Fiction Blog, The Desertera Series, Writing Craft & Tips

Guest Post with Author Kate M. Colby #Desertera

My best writing tip? Give all your characters (major and minor) motivations. Read more on author Helen Jones’ blog!

Helen Glynn Jones

perf5.250x8.000.inddToday I’m very pleased to welcome author (and author-y friend!) Kate M. Colby to my blog. Kate has just released The Courtesan’s Avenger, the second book in her Desertera series (and if you haven’t read her first book, The Cogmsith’s Daughter, get yourselves a copy now!). Set in the steampunk world of Desertera, The Courtesan’s Avenger is a tale of murder, intrigue and justice – I can’t wait to read it 🙂

Today, Kate’s written an excellent post about character motivation, something she feels is key to good story-telling. There’s a lot of useful information here, so read through and let us know what you think in the comments. Take it away, Kate!

As an author, the question I get asked more than any other is: “What advice do you have for aspiring writers?” or some variation of it. With the release of my second novel, The Courtesan’s…

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Writing & Publishing Articles, Writing Craft & Tips

Five Tips for Writing a Series by Kate M Colby

Today, I’m featured on author Kate Evans’s blog, where I share advice on how to write a series. Check it out!

Scarborough Mysteries

I am very happy to welcome the author Kate M Colby to my blog with her tips for writing a novel series. Her new novel, The Courtesan’s Avenger, is out now:  Over to you Kate Colby…

Kate C photo Oct15I’ve always had difficulty thinking “small.” In school, I was the kid with good grades, a dozen extra-curricular activities, a part-time job, and a dedication to an outside sport. At my day job, I’m the person who always accepts extra projects or offers to help someone who is overworked. Why? I want to do it all.

The same goes for my writing. When I set out to write The Cogsmith’s Daughter, I knew one novel wouldn’t be enough. I loved the world and characters I had created. I couldn’t spend 90,000 words with them then just leave, never to return. No. Even though I had never written a novel before…

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Writing & Publishing Articles, Writing Craft & Tips

Happy Positive Thinking Day!

The origins of this holiday seem to be a bit murky. Legend has it that an entrepreneur founded it in 2003 to encourage others to overcome negative thinking. Whatever the origin, I’m always up for an excuse to celebrate and inject some positive vibes into the world – complete with cheesy images!

glass-300558_960_720Too often, we creative types succumb to negative thoughts. When you consider our introspective natures and the sensitive subjects with which we work, it makes sense. We put so much of ourselves into our craft, it’s difficult not to take things personally.

Today, whether you’re reading this on Positive Thinking Day or not, I challenge you to take a negative thought and reframe it in a positive way. The thought you choose will be personal to you, but here are a few that I’ve dealt with in my writing life:

Why even write a novel? It’s going to suck.
My first novel may not be my best, but I can always improve. (Longer pep talk here.)

Everything I write is garbage.
I’m still learning as an author, but at least I’m practicing my craft!

That author writes faster/has better books/earns better reviews/makes more sales than me.
That author is doing really well. What can I learn from them to improve my own writing? (More on dealing with jealousy here.)

I’m never going to make it as an author.
Overnight success is a myth. I can make it if I work hard, establish industry relationships, and learn to market myself and my work.

field-328962_1920I can’t write. I have writer’s block/am unmotivated/am tired/am busy.
I am taking a mental health break from my writing. I will return on [insert date] and write [insert goal]. In the meantime, I do what I must to unblock myself and I will not guilt myself. NOTE: This is not permission to procrastinate. There is a difference between caring for your health and laziness.

I have no idea what I’m doing. Any minute my readers will call me out as a fake.
Imposter syndrome is normal, and even big-name authors feel this way. As long as I’m still learning and improving, that’s all anyone can expect of me. (Here are a few mantras to beat imposter syndrome.)

I wrote one book. It was a fluke/failure.
If I wrote one book, I can write another. It will be even better, because I have grown as a writer. Next-to-no first books are break-out successes. I can become successful over time, with a respectable back list, strong writing, and smart business practices.

Still feeling negative? Here a few resources to help you out of your funk:

The Successful Author Mindset: A Handbook for Surviving the Writer’s Journey by Joanna Penn – I gave it 5 stars!
Why You Have to Be Your Biggest Fan – The Smarter Artist Podcast
25 Things That Will Definitely Make You Smile via Buzzfeed
40 Powerful Mantras to Help You Think Positive via Marc & Angel Hack Life

Writing & Publishing Articles, Writing Craft & Tips

Classic Writing Advice: Write Every Day

In this new series, I want to explore some of the classic writing advice given to authors and provide my opinions on and experiences with them. I don’t do this because I think I’m some brilliant writing authority – far from it. Rather, I’ve learned the most valuable writing lesson of all, one that you’ve probably heard, but that takes a long time to sink in:

There is no magic secret to writing. You just do it, and every writer does it differently.

writingBUT, even if you (logically) know this to be true, chances are you’ve Googled anyway (don’t be embarrassed – I still do it, too!). In those well-meaning search results, you’ve likely seen the golden nugget of writing advice: write every day.

A literal interpretation demands that you type/hand write/dictate new words every single day.

In theory, this is great advice. After all, even if you just write 250 words a day, over the course of a year that’s 91,250 words (about the length of my first novel).

If you are a beginning writer – without a finished manuscript – then I 100% agree with this advice. Your No. 1 priority should be practicing your craft and generating content. In fact, why don’t you go bang out your 250 words right now? It’ll be more useful to you than reading this post.

Now, what about us non-beginners? Those of us who have a completed book (or several)? Here’s where I start to disagree with “Write every day.”

I don’t know about you, but as a human, I have a demanding day job, a husband and cat, an active social life, and an apartment to upkeep. Finding time to type out those words can be really damn difficult. In any given day, I have between 45 minutes and 2.5 hours free to work on my author business.

And as an independent author, I mean B–capital IZ–ness. There’s a lot to do. I’m currently editing my second novel, plus writing and publishing a series of nonfiction booklets. Add in this blog, my author newsletter, social media, organizing promotional opportunities, emailing my cover designer … you get the point. There’s a lot of shit to do (I say “shit” lovingly – being an author really is the best job in the world to me).

So, can I find time to write every day? Yes. And you can, too. If you really simplify your schedule and overcome your laziness, you can write every single day. And we absolutely should. Every word we write makes us better.

targetBut do you HAVE to write every single day to be a successful author? I don’t think so. As long as you are editing, revising, writing your book description, or in some way putting art into the world and moving your project forward, then I say that’s A-O-K.

It all depends on your definition of success. When I defined success as writing new words every day, I considered myself a failure. Even while I was revising my first novel for publication, I kept saying, “Damn it, Kate! We have to start writing a new book! We suck!” I was blind to the fact that I WAS succeeding, because my end goal is publishing the fiction I write.

If your goal is to write for betterment or to finish that first manuscript, then please write every day. No exceptions. No excuses.

But if you have a finished book sitting on your hard drive, your goal is to publish said book, and you have very limited free time, for the love of Hemingway give yourself a break and do this instead: Move forward every day.

Editing counts. Revising counts. Outlining counts. Writing that dreaded book description counts.

The only thing that doesn’t count? Ignoring your book and denying the world your art.

There you have them, your marching orders. Now go move forward today.

Do you write new words every single day? How do you balance multiple projects at once? What are your daily writing or author goals?

Writing & Publishing Articles, Writing Craft & Tips, Writing Updates

What Can You Do in A Year?

cork popSo often, we gauge the passing of a year by the calendar, a birthday, or a wedding anniversary. Today, I want to mark a different kind of anniversary. One year ago today, I wrote a reflection post on my recent move to New Haven, Connecticut (I’d lived there eight days at the time). In it, I shared my initial impressions of the city, my concerns about living in a new place, and my hopes for the year to come. Now, I’d like to look back and share what wisdom I’ve gleaned for others.

When it comes to New Haven itself, I’ll be brief. My first post talked about the beautiful architecture, the (seemingly) tasty restaurants, and the various tourist attractions. They’re all still there, and all still great. I also mentioned the potential new friendships Daniel (my husband) and I had started growing, and I’m happy to report that they are strong and thriving. The drivers are still idiots. And most importantly, Thomas still loves his life as Supreme Ruler of the Apartment (see below).

A few new things? The divide between the Yale elite and the homeless is shocking and heartbreaking. The amount of street harassment I’ve faced is alarming (my formal apologies to any urban women I ever doubted on the issue). But there’s also a new ice cream shop that has the best farm-made ice cream I’ve ever tasted. So, you win some, you lose some, I guess. No city is perfect.

My biggest concern moving to New Haven was that I would lose my sense of self, that my identity would be pared down to “Daniel’s wife” and nothing else. Hey, Past Kate: We’re so much more than that. Yes, to some Yale acquaintances I’m just “Daniel’s wife.” But, to those same people, I’m very often “Daniel’s wife, the wine expert” (because expert is easier to grasp than copywriter). What else? I’m Thomas’s mother, a loyal friend to many new people, a budding wine enthusiast, a small business owner, and yes, an independent author.

thomas 2A year ago, I was putting the finishing touches on The Cogsmith’s Daughter (Desertera #1). I was thrilled about (and terrified of) what my indie publishing journey might bring. Now, I’m pretty much in the exact same place with The Courtesan’s Avenger (Desertera #2). Only this time, I’m thrilled for a new reason (the first novel I wrote wasn’t a fluke!) and scared for new reasons too (what if everyone who liked book one hates the sequel?!).

I want to take a minute to reach out to all the aspiring or small-time authors out there. While I hope beyond hope that you get the coveted “lucky break” and reach instant bestsellerdom, chances are, you won’t. And that’s okay. Everyone’s journey is different, and you can only do the best you have with the resources available to you. But, if you’re sitting at your computer, considering hitting PUBLISH on that first novel, here are just a few things that could happen to you in one small year, based on my experiences:

  • Meet dozens of new author friends and readers
  • Earn your first (of many!) five-star review
  • Earn your first (hopefully not of many) one-star review
  • Sign a book for a new fan
  • Have your book nominated for an award (more info to come)
  • Have your book selected for a monthly subscription box (more info to come)
  • Earn a few hundred dollars from book sales
  • See your book in a library or bookstore
  • Participate in online events
  • Have someone say, “Oh, right. You’re the author!”
  • Have your book taught in a university class
  • See your book proudly displayed on your parents’ coffee table
  • Write your next book

Maybe some of these will happen to you. Maybe you’ll reach even greater heights. But if one year ago you’d told me all this (and more!) would happen to me, I would have laughed in your face. It just goes to show, you never know what can happen in a year.

Stay focused on your goals. Work those extra hours. And most importantly, keep writing.

Aspiring authors: what is one goal you have for your first year of publication? Published authors: what is one awesome thing that happened within your first year of publication? Share your experiences in the comments.