Archive for the 'Lisa Shearin' Category


5 things I’ve learned about writing — writing is a business

Today’s blog is the fifth of my posts on the 5 Things I’ve Learned About Writing — Writing is a Business.

When you’re at your computer, notepad, or wherever you write, all you’re thinking about is the scene you’re writing, the scene you’re going to write — and occasionally drifting off to imagine what it will be like to see your baby on the bookstore shelves. You imagine yourself getting THE CALL from an agent offering to represent you, then getting THE BIG CALL from your agent saying that a humongous NY publishing house is clamoring to buy your baby. Those thoughts make you feel all warm & fuzzy and inspire you to finish that chapter that’s been giving you fits.

Then one day, all of these things happen, and you start to realize that writing is much more than you, your muse, and your computer. It’s a business. And your book isn’t your baby; it’s a product — and so are you. Of course, you knew this to begin with. Kind of. On some level. Your book sells and you get paid. That makes it a business, right? You know this. But what you probably didn’t realize (I certainly didn’t) is the extent that you must be involved in the business aspect.

There’s not much that’s more intimidating and thrilling for a brand-new author than opening a big FedEx envelope and pulling out your first publishing contract. Of course, being the control freak that I am, I sat down and read the thing (savvy business move). I understood some of it, got the gist of some of it, and the rest left me completely clueless. Fortunately I could rest easy (and sign easier) secure in the knowledge that Kristin (my agent) would answer any and all questions that I had, and that she and her contracts person had gone over the thing with a microscope and made certain that every paragraph, clause and sub-clause was as much in my favor as it was possible for a new author.

Then there’s promotion. If you’re at one of the big NY houses, you will be assigned a publicist. Mine is great, but the nuts & bolts of promoting my book were up to me. Getting promotional materials (postcards, bookmarks, etc.) designed and printed. Getting the best website you can afford designed, up, and running. Getting pages on as many social networking sites as you can juggle. Networking with other authors, networking online, and getting your name and your book’s name in front of as many people as humanly possible. I have no idea how authors promoted themselves or their work before the Internet. All I can says is: all hail cyber space. Then there’s the conferences. With traveling expenses, you have to pick and choose which conferences will give you the most bang for the buck.

And how can I forget deadlines? Before I was published, my deadlines were self-imposed, which meant that I could take all the time I wanted to make my manuscript as perfect as possible. Now, I essentially have nine months from typing that first word, to turning in a final manuscript to my editor. The deadlines are in your contract, so they might as well be graven in granite. Depending on your publisher and editor, there may be some leeway, but the date on your contract is the date that book is expected. Try telling that to a fickle muse.

I could go on and on, but I won’t. So yes, writing is a business. And yes, a lot of it I had no clue I’d have to do for myself. And if I did know about it, I had no idea how much time it would take, or what all was involved. All I can say is thank God for Linnea Sinclair when I was first getting started out. She was my author mentor/mom. She took me under her publishing-savvy wing and taught me everything. That’s another piece of advice I can give: when you get published, find yourself an long-published, experienced, savvy author who is willing to answer your panicked and/or clueless emails, and who will take away from her own precious writing time to introduce you to all the right people, and give you the benefit of her hard-earned wisdom. Linnea, hon, what would I have ever done without you. HUGS! : )


Part 4 of 5 Things I’ve learned about writing: Momentum matters

Momentum matters and persistence pays — no truer words were ever spoken (or written) for a writer.

As I discover every day, no daily writing session stands alone, each hour of work, each day of work ties to the one before–and connects to the one to come after. Writing builds on itself.

With everything we all have going on in our daily lives, brains can only be expected to hold on to a plotline for so long. Let’s face it, life gets in the way of writing. I’m a walking/talking example — I’m about a month behind my personal schedule as a result of real life (and two colds) keeping me from writing. Life has an annoying tendency to take our minds away from our characters and make us talk and actually interact (gasp) with living, breathing people. When this happens and I get back to my writing, what momentum I’d built up has gone bye-bye. Dang it! Then I have to take valuable writing time to go back over what I’d done before to bring myself back up to speed.

And it’s not just the words that we lose our grasp on when we don’t (or can’t) write every day. A particular character’s emotional state, the emotions they had in the scene where you stopped were right there, bubbling on the surface of your consciousness, ready to be tapped again. If you lose a day or two, needless to say, the bubbling has stopped.

