Friday, September 4, 2009
I know I haven't posted much lately, but I've been buried under editing, writing deadlines, and going back to work full time, since eating seems to have become a priority these days. No rest for the angelically challenged I guess. By the middle of October things should settle down enough for me to get back into the swing of things (i.e. newsletters and blog posts). In the meantime, what I thought I'd share this week are some tid-bits, bites, cheats, and tips for promoting, writing, and research that I took from an interview I did this last week. Hopefully, some of these will help, a few may tickle, but all of them come from the bottom of my black little heart. Keep in mind these were for aspiring romance writers, but I think the tips are universal; at least for writers anyway. I wouldn't presume otherwise. ~GRIN~ Enjoy! Minnette :o)
Question: Are there any writing tips, research tips, promotion and marketing tips that you would give to an aspiring romance writer that you wish someone had given you?
1. Get yourself a web page by any means necessary.
2. Join all the social and writing networks: Myspace, Facebook, Bebo Site, Coffeetime Romance, Manic Readers Author Site, The Romance Studio, Gather, Redroom, Author Nation, etc. Keep them maintained and post something every day to at least one of them.
3. Start a blog and do an article at least once a week.
4. Get involved in writers’ associations in your area and get involved in their loops.
5. Join other blogs and write on them.
6. And most important: JOIN THE NATIONAL RWA SO YOU CAN JOIN YOUR LOCAL RWA OR JOIN YOUR LOCAL WRITERS' ASSOCIATION. This is probably the most important connection you’ll make as a romance writer. If you don’t have a local one, you can join others on-line. I belong to Celtic Hearts Romance Writers, From the Heart Romance Writers, Valley Romance Writers (Salem), and Rose City Romance Writers (Portland) and try to stay involved in all of them. You will learn more about promotion and have new opportunities open up with these groups like no others. Workshops, critique partners, writing competitions, book fairs, conventions, and so many other activities that will help you in your career.
I majored in Western Civ when I went to college many, many years ago and then realized a history major wasn’t going to get me much in the way of a job. Very few history majors (beyond professors and other teachers) make a living at it. Like archeologist, anthropologist, geologist, or French literature majors, historians usually end up doing something else unless they teach…or write.
What I discovered while I was writing my first historical romance was that research is VERY DANGEROUS. If you love history as I do, every fact you find leads to several hundred other facts. You can spend your life doing research and never write a word.
So that brings me to suggestions for research with the preamble that these are just things that worked for me. Everyone has their own way to do research for a book. I think everyone needs to find their own way and methods, but maybe this will help you avoid some pitfalls.
1. RESEARCH TO THE BOOK – It is very easy to get so involved in research that you lose sight of writing altogether. I try not to let myself get distracted by a subject that is off topic. Believe me it takes discipline…I LOVE studying history, especially ancient history. So when I find myself off on a topic that has nothing to do with my book, I add the link to a special favorites folder (or make note of the book) and come back to it when I have the luxury of researching for research’s sake or for the next book. Keep in mind you are a writer…not a historian.
2. PUT IT WHERE YOU CAN FIND IT LATER – One of the biggest mistakes I made when I was first doing research was not keeping track of where I found the resource. It’s easy to add an internet link to a favorite’s folder or writing down a library/book resource as you’re going along. It’s next to impossible to do it miles down the research road when you’ve forgotten it. Keep a log. The reason it’s important? I can’t tell you how many times someone has questioned a fact…I knew I had looked it up, but couldn’t remember in my hours of research exactly where. I then had to go back and re-research it. Trust me, it’s a very frustrating process. Keep track of your resources, especially those you use directly in your writing.
3. FOCUS – I try to focus research on only the time, place, people, and events taking place in my novel unless I need background information I’ll need to build in later. As with any writing I do, I research the general time quickly and concentrate on specific details as needed for the story.
4. TOO MUCH BACKGROUD – Weaving historical information into the fabric of the story gives it depth and pulls the reader in. Too much information is distracting and makes people start skimming. Keep your facts to a minimum to push the story forward and build them in gradually, not all at once. As with any writing, ask yourself these questions: Does this information have something to do with the novel directly? Is it vital to the story? If it isn’t, don’t use it.
