Linda Shenton Matchett has self-published. She’s been traditionally published. Today, she’s a hybrid author who plots her way through historical romance novels, and she’s sharing her tips and suggestions for new writers. Linda, welcome!
What do you write? How/why did you pick your genre?
I write historical Christian fiction, primarily romance, but I also have five mysteries. I didn’t pick my genre, so much as fall into it.
My first book was a novella as part a group blog project. I had several completed manuscripts at the time, but none were publication ready, so I wrote a retelling of the biblical story of Ruth set during WWII. I followed that up with three more biblical retellings, but struggled when it came to writing anything else. I tried my hand at romance, but about halfway through each story, I’d flail about, not sure what to do with my characters. They did a lot of eating and driving places! Then I attended a mystery writing conference, and that took care of my plot problem! But as much as I enjoyed writing (and solving) the mysteries, I missed the “happily ever after” that comes with a romance…which leads me to the next question.
What’s your favorite book on writing? What do you like about it?
Victorine Lieske’s How to Write a Swoon-worthy Sweet Romance Novel was a game changer for me. The book is a nuts-and-bolts primer that provides an executable process to writing a romance. Too many how-to books are more theory than practice which can be frustrating when trying to apply the concepts. In Ms. Lieske’s book, the first section is an introduction to romance from the “meet-cute” to building emotional intimacy and the climax. In the second half of the book, she takes one of her own books and shows how she uses each technique.
I agree—I love that book! Now, what’s your favorite writers conference? What do you like about it?
Sisters in Crime New England Crime Bake is the mystery writing conference I found when first looking for a conference I could attend between November and April, the “off-season” for the bed and breakfast I ran. It is a smaller conference than most, only about 300 attendees, which means newbies are rubbing elbows with veterans like Archer Mayer, Dennis Lehane, Hallie Ephron, and others.
In addition to panels, lectures, and round-tables, participants can sign up to pitch to agents or editors and get a manuscript critique from an editor or published author. Topics range from skills and craft to marketing and business. So far, I’ve attended the conference for ten years and have learned at least one thing if not more every year.
What’s your writing day like?
I work a full-time job, so I schedule my writing time around those hours. I’m typically at my desk by 6 a.m. and write until about 7:30 when I leave for work. I work an afternoon/evening shift on Thursdays, so I am able to write until lunchtime. (I love Thursdays!). I use Saturdays to handle my social media and marketing.
How do you prepare to write your books: pantser, plotter, both, something completely different?
I am definitely a plotter. The first thing I do is devise the general idea of the story, including the era/year and decide what jobs my protagonists will hold. Then I determine the location of the story. I use a spreadsheet to outline each chapter, indicating the chapter goal/aim (such as setting up their worlds, the meet cute, conflict, tension, etc.) then write a description of exactly what happens in each scene. The other columns are POV, Texture (weather, location), Date, Hook (the last sentence of the chapter that will keep the reader turning pages), and Research (topics that I need to research before I begin writing). Sometimes my characters will “wander off the page,” but for the most part the story is written as planned.
If you’re self-published, why did you decide to go that route? If you’re traditionally published, why did you decide to go that route?
I’m a hybrid author which means I’m both traditionally and self-published. Initially, I wanted the “validation” that came with being traditionally published, and I’ve had good relationships with my publishers, but I enjoy the artistic control that comes with self-publishing. I also appreciate that I can release a book faster as an indie than a publisher can. I use professional cover designers and editors, so my books are of the same high quality as those that are traditionally published. Self-publishing has also allowed me to offer my books in many more online retailers than my publishers use, so I’ve sold books all over the world, which is very exciting.
What advice do you have for new authors?
1) Read! Read lots of books in your genre, but try other genres as well.
2) Write on a regular basis. Skills are learned by practicing You can’t get better if you don’t practice.
3) Join a critique group (not made up of family and friend). Scary, but necessary. You need honest feedback about what works and doesn’t work with your writing.
4) Have a plan for your writing business, because it is a business. Know where you want to go and the steps you’ll take to get there.
If you’ve ever worked with a freelance editor, how did you find that editor? How would you describe the experience?
I’ve worked with three different editors, two of which were continuity editors for multi-author projects, and one of which is my regular editor. I found my editor by referral through a group of Christian indie authors. I’ve been working with her for nearly two years, and the experience has been fantastic. She is fast and effective. In addition to copy editing, she includes comments about story flow if something is confusing or seems out of order/time. She also includes comments when she finds something amusing or interesting, and she always says something encouraging when she returns the manuscript. I couldn’t ask for a better partner.
Linda Shenton Matchett writes about ordinary people who did extraordinary things in days gone by. She is a native of Baltimore, Maryland and was born a stone’s throw from Fort McHenry. Linda has lived in historic places all her life, and is now located in central New Hampshire where she is a volunteer docent and archivist for the Wright Museum of WWII.
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Linda-Shenton-Matchett/e/B01DNB54S0
Goodreads Author Page: http://www.goodreads.com/linda-shenton-matchett
BookBub Author Page: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/linda-shenton-matchett
Moments in History YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC4b-o_6cD8HkHNyFP-wZwJg