Fantasy author Amie Irene Winters is launching the final book in her Strange Luck series on Friday, September 22. A Darling Secret is an adventure full of unusual landscapes, new magic, and constant twists and turns. Pre-order here! In the meantime, here’s her wonderful and positive guest post on initial drafts and rewriting.
The words poured effortlessly from my fingertips and onto the page completely free of grammatical errors and typos, forming a perfect, succinct, and intriguing story that everyone in the world wanted to read…said no author ever. Rewriting and editing comes with the job and there’s absolutely no way around it, but luckily there are ways to make it less painful.
Since finishing The Nightmare Birds, I re-read the entire thing a half dozen times on my laptop, then another two times printed out, then passed it off to a few beta readers, re-read it again, and then sent it off to my editors for a final polish. When I got it back, I had more editing, more rewriting. Then, there was another reading or two printed out and then a final ARC read through. It takes forever and is incredibly tedious, but it’s well worth it, especially if you compare what you originally wrote to the final thing. Just take a look at this massacred page from one of my Strange Luck edits.
My first drafts are terrible. They’re slow and peppered with lots of unnecessary scenes and words. I also have a tendency to think a particular word, but type a similar sounding word with a completely different meaning instead. It’s super fun going back and finding those (*eye roll). The worst is when you think you’ve finally tamed the beast, but you open the Word doc to find it covered in red.
If there’s one piece of solid gold advice I’ve learned from rewriting and editing over the years it’s this: TAKE BREAKS FROM YOUR STORY. As soon as it starts to feel like “work,” becomes boring, you stop looking forward to working on it, things stop making sense, and/or you begin losing track of important details (dates, ages, hair color, etc.), then it’s time to put the manuscript down and walk away. I know it may seem counterintuitive because you’re in “the zone,” but trust me, you’ll end up doing more harm than good. I had to force myself to walk away from The Nightmare Birds probably a dozen times to recollect myself. Sometimes it was for a few days, other times a few weeks. This meant pushing back my launch date, which has really sucked, but I’d rather have a well-written book that comes out a little later than a garbled, incoherent story.
Even if you’re not experiencing any of the symptoms above, YOU STILL NEED TO TAKE BREAKS from your work. Only you will know when and for how long. Just make sure it’s at least a few times.
Why get up and walk away? Because you’ll be able to look at your story with fresh eyes. Taking a break also rekindles the passion for your story and characters. It took me a long time to implement this practice, even after I had read Neil Gaiman’s quote when I first started writing seriously:
“The best advice I can give on this is, once it’s done, to put it away until you can read it with new eyes. Finish the short story, print it out, then put it in a drawer and write other things. When you’re ready, pick it up and read it, as if you’ve never read it before. If there are things you aren’t satisfied with as a reader, go in and fix them as a writer: that’s revision.”
Walking away is one of the most critical things you can do as a writer, but it’s not to say that you shouldn’t write at all, just go write something else. Anything else. Your characters will still be there when you return. Your lumpy desk chair will still be there when you return. Your keyboard peppered with food crumbs will still be there. I promise. The point is that you need to clear your head so that when you return you’ll be at your absolute best.
* * *
Amie Irene Winters was born and raised in California but now lives and writes in western Pennsylvania. She is the author of the bestselling Strange Luck series.
When not writing, she can be found hiking with her dog, baking desserts, or breaking a sweat in kickboxing class.
To learn more about Amie and her books, visit amieirenewinters.com.
Sign up for my mailing list here! You’ll only get emails when I have a new release coming up, a sale, or a giveaway.
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00XZ88V5A
We can finally look forward to the next—and unfortunately last—book in Amie Irene Winters’ Strange Luck series. Up for pre-order now, A Darling Secret will be released September 22, and it’s quite a shocking conclusion to the series! Grab your copy today!
Coming September 22, 2017
Learn the fate of your favorite heroes and love-to-hate foes in the thrilling conclusion to Amie Irene Winters’ bestselling Strange Luck series.
Before the Theater of Secrets was formed, before the Nameless was built, before Daisy Darling learned of her magical bloodline, there was the Realm of the Shadow Gods—ruled by the most powerful and wicked creatures known.
For nearly two decades, Daisy’s twin sister, Rose, was held captive by the Shadow Gods and survived. Now Rose has come to find Daisy to stop their impending evil from spreading into the human world. But Rose bears a terrible secret that has the power to destroy everything.
