Writing Mistakes to Avoid

When I first decided that I was going to be a writer, I was starry-eyed. I thought that it would be so easy to write a book, get published, and then of course, who wouldn’t want to interview me and offer my a nice juicy contract to turn my book into a movie or television series?

Ah, ignorance was bliss.

I had no idea what I was doing, what I should have been doing, and what I should have avoided. But that comes with naivety and starting out anything new. I’ve said this a million times and I will say it again: Writing is hard. It’s more than hard, it’s enraging, it makes people feel like they’re going crazy, and it can bring about the strongest feelings of despair and depression. The hardships often outweigh the successes and yet, every day another person decides that they’re going to pick up a pen and write a book. Likely, they will make the same damn mistakes that I did. To save fellow writers from my blunders, here is a handy little list on mistakes to avoid when writing.

  • Do Six Rewrites & Revisions

Nothing is perfect the first time around. Your first draft will always be messy and filled with errors. What felt like a great scene when writing it, may feel unnecessary or worse, derailing the flow of your book. Treat yourself to reviewing your work and picking out the errors.

  • Have a Beta Reader

As the author, you are blind to how the audience will react to your story. What you feel is a good heart-wrenching scene may turn out to be a bland and uninspiring paragraph of forced feelings and blase writing. A beta reader is someone who can give your book a decent once over.

  • Do An In-depth Research Review of Agents

Agents get swamped with thousands of queries each day. Due to the high volume that they receive, they will close themselves to queries. Your query will not be read and trashed. The same thing goes for if you do not adhere to their query rules. If an agent asks for three chapters, do not send them the entire book. Your query will find it’s home in the trash.

  • Workshop Your Query

Your query is the first thing that an agent will read about your book. It has to be the best query that you will ever write. It needs to capture the essence of your book, wow your dream agent, and land you the book deal that you’ve always wanted.

From mistakes, you grow as a person and as a writer. That’s important but that doesn’t meant that there are some mistakes that you have to suffer from.

Author Filibusters and Why You Should Avoid Them

When you write a book, you put a little bit of yourself into it. Your characters may embody your quirks, your fears, your sense of excitement and in the unfortunate case, your ideals. This is not always a bad thing. A lot of us have ideals that come from a good place such as standing up for ourselves, true love conquers all, and that things will get better. On the surface, these are okay ideals to have and to place into your book as long as they are the focus of your book. If they aren’t and you, the author, go on to speak about them incessantly then you are on an author filibuster.

An author filibuster is the bane of opinions. An author will shoe-horn their beliefs and attitudes via their characters and completely throw the novel off it’s pacing and plot. Sometimes, the entire book is one author filibuster. Ayn Rand’s works are filled with this and often hold the ideal that acts of kindness and selflessness are selfish or the (in)famous “This is John Galt Speaking” speech where the titular character hijacks all communication and goes on to lecture the villains and reader for the next thirty-thousand words. Michael Crichton went wildly off track in “State of Fear” where not only ignored the possibility of global warming but had his characters rant about it whenever the opportunity was possible. P.C. Cast and Kristen Cast of the “House of Night” series has their main character, Zoe Redbird, go on about how blowjobs are evil via this statement, “Those of us with functioning brains know that it is not cool to be used like that.”, despite the fact that the Zoe was saying this about another classmate who was being forced into a sexual relationship. The series also includes another filibuster on how weed is bad and how uncool and stupid it is to smoke it. This bizarrely accumulates into a plot point where Zoe tells the villain which classmates are doing pot and that’s how the villain chooses which students to feed to a horde of uncontrollable vampires. When caught, the villain blames the deaths of said students on themselves which eerily comes off as a “They deserved to die!” speech all for smoking pot.

When you pick up a book, you expect a good story, not a lecture. An author filibuster can kill a book and leave readers wondering what exactly was going through the author’s mind when they decided that they just has to include a lengthy paragraph or chapter on why X subject is bad and X subject is good when it has nothing to do with the plot.

I will concede that giving a character strong opinions is a decent way to show off their personality and make them a more rounded person but i stand by the old adage of SHOW, DON’T TELL. If a character feels strongly enough about a X subject then show it. Have them donate to the cause or protest with like-minded people but whatever you do, don’t derail you story for the sake of getting on your own soapbox.

