Glutton for Punishment? by Candi Wall

October 11, 2012

I was up late last night. Thinking. Biting my nails. Refreshing the six different tabs I had up on my computer. My ARC of Primitive Nights staring back at me all but screaming for my attention.

But I couldn’t focus. Why?

Because it’s the final day of voting in Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write contest. Yep, I entered. What’s wrong with me?

Why would I put myself through the stress? I went to bed with my mind buzzing from all I had accomplished through the day, what I hadn’t accomplished, a new book idea, the laundry I needed to fold… Well, you get the picture. But when I woke up this morning, all I could think was, ‘Why do we do this to ourselves?’

Are we gluttons for punishment?

We pour our hearts and souls into every word we write. We send our work out knowing we’ll receive rejection. And it doesn’t matter if it’s self-pubbing, agent hunting, or contests. All venues have the potential for failure or rejection. We spend hours building our online presence, telling the world who we are, and all the while, we’re surrounded by the possibility of failure. And we do fail.

You’d think that would be enough to make us throw in the towel.

But not us. NO! Not writers. We’re crazy that way.

It took me two seconds of thought (and a healthy dose of caffeine) to decide why I do what I do.

Here’s my top ten:

  1. I HAVE to write. Seriously. I think my brain would swell and ooze out of my ears if I didn’t dump my ideas onto paper.
  2. There’s little that compares to typing THE END
  3. The people I meet. I met some of my dearest friends in the writing world.
  4. The support that’s out there! Our government could take a page from the writing world…
  5. Failure is just a small backward step on the road to success, and each step back taught me how to leap forward.
  6. Because if I wasn’t a writer, I couldn’t have Twitter conversations about twitching penises. (True story)
  7. I live vicariously through the success of my fellow writers. It keeps me dreaming…
  8. No matter how hard I fall, other writers are there to pick me up again.
  9. Because someday, I want a fan to say, “Your book touched me.”
  10. I’ll be gone someday. My art will forever be a part of history…

And of course, that one success can wipe away all the pain that came first…..

So tell me. Why do you put yourself through it? Why do you write?


Dating Myself- Finding The Joy In Writing Again

May 10, 2012

Every blade of grass has its Angel that bends over it and whispers, “Grow, grow.”       The Talmud


How many of you sit at your computer and stare at a blank screen? Perhaps you have words on said blank screen, but you know it’s total crap.

I would suggest you go on a date with yourself.

Julia Cameron, who is a noted Hollywood screenwriter and director, wrote The Artists Way. It is a gem of a book. I’ve pulled it back off my shelves because I desperately need to do something different if I ever want to get back on track to being creative.

Before I begin with the meat of this article, I’d like you to get to know me a tiny bit so you can see that the writers here at Muse Tracks are the same as all of you struggling to find the road (and stay on it) to being an author.

Well, here goes…

I am a dabbler. I have a closet full of pencil sketches from copies of Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings to pen and ink creations of my own imagination. I have watercolor paintings stacked at my mother’s house I dabble in textile arts and have woven, crosstitched, needlepointed, and even threaded fabrics through my paintings. I love to paint walls and decorate- my house is an ever changing canvas. Photographs clog the memory banks of my computer. Cooking is a total creative outlet for me and travel feeds my soul. Through all of this dabbling, I have learned quite a bit about the arts and am a lover of museums and artists from all walks.

While I’m a dabbler at all those things and have had varying successes at them, I consider them fun endeavors. It really doesn’t matter if I’m any good at them or not. I simply create.

Did you notice something missing?

I never once mentioned writing. I realized this while I was talking to a friend of mine the other day. We were talking about things we enjoyed and writing wasn’t on the list. He questioned me about its absence. I couldn’t answer him during that conversation, but it’s been waddling around in my head like a drunk duck ever since.