In the devastating Realm of the Shadow Gods, dark magic holds no bounds. Daisy will risk everything to save those she loves, but will the truth finally break her?
Unlock the final book in the Strange Luck series with A Darling Secret.
Pre-order today, read it September 22, 2017.
A slow, creeping fear wound its way around me.
Tiptoeing around the mysterious plain, too afraid to call out, a surprising wisp of music came floating through the air. It was a jingly little melody—like a music box—followed by soft voices.
I paused. Through the violet-stained sky and swirling rainbow mist I saw something moving. My eyes narrowed as I stealthily approached an illuminated cave.
Shadows were gathering there.
A Darling Secret Amazon link:
Summer is the perfect time to find your new romantic comedy book addiction. Enter Elle Viviani! This new author is publishing a book a month of light, sassy reads with great sparks of humor. Plus her debut novel, Fiancée Forgery, weaves in her fascinating former career. Meet her here!
Is Fiancée Forgery your first book? How long did it take you to plan it before you began writing it?
Fiancée Forgery is my first book and it only took me a day to plan it. Once I get an idea, I tend to move quickly until the idea is out of my head and onto the page. In fact, it only took sixteen days to write! I saw Archer and Quinn so clearly. All I had to do was share their love story.
Is this book part of a series? How often do you plan to publish new books, whether part of a series or not?
This book is part of a “Fake Relationship, Real Love” series. I love the fake relationship theme and find them so fun to write. There will be three books in all—the second will launch on July 22nd.
Do you mostly write in the romance genre or do you dabble in other genres? If so, which ones?
Romance all the way! I’ve written in suspense as well, but didn’t find it as enjoyable as writing about saucy heroines and devilishly handsome heroes.
What do you think makes your work stand apart from other works in your genre?
I tend to make my heroines stand on their own two feet. They have lives, personalities, and jobs of their own before they meet Mr. Hunk. Although they’re stronger with their leading man, I make sure they are more than just a beautiful face. They’ve got gumption to boot!
You and your main character, Quinn, have something in common—you both had fascinating careers working for important museums. How did your career experiences influence your story?
It was so much fun writing Quinn. I was a front-line fundraiser at a national museum before quitting to write full time, so you could say I’m intimately acquainted with the highs and lows my heroine went through. Although I never had an ornery co-worker quite like Valerie, I did have my fair share of Archers and Marisas!
Two of your favorite authors are Gillian Flynn and Charlotte Bronte. Their works are extremely opposite—is there anything that you find in common between them or is it their differences that you like?
Although a hundred years separate the two authors, they both write the best hero stories. Oh—I’ll also add Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles. The heroines have to overcome insurmountable odds to come out the other side alive (literally). Their journeys are heart wrenching and real and impassioned. I truly feel like I’ve stepped into Jane’s or Amy’s or Tess’s shoes whenever I crack open their stories.
What inspires you to write? Music? Other books? Real life events? Just an incredible imagination?
I’d love to say “incredible imagination” and leave it at that! But it’s more like a combination of real life, books, and talking with my husband—a fellow romance author. We go on long walks every day and talk about a random idea that popped into our heads. Usually, by the end of that walk, it’s turned into a full-blown idea that one of us is dying to write!
Do you plan your writing with outlines, character development exercises, and other pre-writing activities? Or do you just write as it comes to you?
Oh my goodness, I’m a bonafide outliner. I spend no less than a few hours and no more than a day outlining my stories down to the chapter. I don’t know what I’d do without my roadmap!
I use Libby Hawker’s method, found in her wonderful book Take Off Your Pants to write character arcs, identify the theme, outline, and plot my books. Once I started using Libby’s method, my writing pace skyrocketed.
I stick to a religious writing schedule. I get up early and write roughly 6,000 words a day (never less than 5,000). It lets me complete my books in just over two weeks, leaving a few days for editing before it’s off to my beta readers. Some days I finish right after lunch. Others, just before quitting time, which is before 7pm. I need that buffer between work and sleep to let my brain quiet down.
Do you read the kinds of books you like to write? Do you watch movies similar to or the same genre as your writing?
You bet! Before I start writing in any genre or trope, I take a week to binge read all the bestsellers in that category. I like to get my toes wet before jumping right in. By the end of this “research,” I’m usually bursting with storylines of my own. I also love romantic comedies. Give me a bowl of ice cream, my fur child, and an enemies-to-lovers romcom, and I’ll be your best friend!
