October is Prep for NaNoWriMo. Why I don’t participate.

Fall in Minnesota is my favorite time of year. The temperatures cool, the leaves start to fall, and the bugs die. The last is very important to my well-being. Haha. Seriously though, we get a couple sweet weeks of no bugs, and mild enough temperatures that you can still enjoy time outside.

I went for a walk with my sister last night, and the latter half the walk was in the dark since the sun sets so early now. But we saw a couple deer, lots of rabbits, and generally had a nice coffee walk in about 48F degree temperatures.

nanowrimo logoOctober is also NaNoWriMo prep month. It’s the month when writers who are going to participate in National Novel Writing Month plot their books, do their research, make character sheets, anything they have to do to write their book as quickly as possible in the month of November.

I participated once. And while I was a newbie writer at the time and that was probably more of the reason why I wrote a crappy book, doing so on a timeline didn’t do me any favors, and I’ll never participate again.

But that’s not the only reason. Everyone needs to make their own choices with their writing schedule, their publishing schedule, and what they want to accomplish, but let’s take a moment to go over a couple reasons why NaNoWriMo may not be an answer to a writer’s prayers.

  1. Craft gets lost.
    If you have the motivation and skill to write 50,000 words in a month, you don’t need the the contest to spur you on. If you’ve got the craft thing down already, maybe craft doesn’t get lost when you write, and that’s great! But there’s always a question of quality when a writer who is new at this decides to participate. You don’t have time to think about how sentences sound, where your paragraphs are going, if your scenes are relevant to the story, what the theme of your novel is. Writing is already hard enough as it is, and putting a deadline on it makes it worse.
  2. Lots of writers will abandon a current project to start something new.
    This is a tough one because not everyone writes to publish or query. I’m not the type of person who likes to have three different projects open. I adhere to writing and publishing schedule. It’s the only way I can make any headway at all. Dropping everything to start a new project to write for NaNo would derail everything I’m trying to accomplish. I get distracted by new things, too, but I try to keep that under control and finish my current projects. I don’t think I’d have as many books out as I do if I let myself write whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. I understand not everyone is hardcore about this writing thing as I am, and that’s okay. But 30 days of writing something new is still 30 days of time, and in 30 days I can do a lot that will actually move me toward my goal.
  3. It makes us question what a “book” is.
    Let’s be honest. I mean, really and truly honest. 50,000 words, in most genres, is not a novel. It’s a good start to a novel, say, in high fantasy, or women’s fiction, but for the most part you can “win” and still not have a finished book.

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    Click on the graphic to read the corresponding article by Chuck Sambuchino at Writer’s Digest.

    If you have trouble with subplots and character development while meeting the ideal word count, I don’t recommend trying to write under a deadline. Not always, but you can run the risk of having a full “novel” in word count, and it being incomplete in other ways. This is especially important if you ever want to query this book. Fully-developed plots, subplots without loose ends, full character arcs, and a spot-on beginning and ending are all things agents are going to require to sign you and your book.

