Founder of DIY MFA, Gabriela Pereira, Tells Us A Secret

Let me introduce Gabriela Pereira, the founder of DIY MFA. She’s funny. She’s sincere. She’s serious about her work and helping writers. So, I’ve interviewed her.

This is a different kind of interview where I put Gabriela in the hot seat. No boring questions…only ones that give you the inside scoop on the life of a creative entrepreneur.

Let’s start out with a bang.

If you were told you could only give a fiction writer ONE piece of advice, what spectacular wisdom would share?

Wow, you’re not holding back with these questions. Love it!

If I could only give one piece of advice or “spectacular wisdom” I’d say this: Don’t try to be spectacular. Or wise. In other words, don’t allow other people’s impressions or opinions to dictate what success means to you.

Don’t get me wrong, I firmly believe that each and every human on this planet has a story to share and the capacity to achieve their version of excellence on the page. The problem is that many writers let other people’s definition of success derail their creative process. They listen too much to criticism and give up before they have the chance to see any breakthroughs.

Writing is an act of faith. You have to believe that the verbal spillage you’re accumulating on the page today will become a coherent story tomorrow. You have to trust that this story that means the world to you will also eventually find a home in the publishing universe. You have to be a little bit delusional to succeed as a writer and if you buy into all that “common sense” advice from those non-writers in your life, you’ll never start.

So my advice is don’t try to be spectacular. Just be you and trust that it will be enough.

What is the most DIFFICULT feedback you’ve ever had to give to a writer?

Honestly, it’s been a long time since I’ve had to give difficult feedback. This has to do both with quality of the writers I’ve had the privilege of working with and also the type of feedback I give.

When it comes to caliber of writers, the word nerds in the DIY MFA community are a cut above. This has nothing to do with how “advanced” they are; in fact, we have many first-time writers in our signature programs. Instead, it’s all about the mindset they adopt toward receiving feedback. When writers approach critique with curiosity and a deep desire to improve their skills, it’s easy to give feedback, even if it means telling someone they may need to do a major overhaul.

The other reason that I rarely have to give difficult feedback is because of how I approach the critique process. I don’t consider myself an “editor” or a “coach.” I’m a diagnostician. My superpower as a writer and teacher is being able to look at a small sample of someone’s work and identify telltale signs of bigger problems. My job isn’t to criticize, it’s simply to notice patterns and bring those to the writer’s attention.

It’s very hard to be truly critical when you give feedback this way because it’s an objective approach. It’s not about passing judgment, but about helping writers see what they’re doing on the page and the effect it has on a reader. It’s up to the writer then to decide whether they want to “fix” it or not.

When you first started DIY MFA, was there a MISTAKE you made (perhaps one that is a funny story) that you’re willing to share with us?

Oh gosh, I made so many mistakes when I first started! One doozy was when I thought the way to build an email list was using a Google form. (I know, lunacy!) When I look back, I don’t think of this so much as a mistake but as a learning opportunity. Yes, at the time, it was devastating to rebuild my email list from scratch, which meant losing all my subscribers (all 12 of them!). It’s funny, nowadays when people unsubscribe from my newsletter, I take it as a badge of honor. I think: “Yesssss! 100 unsubscribes this month! I’m zeroing in on my superfans!”

There were some happy accidents, too, like that time I went to a writing conference when I was nine months pregnant to the day. I’m not kidding. My son was due to arrive the day after the conference ended. (He was actually a week late so it all worked out fine.) But the happy accident is that it was at that conference that I met my publisher and this connection eventually led to my book deal a few years later.

Can you imagine if I hadn’t gone to the conference? I could have so easily decided I was too tired or too pregnant or too whatever… and I would have missed out on a huge opportunity! Sometimes the smartest move you can make is doing something everyone else thinks is completely insane.

What is the BEST comment anyone has ever made about DIY MFA 101? By best, I mean one that warmed your heart and made you do the happy dance.

There are so many, but I think one of my favorite comments—and perhaps one of the ones I hear most often—is: “Before DIY MFA, I didn’t think I was a writer but now I do.”

I had one student in a workshop years ago who couldn’t write a sentence much less an entire story. This was back when I did some of my teaching at live, in-person workshops, and whenever we did in-class exercises, this writer would end up with a blank page. Slowly, he started dipping his toe into the writing. Eventually he was writing short stories and essays and even got published! This is my absolute favorite thing—when I can help someone go from muggle to word wizard.

