Today I Write

Havok badgeSometimes when you’re working on a novel or some other big project, you can get discouraged because The End feels so far away. The excitement and joy of big picture creativity gives way to the diligence of word count and grammar. When you need a break from a big project or a quick dose of creative joy, I encourage you to work on something short.

About as short as it gets is Flash Fiction, which are stories 1,000 words or less. Writing very short stories allows you play with new genres and styles and points of view. It lets you explore that cool story idea that’s distracting you from your novel.  It also allows you to write, edit, and submit a story in a week or two. If it’s published, it give you experience working with editors and adds to your resume as an author.

Take a few minutes today to write something short: a poem, a paragraph, a memory, a flash fiction story. If you don’t feel like writing, go to GoHavok.com today and read my story called Dinner for Two.

Getting started: check out the Flash Fiction magazines Havok (sci-fi, fantasy) and Spark (romance). They have themes to get your started and their editors are encouraging and knowledgeable.  

Author Struggle: the Middle is Drivel

20190423_111534Author Susan Baganz talked about a “wall of fear” that she hits it the middle of almost every novel she writes. I was so happy when she said that… not happy that she  fears that she’s writing drivel, but happy because I feel that way too and now I know it’s normal.

I’m in the middle of a novel right now and as I type each scene there’s a voice in my head saying “this sucks”. It’s not fun, but knowing that professional, multi-published authors go through this too somehow makes it better.

Agatha Christie is one of my favorite authors and I love the following quote from her about that drivel feeling:

Agatha-Christie-quote1Most aspiring authors think that if we can just get published, we’ll live happily every after and writing will become all lollipops and rainbows. But publishing is just the beginning because then your readers and your publisher will have expectations. The fear changes from “will I ever be published?” to “will they still like me?” and apparently the “wall of fear” of that drivel in the middle of a book never goes away.

So what do you do when you hit the wall of fear? Susan says she prays, sleeps on it, and keeps writing. “Keep writing” is the most consistent advice I’ve seen on podcasts and blogs and books on writing. I like that Susan includes prayer and a break. Be courageous, fellow writer. Face the fear and write that drivel!

Me, Myself, and I’m an Author (Author Interview)

Katie Robles headshot 2I turn 40 this month and in honor of that milestone, I am interviewing myself for this quarter’s author interview. Self, thanks for joining me today.

Katie, how did you get started as an author?

I love to read and 13 years ago I came to a realization. About half of the novels I read made me think “I would love to be able to do this. This is amazing” and about half of the novels I picked up made me think “I can do this. If this author can get published…”. So I started writing. I just opened up a file and started typing.

You write fiction, non-fiction, flash fiction, blogs, articles, and devotionals. Why do you write such a mish-mash of work? Why don’t you stick to one thing?

Tia book signingI started writing novels and I still love novels, but novels are hard to get published and take a long time to write. I ventured into the mish-mash because shorter works are easier to get published, take less time to write, and are great practice for improving writing skills. Turns out the mish-mash is also a LOT of fun.

My love of creative non-fiction is growing by leaps and bounds. I’ve found that I really enjoy the challenge not only of writing a short, tight piece, but of presenting non-fiction in a way that is interesting and creative. I’ve had some great laughs writing my Sex Soup and Two Fisted Eating blog as well as the books it spawned. 

Has writing changed the way you read? If so, how?

I’m a pickier reader than I used to be because the book I’m reading has to be more interesting than the one in my head or I put it down. I also tend to pick apart the book as I read it.  Once you know how to label something, you notice it more. This isn’t necessarily bad, just different. I used to think “Great chapter!” now I think “What masterful foreshadowing! Very clear Pinch Point. I love how the author managed to work a character description into that tight POV”.

You’re currently writing your 8th novel. What if your novels are never published? 

img_3490Then my children and grandchildren will have some cool stories sitting in binders on the bookshelf. I do get discouraged sometimes because I work hard at writing novels and it feels like such a long road to wherever I’m headed. That’s when I remind myself that I started writing for the fun of it and I need to keep writing for the fun of it or find a different hobby. I know God has a plan for my writing. If writing 8 novels was just practice to write good non-fiction, then so be it. 

