James Michener once said, “I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter.”
I think that’s where most of us are, which might be why many writing gurus like Anne Lamott encourage bad first drafts, but we won’t talk about those today. Instead, I’ll focus on revision. I’d like to share my top three tips.
First, put some time between your drafts. At least a few days. A week or a month or two might be better. Most of us fall in love with our stories and we need that infatuation to ebb, so we can read our work without the rosy-everything’s awesome glasses. A little time gives us the emotional distance to view work anew and figure out what’s missing and what might need to change.
Second, have someone else read your work before you upload or send it off to be discovered. Critique partners or first readers can catch story inconsistencies and areas that aren’t understandable in your work. They can tell you which characters they connect to or which one they really don’t understand. Also, they can spot spelling or grammar errors.
At a writer’s conference I attended a copy editor admitted that even she makes mistakes occasionally and when she does, she doesn’t let it bother her because she figures it takes an average of sixteen pairs of eyes to get a manuscript to published flawlessness. Your critique buddies can be one of those first sets of editing eyes. Also, one of the best things about having critique partner or group is that you can become great friends.
My third tip is to try for good or very good instead of perfect. Because being human, and not possessing sixteen sets of eyes yourself, a totally perfect scene or manuscript is unattainable. Too much revision may add hours to your tasks and if you’re like me—it’s a buzz kill. It ruins the fun. So, my advice—do the best you can, look your work over a few times and then stop. Good is good enough.
When I’m not writing, I’m teaching, and I fit the one of the instructor stereotypes. I ask my students to re-think their drafts and to revise more than once. Revision and re-evaluating life decisions are themes that frequently appear in my fiction.
by: Mia Jo Celeste
Mia Jo Celeste comes from a family of writers and English teachers, so it was no surprise that she decided to pursue both careers. She’s an adjunct instructor, who just published her first release, Other Than, your grandma’s Gothic romance gone uber.
Join the Milwaukee area as they welcome literary agent Laura Zats of Red Sofa Literary. Laura will give live critiques of love scenes. Not a WisRWA member, but interested in seeing what we’re about? You’re invited to join us too. See all the details below.
Literary Agent Laura Zats with Red Sofa Literary Agency in the Twin Cities will facilitate a Hot Nights Critique Workshop for Milwaukee Chapter WisRWA on Saturday, February 18th from 9am to 11:30. Bring up to three pages of your love/sex scene—from sweet to scorching—to share with the group. Laura will give some feedback and we’ll chat about what makes for a great romance. Hey, it’s what makes the world go ‘round.
Jennifer Rupp, area contact for the Milwaukee area, interviewed Laura in advance to find out what makes her literary mind tick when it comes to love scenes.
J: What do you think makes a sex scene hot?
L: For me, I love to see a really seamless combination of the mental and the physical–it’s the only way to really understand the passion of the characters as a reader. Having lots of the characters thoughts interjected isn’t quite what I mean–instead, I mean the emotions, awareness of what the sex might change, or awareness of how unexpected it is. Awareness of what the other person might be thinking. It takes the fact that a character might be wrapped up in the physical sensations and amplifies it, makes it more than just physics and mechanics.
J: Is there anything you consider taboo?
L: Not a ton, honestly. I’m 100% supporting of kink as long as it’s accurately and consensually portrayed! In fact, it even makes things more fun in a lot of scenes!
J: Do you make a distinction between a love scene and a sex scene?
L: I’m not sure I’ve ever thought of a difference! Since I represent books with a high heat level, no, I don’t distinguish a difference for my list. It’s kind of all the same thing. But now that I’m chewing on it, I think I view “love scenes” as more emotional expressions–declarations of love, a first, passionate kiss. Sex is, well, sex. It definitely (and often is) an expression of emotion, but there’s chemistry and a level of communication that is added on top of that emotional output that I find really interesting, which is why my books have more of those.
J: What kinds of phrases or euphemisms make you weary?
L: Velvet-wrapped steel! No one wants a fuzzy penis. That’s mostly it for the male side of the spectrum (although I do think “length” is overused), unless a writer gets too flowery or too crude. For women, I HATE when they mewl, purr, or do anything that likens them to a housecat. I’m also not a huge fan of natural imagery for the vagina–flowers, caves, etc.
J: What kinds of settings or devices are over or under used? i.e. shower scenes, candles, etc.
