Today I’d like to share a glass of tea with Jenifer Ruff, published author with World Castle Publishing. We are chatting about what she’s learned along her publishing journey. Let’s listen in:
As a newly published author, I have several “lessons learned” to share about writing, publishing and promoting for the first time. Let’s talk about the writing. First and foremost, I love how the entire writing process, from initial ideas to final edits, provides a limitless opportunity for personal growth and humbling new experiences. Almost all of those opportunities can be discovered from the comfort of your own home, Starbucks, or wherever one is most productive and creative.
When I sat down with the goal of creating my first book, I Googled “how to write fiction” or something along those lines. I learned that works of fiction have a main character with a goal and contain steps toward that goal interspersed with setbacks. Equipped with that structural information, I started typing my story, incorporating topics I know, exercise and academia. Months later, when I believed I had finished, I read it out loud from beginning to end, three or four times, smoothing out the sentences and paragraphs by adding, altering, and cutting heavily until nothing stuck out and bothered me. I knew it could better, I just didn’t know how to improve it.
When that first novel returned from the editor, I was thrilled to have his feedback and direction! Somehow, despite reading a countless number of award-winning, well-written novels throughout my life, I never picked up on the fact that most chapters or scenes are, or should be, written using a single point of view. I consulted a few favorite books from my personal library, and sure enough, all of those authors knew how it was done. Other characters’ motivations and thoughts were conveyed with dialogue or inferred through the POV character’s observations. That single bit of new knowledge facilitated the process of deciding what parts of my story belonged in each chapter, and made structuring all future novels easier. I went back to rewriting with a vengeance.
Looking back, I’m grateful that I wasn’t initially aware of how much I didn’t know, or the visions for my first novel would likely have remained in my head. Instead, my ideas flowed freely onto my word documents, blissfully unaware that they lacked the guidance of an “experienced writer”.
A few weeks ago I discovered Kelly’s previous blog full of excellent writing tips. I read all 39 of them on a Friday night, took some notes, and returned to a recent manuscript, excited and armed with new, specific strategies to make it stronger. I searched for the word “felt” and its derivations and challenged myself to replace most of the twenty instances I found. This is an excellent writing exercise in itself and Kelly even provided some examples from her own edits. I improved every changed sentence by “showing” versus “telling”, a rule from middle school English class that had slipped from my mind. So simple, so obvious, yet it wasn’t on my radar until I discovered the tip. Well, better late than never!
Kelly also pointed out that “very” and “really” add little value. Makes sense, but I found both of those words sprinkled throughout my chapters because I speak them liberally. It only took five minutes to find and eliminate the ones that weren’t necessary, leaving me with tighter, cleaner sentences.
I’ve also learned that at a certain point I should walk away from a manuscript for at least a few weeks. While I work on something else, I gain objectivity, and issues that I couldn’t previously see become apparent. Every sentence I have written in each of my books has been rewritten at least twice, if not completely scrapped. Hopefully, with time and practice it will get easier, but until then, that’s how it needs to be! I don’t think I could have finished a novel in the days of typewriters, but writing without worrying about getting everything right the first time helps me get the creative aspects of my story out and onto the computer quickly.
Undoubtedly there is much more to discover about writing, but my books are being appreciated by those reading them, and I enjoy creating characters and situations on paper more than I had ever imagined.
Thanks to all the authors who wrote and shared before me, and the ability to search for advice on the internet. It is very possible to improve a little each day if we make the time. We often aren’t aware of what we don’t know, so we have to proactively step away from our own writing once in a while and seek out what others in the industry have learned along the way. However, I’m grateful that I initially dove in and went for it the first time, or I would not be an author today.
Feel free to comment and ask Jenifer any questions about this post or her writing in general. Look for more about Jenifer and her books on her website and see her information on our Porch Guests page: