Lately on our blog we've been sharing industry tips. One of the things discussed recently was websites. After seeing what Kelli Collins had to say about them, I've personally reviewed my own website. I've cleaned things up a bit and even added a few things I realized were missing. Basically, I've attempted to make it easier for readers to find and purchase my books. In fact, I still have a few things left to do before I feel 100% satisfied with it.
Why am I bringing this up? Well, I firmly believe that no matter who you are or how long you've been writing, there is always room for improvement. Last Thursday I brought several publishing professionals in to share their knowledge. Today I have more! This time around I bring you my editor at Kensington as she gives you her #1 piece of advice. Also chiming in are bestselling authors Pamela Palmer, Lorelei James and Maya Banks. And as a special guest I decided to ask a cover artist if he had any tips for new writers. The result was an eye-opener for me. Just when I think I've got a handle on this business I realize I've only barely scratched the surface. I still have so much to learn! Thankfully, those who have been-there-done-that are willing to share what they've learned with the rest of us. :)
First up, Audrey LaFehr, editorial director at Kensington Publishing. For fourteen years Audrey was the executive editor at The Penguin Group. Audrey has worked with authors such as Rick Mofina, Kate Douglas, Marie Bostwick, Tawny Taylor, Georgina Gentry—and she’s my terrific editor at Kensington.
When I asked Audrey for one piece of advice to share with writers, I was honestly curious what she’d say. I mean, there are so many aspects to publishing, I couldn’t imagine which direction she’d go with this. I was thrilled when I read her reply because it’s something I actually DO. Thank goodness I’m getting at least ONE thing right!
My #1 advice to aspiring writers is to READ. I am astonished by how many hopeful writers say they don't read much, or read only within their critique group, primarily unpublished manuscripts. The very best thing you can do to improve your writing is to read! And read widely, in different genres, read heavily in the classics, read current bestsellers, and read magazines that still put quality writing first such as The New Yorker. I don't accept the argument that it will "influence my ideas or my voice" at all. Your voice will always be your own--the only influence voracious reading can have on your own writing will be to improve it. I would also recommend joining a book club of "civilians" or non-writers who are not interested in publishing, but just enjoy reading and discussing books. This will give you a very different perspective on the way "real readers" respond to characters and storylines without any competitive agenda.Pamela Palmer is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Feral Warriors shapeshifter series for Avon books and the Esri series for Nocturne. As Pamela Montgomerie, she writes the Jewels of Time time travel series for Berkley Sensation.
Being a fan of Pamela’s Feral Warriors series, I was nervous about asking her for writing advice for my blog post. I don’t know, there’s just something about speaking with your favorite authors that gets us all jittery. LOL! However, her tips on creating believable characters really spoke to me!
The key to creating believable characters is to ensure that they act as THEY would rather than as you would, or as you imagine a hero or heroine should--a unique, individual way consistent with their personalities, situation, frame of mind, mood, background, past experiences, etc.Lorelei James writes contemporary erotic western romance stories. She’s the bestselling author of the popular Rough Riders Series. Lorelei also writes mysteries under the pen name, Lori G. Armstrong. Her book Snow Blind, released in Oct. 2008, won the 2009 Shamus Award, from the Private Eye Writers of America, for Best Paperback Original. She’s published with Samhain Publishing, NAL, and Medallion Press.
Faced with the cancellation of her flight, would your character march up to the nearest service counter and demand to speak to a supervisor? Laugh? Shrug and head for the nearest Starbucks? Cry? Get on her iphone and calmly (or desperately) start looking for another way to reach her destination on time?
It depends. On where she’s going and why. On how many things have already gone wrong that day. On her personality and how she naturally handles such setbacks. On whether she’s traveling alone or with a business partner, or with a fussy baby.
Let your characters act true to themselves and their individual situations and they’ll leap to life for both you and your readers.
Okay, I fully admit that the advice Lorelei James shares is something I have NEVER done. Knowing how prolific she is and how much readers love her books, well, I’m thinking I’m going to change things up a bit with my own writing process!