When can we look forward to your next book?
Lights. Camera. Fiancée. comes out July 22nd. Join my mailing list for freebies, previews, and release info!
Elle lives in Texas with her husband and adorable beagle/corgi mix (it’s an interesting combo! Check him out on Instagram). Elle spends most of her days thinking of new storylines and hunky heroes, but when she’s not writing, you can find her curled up with a glass of red wine and a steamy romance novel. She also loves cooking up culinary creations, traveling to far away places, or hitting the running trails with her pup.
Elle invites you into a world of steamy kisses, brawny arms, and feisty heroines. If you like an out-of-this-world happily ever after, then you’ve come to the right place. So sit back, grab your own glass of wine (and maybe a few pieces of chocolate), and enjoy!
If you’re a crime writer, a mystery novelist, or you just need to bump off a character without violence or bloodshed, using poison might be your cup of tea…or maybe in their cup of tea.
Sometimes writers think it’s easy to just pick out any poison and use it to kill off their characters…but it’s not that simple. Some poisons work more slowly while others are almost instantaneous; some have strong flavors or don’t dissolve in liquid; some are more easily accessible than others. And that just scratches the surface.
The point is that you need to do some research to make sure the poison you choose works in your scenario.
Say you pop a belladonna berry into your character’s smoothie, then have him thrashing about in agony before blood spurts from his mouth in a final gruesome death scene. Well, there’s one problem with that – small amounts of diluted belladonna are actually used for medicinal purposes and wouldn’t cause death, let alone a dramatically violent death.
Or maybe your character lives in the northeastern US and you have her picking wild sneezeweed in a city park. The problem is that sneezeweed only grows naturally in portions of the western US and only at certain elevations.
So as you can see, you need research to make your story believable.
Research, plain and simple. But be careful of your sources because some websites haven’t double- and triple-checked their information – they’re just taking the first thing they come across as gospel, and some of that comes from forum discussions where “facts” are debated and debatable. Find reputable sources and double- or triple-check that information.
~ Encyclopedia.com – just put in the name of the poison or poisonous plant you’re interested in, and you’ll find out everything from where it’s grown to how it works.
~ Some gardening websites, like Gardening Know How.
~ Poison Control: lists common and dangerous poisons.
~ USDA has an entire section on poisonous plants.
~ ListVerse: 10 Poisons Used To Kill People.
~ Earth-Kind Landscaping: lists common poisonous plants AND the parts of each plant that are toxic.
There are others, of course, but these can get you started.
One word of caution – always, always double check (at the very least) information you get from Wikipedia. Wiki entries can be modified by just about anyone, so you never know if the information you’re getting is 100% accurate.
If you’ve ever had writer’s block – and what writer hasn’t? – you know how frustrating it is.
You’ve got a story to tell, it’s banging on the walls of your brain trying to get out, but you just can’t hear what it wants to say.
Or you want to enter a writing contest and the deadline is looming. You know you have a story in you – you’ve written in that genre plenty of times – but the ideas stubbornly remain hidden in their cozy nooks.
We’d like to suggest a few unique block-breaking methods that you can add to your arsenal. Because we don’t just proofread and edit, we truly want to see indie authors succeed.
In her YouTube video, 3 Unusual Ways to Break Writer’s Block, Proof Positive owner Christie Stratos shares her own outside-the-box ideas on how you can break the block that binds you. Warning: she admits that some of her suggestions are “kinda weird” and might draw odd looks from your family, but hey, what’s a little weirdness between friends?
Dark streets. Shadowy figures. Tough talk. A dead body.
Have we just walked into a 1930s Humphrey Bogart film noir movie?
No, we’re stepping into one of the hot new contemporary subgenres: YA neo-noir.
Noir writing made a big comeback a few years ago, but the legendary Dashiell Hammett’s stomping ground was brought forward by 21st century writers into today’s neo-noir books. The main difference between classic noir and neo-noir is that neo-noir is set in contemporary times.
Now, you might be scratching your head and thinking that “YA noir” of any type is an oxymoron. After all, isn’t noir centered around vice? And aren’t vices supposed to be kept out of the tender hands of young readers?
The original rules that vices like smoking, foul language and such need to be minimized or edited out of YA writing has been replaced by a “keeping it real” attitude. Because guardians and authority figures like teachers, librarians and parents were traditionally the ones making decisions on what books would be purchased for preteens and teens, authors were told to keep it clean. Or at least keep vices minimal or merely hinted at.
