Writing Learning Lessons

Hello again. Today, I was reflecting on my journey to completing Ice Gladiators, my new sports romance that is being released on 02/15/20. Every time I finish a book, it is never the same. I feel that with each book, I grow. I thought I’d share with you some things I learned along the way. Hopefully, some of these may help you or spark ideas if you are a fellow writer. Some of the items can be applied to life in general.

  1. Writing about a passion or love helps the writing process go smoother. I didn’t actually learn this. It’s more like I rediscovered it. But I could really get into my character and story organically. What I mean is, I’ve written for contests that have a designated topic or subject that I wasn’t all too crazy about. Now, why would I enter a contest about a subject I’m gaga over, one might ask. Well, I like pushing myself, and I love a challenge. I’ve actually surprised myself with some of the work I created. But oftentimes than not, I fall flat. It’s a story, and that’s about it. But when it’s a topic that I’m into, I can bring it to life. Ice Gladiators characters will skate right off the page and into readers’ imaginations. Readers will sit on the bench with them and be in the midst of every fight.
  2. Back everything up daily, multiple times a day. So, here’s a not so funny story. When I was working on “mega beast”, My computer crashed twice just as I finished and was about to back up. So much work was lost. It’s one reason why it remains unfinished to this day. But don’t fear, it is on my to-do list. I’ve just had to put other projects ahead of it to meet deadlines and obligations. However, it is coming. From that experience, I learned to backup regularly. Fast forward to Ice Gladiators. I was writing on my hard drive and backing up to flash drives when I heard my computer beeping. Of course, I went to the search engine to investigate the noise and it possibly could be my motherboard going out. Naturally, I freaked. Luckily, I learned it wasn’t the motherboard, but the battery. A co-worker in the IT department replaced it for me for twenty bucks plus the cost of the battery ($3.00). One might call that fortunate, but I got a very dumb idea. I thought, why not write directly to the flash, not thinking that a flash drive would break. Yup. Fortunately, most of the documents were backed up. The final copy of Ice Gladiators before sending to the publisher was not. However, since I had emailed the entire manuscript, I had a copy. But there were other documents that I had worked on, including a new WIP, that were lost. Once again, I headed to my IT coworker for the rescue. So, my lesson to myself is to backup every two hours regardless of where I’m saving initially.
  3. Don’t be afraid to go there. I’m usually not, but this had more to do with style than content. My writing process for Ice Gladiators was different than any other project. For once, I wrote it in order and didn’t move a single chapter. I was mindful of word count as I wrote, which allowed my chapter to be the same length approximately and reduced my need for slashing words to make quota. (But don’t think this means I didn’t have to cut because yes, I did—just not as much.) I did kinda write one scene out of order, though. I began a scene (in its proper place) but couldn’t get it to flow. In my head, I knew the scene that came next, and it was working out. So, I wrote that scene instead and later hopped back to the previous scene. By the time I had finished the second scene, the scene that I struggled with became workable. Now, when it comes to writing, I’m a creature of habit, in that, I write as the scenes come, which mostly is out of order. Changing my chaos to something more organized, well, that was scary. I’m a diehard panster. Outlines, whiteboards, scene cards…none of that works for me. Why? Because it’s the actual writing that moves me to the next place. A few ideas jotted down on index cards leave me with a stack of WTF? I’ll never get it in order or have enough ideas to fill out the cards. But when I construct a sentence and another and that becomes something, it sparks the next sentence and the next. Finally, I have a scene. And that scene may be floating unattached to any other scene. But once I read it, another scene will spark, and soon it begins to melt together. That’s where the shuffle comes into play and I begin moving scenes around. It’s not uncommon for me to move a scene multiple times. I know it belongs, but I don’t always know where. For me, this method works.
  4. There is always something to learn about the writing process. I’m a firm believer that the more one writes, if he/she pays attention, the better writer he/she will become. I noticed in Ice Gladiators that I consciously was paying attention to errors I’d made in writing previous books. Being aware of those made editing a little less tedious. When I say a little, that is because I find ways to make all new kinds of mistakes. So, I started making a list as I wrote about patterns of errors that I made. Then, after completing writing for the day, I’d go back and clear up as many of those errors that I saw. Later, at the end when I began my overall editing passes, I looked for these errors again. And I found them… again.
  5. “Confusion” is something not just in my fortune cookie. This boils down to style: APA, MLA, CMoS, etc. Most fiction writers use CMoS. The CMoS does change its guidelines from time to time. I found this change when looking up a particular issue. What threw me for a monkey wrench is when I looked at some of my other edited manuscripts, the editing didn’t match up with the CMoS. Well, that was because publishers have preferences in format, too. When sending out queries or manuscripts, always be certain to read the publisher’s guidelines and style changes. For many, this may not be an issue. For me, this became an issue only because I forgot a grammatical rule and my grammar check kept pinging it. (BTW, it was giving me an error for CMoS’ way.) I tried looking it up, and wouldn’t you know APA, MLA, and CMoS all had different guidelines. Then, I discovered, CMoS had a vague clause as well as a change in the rule. I asked in writing groups and got an array of answers. That’s what prompted me to look at my final edits and publications.
