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Dear Extra Squeeze Team, Should I Quit Writing?

October 31, 2020 by in category The Extra Squeeze by The Extra Squeeze Team tagged as , , , , ,

Dear Extra Squeeze Team,

It feels like the entire world is telling me to quit writing…is this normal and what should I do? Should I quit writing?

Rebecca Forster | Extra Squeeze

Rebecca Forster 

USA Today Bestselling author of 35 books, including the Witness series and the new Finn O’Brien series.

I am tempted to sit down beside you and just cry.

Instead, I’m going to tell you to buck up, bucko!

I know, I hated hearing that too, but we’ve all been there, done that. Instead of being the company misery loves, I’ll offer this. I sold my first three books and then spent years trying to sell another one. When I finally figured out what was wrong, there was no stopping me. I also had a good friend who was rejected 40 times, and when she finally sold a book her career took off. Every writer’s struggle is different and how we deal with it is too.

In my case, I defaulted to my comfort zone — analysis. I certainly could put a sentence together, but when I reread my rejection letters, I realized my storytelling was lacking. Instead of flying by the seat of my pants as I had early on, I now sought out ways to educate myself about structure. I also realized I was afraid to delve into my characters. They were cookie cutter, and I needed to be more invested in their lives. I asked myself if I was writing in the correct genre. When the answer was no, and I switched genres my career turned around. Finally, I asked myself if I understood the publishing businesses well enough to navigate it.

The bottom line was this I needed to learn a craft. Writing isn’t just something that happens magically. You need to stretch your creative and business muscles, learn the game, and then make it your own. Information is out there. Embrace it, understand it, and use it. If you’re having trouble being objective about your own work, seek out an editor. If you can’t afford an editor, find a mentor. If you can’t find a mentor, find a friend who loves to read and who is very honest to give you feedback. If the world is telling you to quit, figure out why, and then show the world they were wrong.

Jenny Jensen | A Slice of Orange

Jenny Jensen

Developmental editor who has worked for twenty plus years with new and established authors of both fiction and non-fiction, traditional and indie.

Do your level best to ignore those negative feelings —there’s probably few writers who haven’t felt doubt. Keep writing. Everyday. Storytelling is a craft and like every craft it takes practice to perfect. Rejection is a part of that process and is often the most instructive tool a writer can receive: why was the work rejected? Work on strengthening the weaknesses that caused the rejection. Same with healthy criticism.

 

Simple is not always easy, but it really is simple. If you want to write, then there is nothing that will stop you. Just keep on writing and improving, writing and improving even more.

H. O. Charles | A Slice of Orange

H.O. Charles

Cover designer and author of the fantasy series, The Fireblade Array


Yes, it’s normal.

Commercially speaking, it’s very hard to know when to listen to the world and when to defy it. Sometimes great works are never appreciated until decades later.

Outside of money, if you feel you have to write, then it doesn’t matter what the world thinks. Most writers find their fingers tapping away at something regardless of negative reviews, poor sales etc. It has to be a hobby you enjoy before anything else.

 

Robin Blakely | The Extra Squeeze Team | A Slice of Orange

Robin Blakely

PR/Business Development coach for writers and artists; CEO, Creative Center of America; member, Forbes Coaches Council.

Welcome to the world of writing.

It is completely normal to feel, from time to time, that this world has conspired against you and that it is secretly or not-so-secretly telling you to quit writing. This quitting option seems to present itself at critical moments repeatedly while creative people are wandering up the road less traveled.

When you feel this kind of despair, you have two simple choices: quit or don’t quit. If you decide to quit, perhaps you can imagine that the quitting is just for a while, not forever. Sometimes quitting for a period of time can be a pretty good choice if you are exhausted and burned out.

But, I would hope that you might choose to not quit. If you choose to carry on instead of quitting, perhaps you could take this juncture to step back for a moment and evaluate what is happening to make you feel this way.

Perhaps you have surrounded yourself with naysayers. If so, get away from them. Perhaps you have driven yourself to exhaustion with self-demands of perfection or self-expectations of production. If so, get some help from someone who can objectively reset those goalposts with you.