  4. You’ll probably have a lot of editing to do afterward.
    This is a personal preference, of course, but I would rather spend a little more time writing and a less time editing after the fact. Editing is hard. Especially if you have to rip the book apart because you wrote yourself into a corner and there’s nothing that will fix it except scrapping the second half of your book, for example. Weaving character motivation and character growth into a book is hard enough as it is without having to go back and fix scenes.
  5. You shouldn’t have to depend on the NaNo energy to see you through a project.
    Most writers I know who participate, participate because they like the energy and the camaraderie. It’s why they do NaNoWriMo camp in July. They like to write with the buddy system, someone who will hold them accountable. The problem with this, though, is that NaNo is only once a year (besides the camp that’s held in the summer). What are you going to do during the other 11 months the contest is not going on? Writing is a solitary endeavor, and if you don’t get your butt in the chair and put the words down, if you can’t do that without a competition, well, I don’t have to tell you your productivity is going to tank. In my very humble opinion, striving for your own writing success, be that publishing yourself on Amazon or other platforms, querying, or whatever the case may be, that should be your fuel. Not a contest.
  6. What could your book be like if you hadn’t written it in November?
    We all have regrets when it comes to our writing. We write through sickness, or when we have a family emergency. Sometimes it’s what gets us through. I wrote through my divorce, I wrote (when I shouldn’t have probably) while I was healing from surgery. I wrote through one of the nastiest winters I have ever seen in Minnesota, and it happened to be the first winter I was a single mom. I have to admit, I write the best when I’m happy, when I’m not stressed out. When I can enjoy sitting at my laptop and not think about anything else but the story.
    We often say “let children be children” but sometimes we need to let our “books be books.” What I mean by that is, you may be doing your characters and story a disservice by rushing them. What could your book be if you write it organically? We meet word counts every day, but I’ve never preached you have to write every day. Sometimes that’s impossible. Sometimes you simply don’t feel like it. To reach 50,000 words in the month of November you need to write 1,666 words a day. That isn’t too bad, in all reality. But I know for me, November is a packed month: my daughter’s birthday, my birthday, Thanksgiving. We may have snow by then. Then there’s Black Friday shopping if you’re inclined to get a head start on Christmas shopping. It’s not hard in November to realize you haven’t written for a few days, and you’re behind. What kind of book could you write on your own time? 

I don’t see NaNo as some evil thing that writers shouldn’t participate in. I think it can be fun and motivational if used correctly. The month of November can be used to celebrate writing and books in general. There is a camaraderie just being a writer. We’re all in this together, and one month designated to writing doesn’t change the fact that we all enjoy writing every day. We don’t need one month set aside to enjoy it.

I create all year round. I’m involved in a lot of Facebook groups. I edit for my friends; I help them with formatting. I celebrate the writing and creation of books all the time. I don’t think a month goes by when I haven’t bought a book or ten. What I suggest you to do is harness how you feel in November and keep that momentum going all year round.

How do agents feel about NaNo? Here are a couple articles about their opinions. (Hint: it’s not a coincidence agents close their slush piles to submissions in December and January.)

An Agent’s Take on Nanowrimo by Fuse Literary

Better yet, DON’T write that novel
Why National Novel Writing Month is a waste of time and energy

Did You Win NaNoWriMo? Let Agent Eric Smith Guide You Through Your Next Steps!
Leah Schnelbach

How do you feel about NaNo? Are you going to participate? Let me know!


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Print Quality KDP Print vs IngramSpark. Spoiler alert–there isn’t a winner.

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I bought book stands for the event! I have to admit, this is a lovely cover!

I was invited to an author event that took place last week. I had several weeks to prepare for this, i.e. find my willpower/energy to face a crowd, figure out what I was going to wear, and the most important thing . . . order author copies.

I was in the middle of redoing the covers for Wherever He Goes and All of Nothing. I’ve worked with KDP long enough that doing a cover in Canva and submitting it is a piece of cake by now. IngramSpark is still taking some time to get used to, and when they flagged Wherever He Goes, I left it alone because I didn’t want to deal with it.

I happily accepted the invitation to sell my books at a librarian convention that took place in West Fargo, North Dakota. Admittedly, I should have ordered author copies the moment I was invited. But as I said, I was redoing my covers, and I thought, hell, I have plenty of time to order copies.

Note to self: don’t ever think that again.

I redid the covers submitted them to KDP, ordered my proofs and approved them.

The event was held on September 26th, and ordered my author copies August 26th. I thought a whole month would be enough time, because in the past it has been. Usually it takes about two and a half weeks. But not this time.

With two weeks left before the event, I received and email from KDP and they told me my order was being delayed. I fixed the file for Wherever He Goes in Ingram. The next day they approved the file, and in a panic, I rush ordered author copies from IngramSpark.

Now, I haven’t heard many stories, good or otherwise, about the quality of copies from IngramSpark. Mostly I’ve heard if you want better quality, you order from them. So needless to say, when my author copies came from them and they didn’t look good, I was crushed.

I received my author copies from Ingram a full week before I received them from KDP because not only did I pay for expedited shipping, I paid for expedited printing, too. You can argue that could be the reason for the poor quality, but in my opinion, you’re paying for the copies, so there should be no reason for poor quality books, period. Especially from a company who prides itself on quality.