Despair – A Writer’s Enemy

There are a few facts of life: The earth is round, the sky is blue, you shouldn’t stare directly into the sun, and writing is hard. Whether it’s a hobby or a profession, writing remains one of the most difficult creative areas of life. From trying to find the perfect poison, to accurately describing your scenery, to picking out the perfect moments to rip your readers’ hearts to shreds, writing offers very little solace in terms of joy.

Sending out queries is fraught with rejection and critiques can often be well-meaning but cruel. In a world that ever connected, seeing the success of your peers, the agents announcements, the brand new book deals that you’ve always dreamed about, it can get demoralizing. That’s not even taking into account of reading the summaries of everyone else’s book and how amazing their novel sounds can bring a new or experienced writer thoughts of quitting.

The mindset that your novel will never be as good as the ones that you see and read on a daily basis is easy to get into and difficult to get out of. You fall into a deep hole of self-doubt, jealously, anger, and resentment at people who have worked just as hard as you have to get where they are today. In order to keep yourself out of that hole or to dig yourself out, focus on what matters the most.

  1. Every Writer Wants You to Succeed
    1. It’s not a contest of who’s better than who although I will admit that there are writing egos but at the heart of the writing community, everyone wants to see their fellow writer make it.
  2. You Can Get Published at ANY Time
    1. Every writer has dreams of making a six figured deal with a kick-ass agent but if you want to or are sick of querying, you can always self-publish. There is no shame in self-publishing and it lets you take control of your writing.

If you’re feeling low about your writing and can’t get out of the despair hole, ask for help. Reach out to your fellow writers and express your feelings about it.  

How to Deal with Questions about your Writing

When I tell people that I’m a writer, I instantly get a flurry of questions. “How many copies have you sold?”, “I’ve got a great idea for your next book!”, “You should write about me.”, “Are you a millionaire yet?”.

On the surface, some of these questions are flattering and then you have the completely annoying, bothersome, and inane questions. Usually, these come from well meaning people who are dazzled by the writer lifestyle and let’s face it, writing as both a profession and hobby has been glamourized. People’s minds are filled with scenes of writing the great American novel in a cabin in some secluded glade or agonizing the meaning of life while road-tripping and tripping or falling in love with complete strangers in a new and strange place.

The idea of writing is intoxicating. It’s that romanticized idea that fuels all those questions and curiosities about what you’re doing.  Which leads to those pesky questions that you either don’t want to answer, don’t have an answer to, or are desperately trying to figure out a way to politely let someone down when they ask you to write their life story. Don’t worry, I’ve got your back. Here’s how to avoid those painful questions about your writing.

“How many copies have you sold?”

While this question should be answered truthfully when asked by an agent, it’s okay to dodge it if you’re not comfortable sharing your numbers with friends or fellow writers.

“Enough to keep me happy!” is a great response. After all, it’s up to the writer to be satisfied with the number of copies sold.

“Are you a millionaire yet?”

I don’t know where people get the idea that writing a book will make them filthy rich but it’s one fantasy that I don’t have the heart to break. Sometimes people are joking when they ask you this and they are, more often than not, fellow writers. But when it’s someone new who is blissfully unaware of the struggles of writing, feel free to say, “I am in terms of character deaths and tear-jerkers.”

I’ve find that humor is the best way to avoid conversations and questions that one would rather not answer. With this reply, you’ve got the option to veer into new topics and to elaborate on the time honored tradition of killing off your characters and explaining writing lingo.

“I’ve got a great idea for your next book!”

More often than not, this question usually comes from someone who has dreams of being a writer. As a personal rule, I always let them explain their idea to me out of respect for a fellow creative mind. I’ve had days where I’ve had an idea but had no one to bounce it off to. It can hurt pretty bad when you feel like you don’t have a voice, so I always let someone explain their idea to me even if I may not like it or it’s something that I wouldn’t write about. The best way to handle a question of this nature is to convince them that they themselves should write their idea into a fully fleshed out book. It’s their idea and someone who has the guts to tell you about their idea has passion.

This is why I always say, “I like your idea but it’s your passion and your idea. Another writer wouldn’t be able to do the book justice. Why don’t you write it?”

