Writing questions and answers
Answers: Writing questions answered by
some of your favorite authors.
We don't need more strength or more ability or greater opportunity.
What we need is to use what we have. ~ Basil Walsh
What is your daily writing schedule like?
*Julie Garwood* I get up early and try to do most of my writing before mid-afternoon. ~ Julie Garwood
*Sherrilyn Kenyon* Hectic. I have 3 small children. But I'm lucky to be able to stay home so I usually don't get up
until noon (my hubby gets the kids off), I spend a couple of hours reading email, doing business related tasks such as
making phone calls, answering requests for workshops, signings and such, planning publicity items for upcoming books,
and doing website work. I walk between 2-4, not for 2 hours straight, but for about an hour either 2-3 or 3-4. While
walking, I'm usually on the phone either plotting things out with my sounding board or returning calls that I didn't get to
return earlier and calling hubby to see what's for dinner. Then the kids come home and I'm mom and wife until after dinner.
Then about 7 pm, I sit down and write until 4-5 am, sometimes later if I'm on a roll. ~ Sherrilyn Kenyon
*Lori Foster* I don't really have a writing schedule (I'm just always rushing <G>). ~ Lori Foster
*Kay Hooper* Doesn't matter. My schedule works for me. Every author has to find his or her own schedule, and
copying mine or anyone else's will only short-circuit their own instincts. WRITING IS A SOLITARY ACTIVITY. Find
the way --- schedule, speed, whatever --- that works best for YOU. ~ Kay Hooper
*Connie Mason* I usually write from 9 am to 3pm Monday thru Saturday. I do take days off however for various
reason. ~ Connie Mason
*Cait London* I'm a disgusting a.m. person, so when that bird cheeps, or maybe before, I'm up and moving around. I
like the quiet morning hours when the telephone and whatever disasters are outside my little story-brewing nest. I do a few
stretching exercises, watch the lady on television do the hard aerobic ones while I'm having coffee in my recliner, and then
settle down to work. I recommend not answering email first, because sometimes it's just too enticing and work waits. That
first blast of freshness, or biological creative time, can be used up before you get to actual story writing. I have a few
breaks and body stretches, a walk, whatever through the day, and then around 4 p.m. I try to get back into it for a bit, and
then whatever is left of my brain, I use in the evening for correspondence, email, whatever, and a little bit of my story.
Overall, I'm pretty regimented on a weekly schedule, trying for 2-3 chapters a week, if possible, and I am right on
deadline. (In some cases, I should learn to procrastinate.) I still write heavily on weekends, because that is how I trained
myself while managing a family and a day-job. Cannot say enough about scheduling and regimentation, which I think lead
to duration and less stress. ~ Cait London
*Jennifer Blake* Normally, I work from about 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. with a short break for lunch. The muse will
sometimes wake me at 3:00 a.m. with a story idea, however, and I'll get up and work a few hours, stop for breakfast, then
continue as usual. ~ Jennifer Blake
*Susan Andersen* I tend to do my chores, hit the gym, whatever, in the morning. When I come home, I pull up my
current chapter and go over the work I wrote the day before. I eat lunch at two, and at three-- if I haven't already begun
the new day's work-- I plant my butt in the chair and get started.
The original writing is the toughest for me. My favorite part is the editing-- making whatever work I've managed to get
down start to make sense and eventually, hopefully, to shine.~ Susan Andersen
*Shirley Jump* I write every day, at least four hours a day. Because I have two small children, though, my four hours
are often chopped-up hours, sandwiched around car pool, basketball practices, field trips, dinner making...life in general
:-). I have a portable word processor that I use all the time, to write in the car while waiting for kids, at coffee shops
between appointments, on the sofa when I want to be with the family, etc. It's been a great way to fit those extra pages in
every day. ~ Shirley Jump
*Carly Phillips* I don't have a daily schedule. I wish I did, my life would probably be that much easier! What I like to
do is set a page count for each week. Normally 25 pages a week which can lay out in any way ... 5 pages a day 5 days a
week; 2 pages one day; 7 another. If the weekend arrives, I can scramble to add pages and meet my page count. I do
keep or try to keep a goal sheet/calendar for each book I write and keep track daily. It helps to see where I am, where I
should be etc. so I don't fall behind! ~ Carly Phillips
*Christine Feehan* I write seven days a week, anywhere from eight to ten to sixteen hours a day depending on my
deadlines. ~ Christine Feehan
*Julia Quinn* In a perfect world, I'd actually have a schedule. The truth is, I write when time allows. In general, I find
I get more done if I take my laptop to a cafe. It's too tempting to check me email/talk on the phone when I'm home. ~
*Suzanne Brockmann* Before I start writing a book, I figure out the minimum number of pages I'll need to write
each day in order to meet my deadline. Then, every day (until the book is finished) I write until I make that minimum page
count. (I like to work seven days a week when I'm working on a book, because it takes me a number of days to get back
into the flow of the writing if I'm interrupted.) ~ Suzanne Brockmann
Have you ever dealt with writer's block? If so, how did/do you handle
*Julie Garwood* When I have trouble with a scene, I leave the typewriter and do a chore or run an errand and let
my mind daydream. ~ Julie Garwood
*Kay Hooper* If you mean story block -- being "stuck" with no idea of what you're doing or what your book is
about, or where the plot went -- I get that in every book. Every single one, and I've written nearly 70. I've learned to
turn off the computer and walk away for a while, a few days, a week. Do something right-brained for a change, while my
left-brain chews on the problem. Inevitably, while I'm cleaning out a closet or washing the dog or driving somewhere, the
solution will pop into my head. It's been that way for 25 years, so I've learned to trust myself. The creative subconscious
keeps working while the conscious mind concentrates on something else.