Everyone goes through stages and phases of battle weariness when fighting the unknown. Writers face a lot of unknowns and the most intense moments typically happen right before a breakthrough.

The Extra Squeeze | A Slice of Orange

Ever wonder what industry professionals think about the issues that can really impact our careers? Each month The Extra Squeeze features a fresh topic related to books and publishing.

Amazon mover and shaker Rebecca Forster and her handpicked team of book professionals offer frank responses from the POV of each of their specialties — Writing, Editing, PR/Biz Development, and Cover Design.

If you have a question for The Extra Squeeze Team, use our handy dandy contact form.

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Dear Extra Squeeze Team, Can I Keep My Cover, Please?

September 30, 2020 by in category The Extra Squeeze by The Extra Squeeze Team tagged as , ,
title with pictures of all four members of the extra squeeze group

Dear Extra Squeeze Team, I am an indie writer with an old book that I want to re-release…should I try to keep the cover the same as the original edition?

Robin Blakely | The Extra Squeeze Team | A Slice of Orange

Robin Blakely

PR/Business Development coach for writers and artists; CEO, Creative Center of America; member, Forbes Coaches Council.

Probably not, unless the book is an iconic bestseller with the kind of visual recognition status that makes it identifiable by sight to the masses. In most cases, an old book will need a fresh opportunity in the modern marketplace. That fresh opportunity will likely mean that you need to get a new cover and a new author photo. Give the work a fresh new start. That new start will also likely mean brushing up the description of the book with an eye toward why it is important for today’s readers. It could also include some current endorsements from people who resonate with the readers of the current year. That is not to say bury or drop old endorsements but be aware that younger readers may not know who past icons are, especially if those icons are no longer active or no longer living. Leverage everything you have available to make the cover stand out on digital platforms. Look at the product with new eyes and new expectations.

Rebecca Forster | Extra Squeeze

Rebecca Forster 

USA Today Bestselling author of 35 books, including the Witness series and the new Finn O’Brien series.

 

I love makeovers! Not only do I have forty books on my backlist, and all have had cover makeovers, but the author has too. Nope, I didn’t go under the knife, I just changed and grew with the times. Fashions change, the way books are viewed has changed, delivery methods have changed. Today your covers need to pop as thumbnails online in an ever-more crowded field, so give your work every advantage. Embrace marketplace changes. Have fun. Enjoy the process. If there are elements of the original covers you love keep them, but make them fresh (are you even sure you have the rights to the artwork?) I say go for it. I say go for it!

Jenny Jensen | A Slice of Orange

Jenny Jensen

Developmental editor who has worked for twenty plus years with new and established authors of both fiction and non-fiction, traditional and indie.

 

I’m going to assume (yikes! Danger Will Rogers) that by “old” you mean the book was first released at least 3 years ago. Yes, refresh, re-boot, revise, re-work that cover.

 

We’ve all been told not to judge a book by its cover. I think that is a cosmic fallacy right up there with ‘one size fits all’. An enticing cover draws me in — at least enough to read the blurb. With an Indie release a good cover says something about the author. It speaks of quality and suggests a promising story. In fact, I bought my two most favorite novels on the basis of the cover.

 

Take a good look at the covers of books in your genre and the ratings each has received. That will give you an idea of what sort of imagery is selling. Is it a literal graphic depiction or more impressionistic? Consider what is selling. Go from there.

 

If the original release was highly successful and you feel the cover was a part of that, you could simply update the original look. Covers are like fashion — ever changing and then rolling around to a previous era, only with a ‘modern’ sensibility. One has only to look at the original Agatha Christie covers and those on offer today to see that.

 

Give your cover design the attention it deserves

H. O. Charles | A Slice of Orange

H.O. Charles

Cover designer and author of the fantasy series, The Fireblade Array


It depends on the rights and cover quality. If the publisher paid for the cover, then they likely own the rights. Sometimes the artist will withhold the right to re-sell certain designs or use them as they see fit. It really depends on the deal originally made. If the cover is very good, this is worth pursuing. If it’s even half-average, I’d plump for a new cover to be safe. Just so happens I know a designer…

The Extra Squeeze | A Slice of Orange

Ever wonder what industry professionals think about the issues that can really impact our careers? Each month The Extra Squeeze features a fresh topic related to books and publishing.