My other favorite comment is when word nerds say that DIY MFA is more than a writing program, it’s a lifestyle. For many creative people, we can be our own worst enemies, so the biggest hurdles have nothing to do with the mechanics of writing. Instead, it’s all about mindset and attitude. This is why in our DIY MFA programs, I always focus first on the bigger mindset issues like building resilience or developing a writing habit. It’s a lot easier to master the craft when you’ve managed your mindset.

In fact, I have a free video series starting Monday April 22nd, 2019 that digs deep into some of the biggest mindset hurdles that writers face. This series is only available for a limited time so hop on over now while the series is available.

How will a writer BENEFIT from DIY MFA 101? So they too can do the happy dance.

The goal of DIY MFA 101 is to help writers get the “knowledge without the college” so they can simulate the graduate school experience without actually going back to school. That’s the fancy description, but really the strength of this program is that it grows with the writer.

You see, a central component to the DIY MFA philosophy is that there is always more to learn, more skills to master. Writers who join 101 aren’t just looking for some one-and-done solution to all their writing problems. They crave learning. They want expand their skills not because they want some external marker of success but because of an internal drive, a curiosity, a craving to expand their intellectual horizons.

DIY MFA 101 does not focus on “information transfer.” Yes, there is plenty of information in the program, but the focus isn’t on me transferring what I know from my brain to that of my students. Instead, my goal is to give writers a framework so they can continue their learning journey for the long haul. The course is structured so that writers can revisit the material again and again, and continue to learn and grow from it.

Let me share a concrete example. Many traditional MFA programs require students to take literature courses. In those courses, the professor often predetermines what books go on the syllabus or reading list. At DIY MFA, we don’t assign a specific reading list. Instead, we offer a framework so that writers can create their own syllabus.

The advantage of the DIY MFA philosophy is twofold. First, writers can focus on reading that is relevant to their goals and that serves their writing. They don’t have to waste time with reading that feels like an exercise in futility. The second benefit of this approach is that it empowers writers rather than simply spoon-feeding information.

I often tell people that DIY MFA 101 is not for the faint of heart. It takes a particular type of intrepid determination to embrace this program. Thankfully, most writers have this “fire in the belly” already, and when they join the course, they’ll feel like they’ve found their home.

At what stage in their WRITING JOURNEY should a writer take the course?

Don’t be fooled by the “101” in the course title, this course is not only for beginners. I developed this program so that it would grow with writers. This is why we don’t cut off access to the materials after the term is over. What you get from the course as a new writer will be very different from what you learn as your skills increase and you can come back and revisit the materials again and again.

This program works equally well for writers who are complete beginners and for those who are “in the trenches” working on drafting or revising a project. The difference lies in how these writers use the materials. New writers might want to focus their attention on the first few sections and build up a solid writing habit, whereas writers working on a specific project will get better results if they apply the techniques to their work-in-progress. The later lessons give an overview of platform and publishing for writers who are ready to start sending out finished work.

The only writers who might not be a fit for this course are those who are already published and are focusing more on the marketing and business side of writing. For those writers, we have a more advanced course Pixels to Platform which is due to reopen later this year or early next.

What is your biggest CHALLENGE in being the head instigator of DIY MFA?

My biggest challenge is that I have unrelenting standards. My perfectionism is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing, of course, is that I put a lot of care and attention in everything I create. This may be a big reason why so many writers are drawn to DIY MFA and why so many writers keep coming back to our programs year after year. The downside, of course, is that these super-high standards have made it very difficult for me to delegate tasks to other members of my team. Heck, just the idea of having a team at all was a challenge for me in the beginning.

But just like with writing, building a business is a learning process, and I’ve definitely “mellowed out” over the years. Having kids helped with that. It’s impossible to achieve perfection when you have an infant spitting up on your shirt or a toddler sneezing snot onto your manuscript. Now that my kids are school-aged and more independent, it feels almost miraculous to reclaim my work time, and I like to think that I’m a bit more relaxed now than I used to be about making everything perfect.

