Writing Bloc is happy to announce the release of its first full length novel, Celia at 39 by Jason Pomerance. The book is a fun, fast paced romp through a woman’s journey to 40 and the surprises she finds along the way. Just like his beloved first novel, Women Like Us, the book features delectable food descriptions and poignant family moments. Barbara Abercrombie, author of A Year Of Writing Dangerously, calls Celia at 39 “wild, funny, and tender.”
We spoke to Pomerance about his new release!
What inspired your new book, Celia at 39? A few years ago we were visiting my stepmother, who lives out by the beach at the tip of Long Island. Every year the little town library holds a book sale, and while perusing the stacks I found an old copy of The Gourmet Cookbook, which I know my mother had but the book had disappeared somehow. Anyway, I bought the library copy, and later when I leafed through it I noticed all these notations about recipes the former owner had written in the margins. But the bigger thing was the note in an envelope tucked into the pages, from a daughter to her mom. I sort of obsessed about this note for a while and wondered about these two women, and somewhere around that time I read about a package that was mailed, got lost and then arrived at its destination like 40 years later. So somehow the two elements came together and became Celia At 39!
What kind of audience will it appeal to? I think women will take to it. But also hopefully men. The book is very much a romantic comedy, along the lines of something like Sweet Home Alabama or even Moonstruck (two movies I love) so if you liked those movies, I think you’ll like this book.
How does this book compare to Women Like Us? Women Like Us was a bit more of a serious book. It dealt with life and and death issues in some ways and this one doesn’t. On the other hand, both are very much about family relationships. While the romantic stuff in Celia At 39 is important, so too is Celia’s relationship with her mom and two sisters. I think anybody can relate to family members driving them nuts at times, and that’s what happens here — Celia’s sisters and mom and make her crazy but she knows she’s stuck with them for life.
Why did you decide to publish this book with Writing Bloc? I had such great experiences with both the Escape! and DeceptionAnthologies that it just seemed logical to continue the relationship. And, frankly, I was humbled and honored that they wanted to publish it! Everything about the process has been so great. Becca, Cari and Kendra were remarkably astute editors, and while it took us a while to get to the final cover, when I got the galley and held it in my hands for the first time, I couldn’t have been happier with the results. Highly recommend Writing Bloc!
How was the process of writing a second novel different from that of writing a first? For me the process was pretty much the same — think about the story and characters endlessly until I can’t take it anymore and I just sit down and start writing. I’m not a big outliner but more of a seat-of-the-pants style writer. I like to be surprised, and there were a few of them in this book, plot twists that even I didn’t even see coming And then I’m a huge re-writer. I like to tinker endlessly until the book is finally ripped out of my hands and I’m told, “Stop! Enough!”
What advice do you have for people writing a second book? I guess same advice to somebody writing a first book: write the story you want to tell. Don’t worry about anything else. Don’t worry if anybody else is going to like it, because there will always be some readers who like your work and some who don’t. And just persist. Writing, as we all pretty much know, can be heartbreaking and thankless, but somehow you just find a way to keep pushing forward. So that would be my best advice. Push forward and never give up.
You’ve probably seen the ads– Writing Retreat on Maui! Escape to a cabin in Vermont to write! It sounds amazing– a dedicated time and place to focus on your work in progress. Unfortunately for most writers, these retreats are inaccessible– they’re either too expensive, too far away, or too long to fit around other obligations.
I decided to plan my own writing retreat– one within my budget (thanks to a gift from my husband for mother’s day!!), 45 minutes from home (far enough to feel “away” but not so far that my whole trip was spent traveling), and for two days– long enough to get some writing done but not too long away from my husband and young kids.
Here are my tips for planning your own DIY writing retreat.
Pick a Cool Spot(but not too cool) You know that place nearby that you’ve been meaning to check out but haven’t yet? That’s Temecula for me– Southern California Wine Country. Though it’s less than an hour away and people say it’s cool, I hadn’t spent any real time there. This seemed like a good chance to see what the hype was about. If I was a huge wine person, though, this probaby wouldn’t have been a good pick. This isn’t an ordinary vacation! Find somewhere you’d like to visit but where you won’t feel pulled to spend the whole trip sight seeing.
AirBnB is Your Friend AirBnB is a writer’s dream when planning retreats. You can find much more affordable, much nicer accomodations, often in a unique setting. I stayed at the Rusty Fork Ranch, and it was absolutely perfect. The hosts were wonderful, the view was incredible, my room (The Cash Room– each room has a cool theme too!) had a comfortable writing desk, and there was coffee and tea available in the morning! Plus, there were real miniature writing goats!
Plan Your Eats Ahead of Time You don’t want to spend hours pouring over menus and reading reviews when you could be writing. Scope out good food before you go. I ate at Gentle Grill, E.A.T. Marketplace, and a couple coffee shops.
