Learning to Write with Juanita Kees

We have author Juanita Kees sharing about her experiences.

Juanita escapes the real world by reading and writing Australian Rural Romance novels with elements of suspense, Australian Fantasy Paranormal and Small-Town USA stories. Her romance novels star spirited heroines who give the hero a run for his money before giving in. She creates emotionally engaging worlds steeped in romance, suspense, mystery and intrigue, set in dusty, rural outback Australia and on the NASCAR racetracks of America. When she’s not writing, Juanita is mother to three boys and has a passion for fast cars and country living.

Juanita Kees on the web:

 Got a great idea for a book? Awesome! Write that story. But there’s more to writing than ideas and dreams of achieving bestseller status. Like any skill, an author needs to hone their craft. The publishing industry is a highly competitive business, and simply writing a good book isn’t enough to get noticed anymore. So, for all aspiring writers out there, here are a few tips that helped me along my writing journey:

1.     Critiquing and Competition Entries

This is a great way to get feedback on your work. Find a writing group or critique partner who will give you an honest opinion and help you grow and develop. And I don’t mean your mum or your sister or your best friend. I’m talking about an outsider. someone who will see your work outside of the people who think you’re amazing anyway and be able to identify areas in the manuscript that might need tweaking.

Competition judges can be harsh, sometimes unnecessarily so. Sometimes it feels like a personal attack on your book baby. The trick is to look past the emotions. Is there advice in that feedback you can use? Did you write too much telling and no showing? Is your plot under-developed or your heroine TSTL? (That’s feedback that will make you cringe when the book gets to review stage.)

2.     Workshops and Conferences

When I first started writing, I didn’t have Google or internet (yes, I’m that old!) I bought craft books like Valerie Parv’s The Art of Romance Writing from good old brick and mortar bookstores to learn how to write. In this day of modern technology, we have so much more material right at our fingertips. Now you can do online workshops, webinars, podcasts, audio books…the list goes on. So get those fingers moving on the keyboard. Find a few good online workshops, attend conferences, writing centres and get involved. These are all great places to bump into editors and agents too.

3.     Plotter or Pantser

I’m a terrible pantser. I give my characters too much power over the plot. That worked fine for me when my memory was reliable and I had 20/20 vision (okay, I’ve never had 20/20 vision!) Even if you’re not a plotter, at least have an idea of where your plot is going. Know your characters inside and out. What do they do for a living? What color eyes do they have? What color is their hair? Do they like animals? Build a profile of each character (or at the very least, of the main characters) so you know them as well as you know yourself. Consult Dr Google and find great ideas on how to plot your novel scenes, arches and valleys so you don’t lose track of how your story unfolds. I use Scrivener which is amazing for keeping my plot on track and holds me accountable for a word count every day.

4.     Polish – Wax On, Wax Off

Like good wood furniture, there is nothing better for your manuscript than polish. Once you’ve written that first draft, set it aside to rest. Finish the next book. Yes, we’re all in a hurry to get our work in front of a publisher, but the industry won’t be shutting down tomorrow. You have years ahead of you, so don’t rush. Give yourself some distance from your book, at least a month or two before you look at it again. Why? Because when you come back to it with fresh eyes, you’re more likely to recognize areas that need tweaking. Get another round of feedback on the first draft. This will help you polish up your story.

5.     Submission and Patience

Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither were the long-standing traditional publishing houses. Patience is the key to submission. Submit and forget. (Yes, it’s hard, I know!) Work on the next book while you wait. It could be a very long wait or you could be lucky and it lands on the desk of an editor who loves it and wants it now. But don’t be in a hurry to rush out and self-publish if it’s rejected. Have a look at the reasons why it was rejected by the publisher. How can you address their concerns, how can you polish that book before you hit the self-publish button?

