At long last, here are the author answers to your questions. It’s so long that I’ll split it into three weeks. But first, introductions! For more information on an author, click on their name and be whisked away to their website!
Kat Heckenbach is the YA fantasy author of Finding Angel, a finalist in the Compton Crook Award (2012), the Grace Awards (YA category, 2011), and the INDIE Next Generation Awards (YA category, 2012). Her short horror story, “Willing Blood,” won the Editor’s Choice at The Absent Willow Review (a magazine no longer in business) in July of 2009.
The sequel to Finding Angel, named Seeking Unseen, will be releasing in September 2012.
Sandra Esch is writes Historical Romance Novels. Tracks in the Snow (the first in the Amber Leaf series) was published in November 2011, with the sequel, Somewhere Between Raindrops, currently being edited.
Tracks in the Snow was a semi-finalist in the Christian Writers Guild’s Operation First Novel in 2010 and was a finalist in the San Diego Book and Writing Awards contest in 2012.
Beverly Nault is a Inspirational Fiction author, whose book Fresh Start Summer, was listed in Real Simple.com’s Top 21 Great Summer Books of 2011 and was a finalist in the 2011 Grace Awards and about.com’s Best Books About Friendship.
She has also written Grace & Maggie Across the Pond, an e-novella, and Lessons from the Mountain, What I Learned from Erin Walton, with Mary McDonough, a memoir. Her Kindle article, “Ten Easy Steps to Begin Birdwatching,” is a nonfiction excuse for her to show off some of her photography.
Deborah Malone is the author of Death in Dahlonega Cozy Mystery, which was a finalist (2nd place) in the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Category Five writing contest. Deborah was also nominated for 2012 Georgia Author of the Year in First Novel category.
Now that that’s done, one to the questions!
1. How many drafts did you write for your first published work? How different is the published version from the original version (in terms of plot and characters?)
Kat: I lost count! If I had to guess, I’d say at least a dozen drafts. The published version is very much the same as far as plot and characters, but the writing itself evolved. I had never written fiction before starting this book. Through the various drafts I learned how to show and not tell, how to write better description, fleshed out existing characters, and intensified plot points.
Sandra: My short story morphed into a novella and then into a full novel. Since I kept editing and re-editing the manuscript, I have no idea as to the number of drafts, only that it was a continuing work in progress. The published version was significantly different from the original, including a change in title and expanded story lines.
Beverly: Good heavens, am I going to have to do public math? I don’t have enough fingers and toes to add up all the drafts. But seriously, since both my “fraternal twins” released in the same month of the same year, I will address each one as individuals, since their birthing processes were quite unique. For my fiction novel, Fresh Start Summer, I wrote for about two years, and perhaps a dozen . . . or fifty drafts (with word processors and digital editing, who can keep exact count?) . . . before I reached “The End.” When I thought I was ready to begin pitching, an agent told me it was too short at 45,000 words. So I went back to the keyboard and added ideas I had already outlined for a sequel, developing a completely new thread. That probably took me another year to finalize. The finished story was deeper and had more plot twists than the stinker original, but it had more depth and a lot more heart. Now that I’ve been through the process, it’s easier faster, and now I have a better sense for how long my scenes and chapters need to be for a full-length novel. But I still edit and revise dozens of times.
At the same time I was sweating over my fiction, I was writing a preliminary outline, proposal and sample chapters with the actress Mary McDonough on her memoirs. That experience was as different as a day at Disneyland is from walking through the Library of Congress. Fiction was all make believe and what ifs, and writing with her was all about the realities of her life, highlighting her journey of as a child actor on a television show and her life since then. We probably rewrote those drafts a dozen, or fifty times, as well. The finished product wasn’t inherently different from our first drafts, but we’d added details and texture, such as dialog and place setting information so the readers would feel like they were walking along with Mary as she recounted the joys and heartaches growing up in the spotlight.
Writing, it turns out, whether fiction or nonfiction, is about fine-tuning to make a good story interesting to read. Whether true to life or make believe, it needs to draw you in and make you want to turn the page. And it takes a lot of hard work despite how glamorous we make it seem. Bwahaha! :rofl:
Deborah: I had a first draft then decided to re-write it as Christian fiction . . . so I rewrote it. Then I edited it several times before sending it in. After that, it was edited several times before printing.
2. The main question that haunts me is how does one actually get his/her stories into magazines? Is there an application to be filled or should one just mail it in and see what happens?