Pick Goals Ahead of Time I knew before I set off on my retreat that I wanted to edit and rewrite ten chapters. This was a big goal as I usually get through one chapter every two to three days. Big goals are good, though, as long as they’re realistic! Know when and how you’ll get your work done. I wrote up a schedule for each day saying how many chapters I would get through at the coffee shop, how many I would do after lunch, and how many I would do before going to sleep.
Move Your Body Intensive writing marathons mean a lot is going on in your mind and your fingers, but not so much the rest of you. Take breaks to move! When I started feeling sluggish, I would stop for a few minutes and stretch or do some yoga. I also maaaaay have had a mini dance party.
Don’t Forget to Relax This is about writing but it’s also about retreat. Find some ways to treat yourself and do nothing too. I tried to enjoy my yummy food, rewarded myself for finishing chapters by playing a little Harry Potter Wizards Unite, did a face mask, meditated before starting in the morning, and read a book before bed. Allow space for activities that will leave you feeling refreshed enough to be productive when you get home too!
Planning your own writing retreat? Tell us about it in the comments!
After a lot of work in May, our panel of readers and judges chose the stories to be featured in our second annual short story anthology, Deception!We received a plethora of great, well-written, and fascinating stories, and making the decision was quite difficult. In order to make the selections, all entries had the author’s name replaced with a random number before being submitted to the committee of readers. Each person on the committee rated and ranked the stories based on criteria such as originality, character, setting, style, and, of course, matching the theme of “deception.” These rankings were averaged out together to create a list of the top stories, and in the end, we chose twenty-five.
All of the stories were incredible. The work produced by our indie author community never ceases to amaze me. It was difficult to choose between them all, but if we accepted everyone, we would have one gigantic anthology with a hefty price tag. For those not selected, we are working on ways to still promote and expand upon their work, either through features like our new podcast (which you can listen to on the sidebar here on the website), or through a writer’s short story workshop we will soon announce.
The List of Selected Stories for the Deception! anthology
Without further ado and in no specific order, here is the list of the stories and authors to be featured in the upcoming Deception! anthology, anticipated to be published later this year:
“The Cleansing” by Jane-Holly Meissner —
Jane-Holly, an Oregon based writer, has been scribbling stories into notebooks and online for most of her life. She squeezes in time for homeschooling her four kids, date nights at the movies with her husband, and explaining her first name to everyone she meets. Jane-Holly believes that, if creativity is directly correlated to how messy your house is, she might just be one of the most creative people on the planet. https://www.facebook.com/jhmeissnerauthor/ / jainholliewrites.wordpress.com
“Violet Crane” by Jason Pomerance —
Jason Pomerance’s first novel Women Like Us was published in 2016, and his novella Falconer debuted that same year on Nikki Finke’s Hollywood Dementia. His short story Mrs. Ravenstein was part of the Escape! Anthology, published by Writing Bloc in 2019. He also writes for film and television. Jason lives in Los Angeles with his partner and their animals. www.jasonpomerance.com
“Scammers” by Ferd Crôtte —
Ferd Crôtte is a practicing physician who writes for fun and fellowship. His short story, “Captiveedom,” appeared in the Escape! Anthology, published by Writing Bloc in 2019. His debut novel Mission 51 is currently in production by Inkshares. Ferd lives with his wife Gail in Winston Salem, North Carolina. https://thebestparts.net
“Card Tricks and Other Tavern Miracles” by Phil Rood —
Phil Rood draws, writes, makes podcasts, and plays music because he loves to pull thoughts from his head in a number of ways. He loves his family, his cats, coffee, and Oxford Commas. philrood.com / inkandsunshine.wordpress.com
Mike x Welch lives in Western N.Y. with his wife and twin sons. He contributed a story (Convict 45) to the Writing Bloc’s inaugural anthology, Escape! Mike is hard at work on his debut novel PrOOF Vol. 1: The Vampire and the Dragon. http://Mikexwelch.com
“Quibbles” by G.A. Finocchiaro —
G.A. Finocchiaro was born and raised in South Jersey. He is a self-described goofball with a taste for bad jokes and good burgers. Finocchiaro currently lives in the Philadelphia suburbs. www.theknightmares.com / www.gafino.com
“Honeysuckle Sky” by Tahani Nelson —
Tahani Nelson focuses on writing the stories that she didn’t have growing up– strong, amazing women that would rather receive a sword than a glass slipper. Her debut novel, THE LAST FAOII, is available now. facebook.com/the-last-faoii
TCC Edwards comes from Waterloo, Ontario, and has been enjoying the life of an expat teacher at a university in Busan. He lives just outside Busan with his wonderful wife and two young sons. He helped edit and wrote short stories in four anthologies by the Busan Writing Group, and he has had work published by eFiction Magazines and Every Day Fiction. writeorelse.com / www.facebook.com/tcceauthor / twitter.com/writeorelse
“Uncle Dean in the Canoe” by Nicolina Torres —