Allow yourself to write crap for the first draft, the most important thing is to finish the book. Then you can edit edit edit, cut, add, fix, polish and turn it into the book you envisioned.Maya Banks is the author of Sweet Temptation, a #1 bestseller on both the BN and BGI trade romance bestseller lists in April 2010. Her book The Billionaire’s Contract Engagement hit the USA Today Bestseller list in March 2010. She’s published with Samhain Publishing, Berkley Sensation, Ballantine Books and Berkley Trade.
When Maya shared her advice I realized right away this went right along with some of the tips Tess shared recently. Seeing it again, from a USA Today Bestselling Author at that, should tell all of us that these two ladies are definitely onto something!
My advice to writers, especially those just starting out is to be fiercely protective of their voice. I think a lot of writers in the beginning are excited, driven and exuberant. They look for critique partners and they tend to listen to every piece of feedback because they want their book to be the best it can possibly be.Scott Carpenter is the Art Director at Samhain Publishing. He’s also an author with Samhain Publishing and Ellora’s Cave Publishing. Scott went to college for three years to learn Graphic Design.
I haven’t used critique partners in a long, long time. I’m a bit rebellious because I want the book to be my own whether it flops or succeeds. When an author takes every piece of feedback and attempts to please all their critics, the result is a watered down, generic story that could have been written by anyone. An author’s voice is what makes a story special. Not the plot or the theme. Most stories have been done before. Many, many times. What makes it new and fresh is the author’s voice. An author’s voice can make the difference between an editor passing or an editor offering a contract.
Don’t be afraid to ignore “advice” especially when it comes to your story. Make sure it resonates with you before you change parts of your writing. Even when an editor or agent rejects you and offers suggestions, make sure you agree with them before you go revise your story because they are only ONE opinion. Writing isn’t about pleasing every editor or agent out there. It’s about finding ONE editor who loves your voice enough to want to invest in you as an author.
And after you’re published, you’ll find that there is a multitude of people, readers, reviewers etc who offer advice or make suggestions on ways to change, improve etc. Again, writing to please ONE person or even a vocal minority is a huge, huge mistake. Own your voice. Don’t change it for anyone. For every reader, reviewer, editor or agent who dislikes one aspect of your story, there is likely a hundred who love it.
The cover is the first thing a reader will see. A bad cover can turn a reader off and possibly keep them from learning more about the book. So, naturally I was curious what sort of advice a cover artist might have for new writers. (Also I wanted to add that Scott has done all of my Samhain covers.)
For anyone that is a writer or aspiring to be remember, the story is YOURS. What you see in your head is what anyone doing the cover or art needs to know. Be detailed and trust others visions because they may see it different but will enhance your thoughts.Scott also adds:
I am blessed to have surrounded myself with artists that are talented and listen.
I have worked with Anne for a while now and I know what she wants and she trusts me, that's the best advice I have is to trust your Editor and Artist. Just like a marriage, lol.
And now I'd like to share a few links. These are sites I browse if I'm in need of help. You might already be using them yourself. In case you aren't though:I learned more on the fly by doing the covers, ads and promotional items and everything else by listening to what authors and people want to see. People have ideas and visions; it's my job to bring that out.
Theresa Stevens blog: A fantastic blog that discusses every aspect of a story. There is so much to learn here: http://edittorrent.blogspot.com/
Charlotte Dillon's Resources for Writers: There are hundreds of articles her folks. Take your time and browse. This is a place I visit at least once a week. http://www.charlottedillon.com/WritingRomance.html
The Passionate Pen: Another site that has a ton of information. A list of publishers, agents, articls and links to articles. And be sure to click the What's New section for the latest information: http://www.passionatepen.com/articles.htm
The Writing Corner: You'll find some neat things on this site. Even a few helpful articles by Nora Roberts. http://writingcorner.com/fiction/
Harlequin's Writing Articles: It doesn't really matter if you're writing a story for Harlequin or not as there's still a nice selection of articles here: http://www.eharlequin.com/store.html?cid=535
Now, I turn to YOU. Do you know of a website or blog with helpful tips on writing? Share it please, I'm always on the lookout for a fresh perspective! :)