Writer Words

Be Brave

I’m back with another tidbit of advice for all you aspiring authors out there. Be brave!

I was trading messages on Facebook this week with a reader. She shared with me that she’s a writer also, something I didn’t know. I asked about what she writes and if she used a pen name and she shared that she’s not yet published.

She said that she’s anxious about sharing her writing with people. I told her I am, too.

Every. Single. Time.

My lesson for you this week is to be brave. I’m an introvert. I’m also a people pleaser. I want people to like me. And yet I chose a career that requires me to put myself out there and accept criticism from everyone!

It’s not easy!

But every time I get an email from someone who loved something I wrote. Or read a review (the occasional reviews I read) that says something about the book that was amazing. Each one that offers a suggestion. They all mean something to me. Even the reviews that aren’t positive are an opportunity for me. Something that can help me be a better writer.

But I still hesitate when I finish a book. I still wonder if anyone is going to like a book when I hit publish. I don’t think that’ll ever go away. After thirty-four published books, I still get anxious.

But I do it anyway.

If you’re thinking of becoming a writer, or you’ve written a book but haven’t taken the leap yet, find a friend or close family member. No, a friend will not be the best person to give you criticism, but they will give you a bit of confidence. That person will tell you your story is good, hopefully, and encourage you. When you’re starting out, you need a little bit of that.

No, you don’t want someone to lie to you, but you want someone that you know will be gentle with your feelings. Or at least will be able to deliver suggestions gently.

The first person who ever read a story of mine was / is my best friend. She gave me a bunch of notes, but I knew they were coming from a place of love because she wanted to help me. Yes, an editor will want to help you also, but an editor is a paid professional. She won’t hold back. Your friend might just enough not to hurt your feelings.

 

No matter what, at the end of the day, you have to be brave to share your stories. You have to let a piece of you out into the world. To give other people permission to say something you created, something you worked hard on for weeks, or months, or years, isn’t any good. And to give them permission to say it changed their life.

Because when it’s all said and done, those are the emails, the reviews, the comments you remember. Those are the ones that will change your life, not just theirs.

If you have a question, about writing or anything else, send me an email (mary (at) maryethompson (dot) com) with Q&A in the subject, or post it in the comments below, and I’ll answer your question right here on the blog!

Writing Tips: Stick To Your Guns

Last night, hubby and I watched The Founder. If you haven’t seen it, it’s the story of McDonald’s and how it got started. The McDonald brothers opened their first store in California and ended up being a success. They franchised, but it didn’t work well because they didn’t have a good handle on quality. When Ray Kroc came in, he wanted to franchise and had ideas on how to do it.

In the end, Kroc ended up taking over the company from the McDonald brothers. He basically pushed them out, and in many ways, they let him. They didn’t fight him hard enough when they had opportunities to, they let him use the name and didn’t challenge him, and they didn’t foresee the ways he would screw them over.

It was a fascinating lesson in business, and also a sad story of how two intelligent, creative people were taken advantage of by a business-savvy individual.

Why does this matter to writing?

One thing I learned from this movie is that you have to stick to your guns. The brothers didn’t want to sign anything at the beginning. They did because one of them had a dream of seeing McDonald’s as a franchise all over the country. But they didn’t want to sign.

They never should have, and hindsight is always 20/20.

If you embark on a writing career, you’ll have a lot of people telling you what you should do. Write certain things, submit to certain publishers, join certain organizations, everything you can imagine and then some.

Only you know what works for you.

When I started writing, I knew I wanted to indie publish. That means no publisher backs me. I write the stories I want. I find my own editors and choose all the people I work with. I was told many times that I should submit to one publisher or another. That I should do one thing or another. That I needed to write one type of story or another.

It was hard not to listen.

That’s one of the big things about any business, but it’s even harder, in my opinion, with writing. You want to be successful. You want to earn money. You want to find readers. So when someone gives you advice, it’s hard not to listen. It’s hard to say the ‘expert’ that’s telling you what to do is wrong.

The reality is, they might be wrong for you.

When people give you advice, most of the time, they aren’t trying to fool you or harm you. They want to help, but you need to go into a career like writing, or any career where you’re self-employed, with a plan. Figure out ahead of time what you want your career to look like, then stick to your guns when all those well-meaning people try to tell you how to run your world.

If you have a question, about writing or anything else, send me an email (mary (at) maryethompson (dot) com) with Q&A in the subject, or post it in the comments below, and I’ll answer your question right here on the blog!

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Writing Tips: Make Friends

I haven’t gotten any new questions, so I’m talking about writing again today! I hope that’s okay with you!

A few weeks ago, I was at the Romance Writers of America national conference. Every summer, about 2000 romance novelists and industry professionals get together for workshops, networking, and awards. It’s a whirlwind of four days that always leaves me inspired and ready for more. I love it!

One of my absolute favorite parts about nationals is seeing friends I don’t live near. One of my good friends lives in California, so we see each other once a year. We roomed together this year and it was so nice to have someone to digest the workshops with, go to dinner with, hang out with.

Which brings me to my point.

