Behind the Words Wed, 05 Oct 2016 21:02:01 +0000 en-US hourly 1 SOS: Sorting Out Story Wed, 05 Oct 2016 13:32:28 +0000  

Without fail, there comes a point while you’re writing your first draft where you sit back, shake your head and wonder what the hell it is you’re doing. You were rolling along at a breakneck pace, cranking out thousands of words a day, completing one chapter after the next, words flowing like water over Niagara Falls, casting a myriad of prismatic verbal color all around you. Glorious phrases drip from your fingertips, witty dialogue abounds, characters mesh, sweet, sweet conflict arises and gives way to wicked plot twists. You’re swept up in a writer’s high…oh, is that the end of the book in sight? Why yes, yes it is! You proclaim yourself a genius, this is great!

And then everything comes to a screeching halt.

Good lord, what have you done? You realize it’s time for drafting book two, but the path is obscured by mist so thick you can’t see your hand in front of your face. You hear a million voices clamoring for attention…oh, wait, no, it’s not your family begging for attention and sustenance, nor is it Mt. Washmore calling to you from the laundry room. Those voices are all the characters you’ve created in your writing frenzy. Plot holes deeper than the Grand Canyon loom before you. The path that was so clear before is gone, lost in a tangle of briars, vines and nasty whip-thin branches smacking you in the face.

WtF Just Happened?

Don’t worry, this happens to all of us, you are by no means alone. This is part of the process, it’s what happens when you let loose, forget about fretting over every word and rule and roll with the creative tidal wave. The good news is, you have a first draft, and first drafts by no means a final book make. It’s in this first draft that you’re going to find the REAL story. This real story may not be the one you started out with, in fact, it may be better.

The bad news is, you still have to find it. Time to put your waders on, kids, here’s where the real work begins.


Now you have two choices; if you’re doing a series you can keep going, continue spewing out those words, or you can find the genius in the pause, especially if you have no idea how to start the next book. The deeper in you go, the more wrinkles you’ll have to iron out. You have this massive wrinkled bedsheet, it’s unsightly, tangled, and in some cases, you may have cats (your characters) who want to help and want to do nothing but play, making more lumps and bumps for you to deal with.

How do you make it work?

Heat Up the Iron

Regain Your Focus. First, you have to get the cats off the bed. Toss them out into the hall and shut the door. They mean well, but they’re not helping (but damn, they’re so cute!). Open the windows, let some air in. This may mean putting the story down for a week or two, creating some distance between you and the project. Give yourself a chance to come back to it with fresh eyes.

Listen. Chances are you have a lot of noise in your head. Has a particular character or direction thrown everything else off course? This happens to me all the time. I fixate on a particular character or situation and end up over-thinking it. Scenes become stilted and instead of letting the characters do what they really want to do, we try to box them in and make them fit our preconceived vision. Let go and follow what your instincts are telling you, often times that direction is the more interesting one and I guarantee you it will feel like a breath of fresh air. Stop thinking and just listen.

Dig for the Core. During your read-through, look for the patterns. What themes keep popping up? What do your characters return to time and time again? After a writing frenzy you’ll be surprised at the deeper symbolism that rises up from the depths of your subconscious. For example, in our latest Tau’s Pride series, we were trying to bring to the forefront baddies that came off as flat and useless. The real threat to the Pride, our set of core characters, came from an unexpected source that changed the whole course of the story.

Sharpen Your Machete. Put on your story editor’s hat and be ruthless. The first thing you need to do is set up a separate document (one we call “The Cutting Room Floor”). You’ll have a lot of scenes and dialogue you’re head over heels in love with, but if they don’t contribute to the story, they’ve got to GO! If you can remove a scene or character and it doesn’t affect the story at all, you know it shouldn’t have been there at all to begin with. Chop, chop, chop, and then chop again. Throw it all on the cutting room floor. Let it go with love. Know that your time wasn’t wasted, you’ve still got it all saved, maybe you’ll use it someplace else later, or pieces of it, or not at all. It’s okay, keep repeating to yourself “Words are never wasted. Words never run out. I have an abundance of words and there are always more.”

