Let’s Talk Writing

I hear from a lot of my fans about how they, too, are writers. And I get a lot of questions about writing. So I decided to answer a few of those questions on my blog.

What do I need to prepare myself to become a writer?

This question is easy. You need to read. Read. Read. And then read some more. You need to study books. Ask yourself why you love this book. What is it about the character that drew you in? How did the writer keep you reading? Then you need to start writing. And you need to write. Write. And then write some more.

I keep writing a few pages of one book and then I lose interest and start a new one. How do you force yourself to finish a book?

It is not uncommon for writers to start a book and realize it’s not working. But you need to reconnect with what it was that got you so excited about the idea in the first place. Sometimes you just need to force yourself to keep writing, put your butt in the chair and do not get up! Sometimes you need to spend some time doing some serious brainstorming about the character and the story. Some times when my writing stops flowing it is because I wrote myself into a corner, and the plot stopped feeling right. So look at the last few pages you wrote and see if you can change it and maybe the story will start flowing again. Yes, I have started a book and realized that it wasn’t the book I wanted to finish. But if you do this a lot, it may not be the book, it may be you.

The thing to remember is that as fun as writing is, you still have to be disciplined with yourself. A gymnast has to practice, an ice skater must skate. A writer must write, and they must complete the things they write to become published.

I finished my book, now how do I go about getting it published?

Finishing a book is cause for a huge celebration. Seriously, celebrate. When I finish a book, you will find me out at a nice restaurant. A lot of people want to be writers and start books, but finishing a book means you are serious. It means you stuck it out even when you didn’t always feel inspired to write. It means you really have what it takes to be a writer.

This said, finishing a book is only one step to becoming a published writer. Now you have to figure out if there are flaws in the book. Now it’s time to rewrite. I know, I know, our books are like our babies, and we don’t want to think they could have flaws. But let’s be honest. Some of our babies aren’t perfect—not the real ones and not our book babies. Haven’t you see an ugly baby in real life? Some babies might have a big nose, or big ears. Most of the time, a real baby will grow into his/her nose and ears. As parents of books, it’s our job to make sure we give them ample time to grow. It’s our job to make them as perfect as they can be before we send them out into the big scary world of publishing.

By the way, I’m going to be honest with you, I don’t like this step. I know some writers who love it, but for me it’s getting the first draft down that I love. But this part of the writing process is another sign that you have what it takes to really be a writer. It can mean changing things in your story. So after you finished the book, give yourself some time. Then you need to sit down and read the book like a reader. Do you see things that need to be tweaked? Maybe you see the need to soften a character if the character isn’t coming off very likable—or perhaps you need to give them more motivation for acting the way they do. Sometimes rewriting can mean being downright nasty to your characters because you realize there isn’t enough conflict in your story. Yes, we might like our characters, but to make them interesting to the readers, they need to have to fight for what they want in the books. That struggle to get what they want is what a book is really about. You see, not enough conflict is one of the biggest mistakes writers make.

Now the problem is often that as the creator or parent of this book/baby, we don’t see those flaws. So this means getting other people to read and critique your book before you send it out to a real publisher. And this is the tough part, too. You are going to need a thick skin and a clear head.

Who do I get to read my book and how do I find the right person?

It’s so easy to turn to our friends and our families to read and give us advice. And I’m not saying your friend and family might not be the perfect person. However, you need someone who will be honest with you. If there’s a boring chapter, or if they lost interest in the book in chapter six will this person tell you? Or will they not want to hurt your feelings? If you are weak on grammar and punctuation is this person going to be able to help you?

Then you need someone who knows enough about books so you can trust their advice. If this person doesn’t read, or just doesn’t like books about vampires and your book is about vampires and they tell you the book is no good, will you be devastated? Will you give up? It’s is so hard being critiqued, but as a writer you need to get used to it. You are going to be critiqued by an agent, if you are lucky enough to get one, and you will be critiqued by an editor who more times than not will give you some revisions to do if you are lucky enough to sell the book. So start growing your think skin right now.

So you need someone whose opinion you can trust. And here’s another tricky thing about getting critiqued. While you need to trust someone’s opinion, you can’t stop trusting yourself or your gut. Generally, when you get some feedback about changing something our first impulse is to say, “What? That’s perfect. I will not change that!” What I do, and my advice to you, is to take a few days, even a week to reflect on this person’s suggestions before getting upset? Sometimes it just takes a few easy tweaks to change something. Sometimes it takes more.

