A few years ago, I found myself in a state of what I would simply call, unrest. It wasn’t a bad place to be necessarily, but it can be one of flux and uncertainty, especially for a woman. Especially for this woman – a mother of four kids, in my mid-forties, and a marriage of almost 25 years in turmoil, eventually ending in divorce. I think that pretty much sums up the word ‘unrest’, don’t you? So how did I move past this state? Well, it wasn’t easy. Honestly it’s still a day-to-day challenge, but reading and writing definitely helped!
The Mamas and the Papas wrote a song about it, and the Bible mentions it in Ecclesiastes – that there is a season and time for everything. A time to laugh and a time to cry, a time to grieve and a time to dance. For me, I fall into the “a time to read – a time to write” category. I loved reading when I was young, but somewhere along the way I lost the desire. Writing poetry and keeping journals were a lifeline during the more dramatic dating years of life, but once I married and started a family, it too became nonexistent once the busyness of life took hold. My family and career were great at the tie, but after my oldest son moved forward in life, I found myself looking back and longing for more. You might call that longing a ‘mid-life crisis’, and maybe it was on some level - I’m not sure. But I was certain of one thing…I wanted to inspire and ignite a change in not only myself, but others around me.
As a writer, my goal is to move the reader, as should be yours if you write - to engage and inspire! Writing should never come from a place of stress or pressure, unless it is the only thing that pays your bills. Instead, the best stories are those that are written from a place of inspiration, passion, personal experience, or even writing about a friend’s struggle/story. Then, you are writing for all the right reasons. Those emotions that your pen is laying on the crisp, white pages will later jump off the page when a reader comes face to face with your words. That reader becomes a spectator of the story you have created, watching it unfold scene by scene and making an indelible impression upon his or her mind. Once your words are read, they become part of that reader’s life forever. Your story is now their story.
Writing gives you the ability to touch lives that you never thought possible, but it can also be a way to free yourself of many things that cause stress, pain, worry, and more – healing to some degree. It was for me in many ways, but I also wanted my writing to give women hope in second chances in life and love. I decided to write a story that I would want for myself if given the chance to start over and find new love. If your desire is to write, and you haven’t yet begun, then I highly encourage you to find a good book and make the time to read. I was told once that the best writers are avid readers, and I find this to be true beyond any doubt. Keep a notebook by your bed, and when a thought or idea enters your mind, write it down! One tip I will share is writing down words as you read other novels – words that speak to you. Dig into the meaning behind the word and make a ‘wish list’ of words that you could use in your own story, and when you’re ready, bring it to life.
We all have a story…what’s yours? Write it!
Sandy recently moved back to her hometown of Mt. Vernon, IL and lives there with her two youngest kids. She currently works in Marketing for a local Children's Home and is busy working on another book.
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Sandy-Sinnett/e/B00K00OVF0
What genre do you write and why?
I write Middle Grade adventure because I find there’s a wonderful kind of magicality about this age group and the themes writers can approach. My book series was inspired by a family visit with my mom and my two nephews, aged 10 and 12 at the time. We visited Egypt (where the plot of Book One in the series takes place) and I saw everything through their eyes, and it was fantastic to see them approach each place and situation with a rare kind of wonder and excitement. I wanted to capture that in all my MG books.
Tell us about your latest book.
I’m promoting Book Two in my MG Chronicles of the Stone series. The Search for the Stone of Excalibur continues the adventure that began in Book One (The Secret of the Sacred Scarab) and takes our two young heroes, cousins Justin and Adam, to Great Britain in search of an ancient stone that might be embedded in Excalibur’s hilt, giving King Arthur’s sword its legendary powers.
What marketing methods are you using to promote your book?
I do just about everything: blog tours, author interviews, Tweet posts, blog posts, and a reader email newsletter, among any good ideas that might present a promotional opportunity.
What formats is the book available in?
The Search for the Stone of Excalibur is available in print and e-book format.
What advice do you have for other writers?
Even when you feel like giving up, never give up. Make sure your book meets the industry’s highest standards. Do something every day to let people know about your book/s.
Where can people find out more about you and your writing?
I’d love for people to find out more about my books and read a first chapter, as well as download a free Young Explorer’s Companion Guide to each book by visiting www.chroniclesofthestone.com.
Why do you think readers are going to enjoy your book?
Young and young at heart readers, readers who are either in the MG age group or remember being there, will enjoy my books because there is such a wonderful sense of adventure. My heroes go to amazing places and encounter danger, are inspired to do great deeds, have to think on their feet to get out of sticky situations, and they learn about themselves, life, and other cultures as they go along. It is an amazing quest that I find everyone just loves to read.
How do you research your books?