Thanks for joining myself today, Katie. You’re the most interesting, talented, phenomenal, ingenious author we’ve ever had on the blog. My pleasure, Katie. Any time.

 

“We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 1:3

Wreak Havok: Get Published

Flash fiction is a great way to try different genres and points of view, practice tight writing, and get published. Flash fiction are stories 1000 words or less.

One of my favorite flash fiction websites is Go Havok which publishes sci-fi and fantasy. Reading their stories each day is a ten minute imagination massage.

TODAY my story is on gohavok.com; it’s called Dune Buggy Dash. It’s free to read and a lot of fun. Go Havok is accepting submissions so check it out today.

Beep Beep Beep: Back it Up

flash driveThis week someone broke into my car and stole my Chromebook. I used that Chromebook every day to work on my novels, blog posts, and articles. It contained hundreds of hours of labor and it was GONE. I should have felt devastated, but I didn’t.

My writing was not gone: everything was backed up on the Cloud using Google Docs. Does it stink that I have to replace my Chromebook? Of course. But the marvelous point is that the Chromebook IS replaceable; far easier to replace than my writing.

google docsThe Cloud is great, but I don’t stop there for backups. After all, I have zero control over Google and the internet at large. I regularly copy my Google Doc docs into Word on my PC at home and save them on my PC and on flash drives. Computers don’t crash often, but mine has before and probably will again. I want to be ready. When I finish a novel or article I print it. When all else fails, re-typing is better than re-writing.

Make backing up your work part of your writing process. Celebrate finishing a chapter or scene by saving a copy in multiple places. When the unthinkable happens to your glorified typewriter of choice, you too can shrug and say, “That’s a bummer. Good thing I have backups.”

“But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.” Psalm 59:16

Spending Money on Writing (Author Struggle)

priceonomicsHow much money should I spend on my writing? This is a question I’ve struggled with at every stage of my journey from beginner to best seller. (Dream big or go home, right? Some day, folks. Some day.)

I can’t answer the “How much money” question for you– I don’t know your budget or your ambition– but for me the money question often comes back to another question: Is writing a hobby or a career?

Both hobbies and careers require funds. As my dad says, “It’s not a hobby if it doesn’t cost money” and career-wise you often  “have to spend money to make money”, but how much? How do I know when to invest in my dream and when to keep my wallet closed?  I’m still figuring it out, but I can share what I’ve learned in 12 years of writing.

Here’s my short list of things writers typically spend money on and whether or not I found it worth my money:

Ergonomic keyboard: worth it. So much more comfortable than a regular one and less wrist and hand fatigue.

conferenceWriters conferences: worth it. I made valuable connections, I met my agent, and I learned a lot. Conferences are worth the money, but if you prepare well ahead of time (research the faculty, practice your pitch, etc) and take time to follow up on leads and put new knowledge into practice afterwards, you get more bang for your buck.

Books on writing: not worth buying. I said buying, not reading; they’re worth reading. I’m the type of person who skim reads non-fiction and rarely picks up the same book twice, so for me buying books about writing is a waste of money. Borrowing them from the library is the way to go. If the library doesn’t have what I’m looking for, I can sometimes find them used and cheap online.

Paid advertising: maybe. Goodreads giveaways, BookBub, and many other book marketing strategies cost significant money. A year ago I made a deal with myself that I would only spend money on advertising for my books that I had earned with my writing. It’s kind of like keeping my writing money in a jar: earned money in before invested money out. I sold two articles and gave a workshop at a conference (money in) and decided to invest in some advertising for my books (money out). The advertising DID increase my book sales dramatically, though not nearly enough to pay for the ads.

I’d love to hear your experiences! What is on your list of writing expenses? Which things have been worth the money for you?

Sow your seed in the morning,
    and at evening let your hands not be idle,
for you do not know which will succeed,
    whether this or that,
    or whether both will do equally well. Ecclesiastes 11:6

 

Author Interview with Susan Baganz

DSC_0524Susan Baganz is the author of 12 novels and 3 novellas including the new Christmas romance The Doctor’s Daughter. She is also an editor for Pelican Book Group. She was kind enough to let me interview her not only super close to Christmas, but super close to her wedding. Congratulations, Susan! And thank you.

