I am beyond excited to kick off a 3-part blog feature spotlighting authors who are at various points in their writing careers. Sometimes, getting to know the person behind the writing is the best insight into the story itself. I also hope that this inspires those who wish to write, who are struggling to write, who are overwhelmed by edits, who are discouraged by the publication process, etc. to keep going!
I’m not going to lie — part of what drove me to do this feature was my own personal curiosity with how to jump start writing. Writing has not been a lifelong dream of mine; more so a random thought in recent months. However, those random thoughts have also been filled with a lot of self-doubt. Learning by speaking with others who have been there & done that has eased some of those doubts.
I have a great line-up of writers who kindly took the time to answer some questions for me and share a bit about their work. Here’s what’s coming up:
- Today, September 12th: Aspiring Writers
- Cara Barney
- Moriah Chavis
- Erin Fehres
- Brittney Singleton
- Kelsea Yu
- Tuesday, September 18th: Self Published Writers
- Christina Benjamin
- Laura Stoddard Hancock
- Rachel Higginson
- Christine Manzari
- Jessica Pierce
- Wednesday, September 26th: Traditionally Published Writers
- Tracey Neithercott
- Shani Petroff
- Kristen Simmons
- Katy Upperman
- Brighton Walsh
Everyone was asked to answer similar questions, as to demonstrate that the path to success is often different for everyone and certainly not paved! I truly hope you gain something from this feature, whether it be writing advice or a new appreciation for the writers behind your favorite reads.
PART I: Aspiring Writers
Today’s post features five amazing ladies who are absolutely crushing it! They aspire to see their work in print & being sold to the masses. They are at a range of phases prior to publication, and I’m proud to support them. Meet the gals:
Cara Barney is an aspiring author who loves bookstagram, candles, and the marauders from Harry Potter (except Wormtail). She’s written nine novels and is still waiting for that magical moment when one of them will sit on a book store shelf.
Cara doesn’t have a specific memory of wanting to be a writer until she was much older, but she always remembers wanting to tell stories; writing short stories for class and making up elaborate lives for her Barbie dolls.
Currently working full time, Cara fits writing in when she can, though she hopes to make the transition to a full-time writer by early next year. She tends to write when she first wakes up and uses a free app, Focus Keeper, to help her stay distraction free while writing. She utilizes a bullet journal for scheduling writing time because finding a balance can be really hard and realistically she knows she won’t write every day. But she sets goals for the week/month and she knows what she has to do to accomplish whatever goal she set.
Not formally trained for a career as an author, she has learned a lot from practice, learning something new about the writing process with every story she wrote. Other writing resources Cara loves:
- Query Shark for learning what to do and not to do when writing a query
- Podcasts that talk about writing
- 88 Cups of Tea
- Pub Crawl
The best advice she’s received as a writer? FINISH THE 1ST DRAFT — “okay sorry,
really wanted to make that clear. Haha. But seriously finish it. Even if its sucks. Especially if you think it sucks because there is no way to make it better through edits if you have nothing to edit.” She also suggests not editing as you go; just write. As a newbie, she feels that it’s really hard to not get bogged down in the editing.
The hardest part for her is the waiting and rejection. It takes a long time to hear back from agents and then for it to be a “no” after all that can be really disheartening. But in this business, you learn very quickly that rejection is going to happen every step of the way.
Moriah Chavis is an aspiring author currently pursuing graduate studies and working as a substitute teacher. Her earliest memory of wanting to be a writer was when she was twelve. She really got into reading then and decided she wanted to create stories, too.
Because of her work and school schedule, Moriah writes whenever she gets the chance. She has benefitted most, as a writer, from other people as resources. Finding critique partners and fellow writers has helped so much with such a solitary field.
The best advice she has received: “The successful writer is the one who didn’t give up.”
Querying, for Moriah, is the hardest part. You have to narrow down your entire book to only a few hundred words, getting just the right parts of the novel in the query letter. She notes that it takes hours of research and rewriting, but it’s a good learning process.
Erin Fehres is an aspiring author who works full time and writes on the side, though she hopes to be a full time writer. In her “nerdier moments,” she wrote Lord of the Rings fanfiction in which she married Frodo. Ah, Elijah Wood.
