It’s 2022. We’re midway through January and things have been hectic. Hectic for me isn’t always a negative. After a wonderful holiday season, it was time to get back to work on January 4. Since that day, my freelance work days (and sometimes nights) have been full. Again, not a negative thing. But I do find that in order to keep a balance, it’s essential for me to take a step back every now and then. That’s what this week is for—a hiatus of sorts.
So what’s on the calendar for me this week if not tip-tapping the keyboard with client words?
Reading. Lots of reading!
Outlining a new middle grade mystery.
Writing! Working on zero-draft of the MG mystery.
Fine-tuning my query letter.
Tweaks to my MG book SEEN, based on beta reader feedback.
Because I have a lot I want to share about the books I’ve already read this year and the ones that I’m planning to read in the next few weeks, that will be a separate post. Keep an eye for it, because you don’t want to miss it.
New middle grade mystery? Yes, indeed! I’m super excited about this book, but I’m also not ready to share too much about it. I can tell you that my critique partners have read the opening chapter and the response was positive!
And onto querying. Again. Last year at this time I had a tiny spark of an idea for a story, a fairytale retelling of sorts inspired by one of my favorite Disney movies: Tangled. By the end of January 2021 I had started outlining the book and once February hit, I had pages to share with my critique partners. I’m about ready to send it out into the world, off to agents with the hope that there is one agent out there that will fall in love with this story and want to sign me.
This is not my first time in the query trenches and I’ve been thinking about sharing some of my journey here on the blog. Who knows? It may help someone and honestly, querying is hard and I do think it helps not to go it alone. I’m fortunate and have an amazing writing network and support group. But not everyone does. So if I can help even a tiny bit, I’d like to do that.
What I’ll likely do is a weekly post about my querying journey with SEEN, including some helpful tips I’ve learned about querying. As I said, this is not my first time in the query trenches. I queried my 2019 Pitch Wars book for about a year, but was unable to find representation. I came close, but it didn’t happen. That’s part of this business—rejection. A lot of it. But you keep writing and telling stories. It’s worth it, at least I think it is or I wouldn’t do it.
I have several posts lined up for the next few weeks, including some book recommendations you do not want to miss plus the first posts about my querying journey.
First, if you’re not familiar with the Write Team Mentorship Program, they are:
“As a sister program to The Write Cohort, the WTMP focuses on community and support. We strive to provide writers with a support system as they move forward in their writing journey. We dedicate ourselves to diversity, inclusion, and opening doors for others.”
In January, 2022, you can find me at the WTMP’s Open Inbox as a Mentor-in Residence or MIR. If you’re a writer, at any stage in your journey, we’re here for you. Come to the Open Inbox with your questions and quandaries about all things writing-related. We have a roster full of authors and industry professionals ready to answer your writing questions.
There is no application to fill out, no lottery system — just a form for you to ask your question and virtually drop it in the Open Inbox.
What kind of questions can you ask? All things writing-related. It’s that easy.
The WTMP also has a mentorship program for writers seeking more in-depth help with their current work. This program does require an entry into a weighted lottery where you’ll pitch the WTMP’s selected mentors your manuscript. If selected as a mentee, you’ll work with your mentor in an open-ended, 4-month mentorship.
To learn more about the Open Inbox and the Mentorship Program, click here to go to the WTMP site.
It’s that time of year again. November 1 is not only the day to eat KitKats for breakfast, it’s the official start to what’s known in the writing community as: NaNoWriMo.
NaNo – what mo?
NAtional NOvel WRIting MOnth.
NaNoWriMo is the month-long event where writers of all genres write all the words. Okay, maybe not all the words, but on average, about 1,700 daily as a way to reach a goal of 50,000 words. For many, it’s a way to fast-draft a novel in just one month.
Write a book in a month? Yes!
It may sound daunting, but as a writer who has participated in NaNo, I’ll go on record saying, “It is absolutely daunting.” But it’s also challenging and a fun way to connect with the writing community, if you choose to dive in and become a WriMo.
The NaNoWriMo hashtag can be seen across social media, and if you’re on the fence about participating, go for it. It can be an amazing experience. However, if the thought of trying to meet a certain word count every day for an entire month feels overwhelming — skip it. It’s okay not to NaNo.
I’ll say it again. It’s okay not to NaNo.
Seriously. No one’s judging you.
