Advice from Other Authors

As part of my writing advice section, I asked authors of various genres to share their advice for other writers at all stages of their careers. Here are their responses!

From Mercedes Rochelle, Historical Fiction Author

RESEARCH TIP:

I was at a little writers’ party the other day, and one of the attendees made a comment that nobody looks at footnotes anyway. “What?” I exclaimed. “I find these to be the most useful part of the book.” She looked at me like I had three heads. I couldn’t blame her. I used to feel that way too, before I wised up. Footnotes are more than just a way for the author to justify a statement. I learned that following these references to the author’s source opened up a whole new avenue of research for me—sometimes more specific to my studies than the book I was originally reading. Academic articles are a researcher’s “pot of gold”, and there’s no better way to discover them. Invariably, footnotes point me toward recognized experts in the field; often they are historians I should have known about but hadn’t discovered yet. This is frequently because they are out of print. Thank goodness for the internet!

Find Mercedes’ books here: https://t.co/V6RUGIMZnt

Connect with Mercedes here: https://t.co/twjK8b9EQD

From Sandy Stuckless, Science Fiction/Fantasy Author

How Do You Edit?

So, you’re finished. Got that manuscript all typed up, formatted, saved in about 700 different locations because you’re terrified aliens will sneak in and steal your hard drive because they believe it to be the key to unlocking world domination (okay, maybe not that one, but you’re paranoid. Admit it.)

You’ve typed THE END.

But you know that’s just the beginning, right? RIGHT?!

Now comes the fun part! Editing! Note the sarcasm in my voice.

There really isn’t a perfect editing method. Some like to do it on the screen right after typing ‘The End’, others will close the file and not look at it for months.

Or, if you’re like me, you print it out. Yes, every single page, and buy shares in the red ink factory. There’s just something about reading the piece from the printed page and making notes on it that better connects me to the story.

In the end, what it boils down to for me personally are two major factors: reader feedback and a having a plan. Some things you may be able to identify on your own, but to really know what’s going on with the story, external feedback is where it’s at. And once you have that feedback, make a plan. I try to resist making changes until all of my beta readers get back to me and I’ve gone through their comments, not only for areas of concern, but also the good stuff I don’t want changed.

I fumbled so badly through my earlier work because I never had any outside feedback and I didn’t have a plan. Both I’m happy to say are no longer true.

Connect with Sandy here: https://bit.ly/3wCiY4Z

From Victoria Gilbert, Mystery Author

I have two pieces of advice. First, don’t expect to be recognized right away. Except in rare cases, an author must publish several books before their work gains any real traction in terms of reader recognition or significant sales. I have 8 mysteries published to date, with two more releasing this year, and feel that I’m just now establishing myself as a “known” author in my genre. It often takes time for readers to discover “new” authors, so don’t despair if your first (or second, or third) book doesn’t make you a recognized writer in your field. Keep writing and publishing, whether that be traditionally or indie, and you will slowly but surely become more “visible” to readers.

Second, don’t be afraid to experiment and (perhaps) change your trajectory, especially if you find yourself getting “stuck.” If your current manuscript isn’t garnering you any agent interest, or you can’t seem to land a good publishing deal, or you had deals but they didn’t really launch your career, think about trying something new. There’s no harm in experimenting with different genres, age categories, or whatever. I wouldn’t have discovered my real strengths as an author – which mesh best with the traditional mystery genre – if I hadn’t taken the (rather scary at the time) plunge into a new genre. I’m convinced I wouldn’t have had as much success in the long run either.

Find Victoria’s books here: https://t.co/swAVvBn2NK

Connect with Victoria here: https://victoriagilbertmysteries.com/

From Marian L Thorpe, Historical Fiction Author

Over the years, the most important thing I’ve learned is that if I’m stuck, or the writing’s going badly, there’s a reason for it. It’s not procrastination, or laziness, but because something is wrong with the story. I’ve made a resolution to a conflict too easy, or I’ve had a character act in a way that’s inconsistent, or I’ve introduced something that doesn’t fit the story – or I’m trying to tell too much story.