All my MG books are set in countries that the average young reader might not visit, (such as Egypt, Mexico, Turkey and India) as well as incorporating history, geography, myths and legends, and cultural elements. I do a mountain of research to not only get the facts right as the story progresses, but also to select just the right information to inform and intrigue a young reader without overwhelming them.
What is your work in progress? Tell us about it.
Book 3 in the series, The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper, is with my editor right now. It’s very exciting as my young heroes and their friend crash land in the Mexican jungle on their quest. They are rescued by an uncontacted tribe and much danger and mayhem ensue.
What are your thoughts on self-publishing verses traditional publishing?
Many writers self-publish by default because they aren’t picked up by either an agent or a publisher. They have to work harder to make sure their product is perfect, as well as then market their product. However, I think traditional publishing gives writers the stamp of legitimacy they crave. The best option is hybrid publishing where a writer can self publish some books and have others with a traditional publisher. The stigma attached to self-publishing is long gone because so many established authors are happily calling themselves hybrid authors.
I’ve attempted to write fiction (never published until now) for about 20 years. I certainly followed that oft-repeated advice to writers: “Never give up.” I attended writing workshops and read books on “How to Write,” but nothing clicked, until a kindly literary agent I met at a writing conference seemed to sense promise in my work and connected me with a developmental editor, who took me to school, as the expression goes. After working with her on a manuscript (which is now my novel “Fractured Eden”), I felt like I earned another graduate degree. Along with her expert tutelage, she recommended four books on fiction writing that she felt would best benefit my writing style and my chosen genres of suspense and mystery. That was one of the many obstacles to me over the years: which books to read? After all, if you search the internet for “how to write fiction,” you’ll get millions of hits. I wasn’t finding the right instructional books for my needs, but now I'm fairly certain that I’m on the right track. The four books my editor recommended: “Plot & Structure” by James Scott Bell, “Writing the Breakout Novel” by Donald Maass, “Story Engineering” by Larry Brooks, and “The Writer’s Journey” by Christopher Vogler.
I’ll mention a few writing tips from my editor and from the above books that made an impression on me. (Seasoned writers will probably be familiar with this information). These points were among the most important for my book’s revision.
1. A major problem with my lead character was highlighted by this question: “If he’s in so much danger, why doesn’t he just hightail it out of there?” I thought I had that issue covered, but I didn’t. I had to delve more deeply into the nature of his conflicts and his relationships with other characters, and that seemed to work. He has to stay because his leaving would place his girlfriend in danger. He has to stay because his self-respect would be mortally wounded if he continued to try to flee from his challenges rather than face them head-on.
2. The original opening to the novel was too wimpy; I needed a few slam-bang opening pages. I think the prologue accomplished that - it introduced the lead character and placed him immediately in a world of distress.
3. To make each scene more effective, I shortened opening lines and tried to make scene openings and closings more tense and provocative to the reader.
4. As I had learned from my writing research, the theme of the novel seemed to emerge from the lead character’s conflicts. He wrestled with the issue of courage throughout the story. What is courage, ‘do I have it,' and how does a person tap into it when it’s needed? While fleshing out my lead's final battle, I realized that courage had become an important theme of the story.
5. My main villain was too one-dimensional, so I created a back story for him that explained the origin of his mental pathology and why he acts the way he does.
6. My editor recommended that I develop the setting more fully. As a result, I like to think that the setting (The Big Thicket) became more alive and vibrant and even became an active participant in the story.
So far, the self-publishing process has been challenging and fun, especially when my first few reviews on Goodreads were positive. I’m sure most authors experience that nagging uncertainty about whether or not their creation is worthy; I certainly was worried. So, the reviews of my novel on Amazon and Goodreads (mostly positive) affirmed that my efforts, after all, might be worthwhile over time and that my writing might entertain at least a few readers. That’s satisfying indeed, akin to the “runner’s high,” as I’m sure that pleasant warmth - no, sheer elation - I feel when reading a positive review is due to those euphoria-inducing endorphin molecules just released from a few billion neurons in my brain.
With help from the book “Revision and Self-Editing for Publication” by James Scott Bell, I’m currently revising a mystery novel that I’ve been working on for about 10 years. Of course, I’m applying what I learned during the writing and revision process that led to my current published novel. I work on writing projects almost every day, usually early in the morning before work, as my mind clicks on all cylinders in the dawn hours.
Good luck to all writers out there!
Steven Gossington is an emergency room physician with over 30 years of patient care experience. For 11 years, he was an academic professor in emergency medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City, and he published 20 book chapters and medical articles of original research. His enjoyment of mystery and suspense fiction and his love of writing led to his first novel Fractured Eden, a psychological suspense story in which he draws upon his extensive experience with mentally ill emergency room patients.