The Google+ Live Chat will start Friday at 12 NOON ET.
THERE IS NO SOUND on the first 45 or so seconds of this video. Skip past those. I caught the error quickly.
I’m going to answer questions you post here.
This is pretty wide open. Your questions can be professional or personal, and can be related to nonfiction or fiction.
Do you have a writing question I’ve never answered anywhere? A question about one of my novels? A question about me?
I’m not expecting a lot of questions, but if I get a lot, I know I won’t have time to answer everything in this one chat.
If there are a lot of questions, I’ll organize the ones I don’t answer into categories, and do a few more live Google+ chats to answer them.
I’ll post the link in this space once I get Google+ set up and know that it’s working. If some of you wouldn’t mind using the link in the top right corner to post it to Twitter once we get going, I’d appreciate it. I’m working with
I’m going to print off the existing questions right after I have everything set up, and I’ll either go down the list, or pick and choose, depending on how many there are.
Is there anything you can’t ask? No.
Is there anything I won’t answer? Probably.
Use your best judgement. 😀
Holly I am at the end and I can’t find an agent for my book. Should I just burn my novel in the fireplace and move on with my life or just make believe I will get this book published. My friend of 87 years old was hoping to see my book get published before he dies. I think I have a dream that is going to get crushed.
Two words: Indie Publishing.
One source. Joe Konrath — http://jakonrath.blogspot.com
And one Galaxy Quest quote. “Never give up. Never surrender.”
This was great, Holly. Thank you so much! Happy late birthday, and please do this again!
Thanks for answering my question Holly! The sound died when you read my name, but you re-read the question and answered it well. Thanks. 🙂
Holly, thanks for doing this. I find it incredibly interesting, useful and inspiring to listen to the experiences of professional writers, the ones that have gone through the process I am trying to navigate through and have found methods that work for them. When you talk about the writing process and share what you know, you demystify the whole issue of writing, being a writer, and living from one’s writing, which is very encouraging. Thank you for that.
Wow. Thank you for letting the ‘gut-bunnies’ show. It made for a more relaxed and productive learning environment. Truly. It’s a lot easier to face the squirming that goes with adult (hmm… hash-mark crowd, here) learning when you see that veteran writers still squirm too. I took pages and pages of notes that will (or has) got me over the humps. It couldn’t have been better if it were scripted because it was honest, and brave, and frees up the squirming in all of us.
Thanks for a lovely video Holly! I really enjoyed it.
Holly, this was awesome. I hope it was rejuvenating for you.
Watched your Q and A and thought it was a great success. The main issue I was currently facing was writing my works while going through multiple courses. Many thanks for helping me see the light in focusing on my story first before anything else. Look forward to more of these and learning your materials.
I wanted to thank you for doing this Q and A. I think it was a success. I couldn’t think of a question but the thing I’ve been struggling with is balancing learning the craft with doing. I’m a blurry eyed zombie when I wake up in the morning with two bright eyed and cheery children who wake at an ungodly hour and so I don’t write in the morning. By the time they are in bed, I’m exhausted so I find time during the day which works to an extent but my kids are little and at home with me so the distractions are high. Lately I’ve been focusing on craft and the business while my word count slags. My focus is off.
Hearing you talk, again, about just getting up and getting your words done before anything else, before working on craft with workshops, etc, finally got through to me. I need to wake up before the kids (even if that means 4am) and work, then worry about all the other stuff.
Thanks for not only being brilliant, but being willing to share your brilliance with us.
Just watched your posted video. Great job, even with the tiny glitches. Thanks for exploring the Google+ Hangout option, it’s something I am thinking about doing for my late November Christmas collection release. (part of your free Ugly Baby workshop) I really appreciate all of the lessons, can’t wait to see the revised How to Write a Series. Happy Writing. Connie
I took your mini, mini class in the middle of the video and just turned what I did into a flash fiction for my blog scheduled for the 18th. Thanks for that real time demonstration of how to come up with ideas.
Being brutally honest with myself here.
I hate my day job(Retail-min.wage). I don’t want to look for another job, because i feel like writing is my job(even though I don’t get paid for it yet). I know that if once I finish books and sale them I can eventually quit my job. The problem is sometimes after a long day at work I just want to relax, and sometimes I feel the same way about my days off, but I know that if I don’t finish books I can never make money and quit my “Job”.
So my question, Should I?
(A)Suck it up and write more.
(B)Continue to just balance the two.
(C)Quit that job and focus on writing for a while(this might not be an option but it potentially is).