If push had come to shove, I could have sold the books Ingram sent me. But I didn’t want to. They didn’t look professional. I could have said it was printing error, but that would still reflect bad on me as a professional author.

Luckily, my KDP Print books came, and they looked good. I realize that was also a gamble. Had those come in poor quality as well, I wouldn’t have been able to attend the book signing.

As it turns out, I didn’t sell any books anyway, but I did receive several compliments on my covers, so it was worth the crap I went through to get them.

Today I put in a request for a refund for my books from Ingram. Take a look a the pictures I submitted as proof they did not look good:

poor quality cover the years between us ingram spark

This is a copy of The Years Between Us from Ingram. Can you see the line through my name? At first I thought that was my fault because the template was showing through, but I checked the file, and even if the template was showing through (for some messed up reason) there is no line there. So it wasn’t that. The same thing happened to Wherever He Goes, but it’s more pronounced near my first name, so I only have the sliver to show you for emphasis:

poor quality cover ingram wherever he goes


All of Nothing
was the most messed up. Wherever He Goes wasn’t centered that well, but All of Nothing looked horrible:

poor quality cover all of nothing ingram spark

The title was almost cut off , and the couple is obviously not centered.

So I put in a request for credit to my account, and if you ever need to do that, you look under Orders, and under Submitted, click on Report an Issue for the order that needs to be refunded.

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I’ve never returned books to anywhere before, so I don’t know if they’ll want the books back, or if they’ll let me keep them or what. I’ll let you know. I can tell you that there was a spot for you to download pictures of the books, so be prepared to show them proof of the messed up author copies. I’ve heard KDP wants proof of quality/damage, so that’s not unusual.

The book signing went okay. I never sold any books, like I said, so all this hoopla with the author copies feels like a whole lot of work and money for nothing, but it was a fun experience, and it didn’t take me very long to realize I was the only author there who didn’t have a Square. That didn’t make any difference in the end, but next time I’ll be more prepared.

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The moral of the story is this: always keep author copies on hand if you have regular opportunities to do this, either from KDP Print or IngramSpark. You need lots of time to receive them, and more importantly, you need time to return them and/or order replacements if necessary.


Special thanks to Tina Holland for inviting me to participate in this event. She’s a romance writer involved with the RWA and other writing groups in my area. You can follow her on twitter here @haveubeenaughty and her website tinaholland.com.


Thank you for reading, and may the month of October treat you well!

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A Rocky Point Wedding series update.

I haven’t posted an update for a while because well, there wasn’t much I could say besides, I’m writing.

But now I can at least announce I am done. I finished book four the other night, and while I did get a little teary-eyed, there is still much to do, and I’ll save the tears for when the last book is published. As authors, though, we know that we never really say goodbye to a book. There’s front and back matter updating, updating a cover if trends change or you decide you don’t like what you published, marketing, keyword updating, and all that other stuff you have to do to keep selling your babies. It’s not enough to hit publish, so while publishing them all will be a relief, I’ll hardly be slamming the door shut on them forever.

In total, I wrote 297,204 words. I started in December 2018, and tried to do as much as I could before the carpal tunnel surgery I had in January. I was out of commission for six weeks, but it should have been longer. My doctor gave me the okay to go back to work though, so did I make a mistake when I took that to mean “type my fingers off on this series”?  Probably. But the damage is done, and maybe I’ll always live with a little bit of pain in my left arm and hand. It is what it is.

I’m not going to add how many hours I spent on each file, it’s suffice enough to say that I plowed through four books in about 8 months.

I’ll be editing them now, starting with book one, taking notes making sure things stay consistent. I need to keep track of Autumn’s (my FMC in the last book) blog posts and write them . . . maybe as I edit since my mind will be in the story and I’ll have an easier time manufacturing those interviews.

I have a proofer/beta reader lined up as a fresh pair of eyes. He’s willing to read all four books, so that takes a load of worry off me. I don’t recommend publishing without some kind of feedback, and if you’re willing to beta any of my books, let me know!

