Do you know which genre you’re writing in? Have you ever worked with a freelance editor? Are you a new writer looking for writing tips? Then keep reading and let Marie Watts help you out!
What do you write? How/why did you pick your genre?
I write fiction and nonfiction. In the nonfiction arena, I am the co-author of a textbook, Human Relations 4th ed. and a pictorial history of Fayette County, Texas (where I live) called La Grange. I volunteer at a historic house and am currently producing video snippets of the residents to enhance our house tours. The scripts are written and recorded; now, I’m busy trying to incorporate historical pictures.
I use fiction as an avenue to entertain and encourage others to look at issues such as diversity, personal relationships, and individual growth.
Unfortunately, I write and then worry about the genre. I deemed my current trilogy, Warriors for Equal Rights, as a mystery—it follows employment discrimination investigators who solve crimes and nab the bad guys. Agents, however, proclaimed it could not be a mystery because there was no dead body. Who knew?
If you’ve written multiple books, which was harder: the first book or the following books?
To me, the first one is much harder. The first book in my Warriors trilogy is The Cause Lives. The process took me forever because I was too timid at throwing the characters into situations where the stakes were high. The second book, Only A Pawn, flowed easier since the characters had been established.
How do you combat writer’s block?
I don’t combat it very well. Sometimes I envision a scene and write it. Then later, I go back and stick it in an appropriate place. Other times, when I’m concentrating on something else, ideas pop into my mind.
I have a friend who preaches to me to write at least ten minutes a day, and, sometimes if you just start, ideas flow. Personally, I procrastinate by working jigsaw puzzles on the computer.
How do you prepare to write your books: pantser, plotter, both, something completely different? Describe your strategy.
I admit to being a pantser for fiction. I do, however, know where the story starts and ends. Then, I fill in the middle as my imagination takes hold or as I have something happen to me which sounds good to put into the plot.
My nonfiction writing is a bit different. My recent works involve historical incidents, and the facts shape the story. The trick is to find something interesting that is relatable to people today.
For instance, I was researching the local 1888 newspapers for other information and noticed a spate of violence. Upon closer inspection, I realized the journal bemoaned the incidents and suggested that bearing six-shooters should be curtailed. I used these reports as a springboard to explore Texas gun laws in the 1800s. The article is entitled “A Bloody Month in 1888.”
What advice do you have for new authors?
Take writing classes and read books on writing. Also, read, read, read. Then, think about what the book did for you. Was it just entertainment? Did it make you think? What drew you to the book?
Also, explore the plot and structure. I recently read Liane Moriatry’s Big Little Lies and was fascinated by her ability to weave a story of a murder without revealing the victim or the perpetrator until the end.
Then, use these observations to develop your own writing style.
If you’ve ever worked with a freelance editor, how did you find that editor? How would you describe the experience?
For fiction, I have used different freelance editors, one for content and story construction and another for copy editing. The experience was very positive. The content editor helped me find weak spots in character development and speed up the story. I tend to plot like 19th century novelists in laying out the scene instead of jumping into the action.
No matter how well I think I write, the copy editor has to clean up my work! When working with a copy editor, I suggest agreeing on what sources you will use. For instance, I use Chicago Manual of Style and Merriam-Webster Dictionary for consistency.
I attended a writer’s conference in Austin, Texas, and met the editors at that event.
How do you self-edit your manuscript?
When I think I have perfected an article, I run it through Grammerly where I usually find I have missed commas or words. I let it sit for several days and then re-read. Personally, I do not trust myself with a book-length manuscript because I want it to be consistent and grammatically correct. To me, sloppy writing detracts from the story.
What does your revision process look like?
First off, I follow the advice of a writing teacher to “kill your little darlings.” I let the manuscript sit and then began slicing and dicing. I read it numerous times, cutting and reorganizing from there. On my last manuscript, I cut several hundred words on the last round.
Besides cutting out wordiness, I have to look for areas to add descriptions. One of my beta readers on The Cause Lives complained because I gave little or no description of anything! Going through and looking for words and phrases I overuse is also crucial.
Marie W. Watts is a former employment discrimination investigator and human resource consultant with over twenty-five years of experience. She has trained thousands of employees to recognize one’s own biases and prejudices and avoid discriminating against others in the workplace, and she has coauthored a textbook about it: Human Relations, 4th ed. Additionally, her work has been published in the Texas Bar Journal and the Houston Business Journal, as well as featured on Issues Today, syndicated to 119 radio stations, NBC San Antonio, Texas, and TAMU-TV in College Station, Texas.
In pursuit of justice in the workplace, Marie has been in jails and corporate boardrooms seeing the good, the bad, and the ugly of humans at work. She now brings her experiences to life in her works of fiction.
She and her husband live on a ranch in central Texas. In her spare time, she supports a historic house and hangs out with her grandsons.