Write at your own pace. Slow, fast, it’s all good.
It took me a long time to realize that I’m not the type of writer who enjoys the fast draft. It brings me a certain level of anxiety to draft without doing some level of editing. So for me, it’s no NaNo and that’s just fine. I’ll be spending the next couple of weeks editing my middle grade fairy tale-inspired fantasy getting it ready for beta readers, while I’m researching and plotting my new book, a middle grade mystery.
If you’re NaNo-ing this month, go you! I hope your month is filled with words, fun, and writing mojo. Maybe, like me, you’re editing. We’ve got this! We will cut those filler words and smooth out any plot holes. Or maybe, you’re thinking about dipping a toe into the wonderful world of book writing. That’s awesome too. Dive it. Do it. We need your story.
It’s Cyber Monday 2018 and let’s not forget about the writers and book lovers on your lists! Check out a few holiday gift ideas for writers and book lovers that capture the imagination, offer inspiration, and add another touch of whimsy during a magical season while providing joy throughout the upcoming new year.
NOTE: I receive no compensation for any of these items. I am not connected to any of these artisans, sellers, companies, and so forth. They’re items I personally like and wanted to share as ideas.
Let’s start with a few gems from Storiarts. A couple of years ago, my wonderful husband gave me this pair of Pride and Prejudice writing gloves. I love them! Seriously, love them and wear them throughout the cold months as I work. As a writer, I totally recommend adding these to your gift list for anyone who spends long hours at the keyboard.
Storiarts also has a several other fun items, and I want to point out the book totes. Personally, I love the Matilda one, but there are many choices and you can’t go wrong with a book-themed tote bag for any writer or book lover.
From the Mareshop on Etsy, discover another type of fingerless glove perfect for a fantasy writer, dragon lover, or anyone who might love these colorful, handmade gems. I’m partial to this pink pair, but there are several colors plus two length styles to suit personal tastes.
Moonglow jewelry ads have appeared recently in my social media feeds and I’ll confess, I think they’re beautiful. Here’s the deal, you pick a significant date and the mini moon on your jewelry will feature the phase of moon from that time. Cool, right?
Why not choose a significant date for the author on your list? It could be the release date of their debut novel or the date they officially signed a contract with their agent or publisher. You can choose from pedants to earrings and bracelets, but I’m partial to this particular bangle bracelet.
You can’t go wrong with 200 themed magnetic word tiles: Magnetic Poetry Kit—Moist and Other Awful Words. It’s fun, sassy, and can be mixed-and-matched with other magnetic poetry tile kits.
Next up is Scapple, a program available through Literature & Latte. It’s a way for writers to brainstorm ideas and connect ideas even when things seem at their most scattered. If the writer(s) on your list love Scrivener, there’s a good chance they’ll enjoy Scapple.
How about a waterproof notepad? Never forget a great story idea when in the shower or bath again. Add AquaNotes to your gift list.
There are so many different literary, book-inspired, and writerly-styled mugs and drinkware available, I could go on and on. But I won’t. Instead, I’m sharing something I hadn’t seen before until today. These are so much fun! And great for English teachers, too! Check out this set of eight plates from Grammar Stuff.
Something for the Home
Whimsical bookends, beautiful bookends, unique bookends! Head over to Etsy for a huge selection of bookends, truly something for every book lover.
And just fun for, why not a Writer’s Block? It’s the perfect paperweight and desk accessory for any writer.
First, I need to offer an apology to author Katharine Grubb, because I actually finished this book a few weeks ago — does my untimeliness for posting my review mean I failed at learning how to organize my life to make the most of it in 10 minute increments? Um, maybe?
If it is, it’s totally on me, because Katharine Grubb’s new book “When the Time Dings: Organizing Your Life to Make the Mot of 10 Minute Increments is a must-read. Whether you’re a writer looking to maximize your time each day or a busy parent trying to not drown in a sea of commitments, look to this easy-to-follow book for advice and actionable tips.
One of my favorite things about author Katharine Grubb is her natural ability to encourage. I met her online about four years ago when her writing group 10 Minute Novelists was really just beginning to grow. Grubb offers practical advice for not only writers, but for anyone looking to add a bit more cohesion and organization to their daily lives. In this book, she shares what’s worked (and not worked for her) as a busy mother, wife, writer, and entrepreneur. I like the Exercises at the end of the sections — questions that make you really think and take stock of how you’re handling your daily life and where room for improvement is needed. I especially like the actionable tips like:
“Set an alarm five times through the day, at two- to three-hour intervals. Every time the alarm goes off, ask yourself, ‘Have I avoided anything in the last few hours because I didn’t feel like it?’ If the answer is yes, then if you are able, go back and deal with that task.”
