Writing with chronic pain part III

A continuation of Writing with chronic pain II

It takes a miracle sometimes to make things happen. And, if you don’t believe in miracles, do you believe in science? How about an amazing doctor?

For years, I lived in a chronic hell, scorching every nerve and muscle in my upper back, shoulder, and neck. My body was a prison of pain. No ‘expert’ from Stavanger’s public hospital or private hospitals by my health insurance company could help me. When they couldn’t help me, they tossed me around to someone else, or they told me that my pain was not real. That was the past.

Today, I am recovering nicely, thanks to a gifted surgeon named Doctor Nils Åke Nystrøm. I am lost for words, except for one⁠—gratitude. Dr. Nystrøm is a medical expert and a professor with years of knowledge and experience desperately needed in the medical world.

About my illness

Entrapment of the spinal accessory nerve and/or chronic compartment syndrome of the trapezius muscle may cause chronic pain. In my case, surgical treatment was necessary to provide permanent relief.

Here’s a study about the illness.

In other words, Dr. Nystrøm has given me back my life. He has liberated me from an illness with symptoms including:

  • Horrendous headaches that lasted for days.
  • Terrible radiating pain and stiffness in the neck and shoulder, down to my shoulder blade.
  • Numbness in the left arm and fingers.
  • Sleep deprivation.
  • Cognitive dysfunction.
  • Muscle weakness.
After the surgery.

I am so grateful to the team at Clinique Bellevue for being so supportive from start to finish. Everything went smoothly and I promised to send paperbacks of my next book when it is published and available.

And, thank you to my new friend, Karina. She is a brave woman and a strong soul whose story I initially found in the newspaper Stavanger Afterblad. It pivoted me to see I was not alone and motivated me to pursue my search for Dr. Nystrøm.

You can read Karina’s story in Norwegian and English here.

Patient Karina Illès, pictured above on the operating table under the care of Doctor Nystrøm. Photo courtesy: Kristian Jacobsen

Karina’s voice has empowered many patients. I write about empowered women in my books, so meeting this incredibly courageous woman was an honor.

Getting my life back

Life after the surgery.

My life is a healthier one incorporating light yoga, meditation, and walking. I started gentle swimming in a warm therapy pool yesterday as part of my rehabilitation. My lower back is another issue I have from the car accident I was in years ago, but my upper back is on the good path to recovery.

Readers can expect new books from me in the future. I can continue projects for both my publishers. Plus, I have other planned projects, all about women’s empowerment.

The surgeon who saved my life, Doctor Nystrøm, is a good man with a kind heart who gave me hope.

My children have a mother again. My husband, Geir, has a wife again.

Thank you, Doctor Nystrøm. Thank you, Bellevue Clinic. Thank you, Karina.

Image source: Pixabay.com

More on my (now healed!) condition: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2864276/

This is part III of my ‘Writing with chronic pain’ series:

  • Part II (warning, images of my car accident and later, a burned back as a result of advice given by my local public hospital, may be disturbing to some)

Writing with chronic pain part II

A continuation of Writing with chronic pain

It’s been a year since I wrote about being an author with chronic pain, and life brought more challenges, and hope.

Warning: some of the photos in this article can be disturbing. Please do not go further if you’re sensitive about photos of physical injuries or vehicle accidents.

Chronic pain hell

Has my health gotten better? No, but there is hope.

Life before my body hell. I had so much energy and everything going for me – a career, travel, family.

Did I have to let go of a wonderful career? Yes. There was no way I could work with the incredible pain I endured.

Have health practitioners (neurologists, neurosurgeons, orthopedic surgeons, chiropractors, physiotherapists, etc etc) tested me like a guinea pig?

Yes.

The work of top hospital healthcare workers.

I’ve been given a shitload of useless treatments by experts who believed they were gods. When the pain didn’t show in the MRI scan results, they told me that my body should not be experiencing pain and that it was in my head. There were at least two health practitioners whose patience wore thin, insinuating that this ‘pain in my imagination’ was my fault.

I went to two psychologists to explore the theory of pain being part of my imagination. The first one believed the pain was real and there was not much he could do to help me, except my anxiety of coping with pain, and also to shut the noise out – the noise of the world around me that was doing more harm than good.

The second psychologist spent a few sessions asking me all sorts of questions and she believed my pain was not ‘in my head’. I was encouraged to seek the truth – ah, medicine sounds like religion, doesn’t it?

Thank God, I have the determination to find out the truth, despite the lack of energy and weakness my body was experiencing, in addition to the pain.

I started to develop doubt on ongoing practices that had little or no effect, or worse. I wondered if I was being treated or assessed for the wrong thing. What if there was a different prognosis that the health experts had missed?

I needed to know more. Were there others who suffered like me? Or, was I alone, and had I gone stir-crazy mad?

I wanted to know the truth about my pain.

So, I studied and searched for an answer.

Nerve injury

I recently tapped into an area about chronic whiplash and the long-lasting effects that could be devastating. I was in a car accident years ago, and lucky to have survived it as the vehicle was a total wreck. The headaches, neck pain, etc, mirrored the patients’ symptoms. I did have surgery to remove a broken cervical disc a few years ago, so that may also have been something correlated to the accident from long before.

Never again! I’m alive to tell the story.

I read studies on the type of pain I suffered, and what was being done in the USA and other parts of the world. I spoke with a leading local chiropractor and took the discussion further with my GP, and then my physiotherapist. They explained the anatomy and the symptoms I showed, and two of the three mentioned at one point a Swedish surgeon who has helped patients in my shoes.

My appointments became more like Q&A lectures where I asked a lot of questions and took notes while the people I trusted passed down their knowledge. I found an article about how a Swedish surgeon had saved the lives of thousands of patients whose symptoms mirrored mine – he had taken away their pain hell and gave them back their lives. I wondered if this was the same surgeon my GP and chiropractor referred to.

I discovered articles about patients who had the same debilitating illness as me, and they described how the surgery had changed their lives for the best. The operation was performed by the same surgeon, and eventually, I found more journal articles on the topic of the type of chronic pain I endure.

So, I was not alone. And there was hope.

At first, I thought the surgeon was in the United States, and it all seemed all out of reach for me, being in Norway. Then, I stumbled across one of the clinics in the city I’m in, and lo and behold, it turns out he visits the clinic.

I brought this up with my GP, who wrote a darn good referral letter to the clinic. This surgeon – I could love to mention his name to give him credit but I need to ask permission first – is not only highly sought after by patients needing help, but he is a professor, a teacher, and one of Scandinavia’s most elite surgeons – a unicorn in his field with valuable knowledge to pass to medical practitioners on the area of chronic nerve pain.

Light at the end of the tunnel

Fast-forward to about a month later, and after meeting with my surgeon and undergoing testing and examination, I am in the category of patients who would most likely benefit from surgery. There is a good chance I will have a normal life again.

Now, I’m waiting for the date I go into the operating theatre.

While I wait for my surgery date, I still write when I can, and though it hurts to sit, I have an ergonomic desk that allows me to stand while writing. Linked to the pain, cognitive issues are affecting me but I soldier on. Right now I’m an author with a broken wing waiting to fly again.

