Tag Archive | writing tips

The Four Elements of Writing

The four elements: earth, water, air and fire

Authors, here’s a tip you may not have considered:

Are there elemental forces influencing your writing? How can you use the concept of the four elements to enhance your stories?

 

Elemental, My Dear

The concept of The Four Elements is an ancient one. Though it varies in different cultures, the most common elements are Air, Water, Fire and Earth. While we may not take the four elements as seriously today as we used to, the basic concepts have endured and can still be applied to gain understanding of a subject. Here’s a summary of the most common descriptions of each element:

Air– Thought, communication, intelligence, the power of the mind

Water– Emotion, healing, the feminine aspect

Fire– Passion, purification, destruction, the masculine aspect

Earth– Physical, grounding, growth, material world

 

On Trend

Currently in Young Adult, Paranormal Romance, Fantasy, Science Fiction and Urban Fantasy genres, there are so many stories featuring “Elementals”, (people or beings with special powers corresponding to an element) that it is almost a subgenre.  The idea of wielding power over nature is appealing, and it’s interesting to see how different authors twist the concept. But you don’t have to use the elements in a literal sense, to gain understanding or benefit. Here’s how I use the element’s influence in my stories:

 

Setting- physical location where the story happens (place), corresponds to Earth. This grounds the reader.

Ideas- the communication of the story (words, dialogue), corresponds to Air. This speaks to the reader.

Emotions– the theme and feeling of the story (characters) – corresponds to Water. This makes the reader feel.

Action– what happens (plot) – corresponds to Fire. This drives the reader to finish the story.

 

Keeping the four elements in mind while writing can help to achieve balance in a story.  Have you used the concept of the four elements in your work?

 

 

 

Post-Publication Syndrome- Now What?

attractive woman with laptop having neck pain

You’ve worked hard for months, maybe even years, on your first book. You’ve dreamed of the day you can finally say, “I’m a published author”, and it’s finally here. You had the launch party, your friends and family have congratulated you. You’ve finally made it, your dream has come true.

So now what?

Preparing for that day, which I experienced in October 2016, I tried to imagine what I would do, how it would feel. I asked other authors, I read blog posts and craft books. Most of them said it’s a wonderful thing, and some of them warned that it was just the beginning of even more work and additional challenges. I understood, and was ready and willing to take it on and do the work. But there was something no one told me about. Or, maybe they did, but in my push to get published, I dismissed it.

I’m talking about The Let Down. The Post-Publication Blues. I’ve got it, and I didn’t see it coming.

Mission Accomplished

Now, I’m a practical sort of person. I had no dreams of grandeur, I didn’t expect to be a best seller or even a good seller out of the gate. I’m a business person, an entrepreneur, so I know I’m selling a product and it will take time to find buyers (readers). I’m not feeling down due to lack of sales or recognition.  With time, and perseverance, (and spending money on marketing) it can improve.

It’s just…I accomplished what I set out to, and now I have this sense of loss. It’s purely emotional, and not what I expected to feel at this point in my career.  How I went from hopeful enthusiasm to…a general lack of enthusiasm in such a short time is beyond me. I love my stories, I believe they are worth reading. I haven’t had many reviews yet, but so far they have all been positive. My negative feelings have nothing to do with the work I have published to date. It’s more to do with expectations and realities, and the emotions that go along with them.

So Back to Work…Right?

Being practical, I knew the best thing I could do right now, besides promoting my newly published series (Higher Elevation, Books 1-3), is to keep writing.  I had several projects on the back burner while the Higher Elevation Series was being published, so all I had to do was pick up where I left off.  I needed to get the pipeline going again.  But that proved easier said than done, and I found my post-publication blues were effecting my ability to write. I’d get going and then I’d stall.  I found myself procrastinating, which I rarely did before. Used to be I couldn’t wait to do something, anything writing-related.

It didn’t help that I’d spent the better part of this year editing, rewriting, and all the other business that comes with Indie publication.  My creative muse had been exiled, and when I asked her to get back to work, she had less enthusiasm than I did.  Clearly, something has gone wrong.

What’s Next?

One thing I know I won’t do, is give up. Writing is like breathing to me, so I will keep going, even if the muse stays in exile. And I know negative emotions are usually temporary. But any advice or tips from other writers are welcome. I doubt I am the only one to ever go through this!

Do I just need time off from writing? Or should I push myself and hope it will work itself out?  Have any authors out there experienced a sense of disappointment or loss, even after achieving success? How have you worked through it?

 

Seven Things To Consider Before Submitting Your Writing For Critique

Woman Thinking

Are you nervous about having your writing critiqued?  Welcome to the club.

Just like reading reviews of your work, critiques are one of those things that most writers get nervous about. In my experience, though, critique, both positive and negative, is a powerful tool for improving one’s skills.

