I Got A Job Writing! NOW WHAT?

Success!!!
Success!!!

Opportunity Knocks. Sometimes, late at night.

Or early in the morning…

I accidentally got a job writing! Now what?

 

It happens more often that you’d think – twice in seven days to friends of mine – and now comes WRITER’S BLOCK. “I need something good, something stellar, something that will let these people know they made a good choice.”

 

Something that won’t embarrass me…

 

Aaaaaauuuuugh!

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Dan! Oh my gosh!

 

I asked a PR friend if it was appropriate to tweet a pitch to an editor that followed me back.

I told her it was a ABCDE editor and my phone rang – it was her, informing me her best friend is CEO of ABCDE in (English speaking non-US country)!

She called him, he emailed the editor who does the bloggers, and I’m pitching him right now (smile emoticon)

 

Except…

 

I have NOTHING. (frown emoticon)

 

But, yay! Now just need a 500-800 word blog. Lol.

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Not Dan, but it's hard to take a picture of yourself giving two thumbs up and everyone else is asleep.
Not Dan, but it’s hard to take a picture of yourself giving two thumbs up and everyone else is asleep.

What to do? Relax, Dan has your back.

DA: How cool is that!

You can do 800 words. Or steal one of mine.

Friend In Panic (FIP): Yes! Totally cool. Except for the part where I’m sitting here at 11pm crazy tired and have NO ideas (tongue emoticon) about to sift through my WordPress drafts.

Sharon Ward Keeble, writer and zombie lover.
Sharon Ward Keeble, writer and zombie lover.

DA: That’s easy. (Based one my interview with Sharon Ward Keeble, I knew these publications love emotional, human interest stories. FIP has a special needs child – and I am intentionally using that term even though the child may not technically be a special needs kid, so as not to make the child the focus here).

A local grocery store hires people with disabilities because they get a tax credit and let’s face it, just about anyone can bag groceries. My 5 year old daughter and I were in line and she saw one of the baggers who looked very different from everyone else.

My daughter was slightly afraid. What would you say to her in that moment? If you teach her properly, she will grow up not fearing people who might be a good friend to her.

About 10 seconds go by…

FIP: OH. I LOVE.

DA: 800 words worth?

FIP: I can knock something out for sure. Give me 30 minutes.

DA: Off you go now…

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I have no doubt FIP will nail the post and get the job. I expect great things, as I always do.

Sometimes we all need a nudge to get the creativity going.

But more than that, encouragement.

Congratulations on your improved writer abilities.
Congratulations on your improved writer abilities.

Somebody believing in you makes all the difference.

Your friends can give you that nudge, and if they can’t we’re open 24/7 (except for when we’re asleep or working out. Or eating. I’d have loved to have gotten this at Chuck E Cheese last night – aka Hell. I’d have written it for her.)

When in doubt, reach out.

Friends will have your back.

(See more about fining writer-type friends through critique groups, HERE)

But let’s connect the dots, too. Because I went to a writing conference, I met Sharon. Because Sharon loves what she does, her seminar was interesting and I kinda stalked her after the class, picking her brain. FIP also met me online, through near-random events, and knew that (A) I was a writer, (B) wrote blogs, and (C) would be awake at this hour (different country, remember?)

Friends rock!  Writer friend rock even MORE!
Friends rock!
Writer friend rock even MORE!

Those little links can help open a door for a friend, and might open a door for you, too.

But only if you open them.

When in doubt, reach out.

The online community sometimes gets a bad rap of making people introverts or something. Not true. It allows people to reach over oceans to connect and help each other. What could be closer?

It erases some of that “Aaaaaauugh” factor, too.

Got a QUESTION? ASK IT! Send it as a comment to any post or hit the Contact Me button and, you know, contact me. I’ll see what I can do. (I have lots of smart friends, too.)

FOLLOW ME! I’m this helpful and funny all the time. Probably. Don’t miss another valuable bauble that falls from my fingertips. You read this far; you may actually need this stuff. SUBSCRIBE/FOLLOW TODAY (click the follow “Follow” button, above) and if you send me your email through the Contact Me button I’ll send you a free copy of my amazingly cute book “The Short Years” plus we’ll probably become friends and start hanging out and stuff.

If you benefit from this blog, share it with your friends!

your humble host
your humble host

Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the hilarious upcoming novel “Poggibonsi” – yeah, we know. We’re trying to convince him to change that title – check out his other works here http://www.amazon.com/Dan-Alatorre/e/B00EUX7HEU/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1425128559&sr=1-1 and check back often for interesting stuff.

Nobody Cares About Your Details!

They don't? No, but read on...
They don’t?
No, but read on…

How much detail do you include about stuff in your story, and where do you put it?

Learn more about character descriptions HERE

Usually, when we are new, we misplace the information and tell it at the wrong time, and in too much detail. A recent story I critiqued had a big, solid cop sitting down to watch TV with his friend. The cop “plopped” onto the couch.

Did the writer tell me the cop was heavy when he plopped down? No, he told he when the character was introduced – when I didn’t need that information, and when it wasn’t relevant.

