Novel Rocket

Saturday, April 18, 2015

First Draft Manifesto

Writing a novel isn’t as simple as it seems. You should know what you’re getting yourself into when you sit down to write a first draft, and so I give you . . .

Principle #1: Divorce Your Art From Perfectionism

Just write what you're thinking.

I know. Sounds too easy, right? Like I'm making up a fake truth to fool you so that your writing will fail, and then I'll swoop in with mine and make millions (cue evil laughter). Nope. Nothing like that at all. Here's the deal . . . When you put too much effort into finding the right words, your creativity gets bunched up, bogging you down. Sometimes even stopping you. That's bad, folks. Newsflash: you don't have to have the most psychedelic words strung out across the page like a hippie on acid. You only need to have words. Period. They don't have to be perfect. Not yet. That's what editing is for.

Principle #2: Step Off the Cliff

There's a certain amount of bravado involved in penning a first draft. How much? Gobs. No, really. I measured. It takes guts to expose the story in your head for all the world to see, but don’t hyperventilate. The beauty of a first draft is that no one but yourself need see it. So go ahead. Take a deep breath. Then expel every crazy word idea swirling around in your skull.

Go rogue. Allow your characters to take risks with their actions. Snark up the dialogue, letting it shoot off into conversations you never dreamed possible. Give your plot permission to take a sharp left turn or even mow down into the ditch for some off-roading.

Your writing will never change or grow if you don't vary the way you write. If you usually write in third person, do a scene in first, just for the heck of it. You don't have to keep it that way, but in the exercise, you might find a new perspective in which to stage that scene. Flail around a bit with structure, like writing only dialogue for an entire chapter. Quit rolling your eyes. Of course you'll go back later and add in setting and descriptions.

First drafts are the safest place to experiment and stretch the boundaries of your usual writing norm. If you were waiting for permission, here it is. Go for it.

Don't tuck tail and run . . . persevere!
Principle #3: Endure to Infinity and Beyond

The idea of writing a novel is oh-so-much more romantic than actually parking your heinie in a chair and pounding out words. After a day or two of actual writing, the ninety-nine percent will tuck tail and run, whimpering about writer's cramp or block or something about a clogged artery in the posterior region.

The only way to finish a first draft is to . . . umm . . . **excessive throat clearing** FINISH THE DANG THING! Yes, I'm yelling. There's no easy way out except through, and that takes endurance.

So keep plugging away, word after word. Eventually you will give birth to a pound-and-a-half baby manuscript, putting you in the ranks of those with a complete novel to their credit instead of a loser talking smack about writing one.

Principle #4: Think like a pirate.

There are lots of things to admire about pirates, as long as you overlook their rank body odor and the fact that they slit throats and rob people. The piratey trait with the most takeaway value for a writer is that pirates aren't married to rules and regulations. Sure, they've got a code to follow, but in the words of Captain Barbossa . . .

When you set sail on the ocean of first draft, you have a destination in mind. There's a plan lurking about in your grey matter, a map for you to follow from beginning to end. If you're really a planner, you've even got a synopsis written and know exactly how the story will flow from chapter to chapter.

But if you come up with a better idea halfway through, it's okay to change directions. Sure, your story might not turn out how you expected, but that's okay. Don't put so much pressure on yourself to stay a certain course that you're not willing to explore a different direction story-wise. Some of the best creativity happens when least expected.

Principle #5: Carpe Diem

Besides mindlessly zipping from one blog to another or checking out updates on Facebook or Twitter or whatever, how about you sieze today, right now, and type out a few words of your story idea?

Creators create. Yeah, God took a day off but guess what? That was AFTER he finished. Don’t let today slip by without carving out time to splatter some words on a page. I’m not saying they have to be stellar. They just have to be. Don’t tell me you’re going to write a book. Do it. Do it now.

What? You’re still here?

Like what you read? There’s more. WRITER OFF THE LEASH: GROWING IN THE WRITING CRAFT is a kick in the pants for anyone who wants to write but is stymied by fear, doubt, or simply doesn’t know how to take their writing to the next level.