I’ve been messing around with covers, and of course, they go through many many variations before I decide on the one I want to publish. I’m keeping my eyes on the top contemporary romances, but again, a lot of those romances are bad boy, tatted up dudes, and my small town romance series would not be a good fit for those types of covers. While All of Nothing has seen an uptick in KU reads since I changed the cover/blurb/keywords, an edgy cover only works if the book is . . . well, edgy.

This is what I have so far, and you can tell me if you like the concept:

a rocky point wedding book cover mock up for blog

The font is a placeholder font. Bad script font is bad, so I’ll be going through fonts. The titles for all four books are still up in the air, but it’s difficult to make up book covers without those elements.

Anyway, I just wanted to see if the overall effect works, and beside it not fitting in with the top 100 right now–which, I have to admit, is pretty important–I think it blends together. There are indie authors who do their covers like this. Melissa Foster and Zoe York are two that come to mind.

But I admit those are covers from books a few years ago, and both those authors have a backlist so extensive, I doubt they go back and redo covers to keep up with changing trends.

In that vein, I want to do mine right, so they have a bit of longevity as well, and I’ll get a few more opinions on the covers, too, before I decide anything. The point is, I’m working on them so I don’t get all cranky when my books are done and I have to pull four covers out of the air like magic.

Besides editing and working on the cover, there isn’t much else I can do with them. I’m hoping to start releasing them this winter, still in 2019, so we’ll see how that goes.

I’m also 10,000 words into an experiment, and I’m excited. I’m not going to say anything more about it since the outcome of the experiment depends on me not divulging information about it. At any rate, it will give me something interesting to do on the days I need an editing break.


That is my update, and I can’t wait to share these books with you!

a rocky point wedding social media graphic

While you wait, look for my other books that are available in KU!

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Kindle Create: for Kindle and Paperbacks for KDP

kindle create for blog 1Formatting for an ereader and paperback grows easier and easier all the time with the tools that are continually created for indie authors. These days it’s easier than ever to pay someone for their time if they have Vellum, a formatting software available on Mac computers.

If you don’t have the connections or the cash to pay someone to do it for you, or you want to remain in control (it’s hard and maybe costly to approach your formatter every time you want to make a change your to your book; for instance if you want to update your back matter, or you swapped out your cover and need to change the attribution to the photographer and add a new photo id) Draft2Digital offers a free formatting on their website that also formats your book for paperback and ereader. Draft2Digital creates a .mobi file and an epub you can download so you can go wide with your files if you like.

But if you are only going to publish on Amazon, there is another software you can try. Kindle Create offers both Kindle and paperback formatting, and both files are sent directly to your KDP dashboard enabling you to publish quickly and easily.

There are drawbacks to the software however: the files can only be used on Amazon. Since the finished files are sent directly to your KDP dashboard, they are not “yours.” When you format with D2D, you download the files they generate for you, and you can use them wherever you please. With Kindle Create, that is not the case. Also if you make ANY changes to your document, those changes are stuck inside the software, but that might not matter to you if you’re only uploading changes to publish on Kindle. It is something to keep in mind, though.

How do you get started?

Download the Kindle Create software. Download how you would normally download new software. Sometimes that means finding the file in your Downloads and clicking on it to start the install process if it doesn’t install automatically. Accept terms and conditions. The install process only takes a few moments.

Then it will ask if you want to resume an existing project or start a new one,  but first you need to enable Early Access so you can create paperbacks with the software.

Click on Help in the upper left hand corner, then Settings. Check Enable Beta Features.

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Then you can import your Word File. It only takes a moment.

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Click Continue when you’re done.

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Your Word file for your book should have your Title Page, your Copyright Page, Dedication, Acknowledgements, and any back matter you want. The only thing Kindle Create will generate for you is the Table of Contents.  Click on Insert in the upper left hand corner and it will look like this:

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When you upload your file, what you see is very generic, and it’s up to you to design your manuscript how you want it to look. This is the first page of The Years Between Us.

Choose a Theme by clicking on the THEME in the upper right hand corner. Unfortunately, there are not many to choose from, but actually, there are not many to choose from when you format in Vellum, either, so don’t feel like you’re missing out if you use Kindle Create.