Fold that stuff in when it matters if at all.

 

Skinny people don’t plop onto a couch. Heavy people do.

See? Less is more.

Chapter two was all about the heroine's pedicures.
Chapter two was all about the heroine’s pedicures.

Another story explained that a red 4-door Jeep Wrangler drove up to a yellow, three bedroom, two bathroom, split-level ranch house.

Wow.

I asked two simple questions: do we need this level of detail and do we need it now?

Usually, the answers are NO and NO.

And in that case, the car and house had NO impact on the story. Why did the author put it in? She thought she needed to. She didn’t. Kurt Vonnegut said if it doesn’t develop the characters or advance the plot, leave it out.

Easier said than done, but that’s why we review the first draft and delete 15% – 30% of it. (See more about critiquing and editing your own stories HERE)

My friend cast a stray comment in among her many valuable observations of one of my stories. The MC wrecks his car, but I never said what kind of car it was.

“I’m wondering what kind of car the MC drives.”

It’s a logical question because she doesn’t yet know if that is important for later in the story, and if it is needed, she’s saying here’s the place to tell us.

But…

I like Pepsi!
I like Pepsi!

Does it matter what he drives? Or that he drinks Coke? Is it easier to say “Coke” than a million different ways to say “soda” – and create some off putting word choices?

The more ambiguous I make it, the more the reader fills in the details, but only to a point. I still have to write a story. (Learn about putting yourself out there as an author, HERE) So if it was necessary to tell about the car, I’d find him a nice respectable Lexus or something just under BMW/Porsche/Mercedes, because they fantasize about a Porsche in the story. Well, Sam does. And it can’t even be a blip on the MC’s radar screen, because he doesn’t care about cars.

If I have their child get into a car seat and he looks over the seat at her, it is probably a four door car. If it needs to be an SUV, maybe I’d drop in a line about driving a big vehicle or being annoyed on the highway at drivers in smaller, more maneuverable cars.

Probably, the reader decides what kind of car it is based on other things. More on that in a minute.

Other things I don’t describe.

What does the MC Mike look like? Does he have brown hair or blond? Brown eye or blue? Or green?

Tall? Short?

He is me, but taller and not as fat. Brown hair, brown eyes, I’m 5’10” but he’s probably 6′. What does Sam look like, other than she has a nice figure? I never say.

Julietta, meanwhile, we get in huge detail, so the contrast is obvious – and underscores the importance of her appearance (and for more reasons than the obvious ones; we need to remember it for later). The MC notices such things, but only on occasion. His daughter’s classmate’s mom, for example; he notices how well put together she is. He doesn’t describe Dr Jan (who is slim, tall, blonde, blue eyes, probably with fake boobs). He only describes the slutty neighbor because she’s being so overboard with her sluttiness.

We make a LOT of assumptions because he gives Sam an expensive watch for her work anniversary. We assume he has a nice, big house because of that; I don’t get into it. Atlanta has some shitty suburbs.

Part of this lack of giving detail is laziness, and part of it is style.

Gotcha.
Gotcha.

(Do your friends walk up to you and say, “Hi, I’m your 5’10” friend Dan with brown eyes and brown hair?) Mike’s tall because women in heels look up to speak with him. He has a good physique because his doctor says so. That’s about it. If we are familiar with people, aka friends, we have that already. Yes but you processed that the first time you met them. That’s fair. But…

I want the characters to be familiar to the reader, and telling readers things makes them realize we aren’t already good friends.

The more you give the less they have, the less they fill in, the less attached they are.

Sometimes, less is more.

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FOLLOW ME! I’m this helpful and funny all the time. Probably. Don’t miss another valuable bauble that falls from my fingertips. You read this far; you may actually need this stuff. SUBSCRIBE/FOLLOW TODAY (click the follow “Follow” button, above) and if you send me your email through the Contact Me button I’ll send you a free copy of my amazingly cute book “The Short Years” plus we’ll probably become friends and start hanging out and stuff.

If you benefit from this blog, share it with your friends!

your humble host
your humble host

Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the hilarious upcoming novel “Poggibonsi” – yeah, we know. We’re trying to convince him to change that title – check out his other works here http://www.amazon.com/Dan-Alatorre/e/B00EUX7HEU/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1425128559&sr=1-1 and check back often for interesting stuff.

Writing Blurbs That Work

Look! Look! Look!
I must buy this book!

Yesterday we discussed the difficulty in writing a blurb – a short description that gets potential readers to click BUY – for your book

(See: Why Your Book Isn’t Selling, HERE. Hint – it’s the blurb.)

 

It’s hard to do for our own work because you are usually too close to your book. What you want in a blurb is the highlights, but presented in a certain way. A friend is usually better at that than you, especially when you’re doing it for the first time, and if you are in a critique group, you can ask one of your partners to help develop the blurb, then test it out on the other partners.

 

If it works, run it by friend and fans on your Facebook page (that’s also a sneaky way to create some interest without appearing to do so).

