You’ve heard it before… You can’t write, if you don’t read.

June 30, 2013

It’s the truth!

cross my heart

Cross my heart!

Whether you like what you read, or the novel is a wall-banger/quick-click-archive (and you resist throwing your e-reader)… Reading is the only way you’re going to stay on top of your game in the publishing industry.

Beyond knowing what’s hot and what’s not, you learn from Every. Single. Author.

I read THREE books between Friday evening and today. (Yes, I just closed THE END on the third book at o’dark thirty this morning and I’ll HATE myself for staying up this late. And maybe I should have been writing instead. BUT…)


Here’s what I took away from reading…

Book 1: (And no, I’m not naming books/authors, because I’m not an asshat.)

I loved book 1’s author’s voice. I really did. It was engaging, fun, very true. Because of her amazing grasp on voice, I had to remind myself to to make sure my writing was as fun and engaging as hers was. But come about chapter 5, I found myself skimming, hard-core. The pace lagged. The characters started acting out of, well character. The premise was intriguing, and I finished the book, but I saw fatal flaws that could make a reader second guess buying another book.


Lesson one from this read? Remember my characterization and pacing.

Book 2:

I’m not going to go into great detail, but the plot holes were big enough for the Starship Enterprise to side-swipe through, with a full 360, without fear of damage.


Yeah, it was that insane.

The worst part was, I think this author had the mechanics of characterization nailed. I mean, really NAILED. The hero was to-die-for! Sweet in the right moments, sexy in others, tough when he needed to be – and sometimes when he didn’t. Alpha male to the max. The whole freakin’ package. Which made the plot issues  that much more damaging. Will I buy again? Maybe. But it reminded me of the color coordination fellow Musetracker, Marie Claude-Bourque, uses to make sure she’s using everything in her writing. When she goes through her manuscript, she uses a color for emotion, a color for action, a color deep POV, a color for setting, a color for plot… Everything has a color so she can see what’s missing/wrong and needs work. This author would have benefited from using a color theme for her plot, because from beginning to end, a reader has to understand the mechanics moving each character.

Lesson two: PLOT! If it has a great big black hole, it ain’t workin’.

Book 3:

I. Want. To. Be. This. Author.

She nailed it from page one to the very last page and left me wanting more. I not only read this novel in record time, but I immediately went to her Goodreads page and reviewed it, then traveled to her webpage and drooled over the next books I wanted on my TBR pile. Even better (for her)… I bought one of her novels and started it ahead of others. The only thing that stopped me from reading was the fact that I had a blog post to do.

don't wanna


Do you carve out time for writing?

If you don’t… To the corner with you!


Happy writing/reading!


This is why I do what I do.

April 18, 2013

No writer has ever said it enough, or will ever say it enough!

Thank you to the multitude of peeps out there who take the time to review our work.


It still amazes me, and I hope it always will, when I get a review. If it ever gets old, I truly think that’s when I’ll stop writing. Good or bad, I’m up for the challenge. Every single person has different opinions, and I’m willing to hear them all.

Does a negative review hurt? SURE!


No more than an honest critique though. And I have some awesome crit partners who aren’t afraid of telling me when I’m not doing my job!


But good or bad, there is something incredibly inspiring, energizing and rewarding by being in a position to receive critiques. As writers, we work our butts off to create something we hope everyone will love. Having it out in the world is both intimidating and gratifying at once. Having someone weigh in…priceless.

A good review though, can make any hard stuff go away.

So thanks!

Thanks for good reviews, bad reviews, and everything in between. Thanks for being a reader. Without you, where would we (as writers) be?

This is my youngest… Had to share. Reading is what every single person should be doing!


Happy reading or writing! And I’ll see you all on Saturday for Editor Shop!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Is your manuscript ever, really, ready?

February 3, 2013

I know… It’s almost 11:00pm on a Sunday night. I SHOULD be sleeping…


I usually post on Sundays and I totally flaked today. I have an excuse, and it’s a good one. It is NOT that my dog ate my homework.

I’ve been busy editing a 86K novel in less than 48 hours!

WHY? you ask.

Because when a publisher asks to see your manuscript, the world around you halts. And it’s okay!

Really. It’s okay. Give yourself a break!


Everything in our lives can stop because of other commitments, other responsibilities, other holy-crap moments. Why not for writing?