Amazon mover and shaker Rebecca Forster and her handpicked team of book professionals offer frank responses from the POV of each of their specialties — Writing, Editing, PR/Biz Development, and Cover Design.

Ask them a question.

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Dear Extra Squeeze Team, Writing about Family, Good Idea or Not?

August 31, 2020 by in category The Extra Squeeze by The Extra Squeeze Team, Writing tagged as , , ,

Dear Extra Squeeze Team, I have a story I want to tell that is loosely based on family and friends. How do I tell my story without hurting anyone?

Robin Blakely | The Extra Squeeze Team | A Slice of Orange

Robin Blakely

PR/Business Development coach for writers and artists; CEO, Creative Center of America; member, Forbes Coaches Council.

Begin by writing the complete story—beginning to end—the way you truly imagine it. Write with precision honesty without the fear of hurting anyone.

When done writing, evaluate what you have created. It is in the editing stage where you will objectively be able to decide how to share the story publicly without hurting anyone. If the finished story is meant to be fiction, you can go back and make sure physical identifiers that link to nonfiction people (like a skull tattoo on the left arm above a knife scar) are changed to protect the innocent or the not-so-innocent.

If someone has inspired you to recreate their character in a fictional world, rest assured your depiction of their internal thoughts, feelings, and motivations won’t be the tipoff that the character is loosely based on this real person; it will be the physical attributes that you choose.

Most people don’t recognize themselves in someone else’s writing unless they are told the character is modeled after them or the physical facts are eerily the same: age, body build, hair color, scars, name, physical location, profession, relationships with others, or facts from exact encounters are replayed in the work.

If the story you are telling is meant to be nonfiction, you have a different issue. In a biography or a memoir, you need to tell the truth as you know it, but you must also share your truth in a way that can be formally substantiated by the research of others. If you are afraid you might hurt someone by telling the truth in your work and you are naming names across your work, you need to consult an attorney before publication because hurting feelings may result in a lawsuit.

Jenny Jensen | A Slice of Orange

Jenny Jensen

Developmental editor who has worked for twenty plus years with new and established authors of both fiction and non-fiction, traditional and indie.

 

Cue dramatic music:

Deep Voice Over: The names in this story have been changed to protect the innocent.

That’s a start. Every writer works from what they know — even if they’re writing about elves and spaceships and unicorns. Our own experiences are what we draw on to launch our imagination. And it’s the real-life situations that often give a writer the rich soil for a gripping tale.

Just write the story. When you’ve laid it all out, step away for some distance then read it with fresh eyes to spot what might be so obvious as to be hurtful. If you find the narrative is obvious, even though it is based loosely on family and friends, then consider what the compelling idea is in this tale. What was the single most gripping element that made you want to write about it in the first place? Take that compelling idea and re-write from that prospective.

Or just start with that single compelling idea rather than with the cast of friends and family. Stories have a way of charting their own course and it’s very likely, that with that shift in perspective your story will be unique enough to withstand the scrutiny of sensitive family and friends.

Rebecca Forster | Extra Squeeze

Rebecca Forster 

USA Today Bestselling author of 35 books, including the Witness series and the new Finn O’Brien series.

 

I have used family and friends for inspiration in many of our books. For the most part if I didn’t tell the individual who inspired me, they did not recognize themselves. If I did tell them I was going to do it, most of them were thrilled.

Then there came a time when I happily told my sister I had used our age differences as the foundational inspiration for my story. (she is fourteen years younger than I am and we were born on the same day). She was thrilled­–until she read the book. She asked, “Is this really what you think of me?” To be fair she was the bitchy, beautiful sister accused of murder, and I was the smart but downtrodden attorney who saves her.

It had nothing to do with real life other than the span in our ages. Still, when she asked that question, I understood that there was a difference between inspiration and hitting close to home including the perception of hitting close to home.