 

Author Allison Maruska (The Fourth Descendant) did that recently with me, and she blogs about the steps in the process HERE.

 

This blog will show the evolution of the blurb we wrote (okay, it was mostly her), so you can see how it happens and WHY you need to go through it.

and through it…

and through it.

 

We did over EIGHT versions of this blurb before we started getting close to what we wanted. Watch the process unfold.

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Poggi cover RED borderFIRST: What I would have started with (this is way too long but it’ll give you an idea of what the story is about):

Mike was a normal hard working family man who loves his wife and would never follow up on any of the flirtatious advances he receives from other women on a daily basis. His doctor, his neighbor, the moms at his daughter’s school, you name it – he was immune. To advance his career, he takes an assignment to Italy and brings the family, but after two weeks his wife is fighting with him, his daughter has developed a gelato addiction, and his Italian business partner is in the hospital with a heart attack. When the Mrs. Leaves in a huff, Mike is trapped. He can’t go home to save his marriage without sacrificing his project and losing a big promotion, but if he stays and completes the work, he may lose his wife and family.

 

His Italian partner assigns Mike a top notch assistant, a beautiful young woman who has ideas of her own about what Mike needs to focus on in Italy, namely her. You’ll enjoy one hilarious folly after another as she attempts to seduce him and he tries his best to be a good boy. The romance of Tuscany is the backdrop for a madcap comedy that will pull at our heart strings in Poggibonsi.

Okay, so those were my first thoughts. Allison (AM) knew the story already, so I asked for her input.

AM: When Mike lands an assignment in Italy, he sees endless opportunities: a chance to make a name in the industry, to revolutionize tourism in Europe, and to rekindle the romance with his wife.

DA: Is what you wrote there the whole blurb? Doesn’t seem very hook-ish.

AM: No, that’s just part 1. Hold on I’m thinking.

See, she was working through the steps while I was reading the article she sent me about the steps. Plus I was driving. (I replied at traffic lights until I got home)

DA: Oh. Ok.

AM: Once there, the opportunities crash onto the cobblestone streets of Venice. His business partner is in the hospital, the locals like their easy-going lifestyle, and his wife can’t wait to get home.

DA: See, I thought the whole hook was about him having the affair with the assistant. Shows what I know.

AM: I’m getting there. geez.

DA: Well you didn’t say how many parts there were. (I was still driving)

AM: As his hopes fade, he sees her – the goddess on the train, who turns out to be his new assistant. She’s everything he imagined he’d find in Italy, and maybe she can solve all his problems. She’s gifted at organizing meetings, schmoozing the locals, and maybe…she can rekindle a little of Mike’s lost romance.

4 parts, but the last isn’t spelled out – we need to make the mood funnier.

DA: Yeah. (It’s a romantic comedy) Do we need to get to the sexy part sooner?

AM: That’s the hook, isn’t it?

DA: I always figured Mike for this good looking guy who is immune to all the advances the women in his life are throwing at him, until… If the sex is the hook, don’t you want it up front? Or is it implied by the cover anyway?

AM: So you want the focus on the sex, not the job?

DA: No. I don’t care what the blurb focuses on, as long as people click through to buy the book. I just figured sex sells. This is harder than I thought.

Now Allison has had a chance to get my ideas and think through her own, and take a second run. Note the differences.

AM: When Mike lands an assignment in Italy, he sees not only a chance to advance his career but also to rekindle the fiery passion he once shared with his wife. After ten years, she’s the only woman in the city not flirting with him, and what better place than the Italian countryside to pursue romance? Once there, his hopes shatter on the cobblestone streets of Venice. Mattie spends her time fussing over their daughter, shopping, drinking wine, and being angry with Mike. By the time she heads home with their daughter, Mike thinks she’d like him to choke on a fancy Italian olive instead of return home to them in a couple weeks. Not exactly the romantic excursion he had in mind.

 

As his business prospects and love life collapse, he sees her – the goddess on the train. He can’t help but admire her form, her grace, or how she captures the attention of every man in the car. When she leaves the train, he thinks she’ll remain a fantasy – until she introduces herself as his new assistant, one who wants to teach him the ways of Italy. With her, he has the chance to experience Poggibonsi in all its glory – as long as he forgets what it could cost him.

Here, it covers the important items very well, but she thought it needed more emphasis on the humorous aspects of the story. (Because it’s a more of a comedy than anything else.)

AM: Do you think using both Venice and Poggibonsi is okay? Should we just name one city?

DA: Yes, but that’s really good already. And it is funny, because it’s ridiculous (in a good way) saying how his wife is the only woman in the city not flirting with him. Great, great, great base to build on.

I was very happy with this because it sounded like a blurb. But now comes the second hard part. Where to tweak. And with only about 250 words, we look at each and every one.

We discussed which cities to name.

DA: Tuscany is what I’d use. That’s what women here in the U.S. know.

AM: I like Poggibonsi at the end. We could generalize the first one – the village, or something.

DA: I was just saying if we had to choose a location to tie in women’s interests, Tuscany is more automatically appealing than Venice, I think.