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The rest is a bit time consuming as you have to go page by page and add the things you want. For example, changing one scene break does not change them all:

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So you may just want to stick with asterisks when you format, unless you are formatting something a little on the shorter side.

The same is true for the chapter start drop caps. You need to put your cursor at the beginning of every paragraph and then choose drop cap on the right under Formatting.

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Kindle Create will nudge you to save every so often, and it’s in your best interest, in any case. It also has a handy UNDO feature in case you mess up somehow.

Like any software, there’s a small learning curve, but it didn’t take me long to play around with it and begin formatting my manuscript how I want it to look.

Once you’re all done, there’s a Preview feature where you can take a look at your book page by page. This is a good idea while you’re still in the software and not in the online previewer on your KDP Dashboard.

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Go through your book page by page. Make sure you didn’t miss any scene breaks, or anything else you’re going to want to change. Flipping through it will take some time, but remember that poor formatting can pull a reader from your story, so you want it to look its best.


Unfortunately, I cannot take you further than this. Pressing Publish will move the files to my KDP Dashboard, and The Years Between Us is already published. But KDP has several tutorials you can watch to see how the process is done. They have a fabulous help section, and you can find anything else out that you’ll need to know.

Look at a typed tutorial here.

Here is a tutorial by KDP on YouTube about Kindle Create. 

Here is another blog post by Just Publishing Advice on their blog. How To Use The Amazon Kindle Create App For Better Ebooks

There are a couple other tutorials that look okay to watch on YouTube, if you search Kindle Create tutorials. The best thing you can do though, is experiment, use the undo button if you do something you don’t like, and save often.

After you publish your files to your dashboard, they will give you options for your paperback such as trim size, and if you want cream or white paper. Your choices will determine the template size for your cover. And you can use the Kindle Cover Creator if you want, to generate a cover for both your Kindle book and paperback, too.

KDP is your one stop shop to formatting, cover creation, and publishing your book!

Have fun!


I wasn’t aware that Kindle Create generated a paperback file until I saw that Daniel Mattia was able to offer a paperback of his book, In Crows’ Claws. We went through some issues he had using Kindle Create in my interview with him a while back. So a big thank you to Daniel and his tips!

Check out his amazing work linked above, and he’s also the creator of an Indie book database called Indie book DB. Check out that site for your next awesome read!


There is a lot that goes into publishing a book, and I hope this can be a starting point if you are new and have no idea where to begin. If you have any questions drop them below, or my DMs on Twitter are open, though it can take me a day or two to get back to you–especially if I have to work that day. Thanks for reading, and good luck to you!


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The “As you know, Bob . . .” Syndrome. What it is and why you should stop it.

as you know bob

I didn’t feel like being on social media last night, and I didn’t feel like writing more. It was a bit of a busy day, and I had felt off all day, too. I got in 2,000 words, and that was fine being I had done 5,000 the day before. Not all my days off can be high-output days, and I realize this as long as I keep moving forward at a pace I’m comfortable with.

Anyway, I decided to hop on my Kindle and see what is out there by way of contemporary romance. Maybe find a another book to read, since I finished my last one, Next Girl to Die by Dea Poirier.

I downloaded a sample of a romantic suspense, and like everything else indie these days in romance, this was written in first person present. But that wasn’t what bothered me. (Okay it did, but I already roared about that in a previous blog post.) What bothered me was that the first scene started as an “As you know, Bob” scene and it gave the book a horrible start.

What is an “As you know, Bob” scene? It’s a scene were characters are sharing information with each other that they already know, but they are talking to fill the reader in.

The dialogue in the scene I read sounded like a biography because one character was telling her best friend all about her boyfriend. This is so unrealistic and implausible. If they are best friends, share everything, and talk on a regular basis like the scene implied, the BFF would already know about her friend’s boyfriend. It was obvious the scene was written to introduce the reader to facts about the boyfriend, and it slowed everything down to a screeching halt. I managed three page “flips” before closing out the book and deleting the sample from my Kindle.

How do you avoid an “As you know, Bob” scene? Here are a few ideas.