A lot of people have excuses as to why they don’t sit down and write their book. Sometimes, it’s a time management issue, for some it’s a fantasy, and for others it’s just a chance to talk to someone about their idea without any intention of having you write it. They’re just trying to gauge whether their idea is a good one by your reaction. By saying the line above, you will be able to get them to focus on what’s important to them instead of burdening yourself with yet another story idea.

“You should write about me.”

Whenever I get this request, I never take it seriously. People are joking when they say this (most of the time) but for those instances where you get cornered by someone who wants you to write their biography, I respond with the classic but slightly morbid, “Sorry, I only do biographies after the subject has died.”

Mentioning death is a quick way to shut down any further conversation, especially when someone requests that you write about them. It’s a powerful but alienating move so be sure to have a graceful escape planned.

What are some of the craziest writing requests that you’ve received?

From the Author – First or Third?

For the past few months, I’ve been working on a new book called Death Becomes Him. It’s a YA LGBT+ novel. Normally, I always stick to third person when writing. It’s what I grew up with and if I’m being completely honest, I can’t stand first person. I find it hard to actually root for the main character when I can see all of their thoughts and what triggers them to act.

Characters are naturally flawed and their thoughts and actions can often lead to moments of it being harsher in hindsight. This mainly comes from the writer not handling delicate topics right or going off on their own tangents. I understand that the thought process can be anything but linear but to me, in my humble opinion, it screws up the story. I want to focus on the characters and the plot, not the hero’s opinion on how uncool it is to smoke weed.

Personally, I find that the third person point of view is better in terms of story-telling. You can see more, you don’t have to worry about the strain of what your character does know or doesn’t. You simply have a lot more freedom. But what do you guys think? What is the superior story-telling method? First person or Third?

Toxic Writers – A Growing Community Issue

In the modern era, our lives are on display. From Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, there is a plethora of social media platforms to choose from. On Twitter, there is a thriving community of writers, agents, editors who enjoy the solidarity from their fellows and are able to encourage, inspire, submit their work for consideration, and make meaningful connections that at one time were unavailable.

It’s become insanely simple to research potential agents and to determine their dream #MSWL (Manuscript Wish List). Writers can reach out and have a serious discussion on what an agent might like to see and what they are currently searching for. In the span of a few short minutes, a writer can make the call on whether an agent is the best fit for them. Or they may get lucky during a #PitMad Event and get picked up by an agent. With a tag for every writer, is it any wonder that writers, publishers, and agents flock to Twitter? But like any social media site, it does have it’s downsides. As agents are more visible online, it makes it easier for malcontent writers to take their anger out on agents in a very public way.

If the comments towards agents weren’t bad enough, the handle of Dr. H.H. Holmes @CastleMurder gives everything a sinister tone. For anyone who doesn’t know, Dr. H. H. Holmes, born Herman Webster Mudgett, was an American serial killer during the late 19th century in Chicago. During his murder spree, Holmes killed nine people but confessed to killing up to twenty-seven and claimed that his body count was in the hundreds. These claims remain unsubstantiated to this day.

Using a handle as such with those remarks is a clear sign of intimidation. This Dr. H.H. Holmes, better know to the Twitter Writing Community as Gary, is part of a darker side when it comes to querying and writing. He is a troll who has zero qualms to making abusive comments to agents. Such a person gives a bad name to writers and makes it harder for the rest of the writing community to make a connection with an agent.

Recently, I had the opportunity to talk to Ms. Tia Mele, a junior agent at Talcott Notch Literary Services, about abusive and toxic writers.

As an agent, I’m sure that you’ve had your fair share of unruly writers who don’t take rejection well as we have seen in the past with the infamous Gary. What advice can you give to writers who seem incapable of handling rejection?

  • My Best advice for authors who don’t take rejection well is to take a deep breath. I think a lot of the rude/mean replies are done in the heat of the moment, right after receiving a rejection. Let yourself cool down, and decide if the email really needs a response. If you’re not great at handling rejection, instead of actually responding, write out what you would say in a separate email and don’t actually send it.

Is there any occasion that you can think of where it would be appropriate to air grievances towards an agent? And if so, what route would you suggest?

