Pen & Ink

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Q & A for the discriminating writer, provided by Pen, Ink and their Guest Quills, with additional thoughts by Annie Acorn!

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6/16-30/2015 – What do you remember most from your first experience working with a professional editor? What did you take with you?

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Pen:

Working with a professional editor is so much fun! We get to hear another person’s interpretation of what we’ve written, which sometimes doesn’t match what we thought we had written.

Because we know what we meant to say, we have to be careful to actually get it out of our heads and onto ‘paper’ the way it played out in our imaginations. An editor will tell us when we haven’t done that. That’s priceless, and can save us a lot of embarrassment.

One incident I remember fondly is when my editor wanted to change the way the protagonist in my book talked, in a particular instance. What my editor wanted my character to say was grammatically correct, but my character wasn’t especially eloquent. She spoke in incomplete sentences, used slang and made-up words and, sometimes, even talked to herself.

I remember the panic I felt at the thought of changing her syntax. I even argued with my editor, all the while knowing in my head that she was right. We finally compromised, and the result was beautiful.

What I learned from that experience was to listen to my editor. If I don’t agree with her, listen anyway, and don’t ignore her advice. Instead, keep working until I find a way to use her knowledge to make my book better. In other words, use her knowledge to get what I want.

Remember that editors are professionals, because they’re good enough at what they do to get paid to do it. That says something about whether or not we should give credence to what they tell us. It can only benefit us to listen carefully.

Last, but not least, don’t let an editor’s advice go in one ear and out the other. Learn from it, and remember it while writing the next book. It will make the next editing session that much more fun, because your editor will be proud of how much less editing there is to do. Again, priceless!

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Ink:

Years ago, I had the opportunity to pay a $40 fee in exchange for a critique of the first 27 pages of my WIP (work in progress) by two people – one an agent and the other an editor. Both would review the work in relation to the same twenty questions. Thrilled at the possibility of receiving some expert advice, I wrote out a check, prepared a SASE (self-addressed, stamped envelope), attached the first 27 typewritten pages as outlined, and waited.

Five weeks later, I received my reply. Surprisingly, the first thing I learned was that, even though there was no mention of either of their names, I was easily able to determine which one was the agent and which one was the editor. Their entire approach to my work was diametrically opposed, so much so that those to whom I read the responses all asked if these two people had even read the same words.

Clearly, overall, the agent had loved what she read, and the editor had come close to hating it.

The question now was how much could I trust what they said? But first, I took a good look at the twenty questions they had been asked to answer based on my work, some of which I found surprising.

Some of them that still stand out in my mind were:

• Were the characters well-rounded?
• Did the dialogue sound natural?
• Were you pulled immediately into the work?
• Did you understand the who, what, when and where represented by the story?
• Was the work well copyedited?
• Did the storyline flow along a straight line?
• Was the action believable?
• Did the story hold your interest?
• Were the descriptive passages enough, without being too much?
• Did the action occur in a logical sequence?
• Were you shown or told what was going on?
• Did you care about the characters?

For the first time, I had been introduced to the concept of developmental editing.

Sure, it’s important that you eliminate adverbs, remove infinitives by pumping up your verbs, use commas appropriately, and check your spelling. These form the basic science of editing, but then a moment comes, when editing a work becomes art.

Words have a cadence and flow, just like languages do. French is more lyrical. German is more guttural. You can mimic either one in English, by making careful word choices and then positioning those words in just the right order within your sentences.

How much is too much, when it comes to description? Is the aroma of freshly baked bread enough, or does the reader require a detailed mind picture of the actual kitchen?

Will placing an action scene in a certain location along the storyline eliminate the third-quarter sag many readers recognize as an unwelcome part of many books?

How angry can an alpha male in a romance appear without coming across as a potential wife beater?

You get my drift.

My experience has been that, for me, the only way I can effectively edit my own work from this perspective is to allow it to get cold – cold enough that I can step back and see it from the perspective of a stranger, the same perspective that a future reader will have.

Was my $40 well-spent? Absolutely! I would’ve paid five times as much for the back door knowledge that I gained from the experience.

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Guest Quill – D.A. Grady:

Back in 1995, I sat down one morning to create a PowerPoint presentation and by noon was three chapters into my first book. Forty-five days later I finished a work of one hundred fifteen thousand words.

Not knowing what else to do, I parked it on a shelf until last year, when my daughter read it for the first time and said, “Daddy, you need to get this published. It’s all about today.”

Being a good dad, I found an outfit that calls itself a publishing company, but which, I found out later, is just another mill that does nothing for you, but charge you money.
I made a whole $35.00 on the deal before I stepped away.

Enter Annie Acorn, the editor.

Thus far, the experience I’ve had with her has resembled a blind man being given sight.

Her first comment, which remains blazed on my forehead as well as on the bobble-head doll of Annie that sits on my shoulder for me to see, was, “You must show the readers, not tell them.”

And so, we took the original work Minding America and began a process, the likes of which I had never known, called editing.

Now I had touted myself as a storyteller, and I remain committed to that to this day. It adequately describes what I do when creating a story, but falls woefully short when it comes to delivering a work that is ready for publication.

In today’s world, writers are faced with a much different road to travel than their predecessors. Not only must they write their heart’s desires, but they must also get their work into edited form that even the toughest publishers will accept. That includes writing (storytelling), re-writing, editing and, the hardest of all for most, promoting one’s work.

Today, we’ll talk about editing.

Annie began her brain surgery on me by pointing out the many different layers of editing, beyond punctuation and grammar. In essence, to the best of my recollection, there are seven to eight different types of edits that must be performed on each work.

While I have a grip on a few of them, quite a few remain to be conquered.

As we have worked through this manuscript and others, I’ve learned that simply moving words around can make a book flow better for the reader. In today’s world of eReaders, folks like it quick, direct, and capable of holding their attention from front to back.

According to Annie, that often means taking the story to one hundred miles an hour and keeping it there until the final word is read. That’s hard, folks.

We tale-tellers tend to puff up our works in the name of color, and that can bog a reader down and/or take them out of the story – a major issue with most writers.

The first bump in the road is effective re-writing. This is difficult at its best, because we all think we’ve just written a Pulitzer Prize winning piece, even if subconsciously.

My advice would be to put the work down for a month or longer, then read it completely before you try to re-write. You’ll come up with a laundry list of things that need changing, and that will shorten your grief.

Engineering the work is also something that most do not even know about, let alone understand. I sure didn’t.

As we worked on Minding, what I thought were changes to my story, actually turned out to make the work better, faster and smoother. My storyline remains untouched, much to my amazement.

Word placement is another area of editing, and while akin to engineering is not the same. It, too, contributes to smoothness, but in a different way. It puts the important parts of sentences where they are supposed to be, so that the reader doesn’t trip over them on a line for line basis.

I learned about that in the first work Annie edited with me – The Horses of Paiute Canyon. It’s a western, paranormal short story and is out there for you to read now on its own. It will soon appear in an anthology titled Annie Acorn’s 2015 Spirited Tales from Annie Acorn Publishing.

Reading through the finished work was a primer for me, as I saw how smooth and effortless it was to read and yet every detail of the original work was exactly as I had wanted it.

In addition to the second edition of Minding – now called Who’s Minding America?, we are editing a different kind of piece called Around a Campfire – Tales Twixt Two Old Badge-Toters, written by fellow author Ron Shaw and myself.

As Annie and I began to edit, it became evident that what was required was a lot of what I’ve just told you, with the additional requirement of jumping from one contrasting tale to the next, through the use of transitions that allow readers to catch their breaths before changing gears.

Even under that type of writing, all of the above editing requirements remain in place from tale to tale. The difference with Around a Campfire is that two different men are actually telling stories to one another. So, how do we show that? By putting the storytelling in italics to distinguish it from the transition pieces and umbrella story – a visual editing detail.

In my amateur status as an editor, I find this multi-challenging project to be more difficult than working with a straight forward story.

If you want proof of that, go to the Bardsnest, where an unedited version of Around a Campfire temporarily resides, http://bardsnest.com/tales-between-a-coupla-ol-badge-toters/.

Read it for free, and then when we get it published, read it again. It’s the best example I can give you about how editing can transform and improve a work.

What I have written about here are not options for any of us, if we are planning a modicum of success as we ply our trade, but they are learnable skills. If I can learn it, you can, and you can probably learn it better.

It’s a different world, fellow authors, and if we are to succeed, we must bend to the demands of a more discerning, better informed readership. Their acceptance of our work, determines our successes and failures.

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Annie’s Thoughts:

What do I remember most from my first experience working with a professional editor? Two things, the excitement with which I approached the experience and the anger, frustration, and pain that I took away from it.

Before I go any further, I must explain that the editor in question knew her business, but she had no tact whatsoever. On the other hand, I had been a voracious reader all my life and knew that my writing was, therefore, at least competent. Boy, was I wrong!

Anger, the greatest of all defense mechanisms, filled me, as I thanked the woman for the time she had taken crisscrossing my type-written short story with green pencil comments.

Frustration came once I had left the building and began arguing with myself about what had just happened. Could the work really be that bad? After all, family and friends who had read my story had all said it was wonderful. But then, the woman who had issued such a detailed and devastating critique was an expert.

The pain came when I forced myself to face the truth. I had a long way to go, if I was serious about becoming a known author and building a faithful readership.

In the end, I took away that I had to start over and learn my craft from the bottom up. Becoming an author wasn’t something I could do on a whim. A snap of my fingers wouldn’t make my aspirations so, neither had my having received a good basic education in grammar and English literature. Hard work was required, before my dreams could come true.

And so, I began a journey that took years to complete. The first step I took? I learned how to be an editor as competent and as demanding as the woman, who had handed me the treasure map that outlined the rest of my writing life, because I had faced the truth.

Only by becoming a good editor and applying my knowledge to my own writing, until it morphed into clean, clear prose, would I become an author.

The second step that I took was to jump at any opportunity to write in the business, technical, or freelance worlds, most of which require one to distill all prose to a minimum, because my natural inclination was to be effusive and wordy.

The third step was to study in depth the work of those authors whose work I most enjoyed. How did they turn a phrase? How did they show and not tell? How did their dialogue and descriptive passages sound, as opposed to the way mine did?

Gradually, my work came to need fewer and fewer edits, as the words came from my pen, then my typewriter, and finally my computer more as they should.

Today, my work is visual, and my dialogue sounds normal. Readers from all over the world fly through the pages, despite the fact they feel as if they’re part of the action, having escaped to a different place and, sometimes, a different time.

How do I know this? Because over and over and over again, my readers have taken the time to tell me so, as well as how much they appreciate the time and care I take with my work.

Would they have said this all those years ago? Absolutely not, if I hadn’t worked my backside off (unfortunately more figuratively than literally) learning every aspect of my craft to the best of my abilities.

Chocolate Can Kill, my first completed mystery novel, bore the brunt of much of my learning curve. I retyped its first page over 600 times on an IBM Wheelwriter III typewriter before I got it right, and then I tossed the first three chapters from the book because, as much as it hurt, it was the right thing to do.

Eventually, it became a Malice Domestic Contest Finalist under a different title, reached #1 in its genre, and a #12 sales ranking on the Barnes and Noble website, when it sold 1200 copies in one day. I refer to my Elantra as the car that Chocolate bought, and believe me, my bank balance is a whole lot larger, because of its publication.

Still, knowing how much blood I sweat from my hard-working pores over the years, the price for a pint of blood has definitely gone down.

And the short story the editor critiqued all those years ago? A much improved version of it is available in Annie Acorn’s 2013 Christmas Treasury and, by itself, under the title Too Busy for Christmas. Solo, it has garnered its own measure of success. Reaching #1 in its category on Kobo and remaining in the top 5 for months on end. Readers claim that they can’t help but relate, as they see so much of themselves in it.

In the end, I learned two HUGE things from the experience. One – if you throw away your ego and work both hard enough and smart enough even someone, whose natural fiction writing was as poor as mine was, can make it. Two – receiving satisfied emails and reviews from a constantly growing readership makes all the effort worthwhile.

So put your work out there. Get it critiqued by those who really know. Don’t take everything that they say as written in stone, but rather, listen and pass your work through the sieve of your own common sense. Study the work of those whose work you admire, and remember that practice really can make your own work as close to perfect as written words can ever be.

Best wishes!

Annie Acorn

Pen & Ink 2014 (Pen & Ink Writers’ Resources) – Contributed to and edited by Annie Acorn, Pen, Ink, and their gracious Guest Quills.

Also available in print on Amazon UK and iTunes and for Nook and Kobo.

Dedication: This book is dedicated to the wonderfully talented authors who volunteered their time and wisdom to the Pen & Ink project, so that other writers and authors might benefit from their own hard-earned knowledge and expertise, in the same way as similar information is transmitted amongst writing groups and from beta readers on a daily basis. No one can say that the writing community isn’t a sharing one.

Cover Design and YOU!: Dos, Don’ts, and Choices (Writing and YOU Book 1) – by Annie Acorn and Angel Nichols, Annie Acorn Publishing’s exclusive cover designer

Also available in print on Amazon UK and iTunes and for Nook and Kobo.

On a crisp fall day in 2011, an older, successful author and publisher – desperate for a book cover design, once burnt but still hopeful – picked up her phone and called a young, unproven graphic designer, who had demonstrated an amazing talent. Two hours later, they had reached the decision that would dramatically affect both of their careers, indeed their lives, forever. Author and illustrator would now forge a relationship that has produced over one hundred successful book launches, top sales rankings, and award-winning book covers.

How did they do it? What were the design tools upon which they relied?

With no holds barred, internationally beloved author and boutique publisher Annie Acorn and her company’s exclusive graphic designer Angel Nichols, also an internationally known author and member of From Womens’ Pens, share their story and their secrets within these pages in an easy-to-read format, complete with a touch of humor.

The good, the bad, the dos, the don’ts, the choices, the technical tools needed, the emotional ups and downs, the art of graphic design communication, the requirements for a great cover, and even the resources you will need to create one of your own – all their unique insights and collective knowledge have been included for your benefit.

Are you an indie author struggling to find that elusive bond with a professional cover artist? An illustrator trying to break onto the professional scene? A publisher juggling both at the same time? Or even a group of authors working on a special project?

Then this is the one, fact-filled book that you will want to carry as you embark on your own journey towards either the creation of or contracting for a fabulous book cover that will ensure the success of your book publishing endeavor.

Come for the invaluable information. Stay for the fun. With these tools in your hands, may your efforts be as well-rewarded as theirs have been!

NOTE: We at Annie Acorn Publishing, LLC, hope you have found this brief discussion to be inspiring, helpful or both. If you wish to make a comment or suggest a future discussion question, please utilize the Reply option below. Additional Pen & Ink offerings will appear on the 1st and 16th of each calendar month.

Interested in knowing more about this session’s Guest Quill, D. A. Grady? You will find his bio and contact information here Pen & Ink/Scheduled Questions.

– The Editors

 

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6/1-15/2015 – What led you to write in the mystery genre, and how does it differ from writing in other genres?

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Pen:

I write in the mystery genre because it’s the genre I absolutely love to read. Give me a good who-done-it any day, and I’ll be a happy camper.

I wrote my first mystery because I wanted to see if I could do it. It was every bit as difficult as I imagined it would be.

A well written mystery is like a complicated and honest puzzle. I say honest because every good mystery contains clues that lead the reader toward and away from its solution, but the author must not cheat by throwing in characters whose presence in the book have no meaning, just to lengthen the list of suspects.

That’s a difficult task, and it requires more thinking than one would first suspect upon reading a cozy character-driven mystery. It seems all fun and games to the reader, but a lot of planning has actually gone into presenting a puzzle that will challenge and captivate the reader.

Other genres may offer elements of mystery, such as ordinary people becoming involved in extraordinary happenings or initially unexplained situations getting resolved by the end of the story. But other genres are usually written in a more straightforward manner, with little guile and less convolution to the story. Readers are not expected to try to figure everything out, but rather to wait for the storyteller to inform them.

Any good story takes time to develop, but a mystery requires a bit of strategic planning to make sure that enough clues are given, so the reader can guess the answer to the puzzle before the end of the book, although not so many that there is no ‘mystery’ to the puzzle.

Other genres don’t have to worry about inserting red herrings so much, although they do have to retain a bit of mystique, in order for the reader to want to keep reading to find out what happens, no matter the genre.