AM: Oh. Well that’s your call. It’s a minor point.

Because we are critique partners, we looked at some technical aspects. The words “their daughter” were repeated very quickly in succession, called an echo. That wasn’t a big deal at first, while we were sketching the rough ideas of the blurb, but we’d need to address it before we arrived at a final version. Because every word will get scrutinized.

What about slipping in their home city, Atlanta, to add some detail and help readers know this is not an Italian story but one about an American in Italy?

 

After ten years, she’s the only woman not flirting with him…

 

After ten years, she’s the only woman in Atlanta not flirting with him…

And the fact that he’s forced to let this argument simmer for four more weeks – that’s a long time to be fighting. So we added it.

DA: And are we giving too much away? I hate to tell people Julietta (the assistant) is the girl on the train, but if it must be, I guess it’s a minor giveaway. (Mike is surprised to discover that the girl he admired from afar on the train turns out to be his new assistant.)

AM: It’s a minor giveaway, and readers will love it when they reach that part.

DA: Should we amp up the romance angle as far as the assistant? “one who wants to teach him the ways of Italy – in business and pleasure/romance.” Something like that?

AM: How about this instead: one who wants to teach him all the ways of Italy.

Same essence, fewer words = a winner.

AM: Why did you highlight the olive?

DA: The olive? I don’t know. Of all the things to choke on that he ate, olive didn’t come to mind. Fancy olive seemed, I don’t know, uncommon way to describe it, like you’d use the name of a real fancy olive instead of calling it a fancy olive. Does that make sense? The only name I know is Kalamata olives, which of course is Greek. Manzanilla? Trying too hard? What about a different food, like tiramisu or veal scallopini? He had bad luck with veal, after all…

AM: The olive was just something off the top of my head. Change it to something that matches the story a little better. Oyster? Ravioli? Maybe veal, but people are weird about veal.

DA: Either way, this is a million times better than what I came up with. Between you and (a cover artist) we might have a decent click through rate.

AM: Cool. Glad you’re happy.

And I am. Collaboration is a big part of things, sometimes, especially when you have a known weak spot. After a while, I thought referring to “a fancy olive” was cute and endearing, not unlike our characters who are so out of place in Italy. It worked.

 

We decided a funny line was needed in paragraph one, and some tightening. Here’s the result:

 

When Mike lands an assignment in Italy, he sees not only a chance to advance his career but also to rekindle the fiery passion he once shared with his wife. After ten years, she’s the only woman in Atlanta not flirting with him, and what better place than the Italian countryside to pursue romance? It’s the land of naked art, Valentino, and yoga pants, after all.

 

Once there, his hopes shatter on the cobblestone streets of Venice. Mattie spends her time shopping, drinking wine, and being angry with Mike. By the time she heads home with their daughter, Mike thinks she’d rather he choke on a fancy Italian olive than return home to them in four weeks. Not exactly the romantic excursion he had in mind.

 

As his business prospects and love life collapse, he sees her – the goddess on the train. He can’t help but admire her form, her grace, or how she captures the attention of every man in the car. When she leaves the train, he thinks she’ll remain a fantasy – until she introduces herself as his new assistant, one who wants to teach him all the ways of Italy. With her, he has the chance to experience Poggibonsi in all its glory – as long as he forgets what it could cost him.

 

Eight revisions for one blurb. Don’t tell me it’s not hard work!

 

We’ll let it rest and attack it again in a week or so, and then we’ll put it to the critique group, and float it to friend and fans on Facebook, and when it shows up on Amazon, it’ll work well to get readers to become buyers.

Plus, it’s fun working with friends!

Why Your Book Isn’t Selling

Dear Dan,

You post every day for weeks and weeks and then suddenly nothing. You’re the hardest working guy I know. What happened?

A visual representation of how I felt the last two days.
A visual representation of how I felt the last two days.

Answer: I got sick as hell, that’s what. Man, it was brutal. IS brutal. Basically I have the flu, and when you live in Florida and it’s 95 degrees out NOBODY gives you any sympathy for that. Meanwhile, I thought I was better after 2 days so I got up and started doing stuff, and crashed like a ton of bricks. Then my daughter got it. Now my wife. The cat is always puking so she doesn’t count, and the dog is absolutely terrified.

The house is trashed, because the one person who picks up around here got sick first. Turns out the other two can do a lot of damage in just two days. Oh, and they abandoned me. They went shopping for half the day and went to grandma’s the other half. I don’t blame them, I was pretty nasty to be around, but how’d the house get so wrecked with nobody here?

But that doesn’t mean I’m not working! In fact, just yesterday, before Round Two of The Plague visited upon me, Allison and I were working on a blurb for Poggibonsi.

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WRITING A BOOK BLURB

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My blurbs are terrible? Yes. Yes they are.
My blurbs are terrible?
Yes. Yes they are.

That is harder than it sounds, my friends.

And because yours sucks, it’s costing you.