I know that you’ve been through a lot, so you can relate to something like this, and basically I just want to know what you would do. Thank you for doing this.
PS. I use a Dvorak keyboard now and I get less strain from writing, but I don’t know how to use qwerty fluently anymore. I love Dvorak, and I’m so grateful you put me onto it.
I’m another one who is up against a high learning curve on the technology side of setting up to sell my writing. I’m determined I will work my way through this, even though it does not come fast for me.
Mostly, I have to work with free options. But this week I won at online bingo and so I have $40 in my paypal account. So i’m trying to figure out what one step of the store setting up process I can possibly afford to buy now? Any suggestions?
I am revising my mystery novel using the “How To Revise Your Novel” lessons. I am lacking gimmicks in my novel. Is it necessary to have gimmicks? Please give another example of a gimmick and explain how I can add gimmicks if they are missing? Thanks a million for all of your help.
I’m struggling with describing emotions while avoiding cliches. In my first novel, my MC is frequently in danger, so I need a lot of description of fear. I’m trying to show the fear by describing the effects on my MC – fast heartbeat, feeling cold, rapid breathing, dry mouth, involuntary trembling etc, but all those things seem so terribly over-used in fiction. So I’m at a real loss here – how do I describe the fear without drifting into cliches?
I suffer the same problem, especially when I start a piece, but recently found The Emotion Thesaurus (Ackerman & Puglisi) which is good about jump starting ideas.
Question 6: How many email lists should I have? Prospects, customers, for different series? One for each launch? Or how do you do it?
Basically how do you organize your email list(s)?
This is awesome for you to put together and have complete interaction with multiple students at once in a single area–not so widely spaced as a forum. Unfortunately for me, I will be working with little to no internet access the whole day, so I won’t be able to be there for the Google live chat shindig. 🙁
There’s really only one question I had, and it’s something that always gets me when I’m writing: scenes. There’s a goal, conflict, and disaster, and there’s always a purpose for the scene. I can come up with a partial of a scene, but sometimes I can’t seem to figure out one of the parts, such as a disaster area. Also, the purpose of a scene I think of will elude me at the best of times as well.
This kind of thing makes me halt in my writing and I kind of just go back and start tinkering with chapters I’ve already done while trying to think of how to go about the scene. Any recommendations on what to do when something like this happens?
I came, it turns out, to ask the same question Cat did (well, couldn’t actually remember its title, so I was going to go for Lightcross/Shadowcross) – and to wish you a belated happy birthday. 🙂
So another greeting from north-ish central-ish Germany 🙂
oh, yeah – is it necessary to have a google+ account to join in?
I was wondering if you have ever dealt with the fear of starting a project. I love what I want to write, but I am afraid to start: Not skilled enough, fear of failure and success… The list goes on.
Thank you for your time.
Stephen G. Zoldi
Okay, so I actually wrote my questions in a document. So I hope this still looks fine when I copy it over.
In the first Ugly video, you say that those of us who have finished fiction should make flash anthologies that have to do with the characters and/or world of those things.
What constitutes finished fiction? I finished the first draft of the first novel in a series. Does that count? Should I consider myself in the first category (no fiction), and work up to the second? Or am I in the second?
If I’m in second category, I hope to start HTRYN the finished draft in early 2014, however I haven’t done HTRYN before so I don’t expect to be ready to publish until late 2014 or sometime in 2015.
Should my flash fiction anthologies still focus on only those characters/world? Or would it be helpful to write outside that, at least to start?
I have couple of ideas for (probably) novella length stories with those characters/in that world, would those come after the flash anthologies? I guess you might reveal this in your later Ugly videos (I’m in the Ugly Workshop).
Did you mean it’s good to mix several different tones in the same anthology as long as there is something unifying them? The unifying factor might be characters, world or theme.
Why did you decide not to use Smashwords?
How soon do you think I should start partnering with other authors? I hope to have a flash anthology ready for late November (or absolutely latest in December) to use for my first launch. Is it better for me to search people out now, rather than wait until November/December when I’m closer to finished (or have a better timeline)? And should we even partner for the first launch?
I second Felicia’s first three questions!
p.s. Thanks for the video, Holly 🙂
Holly, I’ve recently been seeing Kindle E-books selling for 1 cent and 5 cents. Permanently, apparently.
What are they doing? What’s the point? Does it make a difference to Amazon whether it is a purchased or free book for statistical purposes, or does the author have some other agenda? Any clue?
Holly, over the years I have developed some technical tips about quilting that I can turn into two or three Kindle books to create money so I can take PLF the next time.
