Tag Archives: guest

The Power of Repetition

KnightOfFlameA guest post by Scott Eder.

I’m always looking for ways to take my writing to the next level. Classes, books, podcasts, conversations… the list goes on. As a perpetual student, I’m learning and practicing every single day. But some lessons are tougher than others and require multiple strikes of the hammer to drive a single point home. In my case, the single point I struggled with was grabbing the reader right out of the gate. It’s a simple concept, really. A story needs to grab the reader’s interest as soon as possible, and refuse to let him go. Compelling characters, barbed hooks, unique conflicts, scintillating writing, and a crisp, unique voice combine to clamp onto the reader’s imagination, tightening his interest with each turn of the page.

Easy, right? You’d think so, but it took listening to a panel of agents and editors at DragonCon for the meaning to really sink in.

When I first started writing, I thought I had time, story time that is. I opened at a soft, descriptive pace that gently introduced the reader to my setting and characters. After that, I stirred in the conflict, ratcheting up the stress and intensity, until eventually achieving resolution. I thought this approach meshed with the fantasy genre. I needed time for world building, and to introduce the uniqueness of my characters, right? So why didn’t I get any interest from the agents and editors I queried? The form rejection letters didn’t help, didn’t tell me what I needed to fix.

I realized that I was missing some critical piece to the story-telling puzzle, and made the decision to seek professional help. (Hehe. I felt a little crazy at this point.) After taking several classes where the instructors helped me understand that I needed to get to the conflict sooner, that I needed to hook the reader up front, I thought I had it. Instead of getting to the action within the first few chapters, I streamlined my writing, introduced setting, characters and conflict in a more compelling way by the end of chapter one.

Woohoo! With my newfound skills, I’d break into the biz in no time. My stories rocked. Or so I thought. But the growing collection of form rejections told a different story. If one of those editors or agents would take a minute and give me something, a hint, a bit of advice, anything to clue me in as to what was missing, I’d have a chance to fix it. Nope. Just a thanks for playing, and have a nice day.

Crap. Now what?

One of the things David Farland mentioned in his class was that you could meet editors and agents at certain conventions. I checked the Interwebs and found DragonCon. I’d heard about this fabled event, but never attended. Once I found several editors and agents on the guest list, I booked my travel plans.

DragonCon has an excellent writer’s track. Panels conducted by authors, publishers, agents, and editors, with topics ranging from writing basics to more advanced publishing concerns, run all day, every day. One of the most heavily attended is the combined editors and agents panel. I got there early, but by the time it started, it was standing room only. It turned out to be more of a question and answer session, than a formalized presentation, which was fine, because I had a lot of the same questions other aspiring writers in the throng dared to ask. And then it happened. The crowd disappeared, the lights dimmed, and the panelists turned to face me, metaphorically anyway. Their comments hit me hard.

One agent said, “Look, you need to draw me in right away. Like on the first page. With all the submissions I get, I don’t have time to read pages and pages, waiting for something interesting to happen.”

An editor chimed in. “Yeah. I’m rooting for you, but unless you hook me within the first page or two with something, and it doesn’t have to be your primary conflict, but something to make me keep reading, you’re done.”

“Hell, you need to grab me in the first paragraph or two,” said the agent at the far end of the table. “I’ll give you a little more time if you have a nifty voice, but not much.”

I blinked a few times as the import of their words sunk in. The first page or two? Hmm…The chatter continued, but I zoned out, churning over how make my first few pages addictive. I wanted the reader turning the pages of my book as if he’d just popped the top on a fresh can of Pringles.

After several iterations, and an enthusiastic thumbs-up from my critique group, I sent it back out. This time, it sold!

And all it took were several books, a few teachers, and one panel at a convention to make it stick. Never stop learning. Make it a part of your writing process to seek out new techniques and information. You never know which one will make the difference between rejection and acceptance.

Guest Writer Bio:
Scott EderSince he was a kid, Scott wanted to be an author.

Through the years, fantastic tales of nobility and strife, honor and chaos dominated his thoughts. After twenty years mired in the corporate machine, he broke free to bring those stories to life.

Scott lives with his wife and two children on the west coast of Florida.