And to write every day (or every day that you can) takes discipline and persistence. Discipline to do it, and persistence to see it through to the end of the book and beyond (to getting an agent and publisher). For those who want it badly enough, the thoughts and dreams of reaching that final goal are enough to keep us moving forward. And there are plenty of roadblocks: life, family and friends who don’t understand (or worse yet, who don’t believe in you), and just the cold, hard truth that writing is hard work. It’s lonely work. And if you want to be a published writer, you have to trudge on dispite all of this.

As most of you know, I have a full-time job, so carving out time to write wasn’t (and still isn’t) easy, but I really wanted to be published, so I found the time. I started writing on a more regular schedule, and I could see the improvement. And when I saw the improvement, I wanted to write more. With that came confidence and a determination to reach my goal.

I’d still be writing even if I wasn’t published, because writing isn’t just what I do — writing is who I am. It’s like an addiction, you can’t stop, and you don’t want to. When I’m not writing, I’m thinking about writing. When I’m writing, I’m happy. When I’m between projects, I can get a little cranky. Just ask my fabulous (and patient and supportive) husband.

Writing for publication is like any other goal worth working and fighting for — you have to put your nose to the proverbial grindstone and just do the work. Believe me, after struggling for it for over 20 years, it is SO worth it. ; )


Part 2 of “5 things I’ve learned about writing” — You gotta want it BAD

Today is Part 2 of the “5 Things I’ve Learned About Writing” — the second thing I’ve learned is if you want to be published, you gotta want it BAD!

Today’s post isn’t meant to discourage anyone; I’m just stating the cold, hard truth about writing that anyone who’s ever sat down to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard already knows. Writing is hard work, it’s lonely work, and a lot of the time it’s unappreciated and misunderstood work.

Some authors are literal overnight successes — they hit pay dirt and even the “big time” with the first book they’ve ever written. We’ve seen their stories — six- and seven-figure advances, press coverage out the wazoo; heck, sometimes even Oprah.

Then there’s me — and 99.99% of writers. The first book we have published isn’t our first or second. Mine was my third. For me, it took over 20 years of hard work to get to where I am. I’m grateful as hell for everything I have now. I just don’t understand diva authors, the jerks of the literary world. Okay, I’m going off on a tangent; I’ll save diva authors for another day. I personally don’t know any (every author I know is gracious and grateful and the nicest people you’d want to meet). But I’ve heard the jerk stories.

Anyhoo, back to what I’ve learned. For the vast majority of writers, success (i.e., reaching the goal of being published), takes a couple of manuscripts that are more than likely stuffed in a closet, before we write something publishable. I’m grateful for the “no, thank yous” I got early in my career. At one writers’ conference, I even thanked one agent for turning me down. From the expression on his face, I’ll bet he hadn’t heard that very often.

After producing something worth printing, there’s the struggle, the waiting, and the waiting some more to finally land an agent, and then waiting for your agent to sell your precious to a publisher. In the middle of all of this is hard work. There is no easy way to do this. You have to want it so badly that you’re willing to write every day, even when you don’t want to, even when you don’t feel inspired, or even when you’re just too danged tired. You have to write regardless of everything. That’s not to say you shouldn’t take the occasional day off. It’s a good idea, for you and for those who have to live with you.

Writing for publication is kinda like training as a professional athlete. They have to work out every day, training and honing their skills if they want to improve. As a writer, your challenge is to find the time to write, which very often means sacrificing something else you want to do.  Also, when you write, you write alone. Some writers have critique groups; I don’t. It’s just not something that works for me. I’m a lone wolf.

Then there’s the biggest problem that most writers encounter: family and friends not taking them or their work seriously. They think that if you haven’t been published, that you’re not a real writer. That’s a load of bullpucky. If you write and work hard at it, you are a real writer regardless of whether you’ve ever signed your name to a publishing contract or not. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise; and if they do, don’t believe them. I always told people that it wasn’t a matter of if I got published, but when.

Keep telling yourselves the same thing. And like me, if you tell yourself often enough, you will believe it. Believing in yourself is half the battle.


Part 1 — Things I’ve learned about writing

Sorry if it seems that I dropped off the face of the earth.  Just the usual writer stuff — a book launch, immediately followed by a book deadline, on the heels of a book revision.  Okay, I’m back now.  Over the next five Mondays, I’m going to revisit a series of posts I did quite a while ago on “Five Things I’ve Learned About Writing.” They were true back in 2007 when I wrote them, and they’re just as true now.

