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The Best Writing Advice from SWW Authors


Next to the originator of a good sentence is the first quoter of it. I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.
~ Emerson

What better writing advice than that given by a published author?

In the course of interviewing SouthWest Writers’ authors for this website, one of the questions I asked was, “What advice would you give to beginning or discouraged writers?” Here are the answers compiled from ten of the interviews posted in 2015.

The publishing world is competitive, but writing shouldn’t be. No two writers will ever tell a story exactly the same way. Don’t be afraid to help those around you, or to learn from others. If you’re not improving and having fun as a writer, you may as well move on to something else. One of my characters once told me, “If you ain’t havin’ fun, you’re just wastin’ space.” That has become my motto. ~ Sarah Baker

Bumblebee physiology is inconsistent with flight, so instead of flapping their wings up and down like a bird, they wave them in a figure eight pattern. Unwilling to walk from flower to flower, they achieve their goal by working with the laws of physics to find a way to fly. It’s the same with writing: if one avenue doesn’t pan out, find another. ~ Olive Balla

Writing can be a box with rigid structures that are demanding and restrictive to one’s creative nature. On the other hand, writing can be as fluid as the ink that flows unto the paper. It can become a vehicle that opens up doors to new worlds of possibility and to dreams that have never been expressed. My hope is that every writer who feels the need for more freedom chooses the latter. ~ S.S. Bazinet

Don’t wait until it’s perfect, because it’ll never happen. Obviously, it’s necessary to do a thorough job editing, but it’s too easy to get hung up on minor things and never get the job done. ~ Susan C. Cooper

Just begin. Trust yourself and your words. Forget many of the things you learned about “rules.” As Mark David Gerson suggests in The Voice of the Muse, there are 13 rules. The first is: There are no rules. The story exists and you are the vehicle which carries it. ~ Elizabeth Ann Galligan

Discouragement is part of the writing game. So is perseverance. And perseverance will eventually win (think Thomas Edison). My advice: Keep honing your craft. Join a critique group and learn to take criticism; after all, they’re readers, and writers need readers. Realize your writing isn’t sacred and not to be changed in any way; remember, you can’t see mistakes in your own writing—you’re too close. ~ Larry Greenly

Don’t give up. Find publishers who’ve issued books similar to yours. Develop a great query to send them, one that will get their interest enough that they’ll even read your submission. Create a first page that grabs them. ~ Joyce Hertzoff

People who write are called writers. People who wait are called waiters. I’d advise you to write every day, if only for the sheer pleasure of it. Don’t worry about the Great American Novel, etc. Enjoy what you do! Or find something else to do, life is too short. ~ Robert Kidera

Learn to reject rejection. Get used to the idea that there is going to be a lot of rejection along the way. The secret is to never give up. If one person tells you no, ask someone else. Someone, somewhere, sometime will say yes. Move on to the next person. Someone is waiting to say yes. ~ Gale O’Brien

Set both weekly and monthly goals/deadlines for yourself. Write them down and work diligently toward achieving them. Buy an appointment book and schedule time for writing, rewriting and research. Your “great expectations” will be easier to achieve when you have established in writing what they are. ~ Shirley Raye Redmond

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. She has a new speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

Image “Light at End of Tunnel” courtesy of lkunl /

An Interview with Author Joyce Hertzoff, Part 1

Joyce Hertzoff retired from a profession grounded in fact and science and now uses the power of the pen to write mystery and fantasy stories. Her first novel The Crimson Orb was published in 2014 by Phantasm Books, an imprint of Assent Publishing. Under Two Moons, her second in the series, is forthcoming. Read a complete list of Joyce’s published work on her SWW Author Page. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter, and visit her at and

TheCrimsonOrbWhat is the elevator pitch for your fantasy novel The Crimson Orb?
Searching for her mysteriously missing magic teacher, teenage Nissa’s adventures reveal how little she knows about her world, and how resourceful she can be.

Who is your favorite character in the book?
It has to be Nissa, because she’s the one who grows the most from her experiences. I particularly love the fact that she achieves her dream of learning to sword fight, but also learns that the lessons she disdained—cooking and sewing—could be useful skills as well. In the second book, Under Two Moons, her sewing skills become even more important.

Looking back to the beginning of your writing journey, what do you know now that you wish you’d known then?
One of the things I learned is to stay in the same point of view, at least throughout a chapter. Related to that, I tend to write in first person. There are both advantages and disadvantages to that. The disadvantage is you can’t show anything your first-person protagonist hasn’t experienced themselves. Sometimes someone else has to tell them about it. But the advantage is the writer can take the reader into the thoughts of their protagonist; I don’t always use this as well as I should, especially when it comes to showing emotions and reactions.

