Tag Archives: Writing

Success as an Author

Many new writers and authors often wonder what it takes to be considered a successful author. How many books do they need to sell before they are considered successful? How much money do they need to make in royalties before they can say they’ve really made it? How is success measured?

In our society, and for many of us, success is often defined as money, fame, and power. But I think we do ourselves a big disservice when we define it that way, or base it on specific numbers reached, whether it’s book sales or income.

What about an author who has only published a few books, but they are well-written, filled with heart, humor, and gut-wrenching honesty? What about a new author’s book that opens up unique and fascinating worlds to explore? Or an author’s story that shares the overcoming of a huge difficulty in life that can inspire and help others? Or a new author’s book that touches the lives of others in powerful and profound ways? Would you say they are not successful?

I used to think of success in terms of a huge number of books sold, a steady income from royalties, and being on the best-seller list. However, those goals may be fleeting, arbitrary, unrealistic, and self-defeating – using those as criteria for success can discourage or undermine talented writers, stop them from doing their best, or cause them to give up too soon. You can be successful without reaching those typically out-of-reach goals for most writers – so don’t sell yourself short. And don’t give up.

To me, success is measured in the fulfillment of publishing the ideas and stories within me. It is in producing well-written and memorable books, stories, and articles that I can be proud of. It is in touching the lives of others through my words. It is putting my creative thoughts and imagination into a cohesive and powerful story, and getting that on paper in a way that is touching, heart-felt, and powerful.

Success is not a destination – success is a living, breathing, shifting journey of discovery and creativity that you can choose to be part of.

If you have done your best with as much integrity as possible, are proud of your work, and are happy with who you are and where you are, then you are successful. That is the success we should strive for.  And that is in your hands, within your grasp.

Success is the expression of and explosion of creativity, heart, and imagination, all coming together in powerful and moving stories. It is exciting and fulfilling and continues to unfold in spectacular new ways and in glorious wonder.

Number of books sold? That doesn’t even come close.

Go for real success – the fulfillment of a dream. And that is something all of us can do.

Copyright © 2018 Lynn Miclea. All Rights Reserved.


LYNN MICLEA grew up in New York and moved to California while in her twenties. A certified hypnotherapist and Reiki master practitioner with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, she spent many years working in the medical field and in various offices in an administrative capacity.

After retiring, Lynn discovered and developed a passion for writing, and she is now a successful author with many books published and more on the way. Her two memoirs, one of her family’s experience with ALS, and one of her own journey through open-heart surgery, have received numerous five-star reviews.

She also has published ten sweet, exciting, and fun children’s books, which are uplifting, loving, feel-good animal stories, filled with warm humor, and which are about kindness, compassion, helping others, seeing the best in others, and believing in yourself.

She hopes that through her writing, she can help empower others and add more joy and love to the world. She asks everyone to be kind to each other as we all share this journey through life together.

Lynn currently lives in the Los Angeles area with her husband and two dogs.

Learn more about Lynn at her amazon author page here.

And please visit her website at www.lynnmiclea.com for more information on her books.

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Pre-Order for WU! First Anthology: Realm of Magic Available Now!

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Realm of Magic

Writers Unite! Anthologies Book 1

Here in the realm of magic, there are dragons, nymphs, assassins, elementals, witches, fairies. A myriad of stories . . . of love, adventure, mischief, vengeance, and war—each one as unique as the author; each one with the power to transport you to a foreign realm of wonder and chaos, of legend and myth . . . of magic. This volume is your ticket to enter this fantastical realm through these portals, but be warned—there will be fire.

Click here to Pre-Order Realm of Magic

Pre-order only $0.99 on Kindle! Release date August 1, 2018!

. Real

 

Guest Blog: Write What You Know — David Reiss

Once upon a time–when dinosaurs roamed the earth, and I was still in high school–I had a wonderful English teacher who treated his students as peers and insisted that we all call him by his first name; his enthusiasm for literature and drama was outright contagious. He convinced me to read outside my preferred genres, and he pushed me to write, write and write some more. A tremendously harsh critic, he somehow managed to be supportive even while delivering the most ruthless dissections of my prose. I was a bitter and catastrophically depressed teenager who approached each school day with apprehensive dread, but for his classes, I held a genuine anticipation.