These are only a handful of methods we use for ironing out our stories. By eliminating the clutter and noise we’re able to skim the muck off the top and see where the story has to go and before long, fresh ideas bubble to the surface and we’re eager to start writing fresh material, it’s like crawling into a freshly made bed, with crisp sheets that smell of lavender fabric softener and tempt us with sweet, sweet dreams.

Beautiful, innit?


Are you stuck in your story? Do you have tangles so big the whole task seems impossible? Contact us. Contact us right now by clicking this link and scheduling a FREE one hour consultation.


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Why Isn’t My Book Selling? Fri, 19 Aug 2016 16:00:13 +0000 Launching a new book is exciting. Like a new parent, you proudly and enthusiastically present your newborn novel to the world. All the pages and pages of rough drafts, rounds with editors and focus groups, planning, plotting and designing are behind you. It’s graduation day! You’re looking forward to seeing your book listed on the mighty Amazon or Barnes and Noble. You’ve uploaded to Smashwords and may even have your book for sale on your own website.

Your hopes are high from all the success stories you’ve heard about amazing indie authors who have hit the jackpot with their sales. They made it happen overnight and so can you…or so it seems.

The Land of the Midnight Sun

During the first month you’ll see a surge. It’s hard not to get excited. But after your friends and family have all bought a copy, things start to slow down. Thus begins the long night of an illusion called The Overnight Success. Your heart starts to sink as the sales slow and it gets harder and harder to find people to buy your book.

What did you do wrong? Nothing. And by nothing, I mean you probably waited to get started on your marketing. Marketing a book starts long before your novel hits the distribution list. The most successful authors work hard at building a following and a buzz about the book while that book is still in the early draft stages. The whole idea of an overnight success is really a huge illusion. If you look at when a popular book was actually published, you’ll see most of these books came out years ago.

That “overnight” was a very long time coming.

The 3 M’s: Marketing, Marketing, Marketing

Marketing is not a dirty word. Marketing is not something to be feared. Marketing is a part of everyday life whether you realize it or not. We all do it, even kids do it, especially as Christmas draws nearer.

Marketing is finding your audience. And how do you find your audience? Social networking! The internet gives authors all the tools they need to market themselves. Depending on how extravagant you want to get, marketing can be as cheap as free all the way up to thousands of dollars.

No matter what method you choose, or how much you choose to spend, the one thing you can’t skimp on is your own time and effort. It doesn’t matter if you’re an indie author or represented by a huge publishing house, your marketing is totally up to you.

So how do you start?

  • Jump the Gun. The moment you put that concept down on paper you need to start telling the world about it. Sounds scary, doesn’t it? I bet there’s a bunch of you saying, “But what if I don’t finish it?”. This one act of accountability is a sure way to kick writer’s block to the curb. People want to share your adventure and if you’re a first time writer you can use your journey as the basis for another form of marketing…
  • The Blog. Blogs are very powerful tools when used well. You don’t need anything fancy to start with (or if you want something fancy, call us). Free blogs abound everywhere. The most popular are and Blogspot. You can easily set up a quick site as a means for people to find you. Start blogging about your book and the process as you go through it.
  • Forums. Creative writing forums are everywhere too. There you’ll find authors of all skill levels talking about their books and experiences. A forum is like a party; you go, mingle, make some new friends and before you know it, you’re building a following of your own.
  • Social Networking. Facebook, Twitter, G+ and others are great places to find like minds. Build a fan page, create circles on G+ for writers or your specific audience, search the hashtag lists on Twitter and get into the social communities where your specific audience lives.
  • Local Organizations. Don’t underestimate your hometown! Become involved in a book club, or clubs at your local library. Get to know the book store owners in your area, especially the independent ones.
  • Conventions. For the fantasy/paranormal set, conventions like GenCon, DragonCon, ComiCon and others are great places to spread the word about your book. Take a look at your specific genre and find out where those readers hang out. For this kind of thing you’ll want to make sure you have business cards or post cards you can hand out with all your contact, site and book information on it.

Have you begun your marketing campaign yet? Have you done this before? If you have, what kind of experience did you have? Is this your first time marketing your book? What kind of questions do you have? We’re here to help and we’d like to hear what you have to say!

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Change the Rules and Change Your Writing Fri, 12 Aug 2016 13:11:24 +0000 We read a lot about writing rules. Plenty of pros have all kinds of lists for things you should or shouldn’t do, some of them technically founded, others not so much.When writing fiction, all the rules pretty much get tossed out the window.