5. CLOSE YOUR EYES – I do this exercise whenever I start a project. It gives me a wonderful way to figure out where to start in my research and saves me a ton of time…and it also helps me to figure out what is important. Give it a try and see if it works for you: I sit in my comfy chair, close my eyes, and concentrate on the story. This, to me, is the best part of writing…shutting out the modern world and putting myself in another time and place. Imagining what your day would be like as a Roman soldier, a Celtic queen, or a gladiator. What is my “home” like? What did I have for breakfast that morning? What clothes did I put on that day? Who’s my best friend? Do I own a dog? I ask lots of questions. I try to put myself in the character’s shoes (or his underwear as someone once suggested) and imagine what his/her day would be like. I make a list of all the gaps…those things I don’t know. Once I’ve done that, I have a whole list of areas to research. In order to make the history come alive, you have to share what goes on with this person on a very intimate level.
6. YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE AN EXPERT, BUT YOU MAY NEED TO FIND ONE – I do not consider myself a historical expert. As a matter of fact, I am a “closet” historian who admires the real historians who spend their lives in search of the truth of history. These people teach at our universities, write books, contribute to history channels and movies, and head wonderful museums and associations. I’ve discovered, to my delight, that they LOVE to talk about history. I have worked with a couple of museums and a prestigious reenactment association to help me with my scenes just by emailing them and asking questions. The reenactment people actually choreographed my fight scenes for me. So don’t be shy…ask! The worse they can say is “no” or completely ignore you. The beauty is there are lots of museums, libraries, and academia out there.
7. WHERE TO FIND ANSWERS – Everyone has their own method for research. For me personally, I use books, articles, and the internet. Here are a few links I’ve used for my subjects, but the library is a great place to start and of course places like Wikipedia.
8. ARTICLES ABOUT RESEARCH – Here is an article I wrote about doing research for Rose City Romance. There is a plethora of article written by other historical writers on research. Do a search…just make sure you don’t spend all your time researching research. ~LOL~
Is there any advice that you would give to an aspiring romance writer that you wish someone had given you? I always give this advice to any writer. The list keeps expanding every day:
1. Writing is 10% writing and 90% editing. Edit 'til you can't stand the thing, then do it three more times. Then have someone else edit it and then go through it three more times after that. You should be there when you start to change words BACK to what they used to be. Here’s a good example; I edited this interview for three hours before I was almost satisfied. You know you’re a writer when...you edit your IMs and text messages...
2. Get yourself a critiquing partner and a set of beta readers (family does nicely, especially if you have older kids...they do owe you; friends and co-worker are always good). LISTEN to what they have to say and be prepared for criticism. That’s what you don’t pay them for. A critiquing partner is absolutely an imperative and there are lots of groups out there that can help you find one... your local RWA, http://www.critters.org/ come readily to mind, but there are many out there. Check in your genre. Or join a writing class in your community...that’s where one of my fabulous, wonderful, adorable partners came from.
3. Take classes, join associations, join groups, get involved in the writer's community (it's huge) and contribute to it. Harder to do than you think, believe me.
4. Be prepared to spend every waking hour on your dream and even some of your sleeping ones. The muse doesn't rest...at least until you need her, which leads me to...
5. DON'T RELY ON THE MUSE TO HELP YOU. (S)he will always let you down when you need her/him most. Being a published writer does not take inspiration, it takes dedication. You cannot wait until the art moves you...art is a lazy, drunken sod and it’s up to you to move it along. Hardest thing to do as a writer is to keep going. There are lots of tips on how to break writer’s block out there. The best advice I ever received? Get off your ass and hit those keys (or move that pen, if you’re a purest) - who cares what you write, just write.
6. Be kind, be loving, live well, and treat others well. When you critique someone or even give them an opinion of their work, keep in mind yours is (or will be) in another's hands one day. Creation is a fragile thing and easily destroyed...look at an egg sometime. I know; I shelved writing for twenty years because of a criticism. I regret it to this day.
7. You must develop a thick skin for this business...the whole “slings & arrows” thing. Not everyone is going to like your work....not everyone appreciates the hours that went into its creation...not everyone is kind. A gentle grace is needed to be a writer, I think...swear and punch through walls when you get home, but keep in mind it’s only one person’s opinion. You can choose to agree...or not. Did I mention this profession takes a bit of ego, as well?
8. There is no reward without sacrifice. When you see your name in print, the paperback crushed in your trembling hands, I promise, it will be worth all the pain. All you have to do then is write the next one...