Come Along With Me As I Write My Novels
(And a lot of other new writing experiences too)
I’ve had the opportunity to feature so many incredible people in this #WritersQuick5 series, and they just keep doing amazing things!
I’ve wanted to do this re-cap for a while and have been debating the best way to do it. Feature everyone? Just a few people? Try and be comprehensive? Just highlight the things I know about?
I decided there’s no way I could comprehensively update you on all of the amazing things going on in their lives and careers, and some people were just featured a week or two ago so there’s not much to update on. SO, I have settled on quick hit updates for everyone in the first half of the #WritersQuick5 series to date, up through week 19.
Without further ado here’s a snapshot of some of the latest and greatest from 19 of our #WritersQuick5 crew!
Week 1 - MaryLou Driedger
Week 2 - Amanda Hollis-Brusky
Week 3 - Martha Carr
Week 4 - C.C. Ekeke
Week 5 - J.C. Reifenberg
Week 6 - Margaret Hahn
Week 7 - Alex Thomas
Week 8 - Bill McStowe
Week 9 - Keely Flynn
Week 10 - Christopher Waltz
Week 11 - Briana Bryon
Week 12 - Kerriann Curtis
Week 13 - Marcie Hill
Week 14 - Paul R. Lloyd
Week 15 - Bibi Belford
Week 16 - Renee James
Week 17 - Jennifer Johnson
Week 18 - Erin Slucter
Week 19 - Mike Mentz
To all of these amazing people - congratulations!!! And if there is anything major that I left out that you’d ever want to plug, please let me know and I will give you a big shout out the next time around! I am so honored to know each of you. Rock on!
Welcome to a special week of the #WritersQuick5 series - where we learn about writing from fellow writers.
This week I decided it was finally time to post my own answers. It’s a little scary to put myself in the ranks with the rest of the amazing people that have been featured, but it’s good to do scary things!
Over the past year, I have been inspired, I have laughed, but mostly I have been in awe of the incredible talent of all the writers who have shared their journey. And, I have been equally touched that 36 people have taken time out of their day-to-day lives to provide answers and take part in this interview series.
Next week I will be post a special “Where Are They Now?” edition of #WritersQuick5 that catches people up on some of the incredible accomplishments of the writers featured since their answers have posted. I’m super excited for that so stay tuned.
As for me, I will forgo any long intro to my work except to say that I completed my novel, THE CUBE earlier this year and am still trying to break into the agenting world to get it published. I also write a serialized fiction series called AMACHE’S AMERICA on Channillo.com. AMACHE’S AMERICA was recently named the Best New Series and the Best Historical Fiction Series in the 2017 Channillo Awards.
I also wanted to add that I do a fair amount of writing in my day job. IT management and project management require a completely different set of skills and I am writing policies, procedures, scope documents, discovery reports, requirement documents, etc. etc. every day. I’m glad that I can bring my skills as a writer to the field of IT. I just wish I had more time to do things like put together a department newsletter! (never say never).
Okay, so… without further ado… let’s see what I have to say… :)
Question #1 - Where do you write and why do you write there?
If I have the time, I write in my home office. I have multiple screens where I can pull up my notes and write at the same time. I usually like it to be very quiet, no podcasts, no music. I mostly like writing at home because I can let my guard down (and, truth be told, go to the bathroom whenever I want without having to pack up all my stuff).
If I’m on the go I have a couple favorite spots, including the Drawing Room at the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel.
Lately, I’ve been popping into my writings at work when I need to take a break from my day job. Fifteen minutes here or there, maybe a whole lunch break (although that’s rare). That’s why I do a lot of my writing in Google Docs so that I can open them up whenever I have the chance.
Question #2 - What is unique about writing for your particular genre?
I write in several genres, but there is a through line. I like to write about good people. Good people who love other good people and who do good things. It sounds corny, but writing about people that I can believe in and that I would love if I knew them really helps me. This sometimes means my personal challenge is where to find the tension and where to create the challenges for the characters.
For THE CUBE, the unique quality came in the concept itself. It is something I can see so clearly in my head but took many attempts to get across on paper. High-concept sci-fi requires knowing when to do a deep-dive descriptive paragraph and when to let the reader’s imagination take over.
For AMACHE’S AMERICA, I needed to draw the line between the fictional characters that I write about and my own family’s story. Also, the serialized nature of it is definitely different than sitting down to write a novel. Every two weeks I jump to a different character’s viewpoint and jump to a different format (audio recordings, journal entries, exposition) so it makes the writing very fresh and I find that what I produce is often colored by my mood at that time. I think the story overall would be quite different if I was just sitting down and writing it all at once. I like that it flows along with me.
