers after Harry Potter was a turd but I’ll give her another chance.

“What’s in a name?” asked Shakespeare.

“Everything,” I say.

Posted in Personal

No Ideas

There are plenty of things I could write about today but I can’t form any concrete ideas on them. I guess I have blogging writer’s block. That…kind of sounds silly.

Due to the curve balls life has been throwing at me recently, my brain is completely fried. The only bit of writing-related work I’ve gotten done lately is some beta reading for a friend and some proofreading for my husband. He’s a scientist who’s currently working on soil replanting diseases in connection with apples. His papers are beyond boring. I wish I didn’t have to read them but my style of living is kind of affected by how many papers he can get published and how good a job he can get. It’s a sad truth but a truth nonetheless.

To show how fried my brain has become, I don’t even read a whole lot these days. I have a Nora Roberts book that I was waiting about a month to get from the library but I have yet to even open it because I wanted to finish my current Poirot novel. Except I’m reading so slowly that I’m barely making any progress. I get maybe a chapter at a time before my eyes get too tired and I stop. Why doesn’t the library have any audiobooks for Poirot? It’d be much easier to just listen to it.