A friend who is just starting out recently joined our writer’s group. She was asking about how we approached critiques, and confessed to being a bit nervous about submitting her work. We assured her our goal was to be helpful and considerate at the same time, an approach we have refined over the years. Then a discussion ensued on the differences between helpful and potentially hurtful criticism.

Several of us have been on the receiving end of criticism by our peers which we found less than helpful.  We’ve also had feedback that was inspiring and constructive. My friend asked for more specific advice, so I mentioned my previous blog post on the subject, How To Survive A Negative Critique. Her question called to mind some other things I have learned in the past five years I have been attending my critique group, and I thought it might be helpful to new writers to share some things to consider before they submit their work:

Just Do It. Writing without feedback is writing in a vacuum. Being nervous is normal, but you won’t overcome it unless you put your precious words in front of some eyeballs. When you finally do become published, you will be judged by the entire world, so starting out with a few writers you know is a relatively safe way to begin. You may actually waste more time by writing without ever getting feedback, and end up having much more to correct and edit in the long run.

Start small. Start by submitting something short─a scene you are working on, or a first chapter. First chapters are actually great to start with, since the opening of a story is considered to be the most important part, and also the most difficult thing to do properly. New writers have a tendency to start the story in the wrong place as well, so don’t be surprised if someone points that out. Writing great openings takes practice, and feedback can help you to learn how to do that more efficiently and sooner.

Baby Steps. By starting with something small, you are not facing judgement of the entire project. Learning to take criticism and use it wisely takes practice. Separating your emotions from the feedback takes practice, too, as we tend to identify closely with our work when just starting out. The more you write, your perspective changes and you realize you can always fix what you wrote, or write some more. You will learn over time how to discern which feedback is structural (plot issues, grammar problems, etc) and which is subjective (the person giving the feedback is filtering through their own tastes).

Submit Clean. Always clean up your work before submitting! Go over it multiple times, use a grammar guide, run a spell check. No, it does not have to be perfect, but clean it up to the best of your ability. I’ve had to critique some work where the premise was exciting and interesting, but the grammar, spelling and general writing was so bad that it was difficult to understand what was happening. Some folks think, “I’ll clean it up after they critique so I don’t have to do it twice”.  No. Just don’t do that. It is a disservice to others who are taking the time to provide feedback when there are a billion other things they could be doing. Have courtesy for your readers, even when your work is in a “raw” stage.

-Alpha Readers. If you have cleaned up your work and edited it to the best of your ability, but you feel you still need major help with grammar and structural issues, consider submitting it to only one or two trusted writer friends. Family and non-writer friends may not give you the kind of feedback you need at this stage. They might be overly kind or overly harsh, depending on the relationship, or they may give neutral feedback to avoid saying anything. One or two trusted writer friends may be able to point out what needs to be done to prepare your work sample so you can submit it to a larger group for feedback.

Fair Balance. Be willing to provide feedback to others. Yes, this means taking the time to read their work and give thoughtful feedback. This process provides tremendous insight as to what to look for in your own work, and helps you to realize others are being brave and putting their work out there. Even though it sometimes made me uncomfortable, I submitted my writing to my critique groups and beta readers as often as I could.  I also reviewed the work of others as often as I could. A successful critique group requires this balance. If certain members only review others, and never submit their own work, or keep submitting but never offer critique to others, it can cause discomfort among the group. Besides, those who only do one or the other are missing out on half of the purpose of critiquing─to become a better writer.

Be Specific. When asking for feedback, indicate what you are looking for. If it is just a general impression, say so, but it will help you to consider what you are looking for specifically. Examples might be: Does this opening hook you? Does the dialogue in this scene sound natural? How much work do I need to do to clean up my grammar?  Is there too much backstory?

 

Taking it step by step will help you to build your confidence so that when you do get that first truly negative critique you’ve been fearing, it won’t hurt as much. You’ll be better equipped to take it for what it is worth, and learn from it.

I hope this helps those of you who are new to writing.  I still have a long way to go, and I will soon be facing the next level of critique of my work─the general public. I am sure to learn from that experience as well. Wish me luck!  I wish luck and great learning for all of you.

 

 

Author Growing Pains

attractive woman with laptop having neck pain

Building your Author platform is an essential part of an author’s career these days, and I’m beginning to believe that it will always be a work in progress. It’s not something you “set and forget”, is it?  Social media accounts must be tended, followers cultivated, and your website must be managed. And don’t forget to blog regularly, promote your next book, and then send out a dazzling newsletter! No one tells you when you are starting out how many tasks you’ll have to juggle on a regular basis, and it’s always evolving.

Building Your Platform

There are many websites, blogs, and online courses with helpful instruction on how to perform many of these tasks, but there is no one way or perfect method to handle the various duties that come with being an author in today’s world. We each have to find our own path. I have found networking with other authors to be the best source of information on how to find the right vendors and to learn what the best practices are for building and managing an author platform. If you see something that’s working for someone else, you can ask questions before you try it.