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Ink:

I was introduced to stories with a mystery component at a very early age, and so it was a natural progression for me to want to write one of my own. After all, I’d read thousands of them, and hundreds lived on my own bookshelves.

I knew all about them, right? Wrong. I had no idea how hard it could be to make a mystery fall into place, to keep a reader guessing right till the end.

Intrinsically, I understood that the butler really shouldn’t ‘do’ it, and even Agatha Christie had made the mistake of writing a book where the policeman was the murderer and another where the narrator was the surprise culprit. Although, in her case, while her readership initially cried foul over both of these stories, they are now considered to be classics.

What I struggled with the most was the concept that a murderer could appear to be nice all along and still have one fatal flaw, as long as a glimpse of this flaw was given to the reader at some point along the way.

Oh, and did I mention that I found it difficult to kill off a character that fairly jumped off the page and to whom I was quite attached?

This was the point at which I recalled the approved maxim that states one should write what one knows.

Never having committed murder myself, did this mean I was doomed to failure? Could I really understand and, therefore, adequately communicate to a reader why an essentially good person could cross the line and take the life of another?

Finally, I took a step back, made a cup of tea, and relaxed in my comfy chair for a deep discussion with myself.

“Don’t be silly,” I chided. “A mystery is a story like any other. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. It must be fair, i.e. it must be possible for a reader to guess who committed the murder, their motive for doing so, and why no one else could’ve done it.”

With a sigh, I headed back to my typewriter and began again. As the storyline progressed, I made a chart that allowed me to track both the actual clues and the red herrings, as well as subplots.

Always diligent in my attempts to develop three-dimensional characters, I redoubled my efforts. I limited my novel to a slice of time format, placed my characters in a position that limited the number of suspects, and described my first victim in a way that guaranteed readers would care, when she was murdered.

Slowly, but steadily, the words flowed, until the book came together. Beta readers failed to guess the murderer or the motive. My red-herring misdirections had worked well.

I had written my first mystery novel!

Now all I had to do was sell it to a publisher, but that, my friends, is another story.

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Guest Quill – Peggy Teel (also writing as Denise Hays):

I started my first mystery, Niki Knows the Dirt that I wrote as Denise Hays, because of a strange phenomenon in my own life. UPS left a package at my front door, and I smelled its contents, before I even opened the door to take it inside!

It was an item someone else in my household ordered, so I didn’t know what was in the package until I smelled it. My family had a good laugh about it, but it was the first time I realized something wasn’t exactly normal about my olfactory system.

I started thinking back on other times when similar things had happened.

For example, my family lived on a hill with a long driveway leading up to the house, and when my boys were still living at home, we would sometimes order pizza for dinner. I would smell the pizza by the time the delivery person reached the end of the driveway and would call the kids down to dinner. They would come bounding down the stairs, ready for pizza, and the pizza delivery person had not even rung the doorbell.

My boys often asked me how I knew the pizza was there, and yet, until the package delivery incident, I hadn’t given much thought to the fact that I had smelled the pizza from so far away.

After that incident, I began to think I might have a brain tumor or something that caused me to be able to smell things other people couldn’t, so I searched the Internet.

Lo and behold, I found a real medical condition called hyperosmia, in which people had heightened olfactory responses, usually as a result of a hysterical personality type (yikes!) or as a symptom of Alzheimer’s. Now, you know that sent me into orbit!

Some say we should write what we know. I decided I knew a little about hyperosmia, and so I would write a character who had the condition. In thinking about what could happen as a result of the character’s idiosyncrasy, I landed upon her helping the police solve crimes by smelling things about victims and crime scenes. Thus, the Niki Edgar mystery series was born.

So I guess what happened was that I fell into the writing of Niki Knows the Dirt. I hadn’t really set out to write a mystery. It was just the natural order of things.

When Niki Edgar presented herself, I became attached to her, so I couldn’t let her rest after the conclusion of Niki Knows the Dirt. In Monkey Business, I got to continue my friendship with her and, as it turned out, so did my readers.

Since hyperosmia is sometimes caused by a hysterical personality type, Niki can be quite dramatic, which gets her into ridiculous situations that can’t help but endear her to us.

Writing mysteries differs from writing other genres in that certain things happen in mysteries that don’t necessarily happen in other genres – death being one of those. Mysteries contain characters whose intentions are sometimes ambiguous, and it’s up to the reader to figure out what their motives are.

A mystery is a problem to be solved, and thus has an automatic pull for the reader to keep reading to see who committed the crime. The trick for a mystery writer is to keep readers guessing until the bitter end.

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Annie’s Thoughts:

Like both Pen and Ink, mysteries have been a consistent presence in my life, so it was only a matter of time before I picked up a pen and tried to write one, although what prompted the action came as a surprise.

In my younger years, I had worked my way through the works of Christie, Sayers, Marsh, Allingham, Hare, Doyle, Aird, Chesterton, Tey, Wolfe, and Queen, as well as a several other greats of the golden age of mysteries. Then, in the mid-eighties, I began reading more current offerings, and my enjoyment of the genre came to a screeching halt.

Why? Because, all of a sudden, I found myself in a position where I was consistently able to discern who the murderer was and why they had done it, well before what I had come to think of as appropriate point in the book.

Time after time, I bought a new mystery, only to fall in love with the ambiance, the character development, and the witty dialogue and then be disappointed when I solved the mystery too soon. A glutton for punishment, hanging onto a sliver of hope that I would be proven wrong, I would keep reading, but sadly, my solution was always right.

Finally, I decided to write a mystery of my own, as much as anything to see if I could do any better.

Was it easy? No.

Chocolate Can Kill went through two titles, lost its first three chapters, and suffered many revisions, but then the day came, when I handed it to five beta readers and it passed my test. None of them had guessed the murderer, recognized the motive, and could say why none of the other characters could’ve committed the murder.

Needless to say, I breathed a sigh of relief.

Then author Carolyn Haines spoke to a Sisters in Crime writers’ group, and during the course of the evening, she encouraged me to submit my manuscript to the Malice Domestic contest, which I did. Under another title, it was chosen as a finalist, and I knew I had a winner.

Next decision? Did I wish to seek traditional publication or publish the book myself? Ultimately, for several reasons, I opted to establish Annie Acorn Publishing, LLC, and published the work myself. The rest is history.

Moral of the story? Writing a successful mystery requires a higher standard than almost any other genre, because readers of this genre simply won’t accept less than their expectations. The storyline must be believable, justice must be served, clues and red-herrings must be fair, and the answer must be withheld until the end of the book.

Still, the effort required is worth it.

Annie Acorn

Pen & Ink 2014 (Pen & Ink Writers’ Resources) – Contributed to and edited by Annie Acorn, Pen, Ink, and their gracious Guest Quills.

Also available in print on Amazon UK and iTunes and for Nook and Kobo.

Dedication: This book is dedicated to the wonderfully talented authors who volunteered their time and wisdom to the Pen & Ink project, so that other writers and authors might benefit from their own hard-earned knowledge and expertise, in the same way as similar information is transmitted amongst writing groups and from beta readers on a daily basis. No one can say that the writing community isn’t a sharing one.

Cover Design and YOU!: Dos, Don’ts, and Choices (Writing and YOU Book 1) – by Annie Acorn and Angel Nichols, Annie Acorn Publishing’s exclusive cover designer

Also available in print on Amazon UK and iTunes and for Nook and Kobo.

On a crisp fall day in 2011, an older, successful author and publisher – desperate for a book cover design, once burnt but still hopeful – picked up her phone and called a young, unproven graphic designer, who had demonstrated an amazing talent. Two hours later, they had reached the decision that would dramatically affect both of their careers, indeed their lives, forever. Author and illustrator would now forge a relationship that has produced over one hundred successful book launches, top sales rankings, and award-winning book covers.

How did they do it? What were the design tools upon which they relied?

With no holds barred, internationally beloved author and boutique publisher Annie Acorn and her company’s exclusive graphic designer Angel Nichols, also an internationally known author and member of From Womens’ Pens, share their story and their secrets within these pages in an easy-to-read format, complete with a touch of humor.

The good, the bad, the dos, the don’ts, the choices, the technical tools needed, the emotional ups and downs, the art of graphic design communication, the requirements for a great cover, and even the resources you will need to create one of your own – all their unique insights and collective knowledge have been included for your benefit.

Are you an indie author struggling to find that elusive bond with a professional cover artist? An illustrator trying to break onto the professional scene? A publisher juggling both at the same time? Or even a group of authors working on a special project?

Then this is the one, fact-filled book that you will want to carry as you embark on your own journey towards either the creation of or contracting for a fabulous book cover that will ensure the success of your book publishing endeavor.

Come for the invaluable information. Stay for the fun. With these tools in your hands, may your efforts be as well-rewarded as theirs have been!

NOTE: We at Annie Acorn Publishing, LLC, hope you have found this brief discussion to be inspiring, helpful or both. If you wish to make a comment or suggest a future discussion question, please utilize the Reply option below. Additional Pen & Ink offerings will appear on the 1st and 16th of each calendar month.

Interested in knowing more about this session’s Guest Quill, Peggy Teel? You will find his bio and contact information here Pen & Ink/Scheduled Questions.

– The Editors

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5/16-31/2015 – What makes humor work in your writing, and what advice would you give to others?

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Pen:

Humor helps us forgive a lot of over-the-top creativity in the name of sheer entertainment.

When I find an author whose characters think outside the box, I am sucked into their world willingly, whether I believe that world could actually exist or not, and when I stumble upon a series containing lovable and humorous characters, I’m hooked.

Most of my favorite books have protagonists who can’t help getting themselves into crazy situations. A book that keeps me laughing will have me coming back for more.

A good example of how humor works to help create a story is in denise hays’s Niki Edgar mystery series, because the situations into which Niki gets herself would otherwise be somewhat unbelievable. Oh, they could happen, but only to someone like Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum or maybe to Lucy Ricardo and Ethel Mertz.

The idea of an amateur sleuth is somewhat far-fetched to begin with, but it’s something we see all the time in character driven cozy mysteries. Niki Edgar is an ordinary person with an unusual sense of smell and an extraordinary propensity for getting into trouble. We can’t really imagine a normal person doing the things she does, but when an author injects humor into a situation, we don’t even care if it’s something that might really happen.

That’s what I try to do – create characters who do inane things that are totally unbelievable, but make readers want to cheer them on anyway. If I can accomplish that, then I’ve met one of my goals in writing the story to begin with.

Another writing goal of mine is to teach a lesson of some sort while entertaining the reader. If I can do that with humor, then the reader won’t even know I’m preaching.

My advice to writers is to read your story over and over.

If you don’t laugh every time, it probably won’t be funny to anyone else. If you make yourself laugh out loud, you have a winner.

AAP-Logo_inkpot100

 

 

 

Ink:

Whoever first said that laughter makes the world go around got it right.

When we’re happy, we laugh. When we’re embarrassed, we crack a joke, giving ourselves a moment to regroup. When we’re shocked, it’s not uncommon for us to laugh out of context, and there’s a reason why the Irish invented the laughter-filled wake to honor their departed loved ones.

Therefore, it appears to be a no-brainer that an author, who wants their readers to feel at home with their works, will find a way to incorporate laughter into their text as much as possible.

So, how does one go about doing this?

First and foremost, laughter is all about timing – a pause here, a character’s raised eyebrow there. You get my drift.

Think about your favorite comedians for a moment. Is it the words they say that make you laugh, or is it their delivery? What exactly are they doing/saying that gets to you every time? Once you’ve analyzed what makes them a success, then it’s only a short step to incorporating it into your own work.

Who are your favorite writers, the ones you reread again and again? Do they utilize humor in their work? Then pull out a volume that you laughed your way through and read it again. How did your idol make it happen for you?

I would lay money on the table that they did it with only a few words. Wordy is not what you’re looking for, when you’re writing humor. Get to the point, and get to it quickly.

Never and I mean NEVER underestimate your secondary characters, when it comes to infusing humor into your work. A butler, who raises an eyebrow and shoots a meaningful glance towards the heroine in an historical romance, can be a catalyst for a chuckle. A child who speaks out of turn, repeating words they heard an adult say out of context, is another method of injecting a laugh or two.

Often, I’m asked if the use of humor is genre specific, and the answer I always give is a resounding NO! Humor can be effective anytime, anywhere when done properly.

Think of the funeral scene in the movie Steel Magnolias – a heartbreaking moment in a serious storyline, but the injection of humor made the mother’s grief even more poignant – black reflecting against white.

My advice to you? Remember the old saying, “Leave them laughing.”

Now watch out for that banana peel, and get to it!

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Guest Quill – Anna Burke:

Murder and mayhem hardly seem to be topics to evoke raucous humor. My angst-ridden amateur sleuth, Jessica Huntington, rails against the cosmos about such evil deeds. Still, for Jessica and many other sleuths, the path to unraveling a murder mystery is fraught with irony and laugh out loud moments. The humor ensues almost from the moment some poor schmuck stumbles upon a murder most foul.

That’s a situation captured so well in Hitchcock’s film based on Jack Trevor’s book, The Trouble with Harry. The trouble with Harry is he’s dead. When the body turns up, mayhem ensues as suspects and snoops alike try to get to the bottom of things.

There are plenty of other examples of this madcap approach to murder and mayhem. The hilarity ranges from light-hearted farce, as in Arsenic and Old Lace, the Thin Man and Stephany Plum series, to the Coen Brothers darkly comedic take on noir mystery, Blood Simple.

So why do we do it? Why do we laugh at dark and disturbing circumstances like murder?
I think it’s the way we react, when we find ourselves unceremoniously deposited on the ground after a slip and fall. Maybe it’s embarrassment or surprise, but once we figure out we’re not hurt, we almost have to laugh.

There’s a training quality to reading about or watching such situations played out in print or on film. We take mental notes and feel a giddy relief, as the heroic sleuth demonstrates the ability to survive and get out of dire situations, as if it could be us!

Life changing events are often laugh-or-cry moments. Fortunately, for most of us, that’s not likely to include murder!

I’m talking about those points where the absurdity of the universe strikes without warning, reminding us with a touch of irony or, in an out and out slapstick pratfall kind of way, we’re not masters of the universe or our own fate. Such circumstances evoke strong emotions—sometimes, exasperation and hilarity are two sides of the same coin.

In A DEAD HUSBAND, book 1 of the Jessica Huntington series, my poor beleaguered rich girl backs into sleuthing after a divorce party goes wrong. She thinks she’s got it bad, until her best friend’s husband is murdered.

After her first visit to a crime scene, Jessica’s a wreck, but she’s already learned a lesson or two: “advice to sleuths everywhere: don’t wear white to a crime scene.” Armed with little more than her Jimmy Choos, a cell phone, and moxie, she’s in over her head, and she knows it. When she turns up sporting a black eye, her friend Tommy asks:
“What the hell happened?”

“My first day as a sleuth was more Stephany Plum than Miss Marple.”

It’s dawning on her that the farce-like quality of her life has ratcheted up with her unwitting foray into sleuthing. And, yes Pen, a la Stephany Plum or Lucy Ricardo.

In true Lucy and Ethel fashion there will be more trouble. Can our heroic amateurs learn a thing or two and stay a step ahead of the bizarre circumstances in which they find themselves?

In book 2, A DEAD SISTER, when Jessica’s accosted on the side of the road by gang-banger minions of a fiendish well-heeled heel, she’s armed with more than her Jimmy Choos. She’s got pepper spray and knows how to use it.

“We’ve got something for you, Jessica.”

In a flash she sent a stinging spray that blasted the still smiling young man right in the face.

“I’ve got something for you too, Eminem,” Jessica shrieked, spraying him again.

She had hit him squarely in his gaping grillwork. The scrawny gangsta wannabe was squealing. The sound was somewhere between a twelve-year-old girl at a Miley Cyrus concert and a greased pig at the county fair. He was doing some serious twerking, too.

She’s still in over her head, but a damn good swimmer—that’s my Jessica! She can learn. Well, okay, sort of…not enough to walk away the next time she faces the tantalizing prospect of wringing a little justice out of a world gone mad.

So, humor as a way of responding to life’s more challenging moments. I like to use it in my writing, because it’s a way to make dark subjects lighter.

Laughter relieves stress, releases good, life-sustaining and enhancing chemicals surging through our bodies. Surgical room teams, who hold lives in the palms of their collective hands, often use humor to defray anxiety about a delicate procedure that’s about to begin or underway.