Like I said before, all good things take time and I believe there will be better days ahead.

More on my condition: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2864276/

Author interview: Eileen Troemel, USA Today Bestseller

Wayfarer series banner

Eileen Troemel, USA Today Bestselling Author
USA Today Bestselling Author Eileen Troemel.

I’m thrilled to welcome Eileen Troemel, a USA Today Bestseller author of action-packed and emotionally powerful fantasy, sci-fi, and romance. Eileen’s diverse books – such as Through Destiny’s Eyes and Paranormal Investigators – reveal her versatility in writing various genres.

Congratulations on becoming a USA Today Bestseller. How did you feel when you found out?

It was stunning, exciting, and surprising!  It was a day when everyone in the anthology was watching and hoping.  There was a lot of excitement.  I got it and did a little happy dance.  I texted my out-of-state daughters and let my daughter and husband know.  I texted all my sisters and I think my nieces and nephews. 

What 3 key tips do you recommend for readers looking for a good book?

Don’t look solely at the cover or the blurb – the quality of these is based on the thickness of an author’s wallet. 

Read a sample – if you have the ability to get into the book and can read a page or two that should tell you whether you will like the writing style of the author.

Try to overlook punctuation and simple grammar errors.  I know every author should make the best book they can but some authors tell a good story – they just don’t know all the comma rules or similar grammar rules.

What books do you enjoy reading?

I like the classics.  I’ve not read nearly enough of them.  EE Cummings is one of my favorites.  But I also LOVE dragon books – whether it’s a dragon shifter or a dragon.  You can usually get me to open the cover.  Thea Harrison – I love her books and wish I had more time to read more of them.  JD Robb – her in death series I’m usually right on top of them when they come out. 

I love science fiction and fantasy. I also like a good western.  Louis Lamour is amazing.  I like Shakespeare and I’ve read the Iliad and Odyssey a number of times.  I’m kinda all over the place. 

Is there a book you read that made a change in your life? How did it change you?

Life Magic by Susan Bowes  For most of my life, I considered myself an agnostic.  When I read this book I found my path for spiritualism.  The power in her words resonated deep inside me.   

When did you start writing novels and who/what motivated you to write?

In my late 30s, I found myself very dissatisfied with myself.  I’d had my kids, was married, and loved all of them but was very unhappy.  I hadn’t seriously written much since my late teens so I went back to writing.  I started with poetry, short stories, novel starts, and flash fiction. 

But I always knew I wanted to write books.  I think that started in grade school when I was given an assignment of writing a short story.  It was the first time I realized you could tell stories and have them published.  I was 8 but it took me a long time to get to a place where I was writing seriously. 

I was 50 when I published my first 8 books.  Poetry, self-help, romance, fantasy… all in my first year of self-publishing after years of attempting to be published traditionally. 

Books by USA Today bestseller Eileen Troemel
Books by USA Today bestseller Eileen Troemel.

Were there any major changes in your writing career? Highs and lows?

I don’t know about drastic highs and lows.  I tell my stories. I know that I’ve had weeks where I seem to get dumped on – comments from other authors, bad reviews, or even bad rejection letters… one in a week isn’t bad but when you get a bunch of them, it can be overwhelming. 

I’ve said more than once – maybe I should stop.  Then I don’t write for a couple of days (sometimes only hours) and I am reminded why I’m writing. 

I want to tell these stories that are in my head.  I remind myself no one has to like them.  I’d love for everyone to love them but the reality is not everyone will.  It’s okay for readers to not like my stuff.  I just have to keep trying to craft that better story.

What was your first published story and what is it about?

Secret Past.  It was my first novel I published.  I tried for years to get it published through a variety of different publishers.  I had interest from them but not a lot of follow-throughs.  It took me ten years to write so I was invested in the story and hadn’t learned a lot.  I’m not giving you a link – this book is in my pile to get an updated edit and new cover.  I love the story but I see too many flaws in it now. 

Secret Past is a contemporary romance thriller.  Dee has a past – one she’s not willing to talk about.  Nick is an ex-Navy Seal turned private detective.  He wants to know everything about her.  The more she says no, the more he needs to know.  His need to know causes her past to catch up with her in the worst way.  Rather than let her disappear from his life Nick opts in for whatever she needs to feel safe.  Dee wants the house, kids, and white picket fence but with her past doesn’t think she’ll get it. 

I think it’s a solid story.  It’s been seven years since I published it.  It needs a stronger edit to make it a better book. 

What advice do you have to new authors?

Lots… lots and lots…

I think first and foremost – write the story.  Write it your way, in whatever order works for you, in whatever manner works for you.  Get the story told.  Everything can be fixed in editing.  So just get it entered in the computer or written. 

There are four areas you almost need to be an expert in if you’re going to be a self-published author – Writing, Editing, Graphics, and Marketing.  If you aren’t an expert, then pay someone to do the job for you. 

Do not ever complain about the readers or the reviews you get.  One if you’ve got readers – YEAH!!!  Two if you managed to get them to write a review – thank them for their time.  Most books are not 5-star reviews.  Most books range from 2 to 4 stars. 

How do you get over writer’s block?

I don’t get writer’s block.  I have pauses in my stories.  I have pauses in my writing process.  In general, I don’t get writer’s block.  If one set of characters isn’t talking to me another set will.  I often have two to four manuscripts going at once. 

The one time I stopped writing was around my mother’s death.  As executor of her estate, I balanced the grief, the tasks to do with her funeral, the tasks to deal with her estate, and then family.  I stopped writing for almost a year.  It was bad for my mental health.  When I started back up again, I realized the lack of writing caused a lot of negativity in my life.  It wasn’t easy to start up again.  I didn’t like anything but… I started in and just wrote. 

How do you handle criticism, from beta-reading to after your story is published?

Whether it comes from a beta reader or a book review doesn’t matter.  I try to take in what they have to say, analyze whether it’s valid or not and then use it to make the book better.  It depends on what they are saying. 

That’s my grown-up response to it.  Sometimes when I get a negative review it throws me into a funk.  I really don’t expect 5-star reviews but at the same time, there’s the creative person inside me that’s going – What?  Wait?  I put my heart and soul into this… and well it goes from there. 

But then I put on my business person’s hat and analyze.  Is there something I can do without (if it’s published) drastically changing the story?  Is there something I can put in the blurb that will make people realize it’s “that” rather than having different expectations? 

Ultimately I attempt to turn the critique into something I can use to make my books better.

Have you ever dealt with rejection and how did you handle it?

I tried to get published for more than ten years.  I used to keep a file of rejection letters – yes actual letters.  I can’t tell you how many submission packets I’ve sent or how many rejections I’ve gotten.  I stopped counting. 

At first, it was all HOPE as soon as it was sent and then nerves about waiting anywhere from 3 to 6 months to get an answer.  Then a letter (or email) would come and dash my HOPE away.  Eventually, I just figured I’d get rejections.

I’ve gotten mean rejections – one said I shouldn’t write again.  That was for my poetry.  They did not like it apparently. 