  • It’s a judgement call, and I think my earlier recommendation to clear your head before responding will help you make that judgement. I don’t think that simply rejecting a project is cause for a response, unless the rejection is discriminatory, in which case, absolutely respond to the agent and call them out for discrimination. Always do this kind of thing over email, though. If the agent does something ethically or morally wrong during your email exchange, or they seem dubious, then after trying to work things out over email, you can take it public. But I really believe this kind of thing needs to be done over email first.

Social media undoubtedly plays an enormous role in connecting agents with writers but it can turn abusive as Gary has had six Twitter accounts revoked for inappropriate behavior. What change would you like to see in account policy for repeat offenders?

  • I think the one thing I wish Twitter would do for repeat offenders would be a one strike and you’re out policy. If someone comes back from being banned before, they should only get one chance. I know that means they can still come back again but I think Twitter leaves accounts for way too long despite repeated abuse. It would be nice to see a policy in place that is harsh on repeat offenders.

What advice would you give to your fellow agents who find themselves the target of abusive behavior online?

  • To my fellow agents: you do NOT have to accept abuse on or offline! I think seeing more agents fight back would be great, but I absolutely think agents should block the abuser if fighting back isn’t an option. Also, don’t take it personally. 99.9% of the time, online abusers are angry people who will attack anyone they feel like it. It’s not about you, it’s about them.

What is the number one item you want writers to know when the receive a rejection letter?

To all the lovely writers out there, we don’t like sending out rejections. It’s really hard for me, and other publishing professionals, to send out those rejections. It really isn’t personal, it’s just part of the job. We aren’t trying to hurt your feelings, we just have to be picky. Also, remember, that we get rejected, too. I’ve been rejected by authors and editors. We know what it feels like, and it sucks and it’s disappointing, but we just have to file those rejections away and move onto the next thing.

Rejection happens to both writers and agents. It’s painful and it sucks but as Agent Mele said, ‘It’s part of the job’. It becomes easy to focus on one person or a community as a whole as to why you’re not successful but will never help you out in the long run.

Special thanks to Agent Tia Mele for the interview.

Self-Care for the Writer

The word ‘writer’ can conjure up a plethora of images to the public. From the devil-may-care social butterfly whose wit and remarks leave their audience gasping for air, to the hermit alcoholic who has long since lost their muse, and to the unkempt caffeine addict who spouts new stories and plots every day of the week. Needless to say, writers are a varied sort and while some stereotypes may or may not hold up to stuff, one thing can be certain: while we strive to create that perfect novel that will earn praise and admiration, we will undoubtedly suffer.

Whether it is research or rejection, a writer will suffer. What to do when the first or hundredth disappointment arrives in your inbox? Or when your muse has left you for another? Burnout is inevitable and anguish is expected. It can dash the high hopes of literary success of any starry-eyed novelist and leave them moody, cynical, and disgusted with the writing process entirely.

That is why in this article, I will go over why it is important for any and every writer to take care of themselves. How can one be expected to create a masterpiece if they are mentally defeated? Here are a few tips and tricks to get you back on the writing track.

Step One

  • Identify what has you frustrated. Is it Writer’s Block? Another Rejection letter? Or a negative review to your query?

Step Two

  • Write a Burn Letter. A Burn Letter is exactly what it sounds like; it is a letter that you never intend on mailing but will burn once you’ve gotten all of your rage, anguish, and despair out.

Step Three

  • Take a break from writing. Difficult, I know but it a necessary evil to when you’re recovering from burnout.

Step Four

  • Take a step back and reassess your position. When writing, it is so easily to fall into this maddening process of invisible high stakes. A rejection is another rejection and not the end of the world although it may feel that way. Take a deep breath and try to relax. You’re a writer. You knew the heartache that you were getting into when you created your first sentence.

Step Five

  • Reexamine your work. Was the criticism warranted? Did you make a faux-pas during your query letter?

Step Six

  • Write the most self indulgent piece that you have ever written. Let your self-insert go on a wild adventure, let your hero have incredible sex without the emotional baggage attached, and write whatever your heart wants to write without fear of judgement. This is not the time to be concerned with what others might think of or say to you. This is your time to write whatever it is you want to write.