Tell us a SECRET…

Here’s a dirty little secret: I vehemently dislike reading literary fiction. (Blasphemy, I know!) You would think that as someone who studied literature in college and grad school, that literary fiction would be my jam, but it so isn’t. In fact, for the longest time, I thought the reason I disliked it was because I wasn’t smart enough to “get” it.

Over the years, I’ve realized that this response has nothing to do with the capacity of my brain cells and everything to do with personal taste. It took a long time, but I’ve finally given myself permission not to like literary fiction. What do I like to read? Pretty much anything genre and I love children’s books and YA.

Our flagship program, DIY MFA 101, has received rave reviews and has helped over 200 writers to:

  • Get their words on the page so they can finish a draft once and for all.
  • Master the craft, so they can write the best book possible.
  • Understand the publishing industry, so they can get their stories out into the world.

Writers who’ve completed this course have gone on to reach impressive goals, like: signing with literary agents, winning awards, or being published in anthologies or literary magazines.

Fictionary and DIY MFA

So why am I so thrilled to have Gabriela here? Well…since you asked, I’ve taken the entire DIY MFA 101 course, and Gabriela and I are kindred spirits when it comes to editing a novel.  It’s kind of like finding a new BFF.

DIY MFA gives you the theory that lays the groundwork for using Fictionary to edit your story. Take the course and apply the knowledge you learned in a practical way specific to your manuscript using Fictionary. Salt and pepper, Ketchup and mustard, moon and the stars, DIY MFA and Fictionary. You get the idea.

 

 

Fictionary is online software that simplifies story editing. Fictionary will help you evaluate your story on a scene-by-scene basis. You’ll be able to focus on problem areas in your manuscript and improve it quickly. Then your beta readers will be impressed!

Why not check out Fictionary’s free 14-day trial and tell better stories? We don’t ask for a credit card until you’re ready to pay, so there’s no risk.

Thanks for reading!

Kristina

P.S. I only promote people that I can stand behind 100%. I know that you’re in good hands with Gabriela which is why I’m a proud affiliate for her programs! I took the DIY MFA course before deciding to partner with DIY MFA.

Structural Editing for Characters and Point of View – Fictionary

Top 3 Character Elements To Make The Most Of A Structural Edit. How to revise and edit a novel focussing on characters and structure.

 

Why Do People Read Fiction?

Structural Edit and CharactersOne reason people read fiction is to escape and experience the world through the thoughts and actions of the characters in the story.

We believe characters are your story. They act and react. They create emotion. They show motivation. Without any of this, you don’t have a story. That’s a tall order for your characters.

So how do you make sure you’re putting the most into your characters? You edit and rewrite until your characters are performing at their best. A little bit of organization will help you quickly complete these revisions…

Source: Structural Editing for Characters and Point of View – Fictionary

The Story Arc Automated by Feedback! – Feedback For Fiction

As a writer, it’s important to be two people. One of you is the creative writer. The other is the analytical, big-picture editor. Visualizing your story as a whole will help you edit like a professional.

This is why the Story Arc is so important. It provides an immediate visual of your manuscript. But Story Arcs were always tricky to draw.  Until now…

The Story Arc by Feedback

First, a recommended story arc is drawn based on the word count of your novel. Next, your story arc is drawn based on an automatic analysis of your scenes.

The app estimates which scenes are the inciting incident, plot point 1, the middle, plot point 2, and the climax of your novel.

You can then confirm if the correct scenes were identified. If not, with a couple clicks, you can redraw the story arc with the scenes you selected. Then you can decide if you’ve put your key story events in the right place.

Remember, a great novel contains key story events. A story arc will help you visualize your manuscript to ensure you’ve considered these events and their timing in your story.

INCITING INCIDENT

The inciting incident is a major turning event halfway through the 1st act.  It’s the moment the protagonist’s world changes in a dramatic way and you hook your reader into the story. This should happen before 10% of your novel. Readers are impatient, so don’t wait too long.

PLOT POINTS

Plot is how the events in your story impact your protagonist. Plot points force your protagonist to change behavior.

Plot Point One (PP1) forces your protagonist to react to an event. She now has a story goal.

The Middle is different from PP1 in that the protagonist moves from a reactionary mode to taking deliberate action.

Plot Point Two (PP2) will be a low point for your protagonist. Her actions since the middle have caused disaster. At PP2, she becomes more determined to reach her goal.