But even with all that advice available, it sometimes comes down to trial and error, and that’s where the growing pains may be. You may find, as I did, there are trade-offs, times when you have to compromise in order to make things work the way you want them to.

Making All It Work…Somehow

I recently set up my author website, and I’m happy with it.  But my trade off was having to move my blog, and in the process I lost a few followers. So if you followed Renee Regent’s Blog on WordPress, you can still see my posts at http://reneeregent.com. Click the Blog tab, then the Archived Blog Posts tab to see my previous posts. Or get to them directly by https://reneeregent.wordpress.com. The Current Blog tab will take you to my most recent post, and there is a place to sign up so you can get my posts by email, if you like. I have some exciting posts coming up, even a guest poster or two, so stay tuned!

The good news is my new website has much better Search Engine Optimization, and I’m gaining new followers as a result.

My point is this─you have to be flexible sometimes. My new website has a newsletter, my blog, and a place to advertise my upcoming books. For me, the price was right and it came with assistance I needed to set up and maintain it. I was reluctant to change from the blogging platform I had, but was unable to find a way to make it work the way I wanted it to.

Juggling Act

As I progress toward my first book launch, I’m learning other things, too. Like how to use Canva for promotional material; how to set up an author page and put my books on Goodreads; and what happens on promotional blog tours. I’ve set up my Author page on Facebook, and even started using Instagram.

So. Many. Things!

And likely it will never end. That’s a lot to juggle, and I hear it gets worse (busier) after you’re published. Yikes! But I wouldn’t miss it for the world.  How about you?

How are you getting it all done?

My Top Five Blog Posts- Proof That Sex Still Sells

Obligatory Ab Shot

Obligatory Ab Shot

Well, it finally happened. After three years and almost one hundred blog posts, I hit the wall─I could not come up with a topic for my next blog post. Frankly, I’m surprised it took this long, proving you never know what you can accomplish until you try!

So I took a look at my stats to see what my all-time most popular posts were, hoping the muse would jump back into my lap(top), and the words would start flowing again. The results were telling, and also amusing.

Work vs. Fun

I’m no longer a newbie writer, but I never saw myself as an expert, either. So my blog posts about the writing and publishing business are from the perspective of my own journey, which I hope will help others to find their own path. In between those posts, I threw in some topics just for fun. Turns out, it’s those fun posts which have garnered the most views and shares, and continue to climb.

 

So here are the current stats on my Top Five All-Time blog posts (you can click through to read them, if you like):

 

What Is The Sexiest Piece of Clothing A Man Can Wear?                                                     2,439 views!!

Tattoos- As Important As Hot Abs on Heroes?                                                                           404 views

What Is It About Jamie Fraser?                                                                                                      373 views

Five Ways Writing Erotic Poetry Helps Romance Writers                                                        299 views

The Future of Romance Novel Cover Art- Are Hot Abs the New Bodice Rippers?               271 views

 

I’m still mystified why the first one, a light piece about men’s sexy clothing styles, is far and away the top post. There are photos of fully or partially clothed men in it, but all are tasteful. Apparently, many of you were curious about what clothes make a man look hot!

I Sensed A Theme…

There is a running theme with all five posts─sex.  Hot abs, sexy guys, even my all-time favorite fictional hero, Jamie Fraser of Outlander fame. Even the one piece specifically focused on writing skills is about erotic poetry. So, yes, sex still sells, or in this case, succeeds in gathering an audience.

More To Come…

I’m sure in the future I will have lots to say about fiction trends, the business of writing, and other important topics. But the steamy side of romance is still important to me, and it shows in my fiction work (which I hope to bring to the world very soon). So there will be also be posts like the ones above, where we just have fun and look at hot guys and talk about Book Boyfriends.  I believe balance is the key to everything!

So thanks for reading and following my blog. My goal is to be helpful and entertaining for many years to come.

And stayed tuned for the unveiling of my new Author Website, coming soon…

Do you have a blog?  What are your most popular posts?  I’d love to hear about it!

 

Becoming an Author-Entrepreneur- The First Steps

Empty Road At Sunset And Sign For Success In Blurred Motion

Want to find out if you’ve got what it takes to become an Author Entrepreneur?

I’m honored to be a guest on Jami Gold’s blog today, discussing the first steps to becoming an entrepreneur in the field of Indie publishing. It’s not as hard as you might think, but there’s still a lot to consider before you jump in.  And whether you are going with the traditional route of publishing, or self-publishing, chances are you will be handling many tasks on your own which require entrepreneurial skills.

