Karelia Stetz-Waters – Guest Post

Karelia is one of my favorite people. She is a brilliant writer, yes – but she also has that incredible ability to teach people how to be brilliant writers. (Or at least, better writers than they were before she taught them.)

I’ve learned a lot every time I have taken a workshop by Karelia and I’m excited that she agreed to guest blog on my page this month. Please take a look at her blog and check out her books. You will not be disappointed. You can find her website here. 

 

A long journey is a million baby steps.

Four Ways to a Good Character

By Karelia Stetz-Waters

My creative writing students were working on character development. They called out ideas. I wrote on the board as fast as I could. Then we stopped and looked at our work.

“These are all traits we don’t like,” one student said.

“It’s harder to write good people, isn’t it?” I said. “Think about someone good. Describe them.”

I immediately thought of Beth Burnett. If you don’t know her, hold out your virtual hand and shake hers because you won’t meet a kinder, cooler member of our community.

And that’s why I’m so honored to write a guest post for her blog.

I write romance novels. Romance novels are all about good people. Write a thriller—I’ve written a few—and you can load up on serial killers like chicken wings at the KFC buffet. And that’s fun, but good people are better. We have to love our protagonists. Then, in my opinion, every protagonist must have at least one good friend. Then you need a place that’s almost a character itself. Someplace beautiful. Someplace your readers want to go. (I nailed it with my Out in Portland series. Apparently Portland is the seventh most moved-to city in American!)

“So how do we write a good character?” another student asked.

I love teaching creative writing because the students ask the questions I want to answer.

I have four traits, that make a character good.

Good characters care. They care about something bigger than themselves. They care about justice or animals or hungry children or the mill workers who got laid off. In my upcoming romance, a closeted TV star worries about coming out, not because she cares about losing her job, but because she’s worried about all the people who have taken comfort in her show. She doesn’t want them to think that all those years were a lie.

Good characters honor their debts. I mean debts with a capital D, debts like the debts in the Lord’s Prayer. It’s not enough just to care. Good characters act with compassion.

Good characters strive. It’s our responsibility to try to reach our full potential. Now some characters’ full potential is like my full potential for going to the gym—I bought a membership in January, and I still haven’t gone, but tomorrow…. As challenging as things are, good characters do everything they can do in this moment. After all, a long journey is a million baby steps.

Good characters see the world in a new way. A likable character shows us the beautiful world in a way we haven’t seen before.

And here’s the thesis, class. The most important character is you.

I hope I’m good. I know I care about you, whoever you are, reading this in your living-room or on your phone on the subway. I’m thinking about where you’re going and what you’ll face today. I’m thinking about how many good people there are in the world and how I’d like to gather you all up in my arms.

Leave a comment and tell us what makes you uniquely good.

 

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Waters_WorththeWait_Cover

Karelia’s next novel, Worth the Wait, comes out June 19th.

For fifteen years, Avery Crown tried to forget her best friend Merritt Lessing. The late nights studying, the whispered confidences, and the little touches that never turned into something more. Unfortunately, her efforts have not been as successful as her TV career as the queen of home renovation. So when she runs into Merritt at their high school reunion, Avery asks for one night with the woman she’s always wanted…

Merritt spent high school pining after Avery, but never made a move—their friendship meant too much. The one time it seemed things might change, Avery chose her budding career. So Merritt did the same, throwing herself into her remodeling business. Now Avery’s back, and while Merritt still hasn’t forgiven her for walking away the first time, they can’t keep their hands off each other. But when their professional paths cross, and it seems like Avery is choosing her career once again, Merritt will have to decide if she’s willing to let go of the past and give herself a second chance with her first love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writers Supporting Writers

I love supporting other writers, especially when I admire their work. I had the great fortune to meet author Desiree Cooper when we both spoke at a library conference a few days ago. I found her brilliant, well-spoken, and quite charming. I just got her book, Know the Mother, and have started reading the incredible pieces in this collection. I highly recommend it and you can get it here. (or at your local small bookstore – just ask them to order it!)