I thought I’d start with what every writer has to wrestle with — taking a book one sentence, one scene, one chapter at a time. Some people are intimidated away from writing a book because they think we authors have the whole book in our heads when we start. Heck, most of us don’t have the whole book in our heads when we finish. They think that it’s all there, we write it down and we’re done. Don’t I wish.

Some of us (like myself) prefer to work with an outline. I’ve discovered that I like to work with a VERY detailed outline. Of course, I can change it (and I always do), but I know it’s there like a security blanket. Other brave souls come up with an idea and just strike out on their own, no outline, no nothing — they feel that to write anything down would sully the creative process. Most authors are somewhere in between. But all of us have one thing in common: we all have to write our books one sentence, one scene, one chapter at a time.

I absolutely MUST work this way. While of course I have my outline, when I’m actually doing the writing I have to force myself not to think much beyond the one moment in that scene that I’m writing. When the sheer enormity of what I have to accomplish pushes its way into my thoughts, my poor little brain just shortcircuits — actually it panics. How am I going to get from here to there? Oh crap, I forgot to include that character. Do I really need that character? Should I save him and his subplot for the next book? How is that subplot ever going to fit in? In short, I try to do what I don’t think any author can do — have the entire thing in your head at one time. It’s kinda like looking at deep space pictures from the Hubble telescope. Your jaw drops open at just how vast the universe is. The same is true (on a much smaller scale) of your books’ universe. It’s just too big to comprehend all at once.

And when you do that, you lose the immediacy of the sentences you’re writing, the intimacy between the characters in that scene. You lose that emotional human (or elf or goblin) touch. The realness of two people who care about each other, or hate each other, or one is about to betray the other — their intimacy/connection/animosity is lost unless you immerse yourself in their moment, get into their minds, and understand what they’re feeling. Only then can you accurately convey your characters’ emotions and make the words come to life on the page — one sentence, one scene, one chapter at a time.


Bewitched & Betrayed is on sale today

And it’s about danged time! I’ve wanted ya’ll to read it just as badly as you want to get your hands on it.

If you’re going to buy Bewitched & Betrayed for yourself or a friend, please buy it this week. As I’m sure you’re all sick of hearing me say, The New York Times counts first week’s sales toward making their bestseller list — as do some other bestseller lists.

For those of you who haven’t started the series yet, here are some really fun reviews of each book by a reader/reviewer who has just discovered the series, too:
Magic Lost, Trouble Found
Armed & Magical
The Trouble With Demons

I’ve gotten questions from some of you over the past week about the availability of the eBook version of B&B. Here’s the deal:

The eBook will go on-sale today at the retail sites below. I’ve linked to the B&B eBook or to my page on each site — with the exception of Apple. I’m not sure what the deal is with the Apple store yet. If any of you know, please enlighten me. ; )

Kobo (a Canadian retailer)

Now comes the not-so-great news. Amazon is still “negotiating” with Penguin. So until such time as terms are reached, Bewitched & Betrayed won’t be available on Kindle. Amazon has pulled the “Buy” button on all of Penguin’s new eBook releases. B&B could be available on the Kindle in a few hours, days or weeks. I don’t know and my editor doesn’t know. Unfortunately we have absolutely no control over the situation. This is between the Amazon and Penguin corporate folks. Let’s hope a resolution is reached soon.

Negotiations are also ongoing between Penguin and the ebook wholesalers that distribute to several smaller retailers, including Fictionwise, BooksOnBoard and Diesel. So the eBook version of B&B isn’t available from these retailers today.

And for some fun news, B&B and my other three books will be available as audiobooks from on July 6.

I hope all this information is helpful. I know some of you will stay up half the night devouring B&B. ; ) Because that’s what a lot of you have said you did with my past books. And using words like “devour”, “consume”, and “plow through” bring warm & fuzzies to an author’s heart. As does fussing at me because you had to stay up all night reading. It’s music to an author’s ears.

Let me know how you like the book. Post comments and email me; as always, I want to hear what you all think. These books are for you. And if you fall head over heels for B&B, please feel free to post a glowing review on the book retailer site of your choice. ; ) People do pay attention to reviews. Enough good reviews can (and do) tip the scales as to whether someone buys a book or not.

