My pen-name is Carol Roberts, and writing is the outcome of a long journey. When I left school I was interested in psychology, and I would have studied that, had I not decided to travel first. As was, I left my birth place of Vienna at the age of 18 and never returned to live there.
I travelled through South America and Asia, indulging my interest in culture and tradition, whenI met my husband-to-be in India. He was a photographer from New Zealand who was working for an agency, and his idea of travelling was a lot more intrepid than mine. We ended up in places that were so distant and remote, that I can still remember the feeling of eternal timelessness that took ahold of me in such locations. I was completely fascinated; what were those people’s stories, what did they preserve in terms of their mythology? I took a lot of notes about places and people, and by the time I settled in New Zealand, I had a firm plan of compiling a non-fiction book about stories and myths from all around the world.
What kinds of classes helped you learn the craft of writing? And tell us about your first break into print experience.
I took classes in Basic writing and Composition, Article writing and Creative writing, and started to experiment with freelance articles about our travels. Some of my work was picked up by a couple of magazines, but since my husband had allowed me to use some of his excellent photography, it’s shared credit. Writing articles satisfied my interest in non-fiction, the book about mythology was never written, and I was ready to move on to fiction.
What genre(s) do you write and what made you choose it(them)?
I dabbled with poetry, then with short stories, and when I finally decided to write my first full length novel, I was drawn to write a mystery. I chose Atlantis as a setting, because it perfectly fitted the type of speculative story I wanted to tell. Myth is often based on a real event that is important enough to have survived the ages, yet it transcends the event itself as symbolic and meaningful. Translated into genre, it’s fantasy/mystery.
What’s one tip you’d share with other writers?
Being a new author, I am still getting my head around the concept of self-promotion. It’s one thing to compile non-fiction articles, but it’s an entirely different thing to share and stimulate interest in one’s own creativity. So my tip (to myself as well) is that if you have written that first story, don’t be shy to connect with it.
Please share your most recent book title and the opening lines.
ATLANTIS by Carol Roberts
“And that is all I can tell you.”
The big, leather-bound book closed with an air of finality, as if to never again disturb the dust particles that resettled on the ancient, worn cover.
You can find the book on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B0777J2MC8/.
Carol Roberts is a freelance writer with particular interest in cultural myth. Originally from Vienna, she has spent all of her adult life in the Far North of New Zealand. Her passion for stories that tell of origins took her to several different countries, where she researched oral traditions of the oldest creation myths. Atlantis is her first full length novel, and her second novel Tower of Babel is also complete.
Twitter link: https://twitter.com/authorRobertsC
I hear about an ebook, or take a book off of a shelf, and the premise sounds interesting. My next step is to read a preview of the book. If the opening pages catch my interest, I’ll purchase it, or check it out from the library. However, I decline even free ebooks when the opening doesn’t grab me, and especially if it isn’t edited well enough.
This is not just about grammar and punctuation, although that’s definitely a stopper. It’s often about less obvious things.
Blunder #1 – the overuse of “as.”
For example, when reading the opening of a mystery recently, in the first eight sentences I spotted four sentences that started with “as” and another sentence also included an “as.” I don’t want to embarrass another author so will make up my own example with the same number of sentences and “as”es and how they could be fixed.
Sandra dropped her keys as a noise behind her startled her. She checked over her shoulder. Nothing in the dimly lit hallway. As she bent to pick up the keyring, it came again. As she snatched up the keys, the skin of her back crawled. As she searched for the key to her apartment, her fingers trembled. Click—there it was again. As Sandra shoved they key in the lock, she saw a small flame out of the corner of her eye.
Writing that made me cringe. Let’s talk about why.
Sentence #1 - Sandra dropped her keys as a noise behind her startled her. This is a perfect example of trying to show simultaneous actions, but in the wrong chronological order. What happens first? The noise. It should be first. Possible rewrite: A noise behind Sandra startled her and she dropped her keys.
Sentence #5 - As she snatched up the keys, the skin of her back crawled. Since sentence #4 started with “As she,” varying sentence structure will make the text more interesting. One way to do so is by using a conjunction. Possible rewrites: The skin of her back crawled, but she snatched up the keys. OR She snatched up her keys and tried to ignore the crawling sensation going up her back.