Writer's block as some people understand it -- being unable to write for an extended period -- happened to me once,
years ago, triggered by exhaustion. Again, the only thing I could do was ordinary, everyday stuff, and wait for my brain to
recharge itself. (Lots of reading helped.) Six months later, I was writing again. ~ Kay Hooper
*Sherrilyn Kenyon* *Knocking wood* writer's block has never been my problem. I have the opposite in that I
have so many ideas I can't execute them all. It's sometimes hard to pare down scenes that I really want in a book, but due
to page count I can't have them all. ~ Sherrilyn Kenyon
*Connie Mason* I've never had writer's block. ~ Connie Mason
*Jennifer Blake* I've never had total writer's block, but sometimes have periods when it's difficult to get started.
Here is a list of things that seem to help either prevent this problem or remedy it:
1. Establish a routine. Do the same three or four things in order every morning before work (shower, breakfast, exercise,
minimum housework, email, etc.) as a signal to your subconscious that it's time to start.
2. Close the door of your office or whatever room you use to help prevent interruptions.
3. Choose a word goal or page goal for each day and post it above your computer screen so it's in front of you each time
you look up.
4. Select music or a collection of songs which fit the mood of the book and turn this on as you sit down in front of your
computer. Use earphones to block noise and other distractions.
5. Write in a journal as a means of warming up your writing "muscles".
6. Use meditation or progressive relaxation techniques to calm your outside thoughts or worries and center your
7. Light a scented candle. Pick a fragrance you enjoy and burn this only when writing so it becomes associated with
putting words on paper.
8. Read over the last five pages you wrote the day before to refresh your memory and recall the mood--but don't
become bogged down in revision.
9. Brainstorm scenes or story points (on a notepad or new computer screen) that could or should come up at this place in
10. Create a series of questions to be answered in the scene coming up, in effect interviewing yourself about the story or
else your characters about their thoughts, intentions, emotions and what they need to say.
11. Set a timer for an hour and challenge yourself to write a minimum of two pages in that length of time. A writer?s brain
will often miraculously produce the required pages. Reset the timer as required for your goal.
12. Open a New Page in your WP program and start writing something, anything (doubts, fears, anger over things that
have happened, etc.) in order to clear your mind of garbage and allow it to switch gears to writing mode. Gradually
narrow concentration to your story by setting down ideas, insights, bits of dialogue, etc. When you have something worth
keeping, transfer these fragments to the current story file, delete the worthless junk, and continue.
13. Try a change of pace. Switch to a laptop computer, AlphaSmart, typewriter, tape recorder or longhand with pen or
fountain pen, or relocate to a lounge chair, bed, fireside, patio, park or coffee shop.
14. Take a drive or ride. Many people are mentally stimulated by driving which occupies the left brain so the right brain
can go off on a creative tangent, or riding which removes them from other distractions and provides--white noise--to
blank out negative thoughts.
