Chill, connect, cool it — advice for emerging authors

 

This month we’re talking about things we wish we knew when we first started out on our authoring journey. Some might see it as us dishing out advice for new writers. Whichever way you spin July’s topic here’s my top three things I’d tell younger me, you know if I had a time machine:

 

Chill, it’s just a first draft.

Spewing words onto the screen is perfect even if those words aren’t perfect. It doesn’t matter how well a story is written when we first write it. That initial draft is all about getting the story out. About telling it to ourself as the author, so we know who the characters are, what the plot is, and how everything comes together. No first draft is perfect and that’s okay! You can spend years going over that opening chapter trying to perfect it, but you know what? All that time is wasted because you’ll be so hung up on crafting wonderful words that you’re likely to never write the two most magical words ever, THE END.

Connect, it’s not a one man show.

Writing can be a lonely business, but it doesn’t have to, nor should it be that way. Books are a bit like children and that age old saying which goes with them; it takes a village to raise a child. Well, I believe it takes more than just one person to write a good book.

Go, grab your favourite book written by a big-5 best-selling author and turn to the acknowledgements. I can guarantee in the list of people that author thanks are other authors. These are usually the people who have supported him/her during the writing process. Many of us here at AO&R are critique partners, beta readers, and plotting soundboards for each other. Reach out, because finding the right writing mates is important.

Cool it, there’s no rush to submit.

Most writers think they have the best story, the best concept, a totally unique idea. And many do!! But rushing off to submit can do more harm than good. You see, most agents and publishers will only look at your work once, so don’t waste that opportunity on work that isn’t your best. There’s no need be concerned that you need to sub before X conference or Y date or Z holiday, or that you have to get in before someone else sells a similar story. Make sure that you submit the best possible product you can. That it’s been through multiple rounds of edits, it’s been read and critiqued by someone who knows about writing and is brutally honest, and that’s it’s been proofread. Of course the opposite can be said too, don’t over think it. You don’t want to hold onto that thing forever.

 

What about you, fellow writers, is there one burning piece of advice you’d give to your former self?

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Stacey Nash writes Aussie YA / NA. Her Oxley College Saga is a series of romances based in the fictional Oxley College on a university campus. Her Collective Series is YA trilogy about a girl who discovers secret sci-fi technology and the organisation who suppress it. To find out more about Stacey’s books or to connect with her on social media (where she tries to be engaging), check out these places: www.stacey-nash.com, instagram, twitter, facebook.

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It’s just a jump to the left

And then a step to the right…

This is a bit how I feel at the moment, jumping all over the place. It isn’t the holiday season – although there is that too, but more that I have edits and proofs and I’m writing a new story all at the same time. These are sci-fi, romance and mystery. It’s a juggle!

So today I thought I’d share my best tips for switching between completely different stories.

  1. Probably the most obvious is be organised so you’re not overwhelmed.
  2. Allot a decent stretch on each thing at once. Five minutes here and there might not make much progress at all.
  3. I love playlists. If you have a list it can help you get in the mood for the book you’re supposed to be working on. (sometimes just thinking of the songs is enough)
  4. If you get on a roll with one it might be worth sticking with that for longer. Progress is good.
  5. Finally, give yourself some slack to do your best – it’s all of us can ask really.

 

Anyone got any good switching tips?

 

=)

Beck

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Bio:

I always wanted to write. I’ve worked as a lab assistant, a pizza delivery driver and a high school teacher but I always pursued my first dream of creating stories. Now, I live with my family near Adelaide, halfway between the city and the sea, and am lucky to spend my days (and nights) writing young adult fiction.

Find me at my website:

www.becknicholas.com

Or on twitter @BeckNicholas

I Found My Green-Eyed Monster

I’m not usually a jealous person. I’ve often thought that I was pretty Zen about my position in the writing world. I don’t have an agent or a publishing contract with a big press, but I don’t lie awake at night comparing myself to others who do have those things. If I did, then I’d have to look no further for angst than Jay Kristoff, who I’ve known for more than a decade. He’s been very successful with his Lotus War trilogy, and was able to quit work to write full time (basically every writer’s dream ever) after he signed the contract for Illuminae.

The thing is, I’m genuinely happy for Jay, who is entirely deserving. I don’t even feel a twinge of jealousy — I actually find it inspirational. Back when I was at uni, I had a very dour lecturer who told all the wannabe writers in the room that, as Australians, we’d never ever be able to quit work to write fulltime (unless we wrote romance, which she was contemptuous of).

I’d like to be able to rub Jay’s success in her face. Maybe with a copy of Endsinger, which is 600 pages long and rather heavy.

But then I realised that there is one thing that I am really jealous about. If I dwell on it, it actually makes me a little depressed. It’s not the end result of the book deal and the agent that triggers this reaction me.