Nicolina Torres was a manager for Barnes & Noble for 15 years, in seven stores, and represented B&N on Channel 2’s Living Dayton Show for two years. Diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome as an adult, she has become an advocate for marginalized people, working with the National Association of Attorneys with Disabilities (NAAD) on mentorship projects and receiving FAMU Law School’s BLSA 2016 Spirit of Service Award for promoting diversity in the legal profession. Her debut novel, This Red Fire (Launch Pad Competition Top 10 Pick) has been optioned by Stampede Ventures and will be released by Inkshares in late 2019. https://nicolinatorres.com
“Die Regeln Galten Hier Nicht” by S.E. Soldwedel —
Evan Graham is the author of upcoming science fiction thrillers Tantalus Depths and Proteus. He has a bachelor’s degree in Education Studies from Kent State University, where he triple-minored in English, Writing, and Theatre. He currently lives in rural Middlefield, Ohio and is extensively involved in local community theatre, both on the stage and behind the scenes. https://www.facebook.com/AuthorEvanGraham/
Becca Spence Dobias is a mom, author, and ukulele player. She grew up in West Virginia and now lives in Southern California. She is the Project Manager for Writing Bloc. BeccaSpenceDobias.wordpress.com
“Alpha” by Aly Welch —
Aly Welch resides in Western New York with her husband and twin sons. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys acting, karate, and yoga. She also loves exploring the woods, and still hopes to find magic behind every tree and under every rock. www.alywelch.com
David Lee worked for forty years in public and private schools as a teacher and counselor. Now retired, he lives in Reno with his wife, dog and three cats. He spends his time reading, writing, and playing with his grandchildren. His blog (davidrlee.blogspot.com) also keeps him busy. davidrlee.blogspot.com
“Loyalty” by Estelle Rose Wardrip —
Estelle Wardrip is a teacher and writer who lives on a small farm in northern California. This is her first published work, hopefully the first of many.
“New Authority” by Patrick Edwards —
After defeating some inter-dimensional shadow monsters, Patrick returned home in time for the weekly tea party thrown by his toddler-aged daughters. The party got too wild, and the police were forced to shut it down. Two dollies and one action figure were arrested. With nothing else to do, Patrick went back to work on the sequel to his debut novel, Space Tripping. https://twitter.com/ThePatEdwards / ThePatEdwards.com
“Headcase” by Mike Donald —
Mike worked for the BBC as a sound mixer, wrote for comedy sketch shows, and developed up sitcom ideas. He was also a script analyst for a gap finance company and has written many award-winning screenplays. Mike lives in Oxford with his wife, and a power-hungry Terrier named Bonny May Donald. www.louisianablood.com / louisianablog.louisianablood.com
Amongst all of our great goals coming to fruition, we here at Writing Bloc have officially launched a podcast! Our aim is to chat about all things writing, with us discussing everything from successes to struggles, answering any of your questions, and interviewing authors we think you should know. We will be updating our main page with an embedded player for easier listening sometime in the near future, but until then, you can hear our first teaser episode on the following outlets:
We call it a “teaser” episode, as this is mostly a pleasant conversation between four of the authors behind Writing Bloc: Jacqui Castle, Christopher Lee, Cari Dubiel, and Michael Haase. We stay mostly on topic, have plenty of fun, and discuss everything from typos in our anthology to making plans to rewrite Fifty Shades of Gray in the style of Stephen King. You know, usual writer stuff.
We had a lot of fun recording this, and we have plans for many, many more. The next recording session is scheduled for Wednesday, May 29th, and we will let you know as soon as it’s posted. The list of writers to be featured with interviews and discussions is growing, and we plan on taking over the world with this podcast, of course. (Isn’t that everyone’s goal with a podcast?)
There are great things happening around the Writing Bloc. Thank you for being a part of them. Stay tuned for more features, perks, and opportunities.
The child looked at the calendar on the wall, swinging, as if
by some invisible breeze. There could not have been a breeze, though. All of
the room’s windows and doors were closed, and the air smelled musty and stale, like
laundry left too long in the washer.
Still, the calendar flapped like the wing of some great
white bird. Three MasterClasses, she
thought. I’ve managed to learn from three
masters this year.
It was Neil Gaiman, though, the most recent of her teachers,
who imparted the sage wisdom that struck the child so deeply—Give people what
they want, he advised. But do it in a way they do not expect.
This is just some of the fantastic advice in Neil Gaiman’s MasterClass, and the reason, I’m sure, that I wrote and then erased five different openings for this review before deciding I needed to do something different—something more worthy of what I got out of the class. You have to know your genre and its conventions, Gaiman says, before you can play with them. And then play.
But don’t worry! I’m done playing and am here to tell you everything you need to know about the class and to help you decide the answer to the question you undoubtedly came here for: Is it worth it?
There was some Twitter controversy when the class was first
released, as Gaiman retweeted some requests for money to take the course. Some
felt this was self-serving. A world-famous author asking other people to help give
him more money? How dare he! Why didn’t he just pay for them all himself?