Sentence #6 - As she searched for the key to her apartment, her fingers trembled. Again, this one is not quite in the right order. Possible rewrite: With trembling fingers, she searched for the key to her apartment.
Sentence #8 - As Sandra shoved they key in the lock, she saw a small flame out of the corner of her eye. Sometimes we need to use other words than “as” such as “while” or “when.” One possible rewrite would be: When Sandra shoved they key in the lock, she saw a small flame out of the corner of her eye.
So what could this paragraph look like using these ideas?
A noise behind Sandra startled her and she dropped her keys. She checked over her shoulder. Nothing in the dimly lit hallway. As she bent to pick up the keyring, it came again. She snatched up her keys and tried to ignore the crawling sensation going up her back. With trembling fingers, she searched for the key to her apartment. Click—there it was again. When Sandra shoved they key in the lock, she saw a small flame out of the corner of her eye.
If I saw this version, I’d keep reading. What about you? Do you think it is stronger? Feel free to comment below.
Some writers say, “write until you have a first draft with no editing.” Others like myself edit as we go along. Proponents of the “no editing” say that doing this stops the creative flow. For some reason it doesn’t for me, although I know it does for other writers.
Here’s how I work. I’m writing away and then have to pause to think about what’s going to happen next, or maybe I should say, how it’s going to happen. While I’m thinking, I often go back and reread a paragraph or more and at that time may make edits. It could be I don’t like how I said something. Or perhaps I need to add a few more details of setting. Or cut dialogue that is unnecessary. I also fix obvious typos while writing as they bug me. (For example, in this sentence I originally typed wiriting—my word processor underlines it in red--argh!—so I can’t ignore it.)
I think part of my process is that I’m discovering things as I write. A discovery on page 20 may affect what has gone before as well as what is coming. For some issues I make a note, but others won’t leave my mind unless I go ahead and go back to the beginning and fix them. Donna Gephard says, “And if writing were blocks, I rearrange more than a dozen times for some of my word towers. And even if the whole structure topples, I begin again.”
After a break in writing, whether it’s two hours, two days, or two weeks, I usually reread what I wrote in the last writing session. Rereading gets me back into the character and the scene and helps me move forward. And I make any edits that jump out at me.
Once I have a number of chapters written, I usually take a chapter to my critique group. I reread it and edit before they see it. Then I edit based off of their comments. They can really help me see where to deepen or add to a scene, and sometimes where I need to develop a simple transition into a scene. Some of their advice carries through to where I’m currently writing in the novel.
When the novel is “done,” I usually let it sit awhile before going back to make more edits. Then I read the whole thing straight through to get a better picture in my head of how the story is working. But that waiting time is so important first. As Robyn LaFevers says, “A critical part of my process is letting the book lay fallow for a while between drafts.”
My process means I don’t have draft numbers as other writers do, but it’s what works for me.
How about you? Are you a “write the first draft without editing” writer, an “edit as you go” writer, or something in between?
Why did you decide to become a writer?
I’ve always had a healthy imagination. Back in elementary school, 4th grade to be exact, a senior high girl came to our classroom after lunch each day and read from a variety of age appropriate books. My favorite stories were from The Camp Fire Girls by Margaret Sanderson. Until then, I’d only read textbooks and you know how boring those can be. Then, for the first time, I found myself in the middle of the story. I felt the chill of the wind, the heat from the campfire on my skin when dusk drew near, heard the flutter of bird wings flapping overhead, and smelled the damp muskiness of the pine needles as we walked through the forest (I say ‘we’ because I felt I was there with the other girls). I was hooked. My senses came alive with each new adventure and I promised myself that someday, I would be an author telling my own stories.
Do you have authors who inspired you to write?
Obviously, Margaret Sanderson, author of The Camp Fire Girls, but over the years authors like Fannie Flagg, and Day LeClair have had a huge influence on my writing style.
What genre(s) do you write and what made you choose it(them)?
I write southern contemporary romance with a sense of humor. I like happy endings and there’s more than enough troubled and sadness in the world. Everyone needs a good laugh sometimes.
What kinds of classes, workshops, organizations, groups helped you learn the craft of writing?