But what about the rules we make for ourselves? Tell me if any of these sound familiar to you:

  • I can’t write because I’m depressed
  • I can’t write because I’m not depressed
  • I can’t write because my house is always a mess
  • I can’t write because my family takes up too much time
  • I can’t write because none of my characters will speak to me
  • I can’t write because all the good stories are taken
  • I can’t write because I don’t know where to start
  • I can’t write because the cat’s sleeping on the keyboard
  • I can’t write because I can’t sleep
  • I can’t write because I’m hungry
  • I can’t write because I have other things to do

Granted, on the surface some of those things may look pretty silly. Some may be legitimate. Believe me, I’m the last one to make light of depression, having been there myself. If you think you’re suffering from clinical depression, do get some professional help. Not being able to write is the least of your problems.

However, if you’re not clinically depressed, that’s a different story. Feeling down and uninspired, finding distractions like cleaning the house or saying your characters won’t talk to you are excuses. Say an excuse enough times and it’ll turn into a belief. You go from saying you can’t to believing you can’t, when, in fact, you can.

Is This The Real Life? Is It Just Fantasy?

Scaramouch, Scaramouch, will you do the writing Fandango? First and foremost what we have to realize is all these rules are illusions. They’re not real, they don’t exist. Sometimes these rules aren’t even our own. You may have been told never write unless your house is clean, or that writing is selfish and you need to be taking care of your family instead.

Step back and take a look at what you’re telling yourself, is it really true? One very effective exercise we teach in our Journey to the Center of Your Heart coaching group is “Asking the Big Why”. Start with questioning the belief with a “why?” Write down the first thing that pops into your head. Then ask another why, and keep going deeper until you can’t go anymore. There’s your answer.

Let’s use the example of “my family takes up too much time”.


Because they need me.


Because I do everything for them. They’d be lost without me.


Because I do everything for them…oh, wait, I do everything for them. They expect me to do everything for them. They’re really capable of doing things for themselves but I’ve created their dependence and now I have something I want to do for myself, they don’t understand why I won’t wait on them hand and foot anymore.

See how that works? Go ahead, pick one of your beliefs and do The Big Why. You may be surprised (or horrified) at what you discover. Or perhaps this is something you knew in your heart all along?

Taking Action

I firmly believe that this is where writer’s block stems from. Writer’s block is just another belief we’ve been taught. That when inspiration doesn’t come, we tell ourselves it’s writer’s block, when in fact, we’re distracting ourselves from the root of the matter. It’s easy to stick a label on a problem and let it go. Hit the snooze button and go back to sleep.

I say no, put that alarm clock on the other side of the room so you’re forced to get up and turn it off. Simply put, take action. Action, any action as long as it moves us forward, is the only way to pull yourself out of the barren wasteland of zero inspiration. Don’t feel like writing? Write crap. Just get something on the page. Stuck on the next chapter? Take a look at your story notes, or if you’re a pantser, do some brainstorming and get back to the root of your story, go back to the point where you feel the story got difficult for you. Look at the rules you’ve made for yourself. Give yourself permission to have fun.

Taking action gives you back your power. Once you start taking action you’ll find that you can write anywhere, anytime, and on any subject. It’s like magic, but it isn’t, because you’re the one fueling the creative fire.

I used to believe that if everything else around me wasn’t perfect, I couldn’t write. I couldn’t write if I had bills to pay, I couldn’t write if my housemate was breathing the same air in the office as I was, I couldn’t write unless I had the right music playing, I couldn’t write if my desk was cluttered…But you know what? That’s life. Nothing is ever going to be perfect. The conditions will never be right if we sit around waiting for them to be that way. Life happens and there will always be something we have to do.

Staying inspired means finding the inspiration between the cracks. It’s knowing that story you’re writing is in you already and you have to let it happen. By what? By taking action!

The only place that needs this kind of mental drama is inside your story. If your belief is you can’t write unless you’ve had enough sleep, then plan a nap or meditation session before sitting down to write. Look at what you need and make it happen in small steps. Don’t like a messy desk when you write? After each session do a little clean up and have the desk ready for the next session. Create an environment and habits that foster writing everyday.