6.     Trust your Editor

Here’s a tough one for you because you won’t always like what your editor has to say. And sometimes what they say results in almost a complete rewrite of your precious book baby. Editing is like putting yourself through the rollers of a pre-electricity 1930’s washing machine and squeezing the life-blood right out of your veins. You have to sacrifice plot bunnies, kill off characters and strike through some of your favorite lines. Harder than any of that, is seeing past the emotion to the technical advice that your editor is giving you. Your publisher knows what they’re looking for, your editor knows what works in the market and what doesn’t. Trust them. Even if you don’t like what they have to say.

If you’ve decided to self-publish, a good editor and proofreader will make all the difference to your work. It doesn’t matter that your best friend is an English teacher and has offered to check the grammar and spelling for you. Editing isn’t only about grammar, spelling and punctuation. Plot, structure, delivery–all these are important factors in turning your book into a novel that readers will never forget. So even if your friend proofreads the final, pre-submission manuscript, invest in a qualified editor who is listed with a reputable editing organization before your book reaches the proofing stage.

7.     Take Care of YOU

This is my last piece of advice. Writing is exhausting, draining and rewarding, in no particular order. It’s a constant journey of highs and lows, so it’s really important to take care of yourself both physically and mentally. Stay happy, healthy and wise. Exercise, don’t forget to socialize (occasionally, introverts!) and keep on learning.

Happy writing, and may you career be a long, rewarding and successful one.

Fast Lane (Calhoun Customs Garage Book 2)

Trinity Calhoun is a name everyone knows on the race circuit, but her days in the hot seat are numbered. She’s tired of the limelight, meaningless relationships and long hours behind the wheel. When her father calls her and her sister home, she’s ready. She slips right back into the family business, finishing off the custom car projects her father has lined up. But racing is in her blood and she’s lured back to risking her life on the hot rod drag strips outside of town. It’s there she meets paramedic and volunteer firefighter, Reece Balmain, who has her re-thinking the road her life is taking.

Reece Balmain arrives in Big Fork a broken man. He’s lived and breathed through horror accidents, haunted by the faces of the people he’s cut from vehicles. He knows one thing–speed kills. He’s hoping not to see too much of it in small town Montana, until he hears about the drag races taking place outside of town. He knows Trinity Calhoun. He’s watched her race, seen her win, held his breath when her car somersaulted into barriers in Daytona Beach. He doesn’t like what she does, but he can’t stay away from the woman who’s claiming his heart.

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OVERDRIVE (Calhoun Customs Garage Book 1)

Chase Calhoun has worked hard at making Calhoun Customs a world-wide sensation and keeping his father’s dream alive. He hasn’t had time to think about settling down, so he’s not expecting to find love or new life hiding in the attic of their garage among the ghosts of his family’s past.

Charlotte Jackson is on the run from a rebellious past, determined to prove she can be a good mom to three-month-old baby, Zoe. Tired of being delegated to the back office of the racing team her famous NASCAR family owns, she sets out to establish herself as a custom design artist. But she’s out of money, luck and time, and she can’t hide in the attic at Calhoun Customs forever.

While Chase slowly loses his heart to his refrigerator thief and the baby bundle asleep in his laundry basket, Charlotte learns that sometimes family is more than just blood and DNA.

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  1. Feedback is so necessary when writing. It's so easy to lose sight of those little issues that you'll read right over after having had them there since the beginning.

    1. Absolutely. Having a fresh set of eyes on your work helps identify those areas we become blind to after reading through the manuscript so many times.

  2. Okay, so I'm w-e-a-k when it comes to books. I read about this one on another blog, and the idea of the author meshing her love of fast cars with a romance... AND making the heroine the one behind the wheel... is very intriguing. Now that you remind of the book, I had to act.

    BUT I did NOT buy this book. No, ma'am.

    I bought the FIRST book in this series. (So there! HA!)

    1. LOL. I hope you enjoy Overdrive. Would love to hear your thoughts. Chase is my favorite sibling out of the five.

  3. Good advice.
    All the best with sales, Juanita.

  4. Great advice from Juanita. Staying healthy is definitely important! Getting feedback is also important and necessary. Thanks for sharing. Wishing Juanita all the best!