What I Learned While Writing Spark (and Spark teaser!)

When I began writing in 1995, I wrote Christian romance. While writing that first novel, I like to say I made all my mistakes. (Because I made so many, that story will never see the light of day). In each subsequent novel, I continued to learn new things and (hopefully) my writing improved. Spark was no different.

  • If you’re writing a series, seed your stories.

Spark is the first book of The Firebrand Chronicles. It’s about a female teen, Brenna, and the events that occur as she becomes an adult. Because it’s chronological and about one major character, I had to spend a lot of time outlining and thinking about where I wanted the other stories to go. And I had to make sure certain things happened in each book so that the next book would work. My editor was very, very kind. We were deep into edits when I sent her a desperate, yet apologetic email. “We have to change the name of this item. What I have won’t work.” She agreed and changed it. I’m thankful for her flexibility because the sequels would be a lot harder to write without the change. So even though I’m a pantser at heart, outlining the following books ahead of time was necessary.

  • Trademarks matter.

While I was writing, I threw in references to Pop-Tarts and Volkswagen vans. After all, they’re familiar items unless you’ve been living under a rock. But they’re trademarked, which means you need to be careful. After consulting with the Kellogg’s people, they nixed my Pop-Tart references (I still don’t think I’ve forgiven them). And the Volkswagen van reference was scrubbed and changed to “SUV.” We were thrilled when the C.S. Lewis Foundation okayed Lewis’s quote I used at the beginning of the story. I always knew he was a classy guy.

  • There’s no such thing as too much revision.

I haven’t counted how many total revisions Spark went through. But even now, after it’s done and printed, I still see things I’d change. (Part of that is my attractive, neurotic side.) Aside from the revisions I made before it I typed “THE END”, I revised it at least two times before giving it to my family, then again before giving it to my critique group, then revised it three more times before submitting it to a contest, then revised it again before submitting it to an agent. My agent showed me how he wanted it revised (which I did—twice), then my publisher showed me the revisions she wanted (and there were three rounds of those edits). So in all, I revised Spark at least ten times. Although I’m happy with it, it’s no surprise I’m ready to move on.

I’ve begun writing Book Two of The Firebrand Chronicles, titled Flare, and it picks up about eight months after Spark ends. I’m enjoying the process of creating and herding these characters in the direction they need to go. Please pick up a copy of Spark, then leave an honest review on Amazon, Goodreads or Barnes and Noble, telling everyone what you think.

Because the last thing I’ve learned? Authors (this one included) loves reviews!

And as promised here’s a teaser for Spark!

 

Isn’t it amazing? Thanks for watching!

 

5 Things You Must Do After Typing “The End”

 

You’ve finished the book. Day after day, month after month, (perhaps even year after year), you’ve slogged away at this manuscript. You’ve poured your heart and soul onto the pages. And now it’s finished right? Well, kinda. Here are five things you must do after typing “The End.”

 

  • Celebrate. Really. Did you know 97% of writers never finish their book? So you’re part of the 3% that completed yours. Congratulations! Go do whatever you do to celebrate: go out to dinner, go dancing, eat some prime chocolate, have a glass of wine, take a nap, whatever. But do celebrate because this is no small accomplishment.

 

  • Avoid the manuscript like the plague. Don’t look at it for a month. Six weeks would be better. Go on vacation. Take up a new hobby or revisit an old one. Let your brain have a break from it for awhile. Then come back to it with fresh eyes.

 

  • Revise. And revise. And revise. Oh, and revise some more. In regards to revision, more is better. One go-through isn’t enough to make the manuscript submission-ready (unless your John Grisham or James Patterson–and I’d bet they revise, too). You’ll need to go through it several times, removing unnecessary  words, strengthening sentences, plugging plot holes, adding description, and whatever else your manuscript needs.

 

  • Get feedback (but not from your parents, siblings, or other family relatives. Do not expect honest feedback from anybody who really loves you.) Maybe a stranger in Walmart would be a good choice. Just kidding–sort of. When you want to hear nice things, give it to a family member. If you want the honest truth, give it to someone who’s not related and doesn’t care about damaging your fragile ego. You might not agree with all of their comments, and that’s okay. It is, after all, your story. But the feedback’s another point of view, and you can make the choice to change the story or not. An important side note: if several beta readers (also known as unprofessional readers) say the same thing, take a good, hard look at the story. They see something you don’t.

 

  • Hire an editor. This is absolutely necessary if you’re going to self-publish. If not, it’d still be a beneficial move. It could be the difference between agent or no-agent. Or contract and no contract.  Listen to their ideas. (These professionals are amazing. In my current novel, my editor suggested action beats to flesh out a scene, flagged misplaced modifiers, and highlighted the actions that didn’t make sense. Spark is better for it–thanks, Michele!) There are a few manuscripts moldering in my filing cabinet. If I ever dust them off someday, they’ll desperately need an editor. Even though I love these cool stories, they need to be overhauled by a professional.

So, even if you’ve typed “The End,” it’s really not. But you’re in the home stretch, so don’t give up. Take some time to do the above five steps. And afterwards? Publish it independently. Send it to an agent. Or submit it to a publishing house. Because the world needs to read the story only you can tell.