It’s really a simple action, but very good advice and it can really make a difference in what you’re able to accomplish in one day.
I did receive this book as an ARC. I do totally recommend it to anyone looking to increase their organizational skills. Don’t wait, seriously, do it now. You don’t need it to be January and the start of a new year to try to make improvements.
You can find out more about author Katharine Grubb, the 10 Minute Novelists, and her other books here at her website.
I’m very excited today to have author B.K. Boes guest posting. I had the privilege of meeting her last November at a writer’s conference and was blown away by her vision as an epic fantasy writer and her passion for writing. She agreed to sit down and share her process for writing, editing, and even how to find an illustrator. Regardless if you’re newer to this business of novel writing and publishing or more experienced, this post is chock full of great information!
Behind the Scenes of an Epic Fantasywith B.K. Boes
In today’s world, especially in the independent publishing crowd, you’re going to hear a lot of advice about writing fast. And I mean super speed. I’ve met people who can crank out a romance novel or space opera first draft in three days. And that’s awesome. But it’s not me, and that’s okay.
Here’s the advice I’d give you: write the first draft as fast as you can. Take into account your life circumstances and priorities. I’m a homeschooling mom. I work part-time online. My husband is a minister in a local church, which means I host people in my home many evenings. I run a local writer’s group, and I teach a homeschool high school creative writing class. I’m also working on building my writing career.
I simply can’t pump out books like a full-time author. Or even a part-time author with no kids in the picture. And, again, that’s okay.
So, here I am, a busy woman with a full life trying to write an epic fantasy series. In the last five years, I’ve written the first drafts of five books in this series, plus a spin-off book or two. Currently, I’ve brought the first book in the series, Mother of Rebellion, almost to the end of its production.
My Process Start to Finish
Since I’m independently publishing my series (the benefits of which and my choice to do so could be another post all together), my process of bringing a book from conception to publication looks different than traditional publication. It will also look different from other indie publishers. It’s tailored to who I am. But, maybe you can find something helpful in it, so here it is:
Idea forms. Write a few short stories with the main characters as protagonists. Do a crap ton of world-building. This step can take anywhere from a few weeks to a couple of months.
Plot out basic plot points, probably using The Hero’s Journey. This shouldn’t take more than a day or two. It’s not carved in stone. You can change it later.
Write the first draft. This shouldn’t take forever. In fact, I suggest trying to get the first draft finished in less than two months. Why? 1) Your first draft will probably suck no matter how long it takes you to write it. 2) Your first draft will probably change. A lot. 3) Laboring over words/themes/pacing is better done in revision. So, give yourself permission to write a bad first draft. Just accept the fact that it won’t be close to perfect, turn off your internal editor, write the draft, and move on to revisions.
If major changes took place between plotting out my book and finishing the first draft, sometimes I will take a day to replot my new story direction to make sure that I’m hitting all the correct markers.
Write the second draft. For me, I have to fill out the story a lot. I write bare bones on first draft and then add in on revisions. Some writers overwrite on the first draft and have to cut a lot of material in revisions. This will just depend on who you are as a writer. It would be a good idea to start getting some feedback at this point via a writer’s group. Complete the second draft as fast as you
Alpha readers. These are other writers or very critically thinking readers who can tear your story apart and help you put it back together in a better way. This will, of course, depend on how fast your alpha readers are. I have two, and it took them about a month. In the meantime, I took a step back from that story and wrote a first draft of another book.
Third draft changes based on alpha reader comments. I look for consistency, pacing, world-building (enough/too little?), story timeline, character distinction, etc., and I bring the book up to the best quality I can on my own. The third draft for me might take a couple of passes. I might separate out the multiple point of view characters into their own word documents and edit one character at a time.
At this point I would hire a developmental editor. More on that later.
Fourth draft based on comments of developmental editor.
Send off to a line editor. More on that later.
Fifth draft based on comments by line editor.
Send off to a proofreader.
Sixth draft based off of proofreading.