If I actually got something more than a – thanks but no thanks – from them, I tried to use it to improve my books. 

What is the nicest thing anyone has said about your work?

One of my readers who had just finished reading my Wayfarer series told me she couldn’t put it down from the prequel to the eighteenth book.  That was wonderful to hear but then she took it over the top by telling me, even though she just finished the series, she wanted to go back and read it again.  I was over the moon with that. 

She recently told me she was in a book funk and nothing appealed.  She said she was looking for another Adara / Decker match and series but not finding it.  So she was going to read the series again to see if she could get rid of the funk. 

What is the one key takeaway advice you would give to anyone who wants to become a published author?

Being a published author is just getting started when you’ve finished the book.  There’s the production of the book and then there’s marketing the book.  So don’t throw something together willy nilly and expect to be a millionaire author.  It takes time and work.

What do you do when you’re not writing? (hobbies, e.g. crochet? )

Yes, though writing can become all-consuming, I do several other things.  I like to paint, craft and crochet.  In fact, I publish my own crochet patterns.  I also read when I get the chance.  Researching family history is another of my hobbies. 

Is there a particular book you would like to feature? 

The Moon Crossing which I co-wrote with Jan Selbourne. 

Eileen, thank you so much for your time and the great insight you have given both readers and writers. Eileen has shared a blurb and excerpt of The Moon Crossing, which she authored with another amazing author Jan Selbourne.

>> The novel is available on Amazon.

The Moon Crossing by Eileen Troemel and Jan Selbourne.

The Moon Crossing

Blurb

USA Today Bestselling Author Eileen Troemel and 2019 winner of Coffee Pot Book Club Book of the year silver medal for Historical Fiction Jan Selbourne present an alternate history, sweet romance of life after the Moon Landing in 1969.

In 2030, World Correction Center – the Earth’s most secure prison – is a miserable place to land. Since it’s on the moon, it’s inescapable. It contains the worst criminals Earth has ever seen. So why are the brilliant minds across the globe being sent to this black hole of the justice system?

When world-renowned archeologist Micky Cooper is charged with embezzling, his sister Susan knows it’s a set up. It’s up to her to prove his innocence. Susan thinks she might be paranoid but she swears she’s being followed and should she trust the nice man whose cousin has disappeared as well? Was it just a chance meeting or is he against her too?

Teaming up with Greg Tanner, a man equally resolved to prove the innocence of his cousin, Samantha Tanner – a world leading linguist. Susan and Greg seek clues wherever they can find them but they’re barely keeping one step ahead of those who want them to stop.

They begin to unravel the web of lies, fraud and cover up. Just when they start to put the pieces together, Susan and Greg are forced to run for their lives. With a nudge from Samantha, they find someone to help. Is this woman an ally? Or simply part of a greater conspiracy to hide the truth? What exactly is on the moon and why are the Earth’s greatest minds being sent there to serve time?

Excerpt

Finally at the front, she saw the little line on the sidewalk. The signs said no matter what, stay behind the line. Why? Did they think her powerful enough to break through a steel cage and bullet proof window? She forced a smile on her face as she fought her own rebellious nature. Putting her toes on the line, she raised her eyes to meet those of the officer.

The officer behind the window glanced her way. She flashed a sweet almost innocent smile to charm him. He paused momentarily, “State the name of the prisoner.”

“Micky… Michael James Cooper,” Susan heard the whir of the computer through the thick walls as the officer typed in her brother’s name. Biting her lip, she waited.

The officer stared at the screen, an eerie green reflection on his face. He glanced at her, frowned, and glanced back to his screen. “He’s not assigned,” the officer said.

“Can you tell me when he will be assigned,” Susan asked stepping closer to the window. She stepped over the line, but no one burst out of the doors to drag her away.

With his Adam’s apple bobbing, the officer looked into her pretty blue eyes. He licked his lips as he took in her tight sweater and her curves. Pencil skirts highlighted her narrow waist and flat stomach. Susan saw the desire she endured from men since she got breasts at ten. Men. She tried to keep the disgust she felt hidden.

“He’s been assigned,” the officer said reluctantly shifting his eyes back to the screen. “There’s no backlog of prisoners. They either get a prison in the US, or they go off to WCC.”

“What’s WCC?”

“World Correctional Center,” he informed.

“Sergeant Brady,” she read off his name from the tag on his gray uniform, “I know you get a lot of flak from people all day long, I don’t want to cause trouble. I want to send my brother some food and other creature comforts.”

Sergeant Brady adjusted his belt as he stood behind the glass and metal counter. “Most likely they sent him to the moon,” he said. “Those designations always take longer to get in the system.”

“May I ask you a simple question,” Susan said putting on her ‘I’m a dumb girl act’.

“Anything I can do to help,” Officer Brady said, grinning when she gave him a half smile.

“I thought they only sent the worst criminals there,” she said leaning forward to give him a better view of her cleavage. “I know Son of Sam and Charles Manson were sent to the dark side of the moon. Why would they send my brother who… well he did something with the computer, and they said he stole money.”

“It’s all up to the International Department of Justice,” Officer Brady said leaning towards the glass. “They assign the prisoners to the prison.”

“You’re so kind,” Susan beamed at him. “Who can I contact…”

“You can’t and you are beyond the line,” snapped an officer behind Brady, who jumped to attention.

“Oh, forgive me,” Susan said stepping back. This man was not swayed by her helpless girl act. “Thank you for your assistance.”

Turning away from the head of the line, Susan felt a flush rush across her face. How dare they? The dark side of the moon. Why send her brother? They convicted him of embezzlement. Murders, mass murderers, traitors were all sent to the dark side of the moon.

About Eileen

USA Today Bestseller Author Eileen Troemel writes action packed and emotionally powerful fantasy, scifi, romance. She’s versatile and writes in many genres.  She’ll try almost any genre if it means she can tell a good story.  In addition to her writing, she loves to read, crochet, and research genealogy.  Her best days are spent with her family of three adult daughters and her husband or writing. 

Author links:

Website: https://eileentroemel.com/ 

Twitter https://twitter.com/EileenTroemel

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/EileenTroemelAuthor/ 

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/eileentroemel/

LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/eileen-troemel-6667825b/

MeWe https://mewe.com/i/eileentroemel

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7868345.Eileen_Troemel

The sensitive author

When I was little, I was a sensitive child. A very sensitive one.

If another student at school was feeling miserable, I was that kid who gave a piece of my chocolate to her, hoping to see her smile. That’s who I was then, and it’s who I am today.

My parents told me I was too sensitive. I know they were right, but it was hard when I was easily influenced by energies around me – positive, negative, people on highs and lows…I took it all in, and you know what? It affected me.

Image source: pixabay.com

Let’s go forward to today. I’ve learned to harness my sensitivity with time and experience.

Harnessing sensitivity

I block negative thoughts and feelings, putting up an ice barrier, kind of like the wall from Game of Thrones. Hey, it works brilliantly, which is why I thrived doing the crime and court rounds, which could be gruesome and disturbing when I wrote for newspapers.

