Honorary Heartlette – Elizabeth Boyle

January 6, 2008 at 10:48 am | Posted in Elizabeth Boyle, Honorary Heartlette, writing | 12 Comments

I recently had an unpublished friend ask me for advice. I always stress over these situations since I feel this weight of obligation—as if I could actually offer (or even hold) some bit of advice that would help her realize her dream of being published. And she’s asking me?! I barely feel published myself.

Then after a few breaths, some joke about getting your butt in a chair and “write the damn thing,” I remember that I’ve been published for eleven years, am working on my 13th novel, and that perhaps I do have something to say about the subject of selling one book. And then another. And hopefully one more after that. After the obvious, aforementioned advice about just writing the book, I do have some thoughts on the subject. Three to be exact. Probably more, but these seem to be the three that strike me as important today. Read carefully and take them to heart. Make them your goals. Or consider me a pedantic fool and go seek your own path.

Whatever you choose, here are my three suggestions for 2008:

1) Writer know thyself. Or better yet, know your weaknesses and strengths. I put weaknesses first because those are the most troublesome and problematic to getting published. A writer’s weaknesses will hold them back from ever getting published unless they learn to either fix them or compensate for them. Do you know what your weaknesses are? If not, ferret them out and fix ‘em. Not an ace at plotting? Learn how. Motivation escape you? Corner it and learn its secrets. Ask your critique group for answers. Enter the same entry in as many contests as you can afford and then look for consistencies in the comments.

Once you figure this out, then do something about it. There are books and classes and online workshops all over. Your public library alone contains every book you could ever need on writing know how, and if it doesn’t have it, learn this valuable phrase: inter-library loan. Writing is an art, a craft. And no once comes to any art or craft with all the knowledge they need. A true craftsman always considers their art a work in progress, meaning they are always learning, always hunting down new ways to fine-tune their skills.

As for your strengths, make them shine. As you choose a story to write look for ways that you can capitalize on your writing strengths.

2) Learn to rewrite/self edit. I think this is one of the best skills you can have in your writer toolbox. If I had to offer only one piece of advice, I think this might be it: learn to edit. Ruthlessly. Without moaning. Always keeping your eye on how to build a better, tighter, richer, deeper story. Because a writer who can look at their own writing and discern what works and what doesn’t—and then takes the time to fix it—has a career ahead of them. It is not your future editor’s job to edit your book, it is yours and yours alone. Learn punctuation. How to discern if the timeline in your story is off. How to make sure your characters are moving not only forward in a logical plot, but that they are learning the lesson that your story is meant to teach them. Learn to examine each scene and even each paragraph to ensure that is moving your story forward, telling your story. And if not, learn how to trim or point it in the right direction. Being able to objectively look at one’s own work is not easy, fixing it isn’t much easier, but learning to do both will take you on the path to publication.

I’d like to say these are easy to learn, but they take time and some willingness to listen to criticism. The best lessons I learned in this were sitting at Darcy Carson’s dining room table for over five years as a varied group of us met for critique each week. From my fellow writers I began to see my own failings and from their suggestions and my own dogged determination, I discovered how to edit my own work. This plays hand in hand with #1. If you know your weaknesses, you will know what most likely needs to be fixed in your manuscript. Find a good group of positive friends, who share a collaborative spirit and then listen.

3) Read Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. Just do it. If you do nothing else, do this one thing. It will be the best money, time and effort you will put into your writing. I wish I could show you my dog-eared, well-thumbed and highlighted copy. His advice is great and his theories on writing work. Most of the books on writing are, well, excuse me for saying so, full of airy fairy advice about getting in touch with our inner creativity, and are a big waste of time IMHO. I was at one workshop by a very popular writing coach who wanted us all to hug. HUG? Excuse me, but no thank you. How is that going to sharpen my romantic conflict? Teach me to pick the right story write? How to draw a story through 385 pages of conflict and dialogue?

Writing is work. I don’t wake up each morning and beg my muse for her help. I don’t hug my UPS driver when he happens by with a package. I make a double latte, set my butt down, remember that I have a mortgage to pay and get my fingers flying. It is a job, and Maass’s advice is no-nonsense and useful—the kind of suggestions that you can actually use without any group hugs . . . Read his book, and you’ll see what I mean.

So there it is. My three suggestions for 2008. I hope they help. And if they do, a nice email will suffice over a group hug. Group hugs. Geez. Save yourself from that sort of path and get to work.

Elizabeth

Honorary Heartlette – Elizabeth Boyle

January 4, 2008 at 10:23 pm | Posted in books, Bria, Elizabeth Boyle, Honorary Heartlette, writing | Leave a comment

A couple months ago I (bria) did a blog post on Grand Gestures, and wrote a little bit about an author I love, Elizabeth Boyle. She wrote this wonderful story on her website about her favorite hero: her husband. Elizabeth was kind enough to post a comment on the blog and I (new writer and fan that I was) panicked and did what any shy introvert would do – I emailed Jessica and Meg. Too self-conscious to email her myself, Jessica did and invited Elizabeth to join us on January 6th as our first Honorary Heartlette of 2008. 

According to her family, Elizabeth Boyle has always been a storyteller. That is if you count the far-fetched tales she used to make up about her imaginary cow, John Clapper, or the fictitious accounts she’d conjure as to who exactly broke the cookie jar. So it was no surprise to them when Elizabeth’s first novel, Brazen Angel arrived on the scene with a great splash, snagging the Dell Diamond Debut Award (snapshot of the winning moment at left) and went on to win the Romance Writers of America RITA for Best First Book.    To learn more about Elizabeth, check out her website bio HERE. Please enjoy our amazing luck along with us as Elizabeth shares her Top 3 Tips For New Writers on Sunday January 6th..

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