Plot point one (PP1) typically occurs at the end of Act I. Try to place this around 25% into your novel. The Middle is 50% into your novel. Plot Point two (PP2) will occur at the end of Act II.  This should happen around 75% into your novel.

CLIMAX

The climax (highest dramatic tension) of your novel happens somewhere around 90% into your novel. This is a guide so you can check you’re not writing too much after the climax.

But wait, there’s more…

You can also view characters on the Story Arc and see when they enter and exit your novel.

Feedback: For Writers By Writers

Feedback is being developed by fiction writers for fiction writers. Just as important, the app is now being tested by other writers to ensure it becomes an indispensable tool for everyone with a first draft. Last week, James Osborne, former senior editor at Canadian Press and bestselling author, tried the app and said:

I’ve been privileged with a sneak preview of Feedback. It’s brilliant! Hands down the most innovative structural editing app for writers you’re going to see anywhere anytime soon!

His latest novel is Encounters With Life: Tales of Living, Loving and Laughter. You can find out more about James’s novels at his amazon author page.

If you’re interested in early access to Feedback and testing some of the features, let me know by email or sign up for early access.

 

Coming Summer 2017

You heard that right. Summer 2017! We are targeting to make Feedback available to everyone later this summer. There is so much more to come, and I’ll keep sharing as more features are added.

Source: The Story Arc Automated by Feedback! – Feedback For Fiction

Big-Picture Editing and Word Count Per Scene – Feedback For Fiction

As a writer, you’ve probably read there are recommended lengths for a manuscript depending on the genre you write in. We’ve done some research and thought we’d share that with you.

In order of length, word count guidelines for a few of the popular genres are:

  • Novellas: 20,000 to 30,000
  • Middle Grade: 25,000 to 40,000
  • Romance: 40,000 to 100,000
  • Young Adult: 50,000 to 80,000
  • Mysteries, thrillers, and suspense: 70,000 to 100,000
  • Paranormal: 75,000 to 95,000
  • Fantasy: 90,000 to 100,000
  • Horror: 80,000 to 100,000
  • Science Fiction: 95,000 to 125,000
  • Historical: 100,000 to 120,000

Genre length may vary with different publishers, so check submission guidelines carefully. If you’re self-publishing, readers of the genres have come to expect a certain word count, and you don’t want to disappoint them, so think about the word count and make a conscious decision on the length of your novel.

But what about word count per scene?

When you’re about to begin a big-picture edit, you may wonder if counting the number of words per scene is important. We think it is, and we’ll tell you why.

Scene Emphasis

After you’re happy with the total word count for your novel, it’s time to evaluate how your word count is spread across your scenes.

By counting the words in each scene, you can see where you are putting emphasis and where you are not. Without knowing the specific word count, you don’t have a method to know if a critical scene is too short or a minor scene is too long.

Patterns

Some authors like to write scenes of the same length for the entire novel. Others vary the scene word count. The choice is yours, and you can use it to your advantage if you evaluate the per scene word count from a big-picture view.

If you follow a pattern (same word count per scene) throughout your novel and one scene is way longer than the rest of your scenes, make sure this is the climax scene. If it’s not, you probably have too many words in the scene.

How I Used Word Count To Improve My Novel

You can see in the Word Count Per Scene graph below, that scene 2 in chapter 3 is over 6000 words long. The other scenes in the novel are all under 2000 words. I discovered this during my big-picture edit of DESCENT (my first novel).

This was a scene early in the novel where my main protagonist, Kalin Thompson, moves to Stone Mountain Resort. In great detail, the scene described Kalin moving into her new apartment. After I looked at the word count, I realized I’d written the scene to give the reader a feel for resort life. Nothing much happened in the scene to move the plot forward.

I knew I needed to fix this. Instead of putting the details in one scene,  I cut the scene and sprinkled the details throughout the other scenes.

This improved the story by eliminating an info dump but still leaving in details that showed the reader what it’s like to move to a ski resort. If I hadn’t reviewed the word count of the scene in the context of the other scenes, I might have missed this.

How The Feedback App Will Help

Depending on the software you use to write your novel, counting the words in each scene can be a time-consuming exercise.