The Artists Way is a wonderful book that first and foremost gives us permission to be creative. It empowers us to delve into the fanciful, explore the beauty and remember that we are not whole if we deny this side of our being. (OK- I now officially feel like Earth Mother holding up a peace sign.) However artsy and spiritual this book may sound, the message is one that I believe everyone should hear. Is it fear, guilt, jealousy, or some other force that limits your beliefs in yourself? What causes you to self-sabotage? (My specialty) We have our own unique answers built on our own unique lives. Julia Cameron provides exercises that offer ways to inhibit the roadblocks we throw up for ourselves.

One of my favorites is dating myself. Basically, the advice is to spend time with ourselves nurturing and refilling the well of creativity.  Tomorrow I will attempt to have a date with myself all day. There will be no TV, no computer, no radio, no electronics of any type, no books- just me. The day will be spent in my garden, sitting on my back porch with a pad and paper, and visiting with my friends. I might go to an artist’s shop to wander the aisles or I might drive up to my brother’s lake house and sit on the dock. I will not think about the rest of my life. I want to remember the joy I had when writing was also simply about creating. Somehow it became about editing, publishing, marketing etc. Those issues are important, but are meaningless if it dive bombs the writing. Writing was fun, wasn’t it? It was a wonderful place to get lost in another world with characters who told us a fabulous tale. I want to get back to that.

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. 

Marketing- Don’t Let Your Head Explode!

April 5, 2012

Easy reading is damn hard writing.  ~Nathaniel Hawthorne



I’m choking on the amount of material out there about our industry, all the different ways to market our work, and the changing face of the market itself. After spending many hours trolling the internet, I hope to give you bite size portions to think about and for you to not get overwhelmed by the avalanche of, sometimes very conflicting, information.

The number one item repeated time and again was that it doesn’t matter what route you take to being a published author, you must become savvy to marketing techniques to boost sales. The days of a publishing house taking over and making you a best seller are gone. The houses expect you to have an online presence and that you are willing to put much effort into promoting yourself. Brick and mortar publishing models will have you in stores for a finite amount of time and then you are done. E publishers will promote you on their website, offer you a chance to blog  to the readers who frequent their site, but after a certain amount of time, you are done. If you want to continue to have your books sell, then you MUST have some kind of strategy. Right, wrong, or indifferent this is today’s reality and every author needs to get on board for long term survival.

A good friend of mine, author Suzan Harden, directed me to in order for me to see several indie authors post their numbers of sales over a period of time. I strongly suggest you hop over there to study the numbers yourselves, but here are my general impressions of the data.

– Most authors start off with small numbers, but with time grew. This makes sense because growing is due to word of mouth which is now done in an IT sort of way.

-Sales generally increased around the holidays which led to continued higher sales for many of the authors.

– Based on their anecdotal information, sales spiked consistently with each new release. Some chose to publish short stories, some novellas, some full length novels. It didn’t seem to matter- new material equaled new sales.

-Authors also had spikes when they changed their covers or tweaked the descriptions of their books. I found this very telling because it confirms my belief that unless you are a cover artist/marketing guru, you should spend some money and hire a professional designer for your cover. We are a society of instant gratification and if the picture on the front doesn’t grab us within the first 5 to 10 seconds, you’ve lost a potential buyer.

– As a whole, those authors that had more than one item for sale had better sales. (Although there were exceptions to this.)

Every author should consider establishing a Facebook personal page, a Facebook fan page, a Twitter account, a You Tube account and a blog. Even as I write this, I need to warn you not to take on all of these things at one time and not every single one will be right for every person. The next couple of weeks, I will give you a breakdown of each of these, mistakes that many authors make, and more data from published authors that I’m collecting. This is such a huge topic with many layers, but I believe we must explore and commit to being an active part in the business side of  creativity.


The Power Of Knowledge- Turn It Into Money

March 29, 2012

Have something to say, and say it as clearly as you can. That is the only secret.- Matthew Arnold


Do you want to make money?