I’ll ask folks who felt this way—do artists not deserve to be paid for their art? Should they stop making money for their creative efforts once they’ve reached a certain status? As Gaiman replied to those who criticized him, he has plenty of free advice for authors available online. He’s not withholding his wisdom for the wealthy. This class is a piece of his creative work, he deserves the royalties from it, and if part of promoting that work is helping people connect to access it, I see no problem.
Another of the critiques which arose was of the value of the
class itself, and here is where you may find my experience of the class
Like other MasterClasses, the course consists of several videos
(nineteen, to be exact), covering topics including “Sources of Inspiration,” “Descriptions,”
and “Dealing with Writer’s Block.” I found all of the videos interesting, even
the one on comics, which, though I read, I have not tried to write.
Gaiman is fascinating just to listen to—his voice is low and
conspiratorial and watching him really did feel a bit like sitting at the feet
of a very encouraging master. He also speaks verrrrrry slooooowly. Luckily, MasterClass
gives you the option of increasing video speed, and I found 1.25x to be
Some of the lessons are particularly inspiring. “Truth in
fiction” inspires you to dig deeper into the hard emotions that create good
writing. The lesson on worldbuilding teaches you to anchor your fictional world
in real details and to let characters discover the world’s rules by bumping up
against them or using them to their advantage, a take on the classic “show don’t
tell” rule that made a lot of sense to me.
There are also plenty of practical tidbits—in the lesson on
humor, for example, Gaiman explains that funny words have the most impact at
the end of a sentence. In the video on description he says you should “tell” when you need to, and teaches
how to give your characters need “funny hats”—unique ways for your readers to
tell them apart.
To be fair, there are bits of the videos that feel a bit
self-indulgent. Gaiman, as other MasterClass teachers do, uses several examples
from his own work. These are sometimes relevant to the topic at hand, but other
times feel less so. For example, in the video on overcoming writing block,
Gaiman suggests giving oneself a deadline and then shares an anecdote about a
short story anthology he contributed to. It was the submission deadline, he
says, which inspired him to finally get serious about a story that wasn’t
working and to figure out how to fix it. This specific example is a cool
insight for fans about a bit of his work but does little to actually teach one
how to impose a deadline on oneself. He makes up for this with further advice
about writing the next thing you do know.
Other case studies, including one on The Graveyard Book, are more relevant.
Gaiman also does what feels like a good bit of name dropping
during the course. Sometimes this seems like homage to those who have inspired
him, but other times sounds a bit braggy. Overall, this didn’t bother me
terribly. He’s earned it.
The workbook is what sets this MasterClass apart. In my review of Judy Blume’s course, I said that the exercises seemed either advanced or basic, and that students would likely find themselves drawn to about half of the lessons. This workbook solves this dilemma. For many of the lessons it contains both a “Writing Exercise” and a “For Your Novel” exercise. You can choose whether to do a simple exploration of the topic Gaiman discusses or to apply it directly to a work in progress. I found this incredibly useful, and sometimes ended up doing both.
Some of the exercises are pretty standard, but others have a
unique twist that make all the difference. For example, the exercise for the
Finding Your Voice chapter suggests you write a passage imitating the voice of
an author you know. I’ve done similar practices before. However, the exercise
doesn’t end there. After imitating, it suggests writing the same scene, this time
in your own voice. I had for the first time, after completing this, a clear
picture of what my own voice as a writer sounds like.
So, is the class worth it? If you are a fan of Gaiman’s work,
I say absolutely. You’ll feel like you’re spending time with the author and
digging deeper into his writing. For casual fans, or even just writers looking
to improve their craft, I still say yes. The workbook, especially the voice
exercise, and the lessons on Truth in Fiction, Finding Your Voice, and Worldbuilding
alone would be worth the cost for me, and the rest are an engaging bonus.
Good news! I am about to give you permission to sit down, watch movies, and spend time wandering around on the Internet. The best part? You can call the entire time “research.” And I am going to answer the question I am asked more than any other: “Where do you get your ideas?” It’s something anyone can do who is willing to spend that time watching movies and web pages.
Yesterday after lunch, I turned on the television and came across the 60’s movie, “Psych-Out”, featuring a very young Jack Nicholson, Bruce Dern, Susan Strasburg, and Gary Marshall. Gary Marshall? Yeah, that caught my eye, too, so I opened the IMBD page on my iPad and started reading. One paragraph explained how Strasberg and Nicholas had been nervous about some of their scenes and calmed themselves down by discussing Reichian therapy which they had both experienced. Apparently, it was some kind of cosmic, bio-energy thing, but new to me. I opened a new window to the Wikipedia page for Reichian Therapy.