Find friends!

Writing is a very solitary endeavor. You write your stories. You come up with all the ideas. You do the marketing and the planning and all the work. Sure, you might hire people eventually, but the day-to-day is all on you.

And it gets damn lonely!

I joined RWA (Romance Writers of America) so I could meet other romance authors. I joined my local chapter in Western New York to I could meet romance authors near me. My friend in California (ironically, also named Mary) became my friend at one of the conferences, which I went to to meet more authors.

Having friends who are writers means you’ll have someone to text when you hit your goal for the day. And someone to call when you get nominated for an award or publish a book. And someone to commiserate with when things don’t go as planned.

I meet my writer friends for lunch to work out plot issues. We read each other’s manuscripts to see what works and what doesn’t. We trade texts to stay up to date on progress.

Yes, other friends are great, but writers understand each other. It’s a world unlike many others. And having people who get it is so very important.

So get out there! Find some people. You can never have too many friends!

If you have a question, about writing or anything else, send me an email (mary (at) maryethompson (dot) com) with Q&A in the subject, or post it in the comments below, and I’ll answer your question right here on the blog!

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Writing Tips: Books To Read

We’re back again, looking at some things it takes to make it as an author. Unfortunately, there’s no magic bullet that will make you successful, but writing good books will help.

There are a ton of books out there about writing. My recommendations are simply that, my recommendations. This is not a slight on all the other books out there, or saying they aren’t as good. It’s simply my short list of books I’ve read that helped me along the way.

Ready?

Goal, Motivation, Conflict by Debra Dixon – I liked this book because it gave me a good view of how GMC works in a book. She uses examples from popular stories (like The Wizard of Oz) to detail exactly what she’s talking about. I’d read a lot about GMC before picking up this book, but it broke it down in a way that made sense for me. I loved it!

Write. Publish. Repeat. by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant – a great example of a book that will convince you not to give up. These guys are not romance authors, but they are very successful authors who gave writing their all. Their motivation to make it work was an inspiration to me, as well as a kick in the pants to keep me striving forward.

The Positive / Negative Trait and Emotion Thesauruses by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi – three books that are valuable resources to authors. If you’re looking to understand your character, or trying to find an opposite for one, these books are great! Divided up by trait, the thesauruses help you navigate personalities well!

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert – if you’re looking for inspiration, read this book! It’s a great resource when you’re feeling out of sorts. Plus, creatives sometimes feel alone. You’ll never feel alone again after reading this book!

The Naked Truth About Self-Publishing by Jana DeLeon and Tina Folsom – an in depth look at self-publishing from some veterans. If you’re considering going at things your own way instead of finding a traditional publishing house, you’ll want the advice of people who’ve been there, done that. Read this book!

On Writing by Stephen King – I was reluctant to read this one because his work is way too gory for me, but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the book. He’s a master, and no one can deny that. Don’t miss out!

As I said, I know there are more. I have many more on my bookshelf, but until I’ve read them, I struggle to recommend them. The most important thing is to get started. Read some, write some, find what works for you!

What writing books have you found most helpful?

If you have a question, about writing or anything else, send me an email (mary (at) maryethompson (dot) com) with Q&A in the subject, or post it in the comments below, and I’ll answer your question right here on the blog!

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Writing Tips: Plotting or Pantsing

One of the first things most writers want to know about each other is if you’re a plotter or a pantser. Why do we ask? We’re wondering if there’s a kindred spirit inside you. But what does that mean?

A plotter is someone who plots out their work. Someone who creates a layout or a plan for their work. It could be an outline or a detailed guide, but a plotter is someone who puts a lot of thoughts into what they are going to write before they start writing.

A pantser, on the other hand, is someone who flies by the seat of their pants. Someone who sits down to a blank page and writes, letting the manuscript take them where it wants to go.

Which one is right?

That’s the fun part. There is no right or wrong! It all depends on what works for you. Each side swears by their process. I’ve found many people are actually somewhere in between. It really doesn’t matter which side you fall on. What matters is that you write.

How do you know who you are?

I’m a plotter, but I have pantser tendencies. I like to create an outline of each book. I go through my own process with each book, getting to know my main characters and figuring out what they want and how they plan to go about getting it.

But when I write, I let the story take me where it should go. I know what scenes I want to write. I know where the story will go, but not every detail about it. I love finding surprises in my story, but not so many that the story carries me away and loses me.

If you’re a pantser, you don’t plan out anything in advance. You just sit and write. I’ve done it, and I was fortunate enough that it worked, but it doesn’t always. For me. Some authors swear by it, and I am constantly amazed by them!

Which side you fall on doesn’t matter. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter how you write, just that you do. But trust me when I tell you that you’ll save yourself a lot of grief if you know before you start to write what will work best for you.

And yeah, it’s okay to try one way and change to the other!

What appeals to you more – plotting or pantsing?

If you have a question, about writing or anything else, send me an email (mary (at) maryethompson (dot) com) with Q&A in the subject, or post it in the comments below, and I’ll answer your question right here on the blog!

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