If the point of the Kindle books is to drive traffic to our website, and probably my first completed books will be about quilting, is there a way to put both the quilting and writing topics on the same website/blog?
Should I just separate the quilting information and pictures behind one tab, and the non-quilting writing behind another tab? I also have “household hacks” that give me more time for my creative pursuits… and which could apply to either quilting or writing. Tricky. Where to put them?
Or does it make more sense to put it all together in one blog and let the readers decide what to read? They can maybe click on what tags/keywords interest them… (guessing)… or would this be too confusing for visitors to my site?
I have a URL for my name and one for my quilting, but only one site. Can two names go to the same site?
I’ve been muddling this over for the past 5 years (how to combine my interests). I don’t want to keep up two separate sites or blogs. I lose focus too easily; ADD. 🙂
Holly, how involved is Matt in your writing? Does he help with technical aspects of the business end? Does he help with technical aspects of the writing or editing? Do you bounce ideas off him? Does he contribute ideas that you work into your own voice? Is he home when you write, or do you write when he isn’t there? How do you work that out so that you have your time to write without being disturbed or distracted?
Holly, on the Discussion Boards, you have a way to report typo’s on course materials (for later revisions).
When I read one (or both? can’t remember) of your Cadence Drake books on my Kindle, I accidentally noticed some typo’s. More than a dozen. Do you want to know about these or does somebody else already have you covered?
If you do want to know, how do I let you know? It’s not a student support or technical issue. Help Desk?
Holly, I’ve heard it said that writer’s block is a gift… your subconscious is telling you that you recently wrote something that is “down the wrong path”, and it’s trying to get you to go back and find it before you get too far along.
Do you find this to be true (with foresight or in hindsight) in your own writing?
Holly, I have most of your writing materials, but haven’t worked my way through all of them yet. I keep getting distracted.
I want to do my best, so I keep sidetracking myself by going through Character Clinic… Language Clinic, Page-Turning Scenes… and all the others… while still in the middle of HTTS.
Your lessons and clinics are so insightful, and I don’t want to succumb to any pitfalls along the way while I’m drafting.
Then there was the Flash Fiction… which I thought I would hate, but LOVED… however, it did take me away from the novel.
So now I feel overwhelmed, and am not sure how to get back on track.
Do I just need to start back on lesson 1 of HTTS and stop straying, or is there value in jumping to what interests me when I feel unsure of my writing?
Many books today have single-word titles, like…
Forgotten… Hidden… Wicked…
Blur… Gone… Cursed…
Shiver… Revealed… Fury…
(I’m aware of all of your book titles, of course.)
There are multiple books (with different authors) using the above single-words titles. I looked.
There is no clue about the type of book by the title alone, and the single words are usually non-concrete words that could mean MANY things in a hundred contexts.
Concrete words stick with me (sometimes)… non-concrete words are harder to anchor in my mind. It doesn’t conjure a picture for me to visualize.
Do you think single-word titles will become “dated”? (“Oh, that must be from the 2010’s”.) Or IS this the future?
Of all the villains you’ve written, which one is your favorite, and why? (Or you can do top 3, if picking one is too hard.)
I think my favorite is Danya, because she does something absolutely heinous, and yet there were times when I still felt sorry for her. I haven’t forgotten her story, even years after reading the book.
Hi Holly, I have two questions today:
ONE: Before publishing my own kindle singles or short stories I am considering submitting them to e-zines to increase my readership. Most will allow me to retain rights after they first publish, so I can then self-publish. The advantage would be
1) new readership – who may or may not find me again.
2) Payment – perhaps more than if I only self-publish
The disadvantage would be the time lost in another submission round.
What do you think?
Would you recommend publishing short stories or flash anthologies first on Kindle Select to get the benefits of better amazon ratings, promotion etc, or would you put your stuff straight on your won website? I think I know your answer, but please consider that some on us haven’t got any readers yet because it’s our first time publishing anything.
I’m away from the internet all weekend, so I look forward to seeing the video after I get back.
Thanks Holly. You’re cooooool!
I’ve tried to push my writing to get better and have done every Nanowrimo since 2006. I’ve even taken 2 of your courses and bought several of your books.
I guess I still don’t get it and wonder if it’s time to give up. Is there any hope for me? 🙂
I know I’ll always write every day anyway and maybe something will finally click.
Did you ever want to give up on your writing?
(At the risk of sounding like I’m whining…)
Will you please finish the Create A World clinic?