While it might not be a great idea to have teen characters choking down smoke after smoke like Bogart or tossing back a string of shots, contemporary characters can be more realistic to today’s teen or young adult behaviors. The key is to not make it gratuitous; don’t force vices on your characters, just do what makes sense for them, their age and their situations.
YA neo-noir can touch on other genres too, it doesn’t have to be a standard detective-victim-femme fatale mystery type of story (though you certainly can do that too). You can delve into noir fantasy, horror, sci-fi and whatever other subgenres work well with it.
So with the restrictions on YA looser, new subgenres are born and writers can flex their artistic muscle even further. If you’re writing a YA neo-noir short story or book, we’d love to hear how you’re handling the darker side of things!
“I’m sorry. I can’t mess this up…” “I was devastated.”
These are the now world-famous words of Grammy Award winner Adele, who showed the world that even in front of millions of people, it’s better to stop, start over and do it right rather than forge ahead with a mistake.
What a perfect lesson for writers: Don’t be afraid to start over to get it right.
Because getting it right is far more important than just getting it out there.
It can be frustrating – even “devastating”, as Adele said – to realize that you have to either scrap all the hard work you’ve put into your novel and start over or that you need to make major revisions in order to get the story right.
And that’s where many authors find themselves at a triple crossroads:
What if Adele had thrown up her hands when she started on that wrong note and denied the audience her tribute to George Michael? Or if she had just continued off-key and given the world far less than she was capable of?
If a writer decides it’s too much work to fix plot holes, character/story inconsistencies, tie up loose ends, correct dialogue – you get the idea – then they’re not giving the world their best. And putting your best out there is well worth the effort.
If you’re a fantasy writer looking to submit short stories to magazines, you know how time consuming and frustrating it can be searching online for the right fit, spending precious time clicking and clicking when you’d rather be writing and submitting.
We’re going to step in and be your VA (virtual assistant) by compiling a list of magazines that accept fantasy stories. You just keep on writing great stuff.
Most magazines close to submissions temporarily when they have enough pieces for their next edition, but keep checking back to see when they open up again so you can submit early. And if you know of any other places where fantasy writers can submit, share the wealth and let us know about them in the comments!
Open magazines as of February 2017:
Phantaxis (fantasy, sci fi)
Albedo One and Albedo 2.0 (fantasy, sci fi, horror)
Leading Edge Magazine (fantasy, sci fi, more)
Fantasy Scroll Mag (fantasy, sci fi)
Crossed Genres (science fiction, fantasy)
Black Denim Lit (general, sci fi, fantasy)
Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine
Lightspeed (sci fi, fantasy)
Apex Magazine (sci fi, fantasy, horror)
Beneath Ceaseless Skies (literary adventure fantasy stories)
Alice Unbound (speculative elements in fantasy, horror, steampunk, more)
Strange Horizons (speculative fiction including fantasy)
Clarkesworld (fantasy, sci fi)
Flame Tree Publishing (fantasy, horror, more, specifics change by issue)
Daily Science Fiction (fantasy, sci fi, slipstream)
Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show (sci fi, fantasy)
Andromeda Spaceways Magazine (fantasy, sci fi, horror)
Abyss & Apex (dark fantasy, science fantasy, slipstream, urban fantasy and more)
Pseudopod (supernatural dark fantasy and more)
Cast of Wonders (YA hard fantasy, sci fi)
Deep Magic (clean fantasy and sci fi)
Liminal Stories (all genres, especially soft sci fi, magical realism, weird fiction)
You’re reading an action scene; things are really getting hot. Who will live? Will someone die? Is there a chase that’s moving like lightning?
You’re reading a suspense scene; it’s really intense. Will the protagonist be discovered? Will the escapee be recaptured? Can the girl find a weapon in time before her pursuer breaks through the door?
Scenes like this can be gripping, soaring along and carrying readers on the wind with them. But sometimes writers make a fatal mistake – slowing the action without realizing it by adding one of two little words; the four-letter words of action scenes: “next” and “then”. It can get even worse – by adding a comma after either of them.
Here’s what we mean.