I don’t care how many times that manuscript has been edited. There is always something else to fine-tune, something to delete, something to fix. Even after your book comes out, you can find things that make you cringe, or you wished you’d built up more, or even wish you’d made more important.

It is, what it is.

But while editing, I found that I had to be very careful. In the search for perfection, I was losing my voice. I was editing out me. It’s important to remember NOT to edit out our own voices. In the grind to make a manuscript as enticing as they can be, sometimes we OVER edit.

Don’t lose your voice. It’s what sets you aside as an author. It’s what makes you – well – you.

And let’s face it. We all want our work to be as good as it can be, but we also want to stand out from the crowd.


We now return you to your regularly scheduled program… 🙂

Happy reading and writing everyone.


Keep It Real – by Candi Wall

November 3, 2012
“That willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith.” – Samuel Taylor Coleridge
That’s right. As writers of fiction, we’ve set ourselves the task of making our readers believe a complete fabrication as the truth.
Oxymoron much?
But there it is none the less. It’s our job to make it possible for a reader to choose to ignore what they know is the truth and put their trust in us to deliver an amazing product that they won’t hate us for after. And let’s face it, when we put our faith in something that lets us down, we usually don’t give it another chance. As a matter of fact, that product, its producer and any reminder of such becomes a bit of a dirty word. We might not malign it, but we certainly aren’t going to pass it on to our friends either. Death of said product…
Suspension of disbelief is a friend to any writer. But making it work for us can be difficult. Some may think paranormal or sci-fi genres have it even tougher, but the truth is, if you’re writing fiction, you’re playing in Coleridge terms. Like it or not. It’s up to you to write the unbelievable in a way that makes it believable. Or to clarify, make it good enough that your audience is willing to mute the portion of their brain that’s all but screaming bullshit. Keeping that mute button on is OUR job.
And it’s not easy. People are smart. (Yes, I know. I didn’t mean ALL of them.) Think of how quickly you question what you read, see or hear. Sorry to say it, but the same thing happens when a reader is engrossed in a book and the author makes too quick of a jump into fantastical. Readers can be pretty forgiving and even when they suspend disbelief intentionally and willingly accept that your hero is a vampire from page one, if you decide three chapters in, to try and con them into believing he was captured by aliens who turned him into a vampire, you’re going to have some serious shaking of the suspension bridge.
So here are some thoughts as you plot, pantser, edit or stew….
  • Build your world as you go – Layers and details help a reader fully engage in your world where more things than they ever thought possible, are possible. World-building is key to suspension of disbelief whether you’re writing a small town cowboy, a pirate on the high seas, or a shape shifter who fights other creatures at the back door of human society.
  • Keep it consistent – This example from Media College is stellar! ” There are many things about the Star Trek universe which are basically impossible in the real world, but because Star Trek makes an effort to work consistently within its own universe, the stories become believable. For example, as long as you’re willing to accept that the Galaxy is mostly populated by humanoids then there is nothing within the series that will break the believability.”
  • Put truth in your writing. Readers have to be able to believe to be willing to suspend their disbelief. Readers want to be entertained, so they come willing to suspend judgement. Don’t forget the grounding factors of realism so your readers will have something to relate to.
  • Remember that each action has to have a reaction, from your character – not YOU. Author’s tend to insert their own thoughts and feelings in their writing. Readers need to learn and live this world and its incredible developments through the character’s POV. Your character is the vessel through which your readers see and experience what’s happening. Readers can only see, hear, or feel what the characters POV allows them to experience.

Suspension of disbelief is what readers offer the writer.

What we offer back is a period of time where the reader can lose themselves in another world, time, or place. A break from reality. A good book to curl up with.

Don’t give them a reason to find something else to occupy their time.

Happy writing!

As Good As The First Time… by Candi Wall

October 28, 2012

My Bliss Track for the week – Watching my children jump in the huge pile of leaves we spent hours raking.

My Bitch Track for the week – Why is there always that one person at a party that has to get so drunk no one else can have a good time?

So hubby and I went to dinner the other night at a restaurant we’ve loved since the day it opened. The first time we went, we sat in our chairs, having food-gasms over everything from the wine and salads to the HUGE prime rib that covered his plate. I had steak tips, sautéed onions and mushroom and a slightly spicy rice pilaf. I ended with a huge slice of cheesecake and hubby had the molten lava chocolate explosion thingy.

