A Slice of Orange


Advice to Myself as a Newbie Author

July 22, 2008 by in category Archives tagged as , ,

by Shauna Roberts

Today’s Guest: Jacqueline Diamond

Jackie Diamond Hyman, who also writes as Jacqueline Diamond, has sold eighty-one novels, including romance, suspense, mystery, and humor. She’s also a former Associated Press reporter and TV columnist. Her upcoming releases for Harlequin American Romance include Baby in Waiting (August 2008) and Million-Dollar Nanny (January 2009).

Jackie, if you could travel back in time to before you were first published, what advice would you give yourself?

Sometimes I wonder whether I would have progressed faster in my career if I’d known at the beginning what I know now. Probably, and yet I’ve traded a certain amount of raw energy and wild creativity for my expertise. They aren’t entirely gone, though, as I discover from time to time, to my delight.

Plus there’s no way I could have gained the life experience thirty years ago that I have now. And I still manage to make new mistakes—and keep on learning.

But here’s what I’d tell my younger self, if I had the chance.

1. Get as much professional-level feedback as you can. Take classes, attend seminars, and don’t yield to your fears. Every piece of useful feedback is a nugget of gold. Even if it doesn’t seem helpful at first, put it aside and read it again later.

2. When you receive negativity, whether it’s a snide remark in a rejection letter or an unhelpful critique, don’t take it personally. It actually reflects more about the sender’s inability to put things in a positive light than about you. Once you get over your hurt feelings, try to look beneath the surface for the underlying point: Is there a valuable lesson to be mined here? If something about your work irritated the editor/critiquer, how can you keep from doing this in the future?

3. Don’t compare your career to that of another writer. Remember that we always notice the person who appears to succeed faster and more easily, while scarcely registering the large number of fellow writers who struggle as much as, or more than, we do.

4. Don’t give in to discouragement. You are not a failure just because you’ve failed so far. Once you succeed, failure is just a story to tell your readers.

5. Network. Support other writers, and compliment your favorite published authors. No one but a jerk would resent being approached in a polite, appropriate manner to be told that you love his or her books. Positive output generates positive responses. Don’t expect an immediate payback, but people have long memories for those who support them—and those who do them dirt.

6. Study the market. Don’t necessarily chase it, but be aware of what’s selling and what isn’t. Of course, if you’re a genius or if there’s a book you simply have to write, go ahead.

7. Before you start a novel, jot down the central idea and make sure it’s focused and workable.

8. Analyze the books you love, particularly those that were published recently. Diagram a couple of plots chapter by chapter. Retype a few passages that you find particularly effective—openings, in particular. This is tedious and time consuming, but you’ll be amazed how much you learn.

9. Once you sell, read your contracts. Don’t let them scare you. Even if you have an agent, watch for glitches or areas that confuse you. Hunt down model contracts and study them, but don’t expect perfection.

That’s all I can think of now. Good luck!


To learn more about Jackie, please visit her Website at http://www.jacquelinediamond.com. She blogs on the 1st and 15th of each month at http://harauthors.blogspot.com/. Her newest book, Baby in Waiting, will be available at all major bookstores and can be pre-ordered online from Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

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Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

July 21, 2008 by in category Archives tagged as

Do you ever wonder how multi-published authors can crank out over a dozen books a year?

Concentration. Even as storytellers they lose themselves in their plots and away they go. Sounds simple, right? Well it is in a sense. You sit, you write, you repeat. And there you have the “magic formula” for every single fantastic book you’ve ever read.

But they never tell you about the hazards.

Last week I was sitting at my laptop happily typing away. My chair was right near the sliding glass door of my balcony and it was noisy enough, and windy enough for me not to notice little things.

Until I was interrrupted by a startling sound.

It was, as you might imagine, an effective distraction. And for once I didn’t mourn the loss of focus. I was too busy staring as smoke curled out of the top vents of the microwave. (Did you know that’s what those vents were for? I had no idea!)

I ended up with something that looked a little bit like this:

I’m going to have to apologize here and admit that it’s not actually my picture. I found it HERE. I was too distracted to think to grab my camera. LOL.

But here is what I’ve learned:
1) You know you eat a lot of microwaveable meals when you instinctively just hit the button for 6 minutes.
2) Microwave popcorn does not take six minutes to pop.
3) If you happen to set off your fire alarm it is best to air out the entire house as quickly as possible so the whole place doesn’t smell. But…
4) Chances are it’s going to smell REALLY bad for awhile anyway.
5) The only way to make the smell of charcoaled microwave popcorn go away is to wipe every surface (especially the inside of the microwave) with bleach wipes, followed by spraying fantastic, followed by spraying windex.

Eventually you’ll realize none of those really work and you’ll just start laying out large platters of baking soda EVERYWHERE including inside the microwave.

And after a week, the smell of burnt popcorn will go away, along with the after-smell of stale cigarettes.

See, it’s Monday morning and you’ve already learned something!

The Popcorn Incinerator

(P.S. See mom, this is why I don’t cook!)

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First Impressions

July 19, 2008 by in category Archives

Monica Stoner Member at Large

Expressions are trite because they are often the best way to say something. Such as: “You only get one chance to make a first impression.” From a writer’s point of view, you sometimes only get the first few pages to make a good impression on an editor, before they are on to the next submission.