And here’s the kicker, if someone tells you need to change something, and after reflection, you can’t see changing it, then don’t. You have to be true to your story. But (don’t you hate buts?) most of time when someone I trust tells me something, there is generally some truth in what they are saying. Someone might say… “In this scene Kylie is being a B with an itch.” Maybe I don’t’ see it, but then I realize I could soften her response to something just a bit and then I realize that I never really explained why Kylie was feeling the way she was, so after I added the motivation for her being upset, then she no longer seems to be acting badly. This said, there have been times someone suggested something I just didn’t agree with. And as the writer, only you can decide what to change and how to change it.

So…if your friends and family can’t do it, how do you find the right person to read your work and give you advice? I know that several of you have asked me to look at something. I hate saying no, but I have to for several reasons. My publisher frowns upon me doing this. I know it sounds silly but if something you wrote was close to something I wrote, it could cause a stink, it could actually cause a law suit and has in the past. The second reason is my time. It’s so hard to meet my deadline, and reading and critiquing another person’s work can be very time consuming. So if I can’t do it, where do you turn? Well, if you are old enough to join a writing group, you can meet others writer’s that way. If you are not old enough, or don’t have a writing group around, go to your English teacher or your librarian and she might be able to connect you with other people who trying to write.

Once you find a critique partner, you’ll need to agree on some guidelines and what kind of critiques you want to offer each other. You want to be honest, but honesty should never sound mean. If something isn’t working, say it isn’t working for you, but never tell them it stinks or that they are a bad writer. Always respect each other and accept that what you are offering is a suggestion that the author of the work always has the right to accept or not accept your suggestions. Just because you think they should change something doesn’t make you right. Writing is very subjective.

Okay, I’ve written my book, polished my book, and have had other’s give me feedback, now what do I do to get it published?

Okay…you’re getting closer. And I wish I could tell you it gets easier, but writing is a tough business. Remember me mentioning that thick skin, you are still going to need it. Now it’s time to look and see where to send your book. Most publishers want you to have an agent. That means you have to research agents. Again if you are a member of a writing club you can find info on agents from other writers. However, you can also get it information online or in resource books like Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents or Chuck Sambuchino’s 2013 Guide to Literary Agents. You’ll need to write a one-page query letter telling the agent a little about you and your book and asking them to read it. And this is where the thick skin comes in. They very well might tell you no. This is what writers call a rejection. You can get them from agents and even editors. I know it’s hard. But you just keep writing queries, trying to make them as interesting as you can. Remember that editors and agents get as many as 100 and sometimes more queries a day, and it’s hard for them to make decisions.

If an agent responds from my query and asks to see some or all of my manuscript, does it mean they will accept me as a client?

It means that after reading your query, they think they might like your work. And if they do, they might take you on as a client. But they reject a lot more books that they decide to represent. They may offer you suggestions on your writing, they may just tell you the book isn’t for them.

Do I need to pay an agent to read my book?

No, if an agent asks for money to read your work, I would not send it to them. That said, there are people who do professional editing. It can be expensive. I would only go this route if you are certain that your book is marketable. Instead, I would first try to find a critique group to help you.

If I get a rejection, does that mean I’m not any good?

No. Heck no! Just like you don’t like all the same books as your friends, agents and editors have personal tastes. However, it could mean you just need a little more time to work on your craft as a writer. The really important thing to remember is that almost every writer gets rejected at some point. Most of us get rejected a lot. When I started writing, I wrote novels, short articles and short stories. It may be hard to believe, but I was rejected over 10,000 times.

Just because you are rejected doesn’t mean you aren’t a good writer. You just have to find the right agent, the right editor and you have to keep learning and improving.

So seriously, how long will it take before I become a published writer?

I will not lie to you, being a writer is hard and it can take you a long time to make it. Not that it doesn’t happen for some people really quickly, it does. I know people who wrote and sold their first book. But I know a lot more whom it took years to finally see their books in print. And for most of us, it does take time.

I wrote ten years before I sold my first book. It’s my opinion that you have to love writing more than you hate being rejected. You have to write, praying you sell the book, or article, or short story, but you have to write another one even if that one doesn’t sell.

