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Thirteen Pieces of Advice for Aspiring Writers

Thursday Thirteen

I’ve been in a writing mood recently, which is great from my point of view. Today, I wrote “the end” on my current work in progress. Since my mind is in the groove, I thought I’d give some advice to aspiring authors.

1. Sit down and write every day. Make writing into a good habit.

2. Join a writing group, either a chapter or an online community for support.

3. Read and read widely. Analyze books that work for you and those that don’t. Use them as a learning tool.

4. Make a point to learn about websites and social media.

5. Enter writing competitions to help yourself improve and also to give yourself a writing deadline.

6. Research markets, agents and editors to familiarize yourself with what publishers and agents are looking for. This will help you narrow down who to submit your book to. If you’re thinking about self-publishing learn as much as you can about the process.

7. Keep a record of how much you can comfortably write each day. Knowledge of your possible output will help you once you’re published and facing deadlines.

8. Take online classes and attend conferences to learn as much as you can. I’ve been published for a while now, and I’m still learning!

9. When it comes to actual plotting, try all the different methods. Plotting, pansting and in between until you find a method that works for you.

10. There is no right or wrong way to write a book. There is only your way.

11. Find a critique partner/s to help critique your work and critique other writers’ work. This is a learning process too.

12. Once you’ve completed and polished your book send it off to your chosen publisher or agent. While you’re waiting, start work on your next book. If you’re self-publishing, complete the publishing process and start work on the next book.

13. Celebrate each success because writing is a difficult business and plain hard work.

Do you have any suggestions to add to my list?

Writer Tip: Brenna Lyons

“The editor is there to do two things: to make the book as polished and professional as she can and to help you and the publisher avoid infringement suits. There are no brownie points for refusing reasonable edits. My first editor [Suzanne James] taught me: “An editor is not dismembering your baby; she’s polishing your gem.” To that, I added: “Sometimes you have to cut off the rough edges before the soft cloth comes out.” While you may not agree on precisely what changes need made to smooth the work, you should work with the editor to come to a compromise and not dismiss the concerns outright. Chances are, if the editor sees a problem, the readers will as well. Remember, what you see in your mind’s eye is often filling in the blanks between the typed lines, because you know the subject so well. For a reader to see the same thing, it has to all be on the page.”

Brenna Lyons, author of the EPIC’s e-Book Award-winning TIME CURRENTS

Writer Tip: Christina Phillips

Don’t be afraid to experiment with your writing.

So what does that even mean?

For five years I targeted Harlequin Mills and Boon because that was the house I wanted to be published with. I did eventually progress from form rejections to personal ones and then onto revisions but something just wasn’t clicking. However, HM&B was where my heart lay and I was determined to succeed!

But eventually, disheartened, I decided to try writing single title. And then paranormal romance (which I had always loved). At the insistence of my CPs I finally pushed right out of my comfort zone and tackled erotic romance – something I had always insisted I would never do because it was far too difficult!

Suddenly, it was as if a great halogen lamp exploded overhead! My voice fit the dark, erotic tone as if this was where I had always meant to be. As another experiment to stretch my writing muscles further, I then wrote my very first erotic historical romance – and it was that book that landed me an agent and two book deal.

So this is my tip: Sometimes it really does pay to try another sub-genre you love – even one that you might not have considered attempting before. It could make all the difference between “thanks but no thanks” and “We love it! Please sign on the dotted line!”

Visit Christina Phillips Website
Purchase Christina’s upcoming release, FORBIDDEN ~ Berkley Heat, Sep 2010

Writer Tip: Tawny Weber

“Goals and Goal Timelines

Writing goals are fabulous tools. They get us to put the words on the page, they motivate us to submit our manuscripts, they push us over hurdles when we’d rather give up. You’ve sent goals, right? Finish the first draft – or better yet, finish the first draft by XYZ date. Maybe even goals like pitching or submitting to a certain number of editors and agents before the end of the year.

But what about those ultimate goals we’re all striving for- the goal to sell a book? How can we set that goal when the decision is in the hands of someone (or someones, in the case of books bought by an editorial committee) else? Can we put a deadline on something like that?

Yes and no.

We can create a goal timeline. If the ultimate goal is to sell a book, make a list of everything that has to be done first. Write the book, polish it (maybe get critique partners or enter it in contests for feedback). Submit, resubmit, revise, use feedback and revise again. Realistically look at your time – do you work full-time? Have kids who take up time? Are you a fast or slow writer? Where are you at in terms of knowledge of your craft?

So taking into account where you’re at, what you have to learn, and where you want to go – how long, realistically, would it take for you to complete all the steps on the timeline? This is what you can control. This is the part to focus on. This is what your goal should be – to do all the things on your timeline. Then, after you’ve submitted the book, to do them all over with another book while you’re waiting to hear.”