I’m not sure, but I would guess every person reading this article will answer with a resounding YES! I know I do. I also know that it’s not enough to simply write a good book. This brave new world we’ve entered with the advent of self publishing and e-readers has changed our industry forever. We are now responsible for the business as well as the creative side of making books. (This is true no matter which avenue you take to publishing.) Most sectors of business change over the course of years, we’ve seen huge upheavals in the course of a few months.

Because of the shifting landscape, it is our responsibility to stay current with market research and business strategies for our careers. This takes a bit of time and effort, but doesn’t have to be overwhelming. A writer can educate themselves by reading blogs, like Muse Tracks, and researching the internet. I decided to take my own advice and have been studying trends and tricks of selling books.

This is me doing the research!

We know e-book consumers are increasing their buying power, both in print and e formats. More people are buying more books online to the detriment of the traditional brick and mortar book stores. Obviously, the ease and number of e-readers on the market has influenced this trend immensely, but a sky rocketing segment of this is found in-app purchasing. According to the Book Industry Study Group-   which publishes Consumer Attitudes Toward E-Book Reading shows that more than half of e-book readers increased their use of using apps to buy books and more than one third of them increased their buying at sites like Amazon. A huge percentage of them said that they’ve significantly decreased their spending at book stores.

Their findings show that dedicated e-readers are still the most used platform for reading books, but even that has changed over the last few months. Take a look at these numbers:

-17% said they are now using tablets, which is up from 13%.

-Smartphones used as readers has gone from 5.3 to 9.2%

– Dedicated e-readers has dropped from 71.6% to 60.9%. Even so, sales for the Kindle jumped 175% between Black Friday and Christmas of this past year.

So how do these numbers translate into dollars and cents? The book trade as a whole has grown and profited over the last year, but the e-book trade has led the way jumping from 73.2 to 128.8 million dollars. That’s a 76% increase in just one year!

This is huge!

So what do you do with this information? E buying, whether print or e-book, is still fueled by the traditional method of “word of mouth”. We all want to read a good book so we listen to our friends. The trick is to take that time honored method and apply it to our digital age. “Word of mouth” now has the ability to extend far beyond a writer’s immediate little world. It’s called social media.

Indie/self published authors have blazed a path of marketing through this outlet pushing their sales to new heights. I was very interested to learn that traditional publishing houses are taking note of this grassroots effort and are using it as well. An anthology will soon be released through a major publishing house and they have each of their authors creating street teams to help market the book. Each author sends out a request to their friends asking them to sign up for a specific week to Facebook, Twitter, blog etc. about the upcoming book. It has the potential to reach hundreds of thousands of people, if not more. (Interesting twist that traditional publishing is taking a cue from the lowly writers who have made their own path.)

Let me be clear- I am not a business type person. I have trouble keeping my check book balanced, however I am NOT stupid. If I want to steer my writing career, I have to have the knowledge. Knowledge is power, knowledge translates into making money and as we’ve already decided, we all want to do that!

“Here’s Looking At You, Kid.”

March 22, 2012

How many of you sit down at your computer to write a new book thinking that it will be a great story? Excitement powers your fingers on the keys and everything is great…until it’s not. Ideas start to sputter, finally ending in a whimpering mess and you have no clue where to go next. You wonder if you have any talent at all.

Storylines are difficult to create and even more difficult to maintain throughout the course of events unfolding on your pages. Why can’t you write a great novel? Why can’t you create a classic like Casablanca?

It had everything. Mystery, intrigue, conflict, romance, tortured souls and redemption- they are all in the movie. It’s no wonder that it took so many awards and has remained a favorite for the last 70 years. This amazing story, made into a movie, didn’t quite start out as the gem we see on our screens. In fact, it wasn’t even a complete script while they were filming!

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to see Casablanca at the movie theatre. It was terrific! Not only was it great to see a brilliant film on the big screen, like it was meant to be seen, but I got to go with Will Graham and Melissa Ohnoutka (fellow writers and guests on Muse Tracks). It felt absolutely decadent to shirk our responsibilities in the middle of a work week and enter into the magical world of Morocco during World War II.