Image source: pixabay.com

In situations when I am out of my comfort zone, I’m the quiet person who listens rather than talks, asking people questions, preferring to remain a little mysterious. It’s a technique called deflection.

Deflection means that you’re passing something over to someone else in an attempt to draw the attention away from yourself (cited in https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/psychologists/what-is-deflection-psychology-explains-this-defense-mechanism/).

However, I make sure my voice is heard when I want to speak up. That’s important.

Image source: giphy.com

Embracing sensitivity

Things are extremely intense when I see, feel, hear, smell, and taste things.

When I’m in the woods or at the beach staring at the ocean, everything around me is so rich. The rolling waves roar at me. The scent of the sea is like a smorgasbord of seafood delights (I love seafood). The wind blows viciously, sinking its icy teeth into my skin.

Image source: pixabay.com

This is great for me when I write my stories. Writing descriptively using the five senses and drawing on cultural references was always one of my strengths. A few friends call me a “sponge,” absorbing everything around me, including cultural references from the past and in the present.

Another advantage of being a sensitive writer is I get to know my characters quickly and in great depth. They become real, and I sense them wherever I am. I’ve learned that my protagonist Sapphire Blake, who is normally an introvert, becomes very open and chatty when she’s with her friend, Vera, from my novel Lessons on Seduction, published by Black Velvet Seductions. This is great for dialogue in the sequel, which I’m working on.

It’s too real at times, so I have to snap back and put that wall that blocks fantasy from seeping into reality.

Dealing with the cons

There is a downside to being sensitive. Sometimes it unleashes incredibly strong feelings, from fury, rage, and sadness to overwhelming joy, mirth, and other emotions when there’s a trigger. If you show me something funny, I can laugh for days.

Noise affects me – television noise, social media noise, and the noise of people talking loudly as I sit and write this blog article. That’s why I have a noise-canceling headset and listen to music that I enjoy.

Image source: pixabay.com

I’m sensitive to people’s energies. So much that I won’t hang out with someone I feel has a lot of negativity coming from them. We all have our issues, but we shouldn’t rain on other people’s parade is my take. In other words, I use my sensitivity to avoid negative people. I’ve learned that I cannot fix others – they need to fix themselves.

Now, I hate crowds. There’s way too much noise! Ironically, I end up in crowds a lot. I have my friends to thank. And, when you get me started, I can be extremely social, not being able to shut up.

Still, too much noise affects me, and that is why I end to shut off from the world to recharge my batteries.

Image source: pixabay.com

How about you?

Are you a sensitive writer? I’d love to hear about your experiences.

Image source: giphy.com

Editing your story: what you need to know

Tips on book editing

How do you edit your story before submitting your manuscript to a publisher? Do you use a professional editor? Or do you self-edit?

My recommendation, from personal experience, is to get another pair of eyes to look over your work.

I’m not talking about readers who leave comments or reviews in a writing community, but someone with professional publishing experience: an editor who has the right skills, qualifications, and experience in the editing and publishing world.

Also, find someone who specializes in your genre so they can spot things related directly to your book’s genre. For example, if you’re a romance writer, then get an editor with experience in the romance genre, rather than a nonfiction editor.

Here are the common excuses for not getting your story properly edited:

  1. I can’t afford a proper editor
  2. I’ve got good enough editing skills – after all, I topped my high school English class
  3. I’m terrified of having my story criticized and butchered to pieces

I’m hoping this article will help writers to consider how a more thorough editing process with the right editor will help boost the chances of a publisher saying “yes” to a manuscript. Of course, you need to take in other factors, for example, is the story potentially ‘hot’ in the market? Is it sellable? That’s why publishers have acquisitions editors.

A good editor can give your book the boost it needs.

1. I can’t afford a proper editor

My question to you is: have you looked hard enough? If you’re still telling me the same thing, then keep looking.

There are editors who are affordable and great to work with. Google is your friend. Ask around in writing groups, community forums, or social media book-related groups. Facebook has a plethora of groups where readers, writers, and editors unite to support each other.

Instagram and Twitter are other places where you can find editors and editing companies.

Writers’ associations also namedrop editors from time to time. There are different freelance websites too, so check these out. Pick your editors carefully; check that they have the right language skills that match the language of your manuscript. Try to find someone with industry experience (they’ve been around long enough to pass on their first-hand knowledge and experience).

There are different types of editors including developmental editors, structural editors, copy editors, and proofreaders. I won’t go into detail in this blog article, but you can read 6 Types of Editing on Reedsyblog to determine what editing suits your needs best.

2. I’ve got good enough editing skills

Avoid following this guy. Push away your pride and allow yourself to be humble during the editing process.

You scored top grades in your high school English class and got into a literature or journalism course. In fact, you work as a writer, editor, or communications professional in your day job. Heck, you’ve even got a Master’s degree.

You don’t need an editor, right? Why waste time and money when you can do it yourself? You’ve received enough comments, ratings, story “likes”, and other feedback from your writer’s group and community platforms for stories. Your story has been handpicked by the organizers of the community to be officially featured. Your readers tell you how much they love your story and how it made them cry, laugh, etc.

Sounds familiar?

Hmm, yeah. However, is our self-edited work good enough for publishers?

C’mon, let’s be serious. If self-editing has worked for you, then that is an achievement and I’m your cheerleader. I know someone who had his work traditionally published after years of self-editing, and I have a copy of his book on my bookshelf (I’ve read it twice and it’s really good). 🙂

However, many of us aren’t that lucky. The reality is that you may not be the best person to edit your work.

Let someone else be the second pair of eyes to give you sound advice and help you find the flaws in your story, may it be plot or character development, grammar and spelling errors, or even using a style guide that’s different from ones that the publishers use. There are some things good editors pick up that programs such as Grammarly don’t spot.

3. I’m terrified of having my story criticized and butchered to pieces

Sometimes book surgery is necessary to succeed.

Well, would you rather wait until you get butchered to pieces by reviewers on Amazon, Goodreads, or other places?

Editors are meant to help you progress, not hinder you. Trust your manuscript in the hands of good editors and you’ll thank them later.

Allow them to criticize and perform surgery on your manuscript. They may save your book’s life. No publisher wants a sloppy manuscript, nor do they want to see poorly developed characters or flimsy plots. If your story is filled with purple prose and overly long and boring descriptions, it’ll end up in file number thirteen (the trash).

I challenge you to find the toughest editor who might even scare you a little. From personal experience, I found the best editors were my toughest critics. They found flaws that I would never have spotted in a million years!

Can editing help boost your book’s rating?

Good advice from Harper Lee, author of To Kill A Mockingbird.

I can’t give a definite answer but I’d like to think that a nicely edited book improves its ratings and reviews. Getting your story properly edited might turn a three-star book into a four-star book, or a four-star book into a five-star book. In the world of social media, where emotions and jealousy are rife, there are plenty of trolls who, like loose cannons, may leave a one-star rating with no review. The four and five-star reviews may save your story from tanking on Amazon.

How do you aim to get good reviews? Make sure your story is a top-quality one.

In my case, I depend on readers I don’t personally know to leave reviews because my family and personal friends won’t buy or read my books.

