Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Writing and Getting Your Work Published

Before I introduce my guest, just a reminder that today's the last chance to enter my June contest for an autographed copy of What's in a Name? Details on my website.

My guest today is author Jacqueline Seewald. I'd like to welcome her to Terry's Place. She's sharing some of her experiences along the road to publication, and has some good advice for all. Welcome, Jacqueline.

As a teacher who taught writing courses including creative writing at both the university and high school level, I grew to believe that it is within each of us to write a truly unique story because we are all unique individuals. Writing is not just a matter of isolating ourselves from the world and putting words on paper or computer. We must live our lives to the fullest and this will give us the material to write about. Living our lives provides us with something to say and convey. Writing is after all about communicating.

Life experience provides us with the best fodder for fiction writing.

I became intrigued with "inferno collections" during the time of my library studies at Rutgers and while working at Alexander Library. I thought the concept would make a unique frame for a mystery novel. It started when I attended a symposium where the lecturer was a Princeton University librarian who spoke eloquently about inferno collections and their connection with banned books.

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Another time, I decided to create a book that combined fact and fiction. The legend of the Jersey Devil is unique to New Jersey where I have lived my entire life.

The book had potential as both educational material and entertainment. At the time I was working as an educational media specialist (school librarian), I discovered the need for such a book for the students and set about writing one. Parents and students in my elementary school were enthusiastic and so I decided to try to get my work published.

I wrote a middle grades/YA novel with help from both of my sons who were in that age range at the time. Both boys contributed to the scenes of wrestling, since they both engaged in the sport. I couldn't have written the book without them.

The initial idea came from something that actually happened to my older son. You could say he lived a real life mystery. I simply took the story, fictionalized it, and made it a bit more dramatic. Again, I could never have written this unique mystery novel without having lived through an unusual situation where I was involved in the story as it actually unfolded.

My most recent romantic mystery novel was initially inspired by summer membership at a pool club.

One of the most important things in writing a novel, novella, or short story is to develop a unique voice. That does not mean that you must write from a first person point of view. Create a central character that readers can both sympathize and identify with. Whether writing a realistic or fantasy novel, if the reader can't care about the main character, than he or she won't believe or accept what follows. Why would they want to read your book if they don’t care about what will happen to your central character(s)? Your main character(s) must seem real. They need a believable background. Again, by living your life, knowing a great many diverse people, you have fodder for your fictional characters.

Although we want to avoid overwhelming our readers with too much detail from the outset, settings need to be vividly described so they seem real. In fact, there's nothing wrong with using real places for background setting. My novels are set in Central New Jersey, an area very much like the one in which I lived and worked.

My advice: don't write for a market; write the story you need to write. Write about what matters to you. We can all be writers. We all have within us a unique, important, wonderful story to share and communicate. Get in touch with your inner self. When editors read that special work that only you can write, they’ll recognize it as extraordinary. They will want to publish your work.

Jacqueline Seewald is an author of mystery and romance novels. She also writes nonfiction, poetry, and plays, as well as short stories and novels. Her books, The Inferno Collection and The Drowning Pool are available from Amazon, B&N Online, or can be requested at your local library.


Maggie Toussaint said...

Great advice Jacqueline. I like how you merged your day job and family life experiences to enrich your writing.

Enjoyed the post!

A fellow Five Star author

Maryannwrites said...

Very nice post, Jacqueline. I think we all draw from real life events to some degree. Some more than others, thought. I know some writers who have such vivid imaginations, they go beyond real life. :-)

Sheila Deeth said...

Neat to see how real experiences worked into making your stories real. Thanks.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Maggie, Maryann, and Sheila,

Thanks for the positive feedback.
Very often my fiction is inspired by reality. I call it faction.


Anonymous said...


Thanks for reminding us to "write the story you need to write." Whenever I've tried dto write anything else, it's been a lesson in frustration. I agree that we've each been given a story (or hopefully many stories) . . . THAT is the one we need to put on the page.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

I agree, Drue, those of us who discipline ourselves to write regularly, usually find that we have many stories worth telling.

Allure of Deceit said...

Great advice on inspiration, research, observing daily life for new or established writers. I love books that provide details on science, history, sport or psychology without heavy-handed teaching.

Terry Odell said...

Susan, I think part of the pleasure of reading comes from learning something new -- painlessly!