Here’s the link to Jami’s blog: http://jamigold.com/2016/06/are-you-ready-to-be-an-entrepreneur-guest-renee-regent/

If you’ve never visited her blog before, you should─it’s always informative, but in a friendly, laid back way. Jami has a knack for digging through the layers of a subject, to find out why the topic matters. Her website has been designated as one of the 100 best Websites For Writers, in 2015. So, it is quite an honor to have my debut guest post on her blog!

If you are interested in the business side of writing, I plan to explore this topic more in the future, as I progress through the journey of my writing career.  As a lifelong entrepreneur, I am excited about the ever-expanding field of publishing, and hope you’ll join me. I’d love to hear of your experiences, too, so feel free to comment or drop me a line at reneeregent@yahoo.com.

 

 

 

Forget The Muse- You Need A Guardian To Become A Published Author

Don't interrupt the writer...

Don’t interrupt the writer…

As I write this, Twitter is ablaze with writers professing their excitement about attending the upcoming Romance Writers of  America national conference this July in San Diego. Registration just opened and #RWA16 is trending, and it’s stabbing me in the heart repeatedly.
I had planned to go this year, but financial issues and pesky life situations caused me to change my mind. I disappointed myself and my critique partner who wanted to go with me. She’s still speaking to me, but gives me dirty looks every now and then, and I can’t really blame her. (She won’t go alone). Though I know the conference provides invaluable knowledge and networking, I decided not to go because of the cost, in both money and time.
So Ironic
Why is it, when you finally decide to make your writing career a top priority, the universe or whatever higher power you believe in, picks that moment to throw everything else at you? All three books in my trilogy are written, and in various stages of editing, and my goal is to begin self-publishing them this year. I’ve started to line up all the other components I’ll need, for covers, my website, marketing, etc. I even set up my LLC, Royal Turtle Publishing. I’m coming down the home stretch, and my goal of being a published author is closer than ever.
But…
I’m an entrepreneur so my day job situation is erratic. Sometimes I have free time and sometimes I don’t. So chances are it will take up a good deal of my time in unpredictable ways. I’m also in a situation where I am likely to be moving and changing households in the next few months, with all the fun that entails. Add to that some volunteer work I committed to, and some major family drama that has occurred, and now I’m wondering if I will ever get my books to market!
I’m reminded of a quote I heard, attributed to J.K. Rowling: “Be ruthless about protecting your writing days, i.e. do not cave in to endless requests to have “essential” and “long overdue” meetings on those days.”
You have to guard your writing time fiercely. At least, that’s how it feels sometimes, doesn’t it? Last night I finally sat down to edit and lost count of how many phone calls and texts I was interrupted by. But that’s life- you can’t always run away to write, you have to fit it in. I would have turned off the phone, but I was expecting important calls that had to be attended to right away, so while waiting, I worked on my book.
Muse vs. Guardian
We talk so much about the Muse- that mystical part of us that inspires what we write. But there is so much battling for our attention these days- work, family, friends, social media, etc., that we also need a Guardian to make sure we sit down and do the work of being a writer, or whatever material the Muse gives us won’t ever get finished or published. It’s a long process from story idea to a finished product that can be published or submitted for publication, and we must fight every step of the way to get it done. Either life gets in the way of our writing work, or we get in our own way by procrastinating.
The bottom line is- changes or sacrifices must be made in order to make writing a priority. I have given up on my herb garden, and hire local kids to weed my yard for me. I don’t watch television as much as I used to, and housework, cooking, laundry and even shopping are either delegated or put off as long as possible. I don’t read for pleasure, except for a few pages here and there when I use the restroom (double duty, lol). I’d love to go to conferences like RWA16 or even on a long-overdue vacation, but I am giving those up so I will have time and money available to launch my books this year.
I’ve known people who want to write, but just never seem to fit in the time. I can’t make a judgement, not knowing their full situation, but I do know this- if you are passionate about writing and really want it, there is a way to find the time. It may mean you have to work on writing when you are mentally or physically wiped out from your other obligations, or work on a project in bits and pieces, but if you keep trying, keep pushing, keep fighting for the time and resources, you will eventually succeed. Try to do something, anything writing- related each day, to develop the habit. If you don’t become the Guardian of your own writing career, other obligations or distractions will continue take it from you.
It Never Ends
I’m learning how to make better use of my time, and what distractions I can eliminate. I enjoy my writing work much more than any of the pleasures or tasks I have let go of, so there is not much I miss. I do try to keep a balance, though, and spend quality time with my Hubby, friends and family when I can. The trick for me is finding what I can let go of in life order to push my writing career to the forefront as much as possible. With perseverance and a little luck, who knows? Maybe someday I’ll be able to quit the day job and have all the free time I need to pursue writing.
Yeah, even then, I’ll likely have to keep on fighting for time to write. I hear once you’re published, it gets even crazier, but…
Bring it on!
How do you fight for your writing time? What have you given up in order to write?