Tools of the Trade


I get a lot of questions about writing like, “How do I get published?” or “Who’s your publisher?” They are getting ahead of themselves. First off, write; learn your craft. There is nothing like writing a book. Some will advise to write newsletters or anything. Those are good intentions, but writing a book is different. It takes lots of research, creativity, staying on task and maybe plotting while managing yourself. Treat this like another job or career. (No, you don’t need to quit your full-time job to write a book. Some do. But many authors keep their day job as an accountant, doctor or lawyer.) Write everyday if you can. Write down a schedule, keep to it and write when you’re inspired. Write down all ideas before they blow away.

Work on your craft by joining a writing group. They will have guest writers, publishers and editors, even a representative from a social media platform like Goodreads. They will speak on topics like linguistics, how to find your voice, how to build internal and external conflict in your characters, whether you should publish traditionally or e-pub, some authors will show how much money they have made on each book, a Goodreads representative spoke about utilizing their resource with ads and giveaways and the list goes on. Check your local library for writing groups that may meet there. If you are in a remote area Yahoo! Groups has many writing groups. Yahoo! Groups has classes that are specific to genre or more general like how to arrange sentences so you don’t bore the reader or yourself. RWA has classes through Yahoo! Groups. Sometimes a class is free for members or $20 or $40. Just don’t pay a lot of money to join a group. An annual fee for RWA is $95 and then each chapter charges a different fee for their monthly meeting which is about $10.

RWA rocks. You do have to be 18 and have some romance in your writing to join, but you don’t have to be a member to come to the meeting. You will just pay maybe $20 a meeting. I’ve heard of people paying thousands of dollars just to read their manuscript to a group of strangers who don’t critique in a helpful manner. There is no need for that. This is where it does come in handy to write for a newspaper, magazine, print or online because an editor will make changes that maybe you didn’t see. All you need is a family member or friend whom you trust and value their opinion and who has some kind of love for grammar and reading. And only give your best cleaned up writing to someone who is on your side. Also, give your best to the editor. In an article titled Are You crippling Your Critique Partner? in the April 2013 issue of Romance Writers Report (RWR) Jennifer Blackstream writes, “Your critique partner is not there to do your work for you, and part of your work is self-edits.”

Work toward writing five days a week or more if possible up to 3,000 words a day. (Don’t feel terrible. Some of us are happy to get 500 words of clean writing in a day.) Now for the business side.

You have to have a presence on the “Great Interweb” which I am probably one of the few who complained about it. Or at least I am one of the few to admit it. I like my privacy and would rather focus on writing, but there are some really cool tools for you that will put you in touch with some really awesome people. So, now I like blogging because it’s like a café and magazine.

Recently, a woman came to a meeting and asked, “Why blog?” She said she had nothing to say and yet she had plenty to say like most writers do when we get together. A book is 80,000 words so I think you do have something to say. You probably have strong beliefs and opinions like most writers. You must have a hobby, a dog, a cat or recipes to share. Maybe you have a sense of humor. We could use more funny in our lives. Writers will say don’t write about writing and yet I will find myself reading author blogs on, you guessed it, writing. Blogging teaches you a skill that you may use in another setting. It’s never a bad thing to learn new computer skills. Your blog will also put you in touch with like-minded people from all over the world. You’ll learn from other bloggers whether contacting them or checking out their blog. It did take me about eight hours to, write one article, take a photo and transfer it to my computer and then post my first post. Don’t worry. They have an edit bottom.

Speaking of new computer skills many writers use Scrivener. You can do the tutorial for 30 days of use. Many of the older crowd in my writing group are a bit apprehensive to learn it. I’ve been doing the tutorial and find it easy, but boring. I told my Renaissance Man it would be better if there were a voice taking me through the tutorial, but he said then they would have to hire someone to do—something technical is what came out of Renaissance Man’s mouth­—which would hike the price of Scrivener to $120 possibly. He said to be thankful they are giving me what they are giving me for $40. Okay. I still like Microsoft Office better, but I’ll try Scrivener. Oh and playwrights can use it too. It formats for that. Which makes me dream and think if my book becomes a movie then I can reformat in Scrivener. Now, I’m getting ahead of myself.

If you still don’t want to blog there’s Twitter and Facebook. I’ve heard NYT and USA Today Bestselling Romance Author Catherine Bybee say, “Blogging is out. Facebook is the new blog.” Most writers in my group are on one or both. Fans tend to like to message authors on FB according to author Lisa Kessler in an article titled What Readers Wish Writers Knew about Social Media in RWR September 2013 edition. As for me, I don’t have a FB page, never will. I don’t trust it. Twitter is defined as microblogging. One author says she sees it as more linear than FB. She says she gets a little raunchier on Twitter than on FB and her fans know it or expect it.

Pinterest is so adorable if you like to show your collection of succulents. (Seriously, I’m not being sarcastic.) Heather Bennett, Editor of Decadent Publishing loves Pinterest. She said authors should have their books on there.