I read that William Reich was a student of Freud, but had then developed theories about a mind-body energy related to sexuality. My highly oversimplified understanding was that Reich believed that our mental and physical health was connected to a ‘cosmic’ energy that Freud called the libido, or sex drive. Repression of our sexual urges led to illness, mental and physical. It sounded like one of those things that would be in a 60’s movie. Reich built on his theory, identified that cosmic energy as something he called ‘orgone’, and created devices called “orgone accumulators” that would help us decrease our sexual tensions and improve our overall health. He also created a form of therapy called “Vegetotherapy”, which I’ll simply say violated the established ‘distance’ between patient and therapist. His work was banned in Germany, and in the U.S. he was eventually determined to be a fake, was thrown out of various groups, had his books and research confiscated, was arrested, and died in prison in 1957.
No, nothing much so far. Interesting stuff, but not the kind of material that great ideas come from. Then, I opened this morning’s New York Times obituaries.
I read that Mary Boyd Higgins died at age 93, after serving for sixty years as the Director of the William Reich Trust, the William Reich Museum, and the Orgone Energy Observatory that is on the National Register of Historic Places in Maine. As I read the obituary, I recognized things from what I had read yesterday, but there was more detail. For example, it explained that the reason Reich’s material had been banned in Germany was that he explained that Fascism and dictatorships were the result of sexual repression and not at all a healthy thing. Nazi Germany did not agree. And I read that, in 1954 in the U.S., after reviewing Reich’s 789 page FBI file, a Federal Judge wrote: “any journal or pamphlet that mentioned orgone “shall be destroyed,” that all orgone accumulators be destroyed, and that all copies of Dr. Reich’s books that mentioned orgone “shall be withheld” from circulation until such references were redacted.”
My neurons began to fire. I found it interesting that Reich was one of the few men I’ve heard of to be banned and have his books burned in both Nazi Germany and the United States. What bothered me the most was that line in the judge’s ruling that said any of Reich’s books that mentioned orgone “shall be withheld from circulation until such references were redacted.” One word? What was so dangerous about one word that might cause two groups who had completely different worldviews to link arms like that? What was it about “orgone” that made it so important that Dr. William Reich be silenced?
And then my mind said, “What if…?”
And that is how ideas are born. What if Reich was right, and the repression of sexual expression and ‘orgone’ does cause people to be less independent and self-actualized and more open to authoritarianism, Fascism, and dictators? What if encouraging sexual repression does help keep people under control, keep them weaker, more compliant, less likely to resist? What if there are groups ‘out there’ who know this secret and have been the drivers behind the cultural battles relating to sexuality and sexual expression? What if our entire medical health care system could be…What if…?
I may never know the answers to those questions, and honestly, I’ll leave that task to others. My goal was to find an idea to explore. My goal was to find a “What if…?”
Some may say that this experience was all a great coincidence, and I was just lucky to have the movie, Wikipedia, and obituary show-up like they did. Yes, it may well have been coincidence. But I am convinced that the more pieces and bits of information I pick-up and store in my mind, the more frequently those little idea-creating coincidences are going to occur.
Now, I need to go see what’s on television.
John Jamison is a life-long believer in the power of stories. First as a pastor, then educator, creator of Centers for Innovation at multiple universities, Director of a national Game and Simulation academic degree program, a consultant for e-learning and brand development, John has used the power of story to bring about serious change and have some fun in the process. John grew-up in a small river-town in Illinois, and describes his childhood as “kind of Tom Sawyer-ish with a blend of Wizard of Oz.” John says, “I grew up in a family of storytellers and liars, and I spent most of my time trying to figure out which was which.”
Today’s guest post comes from Kimberly Hunt, freelance developmental editor with Revision Division.
Let’s set expectations from the start. I am NOT a writer. Through extensive reading, professional training, and my experience as a developmental editor, I’ve learned the essentials of genres. A novel can contain elements from multiple genres but three components distinguish mystery, horror, and suspense.
They are: Timing, Revealed clues,and the Appeal, of the story to the reader’s emotions.
Any novel needs structural
elements with tension provided by formidable conflict and character growth, but
when you’re ready to pass your manuscript to a beta-reader, knowing your genre
will help you know how best to describe it. Use the following key components to
quickly identify if you’ve written a mystery, horror, or suspense novel.
It’s all about the chase. Drop the reader in after the crime and
let the story unravel – revealing the why and who at a moderate pace.
The hook in the beginning should establish a question that must be
answered by the end.
Solve the mystery in the end or there is no story. Even if the
criminal gets away, you’re expected to solve the crime.
Along the way, your style of writing characters and plot should
make demands of the reader’s brain to figure out the puzzle. To help them, leave
subtle clues so that it all falls into place in the end.
No cheating – waiting until the end to present a tidy wrap up is
not satisfying for readers.
It’s all about fear.
Often, a horror story includes themes of bad people or actions (or
both) and usually leans toward the morbid.
Shocking plot twists are great, but it should be believable. In
fact, that’s what makes it so scary.