Michelle Griep’s been writing since she first discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. Follow her adventures and find out about upcoming new releases at her blog, Writer Off the Leash, or stop by her website. You can also find her at the usual haunts of Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Congratulations. You Have an Editor...Now What? Tips from Colleen Coble

What to Expect from an Editor
Colleen Coble

Congratulations! An editor has just told you your project is going forward. You have a publishing home for your precious baby. But now you have a new set of worries—what about working with this new person in your life? Exactly what does your editor do? And how do you move forward from this point?

First let’s discuss what your editor is not. She isn’t your new best friend who will answer every inane question you shoot her over email. This is a professional relationship. Yes, over time, you may develop a friendship with her. Then again, maybe it will always stay strictly business. No matter what the level of friendship, you still know your boundaries to be able to effectively take the constructive criticism you want from her. 

When she read your book, she loved it and that’s the reason she bought it. She saw the potential in the manuscript. But also know this: she saw the flaws as well. And there will be flaws. No manuscript is perfect. You know what you intended to say, but until you get input, you don’t know if you conveyed your full vision. A good editor is able to see to the heart of the story. She recognizes what’s missing and what needs more fully developed. 

Too many authors make the mistake of sending in their book and thinking it’s done. Turning in the manuscript is only the beginning of the process. Your book is a team project. Your editor is going to take your baby and read it. She’s then going to come back to you with suggestions for how the story can be strengthened and how the characters can be more fully realized. Listen to her! More often than not, you’ll find out she’s right. 

Expect your editor to have the pulse on publishing. If she tells you a certain scene or attitude won’t work well for her house’s market, she knows what she’s talking about. The best editors always tell you this is your story, but the smartest authors know their editor has seen more and knows more about the market then they do. Only you can know if some suggestions work or not, but learn to listen with your defenses down.

Expect your editor to care about everything that goes into turning your manuscript into a book. When you’ve edited your story, she’ll send it out for more proofreading. She’s going to oversee back cover copy, the way the cover integrates with the story, and the copy written for the sales catalog. At many houses, she’s going to want your input on those things, though at some houses, you might not have a choice. If you’re not in love with something, take a day and think through what works and what doesn’t before coming back with you opinion. Your publishing house puts a lot of thought into how they are marketing the book, so voice any criticism in a positive way. Most of the time, only small tweaks are needed.

Another thing you can expect from your editor is that she is your advocate with your publishing house. She is your front person for contact with your publishing house and most questions can be directed to her. Your editor will consult with marketing and publicity as well and ensure they have a good grasp on what your story is about. 

The book is edited and moving along. Now what? You move on to the next story. Your editor is a good ally here too. Take a deep breath and ask your editor what you need to work on. Characterization? Maybe learning to say less and trust your reader to get it. Maybe you need to work on integrating the setting into the story better, or you need to make your dialogue sing. For the author who is brave enough to ask, your editor will have some suggestions. You never arrive as a writer. With every book you turn in, you should be growing in your craft. Trust your editor to help you.

Your goal as an author is to be someone your editor wants to work with again. You want the people you work with at your publishing house to smile when they see your name pop up in their inbox. You can do that by being encouraging and open to constructive criticism. 

Here are some suggestions on building that relationship:

  1. Plan a visit to your publishing house. Even if it’s on YOUR dime.
  2. Take a picture of you with the group, stick it by your computer and pray for them.
  3. In all areas, be a professional. This means don’t complain. Have a good attitude even if they mess up (and everyone does) just as you’d want them to have a good attitude if you mess up.
  4. BE GRATEFUL!! This is a big one. I can’t tell you how often I see ingratitude. Not a big enough promotion budget, someone else got this or that. When someone inside the house does something great—like selling foreign rights or book club rights—send them an email saying thank you and follow it up with a card. Or chocolate! You can get a list of who does what from your editor or publisher.
  5. Talk up your house! Be proud of them and who they are. 
  6. Recommend other writers to them. It helps your house know you are proud of them. 

Above all, remember you are part of a team. A team that wants you to succeed and make money. Your editor wants to be known as the brilliant person who discovered you, the perfect author every house wants to work with because of your great attitude and your growing sales. Put down your defenses and resolve to be a team player. You won’t be sorry!


