Jilly: Five Great Writing Craft Resources

What are your go-to references for improving your chosen skill–creative, mechanical, sporting, whatever’s important to you?

I decided a while ago that I wouldn’t spend any more money on writing craft—no books, workshops, courses or conferences—unless I come across something exceptional. It’s not that my writing is so good I don’t need it, but that I already have a great collection of resources at my fingertips and I’ve only scratched the surface of most of them.

Even if I write for another 20 years (and I intend to), I bet I could find the answers to 99.9% of my craft problems on my current bookshelf or the internet. My challenge is to digest all that great advice, evaluate it, select the bits that I need most in order to power up my strengths, bolster my weaknesses, and widen my skill-set, and apply those lessons until they become second nature.

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago in this post that I was surprised to discover how much I’ve absorbed about the process of self-publishing. I’ve also learned that some craft resources hit the spot for me, while other famous names slide through my brain and out again, leaving no trace. I had fun choosing my favorite indie publishing resources, so I decided to play the same game with the writing craft references. I found it surprisingly easy to pick the ones I believe will support my writing journey all the way to the pearly gates.

Your mileage may vary (I’d love to know!), but here are my choices: Continue reading

Jilly: Ten Great Indie Publishing Resources

One of the most interesting changes at this year’s RWA National conference was the increased focus on indie publishing. For me, the timing was excellent.

Four years ago, when I attended my first Nationals, I was only vaguely aware of self-publishing. I fully intended to pursue a traditional publishing career and I found plenty of workshops to help me understand the role of agent and editor, to perfect my pitch, and to polish my query letter.

As I started submitting to agents and entering contests with my dream industry judges, I also began to seek out sources of information to educate myself about the industry I was planning to join. To my amazement I found a freely available treasure trove of solid, actionable information and over the last couple of years I’ve gradually come to believe that independent publishing will be a better match for my personal priorities, timelines and ambitions.

I attended a number of the indie-focused workshops in Orlando, and I was surprised to discover how much I already knew. So instead of recapping my learnings from the conference, I thought perhaps I should share the online resources I find most valuable: Continue reading

Jilly: When is a Bestseller Not a Bestseller?

 BestsellerDoes the description Bestselling Author positively influence your book-buying decisions? Especially New York Times Bestselling Author?

I ask the question because as a non-American I’m trying to get my head around the furore over the recent decision by the New York Times to eliminate a number of categories, including mass-market paperbacks and e-books, from its bestseller lists. Click here for Publishers’ Weekly’s report on the changes. As far as I can tell, going forward only one list (Top 15 Combined Print and E Fiction) will include novels in e-book format.

Romance Writers of America, Horror Writers of America, Mystery Writers of America, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, Sisters In Crime and Novelists, Inc. have released a joint statement condemning the decision and describing it as a “tremendous mistake.” Click here to read the full statement.

I have to say it seems rather counter-intuitive. Continue reading

Jilly: A Very Important Kiss

A Very Important KissDo you agree that in the right circumstances a single kiss could be an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending to the first book of a fantasy paranormal romance series?

No prizes for guessing which particular fantasy paranormal romance series I’m talking about 😉 .

This week, in between birthday and Christmas partying, I’ve been tweaking the first 50 pages of my WIP for entry into the RWA’s Golden Heart contest.

This story is very different from anything I’ve written before, and I want to make sure I don’t trip myself up on the GH deal-breakers.

In addition to assigning an overall score, first-round GH judges are asked to answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the following questions:

  • Does the entry contain a central love story?
  • Is the resolution of the romance emotionally satisfying and optimistic?

If three judges answer ‘no’ to either question, the entry is disqualified. Which would be hugely disappointing, to say the least. Continue reading

Jilly: Don’t Leave Your Story in the Cold Over the Holidays

dont-leave-your-story-in-the-coldCan you believe it’s December already? How’s your month looking? Busy?

May I add something to your schedule? Earmark a few minutes each day – five, ten, fifteen, whatever you can shoehorn in – to make sure your story doesn’t get lost in the seasonal brouhaha.

Even for a holiday humbug like me, December is a time sink. It was worse when I had a day job – closing the payroll ten days early with the extra headache of bonuses to calculate and pay; a year end to prepare for; and in the middle of the financial scramble, parties to organize and/or attend for staff, clients and suppliers.

I’m glad I don’t have to do that any more. My life is also relatively quiet on the family front, but my calendar is still filling up. Multiple catch-ups with friends and ex-colleagues who are home for the holidays. A birthday trip to see the Abstract Expressionists at the Royal Academy. A night at the theatre. A few days with my mum, even though she doesn’t really know it’s Christmas anymore. Visits on mum’s behalf to her friends and ex-neighbors. A haircut. Gift and grocery shopping. A rare opportunity to see my expat brother, who’s flying home for a couple of weeks.

In the midst of all this activity, my immediate writing priority Continue reading

Jilly: Incubating Again

IncubatingHow was your week?

I’m writing this post in advance, as today is the day after RWA Nationals. If everything has gone to plan, I’ll have spent the last eight days doing research for a future book, touring the Naval Base at Coronado, talking story with Kay and Jeanne, pitching Alexis, meeting new people, stuffing my brain with workshops and treating my body as a temple to ice cream and cocktails 😉 .

If all has gone well, I’ll be fried. I’m sure I’ll have much to report. Later. Today my plan is to sleepwalk to the airport, board the ten-hour flight home, close my eyes and let my mind wander.

While I’m decompressing, here’s a neat piece on the value of allowing time for ideas to incubate. Continue reading

Jilly: Making the Most

Making the MostAre you doing anything special this week? Will you live in the moment, or do a little preparation to ensure you get the most from the experience?

All being well, by the time you read this post I’ll be in California. Whoo!

The excuse for main purpose of my trip is to attend the RWA National conference, but it’s a long and expensive journey from the UK, especially at current exchange rates 😦 and while I intend to enjoy every minute, I also want to feel that my investment in time and money has been worthwhile.

Time flies by so fast on these trips and a pinch of preparation saves a bucket of lost opportunity so I’ve been thinking about what I want to achieve before, during and after the conference. I’m feeling pretty bullish, and here’s why: Continue reading