Character motivations are still important even if horror is
usually more plot-driven than character-driven. In order to evoke a strong
emotional response, the reader must strongly like or hate the character.
The sought after emotional response is intense whether it be from fear
or shock. Readers should be screaming at the book as they see the evil plot
Many authors embrace disgust head-on without flinching, unafraid
to turn your stomach with graphic depiction, but use grossness sparingly as
this can be perceived as a lazy trick, much like leaning on coincidence to
solve a mystery or fate to wrap up a romance.
It’s all about tense uncertainty. Suspense involves a main
character trying to prevent something from occurring.
A reader of suspense novels should feel tightly wound and worried
about what may happen.
Some authors leverage time limits to increase tension and speed up
If Mystery is about what already happened, and horror is happening
now, then suspense is danger about to happen.
Similar to Horror, the reader is aware of the danger, perhaps even
more aware than the main character.
Use your biggest fears against your
characters slowly and subtly, leaving a little to the reader’s imagination.
New authors often struggle to categorize their work, but these guidelines should help. A blend of genres is great as strict rules are nonexistent. However, it’s beneficial to know early in the publishing process what your target audience hopes you’re about to deliver. And it’s absolutely mandatory later for marketing effectively when you’re querying or self-publishing.
Kimberly Hunt is a freelance
developmental editor with Revision Division, specializing in fiction for
self-publishing authors. She’s happy to answer questions about writing and
editing but beware as she can go on at length about her passions: reading,
running, and volunteering.
So you’re thinking of writing a book, but you keep telling yourself that you shouldn’t. There’s always a thousand reasons not to, so I see where you’re coming from. Writing a book is hard, it takes a lot of time, it’s not a lot of financial reward for the amount of time spent, you most likely won’t get a professional publishing deal that will sweep you away from your day job, people will criticize your work, you might get writer’s block…the list goes on and on and on…
And hey, there is a chance that the book you’re either writing or thinking of writing is objectively terrible. But, even in this case, I am here to tell you to stop thinking that way and just get on with it. Write your book. Get your words down. Create those characters. Forget all the haters and just get it done. Why? I’ll tell you why.
1. Writing is fun.
Really, it is. And it doesn’t matter what you do with it. Want to find out how awful and agonizing the whole process is? There’s thousands of articles on that, but it’s simply not true. If you don’t like your writing, then maybe you’re writing the wrong thing. Try poetry, haikus, or FanFiction. Try writing a memoir of a favorite time in your life. There are endless possibilities, and all of them are equal, as long as you are having fun. It may seem like the novelists complain the most, but that’s only if you go searching for complaints. The trick is to just keep doing it. Don’t let the negativity stop you.
2. Giving up feels awful.
Let’s say you’ve written a few pages of something you like and you are so bold as to show someone else. And let’s say that someone else shows you all of your grammatical errors and plot holes, and even goes so far as to explain to you why your entire story won’t work and tells you to quit. Obviously, that person isn’t a friend. The truth of the matter is that your critic is trying too hard to make themselves feel better. All first drafts will have problems. All stories need editing. Every tale requires a lot of work until you “get it right.” But if you decide to give up just because it’s too hard or you’re afraid of failure, you’re forgetting that you’re writing for fun. Make your grammar errors and spelling mistakes, power through it all however you decide to do it, and get it done. Why?
3. Finishing a story feels amazing.
I wrote my first novel over the course of two months, and when I finished, I felt incredible – abuzz with the accomplishment. I told everyone I could that I wrote a book. And oh man, when I read it again, I realized how terrible it really was. You might think that discouraged me, but it did just the opposite. I tucked that book into a box and it’s still sitting in my basement, preserved. The story was so odd and convoluted that I decided not to rewrite it. But here’s the important part: I made that decision on my own, and the reason I made it was because I had another story idea I wanted to get started writing. And I started writing that story. And that story was much better and far easier to write because I knew, even though my last attempt wasn’t great, I could finish writing a novel. I got over that hump and knew I wouldn’t give up ever again. I realized that I had more to learn, but I was no longer afraid of finishing a project I started.
4. Perfection will never come.
Finding errors is easy, especially when you’re first constructing something. But here’s the thing: you aren’t writing something that has to be perfect the first time around. And what is perfect anyhow? Writing should be a freeing process. Look to the greats. Do they use sentence fragments? Run-on sentences? Odd spellings of words? Poor grammar? Sure they do. But because the stories were so great, these “errors” could be applied to that writer’s style. What would happen to countless stories if everyone obeyed the same rules and wrote the same way? As I’ve said, language is evolving. Write your story using as many acronyms and emojis as possible. If it’s what you’re feeling and what you want to write, just get it out. Story first, rules somewhere way down the line and definitely not second.
