Feedback

I love my writers’ group.  I’ve probably said that so often, you’re sick of hearing about it.  But I’m back to work on my mystery, and I finally read the first chapter to them on Wednesday.  I’ve rewritten the stupid thing so often, I was happy with the content, but I’d lost all  feel for it.  And, as always, they let me know what worked and what didn’t.

When I start a book, I’m in plot and character mode, and I have to concentrate on description.  I never get enough in there, so I have to go back and add it.  Now, in our group, each person  has their niche of what they nail best in critiques.  Mary Lou is a whiz at word choice and hooks, adding backloading for each paragraph and the ends of chapters.  Kathy Palm–a YA author–makes me think about emotions and description.  There were a dozen people there on Wednesday, and each person gave me good feedback.  I left my chapter at a happy place–a stupid thing for an author to do for the first chapter.  You want a hook to encourage the reader to turn the page and read chapter two.  So I fixed that.

On Thursday, I rewrote the entire thing, and it’s LOTS better than it was.  Thanks to Scribes.  It might even be good enough to survive the entire manuscript.  I’m pretty happy with it.  I admit, though, I go back over and over again to tinker with my first chapter, so it might change again.

The whole process made me think, though.  Even when I read books, I tend to reread most of the first chapter again.  What do I look for in them?  Characters I care about.  That’s probably as important to me as everything else.  Sure, I need a hint of what the book’s problem is going to be, but I don’t mind slow starts.  As long as I have a character I care about and a hint of where I’m going, I’ll keep reading.

I just picked up two new authors to ME.  Almost everyone else in the world has read John Grisham, but I’m not a fan of lawyer books, so I’ve avoided him.  Except he’s been around long enough, I thought I might want to give him a try.  So I picked up Sycamore Row and read the first few pages in the book store.  Then I bought it.  Why?  I liked his writing style and his voice.  Yes, he started–bam!–with an intriguing hanging.  But that, in itself, wouldn’t hook me.  It was his choice of characters that reeled me in.

The other book I chose is a good, old, 1811 London mystery.  with all of the fog and cobbled streets that go with that era–WHERE ANGELS FEAR by C. S. Harris.  The book starts with a prologue–a beautiful, young woman walking into a trap, and you know she’s going to die.  It brought back wonderful, fond memories of Martha Grimes’s pub mysteries and her fabulous prologues.  I love them, but I kept going and read the first chapter of the book to see if I wanted to read more.  This sounds cruel, but it’s easy to kill a person in a dramatic fashion.  It’s harder to keep the rest of the book interesting.  And I liked Harris’s main character so much, I started her book first and I’m waiting to give Grisham a go.  (My daughter’s reading that book, though, and she’s loving it).

In both books, the first chapter ends wih a mesmerizing line.  C. S. Harris ends with He’d promised Melanie he wouldn’t kill her husband.  But she hadn’t said anything about not making the bastard suffer.

The other thing that intrigues me in a first chapter, I have to admit, is the setting.  It can be mundane, as long as it offers something a little unusual.  For Harris’s book, she says, “She blamed the fog.  She wasn’t normally this nervous.  This afraid.”  A great hook.  But Jenna Bennett sets her Savannah Martin series in Nashville, Tennessee and makes her small town of Sweetwater, an hour away, sound intriguing because she grew up there and knows almost everyone.  The setting becomes personal.

For my chapter, I tried to include a great main character, some interesting side characters, a Midwest setting, and a story question that would pull you in.  And some humor.  What hooks you when you pick up a book?

It’s cold in Indiana.  I hope you can hibernate as much as possible.  Happy writing!  And happy reading!

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Settling in

I have a cold.  My head feels gloopy inside, but it didn’t down me until today.  Which is good.  I got to enjoy every minute of Nate’s visit.  He left late yesterday afternoon to drive to Indy to see his brother one more time before he flew back to San Diego today.  Even when he was here, though, I got to sneak in a little writing time–when he was visiting old friends, etc.   And I started working on my mystery again.

It’s January.  Winter.  And 2018 started out COLD.  Below zero temperatures.  Time to stay inside and settle in for long hours of editing the three-fourths of The Bodies in the Wetland I got done before the holidays started.  From Thanksgiving to New Year’s day is hit and miss on writing for me.  I still plop my fanny in my office chair.  I still put fingers to keys, but I might only have an hour or two in the morning or a pocket of time in the afternoon.  No regular schedule.  And I’m ready for that again.

I worked on the free romance for my webpage during December, because I knew I’d be distracted, and the romance is easier for me to keep in my head.  I had the luxury of doing that since I’m ahead on the deadline for my mystery.  But I got so far away from the mystery, it took me a while to get back into it.