Writing is an arduous task that is not meant for the faint of heart but for the brave of heart. Rejection will come knocking down your door time and time again. It will be brutal, cold, and unforgiving. Should the grim specter of writer’s block haunt you or the heavy weight of the literary world bear down on your shoulders, take a moment to breathe and to relax. There is time to improve and write later. Focus on yourself in the now.

Opinion Time: Reference and Research Series

Hello all! I’ve got an important question to ask. As writers we often delve into obscure parts of humanity to use in our stories. Whether it’s poisons, medical procedures, or ancient civilizations, we learn to research often.

In order to get the most out of this blog, what topic would you like to see first in the Reference and Research Series? Comment below!

The Writer’s Curse

When you decide to become a writer, a lot of things are going to happen to you. People will give you ideas for your next novel, people will say that you should write about them, you’ll face rejection time and time again, but you’ll pour your heart and soul in a beautiful novel. Those are experiences that every writer has. Most of them are good, some are bad, but no one ever tells you of the creative change that you’ll face. It happens slowly and without warning.

You’ll settle down to one of your favorite book or you’ll go out to see the latest blockbuster hit. Once you’re nice and comfy and prepared to have a good time, you’ll pick up on characters traits that once were admirable are now detestable. Plots are tacky and the settings are described as gaudy as possible. It becomes hard to enjoy new books and movies. You’re constantly analyzing plots, characters, motivations, and the pacing.

You’ve got the Writer’s Curse.

It happens to everyone sooner or later. What’s important to know is that you are not alone. Every writer starts to see the cracks in the facade of the written word. Certain books and movies don’t hold up anymore. It’s totally natural. It simply means that you’re getting better with your craft. You’re thinking of how a story should go, how characters should react to stress or a situation. So, happy to say that your condition is a sign of a mind at work. Unfortunately, once you start thinking, it’s hard to turn off. Eventually, you’ll be able to accept a piece as it is: something not to be taken seriously. Sometimes a trashy romance novel is just a trashy romance novel. The action adventure movie you saw with friends didn’t run on logic but of Rule of Cool. Is it realistic for someone to survive a 100 story fall and land perfectly while evading all that falling debris? No but it looks cool!

You’ll overcome your working mind and soon you’ll be able to enjoy things again. It’s all a matter of time. So, don’t stress out too much about it.

Top 10 Signs that You’re a Writer

There are trials and tribulations when it comes to being a writer. Between self-doubt and rejection, it can leave a person wondering ‘Am I really a writer?’. To put those doubts and fears to rest, I’ve created the Top Ten Signs that You’re a Writer.

Number 10

  • You constantly get new ideas for a book but you don’t write them down because “you’ll remember it”.

Number 9

  • You have a collection of journals and notebooks. You hoard them like they’re going out of style. Whether you use them is another issue entirely.

Number 8

  • You are picky about pens. You have a certain type that you like to use and you languish that no one else seems to care about the difference between Fine Point and Extra Fine like you do.

Number 7

  • You have drafts upon drafts of stories in various states of completion. Will you ever finish them? Only time will tell.

Number 6

  • You are a research master. Do you need to know a specific but highly obscure poison that only a 17th century historian would know? Give yourself five minutes and you’ll find the poison and calculate how fast it’ll take to kill your victim.

Number 5

  • You search engine looks like a murderers to do list. Various methods of body disposal, poisons that wouldn’t show up in a test, and how to remove fingerprints are just a few of the tabs that are opened right now.

Number 4

  • You narrate your surroundings. That guy on the bus? You’re creating an epic fantasy for him. The goth woman who’s got a pit-bull with her? She’s definitely a Persephone spending some time with mortals. That creepy looking kid in the back row who has a lifeless state and blood dripping from their hands? Actually, look away from that kid…there’s something not right there.

Number 3

  • You know your tropes. Bolivian Army Ending? You know how to apply that. Knight in Sour Armor. One of your favorite character types. Enemies to lovers? Ah, you know how to write that.

Number 2

  • Your friends and family members wonder when you’ll get a real job/don’t believe you when you tell them how hard it is to get published. No Aunt Sharon, I can’t submit my work to TIME. That’s not how it works.

Number 1

  • You know that you’re a writer because you WRITE! It doesn’t matter if you just picked up a pen now and wrote a series of sentences or if you’ve got a couple of books out on the shelf. Once you start writing, you are a writer. Congrats!