They’re not being mean, believe me (I’m laughing here). I write erotic romances—my mother, sister, brother, and my best friends will not read something I’ve written along the lines of 365 Dni or Fifty Shades of Grey. They don’t want to think of explicit sex scenes with BDSM, kink, and ménage à trois when we catch up. My husband hasn’t read my stories, and he won’t read them either. He’s not interested in hunky gigolos or sexy cowboys.

Other useful articles

Writing with chronic pain

What’s it like being an author, parent, wife, and full-time worker?

Anyone who’s wearing these shoes can tell you that it’s just part of life and you keep at it. I’ve always been running on a high metabolism, so I enjoy juggling a couple of balls in the air – it keeps my momentum going. I’m an introvert by nature, but once you get a conversation started with me, I can talk a million miles an hour and tap into all kinds of crazy topics; it’s like a multi-track where there are several trains running at full speed. Stories come to life in my head, and my characters urge me to write their stories – something I can’t resist.

But what happens when chronic pain strikes? How do you deal with it? How does it affect you? Do you get depressed? How do you live life with chronic pain? Can you still write?

I’ll answer the questions in this blog article.

What happens when chronic pain strikes?

Chronic pain crept into my life after I was in a serious car accident years ago. After the initial recovery, which took months, I suffered intense migraines for years. Then, I had cubital tunnel syndrome (like carpal tunnel syndrome), which I had surgery for, and the healing took six months in 2017. Thanks to exercise, training, and relaxation techniques, my arm is good now.

Just when I thought life would be pain-free, I was wrong. At the end of 2018, crippling back pain struck me like an insidious evil carving through my skin and scorching wildfire into my left muscles, nerves, and upper spine. At first, I thought the pain would go away after being prescribed anti-inflammatory medication.

The pain did not go away. In early 2019, an MRI scan revealed a prolapse that required immediate surgery. So, I had the surgery.

Things were meant to improve, but they did not. Now, two years later, I’m still living in pain. These ‘best-of-the-best’ private-sector doctors have all played roles of the gods – there was Apollo, then Asclepius, followed by Sekhmet, Wu Tao, Airmed…and the list goes on for the number of ‘expert’ doctors with numerous degrees and university teaching records who were haughty and oh so omniscient. They claimed to know exactly what’s wrong, but their advice and treatment did not work. What amused me was their arrogance when I dared to say I was still in pain!

Then, there were natural healing therapies by chiropractors, naturopaths, physiotherapists, etc. – including one who left me semi-paralyzed for a few hours and my whole left arm bloated in swollen pain – I had to take my wedding ring off because of the swelling that night and suffered from a blinding headache, attached to the nerve pain stemming across a gridlocked highway from my upper back, down to my arm.

My new local GP is fantastic. He’s like Dr. Gregory House from the TV series named after the character. He’s gone above and beyond the ‘expert’ doctors to try to find an answer and treatment. He’s called different experts in his network, and now, after a six-month wait, I’ll be tested for nerve damage and muscle damage by the head of neurology at a local hospital next week. They may not find an answer, but I live with hope every day.

Do I get depressed?

Of course, I get depressed and anxious. I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t feel any sadness associated with the long-term pain. However, I live for a better day and try to do as much as I normally can without exerting myself. I make use of the outdoors and fresh air.

How do I live with pain?

I work in my day job as I normally would, with the aid of heat packs, ibuprofen gels, and a strong medication that I take for the worst of days – which I take in the evening as it knocks me right out and I wake up feeling groggy after about 12 hours. When I take that medication, I know that I won’t be writing, editing, or doing anything after work hours.

The other thing I do is switch off from social media when needed. I’ll do the best I can to promote my stories, prioritizing my publisher first – but everything else is placed in the ‘noise’ basket. There are so many social media channels and people with questions I don’t always have answers for.

I don’t answer all the questions – only the important ones and yes, I do connect with readers and authors who hold a special place in my heart. I prioritize them first when I’m well enough to be online socially.

I know my limits and switch off when I need to. I don’t give when I cannot give. I know when my tank is running on empty – so that’s when I say to myself, ‘stop now’.

Can I still write?

Yes. Of course! There are windows in my free time when I get a good stretch of minimal pain and that’s when I’m most productive – I’ll prioritize the tasks I need done first, and get these done. Everything else can wait.

I’ve learned to prioritize what I can take in, working with my strengths and weaknesses. As a professional author, the first writing priority is my publisher and activities around my published work. Everything else can wait.

I realize that the least painful days are like windows of opportunity that come – I’ve got a certain amount of time to really focus on completing my writing tasks before the pain intensifies again.

I also have an author PA who does an amazing job promoting my published book, and she’s wonderful. When my pain medication kicks in and it’s lights out for me, I can rest assured that my book is being promoted. It also means that I can use the “feeling well” days to write – again, a focused approach.

What have I learned from living in pain?

I’ve learned to put myself first – that means my health and my family. They come first and that’s not negotiable. We all have our challenges during these COVID times and I need to tackle these challenges with my family first. What would you do? Leave a crying child while you answer a message from a writer who needs feedback on their story? Of course, not! The kids always come first. 🙂

As I said earlier, I do get my ‘blue’ days but I take advantage of my surroundings. If it’s a sunny day, I go for a walk. If there’s a hailstorm outside, I watch my favorite TV show with my husband or read one of my favorite books – right now I’m reading A Merman’s Choice by Alice Renaud, one of the best fantasy romance authors in today’s world – her books are on Amazon.

Will there be better days ahead? Of course, there will be! I plan on doing so much more as an author. As for my health, I know I’ve got a good doctor who’s earnest and he does his best to refer me to the right people – even if it takes time.

I’m hoping for treatment to minimize/mitigate the pain after my visit to the hospital next week. Here’s hoping and praying for the best!

All good things take time.

So, you want to get published?

By Estelle Pettersen, author of Lessons on Seduction.

Lessons on Seduction, an erotic romance novel by E Pettersen
Lessons on Seduction, an erotic romance novel by Estelle Pettersen, published by Black Velvet Seductions.

I’m writing this blog post for aspiring writers who dream to have their books published one day. I hope this will help you make clever choices as part of your publishing journey.

Are you looking for a publisher?

Okay, so you’ve spent time researching (this is a MUST), writing, editing, editing, and editing your story. Have I emphasized the editing part enough? You’re now feeling ready and excited to submit your story to an agent or publisher.

There’s been a lot of buzz, hype, and excitement about finding publishers, but here’s what you need to know, because amid the good publishers, there are many sharks out there. When I mean sharks, I’m referring to:

Vanity publishers

Vanity publishers offer you contracts where you pay an arm, leg, foot, or kidney to have your work published. With some vanity publishers, you pay for all the services, but you don’t even own the book because they may demand in the contract the same rights over the book as a traditional publisher would. Does this sound fair? My advice: don’t do it.

They paint themselves as credible but Google them. Google publisher reviews on them. Be wary. Their game is a dirty business, driven by what they can milk out of you, not giving a d-mn about the quality of your content.