As writers, we never know all we should about writing. My first venture was to take a Creative Writing Class with Long Ridge Writer’s Group. Over the years I’ve attended Writing Conferences and taken workshops online and in person. There are tons of sites on the internet which offer free articles about writing and marketing. I’m a member of Romance Writers of America, and Heart of Dixie RWA. The writers at Heart of Dixie have been a tremendous help in my writing career, offering help and advice in any way I need.
Do you belong to a critique group? If so, how often do you meet?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a critique group close enough for me to attend. I belong to an online writer’s group called Scribophile where I’ve met some incredibly talented writers, some published and some pre-published. We critique each other’s work. Sometimes it’s one chapter at a time, but I prefer to read several chapters in a row so I can get a feel for their writing style.
Tell us about your first break into print experience.
Nerve-wrecking, to say the least. It was a short story was about my older brother’s life as a blind man and the incredible things he’d accomplished. I’d written the story as an assignment in my creative writing class and had no intention of anyone reading it outside our immediate family. It wasn’t until he was diagnosed with terminal bladder cancer that I found the courage to submit the story to a local magazine for publication. The editor immediately accepted the story and it appeared in their next issue (Tombigbee Country Magazine). Thinking the magazine had a small circulation area, I was pleasantly surprised when I got phone calls and letters from readers located in other southern states telling me how much my story had inspired them.
What’s one tip you’d share with other writers? It can be a practical how to tip or an inspirational/encouragement tip.
Never give up. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and I’ve yet to meet a writer who started a novel one day and became a best selling author overnight.
Please share your most recent book title and the opening line.
RIGHT TIME FOR LOVE
Thunder rumbled, rattling the windows of the old, two-story house.
Buy Link: AMAZON
From the first reading of The Camp Fire Girls to her 4th grade class, Jannette Spann knew she wanted to be an author. She admits her aspirations were almost shattered when English grammar proved to be her toughest subject in school. As it so often happens, her childhood dreams were pushed aside as life led her in other directions. The dream faded, but never went away.
In the early nineties, she began writing short stores for her grandchildren and the dream of being an author sprang to life again. After completing a creative writing course, she wrote her first full-length novel which to this day remains in the back of her closet.
More stories came to life in her imagination and in December of 2012 she decided the time had come to get serious if she wanted to fulfill her childhood dream. In August of 2013 she published her first full-length Inspirational Romance Novel Hidden Hills, with Astraea Press. Two years later she released her 2nd novel with the same publisher entitled Right Time for Love. Both books are available for purchase on line in e-book and paperback at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.
Jannette is a member of Heart of Dixie, the North Alabama Chapter of Romance Writers of America. She believes when God gives you have a dream, you should go for it. Chances are He’s given you the ability to succeed, but you’ll never know if you don’t try.”
Note from SM Ford: Margaret Sanderson’s Camp Fire Girls series were written 100 years ago! So cool!
I love quotes. I especially love writing quotes. I often retweet them on twitter as a way to find them later. Sometimes I just search by hashtags, such as #writingquote, #justwrite, or #writinginspiration. Here are thirteen I gathered off of twitter today that I hope will encourage you.
"The...thing you have to do to be a writer is to keep on writing." -Robin Hobb
“Read, write & stay informed. The only thing you can control is how hard you’re willing to work at becoming a better writer.” -Claire Kells
"You never know what you will learn 'til you start writing. Then you discover truths you never knew existed." -Anita Brookner
"Creativity is a natural extension of our enthusiasm." -Earl Nightingale
"Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the tap is turned on." -Louis L’Amour
"Sometimes writing is just rubbing words together long enough to make a fire." -Gillian Marchenko
“You don’t make art out of good intentions.” -Gustave Flaubert
“Play around. Dive into absurdity and write. Take chances. You'll succeed if you are fearless of failure.” -Natalie Goldberg
"Say all you have to say in the fewest possible words, or your reader will be sure to skip them." -John Ruskin
“If you can quit, then quit. If you can't quit, you're a writer.” -R.A. Salvatore
"My job as a writer is to seduce you. There are a lot of other things you could be reading or doing." -Dara Horn
“If you are in difficulties with a book, try the element of surprise: attack it at an hour when it isn’t expecting it." -H.G. Wells
"A word after a word after a word is power." -Margaret Atwood
SM Ford writes inspirational fiction for adults, although teens may find the stories of interest, too. She also loves assisting other writers on their journeys.