See, your main selling source, Amazon, is largely an impulse buy. That’s important to know, not if you’re Stephen King with a huge following, or Hugh Howey (I just threw his name in there for Allison; I’ve never knowingly read any of his stuff), but if you’re small or independent, you need the Ammy advantages to work to your favor.

THE RULES:

1. You must write a good story – actually, you can write crap but then I don’t want to talk to you and you need to be a super marketer.  And you need to be a super marketer anyway. But there are a LOT of guys writing crap and making money on Ammy, so if we write good stuff we should be able to do even better. Otherwise the terrorists win. And “good story” includes no typos and all that jazz. (Learn about writing better stories HERE)

Made you look!
Made you look!

2. You must have a good cover – well, only if you wanna sell stuff. A brightly colored cover with contrasting colors will catch the eye and draw attention to it. So will other things, like big boobs or puppies, but those images may not fit well with the story inside the cover, so govern yourself accordingly. And again, we’re writing good stories so we want the cover to represent that. But if it doesn’t catch the eye, it’s not gonna sell well. Think impulse buy. The cover has to make people want to read the blurb.

3. The blurb has to make people want to read the story. The blurb is a few lines about your story that bait the hook and make people want more, so they click BUY. Think IMPULSE BUY. And if you’re a good storyteller, you might take 80,000 words to tell your story. That in no way means you are good at condensing it down to 250 words of ad copy – and make no mistake, that is what your blurb is. It’s a tiny ad that, along with your professional looking cover, make people want to click BUY. If it doesn’t do that, it’s a loser – and I’ve had my fair share of loser blurbs! I still do! For several reasons. They are hard to do well, and I didn’t really know that until recently, but mainly because I have a hard time writing blurbs for my own stuff. Probably, so do you.

I SUCK AT BLURBS
I SUCK AT BLURBS

Now, you’d say as a writer you should master your blurb. In fact, I’ve seen several well known writers who may or may not write their own blurbs, say just that. It’s writing! You’re a wordsmith! Just do it.

It’s not that easy. It is a different kind of writing, just like a painter is an artist but we don’t expect him to be a master sculptor or pottery thrower. It is a different skill set AND most of us are TOO CLOSE to our work to be objective enough to write a good blurb.

4. The other rules are things like pricing and whatnot. That’s totally your call, but I can offer a few guidelines. When you are known as well as Stephen King, you can charge Stephen King prices. Don’t work for free if you don’t have to – and you don’t have to. Run sales on occasion but otherwise, we could write 10 posts on pricing and still not resolve the question. Most authors who follow my rules should be able to sell their stuff at above $2.99 or more and not have issues, but feel free to make any comments about that as you want. (4 Tips To Market Your book CLICK HERE)

So, in a nutshell, your books isn’t selling because your cover is amateurish and your blurb sucks.

Now, what do we do about it?

Glad you asked.

Come back tomorrow and I’ll show you. (Cos I’m still sick and this was hard enough to do. I’m going to go lay down now.)

Advance Praise For Poggibonsi!

One of my critique partners has closed in on the finish of Poggibonsi, my romantic comedy. He has these kind words to offer.

(Best. Critique. Ever.)

Coming Soon
Coming Soon

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“You, on the other hand, have a gift. The whole crazy story of marital angst, betrayal and reconciliation is spot on. The whole thing was a sleigh ride of emotion. Your characterization of Sam and Jullieta made me want to know them. It was good that you saved Mattie’s renewal (?) until the end. Til then I was not in her camp. Well done!

“Haven’t read the end yet but I’m sure it will be superb.”

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Loving me some critiques right now.

You’ll get your chance soon enough.

A few weeks for the critique partners to finish, a few weeks with beta readers, and Poggibonsi will be available. More on that later. I’m gonna go bask in the glow.

Author Profile: Sharon Ward-Keeble Is Living The Dream, Making Money From Writing

Sharon Ward Keeble
Sharon Ward Keeble

Hi Gang! Today we have with us my friend Sharon Ward Keeble, an international journalist for over two decades and author of the fabulously inspirational book The Horse Girl, about the London subway bombings in 2005. She also penned a personal memoir about her adventures as a young lady from Great British backpacking around China, and a lot more. Sharon has been living the dream, making money from writing, and she’s graciously agreed to chat with us today.

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Dan Alatorre: Good morning, Sharon! Ready to GET INTERVIEWED???

Sharon Ward Keeble: Lol, I think so!!! Good morning!

DA: Ha, you think that now, but just wait…

SWK: Oh oh….

DA: Most writers are multitaskers, or try to be. What other things are you doing while we do this interview? Laundry is a big one with my interviewees. I’ll take all the laundry tips I can get.

SWK: Yes, the laundry is on!!

DA: Knew it. Always laundry.

Sharon also met actor Nestor Carbonell from Lost and Bates Motel
Sharon also met actor Nestor Carbonell from Lost and Bates Motel at the zombie fest

SWK: Oh yes! I am also checking emails as I wait for questions, checking Facebook sites I’m on for stories, and I am writing down zombie-related stuff as I think about it. I made a new friend last night who met Norman Reedus on Saturday.