Josie cringed behind the sofa as the door handle jiggled violently. Then she saw the silhouette of a large man through the door’s frosted glass pane. Next she looked for a way out, but there were no windows in the room. Then she heard the door frame crack as the man forced his way in. The next thing she needed to do was to look for a weapon – anything to defend herself. Then she saw a baseball bat standing in the corner, and she knew it was better than nothing. She then moved as quickly but as quietly as possible toward the bat, just as the door gave way.
“Next” and “then” are two of the most often-used, scene-slowing words we’ve edited out. Now, you might be saying, “No one would write like that!” But we can tell you that as editors, we’ve seen plenty of scene-slowing passages just like that.
It’s not that the authors can’t write well, because they can and do – it’s just that sometimes action scenes are written in what seems like thought-process-outline form, as if the writer was thinking it through as s/he wrote it: Let’s see, first Josie cringes, then she sees the silhouette, next she would look for an escape, then she would… You get the idea. That’s fine for outlining, but not for the final copy.
Let’s remove those action-slowing words and see what we get.
Josie cringed behind the sofa as the door handle jiggled violently. The silhouette of a large man came into focus eerily through the door’s frosted glass pane. Frantically she looked for a way out, but there were no windows in the room. Suddenly the door frame cracked; the man was forcing his way in. Josie looked around wildly for a weapon – anything to defend herself. Her eyes landed on a baseball bat standing in the corner; it was better than nothing. Moving quickly but quietly toward the bat, she grabbed it just as the door gave way.
Removing action-slowing words opens up – practically demands – a rewrite or rewording of some sentences, making them less wordy, more intense and faster paced. It’s well worth the effort.
Don’t have the time or inclination for edits and revisions? Proof Positive is happy to help!
One of the most common issues we advise our clients about is the legality of using lyrics in their writing. Lyrics are extremely tempting to use in books because they set a tone, express a feeling, create atmosphere and convey a message everyone can relate to. But good writing can do the same thing, and you don’t need someone else’s words to do it.
Straight and simple, the fact is this: it’s plagiarism to use copyrighted material in your book, and that includes song lyrics – even just one line of a song. Someone wrote those words and published them, just like authors write and publish books, and they get royalties from them. I’m sure you wouldn’t “borrow” a page from a JK Rowling novel without expecting to get sued, right? Song lyrics are the same thing, only instead of an entire paragraph or page of someone else’s writing, you’re borrowing the equivalent (because songs are shorter) – a line or a stanza.
But wait, this can’t apply to ME…
One of the arguments indie authors typically use is, “I’m an indie author, chances are they’ll never see my book.” Well, first of all, today’s indie author can become tomorrow’s in-demand bestseller – it’s happened before.
Second, you never know who’s going to read your book, and you don’t know who knows whom, so there’s always a chance that the copyright holder will hear about your infringement…and sometimes there’s more than one copyright holder.
But THEY did it!
Another argument from indie authors is, “But other people do it. I’ve seen it in books before.” If you’ve seen it in a traditionally published book, then the publishing company got the copyright information they needed and did whatever was necessary to use the lyrics, possibly including paying for permissions. You won’t necessarily find a trace in the book of how they acquired the rights to the lyrics – it all depends on the instructions from the copyright holder. If you’ve seen it in an indie book, then more than likely they’ve been lucky…so far.
How do you know if a song is under copyright protection?
If it was published after 1978, you can go to www.copyright.gov to find out, otherwise you should check with either the US Copyright Office, Broadcast Music, Inc. or the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. Lyrics that are in the public domain, which typically include those published before 1923, are no longer under copyright unless someone has purchased the rights to them. Never assume that lyrics are free from copyright just because they’re old.
Getting permission from a song’s copyright holder can be tough; the copyright holder can be the song writer, publisher, record label, an estate…there’s any number of people or companies that can hold the rights to lyrics. Not only can it be difficult, but it can also be quite pricey, which typically isn’t worth it. (Although there are some copyright holders who will allow writers to use their lyrics in exchange for credit and/or links to their music, giving credit never overrides permission.)
So what’s a better way?
Easy – write your own lyrics. You’re a writer, not a composer, you say? Well that’s okay because you don’t have to worry about your lyrics fitting into a tune. Many indie authors have opted on the side of safety and written their own lyrics for their books. You can write words with the same meaning, feeling and to portray the same ambiance as the lyrics you want to use, but these will be your own and safe from a copyright infringement suit.
Still considering using lyrics or have some questions? Here are a few sites where you can get more information:
Galley Cat’s Book Biz
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