Way too often, I see evidence of a new writer publishing well before they’re ready. Writers in too much of a rush to get their stories out there, some simply for the accolades of being able to say “I am a published author,” while others truly have a desire to tell stories and a dream of writing many more, but simply no patience. Or some might say, no discipline.
What do I mean by that? Well, simply put, the writers who make this critical mistake lack the knowledge and skill it takes to put together a good, well-written story because they simply haven’t taken the time or made an effort to learn how. I’m talking about honing not just your writing skills but your story-crafting skills as well.
Now, some of you may have a natural talent for writing, and some may even have a degree in creative writing, while others may have both. But you need more than that.
Do you need a degree in creative writing to become an established, best-selling author and one who truly writes a great story? No. You don’t. And even natural talent isn’t a make it or break it requirement.
I say “and one who truly writes a great story” because you can be a decent writer or a mediocre one and put out a story that isn’t particularly well-written, with poor editing and lots of plot issues or lousy character development and still end up on Amazon’s best-seller list. Just peruse some of the reviews out there, and you’ll see what I mean. But will you stay there or make it there again? And what about your reputation? Is that the first impression you want to make with your reading audience?
If you only plan to write one book and leave it at that, then your answer probably consists of no more than a shrug. And that’s fine for you, but not for the rest of us.
The publishing world has changed significantly over the past few decades. There are fewer big publishing houses left to solicit at all, and barely any, whether big, medium, or small, who will accept submissions directly from an author. In addition, these publishers are publishing far fewer books than they did once upon a time, and their budgets only allow the in-house editors to take a chance on a handful of new authors (if that) each year. Advances are not what they once were either, and the odds of making it big and getting rich off your writing are now akin to your odds of winning the lottery.
Why? Well, simply put, the world she is a-changing. Progress, technology, life... Chalk it up to the convenience, simplicity, and availability of self-publishing. Just as newspapers have undergone a major change due to the invention of the World Wide Web, so has the publishing business due to the invention of ebooks. Authors now have options. No longer are we at the mercy of literary agents who, on average, take on one new client per year. Yes, I said one. And that’s after wading through the slog of more than a hundred query letters received on a daily basis. Then, if you’re lucky enough to beat those odds and secure a literary agent willing to represent you, that literary agent must now fight to sell your book to one of the few publishing houses willing to give it a look-see. And remember, your agent is then fighting against every other literary agent out there soliciting their clients’ books as well.
Now, my purpose for pointing all this out isn’t to discourage anyone from trying the “traditional” publishing route. On the contrary, if you’ve decided this is the route to publishing for you, I truly wish you great success. However, (and yes, there is a however) I caution you that if you really want this, be aware that professional literary agents and the in-house editors at these publishing houses will spot an author who isn’t ready for primetime in an instant. And that, my friends, is where the systemic prejudice again self-published authors began.
It used to be that reputable publishing houses and literary agents frowned on self-published authors and wouldn’t give us the time of day should we attempt to solicit them. Why? Because they believed that the vast majority of self-published authors were among the thousands who tried securing a literary agent but couldn’t get past the preverbal front door because they had no business putting their work up against authors who had clearly put in the time and effort to hone their craft. Meaning, they believed that simply because we chose the self-publishing route, that automatically meant we weren’t good enough; that we couldn’t make it in the real publishing world.
Although self-published authors no longer suffer this instantaneous ostracization in the publishing world, we do still suffer a blatant prejudicial view from many an avid reader. Just ask your friends or other readers you come across. Ask how many will check reviews or look to see who the publisher is on a book before taking the risk and giving that new author a try. Many have admitted to steering away from self-published authors simply because they’ve seen too many selling a shoddy product.
As an author, we’ve got a lot more competition out there than published authors did before the turn of the century. And so many of us are so good that we’re giving the publishing houses a run for their money. Still, mixed in with all of that competition are thousands of self-published authors giving the rest of us a bad rap.
My biggest beef (or really my only beef) with the convenience and simplicity of self-publishing is that many who choose to go the self-publishing route consider it a short-cut, specifically for the purpose referenced at the top of this article. Because they have neither the patience nor the discipline to take the time and make an effort to hone their writing skills first.
I consistently see reviews that say something along the lines of:
“This would have been a five-star review if not for the lack of good editing.”
“The main character wasn’t likable.”
“The plot made no sense, and there were too many holes.”