  • Ask yourself if the characters already know the information they are talking about. If the answer is yes, then you don’t need the scene, or give them something different to talk about. Dialogue is designed for characters to pass new information on to each other, not go over things they both already know. As a writer how do you know you’re doing this? When you get lazy and your characters start saying things like, “You’re so forgetful! I’ve told you this a thousand times . . .” Or “I don’t know why I have to keep telling you this over and over again . . .” Sure, sometimes we do forget things in real life; sometimes we do need a little reminder here and there. But a girl’s best friend won’t need a refresher course in a current boyfriend.
  • Find a different way to introduce the character.
    It was obvious this scene was to introduce the boyfriend. But instead of a whole dialogue scene about said boyfriend, how about waiting until the boyfriend needs to show up? He’s going to be part of the story, the blurb said so, so why feed us backstory right then? Why write a scene that has a character saying “Well, you know my boyfriend is a multi-millionaire. He started his company from scratch in his mother’s basement and only two years later sold it to Facebook for a hundred million dollars. Now he’s partying all over town and treats me like a queen!” When you could wait and actually have the MC meet him:

    So this was Jasper Hargrove, the famous boyfriend. Self-made millionaire and creme de la creme of Manhattan society. Pictures in the tabloids didn’t do his face justice. He looked like he stepped out of a Hugo Boss photo shoot and smelled just as good.

    Feeding readers information in real time will always sound better.

  • Ask yourself if the information is even needed.
    What you think your readers should know and what your readers actually need to know are two different things. Sometimes the best information is no information. Let your readers fill in the gaps on their own. Do we need to know the boyfriend is a self-made millionaire, or that he created a start up living in his mother’s basement gorging on Doritos and Mountain Dew? Is it enough to say he’s a millionaire?  Sometimes a little mystery can go a long way.
  • If the information is needed, can your reader find out about it in a different way?
    Maybe the MC reads an article about him in the paper, or an industry magazine. Maybe she’s watching TV and a news clip comes up. You don’t need much. The scene that lasted three pages? That could have been condensed into a couple of lines.
  • Read the scene aloud or have Word read it to you and be honest. Does the conversation sound like crap? Does it sound unrealistic? Think of the characters and who they are. The scene might have worked if the friends were getting reacquainted after being apart for years and years. But even then, the boyfriend and the friend were going to be key players in the book. An info dump disguised as dialogue is still an info dump. If there’s not any new information being passed along to either character, if the scene isn’t offering anything new, if it isn’t moving the plot along, then get rid of it. It does take a lot of practice at successfully dropping backstory into a novel, but I’m finding less in this respect is always going to be more.

Thanks for reading!


Have never heard of “Well, you know Bob . . .” Syndrome? Here are a few more articles about it:

The Sneaky Secret Life of “As You Know, Bob…” by K.M. Weiland 

As You Know, Bob: Info dumping in dialogue by Erica Ellis

Do You Have “As You Know, Bob…” Syndrome?–How Writers Can Butcher Dialogue & How to Fix It By Kristen Lamb


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Entering the RITAs. My full circle experience.

I’m not sure if I said anything about entering the RITAs, or the outcome of that contest.

The RITA award is a prestigious award given by the RWA (Romance Writers of America). I didn’t win, nor did I advance, and I did not attend the RWA conference this year that was held in New York City. I didn’t expect to win (though when you enter a contest, there’s a little bit of you that will hope you’ll at least advance.)  Anyway, I didn’t advance, didn’t win, and I didn’t expect to hear anything more about it.

All of Nothing ebook coverBut I received an unexpected email in my inbox today. The email contained my overall score of All of Nothing, something I didn’t know the RWA sent out.

To say that I was stunned would be an understatement, but when I thought about the score, and I mean, really thought about it (meaning, I put away my ego and my pride and honestly evaluated the kind of book All of Nothing is) the score made sense.

I knew a long time ago that All of Nothing didn’t advance to a finalist position. I figured since the contest is open to everyone who wanted to enter, traditional and indie, I had a slim to none chance. After all, when Kristin Higgins and Brenda Novak enter their books, you’re up against talent, several years in the industry, and name recognition. Heck, Nora Roberts has won 21 of them. I won’t disclose whose books I judged, but I will say I judged a big name, too.