DA: For folks who don’t know who Norman is…

SWK: He’s the utterly lovely tough guy with a heart who plays Daryl Dixon in The Walking Dead. Bit of diamond in the rough…..

DA: Aren’t they all? And zombies – you’re a huge Walking Dead fan, you went to a zombie themed event the other night-

SWK: I know, zombies again! I’m a little odd like that…

DA: Is all the zombie research for a new book?

SWK: I’m thinking about a non-fiction and a fiction – can’t decide which to do first.

DA: Combine them. A nonfiction book about zombies could be a good change. They exist. I’ve seen them in traffic. horse girl

Aside from writing about real life zombies – allegedly – you wrote about horses and horse therapy in The Horse Girl. This stemmed from the London Underground (“tube”) bombings in 2005 and tells the heart wrenching true story about one of the victims, Beverli Rhodes.

SWK: She was caught up in the London Underground bombings of July 7, 2005, in which she was seriously injured. She received a severe blow to the head when the bombs went off, causing memory loss, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other challenges. As she rebuilt her life through horse therapy, she uncovered long-buried memories of being a child victim of a sick, high-profile pedophilia ring that has recently been documented in the UK newspapers.

Pedophile ring at BBC
Pedophile ring at BBC

DA: Wow, as if getting blown up in a subway wasn’t bad enough, she had to relive the abuse from her childhood. And the book details that traumatic story, and her recovery through horse therapy. Is she okay now?

SWK: She is now able to live a peaceful life, and continues to maintain her strong connection with the animals that helped to save her.

DA: Amazing.

SWK: It’s an extraordinary story of hate redeemed by love, as well as a testament to the triumph of the human spirit over the most terrible adversity.

DA: And you were able to better tell her story because of your own love of horses. How long has that been a passion?

Sharon Keeble 6
Horses are inspirational to be around.

SWK: I started horse riding when I was seven. I got a job at a local news agent shop working weekends so that I could save to buy my horse. It took three years. I had my horse until I was 18 and went to college, then when I moved to America 10 years ago I bought another horse which turned into five!

DA: Wait, let me check that math… you bought a horse at age 10?

SWK: I was 14 .

DA: Math was never my strong suit…

SWK: I’d been working from the age of 11 – this was back in the day when there were no rules as to how young a child had to be to get work. I wanted a horse, my parents couldn’t afford it, so I decided to get my own.

DA: Living your dreams even as a child. Impressive.

SWK: We don’t have them anymore – too expensive and time consuming – but I miss them terribly

DA: Expensive – RIGHT! How much did your first one cost?

SWK: $500 – an unbroken Welsh horse, 18 months old so untrained, straight off the Welsh hills

DA: Awesome. I… have no idea what any of that means.

Sharon Keeble 5 b
“I love my job!”

SWK: A bit of a stupid thing to do, but I had my heart set on one like that.

DA: But to own a horse at that age is pretty cool.

SWK: Well, it was so young that it hadn’t been handled, so when it came to me we had a lot of work to do. We had to get it used to being handled by humans and eventually, put a saddle on his back. I named him Rhett Butler after a character in one my all-time favorite movies

DA: That’s great. Rhett Butler.

SWK: I LOVE that movie – hopeless romantic…

DA: As a long time horse lover and dog lover, answer the age old debate: which one is smarter, dogs or horses?

SWK: Ooh that’s a hard one – dogs win by a hair, I would say. Horses are inspirational to be around.

DA: For over 15 years, there was a 20 acre horse farm behind my house here in Tampa. Most of the riders were young girls, about 14 or so I guess. The only boys I ever saw over there were the owner’s sons.

SWK: It’s not a great sport amongst the boys.

DA: Teaches you how to manage an unruly animal at a  young age. Good preparation for marriage…

SWK: God yes!

Florida Writer's Association Conference
Florida Writer’s Association Conference

DA: You have a lot of experience in writing, and recently you took on public speaking again – you were a presenter at the Florida Writer’s Association conference. Inquiring minds want to know – how was it to give a presentation like that?

SWK: It was absolutely one of the most nerve racking things I have ever done in my life!

DA: Really?

SWK: Gosh yes! You know when you talk in public you want to do the very best job you can to inform and be entertaining at the same time. I set myself very high standards in my writing and my professional journalism

I wanted to make it as interesting and informative as possible while showing what a great job it is. I love my job! In the end it was a great experience because, after the initial nerves, I started to enjoy myself AND it helped having people who asked such great questions.

DA: Why did you do it? Most writer types tend to avoid that sort of thing.

SWK: I did it because I wanted to share with other writers that writing about real people for magazines and newspapers is a great life. It’s a great way to earn a second income while you’re just starting out and also by meeting and talking to so many diverse people, it can really help the people who write fiction, give them ideas, etc.

DA: Have you ever spoken publicly before?

SWK: This was my second time – the other was many moons ago when I gave a talk to my dad’s creative writing group!

DA: Is he also a writer?

SWK: No my dad wasn’t a writer – he fell in love with writing when I became a journalist.

