Friday, August 23, 2019

ADVICE FOR ASPIRING WRITERS: Guest post by Sara Lövestam

Advice for aspiring writers 

Decide ahead of time the kind of author you want to be. Once you’ve been published, your books will define you as an author. Don’t write a romantic comedy if you ever want to be considered a heavy-duty literary author, and don’t write a novel about relationships if you are aiming for an audience of mystery readers.

No, actually, forget all that. Write what you feel in your soul that you want to write. It’s not your fault that the market wants to place writers in boxes. You are not personally responsible for how literature is regarded.

Write the very best work you are capable of producing. Don't settle for less than perfection.

No, actually, write whatever makes you develop as a writer. You can explore a style, theme or genre without the requirement that you be ready to do so. You will never be ready. Never be ready.

Be ready if you feel ready and want to be ready. Indulge in your readiness if you want to.

Write a first draft quickly, to get the story out, and then spend a hundred times longer editing it. It is in the editing that the magic happens. All first drafts are bad.

But they don't have to be. You could be someone who already has your idea ready, and in your writing process, put all of your energy into getting the draft right from the very beginning. You could be someone who writes five sentences in one day and then spends zero hours editing them afterwards.

You could be someone who writes chapters without knowing what order you’ll put them in, or someone who can’t possibly write a chapter unless the previous one has already been completed.

You can bring forth your story and let it come into being with your words, or come up with your story in your head and then carefully put it into words. You can do something in between.

Care about your story, your wording, your rhythm, your vision and your language, but in the order and pace that suits you. Nothing is finer. Nothing is fine. It's just your way.

Always write an outline. Never write an outline. Write an outline if it helps you. Treat your outline as a living document. Embellish your outline until it becomes a novel. Write your outline as a series of bullet points. Follow your outline. Abandon your outline. Change your outline. Your outline can also be part of your creative process. Write your outline from the heart. Do not write a outline unless you find it helpful.

Write what you know. Do not cross the stream in search of water. Your own story, background and context are interesting enough, and only you have the lived experience to describe them.

Write what you don’t know. Your gaze can be sharper when it comes from the outside. You can see details in the lives of others that they themselves miss; you can notice things in a foreign setting that are invisible to the native.

Write what you want to know. Your own curiosity has to take the lead, and often, we are interested in things we don’t already know about, things that are new and feel exciting. Write about what tickles your fancy, write about something you’d like to know more about, make yourself an expert through your writing. But if you want to be published and appreciated by those who already know what you want to know, do your research and go directly to the source.

Think of your reader, so she will feel secure with the premise of your book. She should feel wise and enlightened, seduced and unstoppable. Keep in mind that you and she do not know the same things, and don’t leave any gaps which will perplex her. Write so she won’t be able to stop reading. Remember that she’s not inside your head; polish your text to pave her way.

No, actually, don't write in order to be read. Write for yourself. Trust your own taste and write what you want to read. Otherwise, who else will do it? Appreciate your own voice for what it is, be true to your own expression. The most important thing about what you write is that it’s yours. The world does not need more clones.

Create a niche or familiarize yourself with an existing niche —that’s how you will reach readers. Readers will want to know what to expect from your next book. Readers only want to invest in a book if they believe it is worth it, and the greater uncertainty around what you have created, the fewer books they will buy.

No, actually, ignore the market. It is your writing, your life and your creativity. You are not responsible for what readers think they will be getting, and this industry is too unforgiving for you to enter it and then not write precisely what you want.

Write what you want to write.

Write what you do not want to write. Something that hurts you can light your prose on fire. Your writing can become larger than life when you enrich it by baring your soul.

Write. The best books are the ones that are finished. Becoming an author requires one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. You can trigger creativity by sitting in your chair and staring at the page until something happens. Don’t distract yourself with anything else. Just write.

Don’t write. Do something else for a while. Your book will be written in your subconscious as you wash dishes, go for walks, socialize or play games on your phone. Don’t be afraid of boredom. Rest is the cradle of creativity.

Take your writing seriously. Give it space; set aside time to write. Give your writing the same respect you would give your exercise routine, your job, or your relationships. Buy a special pen, fix up a special space in which to write, or tell a friend that you are writing.

Don't take your writing so seriously. If you’re not satisfied with something, you can always write about it. Don't compare yourself to others. Tease out your own style. Experiment. Don’t be ashamed of anything you have written. Each word is another step along the path to progress you would not otherwise have made.

Listen to others who are further along than you are. Borrow the techniques, perspectives and approaches of established writers you admire. Look what they've done, listen to what they say about writing. Read blogs featuring established authors’ writing tips.

Screw established writers' writing tips.

Sara Lövestam is a Swedish novelist, born in 1980, and living in Stockholm. Lövestam worked for many years as a Swedish teacher for immigrants and says a lot of her inspiration comes from her students. She writes in many genres — historical novels, Y/A, crime — but her books all deal with deeply human struggles, such as challenging perspectives, dealing with alienation, and being true to oneself. The Truth Behind the Lie, originally published in Sweden, earned her the Crime Fiction Academy award for Best Crime Debut, as well as crime fiction awards in France and the Netherlands

Thanks to Sue Trowbridge for translating this article from Swedish.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Returning to Marketville: A Fool's Journey - Guest post by Judy Penz Sheluk

Judy Penz Sheluk:
Returning to Marketville: A Fool’s Journey

It was spring 2015. I was sitting in the lobby of my lawyer’s office with my husband, Mike, waiting to update our wills. As the minutes ticked by into an hour—our lawyer had been delayed in court—I got to thinking, “what if I was here to inherit, and what if that inheritance came with strings attached, and what if…” I grabbed my pen and notebook from my purse and began writing the first chapter of Skeletons in the Attic while Mike flipped through back issues of Bicycling magazine. In fact, the opening scenes of the book are directly culled from my experience that afternoon. What I didn’t know then was that it would also be the beginning of my bestselling Marketville Mystery series. All I knew was that I had a 36-year-old protagonist, Calamity (Callie) Barnstable and that she’d inherited a house in Marketville from her late father under the proviso that she move into the house to find out who murdered her mother thirty years before. Because I’m a complete pantser, I let Callie, and her investigation, tell the story. It wasn’t until I got to The End that I knew I had to write book two.

Knowing I had to write book two and actually writing it turned out to be two different things. As I toyed with various plots and premises, my mother, Anneliese Penz, became progressively ill. I found myself mostly staring at a blank screen or driving to see her in Niagara Falls, a two-plus hour drive from my house. And then, on Sept. 21, 2016, a month after the release of Skeletons in the Attic, she passed away peacefully in her sleep. I take comfort in knowing it was the last book she was able to read, but more than that, she’d left behind a train case filled with until-then never seen by me “secrets.” In that case were, among other things, her immigration papers from England into Canada, a copy of her ticket on the TSS Canberra from Southampton, England to Quebec City, Que., in July 1952, and her passport.

Within days I began writing about Callie’s latest adventure: opening Past & Present Investigations to utilize the skills she’d acquired in Skeletons in the Attic. Her first client? A woman who wants to find out everything she can about her grandmother, Anneliese Prei, and how she came to a “bad end” in Toronto in 1956.

The premise for book 3 in the series was inspired by an article in my community newspaper, about a 23-year-old man who had left home fifteen years before to “find himself.” No one had seen or heard from him since. I couldn’t begin to imagine what the family might be going through. I began researching missing persons, including searching the Ontario Missing Adults website, Shocked and saddened by the statistics (in 2017, 78,000+ adults were reported to the RCMP as missing in Canada. And while the majority of cases were solved within a few days, far too many remained unsolved), I knew I had to have Callie search for a missing adult, and while a fictional case, I also know the research had to be spot on so as not to disrespect anyone who had been in a situation such as this. Thankfully, the founder/owner of Ontario’s Missing Adults, Lusia Dion, went above and beyond to help me, even going so far as to be a beta reader for A Fool’s Journey.

Will there be a book 4 Marketville? I’m still waiting for the next “sign,” but if past experience is any indicator, I’ll be ready when it comes. In the meantime, here’s a bit about A Fool’s Journey:

In March 2000, twenty-year old Brandon Colbeck left home to find himself on a self-proclaimed “fool’s journey.” No one—not friends or family—have seen or heard from him since, until a phone call from a man claiming to be Brandon brings everything back to the forefront. Calamity (Callie) Barnstable and her team at Past & Present Investigations have been hired to find out what happened to Brandon, and, if still alive, where he might be. As Callie follows a trail of buried secrets and decades-old deceptions only one thing is certain: whatever the outcome, there is no such thing as closure.  

A Fool’s Journey, book 3 in Judy’s Marketville Mystery series, was released on August 21 in trade paperback at all the usual suspects, and on Kindle. Amazon Barnes & Noble 

Judy Penz Sheluk is the Amazon international bestselling author of the Glass Dolphin Mystery and Marketville Mystery series. Her short stories can be found in several collections, including The Best Laid Plans: 21 Stories of Mystery & Suspense, which she also edited. Judy is also a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and Crime Writers of Canada, where she serves as Vice Chair on the Board of Directors. Find at