Sometimes I know this when I’m writing a scene (and will sometimes finish it anyway, to be a ‘darling’ to be discarded.) But more often it manifests as a sense of discontent, a nagging feeling something’s wrong. I made it to 80,000 words in one book, the discontent growing, the writing first limping along and then stopping, before I was wise (brave?) enough to listen to what that meant. In that case, it was too much story, and eventually the ideas became one novella and two books. 

I work this out on long walks or drives or bike rides, mostly by letting the problem wander around in my subconscious until the solution pops out, as well as sharing the dilemma with my trusted critique partners. When I vacillate and leave in a scene I’m unsure of, or a plot line, inevitably either one of them or my developmental editor will pick up on it, which is a reassuring confirmation that my gut feelings are right. So I firmly trust my heart and head and gut now. Listen to them, and you’ll get it right.

Connect with Marian here: https://linktr.ee/marianlthorpe

From Michelle Lowe, Science fiction, Fantasy, & Steampunk Author

I once read that you can make anything by writing. And it’s true! Writing opens minds, introduces new perspectives, and brings people into worlds they’d never knew existed before. Writing is an art form that is beautiful, tragic, complex, stunning, and horrifying. My best advice is to develop a thick skin, learn from constructive criticism and read! Read! Read! Read! Because when a writer is reading, it’s different from non-writers. We’re not just reading, we’re studying. We’re finding out new ways to describe things, broadening our vocabulary, and learning how these other authors thread their stories together. Whatever genre you write, reading will help significantly when you put your own pen to paper. Also, stick to your own personal writing process. I’ve heard other writers downright TELL aspiring writers the “correct” procedure to writing, because they’ve done it that way, and, therefore, it’s the only way. All I have to say is, it doesn’t matter how a writer goes about putting words down so long as the whole story gets written. Write an outline or wing it as you go. Write the first draft in longhand or write straight onto the computer. Edit as you go or put it off until later. Conduct rituals before you start writing, why not? Whatever you’re more comfortable with. It’s always wise to take advise, of course, but if a certain way doesn’t jive with you, then don’t do it, because it’ll only slow your writing down. Your story is what matters and how you write it should always be entirely up to you.

You can find Michelle’s books here: https://www.amazon.com/Michelle-Lowe/e/B004W0CUIE

Connect with Michelle here: http://www.michellelowe.net/

From Andy Murray, Poet

My approach to writing poetry differs from my approach to writing fiction. With the latter, even as a panster, I still have some idea of what I’m about to start. I might not adhere strictly to a plot but at least I have an idea of where I am going. Some kind of underlying blueprint to follow.

But I never sit down with the intention to write poetry. It’s more of an organic, instinctive thing. Mysterious though it may sound, a poem tends to seek me out rather than the other way around. I sometimes ‘get’ words or combinations of words even when I’m busy doing other things. I’ve likened it to my antennae being up. Sometimes they arrive when on the edges of sleep and I make a quick note of them before they are lost. And then at a later time I return to them, write them down again and take it from there. Other words begin to come and the poem takes shape. I don’t spend a lot of time on them, I try to stick as close to that initial inspiration as I can.

I find that, for me, labouring on a poem doesn’t work. It becomes heavy whereas inspiration is light. When I’ve transcribed what I can there may be the odd word or line that doesn’t feel right which I will return to later. If I’m struggling I don’t force it but leave it for another day.

The opposite of how I write, I have a poet friend who chooses her subject, writes down what she wants to say and then replaces words to make it sound more ‘poetic’. That’s valid too. It’s about finding a way that works for you.

Be aware of your thoughts. Be aware of those little foundational flashes on which you can build. Sometimes a seemingly throwaway line can become the cornerstone. Don’t worry about style and subject or comparing yourself to other poets, just keep writing and find your own voice. It develops over time.

Connect with Andy here: https://t.co/dNVVQ6Ah3h

From Helen Garraway, Historical Fiction Author

Basic tip: Learn your craft. Take the time to learn grammar and punctuation. Understand the structure of a sentence and a book. But most of all write. Write freely, and worry about editing later. You can always polish it up afterwards, but if you don’t write to begin with then you’ll have nothing to polish.