The answer was, no, the character in no way was my sister. Their physical characteristics were the same, not their character.

What you’re talking about is even more delicate. You are going to be exploring actual things that happened to you and your family. If this is an honest memoir you need to be ready for the fallout. If this is fiction, you’ll need to be very skillful when you write to navigate the hurt feelings—or worse— that might arise. Ask yourself a) is this book is necessary to your well-being and b) if you are strong enough to face any and all consequences that will come with writing it. You are the only one who knows the answers.

H. O. Charles | A Slice of Orange

H.O. Charles

Cover designer and author of the fantasy series, The Fireblade Array


Ooooh *eyes widen* “awaits gossip*
I think the only way to do that is to write under a pseudonym and don’t tell them about it. People aren’t always as stupid as we hope they are. They’ll figure out it’s them in no time!

The Extra Squeeze | A Slice of Orange

Ever wonder what industry professionals think about the issues that can really impact our careers? Each month The Extra Squeeze features a fresh topic related to books and publishing.

Amazon mover and shaker Rebecca Forster and her handpicked team of book professionals offer frank responses from the POV of each of their specialties — Writing, Editing, PR/Biz Development, and Cover Design.

Send us your questions! 

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Dear Extra Squeeze Team, How Do I Keep My Narrative Voice Consistent?

July 31, 2020 by in category The Extra Squeeze by The Extra Squeeze Team tagged as , , , ,

Dear Extra Squeeze Team,

I have three MCs in my historical fiction novel; each one in a different country. A critique pointed out that the voice kept changing. How do I keep the voice constant while maintaining the three different cultures?

Rebecca Forster | Extra Squeeze

Rebecca Forster 

USA Today Bestselling author of 35 books, including the Witness series and the new Finn O’Brien series.

This sounds like an exciting and intricate project. It also sounds like you need to stop and assess your critique group’s input. Having not seen the work it’s hard to make a judgment regarding your question, but I think the changing voices would be necessary for a project of this scope. So ask yourself if, in this instance, is your author’s instinct appropriate or your critique group’s caution?

I wrote a book called Before Her Eyes that had first person and third person parallel stories. The voices had to be different and I wrote them as such. Readers had no problem with this.

What I do question, however, is the suggestion that you have three main characters. I will accept they are the MC’s of their separate sections of the book. However (again an assumption) they will all come together at some point. There will have to be a conclusion to this book and that means one character will have the star turn.

I would be curious to know if you really have three MCs or one MC and some very, very strong supporting characters. I will refer back to Before Her Eyes. While each track had a main character the climax of the book showcased one. His journey overrode hers. Good luck.

Jenny Jensen | A Slice of Orange

Jenny Jensen

Developmental editor who has worked for twenty plus years with new and established authors of both fiction and non-fiction, traditional and indie.

 

Whose voice? I’m going to assume you mean the narrative voice—1st PPOV or 3rd PPOV. It would be critical for the voices of the three separate MCs to be different from one another but consistent within each voice. I’m not so sure it would be so for an overall narrative voice unless it is 1st PPOV. That makes the narrator a character as well.

 

If we are talking 3rd person narrator be clear in your mind about the intent and purpose of the narrator—is it the omniscient 3rd person? Then you have the advantage of a voice that knows everything from the thoughts of a character to where in time all the characters are. Think of it as your writerly inner voice and stick with that for the omniscient narration.

 

If you are using a 1st person narrator then it is a character with it’s own strengths and weaknesses and agenda. As with any character the author needs to truly know who that character is. Tapping into that understanding will keep the narrative voice consistent through out.

The Extra Squeeze | A Slice of Orange

Ever wonder what industry professionals think about the issues that can really impact our careers? Each month The Extra Squeeze features a fresh topic related to books and publishing.

Amazon mover and shaker Rebecca Forster and her handpicked team of book professionals offer frank responses from the POV of each of their specialties — Writing, Editing, PR/Biz Development, and Cover Design.

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Are All Editors Created Equal?