What are your personal rules around writing? Share them here in the comments.

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Writing for The One Sat, 06 Aug 2016 17:21:01 +0000 Do you know who you’re writing for? Take a moment to think about it if you haven’t already. What did you come up with?

Some answers might be yourself, your family, your friends, a specific group of individuals in your genre…all of them are good answers, but there’s a specific answer that will help you more than any other.

In the business world it’s a well-known fact you can’t please everyone. Many new entrepreneurs make themselves crazy trying to appeal to everyone in every possible way they can. Being everything to everyone is a fast track to burnout.

New authors are no different. They begin writing their novels with the world in mind. They want friends, family, the readers in their genre, the critics and the editors all to like their story. One group will say they don’t like one part, so the new author will change it to suit them. Another group says they don’t like something else and another change is made. Eventually, the story starts falling apart right along with the poor author.

The One

Have you ever been to a concert and felt like the lead singer was singing just for you? How did he pick you out of that huge stadium of people? Or maybe you’re at a seminar and the speaker seems to have written the seminar for you alone?

The performers and speakers don’t know you personally, but at the same time, they kind of do. They’ve done their homework and figured out who their ideal fan or client is. It’s much easier to pinpoint one type of person in a crowd than try to appeal to the whole crowd at once.

Look at Carly Simon’s song You’re So Vain. She wrote that for one specific person and knows exactly who he is (but she’s not telling). Part of the song’s appeal was all the people thinking it was about them.

Books, especially ones for young adults, do this too. They reach out and grab that one person with a story they can relate to and before you know it, word spreads like wildfire.

Find Your One

How do you find your One? You start by asking yourself some very specific questions. Here are a few to start:

  • Believe it or not, you are someone else’s One. What is it that makes you return to your favorite author time and again?
  • What is your One’s fears?
  • What is your One’s hopes?
  • What does your One worry most about?

You want to define your One the same way you would a character. You want to reach them on an emotional level and find out what’s in their heads.

Try this little exercise. Picture yourself at a book signing. Throngs of people fill the store and line the streets outside for blocks. A fan comes to you and says “I LOVED your book! I’m your biggest fan!” You take that fan aside for a few minutes and have a little interview with them (hey, it’s your vision, everyone else will be patient!).

Ask them why they loved the book so much. What was it that resonated with them? I bet they’ll be able to pick out specific examples that reminded them of situations they had been in.

Have you found your One already? Tell us about it. We’d like to hear about your discoveries and how this made your writing so much easier.

PS: This works for every aspect of your creativity. Try it for non-fiction, business, and art!

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The Secret to Collaboration: Never Assume Sat, 30 Jul 2016 13:00:26 +0000 When we finished the Bonds of Blood & Spirit Saga, Packmates (the BBS fans) all raised a glass with us to celebrate the good news. Now, a year and four months later, we’ve completed Tau’s Pride Storms.

We’re well aware that when inspiration hits, we’ll be off and running like a freight train without breaks. But after we finished the first draft for Storms we had 120 chapters spread across over 900 pages that kind of fit. How can that be? Either it fits or it doesn’t, right?

Honestly, we started work on Storms two summers ago while Wendi was on family vacation. We were deep into Legacies edits and were stalled out because it was hard for her to concentrate in the midst of family summer chaos. Yet, we still needed to write. So we started on Storms.

Therein lies the good thing and the bad thing. On the one hand we had a great time and cranked out ten chapters. On the other, after the BBS saga was done, not a lot of it fit into the grand scheme of things.

I never gave much thought to the process of rewrites. Doing edits, tweaking the story and everything else is something Wendi and I do on the fly a lot while we’re writing. Sometimes we have to totally put on the brakes, go back to the beginning and tear everything up to get back on track—which is what we did for the next year with the material for Storms.

This is all before we get finished with the first draft and into an official rewrite.

The process for rewriting is going to be different for everyone. When you write solo, you’ll have your own method and don’t really have to answer to anyone but yourself for the changes you make. But a collaboration is different. There’s you and your partner to consider. And Wendi and I work so seamlessly I rarely pay attention to the how’s and why’s.

The Ultimate Secret of a Successful Collaboration

Methods of collaboration, much like marriages, come in all shapes and sizes. A collaboration is a very intimate and complex relationship. To have a good one, you have to know how to effectively communicate, know how to compromise, know how to listen and above all, know how to leave your ego at the door.