You’re only selling yourself short because what have you really achieved? If your work is truly outstanding and you’ve jumped too soon in bed with a vanity publisher, you’ll always be questioning yourself, “What if I had gone with a traditional publisher?” When I talk about traditional publishing in this sense, I’m referring to the Writer’s Digest definition:

Traditional book publishing is when a publisher offers the author a contract and, in turn, prints, publishes, and sells your book through booksellers and other retailers. The publisher essentially buys the right to publish your book and pays you royalties from the sales.”

(source: https://writersdigestshop.com/pages/how-to-publish-a-book-an-overview-of-traditional-self-publishing)

False agents

False agents will pitch your book to publishers for an inflated fee. What happens? You end up paying a lot of money and they do the work you could have done: send a generic email to a ton of publishers but nothing is personalized; it’s just a big blast.

Companies that claim to have direct contacts with publishers and will write your synopsis and submission letter for a large amount of money also fall into this category. Plus, you can pay more! Why? Because there are add-ons if you want more, such as a tracking list of publishers/agents, edited chapters of your manuscript, etc.

For goodness sake, don’t you trust your own writing and research skills? If you can write your own story, you should be able to write your own synopsis and submission letter. And guess what? Doing it yourself is free!

Cold-calling publishers

Cold-calling publisher. If you’re a Wattpad user and you’ve been contacted on the platform, please report it as spam.

These are ‘Publishers’ who approach you out of the blue, claiming that they love your work and offer to send a contract. Do they even know your name? Have they really read your novel? What do they like about your work? Did they even mention your novel title in their message? Be very careful about what they promise because all that glitters ain’t gold. Do not lock yourself into a contract that seems too easy and too good to be true.

Did you check their platform and see how many readers they actually have? Or how many stories they have? Are they quality stories? Will you be lost in the sea, competing with others who have been promised the same shady, shoddy deal? My advice: stay away from them.

Find a publisher that best fits your book. Aim for a publisher with a good reputation. Image source: Pixabay.com

Good publishers don’t:

  • Approach you out of the blue. They’re often going through submissions and picking the ones that are the right fit for their publishing goals.
  • Ask you to pay a ridiculous amount of money to cover publishing or marketing costs. This is a general statement as there are some good hybrid publishers out there who do give a fair deal.
  • Offer a small percentage of sale returns – your share (eg. 5%).
  • Hike the price for your book’s selling price so that it’s harder to sell.
  • Aggressively push you to sign the contract with haste.
  • Leave you in the dark when it comes to marketing your book.

Good publishers do:

  • Have a submission process where writers (or agents on behalf of writers) are encouraged to submit a manuscript, based on the publisher’s requirements.
  • Offer a contract where you, as the author, are not required to foot a hefty amount toward the publishing of your book. That’s right, you heard me. The publisher pays you, not the other way around.
  • Offer a fair percentage of sales returns – your fair share.
  • Price your book so it’s at a competitive price, including a presale prior to the book’s release. The book’s price will be similar to other books in your subgenre.
  • Give you a reasonable deadline to sign the contract.
  • Encourage you and guide you with marketing your book, and offer promotional opportunities and events. This includes developing a social media presence and offering suggestions such as having an author’s website among other things.

There’s one last thing that good publishers do: they believe in you. I chose to go the hard road and persevere with my writing. It took me two years from draft to final manuscript of Lessons on Seduction, and I did my research on publishers.

I found my publisher Black Velvet Seductions after doing my homework and checking for erotic romance publishers with great reviews in the publishing industry. It was also listed on renowned sci-fi and fantasy author Piers Anthony’s website, in the publishers’ list.

Make your writing and publishing journey an enjoyable one. Image source: Pixabay.com

Finally, there are three platforms I recommend, where you can meet and interact with other readers and writers to help you grow in your writing journey:

  1. Wattpad
  2. Radish Fiction (by application only, they can be tough on screening content quality)
  3. Inkitt (by application).

I’ve got a presence in all three platforms (I’ve only got draft sample stories on the latter two and haven’t been too active; I just don’t have the time to stretch, sorry!), but I’m most active in my role as an ambassador for Wattpad, doing my best to give other writers a helping hand. I believe we can all succeed. I really do!

Whatever your goals are, please be patient. Please be persistent, and please persevere. Every author who has a contract with a publisher will tell you that they have had to persevere before they get their work published.

The other option, of course, is to self-publish. However, I would suggest trying an agent or publisher first. Why? They can open the door for you in so many ways and can give a boost to lift first-time authors. You can also meet other more experienced authors (with the same publisher) who you can learn from and grow.

I’ll write some more about publishing, but I thought this is a good start.

Authors supporting authors. Image source: giphy.com

Useful links:

Challenges of writing steamy scenes

Writing steamy scenes

E Pettersen, author of Lessons on Seduction.

A while ago, a few writers in my network asked if I could put a blog about writing steamy scenes. Well, ask and I will deliver. 🙂

A good plot, well-developed characters, interesting dialogues, a bit of mind-play with readers (I use literary tropes for these), and cliffhangers are all part of the fun in writing.

However, there’s one type of scene that I find most challenging above all. It’s not the twists and turns in the plot, and it’s not the angst or emotions among the characters. It’s the steamy scenes in a romance novel.

Erotic romance vs. erotica

First of all, I’d like to clarify the distinction between an erotic romance novel and erotica, as I’ve noticed in a few forums some confusion between the two.

According to Romance Writers of Australia, an erotic romance is a “sub-genre of romance where sex is crucial to character and emotional development. All stories must conclude with HEA or HFN.”

Meanwhile, erotica is classified as content “where sex is explored in writing, but a happy ending is not required.” (Source: https://romanceaustralia.com/about-rwa/glossary-of-terms/)

Romance Writers of America states that erotic romance novels are “romance novels in which strong, often explicit, sexual interaction is an inherent part of the love story, character growth and relationship development and could not be removed without damaging the storyline. These novels may contain elements of other romance subgenres (such as paranormal, historical, etc.).” (Source: RWA)

Erotica, from Oxford and Cambridge dictionaries’ perspectives, takes on a more generic and broader meaning. Let’s take Oxford’s perspective, for instance, as it defines erotica as “literature or art intended to arouse sexual desire.” (Source: https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/erotica)

An erotic romance requires character development, a decent plot, chemistry, and emotionally driven, heart-tugging scenes. But what about the scenes that would make my grandmother blush?

These scenes require work too. It’s not about banging smut fantasies in a manuscript (pun intended—that’s my wicked sense of humor); the intimate scenes require work.

Get your facts right

It’s important to get your facts right. I’ve read many romance novels, including erotic romance books, where I had to stop reading because what the author tried to achieve with the characters were, to put it politely, anatomically unreal. There are certain body parts that don’t work or move in a certain way. If these were applied in real life, there would be a visit to the chiropractor, physiotherapist, or doctor, no doubt. Also, I’ve seen misnomers of both the female and male anatomy in scenes.

If you’re not sure or have an inkling of doubt about a certain anatomical part, it’s as simple as going back to the basic biology books. There’s no shame in doing that; I have to admit, I had to do this for some fact-checking to make sure I got things right. It’s better to write correctly the first time than to make a mistake and have your readers notice it.