15. Take a walk. Exercise increases blood flow to the brain, so stimulates thought. ~ Jennifer Blake
*Shirley Jump* I don't believe in writer's block at all. For me, there are days when the writing is hard and days when
the writing is easy. Simple as that. When the writing is hard, it usually means I have a plot problem I need to unravel, so
I'll go back and re-read, looking for the one thread I dropped. Sometimes I find it, sometimes I don't. Either way, I keep
writing. Often, the answer comes to me after twenty pages of terrible writing. There's a nugget in one page that spurs a
whole new direction and then takes the writing down that easy path again. ~ Shirley Jump
*Carly Phillips* It's taken me ages to realize that for me, writers bock happens usually during a) a transition I don't
know how to make; or b) I'm in the wrong point of view for that scene. I can go a week or two struggling with something
and then remember to ask that question - should I be in my heroine's pov instead? Or think what is causing me to struggle
and why. I also call my critique partner and we brainstorm my problem! ~ Carly Phillips
*Cait London* Writer's Block: Please, do not mention that to me. I find that some times are less productive, or I
am distracted for good reason, i.e. flu, family stuff, whatever. However, I usually work, push, shove, anything to get a
story/idea rolling. Tip: Do to not sit for hours waiting for the computer to give you the story. Get up and do something
and remember that to be a good writer, you have to leave that desk once in a while and discover/enjoy life. I drive a lot,
taking day trips, if only an excuse to use my camera. Don't even think about writer's block, because then, you are inviting
it in. Keep busy somehow, and you'll shake that story loose. One of the signs I look for in myself is when I think, "I
don't feel like it". That's exactly when I put bottom in chair and start working. It's really true about "Writers Write".
Affirmations help in this, and one affirmation is the amount of copy that you produce. ~ Cait London
*Christine Feehan* I've thankfully never had writer's block. If I have problems with a particular story, I write
scenes until something meshes and it unfolds again for me. I do have a lot of trouble with my first chapters, but it isn't
because I'm not writing. Sometimes I throw out three months worth of work until that magic one works and I can write
smoothly. For me, personally, the first chapter is always the key. If it isn't right, I can't finish the book. ~ Christine
*Cindi Myers* I'll probably jinx myself if I say I don't believe in writer's block, but -- I don't believe in it. If the
writing isn't going well, I've learned it's because of one of two things: 1)something in my personal life that I need to deal
with. This could be stress, grief, whatever. Writers are human, not robots and sometimes we have to take time off from
writing to get our lives together. 2) Something in the plot isn't right. I'm trying to force my characters to do something they
wouldn't do, or I'm boring myself, and therefor will bore my readers. It's time to step back and rethink that portion of the
story/scene. Of course, there are days when I don't much feel like writing, but I sit down and do it anyway. This is my
job and I try to do as well as I can with it each day. ~ Cindi Myers
*Susan Andersen* No, I've been very fortunate. I have friends who have dealt with block, but although I have days
when I sit down and have nothing to say, it's generally a generic thing that's often rooted in something else, such as things
that are going on in my private life or the stress of having too many outside influences interfering. ~ Susan Andersen
What hints can you offer when it comes to writing love scenes?
*Jennifer Blake* Forget mechanics and concentrate on the emotions and personalities of the characters. No human
being is more truly himself or herself as when making love. How they do it--what they say or don't say, the degree of
tenderness or expertise, heat or sweet--is different for everyone. Consider your characters, get into their skins, then
allow them to make love with their brains and hearts. Think more about why they are making love instead of what
they're doing or how. Their reasons, how they feel about it afterward, how it changes the direction of the story, are
more important than simply typing descriptions of hot, wet sex. True sensuality comes from the brain--yours as well as
those of the characters. ~ Jennifer Blake
*Cindi Myers* Tell yourself you're going to write a draft that no one will see and go for it. Push yourself to go all
out. Concentrate on what the characters are feeling and less on what they're actually doing. Then rewrite it. I find most
love scenes take several rewrites. ~ Cindi Myers
*Cait London* These are *love scenes*, not sex scenes. The foreplay, heat and action, and afterplay all reveal
how these characters feel about each other. "Feel": big little word. I like to think that the h/h are bonding when they
make love. They need to understand that this person is THE person, or different from other lovers, to experience that
person on a different level from others, to demand more of themselves to equal this special person. Lovemaking can be
slow and soft and gradual, but also fast and exciting and playful--but the tender emotions have to be there. If the h/h are
in bed too soon, the story has nowhere to go. Sensuality needs to build with the story. Start off too hot and the story is
in real trouble--unless you're writing something other than romance. And remember that each protagonist must react to
that very first love scene, which is usually written predominantly in the female POV, if you're writing women's fiction. I
think that in that initial love scene, a periodic male POV keeps the love scene steaming and the reader keeping up with
what is happening emotionally between the h/h. The male POV does need to occur after this initial love scene, too.
A word about POV: Unless an editor sees it differently, I like to move POVs around in single title, maybe 2-4 changes
within one 20 pg chapter. This keeps us aware of what is happening within both h/h, or perhaps with the
antagonist/whatever. The different POVs are not necessarily equal length. ~ Cait London
Do you write detailed outlines before you write your books, or just get
an idea in mind, and go with the flow?