Most importantly, assumptions of any kind are a big no-no.

Here’s a prime example: When we were almost finished with the Saga, we were nearing the end of Legacies, writing the Big Ass Battle Scene. Somehow, I forget how it came about, we got hung up on logistics. Wendi said the kitchen in the farmhouse was on the left side of the entryway, I said it was on the right and the study was on the left.

Whoa…did our worlds ever explode.

I was really angry. “What do you mean it’s on the left? It’s never been on the left. That’s where the study is!” (yes, that was me). I couldn’t wrap my head around how she could possibly see the floor plan any other way. It devastated me having to think that this carefully staged image in my head wasn’t what she saw too, and worst of all, I had to change it!

That was when we both took a step back, stopped writing and started drawing everything from the farmhouse’s layout to the battlefield happening on the grounds around it.

The Rewrite(s)

Our rewrite process has been adjusted and we don’t move forward until we’re both very clear on what our expectations are. We’ll spend time reading through what we have, either together or alone, look for images to pin up on Pinterest, draw things out and share snippets of research.

For the most part, we change what we need to. When we get to a section we think the other might like a lot and not want to change, we ask first if we can make changes to it. A majority of the time we’ll say, “I like it, but I’m not attached to it. Have at it.”

And the other times? There’s nothing wrong with saying “But…I LOVE that part! How can we work with it?”

Sometimes it stays, sometimes it doesn’t, but we always talk about it first. We don’t automatically assume it’s okay to cut something out.

We’ll both read through it on various formats (in the doc, PDF, e-reader devices and printed out) and make notes. When we’re done with that, we’ll go through page by page and discuss what we need to do next, what gets changed, what needs to be beefed up or reduced and what ends up on the cutting room floor.

With us, it’s not so much a matter of who does what at this stage, that comes with the final edits and production. Wendi will usually do the bigger edits and rearranging after we’ve gotten a draft back from the focus groups and then I’ll handle the cover design and layout after it’s all done.

Even so, we still have a lot of discussions between ourselves for those portions too.

If you’ve never done rewrites with a partner, or for that matter, never collaborated before, take some time to talk with your partner. Take a good look at how you collaborate. Ask yourself, is this working for us? What would you change if you could? Would you write “together” more? Would you prefer more solo time?

Our methods may not work for you. We’ve spent several years refining ours. You may choose to try the Google Doc method and meet on a regular basis to get the book done. The bottom line is, find what works best for you and keep the lines of communication wide open.


Are you considering collaborating with another author? Want to know if it’s right for the both of you and learn more of what’s involved? Contact us today for a free consultation.

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Is Your Book A Priority? Fri, 22 Jul 2016 15:10:05 +0000 Face it, books don’t write themselves. You may have the book as a nebulous idea floating around in your head and it probably sounds really exciting rolling around in there. But just thinking about it isn’t enough. Staring at a blank page won’t help you. Making sure the house is spotless before you start won’t help either. Using the kids and the day job as an excuse will keep pushing you backwards.

Like anything else, a finished book is a goal. To accomplish a goal you need a plan. Not just any plan, one you know you’ll be able to follow. You can’t make it too big or too small. It has to be just right. Make it too big and you’ll get overwhelmed. Make it too small and you’ll feel like it’s taking forever to get to the end.

Here are the biggest excuses we use to sabotage our writing priorities and how to avoid them:

  • I’m too busy! If you’re using this one, just forget about writing a book at all. Life will always have something for you to do. The list never ends. Do this: Make a list of everything you do in a typical week…and include the time you spend surfing the web looking at funny pictures of cats, or the time you spend channel surfing or gaming. It all counts. You’ll be surprised how much of it is a distraction and you’re not as busy as you think you are. Wendi and I are busy too, but the way we make our writing a priority is we schedule in a day where we step away from business and focus a full day on writing. We may not actually “write” any of the story, but we are still planning, refining the plot, figuring out where the story will go next, etc. Whether it’s a full day once a week or an hour each evening or morning, set that time aside and stick to it.
  • Writer’s Block. Hate to tell you this, but writer’s block is a myth. Behind each block is a deeper trigger putting you off your game. What’s really bothering you? Are you not happy with the way the story/chapter/scene is going? Are you worried about something else? Are you feeling burnt out? Take a deeper look and get to the root of the issue. Once you find out what it is, you’ll be able to take steps to resolve it and open the floodgates to your creativity again.
  • What Am I Doing?/No One’s Going to Read This. This falls into the “Lack of Confidence” category. Are you listening to all those inner and outer voices telling you you have no business writing a book? That you’re not an expert and what you’re doing is a waste of time? Tell them to zip it. You have as much right as anyone else to express yourself. Tell the story and get it out of your head. Editors and writing coaches can help you clean it up later.
  • Your Round Tuit. What’s a “Round Tuit”? It’s this: “I’ll get around to it later.” It’s procrastination in its purest form. Usually the Round Tuit is tied to one of the other excuses above. It’s nothing more than a means for you to put off the task, it’s fear. Or it could be writing a book really isn’t all that important to you. Someday never comes. Someday stays firmly fixed in Tomorrow Land. Someday will forever be a day away. You’ll never reach it, and if you keep that as your final destination, the book will never get written.

So how do you set your writing priorities? Do you have a set plan or are you still stuck in the excuses phase? And if you are, what’s your biggest excuse?

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Is Writing in First Person Easier? Fri, 15 Jul 2016 18:11:26 +0000 When beginning writers first start out to write a novel they tend to stick to their comfort zones. After all, write what you know, right? For many, the lure of writing in first person is awfully appealing. On the surface, it seems easier write from inside the character’s head through first person.

But is it really that much easier?

It may be for the first chapter or so, but eventually, you’re going to get stuck and it’s become a dead giveaway sign of a novice novelist.

Writing in first person is a challenge. You have one perspective and one perspective only. You’re only giving the reader a glimpse into one head. That first person character (FPC) can’t know what anyone else is thinking or feeling, they have to rely on the other characters’ actions to figure those things out. That person can only be in one place at one time and it makes it difficult to show action happening in other places in your story. Try to switch up perspectives and you end up confusing your reader and your story gets muddy.

Before you decide on one, ask yourself these questions:

  • Why does this story need to be told in this POV?
  • How deep do I want to go with POV?
  • Do I want the reader to know what every character is thinking, or a select few?
  • What events are happening elsewhere in the story that are crucial to the telling?

Does that mean you should never use first person? No. All perspectives are tools in your craft toolbox. You have to choose the one that fits the story best and each one is going to have its own set of challenges. The trick is understanding the why behind the technique and learning how to use it effectively.

Are you stuck with your story? Talk to us today and we’ll help get you out of that rut. Sometimes all you need is another perspective.

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What Is Manuscript Mentoring? Fri, 24 Jun 2016 22:30:38 +0000 Recently, Wendi and I have opened the gates to our new publishing division at Blue Sun Studio. Before the term “hybrid publishing” came along, we hadn’t considered ourselves publishers. After all, we weren’t offering contracts or advances like the Big 5 do. However, we did offer guidance on self publishing, holding our clients’ hands through the often confusing and detailed process, created professional covers, interior formatting, and author platforms. We would even go so far as to call a project to a halt if the manuscript needed more work and then coached our clients through cleaning up their story.

What design company does that? None that I know of.

At a conference this past April when Wendi was in town, we took advantage of our time together to have a mini biz summit. It was then we finally admitted we were indeed publishers.

As we reworked our services, we created the Manuscript Mentoring program as part of our publishing package.

What Is Manuscript Mentoring?

Manuscript Mentoring (MSM) is an in depth developmental editing program where we pick apart a manuscript and put it back together. Wendi and I work with each client through intense editing sessions, offering suggestions on plot and character development, pacing, and continuity.  We serve as the unbiased sets of eyes that see what the author doesn’t.

Many times an author has worked so long and hard on a story they’ve become “story blind”. They can’t see the holes or lows. It takes outsiders with experience to point out the issues. Beta readers may help some, but do your beta readers really understand what to look for? Probably not.

The MSM process isn’t about reading the whole MS either. The program often takes longer than one or two sessions. Wendi and I take each story in chunks, chapter by chapter, working our way through and sharpening the overall picture. We ask the author where they had the most problems and focus on those.