Be real

Be real with your smut. You can write a good sex scene without turning it into a cringy scene from a crazy porn film. It’s not just the mechanics of the act that readers are after in erotic romance novels. They’re also touched by the emotional aspect of sex that is fulfilling and realistic. More importantly, give the characters feelings—have their emotions connect with the audience.

Here are a few authors who’ve got it right with the balance of emotions and physical action in the love scenes in their romance books:

  • Callie Carmen – author of the Risking Love series. If you read Patrick, you’ll feel the emotions in the scenes. Also good to see a realistic male POV.
  • Annabel Allan – author of the Goode Pain series. If you’re after BDSM scenes that are well written and, importantly, accurate, this is the series you want to read.
  • Gibby Campbell – author of Paging Dr. Turov, which I started reading very recently. Already in chapter three, I see the power in the words that give away a good, strong plot, and characters I connect with.

There are more authors of steamy romances whose books I’m reading from my publisher Black Velvet Seductions, known for high-quality romances of different subgenres.

Get your words right

I want to stress the importance of using the right words for your scenes. These words include body parts and actions.

Here are some words I’ve seen in romance books, and wish I had my eyes shut, with regard to the female anatomy:

  • Hoo-ha.
  • Minge.
  • Axe-wound (what the heck?).
  • Gash.
  • Quim.
  • Kitty.
  • Beaver (what’s with the animal names?).

Honestly, the word “vagina” sounds much better. And there’s nothing wrong with that word either.

Here are some strange references to the male anatomy:

  • Diddly (this sounds creepy!).
  • Joystick (umm, not quite Nintendo…).
  • Pork.
  • Willy.
  • John Thomas (this one was from Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence—great plot and I have high respect for the author, but that scene just made me cringe; it’s just my personal taste, which is subjective).

Sometimes it’s just better to stick with the basics: cock, dick, length, erection. Simple, right?

All in all, I think it’s great when romance writers want to explore different scenes, including ménage à trois, BDSM, voyeurism, dirty talk, the tease, fxf, mxm, and more.

I also like a variety of settings—an exotic place, a spur of the moment in a hidden place, a secret room, something different.

It’s important to research these topics before writing them. It’s just like journalism, where you don’t publish an article without getting your facts checked by reliable sources.

What won’t I write about?

As an author, I keep an open mind when it comes to steamy scenes for my readers; I want them to feel the energy and the bond between the characters in my stories.

However, there are some scenes that I refuse to explore: underage sex and blurred lines. I’ve stopped reading stories when I come across scenes depicting sex between an adult and a minor where there is a noticeable age gap, or nonconsensual sex portrayed in a positive light. No means no, especially if there’s a position of trust or authority of one of the characters over the other.

Ditch or keep a scene?

I’ll be honest and admit that it is difficult to write a good sex scene because it requires a lot of thought and research. It is hard work. If it doesn’t work in the story, then assess if you need to remove it entirely, or rewrite it.

I’ve removed scenes because they don’t add value to the overall story. I’ve also revised scenes or added small teasing scenes to entice the reader, weaving these scenes into the plot and character relationship-building.

My goal is to give an entertaining story that readers can relate to—the steamy scenes have to work for readers.

Readers want empowerment

Kick-ass career guide

This blog post is dedicated to my Wattpad friends.

About a month ago, my nonfiction book Kick-ass Career Guide for Women was nominated for the Readers Choice Awards, one of the platform’s biggest community awards where readers nominate and vote for their favorite books. I wasn’t aware of it until I was alerted that the book had been shortlisted for the voting phase of the awards.

Yesterday, I was both surprised and elated when I received news that my career guide won first place in the awards’ nonfiction category.

Winner of the Readers Choice Awards
Readers Choice Awards winner

I honestly didn’t think the book stood a chance, considering the other nominated books were more entertaining in terms of topic.

Yet, Wattpad readers and writers voted. They not only voted, but they shared the story with their followers, both within the platform and in social media. In turn, their followers also voted. They wanted a book with a message on empowerment to win because they believe in empowerment. They believe in people supporting each other, and they believe in standing strong.

They valued a book that aimed to empower women so much that they wanted it to succeed—not because of the author, but because the book is written to help young women entering the workforce to gain confidence, know how to say “no” without feeling guilty, and be brave enough to take opportunities that lead to their own personal and career successes.

Being an introvert, I’ve never stood out in the limelight, so this is the first time that a collective group of people voted for anything of mine to stand out from the crowd. In a world where books are popular for sexy covers, sordid and steamy storylines, and forbidden love, the less “exciting” books are often forgotten.

What readers want

Wattpad has a huge following of millennials among the 80 million readers and writers of diverse ages, backgrounds, and preferences. When my network (including Wattpaders who read my romances) supports me, they are telling me something—they don’t just want the steamy stories with handsome bad boys, but they also want stories that send a message on personal strength and empowerment.

Don’t get me wrong; I love reading sexy stories with bad boys. In fact, I write them in the form of erotic romances, teen fiction, and a romantic comedy. All my stories have one thing in common: growth and being resilient in both the good times and times of adversity.

One of my books, Lessons on Seduction, will be published by romance publisher Black Velvet Seductions. It’s jam-packed with plenty of sexy scenes, a seemingly good girl, a bad boy, and drama. However, it also conveys a strong message on empowerment and a healthy dose of equality in a relationship. I’ve been reading books from authors with my publisher and their stories feature strong, bold women and men who rock the world, which makes me feel extremely proud to be part of the BVS family!

The point I’m trying to make is that my Wattpad network is reflective of a market of readers who prefer stories with smart and sassy women, yes, even with the billionaires, bad boys, and the steamy love scenes. They want stories that dare to be different from the rest.

I learned one thing about my fellow Wattpaders: they have strong voices. They are not bystanders and they would rather have stories with bold protagonists than books that promote submissive women falling for alpha men.

Many readers, including romance readers, want empowerment. They want strength. They want heroines who can save the day. They want variety and diversity. They want protagonists who are clever, passionate, and break the mold from the stereotypes.

I believe this is reflective of who my readers are—they are strong, they are powerful, and they are clever. They are law students, teachers, health professionals, parents, business professionals, and the list goes on. They deserve to be seen and heard, respected, appreciated, and loved.

As an author, I pledge to give my readers all the above, to the best of my ability through my stories.

Thank you to every Wattpader who brought Kick-ass Career Guide for Women out of the shadows and into the limelight. The book is also featured on Wattpad’s official Nonfiction profile, in the Business & Careers reading list.

Thank you for your continued support.

Wonder Woman. Source: giphy.com

Writers support writers

Let’s support each other. Image credit: Pixabay.

This month has been an exciting one filled with achievements.

I have joined a new family—Black Velvet Seductions, a publisher with a wide range of books, including erotic romances, sweet seduction stories, and supernatural romances. My erotic romance, Lessons on Seduction, will be available from them and I am excited!

I’ve also been badged as an official ambassador for Wattpad, an online community with over 80 million readers and writers worldwide.

