Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Guest Post: Author Judith Graves

The Book Swarm is pleased to welcome Judith Graves today! Judith is the awesome YA author of the Skinned series (Under My Skin, Second Skin, and Skin of My Teeth, out in 2013) and a fierce promoter of all things spooky, paranormal, and urban fantasy. She's spearheaded The Crossroads Blog Tour, which The Book Swarm's participated in the past two years, and is currently co-writing (with Dawn Dalton) a middle grade, non-fiction series called Most Wanted Monsters.
**A Prescription for Success**

When I do author visits, or even in casual conversations with people I’ve just met, inevitably someone will ask, “I’ve been thinking of writing a book, how do I get it published?”

My issue with this question isn’t that I’ll have to rattle off a hoard of agent/publisher query tips and resources – I’m more than happy to share what I know and point people in the right direction. I don’t have some preconceived notion the individual’s writing would be unworthy of publishing, or contrarily, that this is my future competition standing in front of me, so I better steer them wrong. My issue is the “THINKING” part of this question…they’ve been thinking of writing a book. They don’t have a work in progress. Or a first draft. They may not have written a short story or a diary entry in their lives, but they want to know about publishing.

Royalties. Movie rights.

They want to get to the end of the race before they know if they can run.

Now, don’t get me wrong, we all start by dreaming of writing a book, or at least of telling a damn good story. Without that initial spark, you’ll never enough fire to see your idea to completion. However, I’ve been thinking of losing fifteen pounds for about two years now and it ain’t gonna happen unless I cut back on the wrong foods and get my ass up on that treadmill in the basement - currently used to air- dry laundry.

There’s no magic pill for weight loss or for writing a novel. If there were, I’d be more than slightly addicted. Screw the side effects.

And I have to say self-publishing is not the magic pill some believe it to be. It’s a fast track to a keen audience, however, that audience doesn’t pull any punches or hold back the tomatoes. Putting your work out there before it’s ready can be a lesson in how NOT to start your writing career.

Any indie author who takes their art seriously knows this. They revise their work, hire editors, and revise again and again. They do this because readers of indie authors still want great stories. They’ll forgive some grammar mistakes, sure, but if you don’t have the basics of the craft or know how to translate what’s in your head into the written word…you won’t gain the readership.

Or the big royalties. Or sell the movie rights.

If you’re really keen, you’ve got a fever for writing and you’re willing to do the work, then my prescription is this:

Think about writing a book, but do more than that. Get a resource like Save the Cat: The Last Book On Screenwriting That You’ll Ever Need by Blake Snyder (I don’t care it’s for screenwriting – the plot structure is the BEST I’ve seen and I use it for scripts and novels alike) and start plotting your book.

Pick up a pen, a pencil, a crayon, an antique typewriter, a laptop – whatever – and start WRITING. One sentence at a time.

Join an impartial group of writers and share critiques (aka - not your best friend/mother). Nothing teaches more than reading the work of others and seeing first hand what works and what doesn’t. Constructive eyes on your own work will be enlightening. Oh, and you may want to invest in a thick, leathery hide – some of the lessons you’ll learn will sting a bit. Critiquecircle.com is a wonderful online community and has free, as well as pay services.

Read author, agent, and publisher blogs to learn about common writing mistakes, the publishing industry, and start building relationships with other writers, bloggers, readers, etc.

You can do this, I know you can, because I did - and I thought it would be impossible too.

Hmm…now about that treadmill…

Be sure to comment on ANY Second Skin tour post (either HERE on Judith's site, or on participating blogger/author sites) will get you entered in the kick-assiest of kick-ass GRAND PRIZES.

Under My Skin is available on Amazon | Leap Books
Second Skin is available on Amazon | Leap Books


  1. I've never heard of Save the Cat. I'll have to check it out. I need to actually sit down and write some day.

  2. "They want to get to the end of the race before they know if they can run."

    Wow! Yes, that is so true. And I can't help but think that all the book to movie successes that have grow in popularity is the cause of this. Everyone wants a quick way to get rich and famous, and really, I can't blame them for wanting it. I can't say that if a opportunity like that fell in my lap I wouldn't take it. LOL

    *sigh* Wouldn't life be so much easier if that magic pill did exist?! I'd especially want one for weight loss because I hate the treadmill!

  3. It's so funny that you mention your treadmill as I have a rowing machine in the basement that I use for the exact same purpose as you do your treadmill. Drying laundry. Oops.

    And I think this is a brilliant post! As a reader, I can definitely forgive some grammatical errors and other small things as I'm more than guilty of them myself in my reviews no matter how many times I read through and try to catch them all, but I need the flow of the story to work and the characters to engage me, and I think those types of things can only be improved (as with anything else) with practice.

  4. This is such a great post! I think a person shouldn't even really be asking for advise on publishing until they have at least started a story and they know they enjoy writing. And they really shouldn't think about it too hard until they get the writing thing down.
    And YES, the biggest mistake an author can make is putting their book out too soon. If I read a book that badly needs editing I'm probably never going to bother with that author again.

  5. Thanks so much for the great comments, guys - Mary, thanks for having me. :) I agree, you have to put in the time honing your craft before you take some of those big leaps.

    As for Save the Cat - don't take my word for it, here's a post my writing partner did after I wore her down as well: http://dawn-ius.blogspot.com/2012/03/book-10-save-cat.html