But Manuscript Mentoring is more than us serving as editors. We’re educators too. We want an author to understand why a chapter may need to be cut, or why parts of the dialogue slows things down. Simply following advice blindly won’t help an author grow in their craft. From the very beginning, everything we did at Blue Sun was about educating our clients and granting them the freedom and confidence to move forward in their businesses, their writing and their lives.

Is Manuscript Mentoring For You?

The MSM program isn’t for everyone. It takes a special person to surrender to the process. You have to be able to leave your ego at the door. Yes, we understand how much you love your words, we love ours too. We know it’s hard to let go. But you have to accept that if it doesn’t serve the story, it has to go.

You also have to be able to work as part of a team. Open and honest communication is key. Commitment, dedication and follow-through are also crucial. You have to have the time to plunk your butt in the chair and do the work, because those rewrites aren’t going to happen on their own.

Even though you may have already had your MS edited by a proof reading editor, the developmental process is completely different. A clean MS will give you a head start, though.

Are you ready for Manuscript Mentoring? Contact us today and let’s talk.

View Submission Guidelines Here

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Make Me a Believer: Building Credibility Through Emotion Mon, 21 Mar 2016 21:43:23 +0000 When Wendi and I first began writing together professionally she confessed that if it wasn’t for me, she wouldn’t have had any inclination toward writing paranormal fiction. Shifters weren’t her main draw at all. Neither was fantasy, be it urban, sci-fi or traditional sword and sorcery.

My initial reaction was I see enough reality on a daily basis, I didn’t want to write about it. I luvs me my shifters. I love the supernatural and the escape. If I wanted reality, I’d turn on the news.

Fast forward six years later. I’m watching Avatar. I never get tired of that film. The visuals are stunning, the story, though told a million times before, is still good and solid. I care about the characters. I cry at all the same places each and every time as if I’ve never seen them before and had no idea what to expect.

I’ve also been hooked on Grey’s Anatomy. Never watched it until after I read Shonda Rhime’s book, The Year of YES. Let’s just say I’ve got a lifetime pass to Shondaland now. Her rollercoaster logo couldn’t be more perfect either. Grey’s has all the emotional ups and downs of a feature film or well-written novel packed into one hour. I laugh, I cry, I want to throw things at the television, I stare in utter disbelief and mutter, “Oh no, she did not just go there…”

While I was watching Avatar for the umpteenth time the thought hit me: I felt the same way about it as I do about Grey’s and the reality of Grey’s goes against everything I had previously believed of myself as a writer! Oh, snap! What just happened there?

Drama. Drama happened. It was in that split second that I realized what I love most about storytelling. It’s the drama and intricacies of relationships. It’s the every day strengths and flaws that make us human.

In our stories our shifters do very little shifting. The plots aren’t about their supernatural abilities. Those are a byproduct of who they are. Underneath the flash and magic are real people. They have emotions like we do. They have problems and insecurities. They have lives we all can relate to one way or another.

It’s these elements that make your story credible. The moment you neglect a “realistic” reaction to an event is the moment you lose your audience—they don’t believe you anymore.

So many new writers make the mistake of not digging deep enough into their character’s psyche. Every character has a reason for doing what they do, even if those reasons don’t make it into the book. When you know your character inside and out you know exactly how each one will react in any given situation.

This is the idea behind the character sketch. For us,  a character sketch is a separate document where we let our creativity go wild and brainstorm a character’s background, psychological profile, family history and so on. Ninety-nine percent of it never makes it into the books. In fact, it could be a book all on its own.

A prime example (though somewhat of an exception to the 99% rule above) is our character Diego in Uncivil Wars. Diego started out as a bit player, but after we finished Loyalties, our favorite Cajun Alpha had a much bigger part to play. The problem was, though I had a general idea where he came from and what shaped him, I didn’t have all the details and reasons for much of his motivation.

I sat down at my favorite Starbucks/Barnes & Noble one Sunday morning with my pen and notebook, and got into Diego’s head. When I do this, I write in first person. Probably the only time I’ll write in that POV (Point of View). Doing so allows me to “be him” for a little while.

When I came back home I typed it all up and showed it to Wendi. It held promise and we used it in a number of flashbacks that ran parallel to the main plot line.

