Happy September 1! Fall, my favorite season, is just around the corner. The kids are all back in school and I can get back to a more regular writing schedule. I'm looking forward to the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Conference in just ten days; not so much to learn more about the craft (though I'm always grateful to learn something new that helps elevate my writing) or to pitch my books, but to hang out with my writer pals. Conferences so often reenergize and inspire me, and I could use a little of that right about now as I begin my sixth book.
As for The Sandy . . . I'm excited to announce that Megan McKeever from Pocket has graciously agreed to judge the romance category and Senior Editor of Ballantine, Mark Tavani, will judge the suspense/thriller category. So polish up those pages--oh, and spend some time reading. Lots of time reading. Read from the current bestsellers in your genre and learn from them. What is it that they do so well, that you could do better within your own work?
I just finished Jeffery Deavers's book, The Sleeping Doll, and not only is it very fast paced, but it has terrific plot twists, and it has something I can learn from. The heroine is a specialist in interrogation and kinesics, a widow, and a mother. Deaver masterfully and constantly reminded us of these things on just about every page, through dialogue and her internal thoughts.
Sometimes I think we less experienced authors get distracted by the beauty of stringing words together, by the plot twists, by the craft and forget to actually climb into our POV character's head and look constantly and continuously look at the world/situations through ALL the facets of the POV person's personality.
Sure, I do these things with my characters, but I do them more intermittently than this best
seller--and more intermittently than Sandra Brown does in her most recent book, Smoke Screen. It would enrich and deepen my characters to maintain a more consistent focus on who they are and how they would always be considering the world--not just the obvious places when I remembered to accent it.
I think this is just a more advanced writing skill that distinguishes the best sellers from those good writers. The good news, is that I can do it. I can improve my writing by enhancing this aspect of craft and I will. But I never would have known that I could do better in my own books if I hadn't taken the time to read current bestsellers.
So even though it feels a bit self-indulgent to me to spend time reading when I could be writing, it is important. It's fun, but it needn't be a guilty pleasure. It's an important part of my growth as a writer and nowhere is it written that we have to suffer for our craft. Sure, we are writers, but I've always maintained that it should be fun. I'm not published yet. I only have self-imposed deadlines. I don't need the money to live on--and let's be honest here; it's not about the money for the vast majority of us--there are VERY few writers who can actually support themselves from income earned writing. So it had better be fun and gratifying.
Life's too short to spend time torturing yourself. So read books. Enter contests. Go to writing conferences. Learn and improve in your craft any way you can--any LEGAL way you can--no plagiarizing people. But most of all . . . enjoy the journey.