Find Helen’s books here: https://t.co/QsWhYrAW2V

Sign up for Helen’s Newsletter here: https://t.co/xMztXGVif6

From SH Cooper, Horror Author

I think pretty much all my basic tips sound pretty cliche haha. The usual stuff like “It doesn’t matter how dumb an idea sounds; if it appeals to you, write it out and see where it takes you. The good stuff only comes with trial and error.”

Find SH’s books here: https://t.co/sqzrvdqqGh

Connect with SH here: https://t.co/yGx917HMcc

From S.K. Berit, Smart-Ass Author

I worked hard to get gooder at the word stuff. Ever since middle school, when it became clear that not everyone grokked language, and that how you said things in writing made a big difference in getting into the heads of the readers. Every writer has lived through a similar epiphany. 

But then comes the realization that you need something to say before you can cast magic over sentences. This is a rough moment, especially as a young person with little experience in life. So, you pluck from what little you do know, and hammer out some interesting paragraphs.

One day, a cloud forms in the sky above all those fabulous sentences and paragraphs. There’s good stuff there, but the whole is kinda boring. The writing is interesting but the story is not. If there is a story.

Nobody told us about making a story.

It’s time to embrace the three-act structure. Probably past time for some. Yes, it’s tough to get the hang of, but there are mountains of books to help out. If you eschew this part of writing, you betray the reader (most of the time). The three act structure is in our DNA. People understand it without even knowing the name for it. It’s been around since the beginning of time, best as the researchers can tell.

Writing good sentences and writing good stories are separate skills. You need both.

Connect with SK here: https://skberit.com/

Find SK’s book here: https://www.amazon.com/Little-Book-Big-Roolz-Reality-ebook/dp/B07S3XHGKK

From Sheri Williams, Romance & Horror Author

Even though I have been an author for a while now, I don’t often offer tips. For Kelly, however, I’ll offer this. 

Rules are meant to be broken. Writing is our finest form of anarchy and that starts in the way that you write. Almost all formatting rules can be tossed aside. Same with most grammar rules. Writing is fluid and can and will evade every box you try to stick it into.

Find Sheri’s books here: https://momtojuju7.wixsite.com/authorsheri

Connect with Sheri on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AuthorSheri and TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/t/ZTdpet2F5

From Elizabeth R Andersen, Historical Fiction Author

There’s nothing quite like the euphoria that comes from a good writing streak – that feeling that you’ve been possessed by your characters and the muse is completely responsible for running your story.  But there’s a trap in that kind of manic creativity. To use a well-worn phrase, you cannot see the forest for the trees when you are buried to the tops of your ears in prose, and we forget to give our manuscripts time to breathe and our brains a chance to settle. After you have a first draft ready, put it in a safe place and then go do something else for a month or more. Take a vacation, focus on another project, write blog posts or short stories –  anything to forget what your manuscript is about. You may hear your manuscript calling for help from the bowels of your computer’s hard drive, but I urge you to ignore the screams. Stepping away for a few weeks will give you the change to see your work as a reader and not as the author. This is like holding a magnifying glass to your plot holes and a megaphone to melodramatic writing.

Find Elizabeth’s books here: https://books2read.com/u/3RJE5L

Connect with Elizabeth here: http://www.elizabethrandersen.com/

From Wendy Baine, Historical Fiction Author

Find your voice, and not someone else’s. Don’t try to be your favourite writer. 

On top of that, preparation is critical, and I don’t mean you have to plot out every aspect of your book though many people do. I don’t. However, I like to research what I am writing. As a writer, you are responsible for being true to the period you’ve selected regarding daily life, including food, clothing, funishings, transportation, art, architecture, etc. 

Also, you cannot have an aristocrat speaking like someone from the London slums; or America. My books take place, for the most part, take place in mid 19th century Britain, and it always grates my nerves when I read books that have characters using words that are too modern or are not part of the British vernacular.

Also, regarding presentation, make sure you research the norms of the period. This is where you can stretch things a bit and imbue your characters with what we would call progressive ideas in health care, education, friends, justice etc.

Though this sounds like a lot of work, it can be fun too, and that is the crux; you should enjoy what you are writing. If not, it will show in your writing. 

Strive to be authentic.

