Friday, 12 November 2010

Writing is Writing

{please note, this article is aimed at writer's not participating in this month's NaNoWriMo}

"OMG! I haven't written anything — anything — in a month! Where has the time gone? What's wrong with me? I'll never get this book published if I can't hunker down and write!"

Have you said this? I bet you have, at least to some degree. But let's look back over your last month, or number of weeks, since you've written.

Have you been concentrating on submissions of a previous story?

If you're previously published, are you submitting to reviewers or doing guest blog spots to promote your latest book?

Are you a member of a critique group or have a partner you critique with?

Do you write a blog?

Have you got buried yourself in research?

There are a number of reasons why you're not working on your story, but that doesn't mean you're not writing.

If you're submitting to agents and publishers, that's important if you want your story published. But that's no reason so sit back and wait for one book to sell before starting the next book. Don't put all your eggs in one basket, as they say. In other words, don't expect one story to launch your career and earn you enough money to live on. A first publication is your foot in the door. Those submissions are ultimately just as important as writing the book. But don't wait until that book sells before starting the next one. Keep the submissions going. It might be a good idea to set aside days where you concentrate on just submissions, and on the other days, concentrate on writing your next story.

The same goes for submitting your book for reviews. People who consider reading your work will often read reviews to see what the book is about and get the reviewers opinion on what they thought of it. It's important to build a good and lasting relationship with a selection of reviewers who like your work. Be sure to post those reviews on your website, too. Reviews are an important aspect of getting sales for your book. AND, prospective future publishers will also often look at your website and read previous reviews, too. When they see how well a first book was received, they're more likely to invest in your current story.

If you're involved in critiquing, whether in a group setting or individually, you're still engaged in some aspect of the writing process. It's called editing. OK, so you're not editing your book directly, but your partner's comments will be instrumental in how you see your story and your writing ability. And vice versa. Getting another person's opinion often shows us where our writing becomes inconsistent, passages may be confusing or contradictory to something you wrote previously, point out passive writing or even words you over-use. Like raising kids, ours are always perfect. It takes an outside view for someone else to point out our child has been wearing the same shirt for a week!

If you blog regularly, that's another aspect of writing, especially if your blog is writing related. I run several blogs, but they're not all about writing. I keep a personal blog about my life in Ireland. As well, I write travel and historical pieces for a travel site. Those are nonfiction, but I'm still writing.

What about research? That's also part of writing. Without the research necessary to plot your story, there would be no story. Research involves a lot of note-taking, so don't discount that as part of your writing life.

A writer's life can be hectic at times and take our focus away from the actual writing. After all, it's that story that needs to be published so we can have the rest of it . . . that promotions, reviews, guest blogging, etc. All of it is important.

If you find it difficult to schedule your day, here are some suggestions to help you through it —

1) I use the alarm setting on my mobile phone's calendar app for important appointments I need to remember. The alarm is not just for appointments outside the house, but for internet ones, such as guest blogging, when articles are due, etc.

2) I use a yearly diary to keep appointments as well. It's spiral bound so it doesn't take much space on my desk, and it's flipped open to 'today's' date so I can see what's due today and what other tasks need doing. When I schedule a guest blog or anything else that has a due date or appointment, I can quickly flip ahead in the diary to see what's coming up. It helps me plan my week.

3) I also keep a to-do list. I write one out every Monday — things that need to be done during the week at some point, but not necessary due on any specific day. Those are mostly goals I want to accomplish with in my work week. This list includes a lot of non-writing tasks, like laundry, vet appointments, grocery lists . . . even web design commitments and such. The to-do list and the yearly diary help me schedule life tasks with my writing ones.

It's funny how I used to laugh at people who lived like this — keeping diaries and setting alarms. Now I am one of those people. I'm not laughing anymore! While I've published short stories in previous years, I've never been busier than since my first novel, A Piece of My Heart, was published earlier this year. Scheduling has become even more important, which is ironic since I've never worked to a schedule in my life!

I've always said, "It's better to be busy than bored." However, it's not hard to lose focus on the side of writing that's made me so busy with all of the other writing responsibilities.

Stay tuned for my article on how to make time to write during the holidays!

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Romance and Young Readers

I was recently asked what age I thought was too young for reading romance novels. My first inclination was to say at least 16. But then I got to thinking, what was the first romance novel I read and how old was I? I started reading romance when I was 13 but really, it was probably earlier.

I distinctly remember buying my first romance novel and knowing it was romance. That was in 1981 when I was 16; the book was Highland Velvet by Jude Deveraux. I was an early reader though and thought romances were adventure stories. I can't remember titles or authors prior to Deveraux, but I do remember being captivated by tales set on the high seas, wagons crossing the prairie, or epics taking place in far off places. I was a young woman on the brink of adulthood and where I'd previously ignored the intimate scenes of the characters, I was now intrigued by them.

The question of how old a girl should be before being allowed to read romances has long been asked. Friends who started reading romance at a young age say, "The sex? I just turned the pages until the next action scene started." Secretly, we read the mushy stuff because we were all growing up. Sex was something we didn't understand. We read romances to see how the whole boy-girl thing worked. Sex Ed classes were basic and focused on the physical rather than emotional. What romance did for young girls was introduce us to the emotional. We craved the knowledge of a real loving relationship. We giggled over the purple prose, but we were growing up, and we wanted boyfriends!

The publishing industry recognized this need in the market and started publishing books like Ann Brashares's Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Francine Pascal's Sweet Valley High, Judy Blume, Jenny O'Connell . . . even V.C. Andrews. And more recently, Stephanie Meyer's Twilight. These authors focus on relationships and emotional attachments of love while giving us great adventure.

So what age is too young for romance? Only a parent can answer that question, especially romance with graphic sex. But if you ask me, given a choice of books about love or war, the adventure of life over quests filled with horror, I'll pick love and adventure every time.

And secretly, I still giggle over the purple prose — even when I'm writing them!