Question #3 - What are some of your grammar or punctuation pet peeves?
Honestly, it depends on the platform. On Twitter or social media I have none. Anything goes. People type quickly and so typos and word mistakes are par for the course. In prose, I think it should be okay to end a sentence with a preposition and I find it awkward when people bend over backwards to try and make a sentence end without one. I will say though, when I get a text message with “your” instead of “you’re” - even though texts are as ephemeral as social media - it does bug me. One final thing - it’s spelled “whoa” not “woah.”
Question #4 - At what point in your writing process do you start to bring other people in to review your work?
For THE CUBE, I brought people in every step of the way, relying a great deal on my editor, Laura Alsum. She reviewed my outlines and gave me feedback on chapters. It was invaluable. For AMACHE’S AMERICA, there just isn’t the time, so as scary as it sounds, I write it and post it and that’s it. I sometimes have waking nightmares that there are glaring errors in the book series, but let’s hope there aren’t! Ideally, I’d like to write a large chunk of the work and then get feedback.
Question #5 - What advice would you give to a new writer about the writing process?
Patience is key. You will need to be patient while the ideas come to you. You will need to be patient when you are writing and when you are revising. You will need to be patient when you are waiting for feedback from anyone. You will need to be patient when you are working on getting things published. You will need to be patient as your readership grows.
Aside from that though, I would say that you should write what you love. If you love dogs - write about dogs. If you love spaceships, write something set in a spaceship. If you love the topic, you will love writing about it. DON’T write for what you think someone else will want to read. If you want to read it, and you love it, that’s all that matters.
Thank you to everyone who has followed along on this #WritersQuick5 journey and for allowing me the self-indulgence of writing up my own answers. It’s been an amazing year and I am so grateful to each writer that has participated and to each of you that has followed along. I hope you all have learned as much about writing as I have!
If you would like to be featured as a writer in the #WritersQuick5 series, please just reach out and let me know. I’d love to promote your work as well!
For updates on #WritersQuick5 and other info from me, please follow me on Twitter or check back with this blog for all the latest.
Okay my friends, it’s time to get real about query letters again. I just got my latest query “no” for my novel, THE CUBE. This brings me up to 21 “no’s.”
The “no’s” have run the gamut. Some were no response whatsover. Some were clearly form/template responses. Some were generally nice, but also the standard “it’s not for me.” I think the “it’s not you it’s me” responses come off the worst, but are probably the most honest. I genuinely try and put myself in the agent’s shoes. They don’t make money unless they sell the book. They can’t sell the book unless they absolutely love the book. Do you know how hard it is to fall in love? Remember dating? Or are you still dating? Because it’s just like that.
But, I’ve also gotten a handful of very thoughtful replies. One agent sent me two bullet pointed lists, one of the lists had the things she liked about it and one had a few suggestions for how I could make improvements (I made every improvement she suggested). I was happy the first list was longer than the latter too. One agent explained her approach to her book list choices (which I found very informative and helpful). The one I got most recently said I was an “accomplished writer” but that it just didn’t pull her in the way she wanted. But she told me to keep going. That my agent was out there.
I thought that was the best kind of response. It wasn’t the “good luck finding an agent” response. And it wasn’t only “it’s not you it’s me” response. It was much more than that. It was a vote of confidence that I just had to find the right match.
Of course, the best "no" would be a ‘revise and resubmit’ but I’m convinced that’s the white whale of query responses. The Bigfoot of the query experience. Some say it’s real, but I doubt it. Also, I feel like it would be really risky to do a lot of revision before a commitment of representation, right? (again, I’m still very new to this… insights are welcome!)
Overall, I keep telling people finding an agent is like catching lightning in a bottle - you need to pitch the right agent, at the right time, looking for exactly what you are offering, with an opening on their book list. It’s about mood and timing and chemistry.
And, I have to say, in my life I have already defeated all the odds by hoodwinking my husband into marrying me 12+ years ago. And by some miracle he seems to love me more now that when we first met. What are the odds that I find a different kind of love now? That book kind of love? :)
What I can tell you now is this: I have a list of about ten more agents that I want to try. And then I’m going to reassess my options. I recently read a blog post from Chuck Sambuchino that said you shouldn’t give up until you’ve queried 80 agents or more. While that sounds absolutely physically and emotionally exhausting, I get his point. Even if you just play the odds, that’s a low percentage of attempts.
I can’t say that I have 80 query letters in me, but I owe it to myself to keep trying for a little longer. My future blog post may veer into the world of hybrid publishing, but for now, I’m still going to ‘just keep swimming’ because I have this bottle. All I need is some lightning in it.