Erin remembers always writing in Middle School — tales of maidens in dire straights just dying for a prince to save them. Now, she tries her hardest to set aside time daily to write. She says “I tend to get stuck once in a while and sometimes writing feels like more of a chore, but for the most part the words are in my head and it’s a matter of finding time to sit down and let them flow out of me.” Being a night owl helps, for sure!
She doesn’t have formal training but says there is so much material available to aspiring writers! She has been fortunate enough to get some help from friends who are authors. She isn’t afraid to admit that she’s been winging it, though!
Erin has been told you can’t edit words you haven’t written. Even if you’re stuck, even if you feel like every word you’re writing is garbage, your goal needs to be to GET WORDS DOWN!
The most intimidating thing to her is getting readers. She has a debilitating fear that nobody will want to read her book after she spent so much time and put so much love into it.
Brittney Singleton is an Art Director by day and an avid reader, writer, and bookstagrammer by night. She has a chronic illness that drastically changed her lifestyle, keeping her house-bound most of the time, but reading and writing became the most amazing pastime while healing. It opened her up to a community that she’s come to love, and wouldn’t trade for anything. Brittney is an Author Mentor Match alumni and is currently working on my second WIP!
From a young age, she pretty much thrived on storytelling. She doesn’t know if there was ever a time that she thought ‘I want to be a writer’ because it was always there, but she didn’t take it seriously (in terms of a career, though) until about two years ago!
For now, Brittney writes in between freelance jobs, whenever her health allows it. “Unfortunately, there are very few full-time writers if we’re talking publishing. Most authors have day jobs. Of course, most dream of being able to write full time! I’d love to be there one day myself.”
Brittney taught herself by reading and practicing. After finishing and revising her novel, she submitted it to AMM (Author Mentor Match) – a contest where agented and published authors choose a mentee to work with. She was chosen by Swati Teerdhala, author of THE TIGER AT MIDNIGHT (coming from HarperCollins in 2019)!
What’s the best writing advice she’s received? Find your people! Writing is very solitary, so have critique partners to help you figure out what needs work in your writing, and to cheer you on in the process.
The part of the whole process that intimidates her most is finding an agent. Some of the top agents get around 60k queries a year, and they only sign 3-4 clients from that. You really have to stand out and grab their attention. This means an excellent query letter, a great hook, and fantastic writing.
Kelsea Yu is a fantasy and thriller writer living in the Seattle area with her husband and stepson. She loves sharks, pasta, staying up late reading and plotting to take over the world… one novel at a time.
Kelsea has always loved writing! “Throughout childhood, I wrote short stories in various genres: a fictional story about a goth girl who sat in her closet crying over the one colorful (bright yellow) t-shirt she’d saved from her pre-goth days; historical fiction in the form of journal entries by a man stranded in an unfamiliar land; a science-fiction/dystopian story about the brilliant scientist who had designed a virus that killed off 99% of the world’s population, deciding whether or not to destroy the remaining 1%.”
She is fortunate enough to be a full-time writer with the support of her family, though she is still working on her schedule, to balance work and writing. She uses Google Sheets to track word count. Kelsea studied accounting and worked as a CPA for a while, and she says the transition was quite a shift!
She been reading a lot of writing books and watching writing advice videos to teach herself. She also follows a lot of her favorite authors on Instagram who often share writing advice in stories. Here are some of the books/videos she recommends:
- Just Write by James Scott Bell (great comprehensive guide with worksheets)
- Writing Your Novel from Start to Finish by Joseph Bates (excellent for beginners who aren’t sure where to start)
- Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel by Hallie Ephron (perfect for mystery writers)
- Letters to a Young Writer by Colum McCann (inspirational; the audiobook is incredible)
- Brandon Sanderson’s writing lectures on YouTube (especially helpful for fantasy/sci-fi writers)
- Victoria Schwab’s short writing advice videos on YouTube
- Additionally, she started a hashtag on Instagram, #writingbookwednesday, and anyone can participate or browse the hashtag for writing book recommendations!