Humor is a shield of sorts that my resourceful heroine holds up—right along with her black AMEX card. Retail therapy’s another weapon in her arsenal of defenses against the surprises doled out by life—like finding the love of her life in her own bed with a well-known Hollywood blond.

“Hollywood Barbie,” as Jessica calls the blond [among other things] turns out to be a barrel of laughs. The joke’s on Jim, Jessica’s ex-husband. Revenge is perhaps best served up cold, karmically, and with a big guffaw.

Whether she’s trampling her assistant on Rodeo Drive, as she does in A DEAD SISTER or “wielding her Gucci bag like a medieval flail” in book 3, A DEAD DAUGHTER, “Cassie-the-worm-hearted” husband stealer is never a dull moment.

Cassie’s only one of the over-the-top secondary characters in the Jessica Huntington series that throws counter punches at the horror cooked up by heinous bad guys. Brian the pool boy with his surfer dude lingo and malapropisms has a funny way with words. [St.] Bernadette, Latina household manager of the Rancho Mirage estate also has a pointed tongue that slices and dices English idioms in surprising ways, creating a ‘huh?’ moment, here and there.

Jessica admits she’s a “calamity magnet” and spends an inordinate amount of time confronted by “low probability events” like murder and mayhem. Her specialty is going toe-to-toe with “la crème de la crud”—the rich and powerful with little regard for their unwary prey.

Humor is also a way to keep the action going, as we ride along with Jessica on the road to vanquishing a low-life living the high life. Oh, how the mighty have fallen when Jessica gets done with them. Now that has to be worth a laugh or two, don’t you think?
Pen’s right though—one test of the laugh worthiness of our writing is: does it have staying power? Do we still laugh 3, 4, 10 rewrites later?

For me there’s another test to run: does it make others laugh?

I may not be as funny as I think I am, or maybe I haven’t been clear about what’s so funny. Having beta readers on hand to provide feedback about those funny bits is great. My husband is my resident laugh-o-meter. He reads a chapter as soon as it’s written, and if I hear a chuckle or a snort I’m happy. A laugh-out-loud guffaw, yes!

Snort, chuckle, guffaw—those words imply that a varied emotional range is afforded by humor. One end of that range might be represented by droll or sarcastic one-liners—throw away lines offered in passing or as repartee between characters. At the other extreme is a full-on skit-like, extended-play situation that may make up an entire scene in a chapter.

Mixing up the humor used keeps the mood light, but also adds variety to the pace of the story as it unfolds. I think it can also help with character development and relationship-building between characters.

Humorous mystery fiction is a real bargain—a “twofer” in a world where it’s not always easy to get a bang for your buck. Murder, mayhem and fun, now that’s a deal!

ATOW-AV_HEAD

 

 

 

Annie’s Thoughts:

Once again, I have to say that I agree with all of the above.

I agree with Pen one hundred percent – humorous characters will bring return readers/buyers to your work over and over again.

Ink, too, hit the nail on the head – short, clear copy is essential, when writing humor, and humor done properly can make its home anywhere, regardless of genre.

Anna reminds us that humor is often found on the opposite side of the coin from a strong emotion such as anger, frustration, grief, or fear – often as a way to either buy us time or build our courage.

To Ink’s suggestions, I would add that you might watch your own actions carefully for a day. What made you laugh, as you lived your ordinary life? These are the same things that a reader will identify with as they read through your work, so use them.

Readers relate to different characters in different ways, so I personally make it a habit never to make a character the brunt of a hurtful joke, unless the person relating the joke is a character that you wish to portray as cruel.

Humor used as character development – had you thought of that one? You see, it isn’t only about the laugh.

I am constantly working to include humor in my romantic, women’s fiction, family saga series that takes place in Captain’s Point, Maryland. I want my readers to desire to live there among the characters I have created, and so, I use humor to portray that these characters are happy and contented overall, even as they face real life problems.

Captain Reb in this series is a perfect example of a character who fills the same role as an actor in a bit part in a play. Whenever he walks onto the stage, but particularly in the second novel in the series, A Man for Susan, he injects a note of humor into the storyline.

By the same token, Chase Sheffield lets down his guard in this novel and allows his sense of humor to come through, as a logical sidebar to the new situation in which he finds himself. Reader response to this has been overwhelmingly positive, as if they were relieved that he was finally able to relax and touch base with this side of his nature.

All of us know that our characters must be well-rounded. Without humor threading through their lives and their dialogue, they won’t be. It’s that simple.

Do you know where the humor in your WIP (work in progress) is today?

Annie Acorn

Pen & Ink 2014 (Pen & Ink Writers’ Resources) – Contributed to and edited by Annie Acorn, Pen, Ink, and their gracious Guest Quills.

Also available in print on Amazon UK and iTunes and for Nook and Kobo.

Dedication: This book is dedicated to the wonderfully talented authors who volunteered their time and wisdom to the Pen & Ink project, so that other writers and authors might benefit from their own hard-earned knowledge and expertise, in the same way as similar information is transmitted amongst writing groups and from beta readers on a daily basis. No one can say that the writing community isn’t a sharing one.

Cover Design and YOU!: Dos, Don’ts, and Choices (Writing and YOU Book 1) – by Annie Acorn and Angel Nichols, Annie Acorn Publishing’s exclusive cover designer

Also available in print on Amazon UK and iTunes and for Nook and Kobo.

On a crisp fall day in 2011, an older, successful author and publisher – desperate for a book cover design, once burnt but still hopeful – picked up her phone and called a young, unproven graphic designer, who had demonstrated an amazing talent. Two hours later, they had reached the decision that would dramatically affect both of their careers, indeed their lives, forever. Author and illustrator would now forge a relationship that has produced over one hundred successful book launches, top sales rankings, and award-winning book covers.

How did they do it? What were the design tools upon which they relied?

With no holds barred, internationally beloved author and boutique publisher Annie Acorn and her company’s exclusive graphic designer Angel Nichols, also an internationally known author and member of From Womens’ Pens, share their story and their secrets within these pages in an easy-to-read format, complete with a touch of humor.

The good, the bad, the dos, the don’ts, the choices, the technical tools needed, the emotional ups and downs, the art of graphic design communication, the requirements for a great cover, and even the resources you will need to create one of your own – all their unique insights and collective knowledge have been included for your benefit.

Are you an indie author struggling to find that elusive bond with a professional cover artist? An illustrator trying to break onto the professional scene? A publisher juggling both at the same time? Or even a group of authors working on a special project?

Then this is the one, fact-filled book that you will want to carry as you embark on your own journey towards either the creation of or contracting for a fabulous book cover that will ensure the success of your book publishing endeavor.

Come for the invaluable information. Stay for the fun. With these tools in your hands, may your efforts be as well-rewarded as theirs have been!

NOTE: We at Annie Acorn Publishing, LLC, hope you have found this brief discussion to be inspiring, helpful or both. If you wish to make a comment or suggest a future discussion question, please utilize the Reply option below. Additional Pen & Ink offerings will appear on the 1st and 16th of each calendar month.

Interested in knowing more about this session’s Guest Quill, Anna Burke? You will find his bio and contact information here Pen & Ink/Scheduled Questions.

– The Editors

______________________________________________________________

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5/1-15/2015 – As an author, what do you personally look for in books that you read for pleasure?

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Pen:

Being an author has just about ruined my reading for pleasure. Let me explain.

I have an amazing editor who knows her stuff. Through working with her, I’ve learned what good writing looks like, and now I can’t read a book without seeing the blaring errors that are all too prevalent in published books today.

What I’m saying is, authors – editing is the most important part of writing!

Okay, so you can tell a good story, but unless you want to appeal to only the illiterate, you had best get it right.

Avid readers inadvertently become silent editors. They may not realize they’re doing it, but they will inevitably start mind-editing your work. The more they read, the more educated they become, and the more used they get to reading well-edited works, the more picky they will get. So you want to be on your game the first time your work is presented to them.

I don’t disagree with the ‘turn off the editor’ approach while you’re getting the story out, but don’t stop there, because that’s just the beginning of your writing process. If you want to be successful, you can’t skip the painful part.

Yes, editing our work can be painful. The better the editor with whom we work, the more painful the process may be, but that’s just the nature of the beast.

Editing can be kind of like getting a colonoscopy. We go through painful preparation, we’d rather be unconscious while it’s happening, and we hope they don’t find anything. But when all is said and done, we’re glad we did it.

While we’re happy the process is over, we know we’re in possession of a piece of anatomy that is as clean as it can possibly be. As with the person who performs our colonoscopy, the more thorough our editor is, the more grateful we should be.

If our gastroenterologist finds something amiss during our colonoscopy, she may offer suggestions about nutrition and health that can prevent future colon problems. We should listen. And if our editor finds something amiss with our manuscript, we should also listen and learn.

Reading should be like taking a journey down a smooth highway – the road should be clear and without the distraction of poor maintenance. I know no book is perfect, but that should never be because we didn’t try to make it as good as it can possibly be.

So that’s what I look for when I read for pleasure – a clean manuscript that doesn’t stop my pleasure in the story with lazy editing. I think that’s something we, as writers, should all strive to achieve.

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Ink:

I had to laugh at my first response to this question, but the more I thought about it, the truer I realized it was. More than anything else, I want to read a book that I have absolutely no desire to rewrite.

Sadly, these are no longer as easy to find as they once were, and so, I often find myself rereading old favorites as opposed to buying a new book.

Some would say that I’m too picky, that I should turn off my editing mind when I open someone else’s book, but I find that I simply can’t do it.

Errors in basic copyediting drive me nuts. Adverbs strewn all over the place, wrong tenses, weak verbs, and bad grammar all range high on my list of least favorite things as well.

I want a book where I always know who is talking, where characters are well-rounded, where my intelligence isn’t disrespected.

Parts of my writing life require me to skim read, but when I open a book for pleasure, I want to read every word. If this dream is to come true, then the author who I have honored with my purchase must have provided a good mix of narrative and dialogue, some action, some strong emotion, some laughter, and some love.

A good story must draw me right in and make me care – really care – about the characters. I’m a person who enjoys a clear vision of where I am – the sights, sounds, smells, and general ambience.

Nothing adds more to a good book, in my opinion, than a few good character actors sprinkled here and there – a butler who sniffs with disapproval at just the right moment, a child who says what everyone else is thinking, a storyteller who can be counted on to deliver a witty line.

Books that are placed in interesting settings or environments appeal to me, too, as do well written mysteries that keep me guessing right up to the end.

In short, when I purchase a book to read, I want the author to have taken as much care with their work as I do with mine.

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Guest Quill – Judy Probus:

Historical, romance, fantasy, or autobiographical, my favorite reads are what I call story strong. They make me want to push the pause button on life so I can keep reading.

I love books that…

1. Catch my eye. I love books that sport strong cover art and/or interior illustrations.

2. Transport me to a new place/time in history or to a fantastical new world.

3. Develop characters. The good, the bad, and the ugly. I want to know what drives the characters and see them evolve as the story unfolds.

4. Let me see, taste, hear, smell, and touch what the characters experience.

5. Have intrigue and suspense. Chocolate Can Kill by author Annie Acorn is my favorite chocolate-filled mystery.

6. Have relationships, relationships, relationships! Did I forget to mention relationships? Where’s the magic without them?

7. Have heart. Love, hate, remorse, joy, revenge, the agony of defeat, the thrill of victory. An awesome story evokes emotion.

8. Inspire me. I like to be taken to the depths of despair and climb the summit of conquest. My favorite heroes/heroines make the impossible possible and inspire all of humanity.

9. Have action/adventure. More action and adventure and less narration is best.

10. Have imagination. Every reader knows what Albert Einstein said is true. “Knowledge will take you from A to B. ImagiNation will take you everywhere.”

ImagiNation Unveiled: The Hidden Realm, my YA fantasy/adventure novel, was released in 2015, which throws you on the back of a dragon and launches you and three young earthlings on a quest to save the universe.

So you see, I write with readers like me in mind. Visit us at imaginationunveiled.com.

ATOW-AV_HEAD

Annie’s Thoughts:

Having read through all of the other answers, I first want to say that I’m relieved none of us have any strong feelings. No one can say that we don’t expect to receive our money’s worth, when we shell out for a new book.

My father was an accomplished technical editor, and years ago, when we were both editing Chocolate Can Kill, we discovered an error in our family’s King James’s version of the Bible.

“They’ve certainly had time to get that one right,” my dad joked, but the fact is that they hadn’t.

Still, like the others, I want the authors, whose work I read, to have given their best efforts.

I tweet that without readers there wouldn’t be any authors, and I mean it. Those of us, who put pen to paper, publish our stories, and hope others will buy them, must never forget the wants and needs of our readers.

First and foremost on my list is the desire for a book that doesn’t need editing, and believe me, it will stand out to me if it does, no matter how good the storyline is.

I, too, want to meet well-rounded characters, to be treated to good grammar, and to find myself in an interesting setting. Only then will I lose myself in the story and be carried off to a different world.

And isn’t that, ultimately, what we all want from a book – a great escape?

So, having read all four of our answers, the next time you purchase a new book and begin reading it, keep in mind all the many layers of care the author whose work you now hold has given to their work and be grateful that they cared enough to make all that effort.

Read on!

Oh, and when you are finished, take a moment and write a review!!!

Annie Acorn

Pen & Ink 2014 (Pen & Ink Writers’ Resources) – Contributed to and edited by Annie Acorn, Pen, Ink, and their gracious Guest Quills.

Also available in print on Amazon UK and iTunes and for Nook and Kobo.

Dedication: This book is dedicated to the wonderfully talented authors who volunteered their time and wisdom to the Pen & Ink project, so that other writers and authors might benefit from their own hard-earned knowledge and expertise, in the same way as similar information is transmitted amongst writing groups and from beta readers on a daily basis. No one can say that the writing community isn’t a sharing one.

Cover Design and YOU!: Dos, Don’ts, and Choices (Writing and YOU Book 1) – by Annie Acorn and Angel Nichols, Annie Acorn Publishing’s exclusive cover designer

Also available in print on Amazon UK and iTunes and for Nook and Kobo.

On a crisp fall day in 2011, an older, successful author and publisher – desperate for a book cover design, once burnt but still hopeful – picked up her phone and called a young, unproven graphic designer, who had demonstrated an amazing talent. Two hours later, they had reached the decision that would dramatically affect both of their careers, indeed their lives, forever. Author and illustrator would now forge a relationship that has produced over one hundred successful book launches, top sales rankings, and award-winning book covers.

How did they do it? What were the design tools upon which they relied?

With no holds barred, internationally beloved author and boutique publisher Annie Acorn and her company’s exclusive graphic designer Angel Nichols, also an internationally known author and member of From Womens’ Pens, share their story and their secrets within these pages in an easy-to-read format, complete with a touch of humor.

The good, the bad, the dos, the don’ts, the choices, the technical tools needed, the emotional ups and downs, the art of graphic design communication, the requirements for a great cover, and even the resources you will need to create one of your own – all their unique insights and collective knowledge have been included for your benefit.

Are you an indie author struggling to find that elusive bond with a professional cover artist? An illustrator trying to break onto the professional scene? A publisher juggling both at the same time? Or even a group of authors working on a special project?

Then this is the one, fact-filled book that you will want to carry as you embark on your own journey towards either the creation of or contracting for a fabulous book cover that will ensure the success of your book publishing endeavor.

Come for the invaluable information. Stay for the fun. With these tools in your hands, may your efforts be as well-rewarded as theirs have been!

NOTE: We at Annie Acorn Publishing, LLC, hope you have found this brief discussion to be inspiring, helpful or both. If you wish to make a comment or suggest a future discussion question, please utilize the Reply option below. Additional Pen & Ink offerings will appear on the 1st and 16th of each calendar month.

Interested in knowing more about this session’s Guest Quill, Judy Probus? You will find his bio and contact information here Pen & Ink/Scheduled Questions.

– The Editors

_______________________________________________________________

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4/16-30/2015 – What would have helped you the most as a writer trying to make your way?

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Pen:

They say hindsight is 20/20, and that saying couldn’t be truer when it comes to being a writer. There are many things that would have helped me personally along my way as I began this journey, but most of all, an intense primer on social media would have been invaluable.

I chose this area because, in the now expanded arena of indie and boutique publishing, the best way to establish your presence, your brand, your work, among the field of amazing writers and authors involves strategic and focused use of social media.