I had thought, at least, even if my book didn’t advance, it had receive average scores.

It didn’t.

My book received a 4.33 out of a possible 10.

I don’t know how private the scoring is, so I won’t show you the email contents, but suffice to say, I didn’t make it into the top half, and I didn’t expect that. I also didn’t expect that one judge did not think my novel had a central love story, and a different judge didn’t think it concluded with an HEA. And that makes me wonder if she somehow missed the Epilogue, which clearly shows that they did have a happily ever after.

Anyway, so here’s what I learned entering the RITAs, how I felt, and what I will do differently if I should ever enter again.


What I learned:

  • Your book won’t resonate with everyone.
    You can use this as a way to shake off a bad book, (NO ONE is going to like a book full of plot holes and flat characters, so that reasoning only goes so far) but even a well-written book with amazing characters and the best plot twists known to man won’t appeal to everyone. This is okay, and as authors, something we all deal with. I know All of Nothing is dark. I know Jax is an asshole to the extreme. Maybe even too much. He doesn’t redeem himself until almost the end of the book, and that could have been too long for some readers. Even my reviews on Goodreads are split down the middle. Either readers are blown away or they hate it. There’s not a lot of middle ground in reviews, and I didn’t see any in my scores.
  • You’re forced to read, and that can put you off from the very beginning.
    The RWA has changed this policy for the next contest, but when I entered my book, you had to judge the preliminary round to submit. Being forced to read is akin to being in school and assigned War and Peace. Not everyone wants to read books they are told they must. Also, you were only able to opt out of one genre. My book was in the Contemporary Romance Long category, and it could have been readers didn’t like the genre. Maybe they preferred Romantic Comedy, or Romantic Suspense, or Paranormal. That’s not really an excuse, but it’s natural to not be excited about a genre you don’t care to read in the first place.
  • Have a professional cover.
    This might seem like a no-brainer, or something that you wouldn’t think of for a craft contest, but either way, I have a feeling that somehow the entire package is judged. When I judged and found the author’s name on the title page, you bet I looked on Amazon for the author and what else they had published, and who they were published by. I’m sure the judges did the same for me, and the overall look of my catalog and All of Nothing‘s cover maybe have influenced their feelings toward the book. This is a professional contest put on by a professional organization. Submit a book that is professional from cover to cover.

What I would do differently:

  • Enter something lighter.
    All of Nothing was dark, and it didn’t hit the right notes, obviously. Something lighter might fare better. When you’re reading at the end of the day, and you’re on a deadline to submit your scores, giving your reader something a little more light-hearted may be easier for them to enjoy. Is this playing the system? Nah. I can only think back to the books I particularly enjoyed while judging. I would also offer something with more . . . I don’t know. I don’t want to say chemistry because I think Jax and Raven had chemistry. But maybe a more steamier, sweeter, attraction? Not all of my heroes are jerks. But I would definitely try something not so dark.
  • In that vein, I would enter something shorter.
    All of Nothing was entered into the Contemporary Romance Long category. There’s nothing worse than being forced to read something you don’t like, and having so much of it. I would do the short category. Though I don’t tend to write novellas, so that category may always be out of my reach.
  • Take the contest more seriously.
    I’m a newbie writer. Without written feedback, I can only guess why my book didn’t resonate with readers. Had it been a debut, I would worry that my voice wasn’t strong enough. But I think my voice is strong–I’ve written enough words to find it, and I’ve received compliments on the book. In fact, a woman at my work read it. She’s a prolific reader, and she told me she enjoyed All of Nothing very much and that I was extremely talented. I didn’t know she read it, so I don’t think she said anything because she thought I was expecting it. She didn’t have to say anything at all. I went into that because I’m thinking it was the plot and characters the judges didn’t care for, and not the writing itself. (Which I feel is a very important distinction.) But, I have never worked with a developmental editor or a professional editor of any kind. And if I ever hope to advance in a contest like this, I may have to hire someone who knows the romance market, knows all the tropes involved, and can tell me if I’m on the right track with my writing. I have never queried, have never sent out any of my books on subs, so I don’t even have a line or two from an agent/editor saying I’m on the right track, either. All I have to go on is reviews from my books, and that’s not saying a whole lot because I haven’t put much into marketing preferring to use my time to write instead.