Even after I sold my first book, I couldn’t sell another one. So, I started writing short things for magazines. I started selling a lot, but I got a ton of rejections on my short pieces. It took a few years, but I eventually stared selling a lot of articles, but I still got a lot of rejections. Then in 2000, I decided to go back to writing books. Six years later, I had written eight books and six partial books before I finally sold another book. This time my career took off.

Please don’t think I’m telling you this to discourage you. I want you to know that if you get a rejection, it doesn’t mean you are not going to make it as a writer. Writers get rejections. Smart writers who really want to get published keep writing. They keep learning and continue to take steps toward their goal of making their dreams come true.

I’m not an adult yet, can I still publish a book?

Yes, there are some young adult writers. I’m sorry I don’t know what all it would take, but I’m sure your parents might also be involved. I did not start writing books at a young age and I’m envious of all you guys who are already working on your craft. So keep on writing. Anything is possible.

If I can’t get an agent does this mean I will never sell?

No. There are many different routes to getting your books published. There is not a right or wrong way. It is what is best for you. Today, a lot of writers are putting their books up as e-books. And some publishing houses do not require an agent to submit. If you want to sell to a bigger publishing house and see your book in print, not just as e-books, I recommend you try to find an agent before trying to do it on your own. But if you try for a while and don’t snag an agent’s interest, trying to do it on your own may be what’s right for you.

Can’t I just send my book to a publishing house?

This depends on the publishing house’s guidelines. You can usually find those guidelines online at the publisher’s website. Some want the first few pages of the book, some just want a one-page query letter telling them a bit about the book and a little about you. They will also state if they accept unagented queries. Or they may state that they do not accept unsolicited manuscripts. That mean you need to query them.

What should I know before sending my book out to an agent or publisher?

Like I earlier stated, make sure your book is the best it can be before submitting. You should also know what the guidelines are for sending or querying that agent or editor. Like the publishing houses, agents have websites and tell you how and what to send them. Follow their guidelines or you risk them not reading your work.

Know what you write and what type of books the publishers/agents represent or buy. Some agents do not represent certain types of books. Some editors/publishing houses only publish certain types of books. They will also tell you the length of the books. If they say they only accept paranormal romance of approximately 85,000 words, you wouldn’t send them a 10,000 word story or any story that wasn’t a paranormal romance.

When should I give up writing and my dream of becoming published?

You should only give up when you no longer want or dream of becoming a published writer. I love writing, but I still have some bad days when it feels more like a job than a passion. Writing can be hard. But quitting writing was never an option for me. So when everything inside of you says you are supposed to write, then write and never, ever give up on that dream. I didn’t. And while it took me a long time to get where I am, every year, every month, week, day, hour and second was worth the journey to get where I am.

Good luck to everyone. May your make your dreams come true.

And for today’s blog why don’t you practice writing a pitch for your book. I’m talking about no more than three sentences. I.e. My story is about a girl who has spent sixteen years trying to figure out who she is, only to discover she doesn’t know what she is. Sent to a paranormal camp, she learns that even the other supernaturals are clueless to her type of supernatural. Can she find her answers before everything in her world goes crazy?

I’m not going to be critiquing them, but I think everyone would enjoy hearing about what you are interested in writing and this is a good practice for your queries.

Winners!!!

Last week’s winner of the Shadow Falls bag of swag is Gabrielle Sanders. The winners of the copies of Whispers at Moonrise are Gelske (The Netherlands), Stephany Regina (Brazil), Elizabeth Tardecilla and Olive. Please email your mailing addresses to cc@cchunterbooks.com. Congratulations!

39 thoughts on “Let’s Talk Writing

  1. Thanks for the book, I loved your post.
    I’ve a question, how do you pick the characters names? I really have a problem with it.

    • Hey Stephany,

      Don’t know if CC has gotten around to answer your question. If not, perhaps I can help…

      Some authors go to baby name websites (that’s something I do), some will go and get baby name books. Others will just go with a name that sounds cool or fits the character’s personality somehow.

      I’m one of those authors who also likes to know the meaning of a name…especially if it is relevant to my character’s personality and/or journey.

      Hope this helps! Best wishes to you.

  2. Once again, C.C., blog post hit out of the park! 😀

    Everything C.C. says in this post is right on the money. This isn’t a business for people who easily give up on things. You have to be willing to keep going, even when it’s tough. Joining a writers’ group helps A LOT.