Let’s just say, we just about rolled our overstuffed selves out the door.

I was satisfied. I was hooked. I was coming back for more.

Then a funny thing started happening. We don’t eat out very often, but around our fourth visit, we noticed the servings weren’t as large. The lettuce wasn’t as finely chopped or fresh. The ultra thin curls of Parmesan cheese that used to top my caesar salad were just crumbles instead. We ate and left satisfied – somewhat. But it wasn’t the mind-blowing, euphoric satisfaction we used to gain from this restaurant.

And instead of screaming out this restaurant’s name the next time we went out, we questioned if we wanted to go there or if we wanted to try somewhere new!

Ruh roh Raggy.

Then – as with everything – I started thinking about writing. About how often this happens with authors I fall head-over-heels in love with. And how easy it could be to become lazy.

When the restaurant owner opened the doors, he/she had passion in their heart. They were pouring everything they had into the endeavor. They were willing to spends HOURS and HOURS perfecting what they were going to give to the public. Sound familiar? Then, over time, the restaurant gained a following. “They love me! They really love me!”

So what happened then? COMPLACENCY.

Complacency can kill a restaurant, and it can kill a writing career. Don’t let your characters wilt. Don’t downsize the intensity or conflict. Don’t rush to give a product  that might make your readers think about going elsewhere. Remember, as you perfect your craft and write more and more novels, to keep writing with your heart. Keep writing with the passion and drive that you had when you first started out. Yes, as we write and learn and become more sure of our talents, we can complete a novel faster and cleaner, but in doing so, it’s easy to lose the passion that drew our readers in the beginning.

There’s the thought for the day. Write with the drive and passion you had when you started out. Make it as good as the first time, and you won’t have to worry about your readers going elsewhere to eat!

The Drill Sergeants Of Prose!

May 31, 2012

The difference between the right word and the nearly right word is the same as the difference between lightning and the lightning bug. ~ Mark Twain


You’ve sat at your computer for several months, even years, and you finally have a product you think is ready to publish. You’ve even had friends and family read your manuscript and they say it’s good to go. Some of you have also taken the extra step of working with critique partners to revise and polish your pages. Good for you! Unfortunately, that’s where the majority of writers stop before they press the publish button or send it off to agents and editors. No matter the road you’ve chosen to publication, there’s another step you should consider.

While your friends and critique partners can provide valuable insight and catch many mistakes, they are not the same as using a professional copy editor. These folks can do amazing things to your manuscript to bring it to the level it should be before a story is published. Wikipedia states, “The ‘five Cs” summarize the copy editor’s job: Make the copy clear, correct, concise, complete, and consistent. Copy editors should make it say what it means, and mean what it says.” Isn’t this what we all want?

A good copy editor will look for grammar, spelling, punctuation and sentence structure mistakes. This is the key to not letting your reader get distracted by basic errors. They will also check for consistent verb usage and for the consistency of tone and mood. If something doesn’t make sense or they think your accuracy might be in question, they will point that out as well. A good copy editor will get rid of extraneous or over used words, sharpen your paragraphs to a point and will even delete sections if they don’t make sense or add value to the story. In short, they are the drill sergeants of prose!

There are several things to check before you enter into an agreement with a person to do this job for you. They should have an excellent command of language and be able to spot factual errors. (This means that if they are not familiar with your subject, they will take the time to look something up if they don’t feel it’s accurate.) They should also have good critical thinking skills so they can spot inconsistencies in your manuscript and have good interpersonal skills to communicate their thoughts with you. They should be able to do all of this and still not change your voice and the heart of your book. That’s a tall order.

Check their web site for an editing philosophy, client list, resume, and affiliations with professional groups. If this type of information isn’t on their site, contact them and ask about their work process, rates, time frames and if they have different levels of editing based on what you need there and then. This may sound like a lot of work on your part, but why would you trust your blood, sweat, and tears to a person you didn’t take the time to vet?

A good copy editor should offer to take a few pages as a trial run to see if you are compatible with each other. This protects both sides of the coin. They don’t want to get stuck with a writer who has serious issues and the writer doesn’t want to get stuck with someone who tries to change too much or can’t pick a misspelled word out of a sentence. This trial run should also be done for free or for a small amount of money. The sample should be around five pages so it shouldn’t run into any substantial kind of money. Do not hire someone if they want to change things to the point where your unique voice is unrecognizable. Do not hire the person if you question some of the changes and their response is defensive or cold. Run away as fast as you can. This is a partnership which should be collaborative and supportive. However, by the same token, don’t hire the editor who strokes your ego and only tells you how fantastic you are. They should be honest and willing to offer their authentic insight on how to make your book better

I might want to stroke this writer’s ego!

