One of my favorite authors, Ilona Andrews, is doing a Q&A on her blog right now.  I caught the link on twitter.  This time, two writers sent in questions and I thought she gave great answers.  One of the writers asked whether it’s better to try to sell some short stories before you try to sell a novel.

I’ve had some experience with that.  I started out writing and selling short stories.  When I finally decided to submit a book, I’d had short stories in 10 Alfred Hitchcock mystery magazines, 2 Ellery Queen mystery magazines, 3 Barnes & Noble anthologies, and 2 WomenSleuth anthologies, among others.  It helped to get editors to look at my submission, since I looked like a serious writer, but it didn’t help sell my books.  Editors only take what they’re sure they can sell.  If you send them a book that they think readers will buy, you’re in.  If you send them books that they think are in a market they consider glutted or “dead,” (like cozy mysteries were then), you’re pretty much doomed.  But Ilona Andrews gives the best answer.  You can see for yourself: https://www.ilona-andrews.com/dreams-and-short-stories/

Which leads me to say, Do any of you have questions for me?  If you ever do, just ask.


Writing: cleansing my palate

I’ve enjoyed reading a variety of twitter and blog posts about writers gearing up for NaNoWriMo this month. There’s been advice for plotting ahead (which I always do), doing character sketches (ditto), and different methods for pacing yourself. A lot of writers have done their homework, and they’re ready to go. Since this is the second day of November, I’m guessing some of them already have one or two thousand words on the pages. If you’ve signed up to write a novel and intend to stamp The End on it by the last day of November, I wish you good luck. May the Muses smile on you. I, on the other hand, am gearing up to do rewrites of the romance my agent approved.

No small feat. Sometimes, I get lucky and I only need to change a few scenes or add a scene at the end of the book–a common occurrence for me. I tend to rush endings. A mistake. Readers, experts say, buy books because the opening paragraphs or pages hook them, but they buy a writer’s second book because the end of the book they read satisfies them, and they’re willing to give the writer another try. As usual, I need to add another scene at the end of the romance. More than that, though, I need to tweak or eliminate an entire subplot. If I eliminate it, I need something new to take its place. AND I need to beef up a minor character who plays a major part in the plot. I’m not discouraged. For my first romance, I think I got off pretty easy. I expected the whole thing to be a bust. But I’m going to have to spend some serious time to make the book work, because I want the thing to be as good as I can possibly make it. I ended up really enjoying everything about the book–my characters, the plot, and the actual writing itself. I even have ideas for two more spin-off romances.

The thing is, though, I just finished doing rewrites for one of the urban fantasy novels I was working on. And I’ve learned that my brain needs time to doodle–to play with short, obscure thoughts–between books. I used to ignore those inner rhythms when I was in a rush to get books done, but somewhere along the daily grind of pumping out words and scenes, my writing went flat. No matter how many active verbs I smacked into sentences, my characters yawned and said, “Give us a break, will you?” And now, I do. When I finish a book, I play with a few short stories before I start the next book. I’ve read that Stephen King used to do the same thing. I’m not comparing myself to him, but I understand the need. Short stories are a time for me to find something close to writer’s instant gratification because I can finish short-shorts in a day or two and “lunch hour reads” in a week or two. Short, by novel standards. Oops, forgot. Not if you’re racing through NaNoWriMo. Then I’d have a book finished in a month:) But short stories between novels works for me, regardless. They cleanse my palate before I settle in for another long haul.

Whatever you’re working on this month, happy writing!


Writing Puzzles & Mysteries

I used to write mystery short stories.  I’m a lifelong fan of Agatha Christie.  And my daughter, Holly, used to read most of my manuscripts before I sent them off.  She still reads a lot of them, and she enjoys my stabs at urban fantasy, but she started to bug me to write a good, old Agatha-style cozy again.  She said she missed reading the types of stories I used to create.

The thing is, since I’ve started writing urban fantasies, I yearn for a touch of magic in my plots, so I squirmed and protested.  But she wouldn’t take no for an answer, so I played with the idea of adding supernatural elements to a nice, cozy murder.  And not just any murder.  I decided to try my hand at a locked room mystery.  Nothing mundane like a latch that automatically falls when the killer shuts the door behind him, either.  I wanted a murder where the crime is committed and solved by a paranormal.

I have to admit, killing an evil warlock in his own living room was a lot of fun.  Trying to decide how someone got past all of his magic wards was even better.  And doing it all in a short format–I gave myself 40 pages–was the icing on the cake.  Holly was right.  I’d missed writing short, and I’d missed writing mysteries.  So this summer, I’ve given myself permission to write as many 40-page stories as I can get done.  It’s my treat to myself.  And to Holly.  And hopefully, other readers might like them too.

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/one-less-warlock-judith-post/1111504307?ean=2940033249435  (It’s free).