The movie was adapted from a screenplay called Everybody Comes To Rick’s. It was shot on a shoestring budget and the lead male was best known for playing tough mob guys, not romantic leads. They had the essence of a story but when filming began, no one knew where the story was going nor did they know how it would end. (Hmmm-sounds like me while I’m writing my books.) In fact, Ingrid Bergman complained quite loudly because she didn’t even know who she was really supposed to be in love with and that made her job more difficult.

The writers, Julius and Philip Epstein along with Howard Koch, wrote and re-wrote the story almost every day. The actors had no time to learn their lines prior to shooting because it literally changed with every hour. To keep themselves on tract, they would review the film shot the day before otherwise they found themselves following wrong plot turns.

Did they know they were filming a grand classic? No.

Did they know that the writing would be quoted and misquoted for the next seventy years? No.

Did they know they had a great idea that deserved hard work and a million rewrites? 

Writers don’t often sit down and create a masterpiece on the first take. I guarantee all the greats from Ernest Hemingway to Shakespeare threw away their fair share of wadded up paper and broke a quill or two out of frustration. I’ll bet some of them thought their best known works were nothing more than drivel slopped down on paper. Being a writer inherently means being plagued by doubt. Will anyone like what I’m writing? Does it make sense? Is it even a story? Trust me when I say I’ve asked every question that has run through your head and probably even a few more you haven’t thought of yet! The real question is whether you let it stop you from writing.

If something as wonderful as Casablanca was created through sheer resolve, then we should all have the determination to push through the road blocks- self created and others- to finish our own masterpieces. They may not all become classics made into film, but that doesn’t negate their worth and the satisfaction of doing something everyone wishes they could. Do you have that courage? What will you write today?

Fun Facts About Casablanca:

Nobody ever says, “Play it again, Sam.”

There were no “letters of transit” used during the war and there were never any uniformed German soldiers in Casablanca.

It is never revealed why Rick couldn’t return to America because the writers never could come up with a good reason so they left it as a mystery.

The twin brothers who wrote this are the only pair of twins to ever win an Oscar.

Dooley Wilson who played Sam, the piano player and Rick’s confidante, couldn’t play the piano in real life.

There really is a Rick’s Café in Casablanca today. It was opened by an American diplomat and the piano player plays As Time Goes By every night. The musician’s name is Isam. (Pronounced I Sam) Now that’s something you couldn’t make up!



Putting yourself out there by Candi Wall

September 26, 2011



OH! Super cool update! Laura Bradford confirmed she’ll be here for our November Agent Shop since

gremlins messed with our last run of e-mails and this Agent Shop was cancelled. She’s a stellar lady peeps!

“This is wonderful. I could feel everything your character was experiencing!”

“You’ve got a strong voice and the writing was sublime…”

Oh, yeah. You all know what I’m talking about. The big grin, the heart thumping that goes along with opening your e-mail, contest scores, comment section, twitter, or whatever venue you use to put your writing out there, and reading something like that!

It’s like CRACK!

More, more! Gimme more!

‘Course, the negative comments can be just as intense .

“You really should pick an author you like and try to emulate them.”

“Your characters felt cardboard to me, and your villain was nothing more than a cliché device to throw in some failed tension.”

Kill me now!


Okay, so it’s not that bad. As with everything, we have to take any and all comments with a grain or bucket of salt.

As writers, we’re going to come across every personality, like, dislike, good day, bad day, that our readers have. We’re going to be held high by a reader that just adored everything we put into words, and we’re going to be knocked so low, getting back up will be a Herculean task.

Color me a glutton…

But I’ll probably keep putting my work out there, through contests, groups, sharing sites and of course my Beta readers and Crit partners.

Wanna know why?

Simple. Feedback, friendship and the chance at winning!

