Hard truths about writing and eggplant.

imageimageLet me just say the hard part first. If you want to be in the writing business, you’d better know that you’re going to fail. A lot. Take in the following two points, but be sure to read to the end. The bitter comes before the sweet!

1. If you want to be a writer, you’re going to feel rejection. Looking for an agent? You’ll no doubt query a ton of them before you get a nibble. I probably sent out a dozen agent queries a week for a while. I got some nibbles, but mostly just the form letters. Dear BLANK, Thank you for your interest in Skippy Doo Agency. Don’t take it personally, but we are not interested in representing you at the present time. Truth is, I published three books with Heartsong Presents before I even acquired an agent! Same is true with project proposals. You’re going to mail out a bushel of those babies and most will come back stamped “Thanks, but no thanks.”  I used to keep a binder to track my status and for many years the rejection section was bigger than all my published works stacked up!

2. If you want to be a writer, you’re going to experience criticism. It’s the nature of what we do. We write things, craft the very best product possible and send it out into the world. Some people are going to love it, and others are going to cut you to ribbons. Publicly. On Amazon and their blogs. And Twitter. It’s just the way of the world because consumers are very empowered by technology to share their thoughts. ALL of them.

Discouraged? Here’s the sweet part. Writing is like eggplant. Some people love it, and some can’t abide the veggie. Your book or article will find its way to the people who love it and need to hear it. Those are the people you write for, those eggplant lovers who need to hear what you have to say. You’re going to bless them, but you have to endure some rejection and criticism to do that.  It takes courage and commitment, but all good things do, don’t they?

What things in your life have required courage and commitment? Would love to hear your thoughts! Giving away a Starbuck’s card and two books at the end of the month!

Reviews…good, bad and excruciating!

imageAh reviews. We authors live and die by them. A five star review on Amazon? Woo hoo! That link is going to be posted everywhere in my cyber world. A measly THREE stars from Romantic Times? Grrrr. That’s not even going to make my web page. Glowing reviews or horrible ones, the truth is usually somewhere in the middle. While I’d love to believe that I am the amazing author I imagine myself to be, in reality I’m just a hard working gal who’s trying to get a bit better with each book. The same is true of the horrifying reviews (“Mentink should never be allowed within spitting distance of a keyboard again!”) If the review is a personal attack, I’m going to discount the vitriol, but generally there’s a kernel of something in there which is the truth. Characters a little flat? Ouch, but I’m going to remember that when I dive into my next novel and try to improve. I’m not going to tell you it doesn’t hurt. I can read ten five star reviews, but the one that’s going to stick with me is the one suggesting that my dog could have penned a better novel. Reviews come with the territory and nine times out of ten there’s something to be learned from them (even the bad ones!) Below I’ve posted links to two of my reviews (one good and one not so good) so you can see what I mean. The second is from a reviewer who felt that I focused too much on plot to the detriment of the romance. It hurt to hear it, but it made me want to improve in that area.

http://www.amazon.com/review/R390OLQXCEUCB7/ref=cm_cr_pr_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B00I66BRFC

http://romancing-the-book.com/2014/03/review-force-of-nature-by-dana-mentink.htm

Do you recieve criticism in your work or personal life? How do you handle it? Giving away a Dana Mentink and Alison Stone book this month and a Starbuck’s gift card. Appreciate your comments!

 

 

 

 

 

Series or standalones, pros and cons

I started my writing career as a greenhorn with a three book mystery series set in the tiny fictional town of Finny. I guess you could say, therefore, that I cut my teeth on series writing. However, when that series wrapped I signed on with Harlequin’s Love Inspired Suspense and I spent a good bit of time writing single books before I once again switched to series. So which is better? In this writer’s humble opinion, there are advantages and challenges to both.

With stand alone books, you can get in there and write a book with all manner of murder and mayhem, because the characters and setting will not have to carry on through another book. Ah the freedom! Characters can be discarded at will. Frankly, it’s easier to write a stand-alone because you have fewer details to keep track of over time. The disadvantage? Your reader may not be as invested in buying your next book. Stand-alones do not provide that built in sense of urgency about what happens next.

The series, by contrast, is a whole lot more complicated. Characters must be placed carefully in the narrative who may not have the spotlight focused on them until a few more books have come and gone. Still, they need to be set into place (and they can’t be cardboard placeholders either) until it’s their turn to shine. All of their pertinent details from eye color to family history must be recorded to ensure the facts remain consistent over the course of the series. Same with the setting, if the entire series takes place in one location. That coffee shop on the corner of Cream and Sugar had better be in the same location in book two, unless you’ve explained the change. Publishers appreciate series book because if readers enjoy the first one, they’re primed to come back for the rest which makes everyone’s marketing job a bit easier.

