Monday, July 27, 2015

Perseverance Pays in Writing

My most recent medical thriller set partially in Cuba, MALIGNANCY, won first prize in the published novel category in the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA) annual writing contest.

During the last seven years, I've had four of my novels and a couple of short stories published. This is the first time I won in a writing contest. Here's my advice to other writers. I suppose it's presumptuous to give advice, but I may not have this opportunity to "speak from successful experience" again.

1) Write every day. My definition of writing includes: researching topics, composing text, editing, and publicizing the work. The advantage of writing even a few lines every day is you are forced to think about your plot, characters, and style frequently.

2) Organize your writing. I don't think you have to prepare a detailed outline before you write, but create a running list of characters as you write anything longer than flash fiction. Include a short profile of each character ion your list. This prevents a blue-eyed beauty, who never cries, from having tears well up in her brown eyes. A timeline is also helpful, especially during the editing process.

3) Edit. I know a few authors claim they only need to edit their work once; I'm not that good. I think there are three general categories of editing.  

These questions should be considered during a content edit . Are the scientific facts clear and correct? Are locations described vividly and accurately? Are the characters interesting and consistent? Do major character "grow" during the arc of the story? Is the timeline realistic?

 The style edit is hard to define but important. Novels are generally more interesting if dialogue, action sequences, and psychological development of characters are interspersed so that the pace of the novel varies.The point of view should be clear in each chapter or scene.

The edit for word choices, grammar, and typos often seems like an endless process. I try to reduce the use of "overused " words, replace weak verbs with action ones, tweak sentences to be active not passive, and check for spelling and grammar errors (which I euphemistically call typos) several times.

4) Hire a professional editor. I'm always amazed how much they discover after I finish my edits.

5) Try a variety of promotion techniques. Recognize when certain venues fail, and either fix the situation or move on to another format. Read criticism and less than glowing reviews several times. I usually learn more than I care to admit.  

6) Persevere.

Hopefully, you'll want to read MALIGNANCY and feel the tension as a woman scientist tries to escape the clutches of a drug lord in New Mexico and accepts a risky assignment in Cuba. Besides the excitement, you'll learn a bit about modern Cuba and new immunotherapy cancer drugs. Kindle: B00QG7SZ58