New writers are often concentrating so hard on getting their work published that the reality of marketing said work feels like the easy part. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Once an author realizes the importance and value of social media, then it becomes both a challenge and a treasure hunt to navigate their way through the major players such as Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads, to name a few, as well as establishing their own identity through a website and blog.

The learning curve can be quite daunting! It would have really helped me to have taken a specific course or read up on technical aspects, rules, and etiquettes of some of these marketing and networking venues.

With that said, every writer/author must blaze his or her own path, but commencing this journey with eyes wide open and with help from available resources, such as books, podcasts, and blogposts, should provide a cushion to the sometimes harsh realities lurking within these avenues down which we all must travel.

Once immersed in this new exciting, educational, and often interesting world of social media, the rewards and blessing of networking with other writers and published authors far outshines the anxiety associated with plunging oneself into the flow of success.

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Ink:

So many things flew through my brain as I considered my answer to this one that I had a hard time making up my mind.

It would’ve been nice if someone had been up front about how much work is actually involved in producing a book or even a shorter piece for that matter. Being told at some point to study the books of authors whose work I had enjoyed might have helped me to move forward faster with my own writing as well.

Finally, I opted for wishing that someone, anyone had advised me early on to be disciplined in all aspects of my writing – daily new word count, careful editing, building my author’s platform, and marketing aggressively through social media, podcasts, and traditional media sources.

Quite simply, being a successful author isn’t a part-time job.

First and foremost, if you don’t set aside time to write every day, you won’t make it. Is that an easy thing to do, especially with a family or a day job deserving space in your life? NO!

Is it a necessary component for making it in the publishing world? YES!

For me, setting myself a one thousand word writing goal for each and every day works, but only if I make it the first thing that I do. Read the autobiographies of famous authors, and often you will find that they are/were early risers, perhaps so that they, too, could get the writing out of the way first.

Then, if one is serious about developing a committed readership, it is important for a writer to train themselves to be a competent editor. This additional skill will soon work its way into the words being written on your first draft, which will save you time and, quite possibly if you’re indie publishing, money.

I find building and maintaining my author’s platform to be tedious and time-consuming, but still, I acknowledge it as a necessary evil. Gone are the days when publishing houses developed and underwrote national booksigning tours for fledgling authors so, if you want your readers to know you more personally, you must make use of the author’s pages available on sales vendor’s websites and Goodreads, as well as providing your own website and blog.

Finally, in this day and age, no one is going to market your book for you, and here social media is your best friend. Twitter and Facebook rule, but there are plenty of other venues as well, including such websites as bardsnest.com and iAuthor.uk.com. Make use of them, or your book(s) will languish and die.

To summarize, if you want to be a successful author, keep your eye on your goal and get disciplined!

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Guest Quill – Merrie Housdon:

You know, I have thought for quite some time about this question, and three things immediately come to mind – a time machine, visiting a psychic, and visions of the future.

In all seriousness, I learn best from experience, and when I started out with intent to publish/sell my stories, I had absolutely none.

Looking back at that point in my life, I could have never imagined that I would have a story published, let alone having that story appear as part of an amazing anthology featuring many incredible authors. I have an internationally selling story A Prince for Valentine’s, a successful blog that gets new visitors every day, and a writing family that gives me an incredible amount of support.

What helped me get here? When I set my mind to actually sitting down and writing, I went into the process without expectations. I didn’t expect to get rich, I didn’t expect to be the next James Patterson or Nicholas Sparks, and I didn’t expect it to be easy.

Writing for me was a way to bear my soul, and selling my stories was a way to step out of my comfort zone. I am in no way trying to claim that I don’t secretly wish for riches and glory, but I am enough of a realist that I can easily separate my wishes and my expectations.

From the beginning, my story was always the most important thing. Getting it published and selling it were next in line.

I had not studied creative writing or English in college, so I bought a ton of books on story structure and other important topics. While each was informative and filled with important information, I felt overwhelmed. Each book promised to teach me something important, but all they did was give me rules for writing that made me feel as if I were doing something wrong, if I didn’t follow their rules word for word.

Then a miracle happened. I stumbled across a YouTube video that forever changed my thinking.

In that video was Neil Gaiman giving a commencement speech at a university. To quote Neil Gaiman, “People, who know what they are doing, know the rules and know what is possible and impossible. You do not. And you should not. The rules on what is possible and impossible in the arts were made by people who had not tested the bounds of the possible by going beyond them, and you can.”

I realized that, once I got my story onto paper or word processor, there were people in this world who professionally do something called editing. My story didn’t have to be perfect. I just had to get it out.

I knew that, once my story was completed, I wanted to publish and sell it, but I didn’t know how. After spending an hour online, one theme kept coming up. A writer who wants to sell their work – whether traditionally published, independently, or somewhere in between – needs to establish an author platform.

Blogging and social media are two ways of doing this. I first started by joining Twitter and following as many authors as I could find. I wanted to see what they were doing and learn from them.

Then came blogging…. Well, sort of.

I knew that I needed a website/blog, so that I could establish a readership and gain followers for when the day came that I had a story published. But what was I going to blog about?

My favorite blogs were ones that gave me interesting writing tips, but I couldn’t do that, because I was new to the world of writing and didn’t feel like I had enough to contribute.

There were other blogs that I followed that reviewed books. I thought about that and quickly remembered that in high school, when given a reading assignment, I never read the books, because I hate being forced to read something. I mean, what if I got twenty pages into the story and it failed to grab my attention, but I had already promised an author I would review their book. Would I have to give them a miserable review or lie about loving it? No thanks!

Then a thought hit me. What if I helped other authors by showcasing their work on my site?

That’s exactly what I did.

I started off participating on blog tours for established book tour companies, while I reached out to the people on Twitter. I was simply amazed at how many authors jumped at the opportunity.

Through my blog, I have met amazing authors, who not only spread the word about my site, but now, also about my story. I have made lasting friendships and, very importantly, met my editor/publisher through my blog and Twitter.

I still have much to learn about writing and marketing my stories, but I’m okay with that. I am worlds away from where I began.

While books on writing have been very informative and taught me many things, the experience of making mistakes and learning things on my own has helped me much more than any book on writing ever could.

Thank you, Annie, for the incredible opportunity you have presented me with and for allowing me to be a part of your amazing community of authors.

ATOW-AV_HEAD

Annie’s Thoughts:

When I posed this question, I expected answers deeply rooted in the writing process itself, so I was surprised when I read through the other responses to find that book promotion and social media ruled supreme, an obvious reflection of the publishing world in which we now exist.

Granted, an understanding of the importance of promoting their book is often missing in newbie writers and even some seasoned authors, but perhaps because I began so long ago, my answer would be a bit different.

At the time, I was desperate for a good primer that listed most of the basics, and I relied heavily on copies of magazines such as Writer’s Digest and The Writer for direction as well as published members of the various writers’ groups that I joined as we moved from city to city.

Still, it wasn’t until I began studying the science of editing that I really made progress as a writer of fiction. Despite the fact that business writing of various types had been a major component of my professional life for years, I’m on record as saying and will repeat here that I would never have made it as a writer of fiction had I not learned how to edit.

Don’t get me wrong, I could develop a plot and envision characters with the best of them. I could draw you into a story, and I could end a chapter in a cliffhanger. But still, my prose dragged, and my dialogue was stilted.

It wasn’t until the moment when I realized the importance of strong verbs, clean copy, and realistic dialogue that my future was secure, which is one of the reasons that I regularly tweet basic writing tips, many of them dealing with basic editing.

Looking back, I would’ve been a productive, successful author much sooner if only one of the published writers that I knew in my many writing groups had sat down with me for an hour or two and helped me to edit a piece of my work – lesson learned.

So how did I develop my editing abilities? I reread the works of my favorite authors in several genres, dissecting them and taking notes along the way, and then I applied my new found knowledge to my own work, notably my first full-length, cozy mystery novel Chocolate Can Kill. The book’s sales now number in six figures, so the results of my efforts speak for themselves.

Struggling? Who is your favorite author? Pull three of their books from the shelf, grab a pad of paper and a pen, and get working!

Annie Acorn

Pen & Ink 2014 (Pen & Ink Writers’ Resources) – Contributed to and edited by Annie Acorn, Pen, Ink, and their gracious Guest Quills.

Also available in print on Amazon UK and iTunes and for Nook and Kobo.

Dedication: This book is dedicated to the wonderfully talented authors who volunteered their time and wisdom to the Pen & Ink project, so that other writers and authors might benefit from their own hard-earned knowledge and expertise, in the same way as similar information is transmitted amongst writing groups and from beta readers on a daily basis. No one can say that the writing community isn’t a sharing one.

Cover Design and YOU!: Dos, Don’ts, and Choices (Writing and YOU Book 1) – by Annie Acorn and Angel Nichols, Annie Acorn Publishing’s exclusive cover designer

Also available in print on Amazon UK and iTunes and for Nook and Kobo.

On a crisp fall day in 2011, an older, successful author and publisher – desperate for a book cover design, once burnt but still hopeful – picked up her phone and called a young, unproven graphic designer, who had demonstrated an amazing talent. Two hours later, they had reached the decision that would dramatically affect both of their careers, indeed their lives, forever. Author and illustrator would now forge a relationship that has produced over one hundred successful book launches, top sales rankings, and award-winning book covers.

How did they do it? What were the design tools upon which they relied?

With no holds barred, internationally beloved author and boutique publisher Annie Acorn and her company’s exclusive graphic designer Angel Nichols, also an internationally known author and member of From Womens’ Pens, share their story and their secrets within these pages in an easy-to-read format, complete with a touch of humor.

The good, the bad, the dos, the don’ts, the choices, the technical tools needed, the emotional ups and downs, the art of graphic design communication, the requirements for a great cover, and even the resources you will need to create one of your own – all their unique insights and collective knowledge have been included for your benefit.

Are you an indie author struggling to find that elusive bond with a professional cover artist? An illustrator trying to break onto the professional scene? A publisher juggling both at the same time? Or even a group of authors working on a special project?

Then this is the one, fact-filled book that you will want to carry as you embark on your own journey towards either the creation of or contracting for a fabulous book cover that will ensure the success of your book publishing endeavor.

Come for the invaluable information. Stay for the fun. With these tools in your hands, may your efforts be as well-rewarded as theirs have been!

NOTE: We at Annie Acorn Publishing, LLC, hope you have found this brief discussion to be inspiring, helpful or both. If you wish to make a comment or suggest a future discussion question, please utilize the Reply option below. Additional Pen & Ink offerings will appear on the 1st and 16th of each calendar month.

Interested in knowing more about this session’s Guest Quill, Merrie Housdon? You will find his bio and contact information here Pen & Ink/Scheduled Questions.

– The Editors

_______________________________________________________________

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4/1-15/2015 – What media and internet formats have you used to promote your books? Thoughts?

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Pen:

I’m not the world’s best at using social media for book promotion. I do have a website on which I blog, and I post on it regularly. When I publish a new post, I announce it on Facebook and Twitter. I have asked my Facebook friends to share posts they like, and of course, Twitter followers are faithful about retweeting.

I have used radio interviewing to promote, and that’s actually a lot of fun, especially with a skillful interviewer. Having good rapport with the host helps ease shyness about speaking to people whom I can’t see, and if the interviewer is funny, I find myself having a really good time.

I’m kind of old-fashioned about the book promotion subject in that I think there’s nothing better than word of mouth. When I read book reviews and social media comments, I often get excited about books, but then forget about them as soon as I move away from my computer.

But, if friends mention books they like, I usually write them down on a ‘recommendations’ list and then refer to that list when I’m ready to shop for something new to read. There’s nothing more exciting than to hear that someone bought your book because someone else recommended it to them.

Another way to get the word out is to speak at book clubs, churches, and other such gatherings. The mere fact that you can stand in front of a group of people and talk already impresses the crowd, and they tend to think you must have some amount of intelligence in order to be able to do that.

Respect earned by public speaking often equals book sales. It also helps readers get to know you, and that connection will keep them coming back to your work.

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Ink:

Like Pen, I came lately and rather reluctantly to this sort of marketing for my books, thinking that the old ways were probably best. How wrong I was!

Finally, good old-fashioned curiosity got the better of me, and I stuck a toe into Twitter – AMAZING! The first thing I did was trip over an extensive, engaged community of writers, many of whom were willing to retweet even my first attempts at selling my works in 140 characters or less.

I must admit that while I use both of them to some degree, I have found Facebook to be disappointing and Goodreads to be confusing. Still, I’m there, as I am on various book listing sites around the globe and on my author’s page at my various vendors.

Then a more astute friend of mine sat me down and explained in depth over cups of tea the longevity of anything that finds a permanent home on the internet, such as a podcast – VAVOOM!

Now, there’s an old-fashioned word for you young whippersnappers, but once I got the message, my mind really took off. By giving an interview, either directly onto a podcast or during an online radio show that would later be made available in this form, I would be trading a few minutes of my time for an eternity of exposure – an ETERNITY!

Is there anyone out there that didn’t get that???

Since struck with this epiphany, I’ve certainly continued old-fashioned ways of promoting my books, along with regular use of social media, but I’m thrilled – yes, THRILLED – when I’m contacted by someone wishing to interview me in a way that will create a long term, internet presence for my book, during which I’m allowed to present it personally in the best possible way.

A traditional book signing will allow me to impress a couple of hundred people with the value of my book, but a podcast placed on the internet and then tweeted and retweeted through the years can easily give me access to MILLIONS of potential buyers.

I’ve been requested to participate in such interviews through the Contact page on my website, Facebook, Twitter, email, and phone, and I can honestly say that I’ve never turned down such a request. Why in the world would I? After all, this is someone who wants to help me sell my book, a pastime that is far too often a solitary endeavor.

How do you find such venues for yourself? Open your eyes!

Follow and friend other authors on social media and see whose interviewing them. Then begin networking. Put a small statement at the end of your books, in a tweet, or on Facebook and Goodreads stating that you’re available.

Watch for Twitter ‘interviews’ or ‘chats’ and participate – openly and frequently.

Make a few friends, network, and then take advantage of each and every opportunity as it rolls in.

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Guest Quill – Ron Shaw:

It would be remiss and less southernly of me not to express my heartfelt appreciation to Annie Acorn for this historic invitation to become the first gent to place Guest Quill in hand for a session of Pen & Ink.

Annie, I’m honored and humbled by you.

With that said, on my first glance at the questions for this momentous occasion, I was relieved to see she had taken pity on the limitations possessed by the first man to contribute here.

After working hours with Annie and Annie Acorn Publishing LLC on my newest Cramped Quarters offering Mary’s Trunk, I should have known better. Together we have embarked upon a special mission in friendship and words that I pray will continue to grow
.
Annie is a sly one in the best of ways. As I revisited the assignment presented, an epiphany rained down on me like brimstone. There’s nothing simple about the subject of this session.

On the contrary, it’s as demanding as any question I’ve answered since penning books. Books!
That’s what this is all about.

So, you have a book or books out now. What do you do next? How do you go about enticing readers to flock to your printed words? What resources are out there for you as an author to tap into to facilitate the successful marketing of your babies?

Make no mistake about it. Your books are your babies. They’re the closest thing to sheer creation that you’ve orchestrated. One can tango in this literary procreation process.

The rains continued to pound me. It would appear that Annie expected me to produce fresh, sliced, homegrown, Georgia tomatoes in winter. Folks it doesn’t work like that. Everything has a season. If you have a book or more out, the game is afoot.

First and paramount, to minimally hawk your books you must learn how to sell yourself. The day and age of someone else marketing your written offspring for you are as gone with the wind as Dixie.

If a prospective reader of books is willing to invest their hard-earned book money and rare time for you, then it’s incumbent upon you to put yourself out there in front of your books. It’s your name on that cover. If you think you can’t, I’ll emphatically say, “Yes, you can.”

If you have fears such as public speaking, work on conquering them. You must if book sales are your goal.

In this respect, you need to establish what you want from this journey, at which you’ll work harder than at any other job you’ve had.

But, this is the question. Where exactly is ‘out there’ in respect to selling your word wares? Social Media looms large and is, to a degree, daunting for authors.

Shows like my worldwide weekly internet radio show, The Ron Shaw Show, http://bit.ly/1ujFMOz, are the perfect first stop to show rather than tell the world you are worth their attention. Like others, I provide this service free of charge to those willing to simply answer their phones when my show calls.

Twitter.com is your best friend for instantaneous worldwide exposure for you and your works. Twitter never sleeps. How creative can you be under the pressure of 140 characters or less with pictures and links?

You’re a writer and yes, you can do it. Again, show the world how creative you are. Be bold, unique. That’s what I and many authors do with what I @rongizmo believe to be a measure of success.

You are in a worldwide community of authors, readers, artists, and like-minded highly creative individuals willing to connect and engage. Utilize every free of charge advertising method at your disposal. There are plenty of great folks out there who will do this with opened arms.

Here is a list of just a few of these beautiful people and organizations out there for authors:

• Merrie Housdon’s Inspired Writers Blog at mehousdonblog.weebly.com
• Michael C. Smith of Bee Zee Books at beezeebooks.com
• Authorsdb at AUTHORSdb.com
• iAuthor at iauthor.uk.com
• Readers Gazette at ReadersGazette.Com
• Texas author D.A. Grady at bardsnest.com/authors-center/

There are also resources available for you at sites such as Pinterest, LinkedIn, Facebook, Goodreads, Booksdaily and more.

In summation, the proper marketing needed to realize the sales potential of your books is entirely up to you. If you learn how to successfully market the author whose name rests on the covers of your books, then you will begin to see some glimmer of light in the wilderness populated by your peers.

As Huna teaches us, “There are no limits.”

ATOW-AV_HEAD

Annie’s Thoughts:

Once again, we seem to be all over the place, and yet, we still agree in many ways.

First and foremost, we all work hard at promoting our work through a variety of venues that include a media or internet component, with social media either taking center stage or being used as catalyst.

Basically, I would prefer to write my stories, publish them, and trust them to find their own way, but the realist in me cries out that they would be lost in the shuffle amongst the tens of millions of other offerings out there. So, what to do?

I’m on record as a firm believer that Twitter is the best free ticket ride available on social media, but one certainly can’t stop there, and I’ve taken advantage myself of almost all of the opportunities listed in the answers above.

Here again, I have found Twitter to be a great source for both posting venues for books, such as bardsnest.com and iAuthorUK to name two, and for invitations to appear on such things as Slushheap, Cherrie McKenzie’s CoActive Dreams, Authors First and The Ron Shaw Show.

Just recently, Angel Nichols, the graphic designer who produces most of AAPub’s book covers, and I co-authored a book aimed at authors and graphic designers titled Cover Design and YOU! Dos, Don’ts and Choices.

The first thing I did to insure the book’s successful launch? I started lining up ways to promote the book, not the least of which was a joint interview of Angel and myself on The Ron Shaw Show that would be permanently stored on the internet as a podcast the day after the live show.

Those interested in learning more about the book before purchasing it can now listen to a one hour show that details what’s contained in it.

Cost to Angel and me? Nothing. Resultant sales? The sky’s the limit. I can tell you, though, that the book was showing in three categories on Amazon and was placing at #15 in its primary category in only 15 days.

Enough said…

Social media, podcasts, live interview shows, Twitter chats – all have their role in helping an author to market their work, and make no mistake about it. Marketing is a necessity. Oh, and you might take a few minutes and check out where our authors are promoting their work via our EVENTS page here on annieacornpublishing.com.

So, make note of all the resources listed in the answers above, and get started!

Annie Acorn

Pen & Ink 2014 (Pen & Ink Writers’ Resources) – Contributed to and edited by Annie Acorn, Pen, Ink, and their gracious Guest Quills.

Also available in print on Amazon UK and iTunes and for Nook and Kobo.

Dedication: This book is dedicated to the wonderfully talented authors who volunteered their time and wisdom to the Pen & Ink project, so that other writers and authors might benefit from their own hard-earned knowledge and expertise, in the same way as similar information is transmitted amongst writing groups and from beta readers on a daily basis. No one can say that the writing community isn’t a sharing one.

Cover Design and YOU!: Dos, Don’ts, and Choices (Writing and YOU Book 1) – by Annie Acorn and Angel Nichols, Annie Acorn Publishing’s exclusive cover designer

Also available in print on Amazon UK and iTunes and for Nook and Kobo.

On a crisp fall day in 2011, an older, successful author and publisher – desperate for a book cover design, once burnt but still hopeful – picked up her phone and called a young, unproven graphic designer, who had demonstrated an amazing talent. Two hours later, they had reached the decision that would dramatically affect both of their careers, indeed their lives, forever. Author and illustrator would now forge a relationship that has produced over one hundred successful book launches, top sales rankings, and award-winning book covers.

How did they do it? What were the design tools upon which they relied?

With no holds barred, internationally beloved author and boutique publisher Annie Acorn and her company’s exclusive graphic designer Angel Nichols, also an internationally known author and member of From Womens’ Pens, share their story and their secrets within these pages in an easy-to-read format, complete with a touch of humor.

The good, the bad, the dos, the don’ts, the choices, the technical tools needed, the emotional ups and downs, the art of graphic design communication, the requirements for a great cover, and even the resources you will need to create one of your own – all their unique insights and collective knowledge have been included for your benefit.

Are you an indie author struggling to find that elusive bond with a professional cover artist? An illustrator trying to break onto the professional scene? A publisher juggling both at the same time? Or even a group of authors working on a special project?

Then this is the one, fact-filled book that you will want to carry as you embark on your own journey towards either the creation of or contracting for a fabulous book cover that will ensure the success of your book publishing endeavor.

Come for the invaluable information. Stay for the fun. With these tools in your hands, may your efforts be as well-rewarded as theirs have been!

NOTE: We at Annie Acorn Publishing, LLC, hope you have found this brief discussion to be inspiring, helpful or both. If you wish to make a comment or suggest a future discussion question, please utilize the Reply option below. Additional Pen & Ink offerings will appear on the 1st and 16th of each calendar month.

Interested in knowing more about this session’s Guest Quill, Ron Shaw? You will find his bio and contact information here Pen & Ink/Scheduled Questions.

– The Editors

_______________________________________________________________

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3/16-31/2015 – What led you to write in the romance genre, and how does it differ from writing in other genres?

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Pen:

I have only written short stories in the romance genre, and I must confess that I did them only at the request of my publisher. It’s not a genre I feel comfortable with or one in which I feel qualified, since I don’t really read much romance. (Having said that, have you checked out Charlotte Kent’s Captain’s Point or Annie Acorn’s Luna Lake Cabins series? They may be converting me!)

The main way in which romance differs from other genres is that just about everyone can relate to the characters. I may not feel an action hero’s bravery or think analytically like a mystery sleuth. I have no patience with sci-fi or fantasy, and history sometimes bores me. But I am human, with human emotions and dreams, and so I can ‘become’ a romance character.

I want what Susan, in Charlotte Kent’s A Man for Susan wants. I know how she feels when her lover kisses her. I want him to kiss me, too! I know why Susan laughs, why she cries about the things she cries about, and why she fears the things she fears.

Characters in each new romance novel we read become our friends, even if only in our imaginations. They fulfill basic human needs for love and hope, and they evoke righteous indignation when the occasion arises.

We want to be as beautiful, smart, sweet, and successful as female protagonists, and we want to be with their handsome, smart, kind, and ambitious counterparts.

In other words, the romance genre allows us to be someone else for a short while, someone we perceive to be better than ourselves, and to journey with them to places where we might not otherwise get to go.

I guess that’s the reason every fictional book offers at least a tidbit of romance – we all crave it and we can all relate, even if it’s only relating to what we wish we had.

As for me, I must leave that to the experts like Charlotte Kent and Annie Acorn.

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Ink:

Go to the bio tab on the Pen & Ink page, and you’ll wonder why someone like me is even answering this question, and yet, here I am – a card-carrying author of romances. Who knew?

For years, like Pen, I avoided the genre, thinking it lacking in real substance and merit, but then, I came across Debbie Macomber’s Blossom Street series, while biding my time in a grocery store checkout lane. Kudos to the cover designer for that particular book, because it was the delightful garden gate surrounded by flowers that first drew my attention.

Technically, some would refer to this series as more women’s fiction than romance, but romance certainly ran straight through this first book as it introduced me to the hopes, dreams, challenges, and real-life drama in which the viable, contemporary women characters found themselves.

At the time, Debbie had only written two books in the series, so I had to search for alternatives. Hating to shop and this being pre-ebook, my local grocery became my easiest source. Devouring as many as three romance genre books per day, I was as desperate for my next fix as a heroin addict is for a street corner vendor.

Then, as luck would have it, I sustained an injury that confined me to my home. Embarrassed to ask my friends and neighbors to haul in box loads of books along with my groceries, I turned to the next best thing, when you’re a writer. I wrote one – a romance that is.

A simple, sweet romance, it satisfied my craving, while I eagerly awaited the boxful of Georgette Heyer historical romances that UPS was snailing my way. Gradually, my own stories morphed more towards the contemporary, women’s fiction arena, but they always contained a healthy dose of good old-fashioned romance as well.

Still, I held myself to a few simple rules as I wrote in this new genre:

• Situations described must be believable, not contrived.
• Characters needed to be well-rounded, not two-dimensional.
• Locations should be ones to which readers could relate.
• Descriptive passages must serve a purpose.
• Heroines, as well as heroes, required brains and ingenuity.

These self-imposed restrictions allowed me to hold my head high, when I published my own entries into the genre. After all, love makes the world go around, right?

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Guest Quill – Christina Paul:

Many moons ago, I’m not willing to tell you exactly how many, a friend of mine shoved a book into my hands and insisted I read it. At the time, I wasn’t much of a reader, but I knew she’d badger me to death until I read the thing. Also, she was the type to ask detailed questions, and I would swear she had a built in lie detector, so I couldn’t flub my way through it.

Resigned, I sat down and began to read. Almost instantly, I was hooked. The book? The Wolf and the Dove by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss. It was the first of now thousands of romance novels I have read.

My insatiable reading habits caused many a snide remark and countless eye rolls from my husband. In one of his more generous moments, he offered the backhanded comment, “You read so many of the dang things, why don’t you just write one?”

Write one? I hadn’t thought of that. Hmmm, maybe someday I just might. Wouldn’t that show him? Well, that ‘someday’ came a few years ago.

Sometime around Christmas, I started having a recurring dream. Every night I was transported to rural England in the early 1800s. Every night, a little more of the story unfolded, and I found myself looking forward to bedtime, just so I could return and see more.

The nighttime dreams morphed into daydreams, and soon I became consumed with Kathryn and Graydon’s story. Then, on President’s weekend, Mother Nature forced my hand.

Several days of unrelenting snow effectually closed down the Northeast so, with nothing better to do, I sat down at my computer and began to type and type and type some more. The characters would give me no peace until their story was told.

I cried, I laughed, I feared for them, and I rejoiced with them. It was a manifestation I had never experienced in my life. It was exhilarating and draining all at the same time.

In less than two months, A Second Chance was written, edited, rewritten, query letters sent out, and the manuscript was accepted by an agency. The memory of that time still makes my head spin.

You asked why I chose to write romance. I didn’t choose to write it. It chose me. The stories are my characters’. I am just here to write them down.

My characters are flawed, scarred, scared, happy, sad, loving, angry, hopeful, cautious – everything us actual humans are, so we can relate to them, warts and all.

The stories are about life’s ups and downs, the challenges we face and how we deal with them and each other, but because of the happy endings, they are categorized ‘romance.’

Yes, my books do hold a romantic thread running through, but so does life, doesn’t it?

ATOW-AV_HEAD

Annie’s Thoughts:

I find it interesting that all four of us seem to have backed into writing romance, and I can’t help but wonder, why? After all, love does indeed make the world go around. We all recognize it, crave it, and experience it.

Like Pen, I believe the success of the romance genre hangs on the fact that its readers relate on a very visceral level. At one point in each of their lives, they have either been there/done that or wanted to have been there/done that.

I also agree with Ink and Christina, when it comes to making sure that the characters in my own romances are well-rounded – no matter if I’m writing a Luna Lake Cabin novella, such as Love’s Third Chance, or one of my romantic, women’s fiction Captain’s Point novels written as Charlotte Kent, such as A Clue for Adrianna or the Christmas novella One Sweet Christmas. To me, it’s a badge of honor to make sure that my readers receive everything I can give them, whether I’m writing fiction or nonfiction, mystery or romance.

One thing that has meant a lot to me personally, as I’ve drifted into the romance genre, is the loyalty of this particular genre’s readership. 99% of the time, if they buy one book in a series, they buy them all.

Satisfied readers of my romances have become some of the most consistent retweeters of my promotional tweets, they’ve been great about showing their appreciation of my work by writing unrequested reviews, and they have contacted me through email in unprecedented numbers.

Also, they stay in touch, letting me know plot lines they would be interested in my pursuing and characters that have meant the most to them. Even Max, the Chihuahua/Beagle mix who stars in my Captain’s Point Stories series has developed quite a fan club. What more could I want from them as an author?

As a result, although I may have come lately to the romance genre, I’m definitely here to stay!

Annie Acorn

Pen & Ink 2014 (Pen & Ink Writers’ Resources) – Contributed to and edited by Annie Acorn, Pen, Ink, and their gracious Guest Quills.

Also available in print on Amazon UK and iTunes and for Nook and Kobo.

Dedication: This book is dedicated to the wonderfully talented authors who volunteered their time and wisdom to the Pen & Ink project, so that other writers and authors might benefit from their own hard-earned knowledge and expertise, in the same way as similar information is transmitted amongst writing groups and from beta readers on a daily basis. No one can say that the writing community isn’t a sharing one.

Cover Design and YOU!: Dos, Don’ts, and Choices (Writing and YOU Book 1) – by Annie Acorn and Angel Nichols, Annie Acorn Publishing’s exclusive cover designer

Also available in print on Amazon UK and iTunes and for Nook and Kobo.

On a crisp fall day in 2011, an older, successful author and publisher – desperate for a book cover design, once burnt but still hopeful – picked up her phone and called a young, unproven graphic designer, who had demonstrated an amazing talent. Two hours later, they had reached the decision that would dramatically affect both of their careers, indeed their lives, forever. Author and illustrator would now forge a relationship that has produced over one hundred successful book launches, top sales rankings, and award-winning book covers.

How did they do it? What were the design tools upon which they relied?

With no holds barred, internationally beloved author and boutique publisher Annie Acorn and her company’s exclusive graphic designer Angel Nichols, also an internationally known author and member of From Womens’ Pens, share their story and their secrets within these pages in an easy-to-read format, complete with a touch of humor.

The good, the bad, the dos, the don’ts, the choices, the technical tools needed, the emotional ups and downs, the art of graphic design communication, the requirements for a great cover, and even the resources you will need to create one of your own – all their unique insights and collective knowledge have been included for your benefit.

Are you an indie author struggling to find that elusive bond with a professional cover artist? An illustrator trying to break onto the professional scene? A publisher juggling both at the same time? Or even a group of authors working on a special project?

Then this is the one, fact-filled book that you will want to carry as you embark on your own journey towards either the creation of or contracting for a fabulous book cover that will ensure the success of your book publishing endeavor.

Come for the invaluable information. Stay for the fun. With these tools in your hands, may your efforts be as well-rewarded as theirs have been!

NOTE: We at Annie Acorn Publishing, LLC, hope you have found this brief discussion to be inspiring, helpful or both. If you wish to make a comment or suggest a future discussion question, please utilize the Reply option below. Additional Pen & Ink offerings will appear on the 1st and 16th of each calendar month.

Interested in knowing more about this session’s Guest Quill, Christina Paul? You will find her bio and contact information here Pen & Ink/Scheduled Questions.

– The Editors

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3/1-15/2015 – There’s both writing a story and constructing a story. How do you approach the two?

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Pen:

I think of writing a story as kind of like writing nonfiction. The story is already there, and the writer becomes a reporter of who, what, where, and when. Constructing a story, to my mind, means creating it, a much harder task.

Constructing a story starts with an initial premise, like a murder mystery that has a victim, a perpetrator, a set of clues, a list of suspects, and a sleuth. To construct the story, a writer would start by not only asking who, what, where, and when, but also by addressing how, why, and who else had motive and opportunity.

When constructing a story, each character’s actions are planned in advance and their purpose is to move the story forward. While every scene’s job is to move a story forward, a story that is written rather than constructed can only report what the characters did, instead of the writer’s planning what they did in advance.

