Thursday, October 6, 2011

Author Jeanne Adams: Good And Bad Writing Advice

I’m pleased to welcome romantic suspense author Jeanne Adams hereJeanne P. Adams today to talk about the advice, good and bad, she’s received in her writing career.

I had the pleasure of meeting Jeanne recently when she made a stop at Sia McKye’s Thoughts…OVER COFFEE. Jeanne’s newest release is DEADLY LITTLE LIES. Here’s a brief synopsis of it: Secrets and passion drive billionaire Davros Gianakopulos to succeed.  After several attempts on his life, he's realized he needs more than business, he needs family.  He's already decided that the lovely Carrie McCray, whom he's respected and admired for years, will fit the bill. The ultimate business strategist, Dav has a plan mapped out to win her heart.  That plan gets blown to kingdom come - literally - when an unknown enemy blasts into the restaurant where they're meeting, and kidnaps the couple - throwing them into a "winner take all" fight for their lives.

Taken to an unknown location, Dav is forced to face his worst fears, deeply rooted in an abusive childhood. Clearly, whoever is behind his abduction knows him well.  As his best friend and former security chief, Gates Bromley race to find them before time runs out, Dav and Carrie grow ever closer in the struggle to stay alive.  Will they survive to find joy in the love they realize resides in their hearts or will they be lost forever in the labyrinth of their jungle prison? 

Jeanne, tell us about your writing advice.

Hello Mason! Hello to everyone following Thoughts in Progress!
It’s been so fun to see your guests for the last few days, Mason. So many interesting writers and so many interesting stories. It was fascinating to read about Kyle Garret’s process as he wrote his first non-fiction book (I PRAY HARDEST WHEN I’M BEING SHOT AT). It was also incredibly useful to read through Stephen Brayton’s descriptions of not only his own training in martial arts, but how he uses his knowledge in his writing (BETA: A Mallory Petersen Mystery).

Each of them had wonderful advice for writers, and as a writer, I took away something interesting and useful from each of their posts. Pretty cool.  

Mason, you asked me about what advice I’d gotten that was helpful, and what advice wasn’t. As I thought about that, I found it was hard sometimes to decide which advice actually worked - Or at least, which advice worked for me.

Actually, there was a GREAT piece of advice I got from one of the fabulous thriller writer’s Lisa Gardiner’s workshops at a regional writing conference. She said, essentially, to never be afraid to try something another writer does to spark creativity. If a writer says, “Hey, this works for me when I get stuck!” Try it. It may work for you.  

But the other key thing she said – and this was actually MORE important to me in terms of advice – was to try it, but if it didn’t work, don’t try to MAKE it work. That advice right there has served me better than any course, or workshop or…well, just about anything.    

DeadlyLittleLiesfinalBecause of that, I try stuff. I try whatever I think will work to make my writing work better, be more effective, be more gripping, or realistic or powerful, or poignant. So, try stuff.

And if it works, and your writing and your process get better/easier/more powerful, by all means keep it. Then pass that advice on. If it doesn’t work, let it go and try something else. Oh, and here’s my confessional part of the post. I’ve also taken advice from really, really “big-name” writers and because it was Fabulous Writer Person, I thought I HAD to do what they advised people to do.

Well it worked for them, right? And they were a Big Success, right? So if I did what they did, I would be Big Success too. Right? Hahahahahah! Sorry, I know you’re laughing too, I can hear it from here. Which leads to the other question Mason asked me to consider for this post. She asked what I considered the worst piece of advice I ever got about writing.  

Advice I shouldn’t have taken? Plot every step of every book, right down to the chapter and scenes. Don’t get me wrong, this really worked well for the writer who gave that advice and she couldn’t imagine anyone writing a book – a good book – without doing that.  

I am NOT a plotter. If I do plot, it kills any joy I have in writing the book. That said, that author was a little bit right…It’s okay to be a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants writer if you’re not under contract. You’ve got time to wander through the story and if you run into a wall, you’ve got all the time in the world to figure out a “pantzer” way through the morass you’ve created on the page.
If you’re under contract, you’ll give yourself an ulcer, and or become a terminal insomniac! Ha!

So I took another good piece of advice from my fellow Romance Bandit, Donna MacMeans. I Plotz. (And no, I’m not talking about dogs native to North Carolina.)  Plottzing is flying by the seat of my pants with a road map. I can take detours from the route, meander if I want, but in a general sense, I kinda know where I’m going.