March 31, 2020 by in category The Extra Squeeze by The Extra Squeeze Team, Writing tagged as , , ,

Dear Extra Squeeze Team,

Are all editors created equal? Do you need one type of editor for adult fiction, and a different type of editor for a picture book?

Rebecca Forster | Extra Squeeze

Rebecca Forster 

USA Today Bestselling author of 35 books, including the Witness series and the new Finn O’Brien series.

Not only are all editors are not created equal, there are many people are promoting themselves as editors even though their only credentials are that they like to read and they were good in English. So, before you spend a ton of money are a few things to think about.

1) Do you need a story editor, a line editor or just someone to double check for typos? Personally, I always need a story editor. My books are intricate, and I am known for twists and turns. A story editor* keeps me on track with red herrings, challenges me to push the envelope, and gives me perspective on the plot/story as a whole. I couldn’t live without this input.

2) Overall editors are hard to come by in my humble opinion unless you are willing to pay the price. It is no easy job to take a book from start to finish when you’re an editor. When I was traditionally published, I often had three separate editors, each charged with perfecting a different part of the process. If you’re looking for just that one person, make sure you are clear up front so they can price their bid accordingly.

3) An editor works for you and you should select one carefully. I tested a reader who swore she was an editor. She had found some things in a published book, and I was impressed with the detail and her attitude. However, when I sent her test pages (for which I paid her), she missed the typos and grammar issues that I purposefully left in to gauge her level of expertise. She was a great reader and had caught some mistakes, but she was not an editor.

4) When you find a great editor, it is a thing of beauty. Remember, some are literally brilliant* and the good ones will be able to work on any book in any genre. This is because they understand that individual marketplaces call for different sensibilities. They will read a romance differently than they read a mystery. If you find one of those, hang on to her/him.

*For transparency, the fabulous story editor I have worked with since my first book is my Extra Squeeze colleague, Jenny Jensen.

Jenny Jensen | A Slice of Orange

Jenny Jensen

Developmental editor who has worked for twenty plus years with new and established authors of both fiction and non-fiction, traditional and indie.

All editors are created as equally as all dancers, or singers, politicians or writers, but that’s not really what you’re asking. A good editor wears different hats, each for different genres. And then there are the specialists who focus their skills, most notably in academics, poetry and children’s literature.

I’ve worked on USAF manuals, fiction of all flavors, history and biography and business materials. I wore a different editing hat for each. A lot of the rules are the same, but each genre has a different intent and any useful editing must be done with that intent top of mind. The flow, pacing and characterization of a thriller are light years from those of business material (though maybe marketers should rethink that). Each of those hats comes with my confident understanding of the author’s intent so I can see any problems and add to the intended message. I think this is true of most editors.

I’ve turned down work twice. The first was a treatise on the physics of string theory. At least that’s what I think it was. I had no hat for this and so could offer nothing but a suggestion for a more suitable editor. The second was a children’s picture book. I love children’s books. I read the manuscript and tried to find a hat that fit. I soon realized this required a special knowledge, an insight into the reader’s mind and the author’s intent; knowledge and insight for which I don’t have a hat.

So yes, I do think that an author of a children’s picture book should find and build a relationship with an editor whose specialty is children’s lit. That doesn’t mean she would be better created, just that she was the best at dancing and singing to that tune.

H. O. Charles | A Slice of Orange

H.O. Charles

Cover designer and author of the fantasy series, The Fireblade Array


I would say it depends on the experience of the editor. Some are quite capable of understanding the different styles and switching accordingly. Some are not. Look at the work they’ve previously done and see how it aligns with your own.

That said, sometimes an editor from another genre can bring a fresh perspective that could help you break away from the norm and set your work apart from that of other writers. Great books are often ones that cross genres and re-purpose other styles.

The Extra Squeeze | A Slice of Orange

Ever wonder what industry professionals think about the issues that can really impact our careers? Each month The Extra Squeeze features a fresh topic related to books and publishing.

Amazon mover and shaker Rebecca Forster and her handpicked team of book professionals offer frank responses from the POV of each of their specialties — Writing, Editing, PR/Biz Development, and Cover Design.

Send us your questions.

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