I try to avoid constructing stories at all costs, because I’m not a great builder. I prefer to follow along after my characters, observing and reporting their actions, because their imaginations are much greater than my own. They get into situations where I would never find myself, and they do things that I would neither be brave enough or uninhibited enough to pull off.

Having said that, I can’t entirely claim that I don’t have some sort of plan when I start writing a story. I do ask myself what happened.

If it’s a mystery, I know where it took place, who got killed, and how the story ends. That’s about it. Characters present themselves to me, and I know what happened to them when they tell me.

While I know where we’re going, I never know how we’re going to get there. I may know who died in the beginning, but the killer usually presents to me somewhere along the way.

Some would say I take an undisciplined approach to my writing, and I would have to agree. I guess that’s why I call myself a writer instead of a builder.

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Ink:

Oddly, my approach to these questions differs, depending on the genre in which I’m writing. Generally speaking, I allow my writing to flow, building the layers as they come to me and allowing my characters to speak for themselves.

But then, I open a Word .doc and begin a mystery, and all bets are off. Here the requirement that I lead the reader along a twisted path becomes paramount. You would think that I would immediately outline my story, but I don’t. Instead, I create a list that goes something like this:

• Main characters
• Possible victims
• Motives of various characters
• Main plot
• Possible subplots
• Red herring clues
• Honest clues, and, finally,
• Murderer

My main list in place, I will then fill in the blanks. Only now can I begin writing my story, armed with some sort of understanding of how the plot must be constructed. Along the way, my plans may change as various complications are revealed, which is fine, although I’ll be sure to revise my list at the same time.

Gradually, the story will evolve until, as I approach the end of my rough draft, I will produce a chart. Down the left side, I will list the subplots and clues, both honest and false. Across the top, I will show the individual chapters, thus allowing me to track that each clue has been utilized and each subplot has been resolved.

Now I can write the denouement of the book in peace, knowing that all will be right in the end. Unlike a man on a high wire who’s walking without a net, I have a plan.

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Guest Quill – Angel Nichols:

For me, the difference is more about creative choices rather than technical decisions. It’s about how I choose to approach a story, and whether or not it’s an assigned project versus something that’s been floating around in my head for a while.

Writing a story, at least for me, occurs when it’s the latter case, when it just sort of tumbles out of my mind and onto the page. My Christmas suspense The Ghost of Christmas Present is an example of that. It’s my longest story to date and took a relatively short period of time in comparison to some of my constructed works, because it basically wrote itself.

I like to think of my brain as a castle with many rooms (although, an insane asylum works just as well, and is probably more accurate), where each room is either locked, closed, or standing wide open.

Doors that are standing wide open are where the stories that just happen can be found. I know who the characters are, what their stories are, how their voices sound, and where I want to go with the story arch from beginning to end before I ever open a word document or put pen to paper.

Doors that are closed but not locked are stories that are partially figured out, but require a little more research and prompting to get it where I really want it to go.

Both of these fall into the ‘writing’ category, at least for me, and I love these types of stories because they feel natural and read easy. The writing process with these types of stories flows fast and free, and unfortunately, can be a nightmare when it comes to editing.

‘Constructing’ a story occurs with those locked rooms. These are usually assigned stories or works that just have a basic idea as their foundation and not much else.

For instance, A Rose by Any Other Name is one of my constructed stories, because romances fall outside my comfort zone. This type of writing is difficult and tends to take me longer to complete, because the story has to be constructed from point A to point B and so on. These types of stories require asking and answering the ‘W’ questions – who, what, when, where, why…and that pesky ‘how’ as well, simple questions that natural stories have answered before the writing begins.

The silver lining to constructed stories is that they tend to need less editing and, sometimes, make more sense earlier in the writing process, because they make me slow down and take my time.

While I enjoy creative writing more than constructing scenarios, I find that they both stretch my storytelling muscles and let me expand my abilities, which is great. I’ve always loved a challenge!

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Annie’s Thoughts:

Once again, I find the others’ answers interesting, both for their similarities and their differences.

I would certainly agree with both Pen and Ink that writing a mystery demands attention to the construction aspects of a story. There has to be a motive. In order for readers to reap their full measure of enjoyment, there must be both honest clues that leave a clear path and red herrings. The murderer’s actions must be probable and in character.

The level of planning required when one gives a particular story its constructive due reaps its own rewards, especially in the mystery genre. Like Ink, when writing Chocolate Can Kill, I relied on a chart to help keep me safe.

On the other hand, I completely understand Angel’s premise that an assigned story demands her similar attention.

As someone who has spent years producing assigned, nonfiction pieces, I can certainly relate to such tools as charts and outlines providing a clear path not only to the ultimate success of the piece, but also to its coming in on time and at an appropriate length.

When writing fiction other than mysteries, though, I almost exclusively go with the flow. Here, listening to my characters takes precedence as I watch the layers of their story grow. This is when I feel most creative, almost as if I’m channeling for my muse.

My Luna Lake Cabins – The First Year would be case in point for me. Although the individual groups of characters within the book had their own stories to tell, I started each tale with nothing more than a title and my memories of time spent hiking, fishing, and camping in the Cumberlands and Smokies. Gradually, each story grew layer-by-layer and arched to completion, ultimately becoming some of my own personal favorites amongst the pieces I’ve written.

In the end, creative writing and constructive building both have their place and often work in tandem – tools that all writers rely on as needed. As with any tool, the key is to use the right tool for the job at hand, be it a mystery, an assigned piece, fiction or nonfiction.

Write on!

Annie Acorn

Want to keep the first year’s worth of advice from 20 authors close at hand?  Then the Pen & Ink project’s first book was designed for YOU!

Pen & Ink 2014 (Pen & Ink Writers’ Resources) – Contributed to and edited by Annie Acorn, Pen, Ink, and their gracious Guest Quills.

Also available in print on Amazon UK and iTunes and for Nook and Kobo.

Dedication: This book is dedicated to the wonderfully talented authors who volunteered their time and wisdom to the Pen & Ink project, so that other writers and authors might benefit from their own hard-earned knowledge and expertise, in the same way as similar information is transmitted amongst writing groups and from beta readers on a daily basis. No one can say that the writing community isn’t a sharing one.

NOTE: We at Annie Acorn Publishing, LLC, hope you have found this brief discussion to be inspiring, helpful or both. If you wish to make a comment or suggest a future discussion question, please utilize the Reply option below. Additional Pen & Ink offerings will appear on the 1st and 16th of each calendar month.

Interested in knowing more about this session’s Guest Quill, Angel Nichols? You will find her bio and contact information here Pen & Ink/Scheduled Questions.

– The Editors

_______________________________________________________________

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2/16-28/2015 – How do you find the courage to trust yourself to go with the flow of a story, rather than wrestling it back to your original ideas?

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Pen:

Going with the flow of a story is the only way I can write. I’m totally at the mercy of my characters, because they lead me where I need to go, and I like it that way.

As I mentioned in Pen and Ink 2014, I start a piece by having the characters write letters telling the story from their perspectives. They always tell me things I didn’t know about them and about what happened.

The rabbit trails your characters take you down using this method consist of necessary details that make the journey fun and intriguing. With only the bare bones of a plan, you wouldn’t have much ‘story,’ and readers would quickly get bored as, probably, would you. Your story might die before it even got written.

Having said that, it’s always a wise idea to make a plan. You wouldn’t start out on a vacation without knowing where you were headed, and isn’t a good book a kind of vacation?

If you’re an adventurous vacationer, you will head out with a general idea about where you want to go, like which country or which state or, maybe, even which city within a country or state.

Your route, the mode of transportation you use, and how much time you spend at each landmark or attraction may vary depending on how interesting the place is, how important its history is to you, how much action you find once you get there and, most importantly, how it affects your life story. The general vacation spot will remain the same, though.
Getting too far off track would waste time and money and, after all, there will most certainly be another opportunity for you to take a vacation to a different location, and this works the same way with books.

I start out with a general idea of what a story is about and allow the characters to lead the way. I usually know what happened and who did it, but not much else. It’s not my job to know the rest from the very beginning. After all, why take the trip, if I already know every detail of what’s going to happen?

We’ve all heard that we should ‘enjoy the journey.’ That’s what writing is like for me, and I don’t want my journey cut short by too much planning. If that’s all there is, I may as well stay home and plan my next trip!

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Ink:

LOL! That one’s easy for me, in part because I spent so much of my life working within the confines of freelance, business, and technical writing. Allowing myself the pleasure of floating along the stream of a story line, pausing here to investigate the shoreline of a small cove or there to prepare for the rapids ahead, is now one of my greatest joys.

Still, there are some guidelines on which I rely as a story moves forward, be it a short story, a novelette, a novella, or a book.

• Always keep in mind the point at which your story begins, so that you make sure your reader has in their hands all the information they need in order to make even the smallest details clear to them.
• Always keep in mind the point at which your story will end. The route you take to get there isn’t nearly as important to its still being your story as its ending.
• Always make sure that your characters stay true to their unique personalities. Just because a character suddenly wants to beat his wife, doesn’t mean that you should let him, unless a quick temper and a callous attitude are true to who he has always been.
• Always keep the actions occurring within your story at least possible and, preferably, probable.
• Always stay aware of the rhythm, pace, and cadence of your story, so that your readers aren’t pulled away, because of a sudden, unexplained change in these variables.
• Always stand back and review material already written for needed changes, if a character suddenly takes you off course in a way you wish to pursue.
• Always pay attention to the who, what, when, where, why, and how of your story, no matter what else is going on.
• Always consider how a sudden shift in one character’s direction will affect the actions of others with whom he’s interacting.

And last, but certainly not least, ALWAYS enjoy the writing journey you are sharing with your characters, so that your story can become the best it can be.

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Guest Quill – Juliette Hill:

Like many writers, I consider myself a plotter rather than a pantser. This sets up a natural wall of resistance against going with the flow of the story, until I reach the point that I can’t deny my original course must be altered.

In my head, I’ve charted the logical sequence of events down pat based on my initial inspiration, theme of my story, setting, main characters’ physical descriptions, personality traits, basic motivations and passionate beliefs.

Once my blank document is open, the moment of truth nears, and I begin writing. If I lose sight of what I want to achieve, I refer to my notes or outline. With each subsequent scene written, my characters’ personalities develop further and gel, channeled through each new line of dialogue or action taken.

Then, it happens. My story has gone from my point A to point B. Now it’s time for Point C, right? Wrong.

The main character has an idea. He wants to bypass C and go to E without even considering D.

Naturally, I say, “No!” I’m a plotter. That will mess up my plan.

Fellow writers, you know that experience, don’t you?

This is what I do. I fight it, then take a break. I refuse to listen to that nagging voice in my head telling me he or she is right!

Ignoring my conscience insisting I grow up and deal with it, I rethink. My take on the situation? I’ve been working too hard. I need more than a coffee break. I need a walk.

Exhilarating fresh air calms me down. I regain control of my writing realm, hoping my rogue character will now obey my dictates, creating the story I had envisioned in the first place.

With a clear head, I revisit the scene that started deviating from my intended path. I stare at the screen, reminding myself of what comes next, but miraculously something has happened. In the midst of attempting to convince myself that my path was the correct one, reason has taken over.

I now realize that my original plan isn’t the natural progression of where my character is in the story. Their voice has become the overriding determiner of where my story will ultimately go, as I slowly begin to accept the truth of my story.

In writing, as in life, one can’t predict reactions to certain situations or sets of circumstances that may arise before they happen. One must have the experience to know for sure.

Trust and listen to your characters. They’ll let you know what they want to do, and what they’re feeling.

Understand this and learn not to fight other paths that you as the author hadn’t foreseen. Your story will unfold before your eyes, if you let it!

My advice to authors, established and aspiring, is to accept the inevitable, unexpected twists and turns when writing your story because, in the end, you’ll realize that there was a good reason for the detours that enrich your story. Confidence in your character development and vision will give you the courage to listen to these products of your imagination, rather than rigidly sticking to a flawed plan.

Fiction imitates life, and as we all know, our best laid plans usually morph and adjust to circumstances and personalities we encounter, often taking us to our original goals by way of a different path or road than we had intended. Realizing there is a reason and a purpose for the deviations and accepting the truth about them will create a better, stronger story in the end.

ATOW-AV_HEAD

Annie’s Thoughts:

I must admit that the word ‘courage’ threw me off course on this one, because I’ve never experienced any particular problem, when it comes to going with the flow. In fact, I sometimes find myself fighting on the side of a character, who wishes to investigate a new direction, against other characters, who find this change in him or her unacceptable.

Perhaps, this is because I’ve always enjoyed investigating the road not taken, the beat of a different drummer sounding loud and clear in my ear.

In addition, I’ve never been a writer who relied heavily on outlines and charts, except when I’m writing a mystery. When working in this genre, I find a chart helps when it comes to tracking clues and red-herring subplots, and so, I use them, although generally not until the whole story has been written.

I do believe that it’s important to allow your characters to have input, particularly in the middle of a story, even if it’s a bit inconvenient. Case in point, Love Heals, a Luna Lake Cabins story on which I am currently working.

Months ago, I had the idea for this story, and as is my habit, I threw open a Word .doc and typed a 2,000 word summary that included narrative, dialogue, and mere notes, while taking the work from start to finish. This way, I don’t lose the idea, and all I have to do when the time comes to actually write the piece is fill in the blanks, right?

Wrong – at least, in this case.

I had used this method successfully in all four of the stories and novellas included in Luna Lake Cabins – The First Year, but when I had written 3,000 words straight through on Love Heals, all of a sudden, my characters took the story in a whole new direction.

Rather than dig in my heels and demand my rights as the author, I remained quiet and listened.

Guess what? Now I have two Luna Lake stories – the original story that I will attempt to write at some later date and the story I will publish as Love Heals. To me, this computes to a win/win.

Over the years, when I’ve been approached by another writer who claims to be blocked, the first question I’ve always asked has been, “What are your characters telling you?”

Most of the time, these troubled writers have returned a look of total confusion as their only answer.

“My characters?” they have asked. “What do you mean?”

For this reason and this reason alone, I say, “Learn to listen.”

I also have a theory that what we know as the third quarter drag or slump would be less of an issue in so many completed works, if their authors had listened more to their characters. By definition, our characters are living, breathing beings and must, therefore, wish to be active.

If we don’t bog them down as writers in repetitive passages or long descriptions, then they won’t be incomplete and bored, and neither will our readers.

Anyone can develop an outline and churn out 90,000 words at 1,000 words per day that follow along it. Technical writers do this every day, but technical works are neither entertaining nor exciting.

Still, a story that is merely technically correct has no soul. As an author, one of my main goals is to reach out and touch my readership in such a way that they will never forget the effect my story had on them. Without a heart and a soul, no story will ever achieve this.

So, I will say it again, “Learn to listen!”

Annie Acorn

Want to keep the first year’s worth of advice from 20 authors close at hand?  Then the Pen & Ink project’s first book was designed for YOU!

Pen & Ink 2014 (Pen & Ink Writers’ Resources) – Contributed to and edited by Annie Acorn, Pen, Ink, and their gracious Guest Quills.

Also available in print on Amazon UK and iTunes and for Nook and Kobo.

Dedication: This book is dedicated to the wonderfully talented authors who volunteered their time and wisdom to the Pen & Ink project, so that other writers and authors might benefit from their own hard-earned knowledge and expertise, in the same way as similar information is transmitted amongst writing groups and from beta readers on a daily basis. No one can say that the writing community isn’t a sharing one.

NOTE: We at Annie Acorn Publishing, LLC, hope you have found this brief discussion to be inspiring, helpful or both. If you wish to make a comment or suggest a future discussion question, please utilize the Reply option below. Additional Pen & Ink offerings will appear on the 1st and 16th of each calendar month.

Interested in knowing more about this session’s Guest Quill, Juliette Hill? You will find her bio and contact information here Pen & Ink/Scheduled Questions.

– The Editors

_______________________________________________________________

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2/1-15/2015 – How do you approach creating a new world for your readers?

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Pen:

I must admit that this question took me by surprise, because my mind understood a world to be another planet, and I am neither a fantasy nor a science fiction author.

Thankfully, the writer in me soon took over and set me straight, explaining to me in no uncertain terms that this did not preclude me from providing an answer as an expert, since I have created many new worlds in the course of my literary career.

The fact is that each of us lives in our own little world, separate and apart from all others. Occasionally, these worlds bump into one another, and sometimes, they connect or even merge.

Some worlds are very small. To someone who suffers from agoraphobia, the world can shrink to the size of their couch. To a Type A personality, their world could easily be centered on their office, allowing them to ignore the needs of their family and friends.

Taking the latter as the main character in my new story, I would have to take great care in describing his or her office ‘world,’ because this world goes a long way towards defining them for the reader.

Is it modern or traditional, large or small? Does my character have a secretary or a huge staff? What is the dress code? Business suits, business casual, or jeans and a top?

What does their office smell like, when one enters? If they are a printer, then a combination of ink and copy machine exhaust might do. A fashion designer? Then the light scent of her high end perfume might waft towards me as she rounds her desk to greet me. The owner of a small bookstore? A combination of dusty volumes and bookbinding glue might have long since permeated the tiny sales floor.

I would also mention the quality of the light or absence thereof. Perhaps, only a dim light enters the dust-covered windows of the bookshop, while light pours through the large picture windows found in a lawyer’s uptown, corner office.

To me, designing a world is basically the same no matter what the size or type. My goal, as always, is to provide my reader with a way to recognize the new world between the pages of my story within which they now find themselves and, if possible, to feel at home.

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Ink:

Like Pen, I was surprised to find myself feeling a bit out of my depth on this one as I, too, have never written in either the scifi or fantasy genre, so I was glad that she had offered a different definition from which I could start.
Immediately, my thoughts flew to the mysteries that I’ve written, and then leapfrogged to Agatha Christie. Here was a true expert in limiting and defining a world for a reader – a world that contained all the characters they needed to suspect as a murderer. Often, Christie relied on a country house, a boat, or an island – a finite space within which the action of her story would take place.

Drawing from Christie’s example, I would have to say that, for me, the first step in designing a ‘world’ would be to define its outer boundaries, be they office walls, a jockey club, a women’s church circle, or a school.

From there I would zero in on the five senses:

• What does this world look like?
• What does it feel like – warm and inviting or cold and forbidding?
• What scents, aromas, or odors greet the reader?
• What sounds are present – traffic, children playing, notes from a piano?
• What would it taste like – the cake on a table, the cup of coffee on a desk?

Now I would interject my character.

Do they feel comfortable here? If so, what makes them so? Is this their home? Immediately, readers will relate. They, too, feel comfortable in their own home.

If not, why not? Have they just discovered the body of a murdered woman? Is it too dark to see well? Do they smell fear emanating from another person? Is someone screaming? Most readers would also feel uncomfortable in such surroundings, and again, they will easily relate to what my character is experiencing.

I would also spend some time considering how my character interacts with this space. Is this his home or her office? If so, it is reasonable to assume that they will have had some say so in the decorating of this ‘world.’

Is his apartment a mess with X-rated novels, dirty clothes, and empty beer cans overlaying everything? This will immediately send a message to any reader as to what kind of man my character is.

Does her desk sport a cute pad of post-it notes, a potted plant, a party invitation thumbtacked to a backboard? Again, such small touches will define my character in subtle ways to my readers.

In closing, I’ll point out that it’s incredibly important for a writer in any genre to pay attention to the details that surround the characters in the ‘world’ within which their story exists, because where a person choses to spend their time, whether at home, at work, or at play, will always be a reflection of who they are deep down inside.

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Guest Quill – Theresa Snyder:

I must agree with Pen that as writers we do create our own worlds in whatever genre we write. However, I did interpret this question differently because I am a science fiction, fantasy writer.

I draw a thin line between what I call ‘settings’ and ‘worlds.’ As Pen described, you can create a setting that is the office your character works in, the neighborhood your cop patrols, or even the elegant apartment your playboy resides in. However, when I heard ‘creating new worlds’ I thought of totally alien worlds that encompassed many smaller ‘settings.’

I will use an example from my own writings.

My world building usually starts and ends with a character concept. A character is influenced by their world, and they shape their world to a certain extent. You can convey a lot of your character’s personality through their interaction with their environment.

In Book 2 & 3 of my Star Traveler Series I introduced a character named Targus. He is the captain of a Galactic Forces Mobile Tactical Unit, and he’s an alien called a Walhmite, standing seven feet-eight inches tall. I figured if you had a universe of aliens to pick law enforcement officers from you would chose the biggest, ‘baddest’ ones you could find.

He started out being confident, decisive and forceful. He had very aggressive tendencies that he worked hard to keep under control.

However, as time passed, he displayed a kind caring side. Even though, and maybe because of his intelligence, (he graduated at the top of his class) he sometimes questioned his own actions. He had doubts and secrets he didn’t divulge to anyone, not even the reader.

By the end of the books, as his creator, I wanted to know where he came from, what kind of world would produce such a creature, and what happened that put him in the position he was now in.

Book #4 of the series The Malefactors is Targus’ story. In order to write it, I had to create his world. It turns out it is very dark and rains continually. It’s almost medieval in its construction, but aware of the other alien cultures around it in the universe.

In fact, the Galactic Force annually cull through its population to find candidates for their officers because the aliens produced by this environment are strong, cunning and resourceful.

The people of Walh are highly intelligent, but very aggressive in nature. The political power play, even in intimate relationships, is unending and often violent.

There is an overabundance of females on the planet. Their species seeks out a mate only once every six years. Males become extremely violent if left unsatisfied.

With this is mind I thought females would have to learn to protect themselves. Hence, an all-female law enforcement group was developed.
With little technology, what could you give a woman that she would use against a man to even the odds in a fight? I gave them a painstick. It is a staff with a spiked metal ball at one end and a hook with a pike on the other end. My Walhmite women wield these with great precision.

Theirs is a society which remains mostly separated by gender except during the mating season. Prior to a male taking a mate, the family builds a wing on the keep for the pair.

The keeps are all built in stone with atriums in the center for raising the children and then spokes out for the kitchen, the men’s dormitory, and a wing for each of the married females. During the six years that the males are celibate they live together in the men’s dorm. They are only invited to their mate’s wing once every six years.

The children are raised by the females until the age of twelve in their wings with access to the atrium in the middle. The males do not come in contact with the children until mating age is attained.

Unmated females live in public housing that are like huge dorms, which are sponsored by one of the divisions of the working classes – law, agra dome, quarry, iron mongers, leathermen, or government. Agra domes, quarry, iron, and leather are privately run businesses, the law and the government run the rest. There are smaller private homes, but these are few and usually because a male is an only child and through misfortune lost his family keep.

I love the details that brings a world to life. The world of Walh is always damp. There are stone squids in the keeps, which are the equivalent of rats on our world. The squids eat the mortar between the bricks.

To combat these little beasties the richer Walhmite keeps have fire eaters, a kind of lizard that feeds on the squids. The Walhmites have a beast they call a dar-dolf. Dar-dolf’s come in a variety of sizes and breeds like horses or dogs on our planet. They are also used in similar ways depending on their size as draft animals for carriages, guard animals, and even for fights in pits for entertainment and betting in pubs full of drunken males.

Targus is different because he grew up in an orphanage. He was big and intelligent. He became the protector of the other children against the sometimes violent males they came in contact with. Hence, his aggressive tendencies were muted by his emotional desire to protect.

He was also chosen early for the Galactic Forces Academy and taken away from this environment to be placed in one with other aliens, where he was required to control his temper and suppress his aggressive tendencies.

When Targus returns to Walh for his mating season, he is assaulted by the environment, the constant rain, the damp cold, the smell of wet dar-dolfs, the dark oppressive sky, the abundance of stonework, and the rivers of water. He is reminded, by an event that occurs, how much he has grown beyond his world with its politics and violence.

So, in closing, ‘How do I approach creating a new world?’ By envisioning a world through the eyes of my characters and stretching my imagination as far as possible based on my experiences and readings.

ATOW-AV_HEAD

Annie’s Thoughts:

I’m afraid I’ll have to make it a third, when it comes to not having created a new world in the sci-fi or fantasy meaning of word. On the other hand, I have been instrumental in the creation of the ‘world’ contained within the city limits of Captain’s Point in my romantic women’s fiction, family saga series of the same name that I’ve written as Charlotte Kent.

When Juliette Hill and I were brainstorming about the series at the very beginning of our collaboration, we made a conscious decision to place our story in a fictitious town as opposed to a real one precisely so that we could design it as we wished.

For instance, we can slather Christmas decorations all over downtown or settle for only a few wreaths in shop windows. We had the option to place our town by the sea or in the midst of a mountain range. Even the weather patterns were determined by our choices.

One thing that has often struck me as I’ve written the series is the role that the Atlantic Ocean plays, almost becoming a character in its own right at some points. The scent of salt air is mentioned from time to time, and breezes flowing off the water are referred to just as frequently.

Obviously, Luna Lake takes on this same characteristic in my own Luna Lake Cabins series. In Love’s Third Chance it becomes the place where healing can occur, in Valentine Goodbye it is what draws characters to the one place where they can meet and find common ground. In Love’s Plan the lake defines a lifestyle choice that is critical to the plot line.

The fact that Captain’s Point is a small town denotes a certain level of familiarity amongst its citizens. The Point itself has become almost a world within a world, as the Chestertons, Sheffields, Jeffersons, and Montgomerys who live there have interacted and intermarried – more an extended family than neighbors.

In A Clue for Adrianna, the first novel in the series, Adrianna knows intrinsically that she has to tread carefully within this small town environment, when she deals with Chase Sheffield, the lawyer who now rules her life and holds the key to her inheritance. The same would not be true had we set the story in Manhattan.

From my vantage point, it seems clear that, regardless of the type of story, constructing a believable ‘world’ that will resonate with readers and then reasonably placing your characters within it is critical to an author’s piece working. I also agree that the success of such ‘worlds’ will always be found in the details.

So what kind of world will you be designing today?

Annie Acorn

Want to keep the first year’s worth of advice from 20 authors close at hand?  Then the Pen & Ink project’s first book was designed for YOU!

Pen & Ink 2014 (Pen & Ink Writers’ Resources) – Contributed to and edited by Annie Acorn, Pen, Ink, and their gracious Guest Quills.

Also available in print on Amazon UK and iTunes and for Nook and Kobo.

Dedication: This book is dedicated to the wonderfully talented authors who volunteered their time and wisdom to the Pen & Ink project, so that other writers and authors might benefit from their own hard-earned knowledge and expertise, in the same way as similar information is transmitted amongst writing groups and from beta readers on a daily basis. No one can say that the writing community isn’t a sharing one.

NOTE: We at Annie Acorn Publishing, LLC, hope you have found this brief discussion to be inspiring, helpful or both. If you wish to make a comment or suggest a future discussion question, please utilize the Reply option below. Additional Pen & Ink offerings will appear on the 1st and 16th of each calendar month.

Interested in knowing more about this session’s Guest Quill, Theresa Snyder? You will find her bio and contact information here Pen & Ink/Scheduled Questions.

– The Editors

_______________________________________________________________

AAP-Logo100

1/16-31/2015 – How do you individualize your characters?

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Pen:

I try to give my characters a trait that sets them apart from the rest of us. For instance, if one of your characters has a medical condition that could be a bad thing or a good thing, depending on their environment or even their state of mind at any given moment. When their medical condition exerts itself, their world definitely changes and thus gets more interesting.

We all want to admire our characters, even to put them on a pedestal, but allowing them to be human – which, by definition, means flawed – causes us to love them.

Think of the woman who looks like a fashion model, but trips over her own feet every time she gets around a hunky potential love interest. Don’t we love her better than the woman who looks like a fashion model and never misses a beat, and therefore, always gets the man? Her little clumsy quirk endears her to us, makes us feel like we could be her (well, maybe except for the looking like a fashion model part).

Writing character sketches is always a good exercise because it helps us get to know our characters. Only when we really know someone are we privy to their secrets.

We’ve all heard that we need to know what our characters eat for breakfast, and that’s true. But it’s knowing that they wash their hands five times before they eat or that they will only eat toast that is made from day-old bread bought at a certain bakery on Thursday at 10:16 a.m. that gives us a reason to think harder about them. Why day-old bread? Why that bakery? Why not 10:15 or 10:17 instead of 10:16?

The way I get to know my characters that well is to have them write letters to me, in which they tell me all about themselves, including what happened to them in the story. I never know what they’re going to say. It’s truly an exercise of discovery, in which I often find myself saying, “I didn’t know that was going to happen.”

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Ink:

For me, it’s incredibly important that I know and understand a character’s backstory completely.

As a child were they:

• Too tall
• Too short
• Too fat
• Good at sports
• Bad at sports
• Abused
• A good student
• A bad student

Any of these in a character’s history could easily affect them for a lifetime. Some who was highly successful as a youngster – class president, prom king, football captain – could experience real difficulties adjusting to an adult world. Such a character might demand complete obedience and approval from a wife, destroying their relationship, or he might turn in on himself in a way that denies him the very closeness he craves.

Their outside interests are:

• Animal rescue
• Baking
• Fishing
• Marathon running
• Knitting

Such things can give valuable clues to a person’s character. For instance, animal rescue denotes kindness. A male character, who bakes to relax, might be construed as good husband material. Fishing and knitting are primarily solo pursuits, while marathon running can be done as a couple.

Their career goals are:

• To move rapidly up the corporate ladder
• Find a decent paying job, stay there forever, and concentrate on their family
• To work from home
• Earn enough from a day job to finance their art

If the first character’s wife is constantly finding herself home alone, this could easily lead to conflict, which is the engine that drives plot. On the other hand, the second character’s wife might wish that he were more ambitious.

When starting a new piece based on a moment of inspiration, I habitually dive right in and get that inspiration into written form. That done, I pause and get to know my characters before moving forward because, most of the time, it is they who will reveal to me the middle of the story.

Unless I understand the motives for their actions, I can’t effectively show them to my readers. If they aren’t three-dimensional to me, they won’t be to my readers. Time spent on character development, for me, is time very well spent.

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Guest Quill – Tammy Ferguson:

Introducing too many characters into a story is seen as a negative, since it can confuse your readers.

Although one series could be labeled as new adult romance and the other romance suspense, Kissed by Fate and Tales of the Dragonfly both take place in the same beautiful resort town of Crystal Rock and have several characters in common. Since I feel that my stories require a diverse assortment of characters to make them effective and believable, individualizing them is something I’ve become more skilled at as I’ve moved forward.

As far as the mechanics go, I do many of the same things as Pen, so I thought I’d take the answer to this question a little further.

I’m a huge list maker, and every little quirk about a character is written down beforehand. This can be particularly helpful with characters who are tricky to write about.

Example: Penny, the heroine from Tales of the Dragonfly Book II, is living with pain that’s preventing her from moving on with her life. She was married to an abusive husband who took the abuse to rape. She’s survived by turning to her son and work, and she has made a success of the family business. But around men? She’s shy, insecure, and even scared at times. As the story moves forward, these characteristics change as her confidence is gradually restored.

I treat my secondary characters differently than my primary characters. I’ll begin bringing them to life by describing them physically. I’ll invent mannerisms for some, as well as associating particular words, expressions, or patterns of speech that make each character unique and, hopefully, memorable—since several of these secondary characters will be featured as my heroes or heroines in future novels.

Examples: One of my characters from the South calls everyone ‘honey,’ another bites on her lip, another always speaks slowly and deliberately – almost with a drawl, while one of my heroes constantly runs his fingers through his hair. And, of course, I even give some of my secondary characters hobbies or outside interests.

Sometimes, my secondary characters end up having a larger role in a current story, because they were once the primary characters in an earlier one.

Jake Loughlin and Danielle Reardon, my featured couple in Tales of The Dragonfly Book I: In Tandem, appear in all my later novels. Jake has restored and renovated the Dragonfly Pointe Inn, and its history is key to the romance in Kissed by Fate and Tales of the Dragonfly – stories about life, love, and new beginnings at the enchanted Dragonfly Pointe.

I find that differentiation between characters can be aided by the way that they use their eyes.

Tales of the Dragonfly Book II: In Flight

As her eyes unconsciously widened, dazedly, Sophie studied Terry’s broad muscular shoulders before appreciatively turning her gaze down over his long, lean torso, lightly dusted with dark-blonde hair.

Sophie and Terry, of course, will have their own story sometime in the future.
I’ve recently received some very favorable critiques about my character development, and that made me take a long, hard look at my writing. Exposing emotions through my characters’ eyes is the most effective way for me to individualize the key characters in my stories.

Occasionally, a secondary character ends up taking over a primary role, when his intentions are finally revealed.