That really helps when you’ve got a couple of months to finish a book and you get stuck. Then you can look at your road map and see where you detoured and how to get back on track. Doesn’t mean you have to go back and re-trace your steps, which is pretty cool.

So, that’s MY advice. Grins. If you need some help, try stuff others have tried and see if it works for you. If it doesn’t, drop it and try something else. And when in doubt make a roadmap and go from point A in the general direction of point B, and see what happens. Oh, and have fun.

Readers and writers, what do you do to get yourselves unstuck? Techniques? Tricks? What are the best workshops you’ve taken on jump-starting your creativity? And, out of curiosity, what’s the most fun ice-breaker game you’ve ever played?

Jeanne, thanks so much for guest blogging today. I especially like the part about trying something but if it doesn’t work for you, don’t try to make it work. That could apply to many areas of our lives.

When I asked Jeanne for a brief bio, here’s what she had to say. 
It’s wonderful for a writer to live in Washington, DC as I do. The research resources are fabulous, the scenery is great – complete with monuments, gorgeous public buildings, and the most amazing, weird, convoluted, political people. I live here with my wonderful husband, my two growing-too-fast sons, and my silly dogs.
As former marketing executive, as you can well guess, I'm an extrovert. So to make sure I don't go crazy talking to the people in my head all the time, I also teach. It's one of the most enjoyable things I get to do as a consultant and writer. If you want to see my class offerings - including the one on Body Disposal - check out my website. 
Being part of the Ad(d)ams Family, as you can imagine, Halloween is my favorite holiday. I love to work in the garden, run my dogs, hang out with my family, and write. Other than that, as another, more famous author says, the rest is subject to change without notice. 

For more on Jeanne, check out her website (including the classes she teaches) at and she blogs at Romance Bandits. DEADLY LITTLE LIES is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Books A Million.

Thanks so much for stopping by. Remember Jeanne’s questions for you - Readers and writers, what do you do to get yourselves unstuck? Techniques? Tricks? What are the best workshops you’ve taken on jump-starting your creativity? And, out of curiosity, what’s the most fun ice-breaker game you’ve ever played?


  1. Jeanne, thanks again for stopping by and sharing these bits of advice about writing. Wishing you much success with your writing.

  2. Great advice, Jeanne! It's always good to keep trying different approaches to writing until something works for us. :)

  3. Mason - Thanks for hosting Jeanne.

    Jeanne - Like you've, I've learned so much from other writers. That community of writers has been a real resource for me. So one piece of advice I always have for writers is - find a group of writers and share tips. Then, as you say, the writer can try things to see what works and what doesn't.

  4. Jeanne, That's a great way to plot, sounds like a wild life to me, but a fun way to write. Great advice.

    Mason- Thanks for hosting!

  5. Good morning, Mason! Thanks for having me!

  6. Hi Elizabeth/Riley! (Love those split personalities...Grins)

    It is really great to keep trying things, isn't it? I started out thinking I had to do things One Way or I would fail. Finally learned that with writing, there is no One Way - or there is, YOUR Way.

    Oh drat, now "I Did It My Way" will be in my head all day.

  7. Hi Margot! Love your icon pic. Are those labs? (Too small a pic to see for sure.) :> Can you tell I'm a dog lover?

    You said: find a group of writers and share tips. Then, as you say, the writer can try things to see what works and what doesn't.

    This is a GREAT piece of advice! And it really works. That's why I love RWA and the MD Writers Assoc. and Thriller Writers and so on. It's a broad spectrum of writers with lots of different tips and tricks. And they SHARE! It's great.

    The one caveat I'd have - and yes, I'm harping on this - is beware of a group where the advice all comes from one person or where people may tell you, "Oh, no, that never works." 'Cause it might. For you. :>

  8. Hi Journaling Woman! Do you plot? I've learned to do it, now. I still don't plot so much that I can't have fun, but now, with deadlines, I HAVE to plot some or I drive myself nuts. Grins.

    My friend Donna does this fab workshop using a "W-Plot" format which seems to work for me. I've also used Michael Hauge's 7 steps/5 turning points Hero's Journey stuff.

    What do you like?

  9. Thanks for the great advice, Jeanne. When I need to jumpstart a scene or passage, I'll often come at it from a completely unexpected direction. Doing so just opens the thoughts of possibility.

  10. Jeanne and Mason, what great advice!

    I tend to avoid workshops on creativity since it's so very personal. The best advice I got on stoking it came from one of Julia Cameron's books, possibly The Artist's Way but I've read several of hers. She suggests taking time to do something that lifts the spirits--sit in a park, go to an art exhibit, whatever works--because these activities replenish the inner person and thus the creative well.