I hope you all love the book, enjoy yourselves, and have one helluva fun read! Ya’ll are simply the best fans and I’m blessed to be able to call you mine.

Hugs for you all!


You might be a writer if. . .

Below are some of my personal factoids that definitely peg  me as a writer.  Let’s hear yours.  Comment with some of your own.  Let’s have fun with it.  ; )

You sleep with pen and paper next to your bed — and the stove and the couch and the dining table and the shower and the toilet and the. . .

You have a favorite punctuation mark. My editor’s trying to wean me off of em dashes — good luck with that.

You have a favorite pen. Uniball Signo 207 with the comfi-grip in black ink. Uh, what do you mean there are other colors?

You get caught up in plotting your next scene and put the cereal in the fridge, and the milk in the pantry.

The stacks of your old manuscripts and rejection letters officially constitutes a fire hazard.

You desperately want Crayola tub markers so you can write down all that great dialog that comes to you in the shower.

You love restaurants that put a big sheet of paper over the table cloth and leave you with a handful of crayons.

You’re talking to a real, living, breathing person and suddenly stop and listen because one of your characters interrupted you.

You think sleep is way overrated. Who needs more than three hours anyway?

Your novels are backed up on your laptop, your husband’s laptop, two thumb drives, and you’re seriously toying with the idea of getting a safe deposit box.

And finally, you know your a writer if you look at yourself and see a writer. Everyone else looks at you and sees an obsessive-compulsive, anal-retentive insomniac with a pen fetish.


The perils of the 3:15 muse wake-up call

If you’re a writer, it’s happened to you — you work on your book until late, you finally get into bed, and between 3-4:00 in the morning you wake up. Or to be more exact, your muse wakes you up, or that pessimistic voice in your head that you can control during daylight hours. And worst of all, sometimes your muse and that pessimistic voice are one and the same.

I’ve been getting both types of visits for the past few weeks. It’s normal for me when I’m finishing a book. With about seven chapters to go, my muse kicks me awake. I want to go back to sleep; she wants me to start on the revisions: wrap my head around the whole book, find the weaknesses, faulty spots — basically the good, the bad, and the ugly. And once you think that one book-related thought, she’s won. I know I won’t get back to sleep until an hour or less before my alarm goes off at 5:45. (Yep, I’m at my desk at my day job at 7:30.)

Thinking about book revisions at 3:15 is annoying, but it’s okay. It’s constructive. But when my muse has stayed at the “muse bar” until well after last call, and has had a few too many — that 3:15 visit isn’t from a my muse “the helpful writing partner”; it’s the Anti-Muse — cranky, hyper-critical, destructive. Those are the middle-of-the-night wake-up calls when my first thought is of every dark nook, cranny, and problem with the book — the beginning is wrong, the middle is a quagmire, and the ending. . .well, the ending simply sucks.

Don’t listen to the Anti-Muse. Yes, there may be (okay, probably are) some problems with the book, but they’re not nearly as bad as the Anti-Muse makes them out to be; in fact, they’re probably pretty minor. But at 3:15, my defenses aren’t up, and the Anti-Muse gets in. I’ve learned that what she tells me are just drunken ramblings, and when the sun comes up, rational thought returns.


Writing a plot synopsis for a query letter

For a writer, a query letter is hands-down the most important letter you’ll ever write. I’ve been a professional writer since I graduated from college — marketing, advertising, business, public relations — so I’ve written my share of business letters. But no one letter stressed me out as much as my query letter. I would say, as I’m sure every other writer does: “If they’d just read the first chapter of my book, they’d love it! I’m an author, not a letter writer!” And I was a business letter writer, and I still thought this.

I made the mistake of thinking that a query letter was different than any other business letter. It is and it isn’t. It is different in that you’re pitching your book (and you have to summarize it). It isn’t different in that you want to be as professional as possible. Agents love dealing with professionals. So as much as you may want to, keep the unseemly begging, pleading, and angst-filled prose in your computer where it belongs. Believe me, I know, this is hard to do when your budding writing career is on the line.