It’s the speed at which some people write.

I’m a slow drafter, although I’m getting better. Isla’s Inheritance took over a year to draft; I was averaging maybe 2000 words a month and, because it was the first book I wrote, I was still feeling my way through the process. That means I wrote a couple of chapters that were ultimated scrapped (sob). With Isla’s Oath, I doubled my word goal, but it still took the better part of a year. With the next two manuscripts, Melpomene’s Daughter and Lucid Dreaming, I set myself a goal of 2000 words a week and finished the first drafts in around seven months. These were also much cleaner drafts than my debut was, meaning there was less work to do in the editing stages.

The most recent manuscript, an as-yet-unnamed fantasy, took a little longer — but it was also almost 20k words longer, so I won’t beat myself up over that.

Still, that’s just a first draft. Looking at all the reading and re-reading, and re-re-reading that happens during the editing process, it’s more like a year for me to produce something polished. And by comparison, Chuck Wendig — who is a fulltime writer — writes 2000 words a day.

When I see people who are releasing two or three books a year … that is when I get jealous.

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It’s even more sobering when I see articles and posts by indie authors who talk about how you need to release at least two books a year to maintain momentum, keep your fans keen. I try to do the things “they” say, but this one’s beyond me. There’s not a lot I can do to write faster than I am now. I work thirty-five hours a week and I’m a single mother, which means the only times I get to write are after my son goes to bed, or occasionally on the weekend if I decide to let him have a “lazy day” in front of the TV or on the Wii. (I feel guilty when I do that, but a wise friend once told me that it’s important to let your kids see you pursue your goals.)

The other factor in my jealousy is that I have other book ideas I’d love to be working on. I went through my plot bunny notebook the other day, and there were ideas in there for four novels, two novellas and a short story. One of the novel ideas is actually plotted out, down to character details; the rest are in the embryonic stage but could get there with a little bit of time and energy.

It should be said that I’m happy for others who are able to publish more than one book a year. Delighted. Being crazy jealous that they can do it doesn’t make me less pleased for them! And I know that the mere fact of having written a book — more than one — is a massive deal. I’m proud of what I’ve achieved to date and look forward to doing more of the same.

And, of course, jealousy can actually be a good thing. It’s a kick up the backside, a goad to action. Even though I’m not sure what else I can do to increase my productivity, being jealous does at least keep me thinking about ideas to do so. It’s also an awesome spur to get my butt in the chair to write (or edit) when I do have the opportunity.

So that’s my confession. I found my green-eyed monster. It was down the back of the couch this whole time!

Also, I realise this post is a bit of a ramble. It’s more me thinking aloud (well, on screen) than anything else. But I thought putting this out there might help other writers who feel the same way I do.

Some of you do feel this way, right?

Right, guys?

(Awkward.)

Cassandra Page is an urban fantasy author whose new release, Lucid Dreaming, comes out in two weeks. Aaaaaaah!

Cassandra Page

What words made you bleed?

I’m a firm believer in that old Hemingway quote: There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit at a typewriter and bleed. When I sit down to write a book, that’s exactly what I do. Figuratively, of course, although occasionally literally, too (no one in my house will forget the Great Sticky-Tape Slicing of 2004).

And with this bleeding comes a strong attachment to the words. I’ve recently become a plotter, and love planning what will happen in my novels. Part of that means taking some huge emotional risks, and really opening a part of my soul in the process.

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Perhaps that’s why, in my upcoming novel (How To Save A Life) I had a slight problem when the scene I loved the most in the manuscript was not received so well by some betas. It was a fairly controversial scene and for me, it was a great snapshot of what the novel was about — it really took the love, the hurt, the manipulation and the emotional blackmail to a whole new level, and gave little hints at what had been in my lead character’s life, as well as foreshadowing what was to come.

Overall, seven betas liked the scene — and two did not. While that might sound like a very straightforward equation (quick, pick the seven!) for me, it wasn’t that simple. Because I loved the scene so much, I worried I was blinded to the reality. Still, I couldn’t just let the scene go. I sweated over that scene. I cried over it. I bled that scene. I opened my heart and let it all pump out.

In the end, I altered the scene, but didn’t delete. Part of being a good writer is learning to accept criticism, and knowing when to stick to your guns. I think I am capable of both these things, and that the manuscript is 100 times better for the minor change (or at least, I’m finally sleeping a full eight hours, instead of waking at 2am and worrying over WHAT SHOULD I DO?).

I’ve never been so torn up about a scene before, and I can only presume it’s because I was so emotionally invested.

What I want to know is what words have YOU bled for? Whether it’s something you’ve written or something powerful you’ve read. Figuratively, of course …

Would love to know!

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Lauren K. McKellar’s upcoming release, How To Save A Life, is available July 21.  Preorder your copy here, or join Lauren’s e-news list for more.