For example: In Microsoft word, you’ll highlight each scene and look at the word count displayed at the bottom of each page. In Scrivener, it’s a little easier. The word count is displayed at the bottom of each screen if you’ve broken your text into scenes as you write. In either case, you’ll have to keep track of the word count and evaluate it from a manuscript level.

The Feedback app will automatically break your novel into scenes and create a report showing you how many words are in each scene. You’ll be shown a graph, and can easily see where you need to focus on word count. Word count is one of the Key Elements Of Fiction the app uses to help you perform your own big-picture edit.

The Feedback App will also show you the breakdown of scenes per chapter. We’ll talk about this in another blog.

 

Download our free eBook, BIG-PICTURE Editing And The Key Elements Of Fiction and learn how big-picture editing is all about evaluating the major components of your story. We call these components the Key Elements Of Fiction.  Our eBook shows you how to use the key elements of fiction to evaluate your story and become your own big-picture editor.

Source: Big-Picture Editing and Word Count Per Scene – Feedback For Fiction

Structural Editing. Copyediting. Proofreading. Steps To Revising Your Fiction. – Feedback For Fiction

After you’ve written your first draft, you’ll need to work your way through the revision process. In today’s publishing environment, it’s up to the author to ensure all the major steps of revision/self-editing have been completed. So what are the different steps in self-editing fiction?

We’re glad you asked. Here is our take on it. The first step is a structural edit, followed by your rewrites. Then you’ll do a copyedit and finally a proofread. These steps combined make up the revision process.

Following this order will save you time on editing. If you copyedit or proofread too early, you may have to repeat this work. Of course, you can fix obvious errors when you see them, but don’t spend time on copyediting until you’ve finished a comprehensive rewrite…

More at Source: Structural Editing. Copyediting. Proofreading. Steps To Revising Your Fiction. – Feedback For Fiction

New Year’s Resolution: Turn Your First Draft Into A Great Story – Feedback For Fiction

Happy New Year.

The holidays are over and maybe you’re thinking about your New Year’s resolution.

How about rewriting your novel by following the Feedback process? Spend more time on your passion and finish that awesome story. Being able to perform a structural edit on your own manuscript will ensure you create a great story readers will love.

In 2016 we kicked off our rewriting tips with:…

Source: New Year’s Resolution: Turn Your First Draft Into A Great Story – Feedback For Fiction

Feedback For Fiction | Self-Evaluating Scene Endings and Novel Structure

Self-Evaluating Scene Endings and Novel Structure

Imagine sitting on a plane next to a man reading your novel. You watch him read. He gets to the end of a scene and quickly turns the page to the next scene. He does this for hours. You watch the entire time, thrilled that he just keeps reading. He doesn’t take a moment to talk to you, to eat, or to drink. The TV shows and movies aren’t enough to draw him away from your book.

Isn’t this what we all want?

Read More and find out how to create great scene endings at: Feedback For Fiction | Self-Evaluating Scene Endings and Novel Structure

Starting a New Business is Like Writing a First Draft.

Hard work and research will help you create the best possible novel for your readers. If you’re an author and an entrepreneur, you know this is true. Part of starting a business is ensuring we’re building an app that solves a problem writers have, and to do that we need to expand our knowledge of how writers rewrite their first draft.

Today, we are  doing our research and knowledge gathering, and we have a few questions about your rewriting process. If you’re already familiar with what the Feedback app will do, you can jump straight to our short survey.

What does the Feedback app do?

writing-steps

With Feedback, you can focus on plot, character, and setting. You can evaluate on a scene-by-scene basis or on overall novel structure. Feedback will show you the most important structural elements to work on first.

Feedback will guide you through the rewriting process by asking you questions specific to your manuscript, enabling you to evaluate your own story.

Once you import your manuscript, Feedback automatically captures information such as word count, number of scenes per chapter, character names, and chapter and scene breaks, using this information to create the first set of reports. Any updates to your manuscript will still need to be completed in the writing app you used to create your first draft.

Feedback helps you visualize your manuscript. Forget about yellow stickies or white boards. Feedback will draw character arcs, provide reports on scene evaluation, and show your rewriting progress.

Thanks for taking the time to read about Feedback. We’d love your input. You can find out short survey here.

Thank you!

