Archive for November, 2014

10 Tips for Writers

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014
Jenna's workspace at a writer's retreat.

Jenna’s workspace at a recent writer’s retreat.

This post was inspired by a request from Webucator in support of all those aspiring writers working through November on a novel for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)

WHAT WERE YOUR GOALS WHEN YOU STARTED WRITING? My original goal was very simple.  My aim was to complete a 100,000 word historical romance.  Unfortunately, due to a woeful lack of understanding of the market, this story was sent in Colonial Spain.  It will never see the light of day, which is a very good thing, because it was also poorly written, like many first novels, but I DID finish! My second goal was to get a rejection letter that did not begin, Dear Author.  With that achievement, I aimed for a ‘good’ rejection letter, which is one in which an editor or agent either asks for you to re-write and resubmit, asks you to submit something else or offers a suggestion or encouragement in their rejection.  With seventy rejection letters to my credit, I achieved this lofty, near impossible mark of progress with a request to submit something else (but I had to write it first).  The next logical step, was to get a request for a partial, which is (for those of you writing about Colonial Spain) when an agent or editor asks to see your first three chapters and a synopsis.  Once I had leaped this hurdle, my objective was not to die of old age before I heard back from them.  I didn’t and they did finally write back.  This is bad, of course, though I didn’t know it at the time.  Bad news comes in the inbox.  Good news comes via the phone.  With a new series of rejections of partials in hand and only nine years of continuous work on my craft, I aimed  to receive an offer on a story.  And after a mere ten years from when I began this marathon, I got the call.   Harlequin offered for a Western Historical titled, WINTER WOMAN.  One year later I obtained my next goal, to hold a book which I had written in my hand.  With my second offer, a multi-book contract, my goal became finding an agent.

9780373298037 Wild West Christmas medium

Wild West Christmas includes Jenna’s novella, A Family for the Rancher

WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS NOW? I’m working on switching subgenres from Historical and Paranormal to Romantic Suspense.  I’m also working toward moving from series romance to single title, expanding my reader base and connecting to new readers on social media.  I do this by keeping a Facebook page, hosting GoodReads giveaways, tweet @jennakernan and Pinterest.  My webpage, www.jennakernan.com contains first chapter excerpts, video book trailers, giveaway information, news and a place to join my newsletter.

WHAT PAYS THE BILLS? I work a day job and write in the evenings and weekends.  I always thought that when I made the same amount writing as I did at my job, that I’d quit.  I guess I better add that to my above goals.

ASSUMING WRITING DOESN’T PAY THE BILLS WHAT MOTIVATES YOU NOW? I write because it is a pleasure, a struggle, a puzzle and a joy.  When I write, time can cease. as I slip into the ‘zone‘.  This is the most important reason to write–because I love it.  Additionally, the supplemental income is helpful.  The satisfaction of seeing my stories in print motivates me.  I’m also motivated by my readers, who let me know that my stories are important to them.  Life is difficult and we all face many challenges, but a book can help folks escape their problems for a while.  That’s reason enough to do what I do.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE YOUNG AUTHORS HOPING TO MAKE A CAREER OUT OF WRITING?

Here is my list of 10 tips to writers.

1. WRITE: The best way to learn to write is to write. Not to read about it, or think about it or talk about it, but to do it–every day. Practice your craft and you will improve.

2. JOIN: Join a professional writing organization. There are many.  Additionally, join a local chapter of that group.

3. LEARN: Take some writing classes, attend writing conferences and read about the craft of writing.

4. READ: Read everything you can in the genre you aim to write.

5. RESEARCH: Visit bookstores and online booksellers to see what kind of books are currently selling. Read the back covers.  Look at the front covers.  This is market research and it will help you spot what is selling.

6. VISIT: Join the mailing list of some of the authors who you would like to emulate. Visit their websites and see what kind of social presence they maintain.  Consider joining Twitter and Facebook.  Start writing copy for your website.

7. STUDY: Learn all you can about the business of publishing which is changing with astonishing speed.

8. FOLLOW: Read the websites of the publishers and agents you would like to approach and then FOLLOW THEIR GUIDELINES. Be sure to address the letter to a specific person and spell their name correctly.  Consider attending a conference attended by the publishers and agents you wish to query and pitch to them in person.

9. MEET EXPECTATIONS: Keep query letters short and to the point.  Editors are very busy and they don’t suffer fools well.  It is a good idea to read as many examples of queries as you can before you submit so you come across as a professional.

10. PRACTICE: Synopsis writing is an art and it takes much practice.  So practice.  Read examples and figure out how to condense your story while having the kind of hook that will land you an offer.

Good Luck with your writing!