    It has to be just for you. Personal time and a pleasure.

    And I have to say I LOVED Deadly Little Lies!

  11. Hi Joanne! thanks for popping in!

    So what technique do you use to approach it from a different direction? Do you change the genre and rewrite the scene as somethign else? Do you switch the POV?

    I'd love to know the tip, so I can try it! :>

  12. *blush* Awww, thanks, Nancy! You made my day! :>

    I love that advice of Julia Cameron's - Refilling the Well, I think she calls it. She always talked about Artist's Dates too, so that may be what she called the actual events.

    I try to go to exhibits here in DC or take in a high school play or just do something fun for me, like spending 2 hours wandering in the Barnes and Noble! Ha!

  13. In other words, do what works for us!
    Oh, and I'm an outliner. If I don't know where I'm going, I'll never get there.

  14. Hello Jeanne(waving madly),
    Getting unstuck is difficult. Sometimes I just have to step away from everything and concentrate on something unrelated and then try again later when my mind has rested.

  15. Hi Alex! I love a good outline! Grins. It is a wonderful roadmap, isn't it?

    For some reason a very detailed outline works for me when writing non-fiction, but the outline has to be more general for fiction.

    And yes, do what works for you, and keep trying stuff until you find out what works BEST for you!

  16. Hi Jane! *waving madly back*

    That's a great strategy too, the stepping away. I drive some of my writing friends crazy because I work on several projects at once.

    Why, you ask, would I want to torture my already enfeebled mind this way? Ah....for just the reason Jane gave. Sometimes a "change is as good as a rest" and if I switch to the other project for a bit, I can usually jumpstart the thing I NEED to work on. :>

  17. Hi Jeanne! Hi Mason! Mason, what a great blog. I haven't been here before. Love the music links!

    Jeanne, I've got Deadly Little Lies sitting on my bedside table waiting for me to clear away the current wip. As you know, I'm not game to start one of your books unless I know I can read it right to the end in one gulp. I got caught staying up till 3am finishing Deadly Little Secrets and felt like death all the next day. All your fault!

    I love the plotz idea. I'm a pantser although I have a very vague roadmap in my head of what's going to happen. It kills me to write a synopsis before I've written the book! Speaking of bad advice (for me), one of the reasons it took me so long to work out a process that worked for me was that when I started out, every how-to book I read insisted you needed to do all that planning beforehand. You know, scenes and chapters and character interviews right down to their shoe sizes. My problem is that meant I'd already told myself the story and I was bored when it came to actually writing the book (talking to other pantsers, this seems a common complaint). At a recent workshop I ran with lovely Christina Brooke, one of our participants put it really nicely when I explained my (fairly messy) process. She said "You're your own first reader." Isn't that great? Anyway, after many years of not getting anywhere taking the advice of all these how-tos, I realized that the sort of people who wrote how-to books are probably the same sort of people who do detailed planning before they write. Stands to reason, huh?

    Anyway, enough of my ramblings! I hope Dirty Little Lies is flying off the shelves!

  18. Hey Anna! *waving madly!* Thanks for having Deadly Little Lies a-waiting...had to snork about Dirty Little Lies though. Freudian? I don't think so...

    You also said: She said "You're your own first reader." Isn't that great? Anyway, after many years of not getting anywhere taking the advice of all these how-tos, I realized that the sort of people who wrote how-to books are probably the same sort of people who do detailed planning before they write. Stands to reason, huh?

    Huh! Trust Christina to phrase it in such a palatable way. :> I love it! It is quite challenging and you've hit it. I read all those books too and I thought I HAD to do it that way to succeed. Then I realized I could never do it that way, so I put writing away for a while. Silly me.

    That never stops the stories, does it? So messy or meticulously aligned, the stories come out.

    I like the messy way. It works for me. Hahaha!

  19. Oops! I think Dirty Little Lies just means you write a great love scene! Actually it was one of our participants who came up with that lovely phrase. I'm definitely going to use it. You? Messy? Wash your mouth out with soap, gal! x

  20. "was to try it, but if it didn’t work, don’t try to MAKE it work" is great writing advice!

    I am a plotter--not to the extent where I plan each chapter or scene--but I know that some can't write like that. In fact, for my mysteries, I plot like mad but for my other genres, I don't really do that. So for me, it depends on the genre.

    Thanks for the post and wonderful advice.


I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.