Once you’ve found the right person, you can expect a written description of the steps involved in the project. This, my friends, is called a contract. Make sure you have one. This way there is no mistaking the expectations on both sides.

MuseTracks Link of the Week – Editing

April 24, 2012

Here’s a cool link. Pro Writing Aid is a great companion to any writer’s toolkit. This handy-dandy site is software that edits writing. It gives reports on overused word, sentence variation, cliches, redundancies, repeated words and phrases, alliterations, pacing, and much more. Just paste in your text and Wha-lah! You’ll see the areas needing improvements.

Free editing software

Check it out and see if it works for you.

Do You Want To Make Money? Help Yourself!

April 12, 2012


Write your first draft with your heart.  Re-write with your head.  ~From the movie Finding Forrester



Do I want to write as a business?


This is a question that has plagued my brain for quite awhile. I’m so very lucky because I don’t depend on writing for a viable source of income and that’s a luxury. I recognize that. While I struggle with wondering whether I want to put a passion to work, I’ve learned some very important things that an author should understand if they want to make a go in this industry.


The first thing to ask yourself is if you know your genre. I know a lot of you are shaking your head and telling me to start with something a bit more advanced. I’d like to, but too many authors haven’t studied their genre well enough and make basic mistakes that turn off readers. Have you read books written in the same vein as yours? Do they sell well? What aspects of one book make it a better seller than another? Are there things that readers come to expect and love in that genre? Is it in your book? I know we all want to write about the things we love, but let’s face it, if your book is about something that has a very narrowed window of interest, you might have a tough time making it into a viable seller.


I started this journey wanting to write a category romantic suspense, but my characters wouldn’t let me keep the story within the confines of a category book. (At the time, I didn’t even know it was called “category” and that it had all those rules attached to it!) I seem to write bigger suspense/thriller types of stories and with the encouragement of many people who read my pages, I started to swing towards all out non-romantic suspense. There was a problem. I didn’t read that type of book.


After jumping in and raiding my husband’s book collection, I discovered two things. Those books were awesome and I didn’t want to write one. I liked the stories, but I always found myself wanting more romance infused into the book. I finally came upon writers like Brenda Novak, Roxanne St. Claire, and Allison Brennan who wrote big suspense with a romantic thread running through the stories. I’m also happy to say that they sell quite nicely. Know yourself. Know your market. Do your homework.


Not all of you will agree with my next assertion. You need to spend money to make money. Spend some money on a professional editor and for a professional design of your book cover. Begin with your critique partners, have some beta readers give you feedback and then send your work to an editor. It will cost money, but it should be money well spent if you get a reputable editor. Don’t ever, ever, ever rely on just yourself to edit your work. I can almost guarantee that you will not have a polished product.


If you want your book to be placed next to a professionally published book and the reader not be able to distinguish any difference between the quality of the two, then find a cover designer. Unless you have a degree in marketing and are a computer genius, you will be able to spot a homemade cover a mile away. I believe this is almost more important in the virtual world of selling than in the real world. All you have to capture their attention right off the bat is that tiny picture showing up on their screen. Spend the money- make it professional. I know an author who put her book up for sale with a cover she put together for little to no money. It wasn’t bad, it was actually quite attractive until you compared it to others professionally done in her genre. Despite that, sales were fair and then she hired a designer and re-published the book with its new cover. Sales soared and she started receiving fan mail. Does a cover make that much difference? YES!!!!!


Once there’s a refined, sleek looking product the author needs to publish it. You have two choices at this point. You can hire a company that will do the work for you or you can educate yourself and do it. Most of my friends are doing this part themselves and saving money. If you don’t think this is for you, there are many companies willing to take your money. Some are quite reasonable and others will charge you a huge amount. It’s just like anything else. Do your homework and research the options. I’m of a mind that if you can figure it out, then give it a try.


This is the beginning of the business part. Are you still with me? Are you scared? Are you excited? The next two weeks will be spent talking about marketing, looking at actual authors’ numbers, and can you truy make a living doing this?