How I felt about the contest:

I don’t feel terrible about my score. You have to face rejection with a thick skin. Since All of Nothing I’ve written five more books. So maybe if my tone or voice missed the mark, at least I’m still working on my craft as it’s natural for every book to be a bit better than the last.

It was interesting being a part of the RITAs. I liked seeing how the process worked and the quality of books entered by my peers.

I may never enter again. Or I may enter a book I haven’t written yet. Something that takes my breath away. Who knows. I do know that if you’re going to compete with the best of the best, you have to take your craft seriously, and if you can do that year after year and get better year after year, then maybe, just maybe, one day, you’ll win.

Have a wonderful week!


Want to try your hand at a contest? Poets and Writers Magazine offers a long list of contests to enter. Everything from poetry to essays. Look here to find out more.

You don’t have to enter the RITAs to enter a contest hosted by the RWA. All the chapters offer some kind of contest, too, though they can be seasonal and not offered at the same time. For a list of contests and chapter events, look here.


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Snow: A short story.

In the spirit of my blog post on Monday, about writing to write vs. writing to publish, I thought I would post a little something I wrote a while back. Four years ago, to be honest, as the properties said the creation date was December 17th, 2015. I gave it a little polish, deleting a word here and there and adding some commas. But I didn’t write this piece with anything in mind, and it hasn’t seen the light of day until now. Nothing more will be done with it, either.


Snow

The engine sputtered, the check engine light blinked on, and she carefully navigated the old car to the side of the gravel road, the vehicle coasting to a smooth stop as it died, she suspected, for good.

She rested her forehead against the steering wheel, the wind whining and whistling before slapping against the car and continuing on its way across the barren North Dakota plain.

There wasn’t much snow for this time of year, and squinting through the passenger’s side window, she could make out the brownish golden hue of the crop that had grown in the field over the summer as the remains poked from beneath a thin crust of dirty ice.

Sitting for a moment before pushing the heavy door open, she pulled on her red and grey gloves, cheerful fox faces grinning at her from the tops of her hands, and she took a sip of the now tepid coffee she had purchased at her last stop.

With nothing keeping her confined to the car, she stepped out, the wind biting into the delicate flesh of her cheeks, and with a loud creak, she slammed the door shut.

Knowing it was futile, but trying anyway, with unsteady hands she pulled her cellphone from the deep pocket of the emerald green coat he had bought for her so long ago saying the color matched her eyes.

The lack of bars proved to her what she already knew, and she slid the black rectangle into her pocket, resisting the overwhelming urge to hurl the device into the dead field with a throw containing all the strength she could muster.

Her fingertips were numb from the cold, the tip of her nose tingling, and she wondered, not for the first time, if dying from hypothermia was as pleasant as people made it sound, if she could lie in the field allowing her worries to drift away in a warm, yet frozen, haze.

Ignoring the wind that blew her black hair in an angry tangle around her head, she stepped off the road and into the crusty snow, her black scuffed boots breaking the grey layer of ice with a crunch, the sound carrying away on the points of snowflakes as they flew into the horizon.

The sky was a whitish-grey that blended into the field far into the distance, and she stared, pushing the hair from her eyes, from her lips coated with Passion Pink, the flavor he chose as his favorite, he said, because it would always remind him of their first kiss.

A rumbling caught her attention and for just one moment she allowed herself to hope he had come for her, but even before the beat-up truck passed her by, her shoulders hunched in disappointment and she pushed down the burning in her throat, blaming the sting in her eyes on the cold.

A single crow cawed overhead as it fought against the northern wind, and she focused on the bird, the solitary figure it made, cutting through the icy air, the black of its feathers in stark contrast to glaring brightness of the winter sky.

She stood in the empty field, the prairie void of life, shivering in the bright green coat that matched her eyes, her pink lips trembling, a useless cellphone sitting in her pocket, a worn out car parked behind her, alone.

dry grass on a background of snow in the winter


Thanks for reading, and I hope you all have a wonderful weekend planned!

I’ll see you Monday!


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