Teamwork

These achievements are what I call “teamwork” because it is a shared effort together with fellow readers and writers. They supported me through the highs and lows of writing and gave me the kick I needed to do improve in all areas.

Naturally, I was over the moon when BVS accepted my manuscript and welcomed me to their team. I learned that good publishers like BVS offer strong support and encouragement for their authors. Successes are shared and motivation is ongoing among the authors in this team.

The start of the journey

Looking back, I think about where I was a year ago. I had only three or four followers at best on Wattpad. Being a painfully shy introvert, it took a lion’s serving of courage to open up, reach out, and connect with other writers and readers. Not everything has been rosy on the yellow brick road. I’ve dealt with witches, trolls, and the flying monkeys, but it’s no skin off my nose.

What gives me strength? Other writers, of course! They help me stand strong in a tough market.

Standing strong

In one year, my stories were featured on Wattpad’s official profile pages and my profile now has over 1000 followers; from these followers, I have made a few wonderful friends.

I wouldn’t have friends if I hadn’t taken the step to write, edit my work, take in suggestions for improvements, edit, and edit again. An author’s growth is a never-ending cycle; it never stops.

Sounds exhausting?

Not if you’re having fun with other writers. That’s why it’s important to have others around us as we keep writing. My writing buddies are the ones I vent to, laugh with, and smile together as we face our challenges.

Nothing is achieved without another person’s involvement. Writing can be a lonely path, but we are never alone as long as we’re brave enough to reach out. Reaching out means that we may expose our vulnerable selves as authors, but it also means that we are willing to grow.

Give support

Each of us has a personal story of pain that we mask rather well sometimes. This makes it all the more important to ask for support when we struggle.

Writers help each other out, and as I’ve been told, we adjust each other’s crowns. The world is big enough for everyone to succeed.

Unfortunately, I’ve also seen a few talented writers lose hope in their projects because of the criticism they’ve received or an award they didn’t win. This saddens me. Being an author requires thick skin; criticism and disappointment are part of life.

What can we do to support each other?

  • Reach out to connect with others.
  • Reach out when we can support someone.
  • Reach out when we need support.

Let’s all make the most to support each other’s dreams and successes. This sums up my writing journey so far, with miles ahead to go—but I’m not alone.

Here’s a little something from I Love Lucy, one of my favorite shows. Together, we can do it!

Why I love tropes

Text above: Excerpt from my upcoming novel Lessons on Seduction.

One of the things I enjoy most about writing is using tropes. It’s what makes my heart flutter, falling deeper in love with the stories I write. It’s part of what inspires me to breathe life into my work.

So, what is a trope?

The Oxford Dictionary defines a trope as “a figurative or metaphorical use of a word or expression.”

The American Heritage Dictionary goes a step further to describe in more detail the meanings of a trope:

1. A figure of speech using words in nonliteral ways, such as a metaphor.
2. A word or phrase interpolated as an embellishment in the sung parts of certain medieval liturgies.
3.a. A theme, motif, plot, or literary device that commonly recurs within a genre or work of fiction, especially when considered clichéd: “Finding the corrosion under the waxed-and-polished chassis of small-town America is itself an old trope” (James Poniewozik). b. An often recurring idea or image: “In our conversations, there was a running theme, a trope, of economic havoc, of drowned cities, of time running out” (Jon Gertner).

Did you know?
The word “trope” originates from the Latin tropus, from Greek tropos, turn, figure of speech.

Types of tropes

  • Metaphor – a figure of speech in which a word or phrase literally denoting one kind of object or idea is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them (as in “drowning in money”).
  • Hyperbole – exaggeration (such as “mile-high ice-cream cones”).
  • Litote – a figure of speech in which an understatement is used to emphasize a point (e.g. “this dress is not too shabby” with regard to admiring a dress).
  • Antanaclasis – a single word, but with a different meaning each time; is a common type of pun (e.g. “Your argument is sound, nothing but sound.” — Benjamin Franklin). Oh, Ben Franklin’s comment made me laugh!
  • Allegory – using symbolic fictional figures and actions of truths or generalizations about human existence to express a message. It’s also a story, poem, or picture that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning, typically a moral or political one. Simply put, it’s a symbol.

The above-mentioned tropes are just a few types. Other tropes include irony, oxymorons (e.g. “a bittersweet experience”), and synecdoches (e.g. “suits”). The television show Suits is one of my favorite binge-watches, by the way.

Try it in moderation

Don’t you just love tropes? Can you feel your story come to life with the use (but not overuse) of tropes?

Try your hand at a couple of these literary tropes and weave them into your story. Get passionate about it and let your tropes become an evocative and powerful tool to tell your story.

Remember, don’t go overboard; you want to keep the purple prose monster away. There’s no need to be extravagant or flowery to disrupt your story flow. Nobody wants to be bored to death.

Readers want to read a good plot and get to know your characters. Use tropes to captivate readers, not to drown them. 😉

I’ll leave you with a snippet of one of my favorite films, Dead Poets Society, directed by Australian director Peter Weir—known for his work on films such as Gallipoli, Picnic at Hanging Rock, The Truman Show, and The Year of Living Dangerously (which inspired me to become a journalist at a young age).

Sources:

Writing your first chapter

So, you’ve written a draft of your first chapter and you’re thinking that it’s darn good. Great. Give yourself a pat on the back.

Now, go and grab a cup of coffee, tea, water, vodka, or whatever your poison is. Do something else, then come back to your writing project in a week.

Yes, you read me. A week.

Read your draft after one week and tell me what you think.

If you still think it’s hot shit, then you must be doing something extraordinary. If you’re like the rest of us, you’ll know it’s time for a rewrite.

Your first draft is never the final piece that you’ll submit. Chances are you’ll find the following:

  • Spelling and grammar mistakes.
  • Over-telling the story, loaded with narrative description. This is where your readers yawn and switch off.
  • Purple prose. Unless you’re the poet Horace, just don’t go there. Don’t. Just don’t.
  • You may have written with the wrong tone, style, and pacing that is contrary to the genre or subgenre you’re working on.

If you’ve answered yes to one, two, or all the above, you’re not alone.

This is why writing a novel doesn’t magically happen overnight. So, please take the time you need to piece together your first chapter, which is meant to hook your readers. If you aren’t fully hooked on your own first chapter, then there’s a good chance that your readers will lose interest.

Write your first draft with earnest passion and ambition. Don’t worry about all the small technical details. Then go back and fix your chapter a couple of times.

Heck, you may even need to completely rewrite it, and that means changing the scene/setting, holding off from introducing new characters, or entirely changing the agenda of the first chapter.

It may take you a few days, a few weeks, or even a couple of months (in my case) before you crack the code and have that “aha” moment — the moment when you holler, “this is it! This is what I needed to make my first chapter a flipping good one!”

When you get to that point, go and treat yourself to another cup of coffee, tea, water, or vodka. Whatever your poison is, go and celebrate the achievement of finally writing a darn good first chapter!

Your readers will love you for it. Give them trash and they will loathe you. Be kind to yourself and to your readers.