*Connie Mason* I don't write outlines. I have an idea in my mind and just let the words flow into a story. When I
had to write an outline, I never really followed it. Most editors demand an outline however. I am lucky in that my editor
will accept a paragraph or two about what I intend to write. ~ Connie Mason
*Jennifer Blake* My books are usually sold in multiple book contracts without a story idea in sight, but I'm
required to submit a proposal each time before beginning, one which will be used to create the cover, back blurb and
sales materials long before the book in question is submitted. Because of this, I must have concrete knowledge in
advance of what is going to get the story moving, the appearance and purpose of the characters, the dramatic plot
points, and how everything will be resolved in the end. My first step toward creating a book, then, is to brainstorm
ideas for all these things. From these raw ideas, the proposal is written with additional color and motivation added.
When I start on the book, I take this proposal and break it down into an informal outline with proposed events under
each of the twenty chapter headings. This becomes my road map which keeps me on track with the story. I can, and
often do, deviate from it if inspiration strikes, but having it allows me to concentrate on visualizing the scenes, tapping
into character emotions, and all the other bits and pieces that make a story come alive. ~ Jennifer Blake
*Sherrilyn Kenyon* I always go with the flow. ~ Sherrilyn Kenyon
*Carly Phillips* Hahahaha. <g> No. Two pages maybe in order to get storyline approval. Then I write. By about
Chapter Three, I need more detail for myself, so I will do a chapter by chapter outline of where I intend to go. I don't
always follow the outline but for me it helps to know that I have direction. Every writer does his or her own thing. Don't
be intimidated by another writer's way of doing things. It doesn't make that writer RIGHT, it just means it works for
him. .Find your own way and don't be afraid to be yourself. Those writers sell, the ones who develop their own voice
and are true to themselves! ~ Carly Phillips
*Kay Hooper* Never outline. I do a "set-up" for a story: main characters, what the situation is, what the danger is
-- and then run with it. As I said -- it's more fun that way. And if you're not having fun, you're in the wrong business!
~ Kay Hooper
*Susan Andersen* I was always a seat of the pants writer, but to sell on proposal I had to learn to write a
synopsis. And of course to write a synopsis one has to actually have some idea of where the story's going. So I
brainstorm the plot with my critique partner, Caroline Cross, and write the best, most coherent proposal I can. That
gives me a framework, but things change as the manuscript is written. So when it comes to the actual writing I have
ideas about what I want to accomplish in the current chapter. But until I sit down at the computer and start to type, I
never know what's going to come out of my brain. ~ Susan Andersen
*Julia Quinn* My first few were not written from outlines, but now I use them. I find them quite helpful, actually.
Not just for plot, but for characterization. ~ Julia Quinn
*Cindi Myers* I usually sell on proposal or even just synopsis, so I have a fairly detailed idea of the story before I
start. This also allows me to write fairly quickly. But things do change over the course of the book and I allow for that.
~ Cindi Myers
*Cait London* To sell to a publisher, a story line, or a proposal is necessary. I usually get a "nugget" of an idea (I
keep a database of nuggets as ideas come to me, and that's usually during the process of a WIP) and start free-wheeling
from there until a story comes. There again, I'm pretty regimented, so I have developed a pretty essential process to
get my stories to bloom. Years ago, I wrote an article on story-fishing, where to look for ideas, and now, after many
books, I am still asked how I get my stories. It takes a lot of sweat; it's grueling, but plotting is essential. Okay, so I
work really hard on an excessive outline, which I keep for myself. Then I trim/clean it up for the publisher's use. My
stories do shift as the characters interact with each other and I see places where the story can be layered and can grow.
The shape of the story, the plot is essential to understand, as they are different per genre. ~ Cait London
*Christine Feehan* I never write with outlines. I do however, plot out my book and often make lists of clues and
other things needed if the book is suspense. The few times I've tried outlines it has been a disaster because my
characters refused to cooperate. I rather admire those people who can write from an outline. ~ Christine Feehan
What hints can you offer about writing paranormal story lines?
*Sherrilyn Kenyon* You have to believe it's real in order to make it real for the reader. Never doubt yourself and
never underestimate your readers. Treat them and your story people with respect. ~ Sherrilyn Kenyon
*Christine Feehan* I think it is a good thing to remember you're asking a reader to suspend disbelief. In doing
that, you have to provide something real and emotional and familiar to them. Write the best story you can with as much
passion as you can and in the small details, give them familiar things and familiar issues that anyone can relate to. If the
issues are as important to your readers and the characters are engaging enough that they want to see them happy, you'll
be successful. ~ Christine Feehan
How do you develop your characters well enough so they aren't just
cardboard cut outs of stereotypes?