5. Because you can.
Seriously. You can do it. Don’t expect to have a bestseller float out of your fingertips on the first try, don’t try to impress anyone, don’t make the process something more than it needs to be. Just do it. You can. If you had the idea to write a book, it was because some part of your brain, a part you should listen to, said you can and want to. There isn’t something magical to it, you just have to keep at it, make it as fun as possible, and push those critics away – especially those in the other part of your brain telling you that you can’t do it. Show that inner pessimist who’s boss and get that story written, even if it ends up being terrible.
Why? Because there are no good reasons not to. Finish what you start. You’ll never regret it.
Need a little extra motivation? Check out the video below.
Welcome, Jeyna! The Slave Prince and The Battle for Oz, both deal with retelling well-known stories, with a fantasy twist. Can you tell us a little bit about what that process is like and why you are drawn to this style of writing?
The process often begins with a question of ‘what if’. What if these worlds coalesced? What if there was magic? What if I retold the entire adventure in another place and time? Then, when an idea hits, I give it a go. Honestly, I’m not too sure why I enjoy retelling stories. Perhaps it has something to do with pushing my imagination to the next level—challenging myself to see beyond a well-trodden tale. Or maybe, it might have something to do with how I started honing my skill—Harry Potter fan fiction was my go-to when I first decided to write more frequently. It could also be because I grew up with the original adventure—as with the case of The Slave Prince—that I simply wanted to add my own twist to my favourite childhood story.
Tell us a little bit about your writing routines. Do you aim to complete a set number of pages or words each day?
My routine changes with the season. During busier times, when my day job requires more brain power, I’ll endeavour to complete one chapter a week. In which case, I will write the first half of the chapter on one day, edit that half on another day, write the second half on that same day, then edit the second half before the week ends. Thus, being one chapter closer to finishing the book. On a less mentally taxing week, I’ll try to get in two chapters a week with the same write, edit, write, edit model. As for the word-count, I usually aim for a minimum of 2,500 words a chapter—occasionally pushing over 3,000 if I’m feeling adventurous.
As I have other forms of writing—additional articles and short stories on a weekly basis—there will be some weeks where I don’t write any chapters at all. But then again, on long breaks from work, I find myself on a roll—completing chapters one day after the next. So really, the routine changes with the season.
Have you ever destroyed any of your first drafts and started a story from scratch?
I haven’t destroyed first drafts but I have abandoned some. They have been relocated to a folder of ‘unpublished works’ for keepsake. And whether or not I dive into them again, only time will tell. At the moment, there are more exciting quests to embark on.
How do you think your writing style has changed over the years?
For the better! I’ve learned to build denser worlds, dive deep into character motivations, and steer clear from cliches as much as possible. Through the years of writing, I’ve learned that a story isn’t just a story. I cannot merely write it as it is—I have to truly live it out. And if I cannot see, hear, smell, or feel it, neither can my readers. So whenever I write, I don’t just endeavour to be flowery, I strive to create something tangible in the minds and hearts of every reader too. But honestly, I still have a lot to learn. At the very least, I now know what it means to show and not tell.
What real-life inspirations did you draw from for the worldbuilding within your books?
Wow, there are just so many! With The Slave Prince, specifically Alpenwhist, I drew inspiration from Croatia—their stone walls, ember rooftops, and cobbled streets. But with Meihua—a realm from my newest trilogy—I drew inspiration from my travels to South Korea, Japan, China, and Taiwan. Thus why I love traveling!
As much as it is about the food, travelling gives me the opportunity to gaze upon the natural landscapes and distinctive architecture. Sure, I can Google them—I frequently do since I can’t time travel—but being ‘there’ allows me to live it out. Furthermore, the out of norm experiences allow for a more in-depth world-building through a recollection of said events. So, if I were to summarize with one consistent real-life inspiration for all my works, I would say… it’s my real-life experiences.
What do you love most about the writing process?
I love finishing it—the feeling of having accomplished something. The satisfaction of pulling through to complete a story. What I love the most about the writing process is the end of writing—when the story is released to the world. So I guess it’s safe to say that one of my favourite sentences—in all of my books—is ‘the end’. After all, the end is but the moment before a new beginning.
What do you do to market your own books yourself? Any advice on that front?
Despite earning a living as a Content Strategist in a digital agency, I’ve yet to find a lucrative way to market my books. So instead, I’m marketing myself. After discussing with a few people in the marketing industry, I’ve realised that authors should spend more time marketing themselves instead of their books. You see, you can only do so much to pitch a story in hopes that it resonates with a reader. But, if you are—as an individual—someone people want to support, you don’t need to exhaust your efforts into pitching your work. If people like you enough, I believe they will naturally buy your books.
My advice to fellow creators is to spend less time selling copies and more time building a brand that people can resonate with. And, do so in a genuine manner. After all, we have the innate ability to spot insincerity. So focus on creating an image that reflects who you truly are and your story, and let your works sell themselves to those who believe in you.
What book(s) are you reading at present?