DA: That’s a good dad!

SWK: He edited my first book, a travel book, about my back packing adventures around China.

DA: I take it back, he’s a great dad if he edited a book for you! When did you first start writing? What’s the earliest story you remember being a complete piece? Because we writers always remember the first “book” we wrote.

SWK: Absolutely. I wrote my first book when I was 11 – a story about a horse and a girl –

DA: Imagine that.

Sharon Keeble 4 b
“I feel like I know how to commit the perfect murder.”

SWK: -and after that I only ever wanted to be a journalist. I went to journalism college in the UK, then I worked my way up through weekly newspapers, then daily newspapers, then national newspapers and women’s magazines. In between I would write, and write fiction. Then I realised that I was very much capable of writing non-fiction books, so that’s what I did in my spare time

DA: Brilliant strategy. Did you keep the story from age 11?

SWK: I think it’s in the loft at my mum’s house in England. I should really check that out when I go home next.

DA: For your archive wing at the Smithsonian. I agree.

SWK: LOL. Absolutely.

DA: And what is the newest book you’re writing about?

SWK: I’m working on a real-life crime story.

DA: That is a lot of your articles’ subject matter, too, right?

SWK: About 85% of my articles are true-life crime, I’m afraid, only because my market in the UK loves crime stories.

Sharon Keeble 9DA: 85%! That’s a lot.

SWK: And that’s what I’m asked to write about by commissioning Editors most of the time.

DA: That’s you doing a lot of crime work.

SWK: Yep – the other 15 per cent is romance, weird health and big boobs!

DA: Well… everybody likes big boobs. With all that crime background, you’re probably almst a detective.

SWK: I keep thinking I should really write a crime novel. I feel like I know how to commit the perfect murder and get rid of the evidence! Oh, and how not to get caught – criminals can be so stupid!

DA: That’s why we’re not doing this interview in person. Ask the wrong question = never heard from again.

SWK: Ha ha – I’ve learned a lot! I keep telling my husband that if anything happened to him, no one would ever know the truth…

DA: Because who’d plan a murder out loud…

SWK: Exactly! Who would?!

DA: I bet he keeps on his toes. Knows the sharp knife count before he goes to bed…

SWK: Oh, yes…

DA: By writing crime articles, do you work a lot with police? Or victims? Or… the bad guys?

An initial contact from Shaoron to a victim via Facebook for a crime story
An initial contact from Sharon to a victim via Facebook for a crime story

SWK: I work a lot with the victims and their families – the mags I write for like it all to be first person. Sometimes I have to speak to the police for verification on convictions, etc., but that’s it.

 

DA: If you write the articles in first person, you write as the victim of the crime?

SWK: Yes. First person would be from the mother, father, sister or friend of a crime victim who died, or as a survivor story it would be from the person herself.

DA: That’s gotta be tough. For them and for you.

SWK: It’s really hard, sometimes. Although I have learned to keep my own feelings inside until after the interview. I’ve been known to get off the phone and have a good old cry many times.

DA: Really? Wow.

Sharon Keeble 7SWK: I get to hear so much depravity, so much horror, but in each story i always try to end on a good note. Like someone who survived a massacre who can show that they have got their life back together.

And just when you think you’ve heard and seen it all, something happens that is even more depraved and more horrific than you’ve learned about before.

DA: So you do the interviews with the victim, then you write in first person – he came at me, he stabbed me – that would get to me, but hearing it from the people it happened to, that’s emotional.

SWK: Exactly. “He came at me with the knife and he stabbed me in the chest. I couldn’t breathe… I had to try to keep calm as he came at me again…”

DA: And you have to funnel that emotion into the story…

SWK: Yes, that’s a good tip. I write my stories almost immediately after the interview so that the information is fresh and raw in my mind.

DA: I think our word choice is affected by our emotional state at the time. So it imparts more emotion into the story.

SWK: I agree. I think that people resonate more with people’s stories if they see the full emotions laid bare on the paper. They are living it through the victim’s eyes

DA: Then you’d need to have a release, I suppose. To let off the steam.

SWK: My release was the horses. Now I paddle board.

DA: Oh, paddle boarding is tough! Do you stand or sit?

Sharon Keeble 2SWK: I stand. I do yoga and Fit Barre, which help with the balance and strength.

DA: Standing is supposed to be a real workout.

SWK: Yes it is – you need a good core. It’s great, though – peaceful-like. I actually started in the ocean so when I went on the lakes it was easier. We live on a chain of lakes so I can practice whenever I get the minute. The ocean is soooo difficult at first!

DA: I’d recommend lakes right now anyway, with all the shark attacks this year. You don’t wanna end up as the subject of one of your own stores.

Before we wrap up, let’s give out a few tips to new writers who want to make money from their writing. Most new writers are only thinking about writing a book and having the money from that be the income from writing. It would never occur to them to write articles, but there’s good money in that, right?