Best-selling author Colleen Coble’s novels have won or finaled in awards ranging from the Best Books of Indiana, the ACFW Carol Award, the Romance Writers of America RITA, the Holt Medallion, the Daphne du Maurier, National Readers’ Choice and the Booksellers Best. 

She has more than two million books in print and writes romantic mysteries because she loves to see justice prevail. Colleen is CEO of American Christian Fiction Writers. She lives with her husband, Dave, in Indiana. 

To keep up with Colleen Coble, visit, become a fan on Facebook (colleencoblebooks) or follow her on Twitter (@colleencoble). 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Twelve Tips For Your Bio

Writing a bio isn't as hard as you think. Okay, maybe it is, but not if you have an idea of what to put in it. If you're a new writer and getting ready to pitch at a conference, you need a bio. So, here's a handy dandy list of ideas.

Start with your name. I know, basic, right? But someone might be tempted to use JK Rowling's, so I thought I'd mention it.

Write the bio in third person. Put on your PR executive hat. It's easier if you pretend it's someone else you're writing about.

If you've figured out your brand, it's got to be uniquely yours, include it. Another writer branded me early in my career, and because Southern-fried fiction described what I write, I used it.

Have you had some interesting jobs? Use them. I listed mine as "fodder for fiction." Caution: using your college job as laundry assistant, isn't exactly interesting no matter what you found in the hockey team captain's pockets. 

If you don't have any bylines, contest wins (or finals), then use your associations. Think like a doctor. They slap their "Member of ASPS" all over the exam room walls. Use any professional writers association you belong to. "Member of ACFW" etc. shows you're serious about your career. And if you serve on the board of your writers group, list it.

Are you part of a blogging group? Mention it. Blogging means actively writing. Has it won any blogging awards? That's sure worth a mention.

Pooktre Art
Do you have an unusual hobby? Are you a Pooktre artist? List it, especially if your character does the same thing. If you've been a finalist, in the top 3, or been the lucky winner of a contest, include it.

Do you help judge contests? List them.

Always add where people can find you. It also shows that you have an Internet presence. In other words, platform. 

Have more than one version of your bio. I have several or varying lengths. Some include my books, some don't. It depends on where I'm using it. 

Don't forget to edit your bio once you start getting published. And this is why I recommend writing articles for well-known blogs and online magazines. They may not all pay, but if they print your article, it's a publishing credit. 

See? It's not so hard to come up with a bio. Do you have anything unusual in your bio?

Ane Mulligan writes Southern-fried fiction served with a tall, sweet iced tea. She's a novelist, a humor columnist, and a multi-published playwright. She resides in Sugar Hill, GA, with her artist husband, their chef son, and two dogs of Biblical proportion. 

You can find Ane at her website, Novel Rocket, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Counting the Costs of Writing

By Rachel Hauck

We spend a lot of time here at Novel Rocket and in the writing industry talking about craft, networking, marketing, promoting, and the general way to write a book.

And lately, a lot of people talk about the cost of giving your life to writing. Especially to writing fiction.

There’s a price tag, and while I love what I do, there are days I “feel” the price I’ve paid.

I have no co-workers. I sit in my lovely "tower," which I adore, alone every single day.

Sometimes the phone never rings for me. 

I may not get a personal email or friend phone call for days. Thought Facebook has changed friend interaction over the past few years.

Isn't that the crux of social media? There's like, ten different ways for people to contact you now! 

Back to writing...

My family lives out of my state. I don’t have children. My life is created perfectly to crank out two, maybe three books a year. But I gotta tell ya, it can get lonely.

I’m so grateful for the friends the Lord has given me because there IS community in writing.

I can’t write a book without calling my craft partner, Susie Warren, though I am getting better and figuring things out for myself!

But practically speaking, she lives in Minnesota. I live in Florida. We can't just "meet for lunch." 

One of my favorite things from days-gone-by was my corporate job relationships. We had some sure laughs and some grand lunches, and great success on the job. 

I loved solving a problem and celebrating with my co-workers. The day-job provided immediate feedback.

Sure, there were the tough, drag-my-butt-into-the-office days. And I had a very interesting boss. But overall, I enjoyed my office job.