But how did I write my synopsis paragraph for Magic Lost, Trouble Found? I did what everyone else does — I tried to include everything. I soon found out that “everything” doesn’t fit in a paragraph, and it just made my book sound like a jumbled mess. What I had to get at, what I had to dig down to, was the core of what my book was about. Here’s the link to my agent, Kristin Nelson’s analysis of my query letter. I did a brief intro of why I was writing to her, got right to the pitch, and then did a brief, professional wrap-up. In my pitch, I used the tone and voice of my book (my big selling point), and hit only the high points of the plot. A good exercise to do this is to gather up your favorite novels that are in the genre in which you write. Now read the jacket or back cover copy. That’s what I went for: a combo of big-picture plot summary and marketing promo copy. Give it a try with your own pitch paragraph and see if it works for you.


Writer’s block is a writer’s best friend

Today I’m going to talk about writer’s block.   For me it’s like the honesty of a friend telling you something you don’t want to hear.  You can always depend on your friends to tell you when you screwed up.  Right?  Writer’s block is like that for me.  I know some of you are probably thinking, “Huh?” Others are thinking I must be a glutton for punishment.

Any writer can tell you that writer’s block is not fun. Actually it’s about as far from fun as it gets. But for me writer’s block doesn’t mean I’ve run out of ideas, it means I’ve run down the wrong road. Writer’s block is my muse’s way of telling me, “The bridge is out! Go back, stupid!”

Forced plotting and putting words into your characters mouths is (at least for me) the surest way to contract a nasty case of writer’s block. Listen to your characters. If what’s coming out of their mouths sounds forced or out of character — watch out, you’re about to step into a whole mess of trouble.

Bugs Bunny knew what he was talking about when he said, “I knew I should have taken that left turn at Albuquerque.”

When I get writer’s block, that means I didn’t take that left turn. It means I didn’t see the signs; or if I did, I ignored them. It means I didn’t listen to my characters. But most of all (and worst of all) it means my muse isn’t going to let me go one word further until I find out where and how I took that wrong turn (aka screwed up), and go back and fix it.

So sit back, be quiet, and listen to your characters. Most times they know the story better than you do.


Why I absolutely, positively must have a plot synopsis

For me, a plot synopsis for every book I write is an absolute necessity.

It’s also an absolute pain in the ass.

Then why do I do it? Writing the little buggers is work. Hard work. No writing project I’ve ever tackled takes me nearly two months to write and polish only 10 to 15 pages. Though it’s not the writing that takes me so long, it’s the brain-cell-killing thinking/plotting. But yet I do it, for each and every book, for two really good reasons.

One reason helps me get book contracts. The other helps me keep my sanity.

My publisher wants a synopsis for my books. They want to know what happens, how it happens, why it happens, and who it happens to before they ask me to sign on the dotted line. They want to know what they’ll be getting for their money. Can’t blame ’em for that.

I need to know those things, too. (This is the sanity-preserving part.) I need to write out, plot out, and figure out my books from the beginning to the end. Those of you who have read any of my books know that I lean toward the complex side of plotting. Nope, I’ve never made anything simple for myself. My books are fantasy adventure, with a sprinkling of intrigue & suspense, a smattering of mystery & thriller, with a dollop of romance. They’re the kind of books that require hints along the way, and I couldn’t drop hints unless I knew where I was going with it. I have to know where the story is going and where it’s going to end up.

The more books I write, the more necessary a plot synopsis is. I’m in the middle of writing my fifth Raine Benares book, and each book builds on the events of the ones before. In fact, the next one essentially picks up where the previous one ended. I’ve got to know exactly where I’m going. That doesn’t mean that I can’t take detours along the way (and I most definitely do), but the framework of the story is always what I write in my synops.

And going through this process doesn’t just save my sanity once I actually start writing — it saves my time. I’ve been writing one book a year — actually one book every 9 months that are published every 12 months. (I’ll save the wacky math involved in that for another post.) I’m writing my fifth and sixth books now. I want to write each of them in 6 months rather than 9. Why? I want to start another series. But my fans want to get their Raine/Mychael/Tam fix once a year.  For me to stand a snowball’s chance in a hot place of being able to do that, I’ll have to speed up my writing process to do two books a year. Combine that with a full-time day job and some simblance of a personal life. 

You see what I’m getting at — I don’t have time to wade through a book and hope my plot hits me over the head. I’ve got to have that worked our before I start writing. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.

The shortest length of time between starting a book and finishing it is a plot synopsis. Know where you’re going and you’ll get there quicker.