 

I’m also excited because one of my favorite authors, Karelia Stetz-Waters has a new book coming out. Worth the Wait is coming out on June 19th and is available for pre-order here. If you haven’t read anything by Karelia, I suggest you do. I’m not going to say much more about it, though, because next week, Karelia, who is not just an author but a professor and a generally brilliant person, is going to be here on this blog with some writing advice and a bit of info about her new book.

 

Stay tuned.

 

Saints and Sinners

I’m excited to be part of the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival this month. My partner and I are taking the train and I think we’re both looking forward to twenty hours of peace and solitude before the big celebration. It’s a good time for an appearance. Eating Life has had a nice uptick in sales lately, spurred, perhaps, by the news that my fifth book, Coming Around Again, will be published by Sapphire Books Publishing in fall of 2018.

I’ll be on two panels and will be giving a reading, so if you are anywhere near New Orleans, consider coming out for this LGBT centered portion of the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival.

 

A New Way to Commune with Readers

Beth Patreon Flier

My patreon platform is going well for the first week or so. I have four patrons so far and I have posted quite a bit of content that others won’t get to see – short stories that will only be posted on Patron, rough drafts with editing notes, cover reveals that others don’t get to see yet – even blurbs from current WIPs.  The engagement so far is fun…. the readers seem to enjoy the content and they like having a say in what I post.

This upcoming week, the patrons are getting a video-reading from my upcoming novel, Coming Around Again, release date fall of 2018.

There’s even a rumor I may post some of my poetry, heretofore only seen by myself and my cat.

And no one has to wear pants.

 

 

The Winter Blahs

It always hits around mid-January, doesn’t it? The holidays are over, you’ve shoveled way more than you want to, you’ve debated moving somewhere warmer for the fifteenth time, and there’s nothing left to do but sit inside in seven layers and wait for spring.

I like to write during this time. I’m not going to be leaving the house much anyway, so I might as well make some productive use of my captivity. I wrote three books in 2017, and a great deal of that work happened in January and February. (And again late in the year in November.) In the spring, I like to be outside, and in the summer, there are conferences and road trips and camping. Winter is a good time to write.

Except  – it’s January 14th and I’ve only put about five thousand words down on paper. But I’m not beating myself up. One of my New Year’s resolutions is to not be hard on myself. I’m going to follow the same advice I give my students. Sit down and write for at least fifteen minutes a day. No matter what else happens, you can make time for fifteen minutes. You’ll be amazed at what you can do in fifteen minutes a day.

It’s my commitment to myself and my readers. Fifteen minutes a day. I may not write three books this year, but I will definitely write at least one.

 

What is giving up?

I sold 91 copies of my most recent novel, Eating Life. 91 copies of a book that took two years to write, countless hours of rewriting, several pass-through revisions with an editor, and, figuratively, a lot of blood and sweat. (The tears were sometimes literal.)

91 copies of what I consider my best work yet.

91 copies of the book that made the most rabid fan of my first novel, Man Enough, the person who read my next two books and said, “Excellent, but no Man Enough,” finally, finally say, “And now I have a new favorite Beth Burnett book.” And it got excellent reviews. Read them for yourself here. And if you have read this book and haven’t reviewed it yet, why not?

91 copies. Enough money to pay the electric bill. For one month.

I know I don’t know how to market. I know I don’t do enough for my books to give them an audience. I know I’m not out there pounding the pavement looking for bookstores that will sponsor readings or repeatedly asking my library to carry my books. I don’t like it, it makes me anxious. I know sitting around hoping someone will set up an event for me and tell me to be there is not going to sell books. I get that.

But I have to admit that I really wish there was someone that did that.

The thing is, I fell in love with Eating Life. I fell in love with the characters. I thought one of them, Ben Stagg, was one of the best characters I have ever invented. So much so that he is going to come back in another book. I love him and the rest and I wanted everyone else to love them, too.

91 copies and I’m finally beginning to wonder if maybe this is not supposed to be my career. I know money isn’t the whole point, but it is part of the point. And it’s a special kind of sadness that comes when my alter ego, who writes short and easy little erotica stories on Amazon, makes more money from those little hour-from-start-to-finish stories than I do on the novels I’ve worked so hard on. Long ago, when I was complaining to a friend about my books not selling as well as I wanted, she said, “Write for yourself, not for an audience.”