** Spoiler Alert** Yes, you can! It takes research, trial and error, and a whole lotta chutzpa. 

Link Of The Week

March 20, 2012

Are you short on critique partners? Do you just not want to share your writing yet, but need some kind of feedback? Well, I’ve got a site made for you! Check this out-

The Twelve Days Of Writing Elves

December 22, 2011

“Never allow yourself to become one of those people who, when they are old, tell you how they missed their chance.”
Author, Claire Ortega

 By: Stacey Purcell

 Merry Christmas to all of our Muse Track readers! It’s hard to believe another year has come and gone so quickly.

I believe that, besides getting older, we fill our days so full, there’s hardly room to breathe. The Christmas season is a microcosm of that idea. We pack three months of activities into one and we expect to be merry and productive on top of that. Wow! That is a tough road- especially if you are the creative sort.

I have a confession to make.

I am not able to write on command. I don’t seem to have mastered the idea that you simply have to be disciplined everyday and the words will come. I understand the principle, try to employ it, but if the creative juice is not there- then it just isn’t there.

This month with all the parties, family flying in and out, shopping, cooking, cleaning etc., I’m finding it especially hard to get words down on paper. So what do I do? If my novel set in Costa Rica with lost treasure, drug cartels, small portable nuclear arms and wild romance won’t flow from my fingertips, I go back to my Twelve Days of Writing Elves to keep the creativity from getting rusty. (Those Elves have gotten me through many holidays and back on track.)

  1. Elf 1 says- Find a holiday writing prompt and write a scene about 500 words. I borrowed this one from Writer’s Digest: Christmas Ghost
    While hanging up your Christmas lights, you are flagged down by a neighborhood kid who offers to help. As he helps you, he tells you about the Christmas ghost that haunts his house. What’s odd is that you’ve noticed the same things happening around your house. Write this scene.
  2. Elf 2 says- What is your voice? Do you like to write in short staccato sentences or are you more flowing? Are you spontaneous? Or more methodical? Our voice is ultimately what comes out of us. Do you have a writer that you really admire? Do you like their voice? Take a few pages from your book and try to re-write it using their voice, their style. You might be surprised at what comes from this exercise.
  3. Elf 3 says- Take an emotion that is commonly written about- let’s say “gut wrenching”. Now dig deeper and create a list of different, deeper, ways of making this emotion tangible. (Thank you Donald Maas for this one.) Take a trip out of the surface emotions into unchartered waters. Your writing will be better!
  4. Elf 4 says- Create 5 new titles for your current WIP. What elements will you choose to highlight? How does it “color” your book differently?
  5. Elf 5 says- Write the top ten things that must happen in your book before you put in the final period. Even if you are a pantster like me, you should be able to make this list. Use it as a road map or a check off list. (Thank you Will Graham for this brilliant idea.)
  6. Elf 6 says- Read two chapters out of a new craft book. Write down 3 things you just learned. Post it by your computer, and try using those items the next time you write on your WIP.
  7. Elf 7 says- Get your writing buddies on board and do a page swap. No editing, no rewriting to prepare it for others to read. Just swap the last page you all wrote for FUN- only for FUN!!
  8. Elf 8 says- Take an experience your character will have and try to experience it yourself. If they are eating oatcakes from a medieval feast, then prepare some yourself. If they are in a rain forest, try going into a steam room fully clothed and do some kind of activity. If they are going to shoot a gun, go to a firing range and try it out. Use all of your senses!
  9. Elf 9 says- Use the timer that was given in Link of The Week (Tuesday) and do a 5 minute brain storming session on finding a $1000 poker chip from the 1960s behind a loose board in a boarding house you just bought to remodel into a B and B. (Again- thanks Will Graham.)
  10. Elf 10 says- Take 5 chapters and search for comfort words. Start off with “just” and “that”. You can highlight all of them with the push of a button and try eliminating as many as possible. Easy way to improve your chapters!
  11. Elf 11 says- Read a book. That’s it- just read a good book.
  12. Elf 12 says- Press the power button on your computer, scoot your chair away from your desk and walk out of the room. Never, never forget this is a time for celebrating family and friends. Enjoy them. Revel in your time together. Find peace and contentment in this season. The book will still be there next week.

May your Christmas be happy, healthy, and full of wonder. Merry Christmas!