*Carly Phillips* I develop characters as I write. I'm a fly by the seat of my pants writer. Normally I have a basic
overview of the character, family background, and conflict. I make sure the hero and heroine's conflicts, both external
and internal mesh well. The rest develops as the characters come to life. I wish there was a magic formula or advice I
can offer. IT's trial and error and each book I hope gets better. ~ Carly Phillips
*Julie Garwood* I give them a history. I may never write it down, but I generally can tell you a great deal about a
character's background. ~ Julie Garwood
*Sherrilyn Kenyon* I honestly don't think I create or develop anyone. They come to me and talk to me. I know it
sounds weird, but to me my people are real. It's why I never call them characters and why I never get them confused.
Characters are inanimate things. My people are my people. I think I may have had one too many imaginary playmates
as a child ;) Just like anyone else, each person in my story comes with baggage, pasts and futures that are uniquely
theirs. ~ Sherrilyn Kenyon
*Connie Mason* I have no pat answer about developing characters. They have to come alive in my head before I
can put them down on paper and give them lives. ~ Connie Mason
*Jennifer Blake* By thinking of them as people instead of characters and seeing them that way in my mind's eye.
It's an evolving process as the story goes along and I learn more about why they do things and how they think, feel and
speak. Further development usually takes place in the revision stage as well. I also tend to give my main characters,
the hero and heroine, a set of automatic characteristics that, to me, make them people worth writing about. Some of
these are: honor, internal and external strength, sensitivity, intelligence, worthwhile purpose, and concern for others. ~
*Shirley Jump* I try to think beyond the stereotype. I employ this technique I call "The Rule of Six" (I have a
workshop on this at www.cataromance.com in the forums archives). In that, I try to take six different variations of
something so that I don't use the first thing that comes to mind. I don't rely on my first thoughts because often, those are
the stereotypical ones, the things I have seen, heard or read about before.
Secondly, I use the lessons I have learned in my own life and try to put those into my characters. I guess it's a lot like
being an actor. You invest a lot of yourself in every character. I'm a bit of Katie, Mark, The Misses, Luke and
Anita...you name one of my characters and there's a bit of me in there. I try to let those emotions and that humanity
bleed through on the page with every person I create. ~ Shirley Jump
*Cindi Myers* Characterization for me is sort of instinctual. I try to make my characters people I would like to
know. And I try to make them act like real people. I ask myself if their emotions and feelings are real -- true to life. ~
*Kay Hooper* My characters are real people to me. They live and breathe in my head. I know what their voices
sound like, how they stand, how they gesture. I don't keep charts, don't "break down" characteristics of these people, I
simply know them. I "create" them with just enough detail to get me started, the way they look, maybe a driving
motivation or past tragedy or trauma, and then I dump them into my story -- and learn about them as the story continues
and they react to the situation and to each other. It's more fun that way. ~ Kay Hooper
*Cait London* Tips on Characterization: Characters are built, layer by layer, just as babies develop into children,
then adults. So they are not fully hatched at that first ms page. Characterization is built by the writer delving into
backgrounds, how they affect the character within the story, how other characters affect him, and the choices that
person will make.
There are writers who say they know all their characters before they begin writing. Mine don't spring fully developed
onto the first page, because as a character unfolds, so do the people around them. How those people see the character
is important, how an animal responds to the owner's command, etc. Characters interact with each other and few
writers know exactly--EXACTLY--how one character is going to impact upon another. Think of a pinball machine: As
that ball shoots out, it hits one flipper, one light, whatever, affecting it, and it reacts to the ball's impact. The ball reacts
by revolving or changing courses because it is influenced by the flipper-whatevers. An outline of what this character is
now isn't enough. What led him to be the person he is now?
Characters need backgrounds, personal tastes, habits, and fears. And the writer needs to delve into the Whys. Why is
this character reacting to this person, or this situation, as he does? A character can expose himself in dialogue to a
picture of a mother, to a pet, to some very treasured item that corresponds with someone who has impacted his life.
How a character dresses reflects his chosen lifestyle, so why has it been chosen? Why does he buy an outrageously
priced watch, when a cheaper one would serve? Why does she choose lemon water in a café?
Written characters have life-scars, just like the living. Write the imperfect character, one who has the choice of honor
or what they desire. Sometimes we make wrong choices and have regrets; our characters should have those, too.
Movements and gestures give a character life, so study body positions that reflect what a character is thinking/feeling.
Why is a character restless? Why are they compulsive about straightening picture frames? Why are they obsessive
I mentioned choices. Always give that character choices on how he will act. A hero-type will sacrifice his own needs
for the benefit of others. (But do remember those bad/regretful experiences, too, because they project how he will act
in a future similar situation. All reaction is based on what is built into us, so build those reactions into your character, give
them meaning. What happened to him to cause this reaction?