Sharon Keeble 8SWK: Yes there is. A few good tips would be to look for human interest stories in local and national media – the weird health stories, the true-life crime (of course), inspirational women with stories to tell, Then when you have found the stories, track down anyone involved in the story who is in a position to be interviewed. Unless you are doing a newspaper report, most publications, as we’ve said before, like the first person account.

DA: That gets the story. Then, how do they sell it?

SWK: Get on publications websites and study their market – that way you will learn the types of stories that sell. Crime and inspirational women who have survived something traumatic always sell.

DA: Obviously there’s more to it, but there’s a great living in it, as you can attest. Around 85% of Americans want to write a book. Many will try, fewer will get there, but a large percentage would love to make money from writing at all. You can help them do that, because you are living that dream, and it’s obvious you love what you do – that’s rare, sadly.

SWK: That’s true Dan – thank you for the reminder. Could do with it sometimes!

Sharon Keeble 1DA: Your enthusiasm is contagious. I know you’re getting ready to launch a website with your writing and more ways to help people learn how to make money from writing. With your enthusiasm, people will want to be a part of that. I said it before, it’s very engaging, and your persona is endearing.

SWK: That’s kind of you to say.

DA: Thanks for dropping by. I know you’ll keep on doing great things!

SWK: Great speaking with you! Okay, have a fab day!

LINKS

Amazon Author Link (UK) http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sharon-Ward-Keeble/e/B00K6MTG8Y

Kill Your Darlings, my darlings: Word Count Goals By Genre And How To Meet Them (Kinda)

Chick Lit is supposed to be 75,000 words? My first draft is 105,000!
Chick Lit is supposed to be 75,000 words? My first draft is 105,000!

I recently read a brilliant piece by my friends at WriteOnSisters (are you not following them? Why not??) that touched on word count.

Agents and publishers have word count goals by genre, and you should be within it – and then the post discussed how to do that in their typically brilliant way.

READ about how to tighten your story HERE

Mystery solved – Here are the goals. (From Writer’s Digest)

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Not really adult but I'm always up for a shameless plug here
Not really adult but I’m always up for a shameless plug here

ADULT NOVELS: COMMERCIAL & LITERARY, including mainstream, women’s, romance, mystery, suspense, thriller, horror and Chick lit (but chick lit books tend to be a bit shorter and faster, 70-75K)

80,000 and 89,999

Below 70,000:           Too short

110,000 or above       Too long

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Sci Fi Thriller - coming soon
Sci Fi Thriller – coming soon

SCI-FI AND FANTASY

100,000 – 115,000

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MIDDLE GRADE

Middle grade is from 20,000 – 55,000

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YOUNG ADULT

55,000 – 69,999

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Yep, we have those, too
Yep, we have those, too

PICTURE BOOKS

The standard is text for 32 pages, and 500-600 words.

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WESTERNS

50K to 80K. 65,000

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MEMOIR

80,000-89,999

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Learn about critiquing your own work HERE

All that trimming is easier said than done, though, right, my voluminous friends?

My editor
My editor

Here’s the thing, writers: it’s better to have too much than too little, because it’s easier to cut than to add in a meaningful way – so when you use the analysis of “does this advance the plot or develop a character, etc.,” you can also pull a section out and just say it in fewer words.

A 600 word passage about the metaphor of the old barn and the MC’s marriage, while possibly one of your darlings, can easily get boiled down to a few lines – and if you can do that a few times, you’re home free. Just copy paste it into another document, sum it up, and paste it back in.

Simple.

Painful, but simple.

Use the bigger passage for your blog or as a bonus section on your fan page. (It’s okay to cry, just do it when nobody else is home. Funeral services for the deceased passages are not okay.)

Who sees places to cut? ALL of you? And it' s different places???
Who sees places to cut? ALL of you? And it’ s different places???

You can also have your critique partners and beta readers on the lookout for places to cut (and there are always places to cut if you went over 100,000 words). Cut what they tell you to cut. Again, simple but painful.

Usually there’s a long passage in the overworded tome that can go, and sometimes a whole chapter can. (Guilty!) We don’t want to cut it because we worked hard to create it – but that doesn’t mean it should stay. Sometimes WE need that information as writers, but the reader doesn’t. Write it, refer to it when needing guidance about your character, but don’t leave it in the book.

Most of the time when you’re done cutting, readers say the pace is better. That’s a nice way of saying it was too wordy and dragged before, and besides, if it’s too long, readers won’t read it.

Publishers don’t make rules to be mean, they make rules to help sell books.

Help them help you. Follow their guidelines.

And die a little, yeah…

Until…

People are reading your stuff and enjoying it. Then you’ll be alive in ways you never knew possible.

Got a QUESTION? ASK IT! Send it as a comment to any post or hit the Contact Me button and, you know, contact me. I’ll see what I can do. (I have lots of smart friends, too.)

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Mr. Helpful
Mr. Helpful

Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the upcoming hilarious and educational “Write Better Books” – wonder what that’s about. Check out his other works here http://www.amazon.com/Dan-Alatorre/e/B00EUX7HEU/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1425128559&sr=1-1 and check back often for interesting stuff.