Mystery Mondays: Laurel S. Peterson on The Tension Of Believing

To kick of the 206-2017 season of Mystery Mondays, we have Laurel S. Peterson joining us today. We’re celebrating her new release, SHADOW NOTES, published by Barking Rain Press, and she’s going tell us about…

THE TENSION OF BELIEVING—AND NOT 

by Laurel S. Peterson

Thanks for having me on your blog, Kristina. I’m honored to be here.

Part of the core of my novel Shadow Notes is my own wrestling over the validity of intuitive or “psychic” powers. I have friends who tell me they “know” things, that they are connected with aspects of experience that are unseen by most people. I have had moments in my life where I also have had experiences like this. One vivid moment was when I was a teenager, sitting on a park bench somewhere in Europe waiting for my parents. I had a sudden flash where I understood that I could have been, could be, any of the people walking by me. We were all the same, while at the same time we had ended up in different bodies. It was a moment of profound oneness with all that was around me.

Another time, I was waiting for a response from a literary agent. Two days before I got the letter, I became absolutely certain that she had rejected me. (Of course, we all carry some of this around, I imagine!) It was the kind of certainty I’ve experienced on one or two other occasions, one of which was an acceptance. Where did that certainty come from? Where did that awareness of one-ness come from? I don’t have an explanation for it, and the rational, scientific skeptic in me says those kinds of moments are explainable if I understood brains better—or if I would just allow myself to believe. Believing isn’t something I’m so good at.

My protagonist, Clara Montague, has dreams and gets visions of things through touching. In one instance, she foresees a character’s death when she grabs that person’s hand; in her dreams, she sees a wave of blood falling toward her and her mother. The dreams repeat and intensify until Clara can figure out what’s causing them.

Because I’m not sure how I feel about this, or because I don’t know how to resolve the tension between my friends’ assertions about their very real experiences and my own secret belief that there is no such thing (not so secret anymore!), the only place for me to tackle it is in my fiction. I love my friends. I believe them. I worry about them. I don’t see my way clear to one point of view or the other; I have to hold both in tension within me all the time. Clara herself maintains this kind of tension; she doesn’t want her gift. She believes her mother has the same gift, but Constance refuses to discuss it with her. She doesn’t want to act on her gift, but if she doesn’t, she is physically and psychologically damaged by her attempts to suppress it. Early in the book, we learn she spent some time in a Swiss psychiatric hospital.

I think one of the hardest things we do as human beings is to learn to accept that there are things we can’t resolve, that opposite things can both be true at the same time. The simple example I give my students is that we can love and hate the same person at the same time. The fun part, the part that makes us interesting, is that complexity. Accepting it isn’t easy, but it’s much more interesting than if it weren’t there at all.

What do you think about intuition? Do psychic phenomena exist? Is this something you’ve experienced? What kinds of opposites you find hard to resolve? Thanks for reading, and I look forward to hearing your comments.

WHO IS Laurel S. Peterson?

www.utechristinphotography.com
http://www.utechristinphotography.com

Laurel S. Peterson is an English professor at Norwalk Community College. Her mystery novel, Shadow Notes, was just released by Barking Rain Press. She has published two poetry chapbooks, That’s the Way the Music Sounds, (Finishing Line Press, 2009) and Talking to the Mirror (Last Automat Press, 2010); a full length collection, “Do You Expect Your Art to Answer You?” will be released by Futurecycle Press in 2017. In 2016 – 2017, she is serving as the town of Norwalk’s Poet Laureate. She also co-edited a collection of essays on women’s justice titled (Re)Interpretations: The Shapes of Justice in Women’s Experience (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009). You can find her at www.laurelpeterson.com, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/LaurelPetersonWriter/, and on Twitter: @laurelwriter49.

 

Shadow Notes Cover compressedSHADOW NOTES:  Clara Montague didn’t even want to come home. Her mother, Constance Montague, never liked her—or listened to her—but now they have to get along or they will both end up in jail or dead.

Clara always suspected she and Constance share intuitive powers, but Constance always denied it. When Clara is twenty, she dreams her beloved father dies of a heart attack, and Constance claims she is being hysterical. Then he dies.

Furious and betrayed, Clara leaves for fifteen years to tour the world, but when she dreams Constance is in danger, she can’t ignore it, no matter how she feels. Shortly after Clara returns home, Constance’s therapist Hugh Woodward is murdered and Constance is jailed for the crime.