So what about you? Do you enjoy stand-alone novels or series? Got any favorites you’d care to share?  Giving away a Starbuck’s card and two books this month.

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I’m a professional writer…have you seen my socks?

 

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I recently read a swell interview from a multi-published romance writer. She shared her writing routine which involves entering her office (complete with walls and a door) and exiting only for lunch and at 6 p.m., the end of her day. Such is the life of a professional writer…but it’s not my life, to be sure, and right now, I wouldn’t want it to be.

First, my “office” is plopped in the middle of the living room between the box turtle and a treadmill. It doesn’t have walls, except in my imagination (kind of like Les Nessman from WKRP if you remember him.) It’s a laptop, some file drawers and a bazillion sticky notes.

Second, I’ve got two teenage daughters so my “uninterrupted” writing time is often bisected by questions like, “Mom, have you seen my socks?” or trips to the craft store for poster board, or vet visits for sick parakeets or church related meetings or fitness walks with my husband.

So how do I get three books written a year? I get up extremely early and I do it every day (except Sundays.) I work in fits and starts, between the needs of my children, my husband, my church and everything else. Is it the best way for a “professional writer” to use their time? Probably not, but at this point in my life it’s the only way I can manage.

Soon enough my children will be grown, and they won’t need me to find their socks and shuttle them around, but at the moment, I will cheerfully  sacrifice my efficiency. There will be time later when my house is sadly quiet and I will be able write for hours at a stretch, but for now, fits and starts will do.

How do you handle interruptions? What things do you struggle to balance in your daily life? Giving away a Starbuck’s card and TWO signed books this month!

Why fictionalize a setting?

 

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So you’re sitting there at your keyboard, ready to start that quirky comic romance series that’s going to zoom right to the top of the bestseller chart. It’s going to take place in a seaside town on the California coast. Excellent! Now comes the big decision…are you going to set your story in a real town, like the charming Half Moon Bay or Pescadero? Or will you make up a fictional setting, perhaps modeled from a real town? This is exactly what I asked myself as I sat down to hammer out Return To Pelican Inn. My answer? I set the story in a fictional town called Tumbledown, loosely modeled after Half Moon Bay. Come to think of it, I’ve never, to date, set a story in a real town. Why? Here are my top three reasons.

1. Real towns are more boring than those I can come up with in my mind. I live in a city of 80,000 people and it’s lovely, but do we have sand castle contests and establishments like the Brew Unto Others Coffee shop? Nothing nearly that darling. We’ve got Safeways and Chevrons.

2.  People don’t like to know there are murderers in their towns. I write a lot of romantic suspense and sadly, there’s usually a REAL bad guy lurking around somewhere. Best not to set these kinds of villiains in a real town. It makes the residents feel a touch peeved at times.

3.  A fictional setting is clay under my fingers. Need a nice beach for my characters to take in the boat festival? No problem. Want to add a lovely old inn that overlooks the sea with nary a parking lot to mess up the view? Easy! Fictionalizing a setting gives me delusions of grandeur, allowing me to make the world exactly as I want it to be!

Do you like real life settings or fictional ones? Can you think of any that stand out for you? Giving away TWO books this month (including one written by the fabulous Alison Stone) and a Starbuck’s gift card.

 

 

 

 

Authors collaborating…magic or mayhem?

Collaboration is a good thing…unless it’s not. Authors feel pressure to produce books quickly, and to widen their platforms (the number of people with whom they have contact.) A possible solution? Working together with another author. This is an odd concept for a profession that typically does its thing in lonely, dark rooms with only cold cups of coffee for company.

Actually, though, it’s been done for a while now. Some examples?

Neil Gaiman and Terry Prachett

Stephen King and Peter Straub.

Anne McCaffrey and Mercedes Lackey.

Of course, the hugely prolific James Patterson collaborates with many other writers and, to my surprise, I learned that the Ellery Queen mysteries were written by cousins Daniel Nathan and Manford Lepofsky.

I’ve considered collaborating on writing projects, too. My biggest obstacle? Uh, er, I like to have it my way, when it comes to writing. I get a little possessive and snippy about how I think the story should go. Sigh. I guess it’s best for me to stick to my solitary cave, for the time being.

What about you? Do you work best alone or with another? Did you ever collaborate on a project? How did it turn out? Speaking of collaboration… we’re giving away a DOUBLE PRIZE this month….a two book set of Love Inspired Suspense novels featuring myself and the lovely Alison Stone) and a Starbuck’s gift card this month! All comments get you entered to win!

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And the June winner is….

Way to go Valri! You won the book and Amazon gift card! Message me with your address and which book you’d like (you can look on my website at http://www.danamentink.com for a list) and I’ll send along your prize! New contest later this week! prize

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