You write lighthearted contemporary romance and Gothic Regency romance. What attracts you to romance in general and these subgenres in particular?

To be honest – I was in a difficult, abusive marriage for years. I think I started reading romance because I still believed that true love and godly, honorable men still existed. I started writing that genre as a way to give my characters the love I lacked. That’s sounds so depressing doesn’t it? But the reality is that the greatest romance is between God and us. I also wanted to write books that my daughter, if she read them, could see a better standard for her to strive for should she seek a husband someday.

I started writing Regency because it was one of my favorite genres to read but there is little out there in the Christian marketplace. Other than my Christmas novellas, my Black Diamond Gothic Regency series has more suspense to it, a bit more darkness that my characters have to fight. We are all in a spiritual battle whether we realize it or not. I put a person for my characters to battle, even though at the beginning of the series they didn’t really know who it was.

baganz viscountI started writing in 2009 with National Novel Writing Month – and wrote The Virtuous Viscount. Then I wondered if I could write without the challenge of the 50,000 words in 30 days that NaNoWriMo presented. So I tried contemporary, Pesto & Potholes, as a way to put a psychological concept into a metaphor. I have a master’s degree in counseling psychology so it seemed a fun challenge. That book was the first that was published. Both of those first books were the ones I cut my teeth on as a writer and underwent complete re-writes and revisions. Pesto & Potholes has far more of “me” in it than I realized, however, so it is near and dear to my heart for that.

What is your favorite part of the writing process? Why?

Writing the rough draft is my favorite because I start with my main characters, a title, concept and inciting incident. I know I will have a happily-ever-after ending but have no idea how I will get there. I liken it to riding a roller-coaster. I strap myself in tight and hold on tight for the wild ride and enjoy most of the ride. It is bittersweet when I end the story. I never write “the end” because in my mind the story only stopped there but the lives of my characters are still going on. They become very real to me.

What is your least favorite part of the writing process? Why?

About the second week of writing I hit what I call “the wall of fear.” This only happens in full-length novels, not novellas. But I get to a point where I believe that what I have written is drivel, the worst thing ever. I think I’ve written myself into a corner I can’t figure a way out of and believe it to be boring. I’ve recognized it is fear. I pray, sleep on it, and then force myself to write. I’ve written 14 full length novels (12 of those are published) and could not tell you now where that spot was.

 

You are an Editor for Pelican Book Group. What is your greatest joy as an editor? What is your greatest challenge?

baganz potholesMy greatest joy: I love helping another writer reach their publishing dreams. I’ve met and made some wonderful friends in the process which is a delight to my heart.

My greatest challenge? Divas. Authors who get demanding and sometimes even insulting. An editor is your champion. When I contract a book, I want the very best for that novel and not every author treats me like that. I’ve been insulted and slandered. Not a wise thing to do in this industry. There are a few authors that have gone elsewhere now for future products and it might seem mean to say, but I’m relieved they are not people I have to work with anymore. They were amazing writers but difficult to work with which takes the joy out of the process.

Any editor pet peeves you’d like to share?

Authors who are divas. Some that fight the house style rules or argue about internal dialogue. I love internal dialogue but it should be used sparingly (much like an exclamation point!). I don’t get much push back on exclamation points but sometimes I do when I remove and change too much internal dialogue. Some publishers won’t accept it at all.

I really hate first person present tense and personally I won’t publish it. I’m not a fan of first- person past tense but for mysteries or suspense it can work if it’s done well so I have published some of those.

What is a writers conference like from the editor’s perspective?

baganz bridgesFirst word that comes to mind is: Exhausting but fun! I love teaching so that’s fun and I enjoy meeting authors. The hard part is when I have to be honest about issues or problems that an author needs to fix for their writing. I never want to crush an author’s dreams but there’s a fine line in how to communicate that with love and encouragement as I have been a writer coming to conferences and more than anything I want that author to walk away, maybe not with a promise of a contract but at least hope that they CAN do this if they persevere and do the hard work. Because of that I always pray with every person who sits down with me – because even if I never publish them, they are still my brother or sister in Christ and I want them to know that love that goes beyond getting published. Our worth cannot be tied up in that, but it can be hard because our writing is an extension of who we are.