Well, if that’s the case, why bother publishing? If the goal is to just write what you love and not let it matter whether or not anyone is reading it, why share it at all?

I’m still writing. I finished an excellent YA fantasy during NaNoWriMo. I have a completed lesbian love story that just needs some revision. And I have a women’s fiction book that is, in my opinion, funnier than much of the bestselling women’s fiction I’ve read.

I still love writing. But I don’t have the heart to deal with everything that comes after. I can’t seem to make myself  research publishers and agents or send out query letters. I think I just need to take a break from it all. Not from writing – from writing for reasons other than to just write.

I’d love to know how other writers deal with this. What do you do when you don’t sell? How do you reconcile marketing versus writing versus deciding to just go get a day job? When do you decide to stop seeing writing as your dream and relegate it back to a hobby?

 

NaNoWriMo Midpoint

I am exactly halfway through November and guess what? I just hit 25,000 words on my manuscript. Seriously. I had to push through to get there. So much for my big, sexy lead in the first week of November.

I am nowhere near the outline I started with… in fact, I’ve just introduced characters who apparently have NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with the original outline. But I still think I can salvage this.

Except…. now I’m flying blind, my outline is in shambles, and my main character is DEAD. The last part might be a lie.

For the most part, I think I’m holding it all together very well. But I don’t have any clean underwear for work tomorrow.

 

Are you a real writer?

I belong to several online writing groups. Some are geared toward feedback, some are instructional, and some, the bulk of them, are simply places for writers to get together and talk about writing. Online groups are an excellent way to connect with other writers when a live writing group isn’t a possibility.

Lately, I’ve found a disturbing trend happening in my groups – maybe it has always been there, but I’ve seen it a lot recently… People telling other people that they aren’t real writers. I have been seeing it constantly in my groups and it is pissing me off. Some new writer who is just learning to break out of the cage of self-doubt and flex those creative skills is going to read these judgmental posts and slip right back in. These are just a few examples of what I mean:

  • You aren’t a real writer if you don’t write every day.
  • You aren’t a real writer if you don’t feel compelled to write.
  • You aren’t a real writer if you aren’t almost overwhelmed by your ideas.
  • You aren’t a real writer if you haven’t studied the craft of writing.
  • (My personal favorite) Writing is hard. If you tell me you love writing, I’m going to assume you aren’t a real writer.

 

I’m a writer. I don’t write every day. I don’t always feel compelled to write. I am sometimes overwhelmed with ideas and sometimes, I stare at the blank screen for an hour paralyzed with the fear that all of the ideas have dried up forever. I have studied the craft of writing. I continue to study the craft of writing. I can’t imagine I will ever stop studying the craft of writing. There are a lot of ways to do that and they don’t all involve going to college and many of them are free. The fact that I have a degree in Creative Writing doesn’t make me a more genuine writer than anyone else. In fact, I think I’ve learned more about the craft of writing over the past year than I did in my years of school.

I love writing. I also hate it. Sometimes, I’m afraid of it. And sometimes, it even bores me. It’s a job, it’s a life, it’s a passion, it’s an addiction. It’s a dream come true and a way to make a living. It’s creating worlds and it’s forgetting to move the laundry to the dryer because the story is so compelling, it can’t be stopped until the end. Some days, it’s deciding all the heating vents in the house need to be cleaned because that’s easier than writing. Writing is hard and sometimes it’s easy. Sometimes writing is busting out an incredibly brilliant short story in twenty minutes and sometimes it’s laboring over a submission with a deadline for three weeks.

There is one thing that makes someone a real writer. They write. They write when they can, they write when they’re able. They write. End of story. If you want to be a writer, write.

Now, if you want to be a published writer or a freelance writer or a working writer or a novelist or a blogger or —- Well, that’s a different story.

But whatever you do, don’t sit in judgment of someone else’s writing process. A real writer is too busy focusing on their own work to point a finger at everyone else.