Diego’s life experiences brought him and the story to life for our readers. Although he’s a supernatural being, he was a human being before all that. He knew love and heartbreak. He had a family growing up. He suffered loss, injury and setbacks. He had real life problems the same as you and I do every day. And baggage. Lots of baggage.

All of our characters are beautifully flawed, and we love them for it. This is the true meaning of “hurt your darlings”. Who wants to read about a perfect person? They’re pretty boring when their life happens without conflict and everything is easily solved. Nobody wants to read a story like that. Where’s the fun? Where’s the drama?

This week, dear readers, I challenge you to take a deep dive into your characters. How have you shaped their lives? Have you made it too easy for them? Do they take horrible, traumatic experiences far too well? Do they solve major life issues too easily? Have you handed everything to them on a silver platter?

If you answer “yes” to any of those questions it’s time to shake things up.

Not sure how to do that or wondering if you’re doing it enough? Contact us for some one on one mentoring. Give us one month and we can show you how.

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Opening the Door to the World—Life After the First Draft Wed, 16 Mar 2016 21:10:51 +0000 Last week on Behind the Words we talked about writing with the door shut. This is the most exciting part of the process. Your mind is free and the story spills out onto the page in leaps and bounds. By the time you have that first draft in your hand you’re thinking you’ve really got something there. You’re finally finished!

Or are you?

Hm. You take a closer look and see a plot hole here, an inconsistency there, oh…what’s that? A character you’ve introduced and went nowhere? Damn…and there’s a lovely tangent you sailed off on that has nothing to do with the story at all—but it’s so cool!

The more you look, the more you find, including all the places where nasty Tyops Demons have mangled words and sentences.

In the beginning many new authors make the mistake of thinking the editing process is hunting down line by line those typos and technical errors, when in fact the first step in rewrites is looking at your story as a whole. Ferreting out spelling and grammar are the last polishing steps. Change what you catch here and there now, but remember, in this first step you’ll be moving large sections of your story, adding more, and mercilessly cutting what’s not needed. Technical errors are not your focus right now.

And that’s the real key to editing. Focus. Every stage of the game you’re looking for something different. It’s like trying to draw a circle with your left hand and making a square with your right at the same time. Try to focus on too many tasks at once and you’ll make it that much harder.

Developmental Editing

After you’ve finished your first draft, celebrate it, then put it down and walk away from it. Let the glow wear off. Give the story and your eyes a rest. You’re story blind right now. As much as you think you see the finish line in sight, it’s a mirage on the horizon. You’ll read your story and see what you want to see. Your brain automatically fills in the holes and you’ll miss all the unfinished story lines and opportunities for discovering hidden themes or places for foreshadowing.

After a couple weeks, or even months, it’s time to open the door. Go back into your story with the eyes of a first time reader. Ask yourself these questions as you go:

  • Does the opening chapter grab me?
  • Does each character introduced have a purpose?
  • Do I stick to one point of view (POV)?
  • Does the dialogue move the story?
  • What kind of tone have you created?
  • Are the characters growing?
  • Do I dump blocks of info on the reader?
  • Which chapters have me scrolling through in boredom and which ones make me stop and read?
  • Do I give away too much too soon?
  • Does the end of each chapter give the reader a reason to turn the page?

Make your notes as you go, then take the first draft to your beta readers, critique groups or an editor who specializes in story development. Ask them to look for and answer the same questions above, plus any other questions that rise up in your mind.  You may choose to leave some questions unasked and see if the readers pick up the same things you do.

The key behind this primary stage of editing is making sure all the elements in your story work as one. During this phase you’ll get plenty of opinions, some of it you’ll use, some you won’t. Beta readers, developmental editors, coaches and critique groups—good ones—will help pinpoint the problems, bringing them to your attention. None of these groups are meant to rewrite your book for you. In addition to telling you what they saw as not working, they need to communicate why. When you understand the why too, you’ll know how to fix it and make it sing.

Wendi and I have been through this process numerous times. The bad news is, it doesn’t get easier. The good news is, we know what makes a story come to life and we can help you do that too. Contact us today for a free consultation, or if you’re going to be in the Las Vegas area on April 28-30, come hear Wendi speak at the Las Vegas Writers’ Conference. Click the link for more registration details.

Also on faculty are:


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