Since her mother refuses to tell her anything, Clara enlists the aid of brother and sister Andrew and Mary Ellen Winters, Constance’s enemies, to dig out Constance’s secrets. First, however, she must determine whether the Winters, wealthy socialites with political ambitions, are lying and what their motivations are for helping her. In addition, why does the mere fifteen year age difference between Clara and her mother make them nervous?

Starting to explore Constance’s past, Clara discovers a closet full of books on trauma and gets a midnight visit from a hooded intruder wielding a knife, who tries to scare her off her investigation. But her dreams become more demanding and there’s a second murder. Realizing she can’t run back to Paris as she wishes, she works with the town’s sexy new police chief to find the truth about Hugh’s murder and its connection to her mother’s past. Only in finding the connection will she be able to figure out how those secrets have shaped both Constance’s life and her own. Only in finding the connection will they finally be able to heal their relationship.

 

Mystery Mondays: Cathy Ace on Editing and Multiple Series

Today is a bit of an occasion. It’s the final post in the 2015-1016 Mystery Mondays series, and next week, I’ll have something special for you.

So to celebrate, Cathy Ace is joining us today.

Screen Shot 2016-06-07 at 7.03.23 AM

Editing and Writing Multiple Series (aka soot-juggling) by Cathy Ace

I’m a lucky girl (apparently it’s okay to call myself a “girl” if you go by the plethora of books with “girl” in the title…when the subject is anything but “girl-aged”!). Yes, I’m truly fortunate. I’m in the enviable position of having two publishers, each allowing me to write a series of books, with contracts stretching a couple of years into the future. So I have it a lot better than many authors, let alone writers searching for that elusive first contract. (Keep going, by the way!)

I’m writing this on June 3rd 2016. I’ve just returned to my home near Vancouver, BC, Canada from a trip that took me to CrimeFest UK (a large UK crime convention) where the likes of Ian Rankin were guests of honor, and then Toronto where I attended the Arthur Ellis Awards and the Bony Blithe Awards. Thus, for the past couple of weeks, I’ve been surrounded by people intensely focused on crime fiction, and those who’ve been nominated for, and won, the top prizes in their field. It’s been a wonderful trip – the sort of thing that makes me realize how many people are out there who share my passion for creating crime fiction. But now it’s back to just me, my laptop, all the people in my head…and my dogs at my feet.

As I mentioned, I write two series of books: The Cait Morgan Mysteries are published by TouchWood Editions based in Canada, The WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries by Severn House Publishers in the UK. The series differ from each other in many ways, yet are similar in that they are both “traditional”: no foul language, no sex on the page, no gore or “unnecessary” violence. Yes, they’re murder mysteries, but I stick to the more palatable types of murders…the sort I first encountered in the books of Agatha Christie and Ngaio Marsh.

Right now I have two manuscripts on the go – one for each series. That’s not unusual, but the specific timing is. And not in a good way. I think of writing a novel as being akin to Three-Day Eventing: day one sees horses galloping over fences and across fields, day two forces more discipline as the show-jumping takes place and day three requires deftly controlled exercises in the dressage. First drafts, editing and copy-editing follow much the same formula for me; the joy of the gallop, the challenge of refining, the excruciating attention to detail.

Book #3 in the WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries (currently entitled The Murdered Miniaturist, but that could change) is at the stage where it’s contracted for, and I have a deadline of June 20th to get the manuscript to my publisher with agreed structural changes having been made to what is currently the fifth draft. This will mean I have to, essentially, pull the book apart, delete one sub-plot and insert another plotline, with new characters that then have to be woven through the entire work. It sounds scary, but (having done this before) I know it won’t be as bad as it feels right now, before I begin. It will then go to my editor (who works for Severn House) who’ll go through the manuscript with a fine-toothed comb and get back to me with notes, which I will work through. We’ll finally agree it’s ready for proof-checking, and then I’ll go through notes on that part of the process. I’m looking forward to it – I enjoy being with “The WISE Women” as I call my characters in this series.