Tawny Weber is usually found dreaming up stories in her California home, surrounded by dogs, cats and kids. When she’s not writing hot, spicy stories for Harlequin Blaze, she’s shopping for the perfect pair of boots or drooling over Johnny Depp pictures (when her husband isn’t looking, of course). In September 2010, her tenth Blaze, RIDING THE WAVES hits the bookshelves. Come by and visit her on the web at

Writer Tip: Helen Hardt

“Seize the moment with sensory detail! Have you ever read a story that just didn’t grab you, even if the plot was compelling and the conflict abundant? The prose probably lacked sensory detail. Sensory detail is what infuses writing with emotion and helps the reader get inside your character’s skin. It is especially important in romance writing, where the success of the story depends not only on the reader’s allegiance to the hero and heroine, but also to the building emotion and sexual tension between them. Help the reader see, hear, taste, smell, and feel everything the character does. While writing a scene, ask yourself what your heroine sees. Are there any smells? Tastes? How does she feel on the inside, both physically and emotionally? How do her surroundings affect her? Your scenes will come alive, and your reader will turn the pages rapidly, and then feel a sense of sadness when the story ends and look frantically for your next book!”

Visit Helen Hardt’s website
Purchase Loving Eve, one of Helen’s recent releases.

Writer Tip: Maggie Robinson

“Be patient and don’t ever give up. I started writing “for fun” in 2003 and did not know anything. And believe me when I say anything. It took me three years of knocking around before I got a clue (well, a couple of clues) and met like-minded writers online. Thanks to some positive contest feedback, in 2007 I got really serious about publication—finishing, revising, querying. I landed my agent in 2008, got contracts for 8 (!!!) books in 2009, and will have 3 books out this year—the first out almost seven years to the day I woke up in the middle of the night itching to write.

Seven years is a long time and I’m not exactly a dewy-eyed debutante. My author photo is wonderfully photo-shopped. :) But I didn’t give up—and I became a better writer with every book, even the ones stashed under the bed. I learned what works—after experimenting with a number of genres, shape-shifting cats are really not for me.But I found my historical voice and hope it strikes a chord with readers over the next couple of years.

I’m debuting soon under two names. On April 27, the first of Maggie Robinson’s Courtesan Court series Mistress By Mistake, comes out from Kensington Brava. On June 1, Margaret Rowe’s edgier erotic Tempting Eden will be on the shelves from Berkley Heat. On November 30, I’ll be part of the Brava anthology Lords of Passion, also featuring romance legend Virginia Henley and Kate Pearce. Even though I’m a “real writer” now, I can’t express in words how excited I am by this turn of events.

Come visit both of me at and There are always contests and giveaways on one or the other site! And write, write, write, every day if you can. But if you can’t, don’t beat yourself up—life happens.”

Writer Tip: Emily Bryan

“Figure out what kind of story you want to tell and stick to it. Cross too many genre barriers and the booksellers won’t know where to shelve you. Begin as you mean to continue. If you start out with snarky comedy, don’t end up with a chainsaw toting serial killer. Remember the movie Fargo? It was both hysterical and horrific. And confusing. A reader doesn’t like those sorts of surprises. If you’re naturally drawn to dark, angsty tales, don’t try to add humor. If wit fizzes out of you like a shaken soda, don’t try to write a serious story. Stay true to your own voice.”

Visit Emily Bryan’s website. (Emily has 7 pages of writing advice under the WRITE STUFF tab!)
Purchase Emily Byran’s latest release, Stroke of Genius.

Writer Tip: Brenna Lyons

“Don’t worry about the distractions. I don’t mean telling the kids not to interrupt your writing time unless there is fire or blood. I mean the writing-borne distractions. Don’t spend your time worrying about the perfect opening line or scene, the perfect title, the perfect market… Don’t spend your time worrying about which genre fits your book best. Don’t spend your time editing and rewriting what you’ve got done. Leave all of that until the fist draft is done and then go back and do those things. While you’re allowing yourself to be distracted by the nits that you don’t need with an early draft, half the book could already be written.”

Brenna Lyons, author of the EPIC’s e-Book Award-winning TIME CURRENTS

Writer Tip: Larissa Ione

“Celebrate everything. Probably seems like a strange writing tip, but in this business we take a lot of knocks and hard hits. It’s important to keep your spirits up, and one way to do that is to keep a bottle of champagne (or whatever you celebrate with) handy at all times. I always keep a bottle of champagne chilled, and I’ve done it since before I was published. If you’re aspiring to be published, celebrate every milestone — finishing the book, sending off your first query letter, getting your first manuscript request, finaling in your first contest, etc. If you are published, celebrate getting your first cover, your first release day, getting your first great review, making your first foreign sale…and then keep on celebrating everything. More foreign sales, more covers, more contracts, hitting lists…everything. There is so little in this business that we can control…so we need to grab every opportunity to celebrate and remember why we’re writing!”

Visit Larissa Ione’s website at
Read a release from Larissa – Ecstasy Unveiled or The Mammoth Book of Special Ops Romance

Writer Tip: Victoria Janssen

“Read everything you can, both inside and outside your genre.”

Visit Victoria Janssen’s website at
Purchase Victoria’s latest release, The Moonlight Mistress

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