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"Chloe Harris" really is the pseudonym for two writers, Noelle and Barbra, who've joined forces to write intriguing and sexy stories. A quintessential eccentric southerner, Noelle seems to find a story in almost everything. Ever ambitious to change her stars, she has a degree in Communications. Barbra lives together with her cat ('Princess Mimi'), who isn't very happy that she is spending so much time on writing. But this folly of the living can opener with opposable thumbs is mostly tolerated.

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

How to become a Bestseller Writer over Night

by Barbra

The headline might astonish you, but cut me some slack. At the end of this post you will be a true believer, such as I am. I promise.

It is possible! All of you who worked so hard for days, months years, decades even – your efforts were in vain. Here is the true secret to success:

10 drops of “Quack, M.D. Prolific Writer’s Potion” before going to bed and you wake up a Bestseller Writer!
Pay attention to the fine print on the instruction leaflet, though. It is strongly recommended that you sleep on at least a hundred books of the genre you want to become a master in. Do not mix genres. You must have already read the books. You ought to bind your right (or left if you’re a leftie) to your forehead and sleep on your front. Also, you must sleep like a baby – never move and for goodness sake don’t snore – because otherwise it won’t work and you can take it only once!

I didn’t wake up one morning thinking, “Hey, being a writer sounds like fun!” But try as I might, “Quack, M.D. Prolific Writer’s Potion” didn’t help me either. I must have moved while being fast asleep. Or I snored which is more likely.

Okay, enough fooling around. Seriously, 99% of writers-to-be develop out of the conviction “I can do better”.
Well, try!
Writing is not always fun (once you know how to do it right), but it sure is rewarding (once you know how to do it right). Also, writing is hard work and you will not catch your competition napping. Take my word on it.

What are the main problems unpublished writers face nowadays? Provided you have sufficient lexis, a firm command of grammar and a way to forge sentences that are not monotonous or flat in nature, you need feedback. Anybody can give you feedback. I’ve gotten tremendously good feedback from all sorts of people. It boosted my self-confidence like nothing else did!
However, those were people who weren’t really involved in the business and I’m convinced they just said they liked what I wrote because they liked me (well as far as you can like me...) and the free stories I provided them with. Being absolutely certain that I’d be the next ... (insert whichever renowned author’s name you like here) I thought nothing could stop me. I was “gifted” after all, right? *snort*

But once I got real feedback, the critique was rather demoralizing. Some of you who have been in the business long enough pointed out to me my weaknesses and my flaws – and I’m forever grateful. Because they actually made it possible for me to evolve, to rise above myself and to really write.
Friends and family are nice if you’re stuck again in one of those “I’m a miserable writer!” pity parties, but as much as I value them, I know that only the harsh critique of my betters (read “some published authors”) will help me improve.

If I had the means to attend writer’s workshops (online or in person) or reader’s and writer’s conventions, I’d certainly do so if I were absolutely convinced I could learn something new from them. Of course, it’s always nice to meet people who have the same interests! I’m looking forward to doing so myself. But what I think will help tremendously someone who has only just started or is frustrated because they’re getting nowhere with their writing is reading:
Roerden, C. Don’t Sabotage Your Submission. Save your Manuscript From Turning Up D.O.A. Rock Hill, SC: Bella Rosa Books 2008.

In this time we simply can’t afford to throw our money out of the window. But what really helps you is participating in contests. You get really useful (if not always agreeable) feedback there. I should know, not only because I’ve been at the receiving end.

Also, do your homework. Have a really close look at the market. What is out there? What hasn’t been done yet? Why not?

Try to distinguish between an original idea and a great idea. Refrain from dangerous ideas.

Finding a critique partner is always a good idea. However, be careful in your choice. You might not get what you need out of it.

You can learn from published authors. What did they do that you liked their stories? Or how come you detested a specific story?

Anything I forgot? Let me know your thoughts!


Chris Roerden said...

Hi Barbara:
I just learned of your blog by receiving a Google Alert (the free program all writers, published and unpublished, can sign up for that tells the subscriber whenever certain names appear on the Net). I want to thank you for recommending DON'T SABOTAGE YOUR SUBMISSION to writers. Because I'm still euphoric after a wonderful series of events in NY, I'm bursting with the news that DSYS won the 2009 Benjamin Franklin Award for Literary Criticism and finaled for ForeWord Magazine's Writing Book of the Year. As an editor for more than 40 years, I've seen just about every cause for rejection possible--and in many cases something minor caused the first reader to stop reading. It's a shame that decisions are having to be made so quickly. You're right about the value of feedback, but some writers act on just a little feedback without seeking it from a wider pool of readers and writers. A critique group that writes articles and short fiction isn't the best place for feedback on writing a full-length romance, and vice versa. The tastes of readers are as varied as those of agents and editors--which is where the popular advice to persevere comes in. Sure, keep sending out the queries, etc., but first gather as much feedback and experienced advice as possible.
Best wishes,
Chris (semi-retired except for doing workshops on the writer's voice)

Noelle said...

*LOL* I know the feeling.

I belong to CRW, took your workshop and recommended your book to Barbra. I really think it's a must have for any new writer.

Anonymous said...

Chris, thank you for commenting!

Yes, Noelle recommended your book. I was a bit reluctant to believe that it's really THE book showing you how to write and get picked up, but once I started it, I couldn't put it down, highlighting, scribbling on the margins, and littering the book with post-its and all.

I really love your book. It made so many mistakes absolutely crystal clear - which, sadly, doesn't mean I don't still make them, but... well... I'm better at detecting those flaws now. So thanks a lot!