You have a seminary degree in counseling psychology and a background in mental health. How does this knowledge and experience influence your writing?

As I mentioned, my contemporary series does delve into deeper emotional issues that my characters have needed to face. I hope I can be more authentic in not only exposing those hurts of my characters in such a way that the reader will resonate with, but also in helping them find healing throughout the story. I don’t write psychological thrillers though. The love of another person isn’t the cure, but a healthy relationship can help with healing as I’ve found in my own life.

Remember I started writing because I lacked love in my personal life– but this year, God blessed me with scripting my own real-life romance. Not perfect, but definitely better than anything I could have dreamed of or hoped of for myself. And definitely not without conflict from outside forces either! I look forward to seeing how that impacts my future romance novels!

What particular advice do editors typically give that authors typically ignore?

baganz captainNot giving due process to preparing a manuscript for publication. Write, let it breathe, go back and revise. Get a beta reader or two. Revise again. Use tools like autocrit.com or prowritingaid.com to evaluate overused words and phrases. (Or do it yourself and look for overuse of the following words: feel/felt, hear/heard, know/knew, have/had, then, than, just, see/saw, look, watch are just a few!). Let it rest – then read it again critically. However, having said that, it took a good friend to tell me that you can edit and revise forever, at some point you need to dip your toe in the publishing pool and submit!

Not submitting when I ask for a manuscript is huge. The majority of people I ask to send me a story never do.

Every author has to decide what advice to accept or reject because much of what an editor does is subjective. As an author myself I’ve had to weigh that kind of feedback too. I have a novel right now that got torn apart and I had to question: was the editor right? I even went to another author/editor/friend to give me a second opinion. Kind of like going to a doctor for another opinion. She generally concurred and now I have some serious work do to and thankfully that friend was able to be brutally honest with me and tell me they thought I had been lazy in writing that story. I had to think and pray about it and say I think she was right. So now I have some hard work to do to fix it and make it publishable.

What do you look for in an author beyond the quality of the writing?

I’m more about story than I am about platform. However, if I have an author who I work well with, who does the work I ask and has a good attitude about the process, then that is the kind of author I would want to continue working with. We always hope that an author will continue beyond that first book as the relationship becomes a valuable part of the process.

Thank you, Susan!

Check out The Doctor’s Daughter

TheDoctorsDaughter_w5489_750Miss Silvia Burnett is left without a home after her father, a local physician, passes away unexpectedly. She appeals to a friend from boarding school, Mrs. Katrina Tidley, who resides in the same area where her father’s mentee set up practice. With a calf-love on her part, they’d once agreed to wed each other if she remained unattached at a certain age. But are youthful promises meant to be kept? Would the handsome physician want her now?

Dr. Bruce Miller has watched all his friends from university marry and begin their families. Living in the village of Didcot did not provide him with a wife. When a letter from the daughter of the doctor he interned with in Bristol arrives at his door, hope soars within that maybe this woman is the answer to his lonely nights.

As influenza spreads and Silvia uses her talents in medicine to aid the doctor, will he find her competition or a viable companion? With Christmas dawning, will dreams be shattered or fulfilled?

 

More about Susan:

Susan M. Baganz chases after three Hobbits and is a native of Wisconsin. Susan writes adventurous historical and contemporary romances with a biblical world-view.

Susan speaks, teaches, and encourages others to follow God in being all He has created them to be. With her seminary degree in counseling psychology, a background in the field of mental health, and years serving in church ministry, she understands the complexities and pain of life as well as its craziness. Her favorite pastimes are lazy…snuggling with her dog while reading a good book or sitting with a friend chatting over a cup of spiced chai latte.

You can learn more by following her blog susanbaganz.com, her Twitter feed @susanbaganz or her fan page, www.facebook.com/susanmbaganz.