L: I don’t think I’ve read a candle scene in months, so I can’t say I’m sick of them, but they’re definitely cliche–I think a more modern version of this one is a fireplace. I love a good shower scene–there’s something wonderfully utilitarian about it–but I definitely see too many hot tub scenes. You get overheated too easily and water is a terrible lubricant! I don’t see as much oral sex as you would think, especially not to completion, which is a shame, because it has some fun power dynamics an author can play with. I would love to see more clearly-narrated protection (so many condoms just disappear or just never existed at all), and would love to see women bringing their one-night-stands home, rather than always having to make them do the walk of shame. Abs, too, are definitely over-represented, as are blue/green/gray eyes.
by: Jennifer Rupp
Jennifer Rupp is the Area Contact for Milwaukee Chapter of WisRWA. She writes under the name of Jennifer Trethewey. Cassie Hanjian of Waxman Leavell Literary Agency in New York represents her Highland House historical romance series. Jennifer has placed in the SOLA Dixie Kane Memorial Contest, Indiana’s Golden Opportunity Contest, and WisRWA’s Fab Five Contest. She’s a member of Wisconsin RWA, a PRO member of RWA, Red Oak Writing Studio, and Wisconsin Writers Association.
Join the Chippewa Falls Area meeting this month as they tackle Candace Havens’s Revisions From Hell. It will piggy back on what was learned during the January meeting.This program is open to WisRWA members from anywhere in the state. Not a WisRWA member, but interested in seeing what we’re about? You’re invited to join us too. See all the details below.
WisRWA proudly presents the 2017 Write Touch Conference, Love Is In the Cards! Join us May 19-21 in beautiful Green Bay, Wisconsin at the Radisson Hotel & Conference Center/Oneida Casino for a fun-filled weekend you won’t want to miss!
Friday, we’ll kick things off with New York Times Bestseller Christie Craig’s ‘It’s Not Just Adding A Naked Tattooed Guy: Using Humor In Your Writing’ workshop, followed by our Agent/Editor Q&A, a fabulous Hors D’oeuvres & Dessert Reception/Cash Bar, and our always amazing WisRWA’s Got Talent workshop. And for those who like to gamble, Oneida Casino is open 24-7.
Our agent guests are Nalini Akolekar of Spencerhill Associates, and Jessica Watterson of the Sandra Dijkstra Agency. Editors joining us are Norma Perez-Hernandez from Kensington, and Kathryn Lye of Harlequin.
Bid on first chapter critiques donated by top agents and editors in our Silent Auction, and for the first time also bid on gorgeous gift baskets! All proceeds go to local literacy! We have many great workshops planned for both Saturday and Sunday, including three two-hour workshops by three New York Times bestselling authors – Christie Craig, Virginia Kantra, and Sarah MacLean! We also have a special Saturday evening workshop planned, and then it’s time to eat/drink/mingle in the Hospitality Suite!
Register by Friday, March 3th to SAVE $10 on registration, and to be eligible for our Early Bird Raffle! Prizes include THREE comped hotel room certificates! For registration forms & full details visit the conference tab on the WisRWA website.
If you have any questions, please send an email to the Write Touch Conference Chair, Donna Kowalczyk.
by: Donna Kowalczyk
Donna Kowalczyk writes as USA Today bestselling author Donna Marie Rogers. She inherited her love of romance from her mother, who devoured romance novels like they were Fannie May candies, and never missed an episode of Little House On the Prairie. And though it wasn’t until years later Donna would come to understand her mother’s fascination with Charles Ingalls, her love of the romance genre is every bit as all-consuming.
A Chicago native, Donna now lives in beautiful Northeast Wisconsin with her husband and children. She’s an avid gardener and home-canner, as well as an admitted reality TV junkie. Her passion to read is only exceeded by her passion to write, so when she’s not doing the wife and mother thing, you can usually find her sitting at the computer, creating exciting, memorable characters, fresh new worlds, and always a happily-ever-after.
Writing came to me by accident. After graduating college as an older adult, I was busy applying and interviewing for positions in the public relations field, eager to put my degree to work and ready to get a return on my financial and personal investment in my education.
It was during that time, that my husband asked me if I would write his grandparents’ story. He explained that it was a cute love story, but he left out some of the essential details. Their story was also one of ethnic cleansing, immigration, determination and courage to start a brand-new life in the United States of America. It took me longer than I ever expected and more than one attempt until it was done.
I learned a lot about myself writing my first book. What kind of writer I am—an outliner, or plotter. What time of the day I write best in—mornings and early evenings. Where my inspiration comes from—nature, the great outdoors. The type of support I need—my critique group and finally, how many hats I’d actually wear during the process—from creative writer to savvy marketer to professional speaker.
My first book was published five years ago and remains a best seller in a local store in my hometown. Since then, I’ve written two more books. My first two books were independently published. My last book was picked up by a small Christian publishing press. Presently, I’m working on outlining book number four with plans for a novella on the back burner. I’ve learned plenty of hard lessons along the way that I’d like to share with you in hopes that my learning curve will steer you in the right direction and encourage you forward in your own work-in-progress. Here are a few quick tips:
Know where your inspiration comes from. For me, it’s simple . . . nature. For example walking my dog in the crisp Wisconsin winters, kayaking across the lake in summer, pulling weeds and making order in spring or raking leaves in the fall. It doesn’t have to be an exotic retreat, it may be right in your own backyard.