And believe it or not, that’s the order of importance I take when I enter any contest. Feedback is gold.

As most of us do, I started this journey alone. Through contests, writing groups, and networking, I’ve found the most amazing people and am lucky to have them. I don’t believe for a moment that without them, I would be as far as I am today. And that in itself is enough reason for me to feel justified in encouraging any writer, at any stage of their craft, to get out there, take a chance, let others see what you write and learn what you can from what you get for feedback.

Soak it up like a sponge, retain what you need, and let the rest evaporate.

I took my first tentative steps into networking waters by joining Charlotte Dillon’s Romance Writers Community. Best choice I ever made. That’s where I met Jenn, Marie-Claude and John. I took a chance, they took a chance, and we found a solid foundation of friends to share our journey with. That friendship and professional connection remains today!

Marie-Claude stepped WAY out of her comfort zone and entered Dorchester’s American Title V contest and WON! But if you ask her, she met and remains friends with numerous other writers to this day, and that’s something even winning can’t compare with.

My first public contest was Dorchester’s Next Best Celler contest. It was hell. Pure and simple. Vote tarting sucks, that’s all there is to it. There was some back biting, some down voting, oh – it was tough, but again, out of the great, not-so-great, and sometimes questionable comments, I gained a group of ladies as my friends, all of whom will give it to me straight when I’m doing well, or writing crap.

‘Kinda makes you feel all mushy inside, don’t it?

Yeah, me too.

So I’m on to my next contest.

The Mills & Boon New Voices contest

I’ve met one stellar writer already, and I know she’ll be a friend way past this contest. I’ve read some great entries, left what I hope are seen as constructive comments and gained some as well. I’ve been down voted too, and it’s still early in the competition. but I’m looking forward to it just the same, because regardless of the outcome, I’m coming out of it a winner. Either with feedback, friends or (fingers crossed) a win.

New Voices is open to any writer who hasn’t been published. the deadline is Oct. 10th, so swing in and enter!

So, have any contest experiences you can share, good or bad? I’d love to hear about them.


Guest Blogger Mary Martinez on how to start a book!

February 4, 2011

Hi everyone,

Today, we host Mary Martinez, author of the newly released Classic murder: Mr. Romance wjo will share her thoughts on writing and how to get started. Plus she has a great contest that will tell us about!

Welcome Mary






Thanks, Marie-Claude, for hosting the fifth day of my blog tour. Anyone who would like to know the schedule can check it out here.  Each blog a different question from the host. Sort of like a continuing interview.  I will also have two giveaways at the end of the blog tour. At the bottom, I’ll tell you how you can participate.

 Marie-Claude: What advice would you tell a newbie writer? Something that you wish someone would have told you.

 Mary: Do have a few hours to spare? Because if I told a new writer everything I’d wished I’d known before I embarked on this crazy publishing career it would fill a book. Where do I start? There are so many things.

 First and foremost, if you’re going to write a book, do your research first. Just because it’s fiction doesn’t mean you can make up facts as you go.

 Second, if you haven’t been in school for while, take a refresher course on your grammar and punctuation. True many things encompassed under the term, grammar, are subjective, but the basics are not.

 While you’re writing your book, research. No I don’t mean for facts, I mean do your research on writing groups and organizations in your area. Once you’ve found them, join one.

Do your research, getting a pattern here?  Find some critique partners. Until you find a writing group you probably have no idea what a crit partner is. I didn’t.  But they are invaluable. And I don’t mean your mother, brother, sister or husband. None of them will give you the advice and feedback you need.

 More research because writing the book is only the surface.

 I wanted to write a book, I thought, hey I can do that. And I did, but that the easy part. Getting it right and polished isn’t even the hardest part. Not to mention I had no idea what to do once I thought it was done. And no it wasn’t, far from it.

