I never thought I’d be a novelist, much less a USA Today and Amazon bestseller. I wish I could say that I was an overnight success, but it’s taken years to hone my skills because I am self-taught. The extent of my writing education was to crack open a bestselling novel (with a glass of wine by my side), highlight important passages and transitions, and then mimic the authors’ style. At some point, I found my own voice, and it was magical. I could have cut years off my learning curve if I had access to the online information that is available now. While I love the energy of in-person education, I found two intriguing options for writers, whether they are new or experienced. Maybe one will be right for you.
‘Ninety-Day Novel’ walks you through finishing your first book in three months. There are weekly in person Zoom meetings, recorded lessons, and exercises landing in your mailbox to help you along. It doesn’t get more hands on than this.
‘Masterclass’ is awesome. This platform provides virtual classes taught by award-winning authors such as Margaret Atwood, Malcolm Gladwell, and James Patterson to name just a few. Masterclass will elevate your work, and as an added bonus you’ll learn how to get your finished work published.
CreativeLive is perfect for authors who are feeling pretty good about their craft but are looking for practical advice. No celebrity authors here. Rather, you’ll be learning from entrepreneurs, bloggers, and online personalities.
This September take a cue from the kids. Get back to school and learn from the people who wrote the books on writing. You won’t even need a backpack!
*These links are for information only. Masterclass is $15.00 a month billed annually. Ninety-Day Novel is donation based, with $1,000 being suggested but $500 being the least amount accepted. Creative Live is $13.00 a month.
“I wish I had your job. All you do is sit around and make up stories all day.”
“I’ve got a great story for you. You write it and I’ll split the royalties.”
If writers had a dollar for every time someone told them they were on easy street they would be — well—on easy street. But we know the work is hard, that dedication is a prerequisite, and thick skin is the uniform we wear everyday. So if you ever need to explain the life of a writer, here’s how you can break it down.
STEP ONE: Herd Butterflies
Of the millions of words in the world, a writer must choose 100,000, and fit them together like puzzle pieces to create a seamless story. There is no wand to wave so that they magically fall in place. Nor is there a spell to cast that will take the vague, foggy images on the periphery of writer’s consciousness, give them form and function, and create memorable characters. Likewise a plot and story can be elusive. Initially these ideas are as solid as quicksand. One wrong step and the writer sinks. If we’re not willing to do this painstaking work to corral our butterflies, sculpt our characters, and create a solid plot foundation then we are not writers.
STEP TWO: Sit
Writers sit for hours, and days, and weeks on end. Months go by and still we sit. A writer may mentally plot or test dialogue while seeing to real life, but the hard work is accomplished by putting our butts in the chair while everyone else plays. If we give into temptation and join the party, we are not writers.
STEP THREE: Sand, Paint, and Patch
When the typing is done, the editing begins. Editing is an ugly, depressing, miserable process. Shave a word here, add ten there. Delete pages, chapters, chuck the whole book and start again. A writer prints out hard copy, marks it up until the pages look bloody with edits. Then a real pro inputs the edits and starts all over again. If we aren’t our own best critic, one willing to make things right for our readers, we are not real writers.
So when someone says they fancy your job or waxes romantic about a writer’s life, smile. Admit that writing is a wonderful profession. Insist that you would never dream of taking their amazing idea even though you’re tempted. Assure them that they deserve the literary glory. Do offer to look at their manuscript when it’s finished. While you’re waiting, you can start herding butterflies for your next blockbuster.
I just finished reading an older, but wildly popular, novel. This was an Oprah pick. It took the reading world by storm years ago. Sadly, the more I write the less I read for pleasure, so I am late to the game. When my husband surprised me with a birthday trip to Los Cabos this was the book I brought with me.
I was entranced — until I wasn’t. The first half was stunning, brilliant, a classic-in-the-making; the second half was annoying, disheartening, and predictable. The reasons for my assessment are many, but this is not a critique. This is the admission of a personal awakening. While I am a voracious – and I hope – adventurous reader, I am also realize I am a timid reviewer. For days I questioned my reaction to this book simply because my opinion was in the minority. I convinced myself that writing a review would be a waste of time. That I must be wrong about the book. In truth, I simply didn’t want to be the odd man out. What a coward!
I had written many thoughtful, honest reviews, and the only thing keeping me from posting this one was numbers and it’s very best seller status. I would be swimming upstream, going against the grain, raising my hand to reveal myself as the annoying, contrary kid in class. How could I be so arrogant as to not love this book fully? But then I looked at reviews on some of my own books and saw readers who had posted thoughtful, honest reviews both glorious and gloomy. As an author, I took all of them seriously. Sometimes the critical reviews hurt, but only if they didn’t offer reasons for the reader’s dissatisfaction. (My favorite was a one star that simply said, “I haven’t read the book yet.”)