I do most of my rewrites as I go, but I’ve been even pickier since I’m giving this book another sweep through.  I have to.  When I signed to write three cozy mysteries, I didn’t realize they had to be SQUEAKY clean.  No cuss words at all, and I seem to have more of a potty mouth than I realized.  Damn.  Oops, I mean darn.  I was never a whiz kid at sex scenes, but everything stops at the bedroom door for a cozy.  Even internal dialogue has to be circumspect:)  So,  I’m going through the entire manuscript to censor myself.

For my next mystery, I’ll know the rules and abide by them.  Lusty thoughts between Jazzi and Ansel will be monitored.  This time, I have to find them and think of creative rewrites.  Once I get through the pages I already have, then I can finish the manuscript.  That’s another 20,000 words where everything builds to a climax, then gets solved and wrapped up.

I’m ready to be a boring person, sitting in front of my computer for hours a day again.  It feels good to settle into my writing groove.  However you write, I hope you find your flow.

My webpage: http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

Facebook author page:  https://www.facebook.com/JudiLynnwrites/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

Twitter:  @judypost

 

2017: Nothing to Brag About

I’ve worked hard on my writing for the last few years.  The first year I signed with Kensington, I had three romances come out.  Three more came out in 2017.  When I finished the last romance, I wrote a mystery and turned it in.  The Body in the Attic will come out in November 2018.

Nothing I’ve tried, so far, has worked the way I thought it would.  Way back when I got my agent–who’s with a great agency and really good–I thought I’d sell books and start being more successful.  But I was writing urban fantasy back then, and the market was glutted, so she let me put up digital books (the agency did that for me), and I marketed them myself as Judith Post.  I did EVERYTHING wrong, because I didn’t know any better, but I learned a lot, so I was feeling pretty good about myself.

Then my agent suggested that I write romances, because there was a market for those.  I’m not suggesting that writers should chase markets.  But my particular market was almost impossible to break into at the time, so I was willing to try something new.  And I found out I liked writing romances.  And Kensington offered me a contract for three e-books.  My agent really liked the romance I’d sent her.  My editor really liked all of my romances, so I was feeling pretty successful.  But I took a mis-step on that, too.  Kensington did a beautiful job of promoting my first Mill Pond romance, so I assumed they’d do the same for the rest of the books.  Not so.  My second book came out, sat around for a while, and then fell.  I meant to pay for a blog tour for my third book, but my publicist said that she’d already signed me up for one.  It used the same excerpt and blurb for each stop and didn’t do much.  My fourth book came and went, and I finally paid for advertising and promotion for my fifth and sixth books, but I did too little, too late.  I was hoping romances and a publisher would jump start my career, but not so much.  I hope my mysteries start out stronger.

I thought when I got a publisher, I’d sell more books.  Not really.  I should have hit the ground running, promoting myself more, but I didn’t.  Marketing, for me, is as tricky as always.  I’ve been happy with the blog tours I did with Gallagher Author Services and The Goddess Fish promotions.  I chose tours that offered unique material for each stop.  They’re more work, but I think they’re worth it.  The first Facebook ad that I placed did well, but the second wasn’t as effective.  Not sure why.  I tried Tweet ads, but they didn’t work for me.  The truth?  No marketing has made a big difference in sales except Book Bub, and it’s a miracle if they accept new authors anymore.  So I feel stymied with markets, too.  I know I need to promote myself, but it’s a crap shoot if whatever I choose works or not.

I write a blog once a week, I put something new on my webpage once or twice a week, and I tweet, but I’m not sure that any of that leads to sales either.  I enjoy sharing and staying in touch with fellow writers and readers, but I can’t really call it marketing.

For the first time, I joined a group author giveaway during December as an experiment.  B. L. Blair organized it and did all the hard work, spoonfeeding the authors who signed up for it.  She’s wonderful to work with and is starting to look for fellow mystery writers.  Here’s her blog:  http://www.blblair.com/blog.html.

With the giveaway, I got a lot of e-mails that I can add to a mailing list (if I ever get off my duff and start a newsletter).  And the giveaway was a great experience, but I have to be honest.  Most of the authors took their turn on the giveaway and then didn’t support any of  the other authors.  That confused me.  I thought the whole purpose of joining together was to WORK together.  I tried to retweet each of my fellow writers, but only a few of them retweeted each other.

To wrap up, I accomplished a lot this year, but I’m ending 2017 with more questions than answers.  Maybe 2018 will be the year when everything comes together.  I hope 2018’s a great year for you–and happy writing!