At this point, I’d send off to beta readers. These guys are going to read through your book and give you a reader’s perspective. They should be able to catch any last minute, smaller changes that need to be made.
During the last few stages, I’d hire a cover designer and map illustrator. More on that later.
Seventh draft based off of anything beta readers caught.
Once I have my illustrations and cover, it’s time to send it off to a professional formatter for the print version of the book. You can also hire for the ebook version, but you can also do it yourself on Vellum (Mac) or Jutoh (PC).
Finally! It’s time to publish!
Now let’s talk about some of the leg work involved in hiring professionals to help you make your book top notch.
How to Find an Editor
There are three types of editors I recommend.
Developmental Editor. This is big picture editing. They’ll look at the structure of your book, plot holes, find inconsistencies or unbelievable moments, check for character development and consistency, comment on pacing, and look for overall themes. This is the most expensive type of editing. You can probably get away with not hiring a developmental editor if you absolutely cannot afford one. However, if you decide not to hire a developmental editor, make sure you have super smart and capable Alpha readers and get as many of them as you can.
Line Editor. This is line by line editing. They’ll look for smaller scale craft of writing issues such as structure on a chapter, paragraph and/or sentence level. They will suggest better, smoother prose. They’ll help you make your voice consistent, and make sure that nothing is confusing for the reader.
Proofreader. This is purely technical. Grammar, punctuation, spelling, mistyped words, missing words, and things like that.
Now, when I was looking for editors, I took it very, very seriously. I believe that if I am going to pay for these services, it better be worth it. The last thing I want is to get back my manuscript and find that I wasted my money.
Making a list of editors
Word of mouth recommendations is very valuable. Network with other authors. Ask for their recommendations, and follow up if they give you an editor’s information. Begin forming a list of editors you wish to query.
Research editors who specialize in your genre. Google is your friend. Legitimate editors normally have websites with testimonials, rates, guidelines, and lists of books they’ve edited. Add those that interest you to your list. Query them to ask for recommendations from past clients.
Take a look at your favorite indie books in your genre. Often times they will credit their editor on the copyright page or in their acknowledgments. Add these names to your list and find their contact information.
Gather a large list of editors. Really do your research. I had more than 3 dozen editors on my original list.
Whittle Down Your List
Are they not affordable? Then mark them off the list.
Do they offer a sample edit? If not, mark them off the list.
When you look at the books they’ve edited on amazon/goodreads/etc, do you see a lot of comments in the lower rated reviews that specifically comment on editing? Mark them off the list. Don’t skip this step. This is how you confirm their track record.
Send out samples for them to edit based on their individual guidelines. Are they unprofessional? Mark them off the list. Do they fail to respect you as the author in their edits? Mark them off the list. Do you have the feeling you won’t work well together as you communicate? Mark them off. Do they try to rewrite your story? Mark them off. Do they have hateful comments instead of constructive ones? Mark them off.
Whittle your list down to less than 5 editors that you would be glad to work with and you think you can afford.
Which One to Hire?
This is something you’ll have to decide for yourself. I whittled my 36+ list of editors down to three or four, and I chose the cheapest one in the end. Your decision might be based off of something else, and that’s fine.
How to find an Illustrator
There are two ways to get a cover. You can hire an artist to create original artwork (which is often times expensive), or you can hire a company like Deranged Doctor Designs to make you a cover out of stock photos. This is definitely the more affordable option.
But original art may still be needed for other things. I hired an artist to create my cover illustration, and I’ve hired NA Studio Designs to give me unique chapter headings for each of my point of view characters, create maps for my book, and create some promotional materials.
The process of finding an illustrator is similar to finding an editor. The steps for making a list of illustrators or cover designers is the same, except you can add this: Search websites like DeviantArt and Carbon Made and even Fiverr. For maps, you can also check out The Cartographer’s Guild. These sites enable you to contact artists individually. You might have to query to find out if they even create artwork for book covers, but these are the places you can find some really great artists.
Tips for Working with Illustrators and Cover Designers
If working with stock, it is VERY important that you make sure they have the licenses to use said stock photos. Also, I like to run a Google image search when considering buying a premade book cover to see if the image has already been used in my genre in a similar way on a book cover.
If the artist isn’t professional and timely, don’t work with them. It’s a huge headache. And often times it falls through anyway. Your best bet is using someone with a track record and business already up and running.