Find Wendy’s books here: https://t.co/4TonpFvnPm

Connect with Wendy here: https://t.co/r8tst0NTDR

From Bo Chappell, Horror Author

This may be the most important writing tip, and it’s one you need to implement before you even write down a single word.

Ask yourself, “Why do I want to write?”

Writing is a difficult medium that takes a tremendous amount of love and investment in order to have a finished product. Writing takes ideas and emotions and distills an experience into something accessible in order to make a connection. Using words to accurately express the intangible is a true art form. Arranging them in an order so as to make someone laugh or cry takes dedication.

Those who find joy in storytelling should write. Those who love the idea of making a connection with someone they will never meet or possibly even know should write. Those who have something so goddamn important to say that the thought of never saying it pains them SHOULD WRITE.

So before you pick up a pen, load that sheet of paper into the typewriter, or open that laptop, ask yourself:

“Why do I want to write?”

If any of the following is your answer:

  • Words are tools I use to excavate truth within myself and my point of view in order to make the world a richer experience for myself and (hopefully) others.
  • Not being able to write feels like not being able to speak, think, feel, or breathe.
  • I want to read a work like this, but no one has written it.
  • I have something to say that will make the world a better place.
  • I just want to tell a good story.

Then please, for everyone’s sake, WRITE. If you have something worthwhile to say, someone always wants to hear it, even if it’s just you because I assure you that, if you want to write, it’s because you saw something written by someone who wanted the same thing as you.

FROM DAY ONE: A YEAR 47 OMNIBUS is available here: https://amzn.to/3y1z2jo.

Connect with Bo here: www.bochappell.wordpress.com and on social media: @infrafan

Find Bo’s books here: https://amzn.to/3kp0xep

From Eva Lauder, Romantic Drama Author

I am new to the world of published writing and didn’t realise just how much is involved in not only being an author but an indie author. I was so focused on querying agents in the hope that I’d go down the traditional publishing route, I hadn’t researched the alternative. I’ve heard of folk querying for months, years even, but I couldn’t put myself under that kind of pressure and self-doubt. Being a writer fills you with regular emotions ranging from ‘yay, go me’ to ‘I’m kidding myself’ as it is, so when you throw querying into the equation, if you veer towards being a tad sensitive, it can become personal. As a result I set myself a limit. I allowed myself six months of querying before going independent. It’s not because I don’t believe in my novel, but I do believe in trying other avenues.

So, here I am. In the year and a half of joining the writing community, I have made some lovely friends who offer support and advice. This is priceless. I have published my novel and it hasn’t been easy. When I compare my very first draft to the published one, it’s cringeworthy. The novel has been through four rewrites and countless edits.

Technology and I don’t go together like hand in glove and the money that has been spent on completely pointless services has also been a learning curve. Having spoken with Kelly Evans, she took a look at my newly formatted ms and pointed out issues that had to be rectified if my book was to be taken seriously. After lots of guidance and patience, I can now say that I am officially a published author. My next project will be less problematic in that I have learned so much on this journey, and although I will invariably make mistakes, I won’t repeat the same ones (she says). What is the most important piece of advice in all of this ? Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask for help. Everyone has been a rookie at some point.

Find Eva’s book here: https://www.amazon.com/Being-Ines-Eva-Lauder-ebook/dp/B09ZQ2SG16

Connect with Eva here: https://evalauder.com/

From Dave Wickenden, Thriller Author

Writing Tip: I do not agree with a lot of the discussion about writer’s block. It’s not that you cannot write, but rather, your mind needs the time to come up with the solution for your story, either the story line or a satisfying conclusion. You need to give yourself time to figure it out. You can’t push it. In the mean time, work on something totally different. Your mind will still be working in the background. Given some time, the answer will suddenly make itself known.

Find Dave’s books here: https://t.co/xWJCS4daUd

Connect with Dave here: https://t.co/8AZxLBmDKc

I hope you found this advice useful, be sure to support these authors, they’ve written some magnificent and terrifying stories!

Oh, and my own books are available here! http://goo.gl/2Rfwws

You can find MORE writing advice here: https://kellyaevans.com/writingadvice/

Copyright K Evans 2022

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