The slight “challenge” I face is that I expect to receive notes from my editor at TouchWood Editions about Cait Morgan Mystery #8 (entitled The Corpse with the Ruby Lips – that’s set) any day now. I’m one stage further along with this book than the WISE book, but a bit of a problem with scheduling means I’m going to have to do what sounds a bit like brain-mashing, by working on both manuscripts at the “same time”. How will I handle this? One during the day, one at night. That’s the best I can do.

Usually, when I am writing and working through my own editing and redrafting, I give up most of my daytime work hours to organizing events, writing guest blogs, writing for the two blogs where I’m a regular contributor (7 Criminal Minds every other Wednesday and Killer Characters on the 22nd of each month) as well as prepping for Blog Tours for book launches (I had four books published last year) and the work and various committee meetings I undertake for Crime Writers of Canada (I am Chair for the next two years). That, plus using Facebook and Twitter to promote my work and build and maintain relationships with readers I meet in the digital world (and having six grandchildren, five acres, two dogs and a husband to tend to – yes, I thought about the order!) takes up a good deal of time, so I write when everyone’s gone to bed – from about 9.30pm until I realize I’m typing what looks like a poor hand at Scrabble…maybe 1-2am.

But for the rest of this June, it’ll be a bit different; I’ll have to switch from the Welsh stately home of Chellingworth Hall and the nearby village of Anwen-by-Wye, where the four women of the WISE Enquiries Agency run their business, to Budapest – where Cait Morgan is having a challenging time trying to work out whether a cold case back in Canada is connected to the Cold War, or whether being so far from her Canadian home without her retired-cop husband is addling her thought process. Cait’s stories are told in the first person, the WISE women each have their own point of view chapters. It’ll be a blast (I hope!). My plan is to work with the WISE women during the day, and Cait at night. With a break to make and eat dinner with my husband in between the two, that should give me enough head-space to shift location, storytelling style and voice.

Yes, I’m giving the impression I don’t know how it will go, and that’s true; I’ve never done this before. I’ve worked on the two series for a couple of years, but with only one book on the go at a time, thanks to some canny scheduling. Now the planets have aligned to no longer allow that to be the case, I plan to cope. I have to cope. Somehow.

That’s the thing, you see; there are always new challenges in this writing life. Last year was the first time I’d written four books in a year, but I know I won’t do that again. I managed it, but my family and home life suffered because of it, and that’s not fair on anyone. I have agreed to write three books this calendar year; one’s the WISE #3 I mentioned above, one will be Cait #9, the third will be WISE #4. Two books have been launched in the US/Canada this year so far (WISE #2 and Cait #7) and Cait #8 and WISE #3 will be published before it’s 2017. It’ll still be a busy time, but I am (I think/hope) becoming a smarter worker. I’m a detailed outliner, and I don’t use any programs to schedule characters/timelines; I found the use of technology took too much time in itself. Nope, it’s good, old-fashioned pencil and paper for me (and the frequent use of an eraser!).

I’m fortunate to have the deals and the deadlines I do. And I know it. My parents always taught me the harder you work, the luckier you get. Like I said, I’m a lucky girl, so I’d better keep my head down, and get back to this manuscript!

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1610884_639339149521629_3791092845543988135_nCathy Ace was born and raised in Swansea, South Wales, worked for decades in marketing communications, and migrated to Canada in 2000. Having traveled the world for work and pleasure for many years, Cathy put her knowledge of the cultures, history, art and food she encountered to good use in The Cait Morgan Mysteries – a series of traditional closed-circle murder mysteries featuring a globetrotting professor of criminal psychology. Ace’s other series is set in her native Wales: The WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries feature four female professional investigators, one of whom is Welsh, one Irish, one Scottish and one English, aided and abetted by a sleuthing dowager duchess. They tackle quirky British cases from their base at a Welsh stately home – the ancient seat of the Twyst family, the Dukes of Chellingworth, set in the rolling countryside of the Wye Valley in Powys, near the picturesque village of Anwen-by-Wye. Cathy lives in beautiful British Columbia, where her ever-supportive husband and two chocolate Labradors make sure she’s able to work full-time as an author, and enjoy her other passion – gardening. Bestselling author Ace is the 2015 winner of the Bony Blithe Award for Best Canadian Light Mystery (for Cait Morgan Mystery #4, The Corpse with the Platinum Hair).

Web: http://cathyace.com/

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