I recently completed The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Cho. And boy, did I love it! Having only read books set in foreign countries, it was nice to finally dive into a book set in my own. So if you haven’t heard of this book, you might want to check it out. It has an interesting plot—one that had me flipping one page after the next during the Lunar New Year. As for what’s next, I’m eagerly waiting for the Escape anthology to arrive in the mail!
When can the readers expect another book from you? Any details that you can share?
Well… I recently completed Book 2 of my trilogy! But when to expect the launch of this trilogy, I can’t tell. And not because I don’t want to but because I recently uploaded the entire manuscript of Book 1, Whispers Of The Wind, on Swoon Reads. So if you’d like to read it, you can! And guess what? You don’t have to pay a cent—you can read it for free!
Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Robb is the king of Zeruko. He, and his twin sister Myra, ascended the throne after their father’s passing. According to many, King Daemon—arch-nemesis and ruler of Tentazoa—murdered the late king. But despite the claims, Robb believes his father is still alive. With a desire to bring his father home, Robb leaves Zeruko with his trusted friend Spion. The pair travel to the realms of the universe through the magic of raindrops. From the hazardous trip behind enemy lines to the festive East Asian-esque Meihua; from the kingdom hovering above the clouds to the military-driven Bevattna; from the heterogeneous society of a tunneled realm to Robb’s duel with the heir of Tentazoa, every step in his journey uncovers a gem of his past, present, and future. And in one foresight, Robb learns of the daunting fate of Zeruko. (Read Now @ Swoon Reads: https://swoonreads.com/m/whispers-of-the-wind/)
What is your preferred method for readers to get in touch with or follow you (website, blog, Facebook, Goodreads, etc.) and links?
I frequent all my social media platforms, so readers can get in touch with me on whichever platform they feel most comfortable with. My inbox is also open to anyone who wants to share their thoughts on any of my works or have questions they’d like to ask. But, if you only had to pick one, I would suggest Facebook—it’s where I share snippets of my writings and broadcast personal thoughts through weekly videos!
After completing the Margaret Atwood MasterClass, I was excited to begin another of their writing courses. The Judy Blume class was an obvious pick, as I fell in love with Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret as a child.
My first piece of advice to those who are considering a MasterClass.com All Access Pass is to try not to compare the courses. Though other reviews have written about the formulaic nature of the classes, you will be much happier if you take each one on its own merit. In my previous review, for example, I praised the documentary quality of Atwood’s class. While Blume’s class is certainly well-made, it does not have some of the fancy transitions or atmospheric qualities that Atwood’s does.
Another area where the Blume class differs from the Atwood class is the accompanying workbook. Where Atwood’s workbook feels much like a college syllabus, Blume’s seems a bit more simplistic. This isn’t necessarily bad. The exercises are basic but helpful, and are certainly a way to dig deeper into Blume’s work. The workbook includes a letter from Blume at the beginning which makes up for any shortcomings. Her encouragement, support, and friendly encouragement to “read, read, read” are touching. Some writers, though, may wish for a more varied reading list or more challenging assignments.
Blume discusses her process in detail, and fans of her work will enjoy the inside look into the development of her books. One of the main topics of conversation is her notebook– she keeps a new one for each book. Though the class could benefit from more peeks into these notebooks, Blume’s discussion of how she uses them is fascinating and educational. I did find myself wishing for more technical details about writing, as much of her advice feels specific to her own work or style.
Blume also discusses creativity, censorship, and the struggles she faced writing about sensitive topics openly in books for young readers. Her tone is no-nonsense but cheery, and is inspirational for any writer facing fear about the reception of their own work.
Course-takers will likely find themselves more interested in one half of the class or the other. The writing advice is more geared toward beginners, whereas the later lessons apply more toward those with at least a bit more experience. My favorite lessons of the class came near the end when Blume discusses working with editors, querying agents, facing rejection, and the book marketplace. When so much writing advice is focused on just getting words on paper, it is refreshing and encouraging to hear from such a master about these post-first draft topics.
A lesson on Blume’s own career journey is also fascinating. She shares her early forays into creating felt children’s decor and the idea that creative people often just need some kind of creative outlet. As a mom to young children, I was inspired by Blume’s ability to jump start her writing career as a young mother.
The Judy Blume MasterClass is a worthy investment for fans of Blume’s work, and particularly those who aspire to write for young people. All writers can benefit from witnessing her bravery and determination. If you are looking for an intermediate or advanced craft course, this is probably not the MasterClass for you. If you are looking for a feel-good experience that leaves you feeling ready to go for your writing goals and face any challenges to it head on, you’ll enjoy Blume’s class.
Particularly touching is the emotion Blume displays when talking about her own career and characters. Blume’s gratitude and love for those who shaped her career, for the stories that flow through her, and for her readers are palpable. I found myself moved to tears by her closing, in which she discusses her own bookshop and promises to show love to the books of the writers taking the class.
Take this class ready to think deeply about young people and the kinds of books they deserve, and to feel inspired to follow your own creative dreams.