Understand your writing style. Do you like to write scenes out on index cards or on a large sheet of paper and then tape it on a wall? If so, you’re a plotter like me. Or, do you prefer to write whatever moves you on a particular day, jumping scenes, or writing projects for that matter. If so, you’re in the panster camp. Once you understand your style, you can set your goals for the week, month, and year.
Find a critique group or writing class to join and bond with other writers. Writers live very solitary lives and reaching out to others may be uncomfortable at first, but I encourage you to take that first step. There are so many opportunities available online through professional organizations linked to your specific genre. Another suggestion would be to contact your local library or bookstores and inquire about writing groups that may meet. Having a regular group of dedicated writers to critique your work and support you along the way is invaluable and will keep you motivated.
Create a tracking system. Knowledge is a powerful weapon. Understanding what made high volume days productive and other days not will help you to formulate a commitment that works for you, eventually meeting your goal.
These are the lessons I learned after I wrote my first book and what I live by in my writing life. If you are new to writing, I would suggest some introspection on where your inspiration comes from, so when you need it, you know where to find it. Understand that everyone takes a different avenue to writing. No two writers approach it the same way. Don’t second guess your approach. If it works for you, run with it. Seek out other writers who are on the same path those who will support you. Considering forming your own group—it’s not hard, I actually did it. And finally, make a commitment to your work-in-progress and stick to it. It’s the only way to the end.
My hope is that you embrace your call to write and figure out the puzzles pieces that will make it all come together in a beautiful story. You can accomplish what may feel impossible with the right tools and with the understanding of the writer within you.
by: Christine Schimpf
Christine Schimpf was born and raised in a small town in southeastern Wisconsin. Growing up she enjoyed fishing with her dad, bicycle riding, and climbing trees. She attended a Catholic elementary school where she met her husband in second grade.
When she’s not writing she enjoys planting seeds and flowers in the spring, golfing and kayaking in the summer, and playing indoor tennis over the winter months. She and her dog Rudy walk every day unless the temperature drops below 20 degrees. Presently, she lives on five acres in the country with her husband and golden retriever.
There’s been some recent internet controversy over the value of self-publishing, and it’s really gotten me thinking about the whole process. Since I do self-publish and I am a member of a community that still predominately promotes the traditional publishing route, I wanted to add my voice to those indie authors trying to explain the value in self-publishing.
The easiest way for me to describe the difference between self-publishing and traditional publishing in today’s market would be to compare it to doing the dishes by hand versus with a dishwasher. The end result is still clean dishes either way as long as all the steps are followed. The difference isn’t the amount of work you put into the process, but where, when, and how you put the work in. The dishwasher is all about the prep. You need to rinse the dishes and maybe presoak the pots. Washing by hand is all about the elbow-grease while scrubbing in the water.
To me, traditional publishing is like using the dishwasher. To have success, a large amount of up front prep work is needed. Synopsis refinement, query letters, and verbal pitches are often all part of the pre-publication process. However, once accepted, the traditional publishing machine takes over the brunt of the work, with the exception of manuscript revisions and shared marketing.
Self-publishing is like hand washing the dishes. I can skip the dreaded query process and the writing of the synopsis and go straight to working with the copy/line editors, proofreaders, and cover designers. Only, I have more control over each step to buff the manuscript into the story born in my head. Much like handwashing the pots, I don’t stop buffing until the manuscript meets my satisfaction.
The biggest source of contention in self-publishing is the missing validation of the work by the “gate keepers,” the acquiring editors who exist in traditional publishing. It is wrong to believe self-publishing does not have “gate keepers” like traditional publishing. It does. Only it’s a large group of people who hold that position. Readers. They are the ones who validate the manuscripts published. If my book isn’t good, the readers will say so through the lack of reviews, negative reviews, or through low to no sales.
I’m not here to tell anyone that one route is better than the other but only to say both routes have value. Both take a large amount of work to produce a professional book at the end. Yes, some self-published authors may skip steps that result in less than professional work. But, both methods should have the opportunity to provide the same amount of credibility in the publishing community based on the success of the final work in the market.
I have three kids and have raised them to avoid using words like ever, never, and always because there are usually exceptions that make the use of them untrue. Likewise, I would advise not to label the self-publishing process as only good for producing subpar works. Success can be found in self-publishing, just like in traditional publishing.
On a side note, although I’m self-published, the dishwasher does my dishes.
by: Melissa Haag
Melissa Haag lives in Wisconsin with her husband and three children. An avid reader she spent many hours curled in a comfortable chair flipping pages in her teens. She began writing a few years ago when some ideas just refused to be ignored any longer.