If you cannot find a writing group, do your research on line. And oh how I wished I’d known what Predators and Editors were back then. I literally Googled ‘agents’ and then started at ‘A’ and sent a query. Did I know what a query was? No but on one of the web sites there was a lose description. I cringe to think about it. I don’t even think I knew what ‘genre’ meant.

Yes talk about green, and I don’t mean as in green environment. I mean green as in ‘know nothing’. That was me, so if you’re new if nothing else research your facts, grammar resources, writing groups, writing partners and industry agents.

 Thank you again Marie-Claude, talk about making me think.    

 Here is a blurb for my new release Classic Murder: Mr. Romance

 Adam enjoys a lifestyle most men only dream of. Then one day he wakes up to find the morning headlines blaring, “Another victim falls prey to Mr. Romance. Who is next?” He suddenly realizes his way of life is not only frivolous, but deadly.

 Dubbed Mr. Romance by New York society for his romantic adventures, Adam Fernando Russo loves women. But lately he realizes how lonely it is coming home to an empty house. Can he settle for only one woman? After he makes a list of qualities worthy enough to merit giving up his desirable existence, suddenly recipients of his coveted attention mysteriously fall prey to a murderer. The murders seem unrelated with one exception–all the victims have recently returned from a fabulous weekend rendezvous with Mr. Romance.

 Adam’s assistant, Katie Sinclair, knows Adam is innocent with airtight alibis. The police are at a loss so Adam and Katie work together to discover the link between the murders. As luck would have it, their plan to prove the murderer is copying classic Cary Grant movies goes astray just as Adam realizes his perfect woman has been by his side all along.

 Available from BookStrand Publishing (Electronic Format, Print coming in spring 2011)

 For an excerpt and to see the trailer visit my web site:

Now to the giveaways, everyone one who participates by commenting on each day of the tour will have their name placed in a drawing for a Photo Album and a signed copy of Watching Jenny.

Everyone who participates and comments on half of the days will have their name in a drawing for a download of Classic Murder: Mr. Romance (or they can wait until it’s in print for a signed copy)

What is your writing process?

January 25, 2011

by Marie-Claude Bourque

A little while ago I answered the following questions on my writing process for a writer’s blog and I thought I’d share it with you, so that you could in turn share yours with us!

Please describe your current writing process from story idea to final draft in as much detail as possible.


I usually start with my hero and heroine and try to find a couple that would be a good match in terms of both conflict and attraction.

I try to be as clear as I can on both characters goals, motivations and conflicts (external and internal). My style of writing focuses more on the characters internal conflicts due their background and how they come together to resolve the external conflict which comes in the form of a threat to their world, usually a villain.  My general writing theme is that unity conquers.

I try to lay out the main story in a classical 3 acts set-up.

Once I have the core of the story, I daydream scenes that fit my writing style: gritty, sensual and mystical and that arise from the conflicts between all the characters.  I use music a lot to brainstorm.I also like to fill up Donald Maass workbook to think up more intense scenes.


Once I have a good list of scenes (maybe 20), I write them one at a time longhand in first person for each POV character. Meanwhile I list all the plots and plot layers to make sure I advance at least one or more plot in each scene. I come up with new scenes as I write for a total of around 75.

Typing all the scenes in the appropriate third person gives me my first draft. I don’t pause to edit during that phase but write real fast and fill the blanks later.

Yes, I'm a dying breed, I write longhand!


The second stage is when I do the deep editing. I use my own version of Margie Lawson’s method to add the missing bits such as settings and emotions and research accuracy and I also look at a balance in my scenes between emotions, inner thoughts, dialog, action and setting. I add about 20% more material at this stage. Sometimes, I see that I need to add or cut scenes.

This draft goes to my writing partners (i.e. Mustrackers John, Candi and Jenn)

If I can, I leave this draft aside for a while and later do a one sitting read as a reader to see what is missing.