And that brings me to characters changing. In a story, the main protagonists must change within the journey. But
sometimes flipping the antagonists over, making them champions, is also good. I like to think that a character is like a
bud, and as I write, I pull back the petals, exposing the real person beneath. We build characters for the readers, and
grow a story, giving reason and foundation for the whys.
Summary: Everything within a story is connected, including the characters. Develop that cast carefully, give them reason
to be there, and make each an individual. ~ Cait London
*Julia Quinn* I think it's important to give them a history, even if you don't use all of it in the book. It helps to
understand who they are and what motivates them. ~ Julia Quinn
What hints can you offer when it comes to writing humor?
*Shirley Jump* Look at the humor in your own life and take note of it. My kids, dogs, cat, even my husband, are a
constant source of humor in my life and I use a lot of that real-life stuff in my work. Not the exact events, but the essence
of the events. Also, surround yourself with funny things. Watch funny TV shows, read funny magazines and books, read
the comics, etc. By cultivating a humor environment, as I call it, you tend to create more funny for yourself, too. Third,
practice being funny outside of your novels, too. Try to tell more jokes in your other writing (e-mails, essays, etc.) and in
real life, too. These don't have to be the "two men and a duck walk into a bar" type jokes. Just the kind of twists on a
story that gets people laughing. You'll find yourself cultivating that funny bone so that it's more readily available when you
need it for your fiction. ~ Shirley Jump
*Cindi Myers* I don't think humor can be forced. Some people are funny and some aren't. Write what makes you
laugh and don't try too hard. ~ Cindi Myers
Did you receive a lot of rejections before making that first sale?
*Susan Andersen* I wrote for eight years before I was published, so as you can probably imagine that meant a lot
of rejections. The lesson I took from it is that stubbornness pays. My greatest piece of advice to any writer is simply to
persevere. You'll never get published if you give up. This business is one tenth glory and nine tenths getting your teeth
kicked down your throat. Unfortunately, that doesn't change even after you're published. Give yourself a day to really
wallow in your grief when that rejection letter arrives. Then plant your rear, girl, and get back to work. ~ Susan
*Cindi Myers* I wrote 10 complete books over 18 years before I sold my first book. I received a boatload of
rejections. My early work was not good enough to be published -- I needed to work on my writing. From later
rejections I learned that sometimes finding a home for a book is a matter of timing -- being in the right place at the right
time. You just have to keep at it. ~ Cindi Myers
*Connie Mason* I did receive a few rejections but I didn't give up because I had faith in what I wrote. When I first
submitted, I was agentless and my book probably sat in slush piles for ages. That first book I wrote was eventually
published, even though I was dumb as dirt about publishing. ~ Connie Mason
*Sherrilyn Kenyon* Rejections are the nature of this business and I've had a mountain of them before and after my
first sale. Even two decades later some of them still resonate in my soul. I was actually told once that no editor at a
particular house would ever be interested in developing me as a writer, "Do not submit work to us again." I've been told
my writing was crude, too light, too dark, too everything. I had too many characters. Too much romance to be SF, too
much SF to be romance.
After two years and enough rejections to wallpaper my house, I sold my first book, then went on to sell five more. After
I sold those six, I had a four year period where I couldn't give dog food to a kennel. Even though I'd had great sales,
won awards, etc. no publisher wanted to take a chance on me. Not that I blame them. I don't really fit inside a box, but
rather write books outside the genre guidelines. Publishers didn't know what to do with me and I wasn't willing to make it
easier on them by following market trends. I write what I feel without regard to what's "popular" at the time.
You have to learn to not take the rejections personally, to scrape yourself up off the floor and keep going. The only
guarantee you have is that if you don't submit it, they can't buy it. ~ Sherrilyn Kenyon
*Jennifer Blake* Actually, I received only one, and that was because I had not sent a query letter in advance, this
was when such things were first being requested, so the manuscript was returned unopened. However, I've had a few
since then. From them, I learned three things: 1) Not all story ideas are created equal; some are inherently better than
others. 2) The author can seldom tell whether a story idea is good or mediocre, a bestseller or not until after the book is
printed. 3) Editors are not infallible; the book rejected by one can become a best seller in the hands of another. ~
*Carly Phillips* I had ten completed manuscripts before I sold my first book. I'd been writing for seven years.