  6. I’m about to get slammed, I know, for what I’m about to write next, but I don’t care. Writing guidelines are just that—guidelines. They aren’t rules. Grammar does have rules. Rules must be obeyed. Guidelines, well, those are optional. Now, it’s not good to deviate too far from guidelines, but as long as a writer is consistent, then, it’s more acceptable. There are some guidelines that I refuse to follow. Well, one. That’s placing an apostrophe after an S followed by an S (e.g., walrus’s flippers or clowns’s shoes). Nope. Instead, I write without the final S (i.e., walrus’ flippers or clowns’ shoes). I had an editor (not my editor) become really upset when I said this. But as a writer, I do have a stylistic choice. And if push comes to shove where I’m required to use that final S, I’ll change the word completely. I did that in one of my books. I changed a character’s name to avoid that final S. To me, that looks like shenanigans. I don’t like it, and I don’t have to accept it. And that leads to my next point.
  7. Editors all edit differently. Here’s another quick storytime that isn’t so pretty. I used to work in an environment that after I completed an evaluation, it was passed to three editors—a secretary, a person who didn’t have a title, and a licensed supervisor in that order. After each one received it, the document would be returned to me for corrections before moving to the editing chain. Now, to put this into perceptive educationally, the secretary had secretarial training. The person with no title had nearly the same credentials as mine; although, I held more licenses, postgraduate endorsements, and specialized training. The supervisor had both more years of formal education as well as additional licensures. I point this out, not because I’m an education snob, but because the secretary was allowed to edit technical material. The person without a title would change both what the secretary and supervisor changed. Then, the supervisor would scream that the document was incorrect. Well…DUH! The first two had different editing styles one using APA and another using MLA, not to mention the horrors that were being churned out with the technical stuff. Other employees in my same position had the same issue. Paperwork was backlogged, and the evaluators were the ones doing extra work and being verbally chastised and abused. This went on for years, until finally, matters came to a head, but not as one would think. The secretary and the person with no title disliked each other. When the person with no title took an extended sick leave, evaluations began getting processed faster. The supervisor took notice and began to listen to what the evaluators had been saying all along. Finally, the secretary was eliminated from the process as well, and wouldn’t one know it was smooth sailing from there. My point is, in writing, it is very useful to have multiple editors. However, not only do the editors need to be competent, they need to have different areas of expertise. That way, they will not trip over each other.
  8. This next is a bit shallow and superficial, but I noticed that I write more when my nails are manicured. Looking at ugly nails is not inspiring. They serve as a distraction. I find that as I’m typing (or writing longhand) when my nails are unmanicured, I stop several times to file them, clip a jagged edge, or push back an unsightly cuticle. Several weeks ago, I somehow injured my thumbnail. I’m not sure how, but I noticed a yellowish discoloration in the center forming close to the cuticle. Turns out, it was a crack/cut, and the top layer of the nail began to peel off as the nail has grown. The length of the crack has expanded horizontally almost the full width of the nail and is very noticeable (and slightly painful). It’s obvious that in a few weeks, a portion of this nail will be lost completely. However, it was this damaged nail that brought my attention to how much time I waste on nailcare when I should be writing. Perhaps it is due to looking at the keyboard or down frequently when writing when I have a break in thought, have a typo or need to use the function keys. It’s a small thing, but I think many writers may have small distractions that they do not realize. Identify any distractions and find a way to eliminate them.
  9. Getting ahead of the game is easier when you know what to expect. When I first began publishing, I knew that there was a lot of work involved after the manuscript was completed. I didn’t realize how much. When my publisher started requesting different documents and materials, I had to scramble to create them. That six-month lead between acceptance and publication can fly past. The thing I learned is if you’re traditionally publishing, do not wait to begin working on that six-month plan while the manuscript is out to publishers for a decision. Begin forming and creating a marketing plan. Yes, even with traditional publishers one will be needed. Make to-do lists. Get as organized as possible so that once the manuscript is accepted, you can put your plan into motion. Have ready the items your publisher will want when then they ask instead of having to create them. If you’re unsure what those documents may be, read the publisher’s guidelines or ask other writers. I know my publishers had a laundry list.