In the third draft, I start by fixing my own comment and my writing partners comments. I may again add or cut scenes then do a style edit, scene by scene, which is a 10-15 checklist I use to look at such as word overuse, tension on every page, using 5 senses, varying length sentences, using active strong verbs, hooks, ect. I also like to read each scenes 3 times with different fonts. Then I cut into chapters where natural breaks occur.

What do you feel are the pros & cons of your current writing process?

The only problem I can see with my writing process is that it takes time to type my work. Almost the same time to type as it take to write. I wish I was faster, but I need the deep connection I feel by writing longhand. Somehow, I can’t do it straight to the computer.


Find out about Stephen King's writing process in ON WRITING, his excellent book for writers!

What details can you share about the process of writing your very first published work? How has it changed from then to now?

The process I described was for my first published work which was my first manuscript (ANCIENT WHISPERS) and I still use this now that I am writing my fifth. I tried before to fill characters charts and index cards but I found it was pretty useless.

What advice would you give newly aspiring authors on finding their process?

Just try to find your own process by listening to what works for you but do learn different technique. I am a very obsessive plotter but I have been trying to learn how pansters do it. Never feel like you are stuck into one way of doing thing and try to work extra hard on your weaknesses.

It’s your turn now! If you have a minute, please share your process with us. I love learning new tricks from others!

How is your middle shaping up?

January 17, 2011

by Marie-Claude Bourque

So how do you work the middle of your story?

A writer friend was asking me that just that last week and I shared with her what I do. I thought I’d share it here in case it might give someone some ideas.

Now everyone has their own way to write a book, and frankly there are no “right” ways. But here is mine. This is what I told her.

Have you tried Save the Cat to plot your book?

 A fake victory half way through your story.

At mid-point, I have a fake victory. A place in the story where the characters feel they won but it’s an illusion (a love scene there works well).

Find your way from mid-point to climax

So for the last part I need to go from fake victory to the Climax in Act 3. I start with a bad event, something coming out as a consequence of previous decision. Blade Snyder talks about the “bad guys closing in”. I bring in my “really bad guys” in this oart, maybe escalading from one bad thing to the next.

How bad can it get! Escalate the bad in the second half!

Donald Maass talks about the “how bad can it get!” In my current WIP, a contemporary romance, it starts after my heroine finally gets together with the hero, with first her car breaking down, then her ex moves in town, then she lose her job (because of a stupid decision on her part), then she breaks-up with the hero (tied to the job loss), then she gets into a huge fight with her mom.

As far as the bad stuff happening, I try to have the bad events tied to the characters worst fear as defined in the GMC! And make it a consequence of their actions (in my story, it’s her fault she gets fired, then the firing leads to a break-up, she fears being dependant on a man). You have to torture your characters the whole time!  Make them suffer!

Tension and conflict! Lots of it. 🙂

After all that bad stuff, we need “the dark night of the soul.”

This leads me to the real bottom and a “dark night of the soul”, where the heroine is all alone and is really really low. Then I come up with some epiphany where she decides to take action towards solving her problem. The decision to take action is what leads to Act 3 and the beginning of “lead into victory” and to the climax.

Tie all loose ends in the climax

And then, as I heard Jane Porter say, it’s just a matter of closing all the doors to make sure all is resolved (in this WIP, my heroine makes-up with mom, get back with the hero and takes action that leads to a new job and dealing with issues with her ex.)

Story boards: See the story in one picture!

Jim Butcher had conquered the swampy middle!

I really like the Save the Cat story boards. I made 3 so far for 3 WIP and it helped a lot. Basically, the first part is all about the “fun and game” promise of your book (say for me in a small town family romance, I have sexy kisses and some cute scenes with family, kids and engaging with the hero) and the last part is the meat and bone serious “how bad can it get” sort of thing. I like to make things deeper and deeper in emotions and/or action (for my paranormals) to escalade the pace, than finish with a bang in the climax.

Have fun with your middle. If all fails, also have a read of Jim Butcher’s The Great Swampy Middle! His writing advice his priceless.

What are your tricks?