Each book was revised, resubmitted, submitted to various houses at different times, rejection, rejection, rejection. It
teaches you to develop a thick skin. Pay attention to the rejections (again look at my articles on writing). If the rejection
has even one line of criticism, the editor took the time to comment and not just send a form rejection. Take this as a
POSITIVE. Hope for the line in the rejection letter that says, this book didn't work for me but I'd like to see something
else. Have that something else ready. (goes back to # 5). If you submit, make sure you're working on something fresh
and new! Don't ever give up and believe in yourself even when it's hard! Oh and always be willing to revise and work
with an editor. They like to know you're easy to work with. After all, why buy someone who is so tied to their way of
doing things when they need the flexibility? ~ Carly Phillips
*Cait London* I wrote for 7 years prior to publication and had plenty of rejections. Looking back, I deserved
them. This as a single mother with a family and a 7:30-4 stressful job. Tip: If a rejection hits you, don't fight it. Just let
whatever depression you feel hit you, wallow in it until you've got it out of your system. Brood about it. Tell your friends
everything in your bleeding heart, sleep a lot, and get it out, way out. Then pick up that rejection and see if you can gain
any information from it to help improve your work. Get back in schedule, in track, and start working again. But do not,
repeat do not, write by rote without improvement. Study the craft and learn all the time. I am still learning. ~ Cait
What hints can you offer when it comes to writing suspense?
*Julie Garwood* I think character development is important for suspense. If the reader identifies with the character,
any danger that arises becomes more personal. ~ Julie Garwood
*Kay Hooper* Make it suspenseful. Sorry if that sounds blithe, but it's the truth. What scares you? What makes
you hold your breath? What stories have YOU read with your fists clenched, hardly able to turn the pages fast enough?
Suspense is waiting -- tensely, anxiously -- for something to happen, usually something unpleasant. <smile> ~ Kay
*Cait London* In single title romantic suspense, both elements need to blend, and weave around each other, plot
and romance running at the same pace. Single title romantic suspense can be different per author, per line, per publisher,
but the h/h need to work through the plot together.
As for creating a suspense, the intensity needs to heighten, the characters really in there working, rotating off each other,
so that the line to a straight determination of the antagonist is clouded. Motivation, conflict, and needs of the antagonist
are as essential as those of the protagonist; the antagonist needs to equal the protagonist in strength, giving the protagonist
something to test himself against, to show his strengths, his choices. ~ Cait London
Do you do a lot of rewrites as you go, wait until the book is finished, or
is your first draft pretty much your finished book?
*Cait London* I edit a story all the time, right until it goes out the door. It is important to get words on screen or
paper, to do something, to feel that progress, to be reaffirmed that you are creating. The beginning is the most difficult,
and I can?t tell you how many times that may be edited. I may get ¾ of the way through a story and decide to focus on
one thread more, or drop another, or underwrite something that develops later, making a hole for it. The important thing
is to get the characters, motivations, conflicts, setting, etc. in that first chunk of work. It is important to remember that we
build a story, layer it, grow it. ~ Cait London
*Carly Phillips* I rewrite as I go. Often if I add something 1/3 of the way through, I'll go back and weave it into the
beginning. When I finish a book, I have a finished product that both myself and my critique partner have read through and
I print it, read, clean and can send out. This is because I print and clean up as I go along. ~ Carly Phillips
*Cindi Myers* Good question! I'm sort of a mix. I try to write all the way through to the end before going back to
rewrite, but as I've gained experience, I find myself recognizing potential problems and correcting them as I go. I try to let
my first draft sit a few days to a week after it's done, then go back through the book with a pen and make notes of things
that need to be fixed. ~ Cindi Myers
*Sherrilyn Kenyon* I finish, then rewrite. Sometimes I even throw the whole book out and start it over (I did that
twice last year alone with finished books). I have no set rule on rewrites. I take as long as I need to with each book. Once
I feel satisfied with it, I send it off. I never rush for deadlines or anything else. I will not put a book out until "I'm" happy
with it. After all, it's my name on the spine (even when the name is Kinley). My editors have been very understanding
about this and the few times I have run over deadlines, they respected the fact that I did so for the quality of the book. I'm
always careful when I set deadlines to give myself adequate time to completely rewrite the book if I hate it. ~ Sherrilyn
*Julia Quinn* I wouldn't say I do rewrites, but I do edit as I go along, which means that when I reach the end, I'm
pretty much done. Of course, then I do more edits after my editor has gone through it. ~ Julia Quinn
How much research do you do while working on a story?
*Connie Mason* The amount of research depends on the book and setting, but I do research every book.
Especially those set in England, Scotland and exotic locales. ~ Connie Mason
Do you have any advice for writers still trying to make that first sale?
*Julia Quinn* Finish the book. The world is full of first chapters. ~ Julia Quinn
*Julie Garwood* Network through writers' organizations and conferences. Listen to what the editors and agents
are telling you. If they make recommendations, take them to heart. These are the people who will be representing you.
~ Julie Garwood
*Cindi Myers* Keep writing and reading. Keep striving to improve. Take a good look at any feedback you get
from editors, agents, contests or critique partners and see if there are areas where you need to improve. And keep
sending things out. Sometimes you have to knock on a lot of doors to get an answer. ~ Cindi Myers
*Sherrilyn Kenyon* Never give up your dream and never let anyone tell you can't or don't deserve your dream.