The best advice she has received has been shared with her often: just keep writing!
She can’t quite say what the hardest part is since her WIP is still in its first draft. However, she expects the first draft will be the toughest part for her because she is an extreme perfectionist.
(Photo by Jess Juergens Photography)
You can see that even in this small group of aspiring writers, there are varying degrees of background and advice. So, what do they have going on? They were each sweet enough to share a little about their WIPs:
Cara’s goal is to publish traditionally. She has a novel sent out to a few agents now, hoping that goes somewhere. Here is a teaser from the first page:
“My fingers drip with sticky blood, not all of it my own. I hold my arm tight against my stomach to keep the blood on me and not the hallway carpet. I fumble with the keys, shoving them into the lock. I need to get inside; the hall is starting to spin. The door opens with a creak and I glance back one more time out of habit before entering and shutting it behind me. I brush my dark hair off my sweaty face, blood wetting my cheek.”
Moriah also hopes to traditionally publish, even though it’s the long road. She feels that it will be worth it! Her WIP is a young adult contemporary romance involving a fake relationship, a football player, and a very independent girl. She says she wrote it super fast (the first draft), and she’s really excited to start putting it out there for agents! Here is a super cute aesthetic:
Erin just finished writing her first book ever, Without You, which she will be self-publishing in January 2019! She remembers reading a news article about a police officer in Michigan. “He was on a routine traffic stop and someone took a picture of him. It went viral and he became known as Michigan’s hot cop. I thought to myself, ‘What if he didn’t want to be in the spotlight? What would that look like?’ That’s how my book baby was born! Book two is a WIP right now and the MC is also a police officer. It’ll be a series of standalone novels that are linked via character relationships.” Here is a little excerpt!
“Well, tonight is a complete shitshow. Rafe thought blandly as he watched his third public intoxication call of the night relieve himself on the brick wall outside the bar. Hearing a snort of laughter, he turned to look at his partner, Ramirez, who was clearly enjoying his evening.
“Should we let ‘ol boy finish?” Ramirez stage-whispered, jerking his head at the drunk idiot.
Rafe shook his head at his partner, a rueful smile tipping up the corners of his lips. Pulling his flashlight from his belt, he shined the bright light into the drunk’s face. “HPD, we’re going to need you to wrap it up, sir.”
The pisser, as he would henceforth be known, jerked and looked up at Rafe. Instead of immediately straightening and tucking his dick back into his pants, the moron turned, raising his hands. At the telltale sound of liquid hitting leather, Rafe looked down at his shoes. The fucking idiot was still peeing. On. Rafe’s. Boots.
Ramirez couldn’t hold it in any longer, he doubled over, boisterous laugh booming. As the pisser’s stream of urine finally tapered off, he shot Rafe a lopsided grin. “S’alright Officer. Bathroom inside’s taken. I don’ mind peein’ out here.”
“Well kid, unfortunately for you, the owner of this fine establishment happens to mind very much. Zip up your pants, put your hands against the wall and spread ‘em”
As Ramirez cuffed the pisser and read him his rights, Rafe stepped into the bar and headed towards the bathroom, intent on at least rinsing his boots off. They were starting to smell. Fantastic.”
Brittany hopes to publish traditionally, as well. Her YA fantasy revolves around two rival heirs – a girl who the world believes is dead, and the other who is a traitor to his country. Here’s an amazing aesthetic!
Kelsea would like to traditionally publish. However, she is open to publishing alternatives if they fit her and her writing at the time. Her current WIP is a diverse thriller set in Seattle (where she lives). The main character is a webcomic artist who signs on nightly to play an MMO video game with her friends… until something happens and it starts to become clear that someone from her past is playing games with her.
She says “For now that’s all I’m saying! 🙂 It’s inspired by my own past experiences playing World of Warcraft obsessively in college, the city I live in, and talking to various friends (and my husband) who work in the video game/tech industry.”
I am so extremely lucky to see a little of the world of writing through the eyes of these five lovelies. Thanks again to Cara, Moriah, Erin, Brittney, and Kelsea!
Check back next week for Part II of this feature! Follow my blog so you don’t miss a thing.