When hiring for map illustrations, you’ll have to give them a rough sketch up front. Research map making. Model your map after real world places so that the geography makes sense. Have a rough sketch ready to go before you query.
Ask for recommendations from artists, just as you would for editors. Talk to previous clients about how smooth or not smooth the process was for them. You can find out a lot by just talking to people.
There is a lot to learn when planning to independently publish your book, but it is totally possible. And you can make your book indistinguishable from a traditionally published book. So, I encourage you to go. Write awesome stories. Produce top quality, professionally edited books. Put together beautiful eBooks and print books, and be proud of the product you’ve made.
Good luck, and remember, your process is yours. Not mine. Not anyone else’s. So find out what works for you and own it.
B.K. Boes is an epic fantasy writer, working on publishing her first novel, Mother of Rebellion, the first book in the Leyumin Divided Saga. She is a wife, and mother of two. Writing has always been a part of her life, but within the last four to five years has she begun to take it more seriously. Since then, she’s written six books, and her first is nearly ready to publish.
Excited and happy to announce I have an amazing author guest posting today! Please welcome Sheri Williams — author, voracious reader, amazing mom and wife, and someone I’m very privileged to call a friend. I’m going to launch into her post right away, but be sure to stick around because I’ve got all the links posted at the end for how you can find her and her books.
Don’t Piss Off the Author!
It is a well known fact that you don’t piss off an author. Because if you do such a thing, they will invariably kill you in horrible, terrible, no good ways. Possibly multiple times. I mean, they sell shirts and mugs and posters with this very fact on it. I mean in general, you shouldn’t go out of your way to piss off anyone. It’s just not good practice. I’m a firm believer in karma, and if you send out hate to the world, it’s going to multiply it x3 and you’re going to land smack on your ass wondering why the universe is out to get you.
But that is a whole other blog post. I’m going to talk today about how pissing off an author might lead them to a whole new story idea based on how they can kill you in fiction. No seriously. It’s going to happen. Public death for the crime of ignorance. That’s how I decided to kill the person who pissed me off. And it sparked a whole new world that I’m working on building. A whole world where if you are willfully ignorant you could be sentenced to death. A world where knowledge is power and we all know power corrupts, but can knowledge? I can’t wait to find out as I delve more into the world building.
I’ve only dug a little bit into what I want for this new world, but I’m already fascinated. And I really hope that after I finish what I’m writing now, then finish the other half written book I’m sitting on, and then write a sequel to a short that I’ve been asked about twice then, and only then will I get to delve deeper into the new world. I’m interested to see what I might come up with. Right now I have one character. She is Honor, the nun. That’s it, but it’s a start. And I have worked with much less before.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Many, many thanks to Sheri for taking the time to share this today! I’m really intrigued with this idea — a world where there’s public death for the crime of ignorance. This will be a fun if not disturbing read, and I love that! So, if you’re looking for Sheri you can find her here at: thesheriwilliams.com.
Last week I had the privilege of guest posting on author Sheri Williams’ blog. I talked about my writer’s “word-of-the-year” the one word that pretty much sums things up for me — the one word I keep muttering to myself on the days when I’m tired, frustrated, and the words won’t flow or are non-existent.
Below is a teaser about my post. If you want to read more and find out what word is on my writer’s mind. Please hope over to the blog of author Sheri Williams.
===== The Word of the Day & the Year is . . . =====
According to Statistic Brain, 41% of all Americans usually make a New Year’s resolution. Honestly, I would have thought that number to be higher, definitely over half maybe into the sixtieth percentile at least. To me, it seems like as soon as January 1 hits there’s the onslaught of blog posts, tweets, Facebook updates talking about or listing what they’re going to change/improve/eradicate in the new year.
Did you make a resolution for 2017? Are you in the process of working towards that resolution or as we move into the final days of January, has the oomph gone out of your resolve? . . .
The calendar reads October 31, which in most homes means Halloween fun — candy, costumes, scary movies/books, and more candy. In the homes of many writer’s it means NaNo Eve. What’s that? Why it’s the night before NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month. In some parts of the world it’s already November 1 and the keystrokes are flying as writers work to get their word counts in for the first official day of NaNo.
Last week, I wrote a guest post over at the Writing Wenches about deciding to participate in NaNo for 2016. I called it: To NaNo or Not To NaNo. If you’re still on the fence about whether or not to get in on National Novel Writing Month, check out my post.