    In response to Stephany Regina’s question: For myself, I sometimes will look on baby name sites to find out a name and what it means. Some authors get baby name books from the local bookstore (or order them) that way they can see a name, find out what it means and decide if it works for their story. A lot of writers like to use names that have a particular meaning, and some just find a name they like and use it. I do a little of both. (I don’t know how C.C. chose the names for her characters, I just know what some authors do). Good question, though, Stephany! Best wishes.

    And best wishes to all authors and aspiring authors out there! 🙂

  3. hi C.C. Hunter,
    i was sooo proud of myself when i completed NaNoWriMo i celebrated but it was after i wrote that book that i discovered my love of writing. I read constantly and have a ton of new ideas (i am currently working on a story right now) so i hope one of my books becomes as successful as yours! thanks for the tips they really helped! 🙂
    Sadie

  4. i really liked how you told us everything about writing and was pretty honest. I wanted to ask you if you were ever going to put another thing where derek and lucas answer questions?

  5. I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but I’ve just never got around to writing the stories within me. I’m hoping to see my stories appear in print someday too. 🙂

    Here is a rough pitch about my book (I’ve never done this before).

    As if losing her brother to the cold hands of death and having a soul-mate who’s also her enemy isn’t enough to turn her world inside out, Syphra finds out that she has a dark legacy. The Slayer guilds -Demon, Faery, Angel, Spirit (etc..) – have threatened to wage war with one another, when their totems go missing. Syphra, along with the other chosen Slayers, must unite and rise to defeat the dark prophecy and fulfill their role in the War of Ages.

    I’m still working on the story. Wish me luck! 🙂

    Thanks C.C. Hunter, for the advice and support!

  6. My book, I`ll Remember You, is about a 16-year-old girl who moves to Louisiana after her dad dies. One there she starts being stalked by a deadly ghost. Sent on a quest that results in life or death with only her newly found boyfriend for comfort, she learns the true meaning of friendship and love.

  7. Everything is going well for Natika and her family until Hitler and his armies invade her home town and taker her and her family hostage. She is made a maid for Hitler’s favorite soldier after watching all of her friends and family brutally murdered in front of her. She doesn’t want to like Ashton, the soldier she works for, but sometimes there isn’t an option when it comes to love.

    Will someone please tell me what they think? I need a bit of help on starting this too. I know exactly where I want it to go, and how to get it there except for the begining. I need a good begining…

  8. I can’t tell you how much this post helped me! I was completely inspired! (It’s a shame I’m only on the library computers, I’d start editing the crap outta my two finished books) I was extremely energized when I read this and I can’t tell you how much I love writing and how I strive to get to where you are today. I And one question I have is how do you come up with titles that captivate readers? How do you really get their attention? Thanks a bunch Mrs. Hunter! You rock!!!!!! XDDD

  9. Born into a gladiator life he had no say in, and caught up in a political power-play he was not aware of, Lenno is thrown into hardship and exile and must learn fast what it takes to survive on his own, but not without forgetting his quest for revenge.

  10. My story is about an 24 year Lea who has lost her love of her life in the saddness of war. She meets Devin, an 25 drop-out, who is the oppisite of Samson, her lost love. Will Devin’s silliness, charm, and understanding of life lift Lea’s spirit?

  11. thank you CC Hunter for your post. it is really interesting. i loved it how you are so honest, i am pretty sure it took you a long time to write it. i am grateful that you take your time to answer our questions so thoughtfully.
    can you please do that short story with a point of view of Derek and Lucus, if you want
    i really love your work

    zara

  12. Wow, this is amazing!
    I’ve found myself in those corners, not knowing what to write!
    Thank you CC for posting this. It helped a lot!
    Yet, i still dont know what i want to write :'(
    Ill be sure to sit down and stay put till i get an idea 😀

  13. How do you come up with these stories there detail and make the reader just want to go on and on how do come up what happens next in a book?

  14. Jade was the normal girl in school. She didn’t have the nicest clothes or the best home life. The only thing she had that every girl in school wanted was Brendan. Then she meets Jason. Soon she discovers the truth of her heritage and of Brendans true intentions. With the fate of the world resting on her shoulders and her heart being torn between Brendan and Jason what will she do? Where will she turn? Who will she trust?