Until one lecture when he insisted that creating compelling fiction required that we ‘write what we know,’ and all my enthusiasm burned away into ash.

At the time, I thought that he meant that our prose should be limited to our experiences and our areas of expertise. I couldn’t imagine any subject less interesting or worthy of consideration. How could the experiences of a morose, sheltered and awkward kid be relevant to the life of an inhuman denizen of a fantasy dungeon? I wanted to write about dragons and laser pistols, camaraderie and adventure!

I occasionally wish for a time machine so that I could leap across the years and smack my younger self on the back of the head. Because the truth is every experience is something you can learn from. I may not have ever soared above a battlefield then folded my wings to drop into combat like the gryphon protagonist from one of my short stories…but I knew the feel of wind against my face and could add that sensation to describe my gryphon’s flight. I knew what it looked like when a hawk stooped towards its prey. I knew what anger felt like, and fear, and hope, and sadness.

To ‘write what you know’ doesn’t mean to write about yourself. It means to use your personal experiences to lend the power of authenticity to your prose.

There is a secondary meaning as well, and it is one that I try to take to heart more as an adult author: Research, knowledge and the acquisition of new sensory memories can make your writing more compelling. It’s tempting to feel content that having swung a baseball bat is sufficient experience to write a scene in which an armored knight wields a mace, and it is true that being able to evoke the memory of how your grip strained or how your shoulder shook at the moment of impact is important. But spending time researching how maces were used historically can help create a more powerful scene. Look up how much real maces weighed. Research the kinds of wounds that a mace caused. If you can, make a mace and create new sensory memories by beating up an old tire. Interview experts and NEVER rely on anything you saw in a Hollywood blockbuster movie because Hollywood is a lying liar who lies.

Try new things! Get your hands dirty in the garden, take a lesson in welding, bungee jump, hang-glide. Eat exotic foods and learn to mix cocktails. Live.

So, my advice to an aspiring author is this: Write what you know because you know much more than you think. And never, ever stop learning because who knows what you’re going to want to write about tomorrow?

About the Author:

While growing up, David Reiss was that weird kid with his nose in a book and his head in the clouds. He was the table-top role-playing game geek, the comic-book nerd, the story-teller, and dreamer.
Fortunately, he hasn’t changed much.

David is a software engineer by trade and a long-time sci-fi and fantasy devotee by passion, and he lives in Silicon Valley with his partner of twenty-six years. Until recently, he also shared his life with a disturbingly spoiled cat named Freya.

(Farewell, little huntress. You were loved. You are missed.)

David’s first book, Fid’s Crusade, has just recently been published; this was his first novel-length project, but it certainly won’t be his last—he’s having far too much fun!

Mr. Price’s Dinner Table – Deborah Ratliff

 

Location, location, location.

How many time have you heard that a business’s location is essential to its success? It is. The same is true for the site of your story. Choosing a small town, an urban environment, or an alien world instantly sets the mood, the culture, and the anticipation for your story. Choose wisely, and the location becomes another character in your writing, adding depth and complexity to your plot.

Why we choose a location varies from our own experiences to the genres that we write.  I set my stories in the world that I know best, the Southern United States and often in New Orleans. To explain how I decide, I need to take you on a journey to my childhood.

I am a Southerner and quite proud of my roots. Growing up in South Carolina I was fortunate to have parents who saw no color differences in their fellow man. People from all walks of life and cultures visited our home.

Memories of my childhood remain clear today. The mimosa tree that I played under in our yard. Houses where all doorways, windows, and chimneys were trimmed in blue to ward off evil spirits. The dime bags of boiled peanuts sold on the street. The ‘air-conditioned tree’ at the Herlong Orchard peach stand where the temperature was twenty degrees cooler in the shade and the water stored in a metal canteen was ice cold. While there was a horrible undercurrent of division and anger in this place I love so much, there was also a goodness of soul. Family, friends, food, and good times existed as well.