Oh, and I really cringe when I see this one:
“The grammar and plot errors were so distracting I couldn’t get past the first few chapters.”
Don’t let this be you. I can’t stress this enough. You can only make one first impression, so do yourself a favor and make it a great one.
But, and I stress this but, even if you rushed and made the error of putting yourself out there before you were ready, you can fix it. You can rectify that critical mistake and garner a second chance by stopping right where you are. Stop. Go back and start again, but do it the right way.
So, what do you need to do to assure you make the best first (or second) impression possible?
As an editor, mentor, author, and avid reader, and as a member of numerous writing groups, critique groups, book clubs, and more over the past years, I can show you what it takes to put together a good, well-written story. Ask any established, well-known author, and more than likely, they will tell you exactly what I tell my own clients:
“If you want to improve your writing skills, read, read, read, and write, write, write.”
Along with that, do your due diligence. Put in the time. Do your research. Study. Write. Read. Soak in the knowledge. And you can do all of this with the simple expenditure of time and effort and very little money. There is so much knowledge out there to gain from writing blogs—all free to you, and all you have to do is take the time to read them, take notes, and soak in the knowledge, just like you’re doing right now!
And even better and more valuable than blogs are online writing workshops. There are many to choose from, and again, I beg you to do your due diligence before choosing which workshops to learn from. Just as when you choose an editor, check references and don’t hesitate to contact prior clients directly.
Some workshops are pricey, some not. Take advantage of those you can find for free, but beware that many of those free workshops utilize half of your time for upselling. And I’ve found that more often than not, what they’re upselling is on the pricey end.
Is an affordable price important? You bet it is. But just as important is the value you get for the time you invest.
Since I opened the metaphorical doors of Killing It Write, I have worked with dozens of new writers, and I’ve taken note of where the majority of their issues lie. Passive voice, telling rather than showing, weak dialogue, weak story structure, and poor plot development are the most common.
I’ve also spent too many hours to count on various social media sites, answering questions, providing assistance, and taking note of where aspiring authors are having problems. I have read over and over again posts where writers say, “I want to write a book, but I have no idea how to start.”
All this is the information I used to develop my writing workshops. Specifically targeting those areas where writers struggle the most, I recently introduced a series of nine different workshops for writers to choose from. I keep my prices low, so sharpening those writing skills and honing your story-crafting isn’t something that needs to be a strain on your budget. And just as important, I’ve packed my workshops with knowledge and learning from the first minute the workshop begins to the very last.
My workshops are interactive. You’re not simply staring at a screen and taking notes when working with me. You’re in a classroom right along with other writers, interacting and working directly with your personal work in process or story idea. You’re also given plenty of time to ask questions both during the workshop and after.
Many participants have been shocked at just how much more they learned in a few short hours of class time than expected. Particularly on subjects they never imagined there was so much to learn about.
As I work with writers from all over the world in varying time zones, I’ve also made it a goal to make my workshops convenient for each and every one of you, as well as affordable and fun. So if a time or date I’ve set for any workshop you wish to take doesn’t work for you, just gather a few friends and contact me. We’ll set up a time and date that works just for you and your friends, and in no time, we’ll be killing it together.
I plan to add more workshops in the near future but below is a glimpse of the nine online workshops that are available right now.
THEME and GENRE
When a writer has trouble defining the categories that their story fits into, finishing and selling that story becomes a more difficult task. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard writers struggling to identify which genre(s) their story fits into. Moreover, so many don’t fully understand what it means to choose a theme(s) or the importance of locking these down before they begin to write. After all, your genre dictates how you should structure and write your story.
When you’re talking about writing fiction, and you hear the term world-building, the majority of us automatically think of fantasy or science fiction. I know I did when I first started writing. And since I write contemporary fiction, it never occurred to me that I still needed to world build or that I was already doing just that. I mean, think about it. If you’re writing fiction, you’re not just creating the storyline and the characters, but you’re also creating the world your characters live in.
So keep in mind, whether another world or this world, past, present, or future, if you’re writing fiction, you’re creating a world around your characters and your story.
Let me show you how to show your readers everything and take them inside.
You can’t hold your characters at arm’s length from the reader and expect them to feel any connection. And if there’s no connection, what incentive does the reader have to care about this character’s story? Should they care if the main character survives? If that main character finds love and lives happily ever after? If you don’t give the reader some reason to care or some reason to want to follow this character through two hundred plus pages of text, why would the reader bother?