All this marketing and such, well, it’s interesting, I suppose.. and it might be someday useful down the road, I guess… but it’s not what I’m here for. And not what I’ve been hanging around for over a decade for.
I want the writing stuff. The writer stuff. The techniques you’ve learned from years of experience, the surprise tidbits of books to come… the stuff that a writer and a reader want.
If I wanted marketing, I’d hit Google and look for it myself.
When I’m stuck writing, I fold laundry. I do dishes. I redecorate my blog and search for different plugins. In other words, I give in to all the distractions and don’t write.
I can’t help but think that all this marketing stuff is your version of the same.
It wasn’t that long ago you were, once again, in a back-to-the-writing mode… and yet here you are, rearranging the website(s) once again, and talking about marketing stuff.
Don’t take this as mad, please… just sort of dismayed and bewildered. Used to be, you’d have dozens of comments on your posts – posts about the books, posts about the writing – and now I wonder how many of those kind of people are still left?
Makes me think of something I *did* read and take to heart about blogging – that there are two kinds.
The first is general, whatever the writer feels about blogging, and is pretty much just read by their close friends and relatives. It’s of no interest to anyone else.
The second is a niche blog, with a reasonably clear focus of either one topic, or a group of topics that are either closely related or likely to be of high-interest to the core group of readers.
Yours was the second. Now, I’m not sure what it is. Did you ditch your niche of writers and readers? Did you focus so tightly on writers that want to be internet marketing geniuses that you’ve shunned the rest of the writers?
I guess, to keep it simple – is there really any point for those of us who just want the reader and writer stuff to come back – new stuff, not updates ad nauseum of Think Sideways – to even stick around?
Or should we give up?
Regarding non-fiction… Jeff Walker talks about what he learned from other people when he was starting out, and now he teaches what he learned along the way. There are a lot of folks out there teaching techniques they obviously learned from Jeff. I know there are writers who have learned a lot from you who are teaching others about writing and publishing. So here’s the question: where is the line between processing information you’ve learned from others to create your own non-fiction information product, and essentially stealing someone’s ideas to make them your own?
I have lots of ideas for, essentially, complex settings. A setting with an inherent conflict, a main character, and maybe an initial extra conflict and couple of secondary/antagonistic characters. How do I fill out and complicate a story like that?
For instance, I have an idea for a dystopia where everyone is registered and tracked, except for one girl who was born on the streets by a dying mother. Obviously, she’s going to come into conflict with the government, but I don’t know how to jump-start the story.
Are your books available for the Nook?
Will you ever get back to the “Dreaming the Dead” project? Or is it already done?
Also, any hope of seeing another novel set in the world of Matrin?
When will you write the next Cadence Drake novel? When you go in this time what sort of prep will you do since you’ve had your head in this universe for so long?
I want to write stories and I want to good, interesting stories that keep reader thinking even after they have finished reading the book. (BTW: I just read Sympathy for the Devil…I loved it.)How do I get into a character’s point of view? I have worked through your create a character clinic but I still haven’t achieved the depth necessary to tell my story. I feel that I’m skimming the surface. I have quite a few unfinished stories and even a few finished ones that are terrible. I believe I haven’t created a connection with my characters to tell a story that pulls a reader into the story.
I understand your pain, lol. When a project becomes a little TOO all-consuming… you kinda really want to go buy a sandwich just for the sake of talking to the cashier. ;p
Now, about the Q&A… This is an issue I’ve had with writing for some time, and it’s one thing that has prevented me from wanting to write for a living. Sometimes I feel full-time writers sort of churn out stories as if they were almost mass-producing their fiction. It’s strange, considering good fiction is such a deeply meaningful, delicate, intimate process of the human mind, heart and soul. What do you think about this paradox?
I wrote a fantasy novel rough draft. When I started my revision I noticed that with the main character, I broke EVERY rule governing magic use that I had established. Any suggestions for how to pick up the pieces?
I’m one of those writers who’s naturally strong in plotting, character development, thematic exploration, pacing, dialogues, dramatic structure, emotional/intellectual resonance, etc, but the one thing that I’ve always felt less confident about, was the language itself. English is not my first language, so early on as a child, I had to struggle to catch-up to the other kids in school, and it’s left a mark on me, as if I’m perpetually playing catch-up somehow, even if I know full well that as an adult, I’ve long surpassed the average English speaker.