After reading my reviews, reading the reviews on this beloved book, and thinking about my hesitancy a while longer, I came to a conclusion. While the beauty of art is in the eye of the beholder, a book’s beauty is in the brain and the heart of the reader. There are no brightly colored paints or chalks so show us the artist’s intent. There are only words and our interpretation of them. One author’s work may touch us, while another keeps us at bay. One author’s style may enthrall us, while another’s is tedious. It is our job as readers to clearly and fully explain why we react as we do to a book when we write a review. Specifics matter. Qualifying that it is our personal opinion puts the review in context. It is wonderful when we all agree, but it is interesting when we do not. A contrary review can make us stop and think as much as a glowing review can excite us. Our eyes, hearts, and minds are as individual as the author’s who write the books we read. It isn’t about the number or reviews or the plethora of stars. It is about a one-on-one experience: the reader and the author. Whether we share our opinion in writing or not, we have reviewed a book a minute we read the last word and that’s the only number that counts.
This week I had lunch with two of my oldest writing buddies – the ever fabulous Mindy Neff and equally fabulous Sandy Chvostal. I met them soon after publishing my first book. Over the years I have truly come to treasure my book friends. In fact, I think the world should be run by book friends and here is why:
1) Book friends are inclusive. I have never been asked how old I am, what my heritage is, what my political party is, what my religion is. What I have been asked is,’what have you read/written lately?’ Instant friends!
2) Book friends are creative. We share not only a love of reading, but a love of creating. I’ve met sewers, quilter, carpenters, crafters, and chefs. I wonder if we love creating things because we need to move around after spending so much time reading, or do we read because we’re exhausted from our hobbies?
3) Book friends are endlessly curious. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t read, or review, ask questions about what they’ve read, or waxed poetic about it. I love being asked, “have you read (fill in the blank)” because I know the conversation is going to be interesting.
4) Book friends are generous. Time with a book is time we treasure, but reader friends will put down their book to come to another friend’s aid. Period. No questions asked.
5) Book friends are open. All of us have preferred genres, but we like to try something new. I’m a thriller lover yet there are historical fiction books I’ll never forget, nonfiction works I love, even action/adventure novels that have kept me up late into the night.
So it was no surprise that when I received an invitation from a group of authors to join their Facebook reader’s group, My Book Friends, I did. The authors are fun, smart, and generous. They primarily write women’s fiction and romance, but welcome my gritty thrillers. The members of My Book Friends are creative, curious, and inclusive.
The bottom line is this: no one can have too many books or too many book friends. That’s something we can all count on.
You’re Invited June 16, 4-5PM Pacific: Cocktails, Cops & Conversation . Help me celebrate my birthday and Detective Finn O’Brien’s fourth birthday as we talk about my latest release INTIMATE RELATIONS.
Join My Book Friends.
Read INTIMATE RELATIONS FREE at KindleUnlimited; 99¢ to buy
(Click on the cover for more information. Hover over the cover for buy links.)
May 3, 2021 was National Paranormal Day. In keeping with the spirit of the day, nothing went right. I played tennis that morning, but every time the ball came my way I miffed it, missed it, or muffed it. Poltergeists, I decided, were having their way me.
As they say in sports I shook it off, and went home deciding a long hot bath was what I needed to set the day right. Before I got in the tub, I looked in the mirror to see one of those pesky chin hairs. Unable to manage to pluck it out with the tweezers, I reached for one of those fancy little shaving blades and sliced my thumb. The little cut bled profusely, and my attempts to bandage the awkward injury were a dismal failure. I sat on the edge of the edge of the tub, with a towel on the cut watching the room fill with steam. But maybe it wasn’t steam. Just maybe it was a ghostly presence swirling around me. Something – someone – pushed my hand and made me cut myself. The silver lining was that the thing didn’t want to kill me because it missed my wrist by a mile.
Evening came. I was scheduled to do a Zoom with Patrice Samara, COO of Wordee.com, and author Mara Purl. The topic was writing the paranormal. I was going to discuss Before Her Eyes. This is the book of my heart. It was inspired by the last days of both my dad and father-in-law and the strange things they experienced in their waning days.
As requested,I logged in fifteen minutes before the assigned time only to land on the tenth level of hell. I glimpsed Mara and the hostess through undulating, writhing, tongue wagging, screaming, pierced and tatted young men and women. My ears were blown out by the most God-awful heavy metal music. My eyes were assault by a scrolling list of vile, generic curses that eventually were directed at me by name.
My first thought was, “This doesn’t seem normal.”
My second thought was, “I wonder if I should mention this. What if these ladies like a little shock value to their interviews and this is normal for them?”
My third thought was, “Don’t be an idiot, Rebecca! This is bizarre.”
I kept the third thought to myself and waited because sometimes when things get really weird the best thing to do is wait. Watch. Listen. Finally, I decided to dip my toe in the water. I said:
“The music is very loud, do either of you know how to turn it down?”
That seemed neutral enough. Either they would tell me how to turn it down or they would unleash the hounds. They did neither because Mara, realizing we had been hacked, shut down the Zoom. The vile devilish hackers were sent back to the inferno, and three very normal ladies were left looking at one another from our little Zoom boxes. We laughed and went on to record the interview, Writing the Paranormal, to be posted later.
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