 

Webpage:  http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

Author Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/JudiLynnwrites/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

Twitter:  @judypost

Happy Holidays!

This is going to be a short blog.  My daughter’s been staying with us for a while, and we baked cookies yesterday.  It’s been so much fun having her here!  Then in the evening, my husband and I went to a get-together with a bunch of old, well-worn, wonderful friends.  Our hostess made two pots of delicious soups, had piles of corn muffins, breads, and cheeses, and even more choices for dessert.  It was casual and perfect.

When we got home, we yakked with our daughter some more, and when my husband went to bed, Holly and I stayed up and watched more episodes of Stranger Things.  We have four more episodes to go.  Boy, it’s good!  A perfect night.  We bake more cookies today, and then the boys invade the house on Sunday.  This will be my last time on my computer for a while.  I’ll be MIA.  And that’s a good thing.  We all need to enjoy life and loved ones and ditch our writing for a while.

I hope all of you are having as much fun as I am.  I know that holidays are hard when life’s hit you with a big burden, though, and in that case, I wish you the best.  I know it can be a struggle, but hang in there and heal.

Before I disappear from the internet, though, I posted a new chapter on my webpage.  Hope you enjoy it!

Webpage:  http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

Twitter:  @judypost

Specific Words

We’ve all been told, over and over again, to use active verbs instead of passive.  Active verbs make our writing more dynamic, less flat.  M. L. Keller, on her blog, defined what is and what isn’t a passive verb–and it’s not always what we think.  http://themanuscriptshredder.com/whats-the-deal-with-passive-voice/  The thing is, though, a strong verb makes for a strong sentence, a clear image.

I’ve been writing a free romance that I’m loading, chapter by chapter, on my webpage.  And when I rewrite my work, for some reason, I’ve been paying more attention to word choices.  I forget that sometimes in the day in and day out job of trying to get words on paper.  But using specific words instead of pronouns or just okay choices makes a striking difference on how the story reads.  And I’m not sure that we concentrate on word choice enough.

We all get weary as we slog through a novel.  At least, I know I do.  There are lots of things to consider.  Is the story moving forward?  Have we gone off on any tangents, gotten distracted by something that doesn’t matter?  Does each scene advance the plot?  Do the transitions work?  Is there emotional impact?  Is the pacing too fast?  Did we tell too much too soon?  Or too slow?  Are we mired in quicksand?  Is our protagonist taking action to solve his problem or just reacting?

Everything in a story matters.  Dialogue.  Setting.  Angst.  And words.  It’s hard enough to keep the plot and pacing on the right track.  But the words we choose matter, too.  Red is vague.  Crimson or scarlet is more specific.  Words are the tiny building blocks that make a sentence that joins with more sentences to make a paragraph, that lead to a page and a chapter and a book.  Vague words don’t excite.  Sometimes, they confuse.  The exact right word is a minor miracle.  It can create the image we’re striving to convey.

The next time your fingers tap the keys, I hope the words flow for you.  Not just any words, but the specific words that bring your story to life.  Happy Writing!

 

My webpage.  And I just put up chaper 15:  http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

My author’s Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/JudiLynnwrites/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

twitter:  @judypost

December

There’s a lot of cooking in my novels.  Food is the glue that brings people together.  Probably because that’s how I view it.  I love to cook, and sitting around a table with family and friends is one of my favorite experiences.

Cooking is a creative outlet for me.  I get bored making the same recipes over and over, so I love to experiment with new ones when I have guinea pigs–oops,  I mean friends–over.

December in our house ups the ante.  It’s about putting up decorations and connecting with more friends and family than usual.  I’ve cooked a lot of suppers for a lot of people lately.  My daughter–the traveling nurse–decided not to re-sign her contract in Indianapolis and try for a job in San Jose.  There’s a gap between finishing in Indy and starting in California, so she and her cat have been staying with us.  She’s not a recipe follower.  She glances at the basic ingredients she needs and then wings it.  I had to laugh at myself.  Winging it horrorifies me.  Maybe I need recipes to cook just like I need plot points to write.  I’m more comfortable with structure.

Since I love cooking , it shows up in my writing.  In our family, the details of each day were discussed at the dinner table.  It was the hub for staying in touch.  Everyone sat around the table and talked about school and work.  In my novels, people connect over the food they love most.  Cooking is an act of love.

However you’re spending December, I hope it’s a good one; and Happy Writing!

Webpage: http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

Author Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/JudiLynnwrites/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

twitter:  @judypost