The 2016 WisRWA Write Touch Readers Award Winners are announced! This contest is for books published in 2015. Due to unforeseen circumstances, the contest was not completed in its usual time frame. We are delighted, however, to finally have the winners for this contest.
Without further ado, congratulations to the winners of the 2016 Write Touch Readers Award contest!
*** = WisRWA member
Contemporary, Long 84,000 words or more (includes series and single title)
A Winter Wedding
by: Brenda Novak
Contemporary, Mid-length 56,000-84,00 words (includes series and single title)
Power Privilege & Pleasure: Queens of Kings: Book 4
Fiction With Romantic Elements
by: Bev Pettersen
The Gunslinger and the Heiress
by: Kathryn Albright ***
by: Tessa McFionn ***
by: Barb Raffin ***
Author, professional certified coach, and teacher Rochelle Melander has helped thousands of people overcome writer’s block, write more, turn their ideas into books, navigate the publishing world, and use speaking and social media to reach their readers. She’s the author of ten books, including the National Novel Writing Month guide—Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (and Live to Tell About It). She will be the featured speaker at the Milwaukee area meeting on January 21, 2017. Milwaukee Area Contact, Jennifer Rupp, spoke with Rochelle about social media and it’s importance to a writer’s platform.
How important do you think Social Media is to marketing your brand or your novels?
Social media provides unique opportunities for writers and readers to connect. Before social media, authors had to travel to bookstores and libraries to meet readers. Fans who lived in remote areas rarely had an opportunity to connect with authors. Social media transformed all of that. Now, anyone can connect with their favorite authors. And writers can build relationships with their fan base. And that’s crucial in today’s publishing world.
Publishers are spending less time and money marketing their books. Indie publishing has flooded the market with books. Authors need to use multiple tools to connect with readers and sell books. Social media marketing is an essential part of any marketing plan.
That said, authors need to use social media in multiple ways. In addition to research and building connections with other authors and publishing professionals, authors can use social media to develop relationships with readers and market their books.
As a coach, I recommend that writers spend more time building relationships with readers than promoting their books. Authors who focus solely on self-promotion can annoy colleagues and readers. And I’ve heard several agents say that a negative social media reputation is worse than none at all.
Approximately how much time per week or per day would you recommend investing in Social Media marketing or promotion?
This depends on the writer and their current social media goals. When writers are pre-publication or between publications, I recommend they use social media to:
During a book marketing cycle, authors might participate in a blog tour, advertise on various sites, run book giveaways, offer freebies to readers, and more.
I recommend that writers set a social media goal for the week or month, depending on what task they’re working on. Then, they can set aside time each day to work on these goals. For a writer who wants to build their platform, I would recommend spending a couple of hours strategizing. Once they have a social media plan, they can schedule time each day to accomplish their goals.
For a writer who is simply building a platform, I think 15-30 minutes a day is a reasonable amount of time to spend connecting on social media. For writers who are in a marketing cycle—promoting a book or other product—they might spend an hour or more a day working on social media. Of course, tools like Hootsuite and Buffer can increase one’s efficiency and save time.
How do you reach or convince authors who might resist the use of Social Media?
Most authors resist social media because they feel overwhelmed. They might feel comfortable with one tool, like Facebook, but confused by Twitter or Instagram. I encourage authors to begin by building relationships on a single social media site. Once they feel comfortable on that site and see the results it offers, they’re more willing to try other sites.
How has social media helped you?
I’ve been publishing books for a long time, all through traditional publishers. Since social media, my sales have increased and my network has expanded. Readers who were fans before social media have sought me out on Facebook and Twitter and connected with me. I’ve developed new readers around the world through my presence on Twitter and other social media sites. I’ve also been able to connect with some of my favorite authors, building a wonderful network of colleagues.
What other kind of work do you do with authors?
My work with authors falls into three categories: supporting their process, strategizing around their product, and editing their work. Many authors come to me because they feel blocked or frustrated by the writing process. They have ideas but can’t find the time to write or overcome their fears and self-doubt. I’ve discovered that there are no blanket solutions. I work with each author to evaluate their situation, understand their particular blocks, and discover a solution that will help them write more. I also work extensively with nonfiction authors who need help planning books that boost their business. Other authors approach me to strategize their publishing and marketing plans. We work together to craft query letters or book proposals, develop a social media marketing plan, and connect with readers. Finally, I also do developmental editing for both novels and nonfiction books, supporting writers in creating books that sell.
We hope you will join us for Rochelle’s program on Writing and Social Media. She will be speaking at the Milwaukee area WisRWA meeting on January 21, 2017 in the Community Room at Mayfair Mall. To learn more about Rochelle Melander, visit her online at writenowcoach.com and follow her on Twitter (@WriteNowCoach).