Not all editors are created equal, as Terri Wangard discovered in her early writing days. She persevered, though, and is now a multi-published author. Today, she shares some of her tips and the strategies that worked for her.
Welcome! I always like to start with the fundamentals: what do you write and how did you pick your genre?
I first started writing contemporary romance in the early 2000s, until I put writing aside for a few years. After reading Debbie Macomber’s Twenty Wishes in 2008, I decided to write again. This time I was inspired by letters written in 1947-1948 by distant cousins in Germany to write a WWII novel. An editor told me I’d probably need to write a series, so I kept going. My last two books are WWI era, but I have ideas for going back to WWII.
What’s the most difficult part of writing your genre? How do you work through those challenges?
Maintaining the historical accuracy. I believe that’s so important. I may go overboard. My first three books (the Promise For Tomorrow series) are based in the 381st Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force. The group’s flying schedule is readily available. I slavishly stuck to it. Only one mission did not occur, and I noted that in the Author’s Note at the end. With my Lusitania novel, that too has a strict timeline.
How long does it take you to: write the book? Edit it? Finalize it?
Too long! Writing a book takes a year. I’m a weekend writer. I know others work full-time and still manage to write a little each day, but that doesn’t work for me. My job entails enough computer work. I’m prone to migraines and don’t need more time staring at a screen. After I finish and get beta readers’ opinions, I get a proofing copy and fill it with post-it notes where I want to check a fact, use a better word, tighten it. My biggest challenge in finalizing a book is getting all the formatting codes right. They tend to change, and I end up with blank pages.
If you’ve written multiple books, which was harder: the first book or the following books? Why?
My last book, and I’m not sure why. Half way through, I totally bogged down. Finally, I set it aside for half a year and wrote a contemporary novella. Then I was ready to dive back in and got it finished.
How do you combat writer’s block?
If it’s minor stuff, like how to turn a phrase, I’ll play games—spider solitaire, free cell—until I’m ready to go. Depending on the weather, I may go for a bike ride. If I’m having a major problem, like with my new book, I set it aside. That was the first time I interrupted a book and worked on another project.
How do you prepare to write your books: pantser, plotter, both, something completely different? Describe your strategy.
Lots of research. Lots of notes. I don’t make a complete outline, but I have an idea of what each chapter will feature. Changes do take place. I guess that puts me somewhere between pantser and plotter. My biggest problem is keeping track of my notes and finding them when I need them.
If you’ve ever worked with a freelance editor, how did you find that editor? How would you describe the experience?
Before my first book was published, I sent it to an editor, who made worthwhile suggestions. I sent her my second book. The results shocked me. Nothing was right. DNEs (data not in evidence) were all over the manuscript; apparently everything should have been revealed in the first few pages. She suggested I should be writing for young adults. At the same time, this novel was a Genesis finalist. I took the critique to the ACFW conference, where I had a mentoring session with Gayle Roper. She advised me not to take it to heart. (Whew!) With my last two books, I worked with two different editors, who both were helpful.
How do you self-edit your manuscript?
Since I self-publish, I order a proofing copy and read through it for any typos, anything that needs to be verified, or I may decide something doesn’t need to be there, or is repeated, and delete it. With my latest book, The Storm Breaks Forth, I read the book backwards, as suggested by author Lisa Carter.
Terri Wangard grew up in Green Bay, Wisconsin, during the Lombardi Glory Years. Her first Girl Scout badge was the Writer. These days she is writing historical fiction, and won the 2013 Writers on the Storm contest and 2013 First Impressions, as well as being a 2012 Genesis finalist. Holder of a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s degree in library science, she lives in Wisconsin. Her research included going for a ride in a WWII B-17 Flying Fortress bomber. Classic Boating Magazine, a family business since 1984, keeps her busy as an associate editor.