Check out Knight of Flame on Scott’s Website:  www.scotteder.net

Eight Tips for the Aspiring Writer

JaceA guest post by Jace Sanders

From the age of five until about fourteen, anytime I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I was quick to answer that I wanted to be a writer. In seventh grade I had this discussion with my dad who thought I ought to pursue the new industry of computers, as the writing world might have high barriers of entry. My naïve mind made the argument that every author I knew was famous and so they had to be successful. All I had to do was write.

Years later, I found myself in a steady job as a college graduate. I didn’t realize that I had satisfied my internal drive to write, by creating business plans and financial articles and by reading.

One morning I awoke from a fantastic dream with an incredible plot full of twists, drama and revenge. It was a story that had to be told so I resolved to write a letter to John Grisham, deeding him irrevocable rights to my dream. After showering I realized that that would never go anywhere. As I shaved, my reflection in the mirror posed the question, “why don’t you write it?”

I knew that I didn’t know the first thing about proper writing so I called around and found a writing group led by a real-life published author. I will not forget the first critique by the group, where they destroyed my novel in progress. Seems I didn’t understand Point of View. That critique has forever impacted my writing. At first I wanted to throw my hands in the air and abandon the childhood fantasy. But it was too late to go back; I had rekindled my desire to write. So I buckled down and mastered Point of View.

Not long after that I moved and I made the apathetic mistake of not finding a new group of writing peers. Years passed, the economy tanked, and the author in me receded to the back shelf of my mind.

Last year, a friend of mine informed me that a publisher had picked up his book. I didn’t even know he wrote. The author inside of me begged to be let out. Then I learned that my neighbor was a talented writer. She asked to see some of my work so I pulled out a piece, blew off the dust, and sent it over.

The experience was very similar to when I learned about POV. This time I was introduced to the concept of Showing versus Telling. I again wanted to abandon the childhood fantasy, but determination replaced pride and I studied, read, and learned all there was about Showing versus Telling.

This neighbor has become somewhat of a mentor. When I told her that I was serious about writing and willing to put forth the effort, she gave me a list of tools. Here are her suggestions:

  1. Watch Brandon Sanderson’s creative writing class on YouTube. Watch one class each day.  They can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/user/WriteAboutDragons?feature=watch
  2. After step 1, listen to his podcast at www.writingexcuses.com. Listen to one a day, any more than that may overwhelm your brain.
  3. Accept that the first million words that you write is probably crap. Join the 100 Club. Write at least 100 words each day. Before you know it you’re manuscript is taking shape and you’re becoming a better writer.
  4. Join a writing group. Try to find people that are better than you and are willing to give you honest feedback.
  5. Read. Read a lot.
  6. Read books on writing. Some great ones are:
    • Self Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Brown and Dave King
    • Million Dollar Outlines by David Farland
    • Writing the Blockbuster Novel by Albert Zuckerman
    • Characters and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card
    • How to Write Magical Words by Edmund Schubert
  7. The best thing to do is to learn all the rules of writing, internalize them, then forget them and just write.
  8. If you’re really serious. Go to Superstars Writing Seminar. www.superstarswriting.com

I am still aspiring to be a published and successful writer and I know that I am getting closer every day. I write at least 100 words daily. I read a lot. I continue to work with a writers group and value the feedback I receive. I’m starting to just write. The best thing I’ve done in furthering my writing career has been attending Superstars Writing Seminar. If you are serious about being a writer, go.

Guest Writer Bio:
JaceJace lives in Arizona with his wife and five children. In addition to writing he enjoys music, photography, and anything outdoors. He holds a Masters in Business Administration from Utah State University and is the Chief Financial Officer of a biotech company.

Building My Tribe

TribeA guest post by Michelle B. Cori.

My dreams of becoming a writer came late to me. I was inspired during one of the most challenging times of my life. Just before my 28th birthday I found myself pregnant, laid-off, on the other side of the country from my family and about to be newly single. Needless to say it wasn’t one of the more cheerful times in my life. But I was inspired by an interview I saw with J.K. Rowling and an author who happen to live down the street from me. It was Jim Butcher, and the fourth book of the Dresden Files had just come out. Hearing about their successes gave me an idea.

