A Release and a Big Sigh of Relief

There’s always a sense of relief that comes with sending your newest book out into the world. It’s a sense that is then replaced with dread. Once the book is available for purchase, it’s also available for review.

It’s there for criticism.

It’s there for scorn.

It’s there for the disappointment that comes when friends and extended family fail to pick up their copy.

I guess you could say that an author is driven by fear. We talk a good game. We say that reviews don’t bother us – hell, most claim not to even look at them. But we do. They hurt. Even the three stars. We’ll comfort each other when our friends get three stars and say “but that’s still good!” Only, when it happens to us, it isn’t good enough.

But we keep going. We keep putting ourselves out there. Most of the time, the energy we spend on thinking about already released books is minimal compared to the ones we’re working on. It’s very rare we write stories that truly stick with us and impact us on such a deep level. A writer may only get a few of those in their career – the books that actually say something about the human condition. They aren’t merely for entertainment – although that can’t be discounted.

The Invincible series is that for me. These are the books I will look back on and say “did I really write that?” That isn’t to say they’re perfect or that everyone will love them. It’s that they speak to me. They haunt me.

We all deal with trauma differently, but everyone is broken by it in some way. When I first began writing We Thought We Were Invincible, I thought I knew what I wanted to say. The story was supposed to be about a group of teenagers in their final year of high school. Okay, that’s what it was. But we all remember high school when the entire world is stretched out before us. You prepare for large things. Everyone thinks they can do anything. High schoolers have this amazing sense of – shall we call it – invincibility? They think they’re safe because they’ve mostly been sheltered from a lot of the dangers in the world.

My original story was going to explore what happens when they realize they aren’t invincible after all – when something happens to shatter their world.

Then something interesting happened. I learned something – yep, that is still possible.

I realized that my definition of invincibility was only a part of the whole. Invincibility doesn’t mean that nothing can break you. It means that when it inevitably does, we have the amazing ability to become stronger.

The original story was also supposed to only be a single book, but by the end of book 1, these characters weren’t ready to learn this lesson.

I have an episodic illness that keeps me in bed a lot of the time so this lesson was an important one for me personally. Writing We Thought We Knew It All tore out my guts. It broke me open in a way I couldn’t have foreseen.

I have heard from some advanced readers that have been helped by this story and it has shown me the truth. These are my two books. I’ve published nine so far and they are all my children, but these are the ones that will forever be with me because they taught me how to be invincible.

And for that, I will be forever grateful to Callie and Jamie.


Pick up your copy of We Thought We Were Invincible HERE!

Pick up your copy of We Thought We Knew It All HERE!

Write What You Don’t Know

 

I’m about to burst your image of me. Right here. Right now. I’m going to tell you a secret that you’ll find super hard to believe. Ready?

I don’t know everything.

There, I said it. I, Michelle Lynn, am not an expert in every topic known to man. In fact, there are very few topics I can claim to know a lot about. Hockey. Aunting. Certain book series and genres. Really, the list is suuuuper short.

You know the old saying “write what you know”? It’s a bit limiting, isn’t it? I’m a person who likes to challenge myself because that’s how we improve, how we grow. This doesn’t mean doing gobs and gobs of research to gain the knowledge to write about certain topics. Some genres – like anything historical – need the author to know what they’re talking about.

Well, I don’t write historical fiction. I write contemporary fiction. This means my books take place in today’s world, in settings that are well known and well-loved – but not by me. In my New Beginnings series, there are three settings in the first two books – New York City, Connecticut, and Boston. Would you believe me if I said I’d never set foot in any of those places? Sure, I’ve seen them on TV, but that isn’t the same, is it?

My newest book, We Thought We Were Invincible, features two characters who spend a lot of their time surfing. The book has yet to be released, but one of my first beta readers asked me a single question before going into what she liked (and didn’t like) about the book. Do you surf? She thought I did, but that would be quite the feat for a girl with a disability that makes it hard enough to stand balanced on solid ground, let alone a surf board. Short answer, no – I don’t surf. I’ve never even met a surfer.

So, how do you make the reader believe the author is all-knowing? How do you immerse them in some act or some place without experiencing it for yourself? Without large amounts of time-consuming research?

Generalities – the reader doesn’t need me to site specific buildings or street names to imagine they’re in New York City. I may have never been there, but I have been to places like Chicago. I know the smell of a city. Write about the sound of the traffic, the crowds on the sidewalks, the immensity of the buildings. Mention that they’re in New York a few times and now you’ve created a generic city that your readers believe is New York. Only do this though if the setting is a passive ingredient to your story, not something with a deeper meaning.

Slang – This works for both locations and actions. My first series, Dawn of Rebellion, starts in London and is about two English girls. I had a British friend give me a handful of terms to swap out for the American terms and suddenly they’re believably British.

To add to the surf aura of my main characters in We Thought We Were Invincible, I spent a few minutes online looking up surf slang. Most of this came in the form of different names for waves.

Occasional technical details – I hate books that get too technical. If I wanted to learn how to surf, I’d read a book about that specifically. If I wanted to learn about military tactics, I’d read a military focused book. Especially in the YA genres, less is more. But it still needs to be there – those little details that make your characters seem authentic.

For the surfing, this is as simple as mentioning the board leash or showing what they do to get up on the board, but not every time they surf. Don’t be repetitive.

In the Dawn of Rebellion series, they are in the middle of a war. I have to talk about guns and battle tactics, but leaving it vague is still the way to go. More detail gives more room to make mistakes (especially when talking about guns) and, let’s be honest, large amounts of detail bore the reader.

 

This was an interesting thing to balance in my sports book, Dreams. Hockey is not a well-understood sport. Most hockey romances I’ve read steer clear of describing games. I wanted to immerse my readers in something that I loved, in the excitement and energy of a full arena. So, I made quite a few important scenes happen during games. It took me a while to realize that a lot of readers wouldn’t know what I was talking about when I said things like power play. It actually took a beta reader telling me to quite with the hockey talk to see that.

As writers, we’re told to write from our own experiences, but I tend to go the other way. I learn a lot by writing about new-to-me things, places, and ideas. It’s exciting and challenging. I have a friend who likes to say that writing is just being a fabulous liar and maybe this proves that very thing. Or maybe it just proves that we don’t know any more than you do. We just put everything we don’t know down on paper.