With much enthusiasm, I welcome Jess Alter, who has the honor of being my first guest blogger. Thank you for sharing your insights about wordsmithing with us, Jess. You’re a lovely, insightful person, and I’m anticipating reading your novels in 2015. 🙂
Resolved: 15 Good Writing Habits to Pick Up in 2015
by Jess Alter
I’m not a New Year’s resolutions kind of person. I used to be one: I always resolved to lose weight or complete tasks or learn new skills. I rarely held firm to my resolutions, so I gave up making resolutions. This year, however, I decided to make New Year’s resolutions. All are changes or continuing commitments I can make to grow my writing career.
This year, I published Solaray Dawn, the third installment of the Dome Trilogy. I started preparing a new series I started working on in 2009, the Cryptid Series, for publication in 2015. I began to engage with readers, authors, and publishing industry people on social media, and I realized that business as usual impedes my writing career.
When I reviewed 2014, I saw strengths and successes; I saw weaknesses and failures. Most important, I saw opportunities to improve and evolve as an author throughout 2015.
1. Publish the first novel of the Cryptid Series, ‘Til Undeath Do Us Part.
In 2014, I published the third installment of the Dome Trilogy: Solaray Dawn. That trilogy occupied eleven years of my writing life. Though I completed dozens of novels during that time, I published no other work. I regret not trying to publish anything else.
You have to be hungry to publish and cannot let up until your work is in the hands of readers
2. Submit a story to a magazine or a manuscript to a publisher or literary agent.
I haven’t submitted any written work since the 1990s. All of my work was rejected then, so I abandoned hope of publication until print-on-demand rose in popularity in the mid-2000s. Those years I could have kept abreast of the changing industry are lost because I did not try. Now, I have to catch up.
To have a strong presence in the publishing industry, your work and name have to be out there.
3. Educate myself on other important players in the publishing industry—especially cover artists, editors, literary agents, and publishing houses.
I published Beneath a Sunless Sky and believed that it was perfect. I assured myself that people would find my book. I believed I would be discovered and become famous. Neither was true.
Learning about the publication process allows you to decide where and when to find individuals who can help get your book into readers’ hands.
4. Learn to prepare strong queries and media packages.
I’m a weak salesperson. I can’t explain my novels concisely enough to entice people to want to read them. Strong queries and media packages can get my novels into the hands of the right people.
As a writer, you have to sell yourself and your work. Penning a novel is not enough.
5. Educate myself on strong and consistent ebook layout, formatting, and publishing.
The Dome Trilogy is stuck in 2007. Its only ebook format, currently, is PDF. Preparing an ebook so it looks good and flows well is difficult. I did publish Nightmare Specters on Nook, and I am embarrassed at how badly it turned out.
Ebook publishers aren’t responsible for how your book looks on digital format. You have to know what each platform can and cannot do if you want your work to stand out.
6. Keep better track of story ideas, especially bolt-from-the-blue inspiration.
I lose ideas in the shower. I lose ideas when I’m driving. I lose ideas when I’m walking. I don’t need to lose those ideas, because shower notepads, voice recorders, pencils and notebooks exist.
You can preserve story ideas if it matters enough to preserve them.
7. Craft better prose using writer’s prompts and other writing exercises.
I can knock out an 80,000-word novel in less than two weeks. Unfortunately, most of what I write needs so much editing that it gets abandoned. I want to learn to write better prose when I draft a novel.
You’re a wordsmith who forges scenes and stories. You have to practice daily to master it.
8. Write flash fiction and short fiction regularly.
Interviewers and publishers are interested in knowing what an author has published in magazines. I have nothing to show them.
Your short stories are as important as your novels when it comes to name recognition.
9. Participate in National Novel Writing Month 2015.
I do this yearly and have since 2003. It primed the well for me to take on a career as a novelist, and I am grateful for National Novel Writing Month.
Your muse can use a seat-of-the-pants, turn-the-inner-editor-off experience to get seat time practicing novelcraft.
10. Learn to copy edit and to proofread better.
Despite what I once believed, I don’t write clean prose in the first draft. Some people are extraordinary at cleaning up others’ prose. I’m not among that number, and it takes me a very long time to edit my own work.
If you choose to hire a copy editor and proofreader, then you should know what was done to improve your work.
11. Expand my vocabulary, improve my grammar, and practice creative and varied sentence structure.
I have loved to read since I was a child. Through reading, I learned the mechanics of good fiction writing. I am thankful for that foundation, but it’s not enough. If I want to live as a writer, then I want to build on that strong base.
You can’t rely only on what you already know about good writing.
12. Read other writers’ web journals and articles and interviews.
I know no writer exists in a vacuum. I appreciate the vast accumulation of experience, strength, and hope in the writing community.
You are part of a writing community, so get out there and get to know your neighbors.
13. Read novels for fun, especially those of independent authors.
My writing suffers because I’m not on the other side of a novel as often as I should be. My primary excuse is that I have to write and publish. My secondary is that I don’t want to inadvertently plagiarize someone else’s work. No more excuses. I love to read, and I’m punishing myself by not reading others’ stories.
You’re a writer because you were a reader first. Honor that hunger to read everything you can get your hands on and enjoy the vacation from writing, already.
14. Review novels on distribution sites and on my web journal.
Decades ago, I asked my High School librarian to order Stephen King’s It because of a book review I read. Writing a review is hard, but it’s not impossible. We owe it to other writers to review. Plus, review writing helps us summarize our own books and is excellent writing practice.
You have to become the reviewer you wish to see.
15. Improve my social media presence online: (better blogging, more visibility in more locations).
I’m on Twitter, and I have a web journal. That’s it, and that’s not enough if I want to gain traction in my writing career. Many websites connect writers and readers. That connection is the lifeblood of the career writer, so I am going to step out of the shadows and into the light in 2015.
If you want to be seen, then you can’t let yourself be invisible.
After the grandfather clocks chime midnight on January 1, after the many handfuls of confetti flutter to the floor, and after the balloons tumble on singing and kissing revelers, the celebration won’t end for me. As the parties wind down and sleepy people return home, I will be up and writing. If you pass my front door on 2015’s chilly New Year’s dawn, then you may smell the bitter and warm aroma of freshly brewed coffee. You may even hear my hot pink, sassy, Spanish typewriter clacking and chiming as it covers pink typewriter pages with black-inked imprinted letters, words, sentences, scenes.
I resolve to make 2015 my personal Year of the Writer.
In 2014, author Jessica “Jess” Alter published the third and final installment in an epic social science fiction trilogy filled with sex, tech, and firearms. Her new Cryptid Series will be published on multiple ebook platforms starting in 2015. The first book in the series, ‘Til Undeath Do Us Part, brings cryptid lore and legend into the modern scientific world with unexpected and thrilling results.
When she’s not writing, she enjoys collecting folktales from around the world, adapting dessert recipes and baking homemade breads, and crocheting little monsters. You can find her web journal at http://www.indieimprint.com/alteredstates and find her on Twitter as @Jess_Alter.
Note from Jane Bled:
Special thanks to all who have liked, commented, or followed my blog. I’m looking forward to 2015 – being surrounded by artists on a daily basis is literally a dream come true; I know you’re going to impress me with your creations in the new year.
Health, happiness, and long life!