Many years later I’m sitting in Starbucks writing this blog after a week crammed with excitement and inspiration found at Salt Lake’s first ComicCon. My story takes place over ten years; at the beginning of 2003 I started writing with the intent to become an author. In those early years I wrote, many times in my local coffee shop. I was too afraid to show my writing and had no idea what steps to take to become an author. Things continued on like that for years, and probably would have had I not seen a post in December 2009 on the website of Sherrilyn Kenyon. She was coming to Salt Lake. I assumed it was for a signing, but it wasn’t. She was apart of a writing workshop called Super Star’s Writing Seminars.

As a single mother two weeks before Christmas it was a scary idea to take my last $500 to attend the seminar. After several hours of thinking about it and pulling my hair I took the plunge, more worried about paying bills because by some miracle I had finished Christmas shopping. That decision was as important and life changing as the decision for a used up Art Director to attempt to become a writer. In February of 2010 I met many people who would come to change the course of my life and work.

I was bombarded with information about the writing industry in my first couple seminars. Thing were changing so fast, Borders shut down three weeks after that seminar and I was headed to my second seminar Life the Universe and Everything. Those two seminars were the start of what I know now would be life long friendships, knowledge, work and partnerships. The interesting thing about the seminars and Cons is often for me it wasn’t the information, but about the connections. More than ten conventions later I can say the moments that stick out are having a beer the last night of my first Super Star’s with Kevin J. Anderson or having dinner with James A. Owens or Sherrilyn Kenyon. It is the connections, which have made the difference and keep me inspired. I have a tribe, as James A. Owens would say. The tribe is increasing all the time and the bonds growing stronger. With the tribe I am apart of something and not alone anymore.

My inspiration comes from seeing a author my age who I met more three years ago, go from winning Writers of the Future to being nominated for a Hugo, Nebula, and Campbell in the same year, to now being a many times published author and a new author at Baen.

My advice to anyone wanting to be an author is to find a community or tribe. This is accomplished thru going to workshops, writing groups, conventions, web seminars or classes, seminars or getting to know people at your locally owned book store or comic store. You need a support system and network. This is what helps to keep you going through rejections or dry spells. Ideas, inspiration and friendship come from joining with other who are doing what you are or what you hope to.

The funny thing is I wouldn’t be writing this blog had it not been for a dinner one night earlier this year in Colorado Springs. I sat next to a new member to the Super Star’s tribe and offered him advice about developing a self-brand and helping him find cover artists. He contacted me and asked if I would be interested in doing a blog. While at Salt Lake ComicCon I connected with authors I know and have walked away with some interesting possibilities for future work.

The web is also a get place to find communities and workshops that are free or very affordable. Places like Fictorians, the Eric Flint’s Grantville Gazette blog, Scribe’s Forge (web classes and seminars), Writer’s of the Future blog. All of these places are a great place to begin. Remember to always be courteous on the web or in person. You never know whom you are talking to. My favorite example of this is I once was at a World Horror convention after party talking to a man. I made a funny and G rated joke about clowns. He handed me a card and said, “I’m editing a analogy of clown horror stories. Would you be interested in submitting?” Or being at World Sci-Fi in the dealers room looking at a signed copy of one of my favorite books. As I proceeded to get excited it turned out the author was standing next to me. You never know whom you will meet and were things can lead.

So here is my point, if you want to take the next step in your writing start with writing a lot. Be prolific. Next plan and set aside time and money for workshops or conventions so you can begin to network and grow your tribe. But remember your tribe is a support system met to lift you up and inspire you. You still have to keep drumming away on the keyboard too and it shouldn’t distract from your writing but add to it. So go forth and find your people.


Guest Writer Bio:
MBCoriM.B. Cori is plugging away on her first paranormal romance, with hopes of finishing and publishing early next year. Followed close by with a middle grade book. She spent many years as an Art Director in corporate and publishing doing design and illustration. Currently crashes in Salt Lake City, Utah where she can be found behind a keyboard or bar serving drinks. A girl has to making a living while she pursues her dreams.

Editors: Freelance v. In-house

Jen Greyson
Author, Jen Greyson

I’ve had an opportunity to work with both an amazing freelance editor, Joshua Essoe, as well as an in-house editing team for the boutique publisher, The Writer’s Coffee Shop (of 50 Shades of Grey fame). Beyond my own experience, there are still a myriad of relationships depending on the size of the publishing house and skill of the freelancer, but I wanted to share my experiences with each to let authors know what they might be able to expect.