Tales of the Dragonfly Book II: In Flight

“Apparently aware of the knocking, tauntingly challenging Murphy, the stranger in the sweatshirt met his gaze through the window with a shattering, bleak hollow stare.”

In the prologue, Sean Murphy has just informed the reader that the person following the stranger he’s just met on the train is disturbingly dangerous, and this sets the tone for the entire novel.

Kissed by Fate Series Book 1-That Unforgettable Kiss.

Why had she never noticed the darkness there before – that disturbing intensity hidden deep within his eyes?

Slowly recognizing she’s in danger, Kate Callahan has just informed the reader that someone she’s known and trusted her entire life has been stalking her.

By revealing emotions through their eyes, my heroes and heroines expose their vulnerabilities, and become more believable, and this, in turn, cranks up the heat in their romance.

Tales of the Dragonfly Book I: In Tandem

As Danielle stepped cautiously to the edge of the pier, Jake pulled off his sunglasses, resting them on the dashboard. After lengthily exploring her shapely ankles and figure, his eyes finally traveled up to caress her smiling face.

Jake intentionally sighed.

Tales of the Dragonfly Book II: In Flight

“Once I graduated from college, I actually attempted to see you one more time.”

Bemused, Penny stared into Sam’s gentle brown eyes, filled with exquisite tenderness.

“I came to New York and entered the police academy. But it was too late,” he admitted, dejectedly. “I didn’t have the courage to come by Sander’s Floral until I graduated from the academy, and I missed your marriage to that monster by two lousy weeks, Penny.”

Kissed by Fate Book 1-That Unforgettable Kiss.

Apparently noticing the intensity in his gaze, with widened eyes, Kate turned, curiously searching his eyes.

And then she caught her breath.

Immediately drawn in by her gaze, Murphy stilled, becoming mesmerized by the darkened depths of her beautiful blue eyes.

“Damn it Kate,” he whispered hoarsely. Reaching over, Murphy yanked her into his arms.

Kate gasped.

And his mouth covered hers.

So, to sum it up, when it comes to individualizing my characters with depth:
The eyes are the windows to their souls.

ATOW-AV_HEAD

Annie’s Thoughts:

I agree with Ink. Character development is essential, and both she and Pen have provided us with credible means to achieve to goal. I found Tammy’s Master Class on utilizing our character’s eyes to be a reaffirmation, as I have often received comments about my use of this same tool.

Oddly, none of the above mentioned their character’s names, and yet, a name or nickname can tell a reader a great deal about a character. Skinny in my A Magic Cup of Christmas Tea as Charlotte Kent was skinny in high school, but his nickname no longer applies.

A character’s name can provide a reader hints as to their age, and if a character doesn’t live up to their name, such as a gal named Hope who’s glass is always half empty, that can provide real insight into their character.

I tweet that you should converse with your characters (best done when you’re alone). Ask them how things are going. How are the kids? Are they having a good day? Did they or didn’t they kiss their wife goodbye on the way out the door?

Believe me, you won’t believe how much more you’ll know about your characters if you do this before writing a story, just as it helps to have them write you a letter as Pen suggests.

I agree completely with the others that if you don’t know your characters thoroughly, including their backstory, you won’t be able to make them seem real to your readers.

I always try to include as many everyday tidbits, such as how they adjust their tie or remember to pet their dog, in an effort to provide readers with as many familiar characteristics to their own lives as possible. Reader identification with your characters is critical.

Plot, dialogue, characterization – which one is more important? That depends completely on the story and, sometimes, the genre, but none of them can ever be completely ignored by an author.

So make friends with your characters. Get to know them as people. Do you know where your character is at this moment?

Annie Acorn

Want to keep the first year’s worth of advice from 20 authors close at hand?  Then the Pen & Ink project’s first book was designed for YOU!

Pen & Ink 2014 (Pen & Ink Writers’ Resources) – Contributed to and edited by Annie Acorn, Pen, Ink, and their gracious Guest Quills.

Also available in print on Amazon UK and iTunes and for Nook and Kobo.

Dedication: This book is dedicated to the wonderfully talented authors who volunteered their time and wisdom to the Pen & Ink project, so that other writers and authors might benefit from their own hard-earned knowledge and expertise, in the same way as similar information is transmitted amongst writing groups and from beta readers on a daily basis. No one can say that the writing community isn’t a sharing one.

NOTE: We at Annie Acorn Publishing, LLC, hope you have found this brief discussion to be inspiring, helpful or both. If you wish to make a comment or suggest a future discussion question, please utilize the Reply option below. Additional Pen & Ink offerings will appear on the 1st and 16th of each calendar month.

Interested in knowing more about this session’s Guest Quill, Tammy Ferguson? You will find her bio and contact information here Pen & Ink/Scheduled Questions.

– The Editors

_______________________________________________________________

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1/1-15/15 – You are addressing a group of newbie writers. What would you most want to tell them? Why?

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Pen:

If I were addressing a group of newbie writers, I would be sorely tempted to borrow a line from one of my lead characters. Her motto? Tell them to “Just do it!”

Nothing produces a writer faster than writing. It gets in your blood, and before you know it, you’re addicted to words. That’s what it takes to be a good writer – addiction to the craft.

It’s kind of like exercise. The more you do it, the more you want to do it.

Not only does exercise make you feel good, but it also makes you look good. Not only does writing purge your mind of words that need to spill out, it also expands your mind, so that it can hold more and more words.

As with exercise, your capacity grows, and all that writing comes with the added benefit of making you feel like a writer.

Soon, you begin to think of yourself as a bona fide writer, and thinking of yourself as a writer causes you to write even more.

Like fishing, the more lines you have in the water, the more likely you are to hook something. The more words you put out there, the more likely you are to get published and the more likely you are to touch someone’s life with your writing!

As I have said in earlier Pen and Ink sessions, don’t let anyone tell you that you aren’t a writer, and don’t let anyone else’s opinion of the craft color what you think of it.

Remember, some people don’t even read, bless their hearts, so who are they to say what makes a writer or a good story? They don’t even know!

Go forth, therefore, and as my character says, “Just do it!”

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Ink:

This one really got me thinking, because there are so many tidbits of advice that I routinely pass along to newbie writers. Thankfully, I recalled one writer in particular, who approached me at a convention with stars in her eyes.

“Is being an author as stupendous as you thought it would be?” she asked in all innocence.

My initial response was to say, “Yes.” But then, I took a second look, realizing with certainty that her view of my lifestyle was far different from my reality.

Thus, the number one piece of advice I would give a newbie writer is to force every preconception of what it means to be an author from their mind.

Why?

Let me give you a few examples:

Preconception: Writing is fun.

Reality: Writing can be exciting, when you’re in the groove. It can also be stressful, frustrating, and downright depressing. Most of all, it is work – hard work, day in and day out work, never-ending work.

The good news: Because you are working at something you love doing, time can fly by as you forget even to eat and sleep.

Preconception: All I have to do is write a good story, a great synopsis, and the best ever query. Then, finding an agent and publisher will be easy.

Reality: The number of traditional publishers shrinks yearly, and the competition to acquire an agent intensifies exponentially.

The good news: Because of the growth rate amongst boutique publishers, such as Annie Acorn Publishing LLC – companies that are run on the same business model as the larger, traditional publishers, there are growing numbers of available opportunities for newbie writers with a strong social media presence to find an appropriate home for their work.

Preconception: Once I’m a published author, I can quite my day job.

Reality: Once you’re a published author, you are now on the fifty-yard line. Now you market, market, and market some more, as you immerse yours immediately in the writing of your second Great American Novel and expand your sources of writing income to include freelance opportunities, business writing, and multiple genres of fiction.

The good news: If you work hard, market effectively, and broaden the scope of your writing, while continuously developing more available product, at some point you will have turned your writing into your primary source of income.

Preconception: Developing my skills as a writer should be my focus.

Reality: Developing your skills as an editor, a public speaker, and a marketer are equally, if not more, important.

The good news: With all four of these skills under your belt, you are almost guaranteed of reaching a certain level of success as an author, if you bring with you a good work ethic, a pleasant personality, an appreciation of networking, and a smile.

If you’re a newbie writer, copy these four Good News points onto a 3 X 5 card and tape it to your bathroom mirror, where you’ll be reminded of them each morning.

Memorize them, utilize them, and pursue them with a vengeance. Then, if you’re lucky, your writing will take you as far as you wish to go along the road to success.

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Guest Quill – Susan Jean Ricci:

If you’re reading this post, chances are you’ve been bitten by the Urgeous Creatoniosus virus, more commonly known as the ‘urge to create the written word bug.’

No worries, my friends. We’re all part of a large community, who’ve been infected by the Creatoniosus – so now that you know what has become of your mind, heart and soul, we can discuss the cure.

What? The cure?

Sorry, folks, but you’re stuck with the bug forever.

There’s no antidote, no antibiotic, no getting around this, unless you do what you’re compelled to do – get to the nearest keyboard, grab the closest pen and notepad, and write one line. Whatever thought comes to you first.

Now, doesn’t that feel better?

Once you’ve written your first line, stage two of Creatoniosus develops in the form of your Muse.

From this point forward, Mr. or Mrs. Muse is your new best friend and sometimes your worst enemy. Muse will enable you to compose your second, third, and forth lines, which will create a paragraph. Approximately six paragraphs later, you will have created your first page and the beginning of a story.

Muse isn’t done with you yet, though.

Next time you glance at your watch, four hours will have elapsed and the dog will be whining to be let out. Reluctantly, you tell your Muse you’ll be back later or perhaps tomorrow.

Still, once dinner is finished, Muse beckons, so you return to your story, trying desperately to forget those dirty dishes in the sink, and you do, because the next line is impatient to get written, courtesy of your Muse.

It’s three a.m. Do you know where your Muse is?

Oops, there he or she is – bombarding your brain with dialogue, narration, and you name it or, if your Muse is like my Cindy in Dinosaurs & Cherry Stems, lots of humor.

Better get used to this, because you’ve now entered stage three of Creatoniosus – the one in which you’re constantly awakened in the night, also known as Writer’s Insomnia. Start keeping a pad and pen or a tape recorder on your nightstand.

In conclusion, deciding to become a writer isn’t a vocation a person chooses. It’s the vocation that chooses you.

Learn to deal with and accept it, because you’ve either contracted Urgeous Creatoniosus or were born with it.

PS: The good news is you’ll have this condition for as long as you live, and that’s a blessing. You’re a storyteller, who has been given a gift. Embrace it as part of your daily rituals. Persevere!

ATOW-AV_HEAD

Annie’s Thoughts:

As always, Susan Jean Ricci has injected humor into our thinking in the most marvelous way, along with a good dose of reality and common sense.

Pen has hit the nail on the head with her reminder that, unless we put our words on paper, so to speak, those of us blessed with the gift can never really call ourselves writers.

Ink has provided us with a Master Class in how to make it all happen, including a daily exercise to help us remain focused. Way to go, girl!

Needless to say, I would agree with all three of them, but in my case, the single most important piece of advice I received as a newbie writer was to become a really good editor.

Don’t get me wrong, I had been given the gift. Words constantly flowed through my head – too many words, the wrong kinds of words, misspelled words, words that told but failed to show.

I was great with plots, even the type needed when dropping clues throughout the text of a cozy mystery, hence Chocolate Can Kill making it all the way to Malice Domestic Contest finalist. My characters were three dimensional, and they flowed easily from this side to that on the stage, where their actions took place.

Still, every female character I described came complete with a long, creamy neck. Adverbs were my favorite word choice, and being southern, I could string five to seven prepositional phrases together with the best of them.

Even worse, my natural sense of humor tended to invade my wordy work, suffocating in the overstuffed environment in which it found itself, desperate for clean, clear copy.

Only by becoming the best copy and developmental editor I could be, could I transform my pitiful works into marketable material that others would wish to read, drawing on my ear for both flow and cadence.

Luckily, I was offered opportunities to hone my fledging editorial skills in the arenas of both business and technical writing. Advertising sound bite writing anyone?

Talk about learning how to garner maximum benefit from the fewest number of words. Little did I know at the time that I was in training for Twitter.

Eventually, these new skills entered my subconscious sufficiently for my initial writing to improve, until now I can produce as many as half a million words in a year of such quality that, even with editing time factored in, they can be available to a waiting readership in a relatively short period of time.

Was all of the time and trouble it took for me to become a proficient editor worth it? Absolutely!

Would I do it all over again? You bet!

So, if you’re a newbie writer or a pro, my advice to you is don’t rely on others to edit your work. Learn to edit your written words well yourself from all angles, and then pass your manuscript along to a second and even a third set of eyes because, no matter how good an editor you are, there are some things even you will miss.

In the end, enabling yourself to produce clean, clear copy will allow your words to sing!

Happy New Year!

Annie Acorn

Want to keep the first year’s worth of advice from 20 authors close at hand?  Then the Pen & Ink project’s first book was designed for YOU!

Pen & Ink 2014 (Pen & Ink Writers’ Resources) – Contributed to and edited by Annie Acorn, Pen, Ink, and their gracious Guest Quills.

Also available in print on Amazon UK and iTunes and for Nook and Kobo.

Dedication: This book is dedicated to the wonderfully talented authors who volunteered their time and wisdom to the Pen & Ink project, so that other writers and authors might benefit from their own hard-earned knowledge and expertise, in the same way as similar information is transmitted amongst writing groups and from beta readers on a daily basis. No one can say that the writing community isn’t a sharing one.

NOTE: We at Annie Acorn Publishing, LLC, hope you have found this brief discussion to be inspiring, helpful or both. If you wish to make a comment or suggest a future discussion question, please utilize the Reply option below. Additional Pen & Ink offerings will appear on the 1st and 16th of each calendar month.

Interested in knowing more about this session’s Guest Quill, Susan Jean Ricci? You will find her bio and contact information here Pen & Ink/Scheduled Questions.

– The Editors

_______________________________________________________________

 

14 Responses to Pen & Ink

  1. Tena Carr says:

    I would have to say my style would be along the lines of – pick up pen (or pencil or keyboard) and start writing/ typing).

    • admin says:

      Tena – Since it obviously works for you, we would certainly suggest that you stick with it. Come again! – Pen & Ink

  2. Jane Carroll says:

    Thank you for having me as a Guest Quill…so much fun!
    Jane Carroll recently posted..Whine Free Zone…My Profile

  3. D.A.Grady says:

    This was about all the diversity that this poor pen could stand in one session, but ladies it was wonderful stuff. Congrats. DA

  4. Just a short note to thank you for inviting me to be your Guest Quill. It was an enjoyable trip down memory lane and I totally forgot about all the marketing material I put together for Staples as the Marketing Coordinator for the Pacific Northwest. Writing by committee does have its challenges.

    • admin says:

      Theresa – We’re the ones who should be thanking you. Looking forward to working with you again after the first of the new year!

  5. Jan says:

    A lot of great advice for new writers here! I’d written a book before I decided to become an author so of course I made all the classic mistakes!
    Jan recently posted..Good Grief!My Profile

    • admin says:

      Jan – We’re glad to know that you’ve discovered our Pen & Ink project. New sessions the 1st and 16th of each month. Come again! – The Editors

  6. Ron Shaw says:

    This session of Pen & Ink, like those that have preceded it, is excellent. Romance generally isn’t my genre of reading material, and it never really has been. With that said, I’ve found myself reading and thoroughly enjoying more of it these days due to many factors. More than a few of my guests on The Ron Shaw Show artistfirst.com/ronshaw.htm are Romance authors, and I love it.
    Each contributor to this subject brings their own excellent points attained from years of personal experiences in reading and writing the genre.
    Think I’ll keep reading romances.
    Fabulous Pen & Ink session!

  7. Pingback: Pen & Ink 2014 | Sneak Peek

  8. Huw Roberts says:

    Hi,

    I’ve just finished writing a fictional autobiography of a woman named Gee de Bourke. As a male author, I don’t want my name to put people off buying it as I am anticipating a mainly female audience. So, do I use by Gee de Bourke, or by Huw Roberts? At present I bill myself as H.E. Roberts, this has the benefit of being gender neutral and also has both HE and HER in it. Shall I go with that, my real name of the name of the character writing the book?

    Scratching my head as to what is the right solution.

    Thanks,

    Huw

  9. Pingback: THE VERSATILE BLOGGER AWARD-HERE ARE MY PICS | Tales of the Dragonfly

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