Want to create characters who will pull your readers right inside the pages of your book? Well, I can show you how to develop four-dimensional characters your readers can believe in.
PLOT AND CONFLICT
Why a workshop on plot and conflict? What’s so important about these aspects of your story, or of any story? Do you even need either conflict or a plot? Well, yes, Virginia, you do. You need both, and it doesn’t matter whether you’re writing a children’s book, a young adult, romance, fantasy, drama, whatever. Every story, yes, every story needs both conflict and plot. Without them, your story is simply incomplete. And just as every story has a beginning, middle, and end, so should every plot point. So, don’t make the mistake of leaving those dreaded loose threads or fail to properly connect every plotline. Your readers will definitely notice, and they won’t thank you for it.
If your story and characters have no purpose and no goal, they have nowhere to go, and your readers have nothing enticing them to turn the page.
Speaking of structure, every story needs a beginning, middle, and end, and every good story has just the right pacing with all the ups, downs, and sticky connections needed in between to bring each element together. And that’s where your story structure comes in. Working with a story structure gives you an advantage. It allows you to create a solid sense of pacing and an opportunity to develop strong storytelling beats to give your book a sense of masterful plotting.
Learn what it takes to be sure your story is structured with precision and care and not like a house of cards built on shaky ground.
For some writers, creating a detailed outline for their story is an exhilarating step. Many new writers find it helpful to have a road map, while others believe that writing an outline diminishes the thrill of discovering the story along the way. Some pantsers argue that working from an outline means you’re no longer creating but simply working from a template of ideas, even though it was you who created that template. Meanwhile, many plotters believe you can’t expect to create a cohesive, well-formed plot without sufficient, detailed preparation. But all that aside, both plotters and pantsers agree that there’s no correct way when it comes to writing a novel. It simply depends on what kind of writer you are and what works for you.
Whether you’re a plotter and outlining before you begin or a pantser and completing that outline during the crafting process, outlining is a valuable tool that simply should not be ignored. Yet, many writers do, simply because they have no idea how to go about it.
Well, I’m here to show you that drafting an outline doesn’t have to be rocket science, nor does it have to require months of preparation and multiple binders filled with graphs, charts, and research. Outlining truly can be fun. Honest!
CONVERTING PASSIVE VOICE TO ACTIVE
You’ve probably heard the saying “show don’t tell” so many times you want to hurl, but save your shoes and learn with ease just what that means and how to get it right. No, not all passive voice is bad, but too much can be detrimental to your writing career because too much telling puts a barrier between the reader and the characters and doesn’t allow the reader to become fully immersed in the story. It can easily and quickly bore the reader and will inevitably slow your pacing. Also, you should know that writing in that style is one of the top reasons agents and publishers will reject a manuscript.
So, if your writing suffers from too much passive voice, never fear, because you’re not alone, believe me. One of the most common struggles for new writers is defining and defeating that blasted passive voice. But it doesn’t have to be.
After just two hours in my workshop, you’ll no longer be telling your readers a story. Instead, you’ll be pulling them inside and letting their imaginations soar.
THE IMPORTANCE OF VISUAL EFFECTS
Think of the crafting of your story like putting together a stew. Your plot is the meat, and your characters the vegetables. The descriptive clues that give your readers a mind’s eye visual of everything you’ve created are the spices. Without those visual clues, your story is simply bland. You sit that bland meal in front of your readers, and they’ll take a bite, but will they finish the bowl and ask for more? Doubtful.
Why am I so confident and adamant that visual clues are so important? Because without them, you aren’t pulling your reader in. You’re not giving them what they need to truly feel as though they’ve climbed right inside the pages of your book, where they can experience everything firsthand.
Well, I’m ready and waiting to show you just how to do that.
Have you ever been told your characters are one or two-dimensional? Do you fear they might be coming across as flat or phony, unbelievable, or simply not real? Well, let me show you how to make every word you choose worth more, and I’m not just talking about verbal dialogue alone. It’s tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language as well.
Learn how to take your characters from cardboard cut-outs to 4-D holograms that leap off the page to stand right in front of your readers, whether it’s a primary character, a supporting one, or even simply an extra with only one line of dialogue in the entire story.
You won’t regret it, and neither will your readers.
All of my workshops are live, interactive, and personal. We'll work directly to your work in progress or story ideas. So don’t miss out. Join me, and let’s kill it together!