Writer Words

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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All New: Writing Tips

Well, I’ve been doing Q&A Sunday for a little over a year. I had tons of questions! But they’ve kind of fallen off. So, I decided to start on something new. If you have a question, I’ll still answer it here, but when I don’t have questions, which is more often than not, I wanted to offer something to aspiring writers.

The romance community is simply amazing. The number of people willing to share their knowledge and expertise always astounds me. In 2018, I’m going to start offering workshops for authors, and it only makes sense, for me, to start writing about writing!

I’ve answered a few reader questions about writing, but when I started out, I had more questions than people I could ask. Some of these posts will go deeper than others. Some will be more general. Some will make you think, and some will give you ‘homework.’ Overall though, I want to help you, the aspiring author, to make you you, the published author!

Ready?

The first thing I think every author needs is a healthy love of reading. I’m not talking you read a couple books a year, or you pick one up every once in a while. I’m talking you should be so anxious to start reading a new book that you twitch! Well, maybe not that bad, but you have to love it. It should be almost like an addiction.

I have a Pinterest board called I Dream of Books. There’s a reason for that. I really do! When I was battling cancer, I had a horrible time sleeping. I was always a poor sleeper, but it was even worse during that time. I would use that time to read. I was awake anyway, and reading a book helped to calm my mind and alleviate some of my worries. Or at least forget about them. When I would read at night, I’d frequently dream of the book I was reading!

I still read at night, although not usually as late as I used to. I still dream about books I’ve read, and books I’m writing.

I think you need that if you want to be a writer. You have to love books. You have to have a list of authors you love so long that you could spend your entire paycheck on them. Of course, you don’t, but you could.

Now, does what you read have to be what you write?

No!

But they should be related.

What I mean by that is if you absolutely love reading fantasy, you might not write Inspirational YA as well. If you love contemporary romance, writing historical paranormal might not work out so well. If you love both, then yeah, go for it. But if you don’t enjoy reading it, you’re probably not going to love writing it. Let’s face it, you can read a book in a day. It takes a month, or sometimes many months, to write a book. If the topic isn’t one you love, you’re going to hate your job. And that’s no fun.

If you’ve thought about writing a book, ask yourself if you love what you want to write about. If not, think about writing something else. I have friends who read paranormal for their guilty pleasure, but write (and read) romantic suspense or contemporary. I’ve started reading some historical, but all the research that goes into it is too much for me. You have to figure out what works for you. But make sure you love what you write!

If you were going to write a book, what genre would you choose? 

If you have a question, either about writing or about 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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Q&A Sunday: More Questions

It’s Q&A Sunday, but I’m all out of questions! If you have a question you’ve always wanted to ask, now’s your chance! You can post it here or you can send me an email (mary (at) maryethompson (dot) com) with Q&A in the subject.

Thanks!

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Q&A Sunday: Writing Advice

This is going to be a long answer! I apologize in advance, but if you’ve ever thought about writing a book, you’re going to love this question from Rachelle!

What valuable advice would you give to a writer starting out?

There is a ton of advice out there. You could read all day and all night and never get through all the advice offered to new writers. Some things you’ll do right, some things you’ll mess up. Some things will be a try and see experiment. Some you’ll figure out off the bat. But my advice is here…

Read, read, and read some more.

Every writer should be a reader. Read books in the genre you want to write in. Dissect these books. How do they work. Read good ones and bad ones and compare them. What makes one better than another? What ‘rules’ are there in each? What rules can be broken and which ones are unbreakable?

In romance, the only hard and fast rule, for me, is that the has to be a HEA, or happily ever after. There should be an ending that leaves you with that warm and fuzzy feeling. Sometimes it’s characters saying I love you, sometimes it’s a wedding or proposal, sometimes it’s just a commitment. But there’s always something that makes you feel like the couple is going to be together.

Find the rules for your genre, and stick to them.

Study everything you can about writing.

Follow writer blogs. Join writer groups. Make writer friends. Immerse yourself in the world of writers. Read books about the craft of writing. Then go back and read more books in your genre and analyze how they fit the guidelines. You will start to learn more about what rules can be broken, and how to break them and make the story better.

Start to build your following.

I know, you think it’s crazy. You don’t have a book out yet. It’s hard to promote nothing, right? But you will one day. Create your pen name, reserve your web presence, and hold pages and accounts on any social media sites you might want to join. Before you have a story out, you can publish a blog and engage with people. Get to know potential readers. Some authors find an agent or editor through social media also. Don’t discount making connections. And if you already have a following, your first book will earn sales, which is always the goal!

Remember to be true to yourself.

I think this was the hardest lesson for me to learn. When you’re starting out, you want to follow all the advice out there. You want to be on every social media site. You want to run massive launch campaigns. You want to guest blog and do book tours and Facebook parties.

And then you’ll wonder when the hell you’re going to write a book.

You won’t be able to do it all. At least, not if you plan to sleep and have a life. Pick and choose what makes the most sense for you. Pick one social media site to build and when that becomes almost automatic, add a second. Or skip social media altogether if you hate it. Publish a blog, or don’t if it doesn’t speak to you. Write six books a year, or two if that’s all you can do.

This is your career. Not someone else’s. Don’t compare yourself to another writer and think you should be doing everything she’s doing. Do what makes sense for you. Be true to you, and enjoy it. 

Thanks so much, Rachelle, for your question! If you have a question, 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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