I read about writing being a solitary life. I’m good with solitary. But to be successful, it is a really solitary life.

Writers have to say, “No,” to extra curricular activities. We can’t be running around town shopping, or lunching, or sadly, volunteering.

We have to shut off the TV, the radio, the internet and just “be” with our stories and characters. 

We must face the pain of making people who only live in our heads and hearts come to life on the page. All the while saying "No," to our living family and friends. 

Good writing days are followed by hard writing days. We wrestle with our insecurities and doubt. 

There might be days or weeks where we hear from no one in our profession: not a reader, an editor or agent.

The only way we go forward with any confidence is by sheer discipline and will. And it’s a fight!

The other day I was driving to morning prayer at church, wrestling with my lack of close, local friendships. 

No don’t go feeling sorry for me, I do have friends. I do! I’m not a hermit or miser. But, the friendships I used to have at work, or when in college, are gone. At my age, many of my friends are busy with children or even grandchildren! (Yikes!)

As I mused over this, I finally thought, “Maybe it’s not that I lack friends but I lack the right perspective.”

I’ve chosen the writer life and with it comes certain handicaps. It’s not 9-5. I’m not surrounded by people all day. To do the job, I have to retreat sometimes.

The challenge for us is to be content exactly where God has us. As I mused over my situation, I heard Jesus say, “I’m Your friend.”

I teared up. If anyone knew the loneliness of His calling, of being alone in the hour He needed friends the most, it was Jesus.

See, it’s about perspective. What a true and dear friend we have in Jesus. And the friends I do have in my town, are lovely and always ready for a lunch when I can break free!

But, back to the writer’s life. Are you ready to pay the cost? I’m not the only writer who struggles with friendship time and heart-connections within the local community.

I’ve heard other writers share similar things. 

Take stock of yourself. Are you too busy being a friend to write? 

Do you let family get in the way? I'm not talking neglecting your spouse or children, but when you set aside writing time, they can't come barging in! 

Especially for writing moms, at some point, you have to close out the hubbub and noise of the family and write. 

Are there things in your life cluttering out writing?

Count. The. Cost.

The life of a novelist will cost you precious things. But it is worth it. So very worth it.

Here's a few tips:

1. Get with the Lord. Spend time with Him, praying over your schedule, asking Him to release your heart as an author.

2. Counsel with your spouse or close friends, parents or other family. Is this the time to devote to writing and say no to other things? Or will that season come later. It is RIGHT and PERFECT to wait until the “write” season.

3. Find a place that’s yours to write. Make sure no one else invades. It’s yours. Even if it’s a table at Panera or Starbucks, make it your writing spot.

4. Schedule time to be with friends and family. Be purposeful. If you do ministry at your church or volunteer in the community, keep to a schedule. Don’t pick up extra jobs just because you feel bad for someone. Do ONLY what the Lord has called YOU to do.

5. Write on the hard days. Sometimes those words are better than the ones who come on the good days. If you only have an hour to write on busy days, take it!

Writing is purposeful. So is the writer’s life. Be purposeful. Tune out the noise. Still your heart and mind.

If you feel writing is something God has called you to do, why put it off with distractions and the noise of others, for entertainment. Don't let the "good" be the enemy of "the best."

Happy writing!

Rachel Hauck is an award-winning, best selling author of critically acclaimed novels such as The Wedding Dress, Love Starts with Elle, and Once Upon A Prince.
She also penned the Songbird Novels with multi-platinum recording artist, Sara Evans. Booklist named their novel, Softly and Tenderly, one of 2011 Top Ten Inspirationals.
Rachel Hauck - Bestselling Christian Author
A graduate of Ohio State University with a degree in Journalism, Rachel worked in the corporate software world before planting her backside in an uncomfortable chair to write full-time in 2004.
She serves on the Executive Board for American Christian Fiction Writers and leads worship at their annual conference. In 2013, she was named Mentor of the Year.
She is a mentor and book therapist at My Book Therapy, and conference speaker.
Rachel lives in central Florida with her husband and pets, and writes from her two-story tower in an exceedingly more comfy chair. She is a huge Buckeyes football fan.