I love Goodreads. It is so easy to use. And so easy to set up. Click on twenty books you like and recommendations will be shown based on your taste. You can make friends and read their recommendations. Try it. If you review a book sometimes authors will send a thanks, so I’m told. It definitely is a great place for readers and authors to talk about their favorite books and make a connection. It’s also a great place to promote your book like I mentioned above.

Authors are all over the internet. They use all forms of social media. Now that I have mentioned many ways to get your name out there before you publish I for one will not be on all those platforms. Why? Because of privacy issues. And, managing writing, social media—I enjoy and life is enough. So choose wisely.

Another thought that crossed my mind in my book writing career is the name of my business. I asked Contemporary Romance Author Anne Kemp if I should use my name or a different title for my social media. She likes to use her name because it’s her brand. I have found it to be sound advice. Unless you are writing erotica then you may need a non de plume.

Keep writing and if one platform doesn’t work for you move on to another. The point is to write the best book you can at that moment and when it’s published your fans have somewhere to find you.

Guest Author Anne Cleeland


From Anne Cleeland comes the second book in her Regency adventure series—Daughter of the God-King. The daughter of world-famous Egyptologists is living an uneventful life in England until her parents disappear while working their latest find in the Valley of the Kings.  Suddenly, the various factions from Napoleon’s last war are pursuing her, and she must travel to Egypt to unravel the mystery.  Along the way, she meets her parents’ enigmatic agent, who also appears to be pursuing her—although his reasons may be more personal than professional.  What secret is buried in the tomb of the God-King’s daughter?  The answer will change her life forever, and could set the world ablaze in yet another war.

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1. What prompted you to start writing books?

I’ve always loved to read, and I think most readers toy with the idea of writing a book someday.  My someday came when I looked in the mirror and asked myself if I was going to regret never at least giving it a try.  I encourage everyone who’s been putting it off to give it a try, too—you may surprise yourself.  Now I would rather write than read.

2. How did the idea of Tainted Angel come about?

I’ve read about a million Regency romances, which are set in the early 1800’s.  One of my friends liked them too, but she complained that the plots were always too predictable, and she wished someone would write Regency adventure stories instead.   I thought this was a good idea, and set out to do it.  My favorite stories are where an ordinary heroine is swept up in dire events, and so that’s usually what I write.

3. Have you ever been to London?

I have, I went last year for the Historical Novel Society meeting, which was a lot of fun because there are authors from every era, from ancient Mesopotamia to World War II.  For me, it was a lot of fun to wander around the Mayfair District and see the places you’ve read about so many times.

4. Did London inspire Tainted Angel? Or any of your books?

London definitely inspired my contemporary mystery series, which is set in New Scotland Yard.  There’s something about the way the British solve their crimes—they are always understated and well-dressed when dealing with death and mayhem.

5. A couple of times you mention in Tainted Angel“… without the war chest there is no war.”In your research on Napoleonic Wars did you see similarities in the U.S.’ conflicts or the U.S.’ financial predicament?

Hopefully no one’s eyes will glaze over, but this is true of nearly any war since the beginning of time—the side with the most funding usually wins.  In particular, 1814 France was desperately broke, and England was still solvent, mainly because it instituted an income tax to pay for the war.

The confederacy in the US civil war had a similar problem—war is expensive and if one side is more industrialized, they are more likely to win. An army has to be fed and paid, and usually the side with the best quality weapons will prevail.

Each of these books is about a treasure hunt; the villains are Napoleon’s supporters, who are in a quest to find treasure to support the war, and the heroes are trying to thwart them.

6. How do you go about your research? Do you research before writing a first draft or draft first then research?

I start out with the understanding that the story will be set in 1814, so I have to check to see what was going on in the country where the story will be set.  In Daughter of the God-King, for example, I discovered that Napoleon conquered Egypt in the early 1800’s and was fascinated with the newly-discovered tombs of the pharaohs.  This fascination then became a major part of the plot.

7. You mentioned you do not write in order of chapter or linearly. Do you write the scenes that inspire you first and write around those events?

Usually, I wander around in search of a plot—I’m not very good at plotting. Instead, I write scene-to-scene, like I’m watching a movie.  Sometimes I know what the climactic scene will be beforehand, but sometimes I don’t.  Somehow, it all works out.

8. What do you like to read? Do you have favorite genre?

I’ve always loved mysteries best, I think, but romances are a close second, and I also like science fiction and fantasy.  I’m a big fan of historical mysteries, like the Gaslight Series by Victoria Thompson or Carola Dunn’s Daisy Dalrymple series. Nothing too grisly, and I always like a strong romantic element.

Thanks Anne. Your answers made me chuckle and also gave me more insight into your novels. I’m sure my readers will find this of value. I can’t wait to read your next book in the Regency adventure series—Daughter of the God-King—out November 5, 2013. ~Melissa