You write in both the fantasy and mystery genres for adults and young adults. Which genre presents the most challenges?
The challenges are different. For fantasies, I have to develop a clearly defined new world, while for murder mysteries, I have to decide “whodunit” and find ways to throw suspicion on many of the other characters. And each audience has its expectations that I have to meet. That’s not always easy. The language/words I pick when writing for adults is slightly different for young adults, too.

FortuneCupcakes2Tell us about some of the marketing tie-ins you used for The Crimson Orb. Did you plan these or were they more of an afterthought?
All of my marketing tie-ins were afterthoughts. The fortune cupcakes in the book were created in response to an online prompt. When I looked for a place to launch my book, though, the obvious choice was a bakery that agreed to make fortune cupcakes for me. I also want to fill my book website with more than the usual book synopses and articles about writing. I found photos online that are similar to how I picture my characters, so I added those with brief bios for each. And I have a couple of recipes for some of the strange foods Nissa and her friends found in their travels. I hope to add more in the future.

What is your writing process like?
When I get an idea, I sometimes outline the first few chapters, but once I start writing, and especially after the characters and world are developed, I let my characters lead me where they want. I might do some minor revision as I’m writing, especially if I’m submitting chapters to others to critique, but most of my editing is done after I’ve typed “THE END.” I’ve taken many writing classes in the past few years, including ones on craft, and I apply what I learned as I edit.

What part do beta readers or critique partners play in perfecting your manuscripts?
I love having beta readers and critique partners. Most give me a readers perspective so I know if what I intended is how the story actually comes out. It is important, of course, to know the abilities of the readers and critiquers. Some provide more insight than others.

What advice do you have for writers who are still striving for publication?
Don’t give up. Find publishers who’ve issued books similar to yours. Develop a great query to send them, one that will get their interest enough that they’ll even read your submission. Create a first page that grabs them.

For Part 2 of this interview, published on KL Wagoner’s website, click here.

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. She has a new speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

Eight SWW Members to Read at the South Broadway Cultural Center

SBCC Theatre

The theatre at South Broadway Cultural Center

Don’t miss SouthWest Writers’ debut event at the South Broadway Cultural Center (SBCC) on November 15 at 10:00 a.m. If you’ve never been there, you’re in for a real treat. The SBCC is assembling a fabulous citywide home for all things literary, and the gorgeous facility is absolutely first class.

Readers will perform onstage in the beautiful SBCC theatre, near a room where books will be available for purchase. There’s plenty of parking, too.

The gala event will be hosted by SWW Vice President, Peg Herrington, who will introduce each reader with a tale from his or her writing background.

Copeland Neeley reads the first chapter of his unpublished novel The Haunt at Hauntington Elementary. This kid-friendly mystery unfolds through a string of vignettes as each student in Mr. Morton’s class takes a turn in the spotlight.

Gayle Lauradunn reads from her freshly published debut poetry collection, Reaching for Air. She is working on a historical novel set in 18th Century Scotland.

Lucy St. Clair reads from the first volume of her paranormal Time Passages series, Scattered Years, to be published in late 2014. “My time travel trilogy leans heavily toward allegory,” she explains. “You might say it’s something of an autobiography in disguise.”

Don DeNoon’s humorous poem “Midnight on the Rio Grande” will be read by John Candelaria (as Don is recovering from Achilles tendon reattachment surgery).

Bobbi Adams reads “Happy Easter,” a hilarious short story taken from her memoir in-progress. It was published in The Storyteller’s Anthology: Presented by SouthWest Writers.

Joyce Hertzoff participated in the National Novel Writing program for the first time in 2008. She reads from her Kindle eBook The Crimson Orb, which was written for NaNoWriMo in 2010 and published in 2014. It’s a fantasy tinged with science.

John Candelaria’s poetry has been published in the OASIS Journal 2012 and 2013; Poetry from the Other Side, New Mexico State Poetry Society, Albuquerque Chapter; and SouthWest Writers’ The Storyteller’s Anthology. He reads “Albuquerque Rises,” celebrating the history of our city.

Jim Tritten reads “Two Old Soldiers,” from the Corrales Writing Group 2013 Anthology. It is particularly appropriate as it celebrates the end of World War I and Veterans Day.

Plan to attend! This Reading is the first event SouthWest Writers will sponsor at the SBCC. It could be a landmark, bragging-rights event. The South Broadway Cultural Center is located at 1025 Broadway Blvd SE, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87102, 505-848-1320.

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