Judging a 100,000 word book on less than 1,000 words doesn’t seem fair, but let’s fall back on another trite expression. Sometimes, life really isn’t fair. A reality of today’s lifestyle is that our books are too often judged on that one tiny bit. Possibly even on no more than a title. A working title chosen on a whim can turn people off before they ever even read a word of your book. Don’t handicap yourself before anyone reads a word of the actual book. A funny, clever, or evocative title can suck people into a book for far longer than they might have stayed otherwise.

Readers can latch on to minor details, something we as writers might not find important, and lose track of the story. What seems needed detail as we so lovingly set a scene can come across as far too much detail, put out far too soon, and before that first clever line of dialogue is ever read, before the charming lost prince of the Faerie world can step into the scene to be instantly attracted to our lovely, plucky, intelligent yet humble heroine. Give them a chance to enthrall the rest of the world as much as they have enthralled their creator.

All of this was forcibly brought home to me when I participated in an anonymous reading of the first three manuscript pages. I listened to a narration of scene setting, atmospheric phrases, and long before one of the judges called for a stop, I was cringing and mentally deleting whole pages. All time realizing – so THAT’s why this book isn’t selling!

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Writer on the Verge

July 18, 2008 by in category Writer on the Verge by Kate Carlisle tagged as , ,

Conference Overload

Wait. Conference Overload? It hasn’t even started yet! I haven’t even packed. How can I already be overloaded? I haven’t even shopped for the new pair of pants and two sweaters I’ll need. I haven’t been to the hairdresser! I’ll go tomorrow, finally, thank goodness, and I’ll get a manicure and pedicure while I’m there. And I’ll have to drop off the dry cleaning and pick up two prescriptions before I go to the hairdresser. No, there’s not enough time. I’ll have to get the prescriptions after the hairdresser. Hmm. Maybe I can get the prescriptions Monday night after work. Note to self: check hours.

I need more batteries for my camera. And I’d better take my tape recorder in case there are any emergency brainstorming sessions while I’m there.

Thank goodness I bought a new suitcase last week. I’ll need it. But I haven’t begun to pack yet. And I’ve still got to finish making cards for my blog group to hand out–a few thousand should cover it–and whoa! I need new earrings! One of my silver hoops broke.

Overload? Yeah! By the time I actually get to conference, it’ll be like a vacation compared to the weeks spent preparing to get there! One good thing is that for the first time in recent memory, I’m not signed up for an editor/agent appointment. That means I might actually be able to relax, see my friends, meet in the bar, sleep. Oh yeah, I need some sleep.

But not yet. Must make a list. Must not forget flat iron. And bling. Oh yeah, the earrings. Got to buy new earrings.

And don’t forget to pack my postcards. I ordered postcards to show everyone my new book cover. Wait. I talked about my book cover last month here on the blog but I didn’t get a chance to show it off. So here’s a sneak peek …

Isn’t it beautiful? I love it! (You can click on the cover to get a better look. You’ll want to see the cat up close. He looks very suspicious.)

Now I just need to find a place in my suitcase for three hundred postcards so I can show it off to everyone else in the world. Will three hundred be enough? I hope I don’t go over the baggage weight limit. Note to self: check airline baggage weight limit. Sigh.

Anyone else on conference overload? Anyone else excited about conference? Anyone panicking over editor/agent appointments? (Take some deep breaths. Try to remember they’re regular people like you and me. I know, easier said than done.)

Only one more week to go and we’ll be in San Francisco! Then I can finally get some sleep!

Kate Carlisle writes The Bibliophile Mysteries for NAL. Her first book, HOMICIDE IN HARDCOVER, comes out in February 2009.

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The Write Way…(because there is no Right way)

July 17, 2008 by in category The Write Way by Maureen Child tagged as ,

Almost conference time! Amazing that it’s already rolled around again, but now that it has, the annual panic is setting in!
For those of us attending National, we’ve started the downhill slide into pre-conference madness.
There are the pages you didn’t get done, the dry-cleaning you still have to pick up, the packing you’re sure to start a week before you leave so you don’t forget anything and the plans you’re making to meet up with friends we see only once a year.
And in the middle of the hub-bub, there’s you know…..WORK. Conference, as much fun as it is, is also your annual chance to learn from the veterans. All of us can stand to learn a few things, not just the newbies among us. Agents, editors, multi published writers are all giving workshops and this is an opportunity not to be missed.
But do yourself a favor. Don’t try to make all of them. Go over the workshop schedule. Find a few every day that REALLY interest you and go to them. If you spend your whole conference racing from one spot to another, you won’t have time to appreciate any of it. You can by the CD’s of all the workshops and listen to them when you get home.
At National, make the most of meeting other writers, talking about your books, your plans, listening to someone else. If you’re meeting with an editor or an agent, don’t sweat the pitch, just describe your book BRIEFLY and listen carefully to what they tell you. Conference is our annual shot at reconnecting with the only people in the world who actually understand how we feel about writing. Relish it.
And make notes. I’m going to want to hear all about it at the August meeting………..
Maureen Child is the author of more than 100 romance novels and novellas and is at the moment, doing her mental packing….
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