Dreams are all we have in this life to keep us going. Believe in yourself, no matter what and never lose sight that the
people you write are a part of you. They are your children. Don't fail them or yourself by giving up too soon. Only you
can speak for them in this world. They need you. All writers are special regardless of if they have a contract or not, and
you have to hang in there. It's hard, believe me, I know. But you have to have faith and courage. ~ Sherrilyn Kenyon
*Lori Foster* The only advice I have for new writers is to listen to everyone, but don't do what everyone says. If it
makes sense to you and works with your style and voice, go for it. Experiment until you find the way YOU want to do
it, and stick with it. Don't make excuses, don't blame the hubby or the kids or work. Writers write. If you're not
writing -- and FINISHING things -- you're not a writer. ~ Lori Foster
*Christine Feehan* I say never give up. You're a writer just as I am. If you love to write and you do it because
you have to, because if you don't write it's like cutting off your arm, if you write because whether or not you'll ever be
published you would keep writing, than you are no different than any of the New York Times bestselling authors. You
are a writer. Go to the conferences and meet the editors. Get that all important requested material on your manuscript
so you'll be read. And don't give up. ~ Christine Feehan
*Connie Mason* Read, read, read everything in the genre in which you want to write. Don't give up after a few
rejections and listen to criticism of your work. Keep writing every day. ~ Connie Mason
*Jennifer Blake* Read everything you can find on the art and craft of creating fiction--not just romance writing. The
tenets for what makes a good romance novel are the same as for all other types of commercial fiction. Read the
classical romance novels as well as the current best sellers. It's only by reading that you absorb the internal dynamic and
mythic structure of this story type. Finally, don't copy whatever is currently selling or that someone says is going to be
"hot". Write the book that you would love to read. ~ Jennifer Blake
*Shirley Jump* Don't give up. You never know when that sale is going to happen. I wrote ten books before
making my first sale and believe me, many times I thought it wasn't going to happen. But I look back now and realize
each book was a learning experience. They were shaping me to be the writer I am today.
I didn't find my voice in romantic comedy until the eighth manuscript. Even then, it took a few more manuscripts before I
cultivated that voice and knew it was my own. Before then, I'd been writing the wrong kind of book for me (hence the
no-success rate). If I hadn't written all those others, though, I wouldn't have honed all those other writing skills and been
prepared for today.
You have to be your own best cheerleader. There are going to be days when this business will get you down, when no
one seems to believe in you. YOU are the writer. YOU are the one who has to pick up that pen or keyboard and create
those stories. If YOU don't believe in you, no one else can. And if you don't write those stories... No one can buy them.
:-) ~ Shirley Jump
*Carly Phillips* KEEP PLUGGING! Finish one book and move on to the next. Don't try to perfect and sell just
one. If you submit one book, get to work on another! I have great articles on this at my website.
http://carlyphillips.com/on_writing.html or www.carlyphillips.com and go to About Carly, then On writing. ~ Carly
*Suzanne Brockmann* First thing you need to do is to join an organization such as RWA -- Romance Writers of
America. Even if you're not writing a romance, there's still lots of great information to be gleaned from a group like this
-- information on rules for submitting manuscripts (including format!), finding an agent, deciding if you even NEED an
RWA has 8000 plus members and most of them are striving to become published. It's a great source of information in
terms of how the publishing biz works. The group has local chapters in just about every state in the U.S. First thing you
should do is check out the RWA website at www.rwanational.org. There's a list of local chapters on this website -- you
can find the one that's closest to you.
Chapters have monthly meetings -- a great opportunity to network with writers in your area. The meeting usually
includes some kind of writing workshop (presented by either a local author a guest from out of the area). Local chapters
also often have chapter conferences -- similar to the national conference, but on a slightly smaller scale. Other chapters
offer retreats -- similar to a conference but with a slightly less formal format.
Also, some chapters offer writing contests, which is a great way for a new writer to get feedback and notice in the
industry. I was a finalist judge in NJRW's contest last year, along with an editor and an agent. Again, great exposure for
The national organization has a terrific monthly publication called the Romance Writers Report, and they have a national
conference each July -- 3 solid days of workshops and programs (on both writing and the publishing business) and
networking with other writers, both published and unpublished. This coming year the conference will be in Dallas. It's a
huge event -- around 2000 people attend each year.
There are similar organizations for mystery writers and SF writers, I believe. I'm most familiar with RWA -- I think it's a
great organization and well worth the yearly dues, IMO! ~ Suzanne Brockmann
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