  10. I know I said I was a panster, but the misconception is that pansters are unorganized. That isn’t true. While my writing technique may seem on the surface unstructured, there is a method to the madness. It’s difficult to explain to non-pansters, but trust me, there is organization. Having all the needed materials at hand before sitting down to write saves a lot of time. That is items such as flash drives, pens, paper, clocks, music, or whatever material are needed to do the project. It also includes having a productive environment. For some this may mean a quiet space. Others may feed off the energy of areas with lots of activity and movement. Whatever gets your juices flowing, make sure that the place is secure. One place I like to write is the library. There are three in my area. One is absolutely horrendous. The other is great, and everyone knows it. It’s large but often crowded, and it’s not uncommon for me to find that my favor writing nook is occupied. The good thing about the library is that spaces can be reserved in four-hour blocks. What most people don’t know is that if no one else reserves the spot, the library attendance will allow you to extend your reservation for as long as you need. So, when I know I will spend a full day writing, I make sure to reserve a space. I also am sure to take with me bottled water and light snacks. As long as one doesn’t make a mess and remains in a certain area, food is allowed. Many college students study there during their lunch or dinner hours, and the library attempts to accommodate them. I also take a jacket because it’s usually chilly inside and tissue because something generally flares up my allergies.
  11. Some online groups are more helpful than others. Okay, real talk. This isn’t to bash but to just put out there a reality. Some writing groups are only about numbers. They are large with a diversity in membership, which is good. However, many times, there’s an inner clique that sway the atmosphere. Newbies become stands in an attempt to become part of the inner circle, but it is pointless. The skill levels of writers vary. Often, when a writer asks a question, the responses are snarky, off-topic, unhelpful, ignored, or just plain wrong. It’s important to know the quality of the writing group as well as getting to know the members. Just because someone says they have published twenty books does not mean that person is knowledgeable. Some people just want to tear others to shreds just to be mean while others are too sensitive to offer any type of opinion. Some members may be quiet because if they give an honest opinion, they are called out as bullies if the opinion isn’t glowing. In writing, we all have moments where what is written is pure garbage. I have gone back to discarded projects and cringed. Constructive criticism is a writer’s best friend. That is how one advances to the next level. And it’s important to know the distinction between what is constructive and what is rudeness. Some groups are loaded down with rude people. Many times, other members will call these people out. Unfortunately, if that person or people happen to belong to the inner circle, the group is just a pit of vipers. When joining online writing groups, read previous posts and hang out for a while to get a feel for the group. Remember, there is a group for everyone, and not all groups are bad.
  12. Ignore what people say about not allowing friends and family to critique your work. As a general rule, I would say this is not a good thing. However, there are exceptions. I’m a member of a writing critique group. We are friends and have been in the group together for years. Each of us has areas of writing “expertise”, for a lack of a better word. For example, one member is the chief editor for a local newspaper and has been doing the job for years. Another member is a professor of creative writing at a university. I would be crazy to ignore their experience and knowledge because they happen to be friends. The fact that we have been together for so long, they do understand my writing aesthetic, and that is a good thing. And here’s why. If they know what I’m going for, they can tell me when I miss the mark. I queried one publisher who sent a rejection stating that my manuscript was “unrealistic”. Now, the section that she specifically referred to in the text actually was created by me with the assistance of a professional who is a member of my critique group and who allowed me to shadow him for several days. He all but dictated to me the procedure. When I sent him her comments, he pulled procedural records of how it is done in this area. Did he steer me wrong because he’s my friend? No. If I had screwed up the procedure, he would have been the first to call me on it. There is nothing wrong with receiving help/advice from friends. I should add that one thing I do to ensure that I’m balanced is I do get advice from others who are unfamiliar with my writing style. I do this for clarity, to check if my writing is clear to someone completely objective. Again, one must be careful. Having a beta who has a different reading preference can be disastrous. For example, I enjoy using foreshadowing in my writing. Often what may seem like a stray bit later has a larger role. Readers who do not enjoy investing in subtlety may not enjoy my work.

And that is it. Well, not really, but this post is getting long. I hope that you find some of these tips helpful, and it gives you one more inside look to Ice Gladiators.


Enjoy sports romance and athletic bad boys? Check out my adult romance, Defending the Net. It is the second in my hockey series and guaranteed to melt the ice. It is sold at Kindle, Apple Store, Nook, Kobo, !ndigo, Angus & Robertson, and Mondadori Store. DTN is the second in my gay sports romance novel series and guaranteed to melt the ice. Order a copy now at www.books2read.com/defending. Crossing the line could cost the game.

Missed the first book in my Locker Room Love sports romance series? No frets. Out of the Penalty Box, where it’s one minute in the box or a lifetime, out is available at http://amzn.to/2Bhnngw. It also can be ordered on iTunes, Nook, or Kobo. Visit www.books2read.com/penalty.


Writing Guides

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