One of the biggest differences is the number of passes on a single work. When I hire a freelancer, money is a big part of the amount of time he can spend on my work. Unfortunately, my checkbook will only allow him one pass, so he has to hit everything in one sitting-plot issues, line editing, copy editing-the whole shebang. When I send it to my in-house team, money is still a factor, but now it’s on their side as to how many passes they can afford in overhead.

For my first book, the initial in-house edit focused on the overarching plot. I sent in a polished manuscript and after a couple weeks, I received a 10-page evaluation addressing suggested plot changes, crutch words, character inconsistencies, etc. I then had a few weeks to fix the issues and send the revised manuscript back. My freelancer addresses the same things as that evaluation, but he tackles his evaluation and in-line comments about my misspelled words and comma misuse, at the same time.

After that content edit, the house editors send me the line edit. From here, my in-house editor and I will work for a few weeks passing the manuscript back and forth until we get a clean copy (for me, 10 passes total). Then my copy editor gets to take a pass (I’m lucky in that I have a fantastic copy editor and she doesn’t hack my stuff to death–I’ve heard horror stories where sometimes the copy edit is worse than the line edits) and we work to get another clean copy (4-6 passes). Then a final proofreader gets to take a fresh look and be a final set of eyes, more passing around (2-3), and I sign off on a final copy.

Beyond the three editors working on the manuscript, there are also the other departments to consider, as well as the other books the house is launching. All those people and factors can play a part in the book’s final form.

But really, besides the amount of time and hands that touch the manuscript when comparing freelancers to in-house editors, everything else is the incredibly similar.

The good, the bad, and the horrifically disfigured.

However, and this is a big one — Not all freelancers are created equal and anyone can start a publishing company these days, so it’s incredibly important to do a huge amount of homework no matter which path to publication.

My pursuit of TWCS wasn’t accidental. Random House had just
paid seven figures for the rights to 50 Shades of Grey and the Greyson_evy_darknew adult genre was on the rise, in part due to the college age of the main character. My characters haven’t quite fit anywhere other than new adult, and I wanted a smaller publisher willing to go to bat for me and my characters without trying to force them into a different genre (like every other agent and editor I sent it to). TWCS had first-hand experience of launching a mega-hit and I wanted to take advantage of all that in marketing my book, Lightning Rider.

My decision to hire Joshua was just as purposeful. He’d already edited work for NYTBSA, David Farland, and other fantasy authors. Finding a freelance editor is easy-finding a GREAT one is tough. Before spending money on an editor, it’s always wise to ask for them to review a few pages and see if their style matches. Research the genres they work on and find one that works on what you write. Readers have very specific expectations whether they’re reading fantasy or romance or thrillers. If the freelance editor doesn’t know what those expectations are, you may end waste a lot of time and money.

Not all edits are created equal.

Whether I’m working with a freelance editor or my in-house editor, one thing remains the same. I’m the only one who can tell the tale. It’s up to me to make sure my characters are represented on the page like they are in my head. I know best how they react in certain situations, what their voices sound like, and I get to fight for them to make sure their story is told in the best way possible.

Both my freelance editor and my in-house editor have suggested changes that I didn’t agree with. Most of the time I can see where suggestions make a better story, or when grammar rules takes precedence, but sometimes . . . sometimes there are places where I’m unwilling to bend because I know where the story goes beyond this book, or when a simple word change in a bit of dialogue changes the tone so it’s no longer that character’s voice. I know where the story started a decade ago when these characters were children and their backstory took a major hit.

Sometimes, knowing when to ignore advice is as important as taking it.

From the moment she decided on a degree in Equestrian Studies, Jen Greyson’s life has been one unscripted adventure after another. Leaving the cowboy state of Wyoming to train show horses in France, Switzerland, and Germany, she’s lived life without much of a plan, but always a book in her suitcase. Now a wife and mom to two young boys, she relies on her adventurous, passionate characters to be the risk- takers. Jen also writes university courses and corporate training material when she’s not enjoying the wilds of the west via wakeboard or snowmobile.Her debut new adult fantasy, Lightning Rider, releases from The Writers Coffee Shop on May 31, 2013.