When I write, the prose is what challenges me the most, because I love lyrical prose that has a certain artistic quality to it, and I try to combine my literary aspirations with my love for speculative fiction. What I find the hardest, is to maintain a consistent quality in the usage of syntax, diction, and cadence. Some chapters reads beautifully and I feel like I’ve hit the mark dead-center, while others read like they were written by a less capable writer whose use of language isn’t nearly as compelling.
To be clear, I know full well the dangers of purple prose, and I’m vigilant regarding the dangers of stepping into that realm. So my question is this: What is your process for making sure the language you write with is up to snuff? Do you strive to expand your vocabulary and study the way your favorite writers use syntax and diction and cadence?
Even though a lot of people say you just use the words you know and write what’s natural to you, that just doesn’t sound like honest advice to me, because we all know that serious writers (particularly literary writers) care very much about the quality of the language they write with (regardless of the context of the narrative, such as a first-person POV using an uneducated character, or an omniscient POV that can be written in any level of language the author deems effective). This is probably the one aspect of writing that gets talked about the least, while structural aspects of conflict/resolution, character development, thematic focus, dialogues, etc are what’s most often taught by writing teachers (or mentioned when writers are interviewed). So I’d like to hear what you have to say about the topic of how writers use language and the struggle to write language at a quality that satisfies their artistic goals, as well as how writers can best train their ability to write prose at a level that’s beyond their current capability. While I know that some types of writing don’t require the level of language of say, Nabokov (if Twilight was written in that level of language, would it have been much better?), but I think you understand what I’m getting at.
Currently, I try to work towards that goal by making an effort to expand my vocabulary, so I have a greater range of selection in my diction choices, and I also highlight very well written sentences when I see them in books I read, and dissect the syntax, cadence, and usage of diction to understand why they evoke something in me that less effective language couldn’t. And of course, reading books that are famous for having evocative prose. Are there other ways to improve one’s use of language? Would going for an English Lit degree make a big difference (versus being self-taught like I am)?
How do those of us who are technology-handicapped get past the fear of learning an additional new skill, aside from writing cohesive stories, to build platforms, websites, blogs, etc… That is a HUGE intimidation for me and I shudder when I think I must get my head wrapped around tech stuff to be competitive today?
I’ve been trying to write a book little over a year now, but I keep jumping from story to story. I would get lost in one story then find myself contemplating another. And I would try to write these stories, get into them and flesh them out, but they seem to fall apart; they stop “clicking” for me. I think the problem lies in my theme, which I’ve struggled with for a long while now, but I just don’t know what kind of theme I want. I’ve looked over the internet to get some ideas…but I find that, finding a theme and using it in my book to be difficult. They don’t, ever, seem to mesh together. Have you ever run into this problem? How do I go about fixing it? How do you come up with your themes and how do you use them in your books?
I think have asked this before, but maybe it will be easier to answer here. In your video you mention shopping cart, and on the download, page 7, you say not to pay a monthly fee but to host it yourself. But, the next phrase is cut off, which may, or may not be, the name of the cart software you recommend to self host a cart. Can you tell us this name?
I have a lot of story to tell, I get lost in structure and what comes first, next, after that ….
I like the idea of a Q&A that is all in one chat. Could be long to scroll through, but so is clicking in and out of forums.
Questions I have:
Will the chat answers be available after, if I can’t make it?
I have questions about individual software names, like the inexpensive ecommerce software you used, and I guess you use aweber for blog and forums.
Hi Holly 🙂
How do you tell when you need more time to think about a story and when it’s time to just jump in? I’ve had an idea for a story in my head for 3 1/2 years now. I love it, I want to tell it, but every time I start it just doesn’t feel right, like I am missing something. I have written other things, but whenever I contemplate a new project, that one tugs at me. I don’t expect it to be perfect but it is possible my skill is not where it needs to be tell the story well. How do you tell? Thanks 🙂
I wanted to wish you a very happy birthday (late) and hope you will have all the time in the world to get back to writing fiction.
When will you finish writing Talysmana?
I’m worried my novel is getting too complex; there are just a few main characters, but they deal with a lot of conflicts, often all at the same time. For instance, my heroine juggles her time learning magic, deciphering a code that relates to the final battle, falling in love with the hero, getting to know her mother, and running from an evil king. All of these (except the getting to know the mother part) have their own conflict arcs, and a lot of the conflict arcs happen simultaneously (although not really in the same scene, usually).
Is this too complex? Should I trim my conflicts? I really don’t want to, but I’m concerned that the reader will be lost. I’m not, but that’s because I live in the world of my characters every day.
Holly did you ever have to cope with a confidence issue if so how did you handle it?
How did you feel on the eve of your first professional book release?