My father worked at the Savannah River Plant in Aiken, South Carolina where at the time hydrogen bombs were being made. With workers from all over the world employed there, as a child I met a variety of people. One of my father’s best friends was a bear of a man, a Navaho by the name of Jess Brown. His wife Athea, a small, plump woman who might have been a better cook than my grandmothers, was like an aunt to me. I am about one-sixteenth Cherokee and Jess, and Athea gave me a sense of what being Native American meant. Proud, hard-working, gentle people.

Another friend of my parents impacted my life more than I realized. Mr. Price. Honestly, I am not sure what his first name was, my parents never called him anything but Mr. Price. He was older, a slight man, regal in bearing, with snow-white hair and a thick Southern accent that held a lilt of his mother’s heritage. She was a Cajun from southwest Louisiana, and it was his reminisces about his mother’s upbringing that fueled my love of the Cajun culture.

Mr. Price was called a ‘bachelor.’ In the South in those days, an unmarried man of means, a patron of the arts was referred to in that manner. Anyone who has read Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt will recognize who Mr. Price was. Polite society did not mention the word homosexual as that wouldn’t be gracious and respectful.

We often had Sunday dinner at Mr. Price’s home, a large two-story house near downtown Aiken. I remember the opulent crimson flocked wallpaper in the parlor, the glittering crystal chandelier in the dining room, and fresh flowers everywhere. While I loved to have dinner in the dining room,  if the weather cooperated, we would often eat on the back terrace surrounded by a formal garden.

Dinner? Not what you might expect for a South Carolina gentleman. While on occasion we might have shrimp and grits or barbecued chicken, we often feasted on shrimp etouffee or jambalaya, dishes Mr. Price’s mother made when he was small. At age ten, I had my first taste of that Cajun chicory coffee at his dinner table.

I was mesmerized as he would tell us of his parent’s home in Lake Charles, and his grandparents’ house in the country nearby. He would spin tales of fun in the bayou, and I was hooked for life. While I loved South Carolina, my heart drifted toward Cajun Louisiana. His memories stirred emotions in me that I have kept to this day.

When I began to write fiction again a few years ago, I knew I would set my stories in the South. While I have never sugar-coated the problems the area has, which are no different from any other part of the United States, there is an ambiance and tone about the South, the southern coast especially, that is alluring. When I began to write it was Louisiana that I set my first novel in, New Orleans specifically.

Having visited New Orleans a few times as an adult, I discovered that my writing muse was a resident of the French Quarter. New Orleans, the bayou, the jazz, the beignets, the sultry weather, all characters in themselves and ones I find creeping into my writing.

On a recent Sunday, I watched one of Anthony Bourdain’s final “Parts Unknown” episodes. We lost a unique individual with Bourdain’s death. A talented essayist on life and culture and how food is intrinsic to our existence, not only for sustenance but for our soula. This show centered on Cajun Mardi Gras as celebrated in Southwest Louisiana.

We know of Mardi Gras as a glitzy party of drunken revelry, resplendent with cheap shiny beads, gaudy costumes, and over the top parades, as well as – well – fun. Bourdain showed us a Mardi Gras few outsiders know,  celebrated away from the French Quarter. Equally as gaudy and drunken but steeped in tradition and meaning.

Despite the commercial decadence of the more popular party in the French Quarter or the more traditional decadence of Cajun Mardi Gras, the spirit of the Cajun people, their passion for life, food, and even voodoo fuel my imagination and my soul.

I realized how ingrained the Cajun world was to my writing when I recently started writing a short story for a romance anthology. I struggled with setting and story until my muse left the jazz bar in the Quarter and reminded me, I was a mystery writer. I knew where I belonged. My story is now a romance between a TV reporter and a detective brought together over a dead body.  The location you ask? The French Quarter.

There is something about the tenor and vibe New Orleans that touches me.  A city steeped in tradition and like Anthony Bourdain, unique.

After writing my first novel, Crescent City Lies, a mystery set in New Orleans, I realize that the Cajun culture remains embedded within me, sparked so many years ago at Mr. Price’s dinner table.

Location, location, location.

(photo from https://www.visitaikensc.com/groups)

Advice for New and Aspiring Authors — Lynn Miclea

I can easily remember what it was like before I published my first book. It was not that long ago, and I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t think I was capable of writing or publishing a book. If someone had told me back then that I would have twelve books published by this time, I would have told them they were crazy.

And now, looking back over the past few years, after writing and publishing twelve books, I realize that I have learned quite a lot along the way. Of course, I am still learning, and I hope that I will always learn more and improve. But now feels like the right time to reach out and help other new and aspiring authors.

When we are beginning our journey as writers, we tend to have so many of the same questions, confusion, fears, and doubts. I would like to help make things a little easier and share with you some of what I have learned.

So here are seven of the best ideas I have found to help new and aspiring authors.

  1. Read a lot

Reading is important. Reading helps develop your writing skills as you learn what you like and don’t like about how things are written. Reading helps you learn how to phrase things, present situations, and describe action or settings. It helps you learn how to introduce characters and how to write realistic dialogue. It helps you improve your writing in so many ways – I learn every time I read. The more you read, the better you learn to write.

  1. Write a lot

Write as much as you can. As you write, you improve your skills. Each book, blog, article, or journal entry you write helps and improves your writing. I look back at my earlier writing, and I can see how far I’ve come – my writing is now more clear, concise, and powerful. So keep writing – the more you write, the better you get.

  1. Be you, find your own voice

Don’t compare yourself to others or try to imitate someone else’s style. Find your own voice, your own passion, and your own style. Discover the things you want to write about. Don’t try to be anyone else – it doesn’t work anyway, and it comes across as forced. Be you. There will never be another person just like you, so be proud of who you are and develop your own unique style.

  1. Get rid of self-doubts and self-criticism

Know that everyone has self-doubts and is self-critical. It is human nature. It is especially prevalent in creative types – writers, authors, artists, and musicians. We put our heart and soul into what we do. We feel vulnerable and exposed. We worry about whether or not we’re good enough or if people will like what we do. But those thoughts can undermine you and your creativity. Don’t allow any of that to get in your way or stop you. Write despite your insecurities – if we let insecurities stop us, nothing would ever get written. Write for you, not for anyone else, and trust that you will keep getting better as you go. If you love to write and feel passionate about writing, then do it. Set aside all judgment, worry, and criticism. Write as much as you can – and allow yourself to grow and blossom.

  1. The first draft is always crap

As Ernest Hemingway said, “The first draft of anything is shit.” Everyone’s first draft is always crap, and that’s okay. Expect it, it’s part of the territory, and don’t worry about it. Write your story down as it is, as though no one will ever see it. Write your heart out, and get it all down on paper. You can always edit it later and improve what you’ve written. So don’t worry about the first draft – it’s simply the first step and puts you on your way to creating an amazing finished manuscript.

  1. Always backup your work

Too many people have learned this the hard way – always back up your work. Use a backup drive, an internet storage site such as drop-box, another file, a second computer, the cloud, etc. It doesn’t matter what you use, just make sure you backup your work somewhere. It is too easy to accidentally delete something, lose a file, have your computer crash, have a file become corrupted, etc. Don’t risk losing what you’ve spent so many hours creating. And don’t wait until it’s too late – be smart and always back up your work.

  1. Get professional editing

After you have finished your manuscript, read it through multiple times to make it as clean and error-free as possible. Then always use the services of a professional editor so that your work will be professional quality and the best it can possibly be. A professional editor helps with more than simply finding typos. They help with grammar, spelling, punctuation, sentence structure, word usage, consistency, repetitions, proper and consistent tense, plot development, subplots that don’t belong or that slow down the story, characters, appropriate POV (point of view), tension build-up, anything that doesn’t move the story forward, story structure, plot holes, pacing, plus many other things.

I was a professional proofreader for many years, and I studied editing. When I look over my own work, I carefully and slowly read word-for-word, and I still miss things. It is difficult to catch your own errors, as you tend to skim your own story since you know it so well. Your mind automatically fills in and corrects any errors or missing words. So it really helps to have another pair of eyes on your work. You don’t want to turn off readers with errors throughout your story, or have prospective readers not buy your book because of errors in the sample they see. A professional editor helps your work be the best it can be, and that is important. If you want a well-written, professional story that will have readers wanting to read more of your work, always have your work professionally edited.

Congratulations – I applaud you for being a writer!

Writing is a creative process where our hearts and imagination merge and pour out onto paper, and it is a thrilling and rewarding journey.

It gives me great pleasure to share these seven tips with you, and I hope these help you on your way to becoming an outstanding and successful author.

The path is not always easy, but always do your best, and never stop learning and improving. One day I hope to see your books on the best-seller list.

And no matter how far you go as a writer, enjoy the entire journey and be proud of who you are and what you accomplish.

 

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About The Author

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LYNN MICLEA grew up in New York and moved to California while in her twenties. A certified hypnotherapist and Reiki master practitioner with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, she spent many years working in the medical field and in various offices in an administrative capacity.

After retiring, Lynn discovered and developed a passion for writing, and she is now a successful author with many books published and more on the way. Her two memoirs, one of her family’s experience with ALS, and one of her own journey through open-heart surgery have received numerous five-star reviews. 

She also has published ten sweet, exciting, and fun children’s books, which are uplifting, loving, feel-good animal stories, filled with warm humor, and which are about kindness, compassion, helping others, seeing the best in others, and believing in yourself. 

She hopes that through her writing, she can help empower others and add more joy and love to the world. She asks everyone to be kind to each other as we all share this journey through life together.

Lynn currently lives in the Los Angeles area with her husband and two dogs.

Learn more about Lynn at her Amazon author page here.

And please visit her website at www.lynnmiclea.com for more information on her books.
Copyright © 2018 Lynn Miclea. All Rights Reserved.

 

An Anniversary

 
As you know, over the last three years Writers Unite! has grown into one of the largest closed writing groups on Facebook. What many of you may not know since you haven’t been with us the entire three years is that we had a pivotal moment that spurred our growth.
 
When now admin Paul Reeves joined Writers Unite!, he reached out to us about appearing on his radio program out of Detroit. I was chosen to be the voice of WU! for the interview, and on July 11, 2016, I had my first interview on Dr. Paul’s Family Talk.
 
Membership was at 6,600 that day. We began to see an uptick in member requests immediately and had added a thousand or more new members by the time I appeared the second time on the show in August 2016. Again, we saw the numbers begin to rise. Shortly after that, Facebook started to advertise us aggressively. As a fast-growing group, their algorithms picked up the increases and began to market us.
 
Our growth is indicative of what marketing can do. We did nothing different to promote WU! at that time other than appearing on Paul’s show. While not all our growth is attributed to his show directly, some has been by word of mouth, our appearance there was the catalyst that allowed us to grow.
 
Learn a lesson from this. Marketing matters. Do not shy away from doing interviews, go on the radio, do print interviews, do a book signing anywhere you can, send those emails blasts. It can work if you keep trying.
 
Over the last two years, Paul, through his radio program and his desire to contribute to Writers Unite! as an admin has helped us sustain this growth by providing a platform for authors to tell their story. WU! continues to appear on the show to offer writing information and many of the authors Paul has interviewed have become active members of the group.
 
We are grateful to Paul for his contributions to the group. Together, the WU! admin team is striving to offer media exposure, through Dr. Paul’s Family Talk and the anthology series for our members.
 
Without question, thanks above all to the members for being with us. You are what makes WU! successful!
 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
 
Below is a link to the first interview, WU! did on Dr. Paul’s Family Talk. Then on terrestrial radio in Detroit. The show is now broadcast live on Impact Radio USA. http://www.impactradiousa.com/
 
Writers Unite! on Dr. Paul’s Family Talk July 11, 2016
 

First trailer for Writer’s Unite! Anthology: Realm of Magic!!

Writers Unite!’s Fantasy Anthology: Realm of Magic will be published on August 1, 2018.

Pre-order info coming soon!

Check Out the Trailer for Writers Unite! Anthology Realm of Magic Here



Guest Blog: The 9 Perils of Writerhood – Rosanna Bates

The 9 Perils of Writerhood

By Rosanna Bates

Thinking about taking up writing? As a hobby, or maybe a career? Well, be warned. You are about to pursue a perilous occupation. A vortex of chaos, creativity and solitude that will suck you into its inescapable depths. Writing is not for the faint-hearted.

On your journey you will encounter submission guidelines, internet trolls and *gasp* reading fees. If you are lucky enough to get away from them unscathed, you are still destined to fall victim to the countless dangers of writing. Although for the sake of time-saving let’s say there are nine.

 

The Curse of the Grammar Nazi

With proficiency in the written word comes an impulse to correct people’s grammar and spelling—a practice that is universally frowned upon. In no small part because it’s a little bit condescending even if it does clear up some outrageous uses of the English language.

As the rest of the world demands you keep your mouth shut, you will be forced to stew in your exasperation for eternity. Although, where the internet’s prying eyes cannot see, you will be safe to unleash your new curse. The household shopping lists will be impeccable, one way or another.

 

Demonic Possession

Short of floating out of bed and babbling in tongues, you wouldn’t believe you were being possessed at all. That’s what the Demons want you to think.

We believe the characters we create and grow to love are under our control. But they get under our skin, into our heads, and control our thoughts. Whilst innocently daydreaming some dialogue for your new imaginary friends, their words will come tumbling out of your mouth quite without your permission. At dinner, on the tube, at the library, in the middle of an important interview. At every conceivable inconvenient movement. So don’t be surprised if you come home to an intervention one day with a demonologist and a priest siting in.

 

Imagination Fatigue

The adrenaline rush of an idea grabbing you and running away is like nothing else. Your wedding day or that big promotion all pale in comparison to this thrill. Spending several hours on a whirlwind adventure in your own brain and putting it to paper is an excitement that has lured many a writer into its eternal clutches. However, after any epic high, there is an inevitable crash. When you’re finished with that flash of productivity, your brain will feel like an exploded water balloon. You’ll be lucky if you can think up what to have for dinner.

 

Legal Trouble

Writers research everything. How else are you supposed to craft realistic crime dramas and historical romances? Nobody’s that confident in their estimations of an autopsy to start writing about it without looking it up in a search engine first. Those Google searches are not for the squeamish.

As a result of your curiosity, your internet histories become weird and wonderful collections of web pages you’ve clicked on in the pursuit of piecing your work together realistically. They also become article one in your murder trials if your enemies are vengeful enough.

Whilst at the time your search on the world’s deadliest poisons was perfectly innocent, it may not look that way when there’s a dead body in your living room with all the signs of cyanide poisoning. Moral of the story, don’t be a writer. If you really must be a writer, then be sure to make no enemies who might be motivated enough to frame you for murder. As our next point explains, that may not be a problem anyway.

 

Dying a Social Death

Writing isn’t merely a hobby, it’s a lifestyle. It gets into every nook and cranny of your life, including the social sector. Coffees with friends make way for editor’s deadlines. Brainstorming sessions instead of hosting the parents. Losing your mind perfecting a scene instead of sleeping.

Your friends and family begin to question whether you ever existed or if you were just a figment of their imaginations. Until one day you finally show up to a birthday party and dole out a few heart attacks.

 

Keyboard Burn

When inspiration hits, you won’t be able to get the words down fast enough. So beware when speed typing, for your fingertips may burn on the red-hot keys. That best-seller in the making will gather dust at the back of your hard-drive whilst you enjoy the delight that is hospital food.

 

Irritable Scowl Syndrome

Writing takes peace and quiet. But the quietest times are the best until someone bursts into your study exclaiming that they need their dry cleaning done, there are no jam tarts left, or the house is on fire. Sigh.

Be warned, the first interruption will not be the last because when it’s OK to barge in once, it’s always OK. Such is the logic of serial interrupters. You will begin to develop a fearsome scowl upon hearing the words “Just before you sit down…” or “Are you busy?” that will send any enquirers scurrying in the other direction.

As these interruptions happen more and more (and rest assured, they will) this scowl will become your default expression for anything you even remotely disapprove of. Your reputation will be forever tainted and you will be remembered as a terrifying individual. Or perhaps that’s what you were aiming for.

 

Repetitive Name Injury

There’s names you like, and names you don’t. The names you give your characters you often love. That’s why it’s difficult to give these beloved names to only one character. Where does the injury come in? When you’re bashing your head against the wall trying to think of new ones that sound just as good.

 

Addiction

Drugs are bad, kids, and writing is one of the hardest highs out there. It starts out innocent, just a short story or two in the privacy of your home, but it doesn’t take long for this to escalate. You’ll start holing yourself up in your study penning novels and sketching settings. Soon enough, you’ll be writing on the train to work, and in the car waiting for your kids to get out of school. Write long enough and no rehab on Earth can help you return to the way things used to be.

 

 

About the Author

Rosanna Bates was born in Worcester, England at the height of baggy jeans and boy band popularity. Her childhood was spent reading and writing stories she was too embarrassed to show anyone. To date, she has had short stories and flash fiction published by The Fiction Pool, Ariel Chart, Anti-Heroin Chic, the Manawaker Studios podcast and Otter Libris. While she prepares her debut novel for publication, she also manages a book blog The Secret Library and regularly contributes to the online millennial lifestyle magazine, Unwritten.

 

Guest Blog: Dusty Grein – Why A Bad Review Can Be A Blessing

They All Love Me!

When I first published my book, The Sleeping Giant, I anticipated the glowing reviews that I was sure would happen. After all, I loved my story, how could anyone not feel the same?

Ah, the naiveté of the beginning novelist.

The Reality

Let me preface this by saying that in all fairness, my book has been very well received. It has been purchased and/or read by thousands of customers, and most of them have been extremely satisfied with the story, the characters and the style with which I wrote it. After more than forty reviews, it has a solid and respectable 4.4 star average, and over two thirds have been of the five star variety.

Those aren’t the ones I want to talk about here though. I learned far more about myself, and my writing, from the bad reviews, and I’d like to express my gratitude for the negative ones — even the lone 1-star thrashing of my endeavor.

When I got my first 3-star review, I felt like I had actually made it.

I had arrived!

The reviewer said “This is a good read, However the focus of the story, a soon to erupt volcano, ends up with only a few pages at the end. Needs a part 2.” It made me smile – my first critical review was that I needed to write another book!

My next 3-star said simply “needed more character development,” and was countered soon after by a pair of 5-stars that said “It’s interesting, the characters are well created” and “The characters were developed and the plot moved at a rapid pace.”

Different strokes and all that. The truth is you just can’t please everyone, so you have to just grin and shake your head.

Then it happened.

The Bad News

Someone gave me a 1-star BAD review! They not only gave it a single star, but in the review subject line, they said “SAVE YOUR MONEY…PASS ON THIS BOOK!” I was shocked!

I felt like I had been sucker-punched and immediately became defensive. I had to walk away from the computer. It hurt that someone felt compelled to not only attack my little story, but to tell others not to bother reading it! After I calmed down, I sat down and read the review in earnest – and I’m glad I did. Here is what this reviewer wrote:

“Poorly written attempt at a first novel. First couple of chapters are an absolute non-stop info dump, which totally stalls the story. The author hasn’t yet learned how to work this info into the story in a way that it doesn’t bring everything to an absolute standstill. It turned me off as a reader. Author started his novel too far before from the beginning of the actual action and takes way too long to get there to hold the reader’s interest when encountering the huge info dump they must stumble through. Author hasn’t yet learned how to eliminate the words “that” and “just” from his writer’s vocabulary, as they should be. A non-educated casual reader might read over the many occurrences of those two empty words—which add nothing to the meaning of the sentences—without noticing them, but they pulled me back to reality every time I encountered them and made the book unreadable for me. My guess is this book has never seen a paid professional edit, as it would have caught all these errors before publication and probably made the story much more readable.”

Wow. The first thing I noticed was that I had obviously made this reader feel something–and feel it strongly enough to write a very lengthy and scathing review. Then I started working on figuring out why it had happened, by removing the opinions and just dealing with the substantive issues. In doing so, I made a few discoveries.

Lessons 

I found that part of this was just about my writing style. The infamous “info-dump” accusation was to be expected. In truth, I had written this book quickly, and I did spend a bit too much time in chapter one, setting the stage for my characters. The fact that the story started “too far before from the beginning of the actual action and takes way too long to get there” was one that I had expected to find from some people. I wrote a story that was mainly about the people, not just about the actions they went through.

I also discovered that I DID have a tendency to overuse the words THAT and JUST. I used this insight to go back into my manuscript, and I did a complete revision, removing over forty instances of these “filler” words. I then released edition 2.0, and in my opinion the story is better for the rewrite.

Finally, I learned a very valuable lesson about the editing process.  See, I am a professional editor, and have edited the works of well over 200 authors, including everything from flash-fiction and poetry to short stories and full novels; in my professional capacity, I have never received a critical evaluation of my editorial talents – but I learned you should NEVER edit your own work, no matter how skilled you may be at polishing the work of others. Being able to edit someone else’s work, is not the same as being able to edit your own.

My book is now at edition 4.0 (this last edition change was made necessary due to a print size change) and thanks in large part to its single one-star review, it is a much finer book than it was when I first released it.

The reviews continue to be good – and bad.

Since that bad review I have received many more four and five star reviews, and a lone two star panning. This bad review stated “virtually the entire work is character development.”

In this case, I gladly accept and endorse the statement. Even in my blurb, I invite folks to accompany my characters during the week leading up to the eruption. Based on the ratio of wonderful reviews to bad ones, this approach is one which thousands of my readers have enjoyed.

Keep This In Mind

In the end, no matter how popular you are with your readers, there will be those who dislike your story, your characters, or the way you write; you can’t let these obstacles stand in your way.

Instead, learn what you can from them, and then move on, and become better at this crazy craft.

My one hope, is that if you have read a book that you enjoyed, be sure to leave a review for the author. If it has issues, you shouldn’t hesitate to let them know it as well — although you don’t have to scream for others not to waste their money, just tell them what you didn’t enjoy. Maybe your opinion will help them become better writers as well.

 

— Dusty Grein

 

About the author:

An author, graphics designer and full-time grandpa, Dusty is originally from Federal Way, Washington. He currently resides in Oregon, where his youngest daughter Jazzmyn Grein (an author in her own right) and a white bulldog-mix named Naked, keep him busy.

His first novel, THE SLEEPING GIANT, hit #1 on the free lists during a recent giveaway promotion. It is a thrilling story of love, fear and survival centered around the impending eruption of Mount Rainier in Washington state.

Dusty is also a publisher with RhetAskew Publishing, a new and fast-growing traditional publishing company with a unique way of looking at publishing.

RhetAskew Publishing: https://rhetoricaskew.wordpress.com/

Dusty Grein’s Amazon Author Page:  https://www.amazon.com/Dusty-Grein/e/B00W36LH6U

Dr. Paul’s Family Talk: Interview with Deborah Ratliff… “We Are Writers. Are We Professional?”

This past week I appeared on Dr. Paul’s Family Talk, Impact Radio USA to discuss the article, “We Are Writers. Are We Professional?

Professionalism is a mindset and the attributes associated with professional careers should be applied to all of our endeavors, personal or professional.

Listen as host Paul Reeves and I discuss how writers should behave when appearing interviewing on radio, television, podcasts, in print, and online.

Click here for the interview

Click here for the article, “We Are Writers. Are We Professional?”

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