    And thanks for the advice C.C!!!

  15. I just started this last week at the beginning of break but here it goes:
    Olivia McCain is your average junior, pretty, popular, athletic and has her pick of the boys but the one thing most of the town doesn’t know is that she’s an elementalist. Olivia and her family descends from an ancient line of Scottish witches who get their powers from the forces of nature, and Olivia’s mother is the head of the Ignis clan whose magic is devoted to fire. As kids from each clan disappear under mysterious circumstances Olivia must band together with the children of the other clan leaders and embrace her destiny or risk the fate of both her world and that of the mortals.

  16. My Pitch:

    One woman, two men. One man will kill her for the power she possesses to resurrect his true love. The other is willing to die to protect her, if his blood obsession doesn’t kill her first. Can she overcome her tragic past, embrace her heritage, and save a secret country that’s counting on her?

    • Thank you so much for this post, CC. I am very easily discouraged, so it’s good to know that the rejections happen frequently so that I do not give up on my dream. I have been plotting my “Book Baby” for several years now and I am at the point that the characters are taking over my brain! It’s like they are real people wanting out of my head so they can live their lives. 😀 I am very excited to have the opportunity to write full-time now and hope to have a completed, revised novel before the end of the year.

  17. I am working on a story at the moment and your tips have given me some great ideas. My book is about this girl Amiliea and she has a hidden past that she is just finding out about she is trying to live a normal life with an over protective mother, a life long friend and obsessed kid with a crush. In her new life she has a friend Isabel who is also her mentor she is trying to live two lives with out them colliding but little does she know that her oldest friend is aiding her greatest enemy.

  18. This was just a quick spur of the moment brainstorm and ill see where it leads later. hope you all enjoy!
    ” looking into her family history, kayla noticed that each generation of her family has an odd pattern of missing persons cases have tallied up. Kayla, being the only female child of her generation( along with a boy cousin bowe), is smart enough to be fearful and see that this may mean the same fate for her as well. Where have her missing family members ended up and how can Kayla stop this tradition?when everyone in her life could be a possible kidnapper who Can Kayla trust and where can she go to find answers to save herself or her cousin from joining the cold case files of her family tree?”

  19. Hi sometimes I feel like giving up because i know people can do way better then I can. Then i look at my boyfriend and I’m like yes i can. So then I text C.C. Hunter and she gives me her website and things feel so much better. Easier. My friend told me I was the worse writer. I was to stupid to even understand a simple book. The scarlets letter. Which wasn’t. broke my heart for a while. Come to find out she hates fictional stories and reading this made all my bad thoughts go away. I saw this again. I love you and thank you. You are my Idol.
    This is mine. LOL it’s like super long:
    Gara released Roué and lunged at me, trying to jab at my jugular…. I woke up with this terrifying feeling of being held down after just waking up. I couldn’t move or scream, I had this hunch that someone or something was in the room. It was one of the most horrifying experiences in my life, I know I’m awake but couldn’t believe what appears to be happening to me. It was triggering the emotional centers of my brain and strengthening this lucid nightmare. I immediately started clenching and unclenching my fist, relieving the pressure I was under. My breathing wasn’t as paralyzed like the muscles in my arms, chest and legs. I was suffering, forgetting to breathe while I was under attack. Coughing my way into wakefulness, I jar myself awake.
    “Am I going crazy?”
    To know that Grumbled can never be with someone he’s dreamt about for years, his obsession has gone to far. Friends turn on friends. Lies becomes their only survival guide. Nobody knows where their journey ends

    • It sounds like your friend isn’t much of a friend to you. Tiara. Talk with your English teacher or librarian at school about your writing goals. They should be able to give you constructive criticism.

  20. I have several story ideas, they all seem brilliant to me and my friends seem to approve. I can never think of titles for them which I guess is a massive downfall to getting them published. This is just one of the ideas that I have:

    What do you do when you fall in love with who you’re meant to hate? Laurie Connors is an angel, her people have fought against demons for centuries. But when she meets Zak Henshaw she begins to see her foes in a completely new light.
    Now Laurie must decide between a life with the guy she loves more than life itself and the life she was born to live, where she must kill him.

    Please can someone give me their opinion
    Thanks,
    Jess

    • i think you idea was really good. i would by your book the minute it would be in the stores. keep writting and i wish you the best of luck! 🙂

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