Kat: To publish short stories, you have to pay attention to the specific magazine’s guidelines. Most magazines these days take electronic submissions, so rarely will you have to mail a physical copy . . . Of course, you need to make sure you are sending to a magazine that takes the genre of your story, and that the story’s word count falls into the magazine’s specified range.
Typically, you will have to write an email that contains the story’s title, genre, and word count. (Query letters, people! [-M.R. Anglin]). Keep the letter short and simple, with only the information required. But again–check the magazine’s guidelines. They ALL have guidelines specified on their websites. If you want to find short story markets, and links to their websites, the best source is http://www.duotrope.com.
Sandra: This one’s easy. Write for magazines you have an interest in and that you actually read. Then do a Google search to get the writers guidelines and take it from there.
Beverly: I’ve never actually had an article published in a magazine, so I’m the wrong one to ask that. But it will not keep me from having an opinion. From what I understand, their editors require query letters and a pitch, much the same as book publishers.
Wait! I had a nice letter to the editor published once, does that count? It was about some ducklings who got stranded in my pool one Mother’s Day and how all the neighbors helped me save them. Aw . . . but I’m off topic.
Deborah: Magazines usually have their own guidelines so you could go to their website and see what the guidelines are. There are also marketing books just for magazines.
(Writer’s Market is a great resource for finding magazine and books publishers. They have different versions of the book (for Christian markets, for magazines, for agents, etc . . .) so find the one that works for you. *whisper* Also if you don’t want to spend money on it, go to the library and get an older copy. It won’t have the updated info, but you’ll have plenty to start with. Just make sure to check the publisher’s website to make sure their guidelines have not changed. It is SO important to follow the guidelines!*whisper* -M.R. Anglin )
3. Probably one of my biggest obstacles as an amateur writer is motivation. Are there any specific ways specific authors keep themselves going? Aside from the usual answers (write about something you love, something you know, something you’re interested in, etc. etc. etc).
Kat: This is a hard one for me. I don’t have anything specific. When I have a story begging to come out, the motivation is just there. When I’m stuck on a story, I usually take some time off. I read–a lot. I focus more on blogging.
I read in Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott, that writer’s block is actually your brain in need of a fill-up. And you can’t fill up if you’re still trying to pour out. I think, for me at least, that is true. If I just let it go, accept that the story is stuck for now, and take some time to re-juice, the ideas will pop up on their own. Then the motivation comes because the ideas won’t leave me alone.
Sandra: How competitive are you? How far do you want to go and how fast do you want to get there? One of the things that helps motivate me is entering contests. It gives purpose to writing, something to shoot for, as well as a deadline to get us off the dime.
Beverly: Excellent question. I’ve found my lack of motivation comes from a variety of fun and interesting places. One is them is the dread of being rejected. Whenever I feel that coming on, I remind myself of what it was like in the beginning, before it became a “business” to me, and remember the joy of writing as a craft, where I am totally free to play with my characters, imagine their lives and thoughts, and explore what I can do with them to touch the reader. Instead of worrying about whether an editor or agent will approve of me my writing, I think of that “one reader” who will be entertained, hopefully blessed. And as a Christian, I believe that ultimately what I write is for His purpose, and not mine, so that gives me even more freedom to let Him orchestrate the road to publication. I have to do the groundwork, but ultimately, He’s steering the boat.
Someone said to not think about it as rejection, but as a “pass.” I like that. On to the next opportunity, full steam ahead! (to continue the metaphor)
Another speed bump to motivation is burnout. I do not believe in that “write every day no matter what” myth (THANK YOU!! –M.R.). That is not possible, or even advisable, unless you are really into a story, and your family and/or day job doesn’t suffer. Or you have won the lottery and bought yourself an island. In which case you need to invite all of us for a luau, and then we will pester you to do the limbo with us. See? Not possible.
I like to vary what I’m writing to stay fresh. Back in the day, I was warned to stick with one genre, but Bev doesn’t listen sometimes . . . or ever. Since I’ve had both fiction and nonfiction published, I can assume my instincts were right. (I will resist saying I told you so.) These days it IS possible to write across genres. Short stories, lengthy novels, blogs, e-articles, even a witty Facebook posting, can all be rewarding.
That said, give yourself a break, and enjoy the journey . . . or Hawaiian barbecue as it were. I will have the pulled pork on a toasted bun, hold the poi.
Deborah: Not really – just wanting to see your book in publication. The more often I write the more I am motivated.
Okay . . . that’s it for this week because I’m tired of typing now. Next week, we will have questions 4-8. Hope you had fun!