Author groups are often built around the shared experiences of authors. Heather Brooks saw an opportunity to make a community for femme-presenting authors. This week, we talk to her about The Write Women Network and their annual Bookfest.
The Write Women Book Fest was created to lift up and amplify women authors and publishing professionals. The festival is meant to be diverse and welcoming to underrepresented groups including femme-identifying and non-binary individuals.
To learn more, visit https://www.thewritewomenbookfest.org.
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Mark Lefebvre, Heather Brooks
Mark Lefebvre 00:03
Hello, and welcome to Self-Publishing Insiders. My name is Mark Leslie Lefebvre and I am the Director of Business Development for Draft2Digital. And I am so honored to have with me in the virtual D2D studios Heather Brooks. Heather, welcome to our live broadcast.
Heather Brooks 00:22
Thank you for having me.
Mark Lefebvre 00:24
So before we get into the Write Women Bookfest and network and all the cool things going on there, can you tell our viewers or listeners a little bit about you and your writing life?
Heather Brooks 00:39
Well, I wrote my first book in 2015. I started to write it as straight erotica fairy fairy tale. But I couldn’t stick to the genre, I kept wanting to kind of build the world out a little bit. And so I ended up doing sort of an erotic romance. At the time, I didn’t know that’s what it was called, because I was brand new to publishing, I just knew I wanted to write a fairy tale, and it had some naughty bits in it. And I got that book published in 2015 independently. I had had experience years before that, trying to publish a mystery traditionally, and I didn’t have a lot of luck. So I thought, by 2015, e-publishing had become a lot more accessible. So then I started that series and I’ve written two other books in that, and I began writing a series, a witchy mystery series that will be out next year, and I will be continuing that. The Red August series is the dark fairy tale, erotic romance. And then, I guess I write about love a lot, like who you’re supposed to love, who you’re not supposed to love. And strong women characters. I know that’s cliche, but it’s important, and of different ages and sizes. That’s also important to me.
Mark Lefebvre 01:59
Oh, that’s good. So it’s very inclusive. And that’s one thing about the network we’re going to be talking about shortly, but okay, so I’m wearing in honor of, Halloween is coming up. And you’ve got sort of a timely release for Halloween. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Heather Brooks 02:16
So that first book I published in 2015, is Red August, and I’m re-releasing it with a new cover, with content warnings, which weren’t as much of a thing then. And there are some things that I think people would want content warnings for. And it’s got a little bit of an edit, you know, after seven years, you kind of see some things you’re like, I might like to change that or, or add something even. I did add a couple of things. So that’ll be released, re-released on Halloween. It’ll probably start as a limited release and an ebook. And then over November, it will go wide in paperback. And then I’ll be releasing the next two books, all that were in the series, with brand new covers and content warnings as well. And then I’ll be working on book four of that series, which is called The Shifters of Mohegan Falls. Right now it’s Red August, which is the one that’s being re-released, Red Archer, and Red Hunter. And that is exciting for me because I love Halloween. Halloween is in the book, Halloween is like my favorite holiday.
Mark Lefebvre 03:24
The preparations for Halloween in our house begin usually the middle of November for the forthcoming year. In the comments, Lexi says, “Love when the spicy story develops an entire world around it.”
Heather Brooks 03:41
Oh, yeah. Thank you.
Mark Lefebvre 03:43
So you started off with this very local group of people. Can you talk about the women authors of Maryland?
Heather Brooks 03:54
Yeah. Well, so like I said, I published in 2015. And as I worked on this process, I would reach out to women authors, and I couldn’t always find them. I just like to talk to women authors because I feel like women authors have unique issues that sometimes men authors don’t have to deal with. So I wanted to start a group for women where they could feel included and safe. And we could talk about our particular issues. And so in 2019, when I couldn’t find a group that was specific to women, even though there are some wonderful writing groups here in Maryland, Maryland Writers Association is wonderful. There’s a Writer Center in Bethesda. There’s some great writers’ support here, but I wanted a women’s specific one. So I started the Women Authors of Maryland, tiny little meet in person at the cafe or at my house, author salon, and that was you know, it could range from two people to 10 people, maybe 12 on a big day. And then the pandemic happened in 2020. So that was 2019. The pandemic happened in 2020 and I moved to make it more virtual, and then I realized some people were asking me, I’m not from Maryland, can I join? And so I changed the name to the Write Women Network, so that women and women writers from anywhere in their career and anywhere that could get on Facebook could join the group. And then we would have these salons like the one that you did recently. And then we can have like, somebody from California can learn all about Draft2Digital in my little salon group, which I love.
Mark Lefebvre 05:33
I like that. I like that inclusivity. So you started off with the local regional group, and it was to connect with other women, it was basically to share and help each other, etc.
Heather Brooks 05:43
Mark Lefebvre 05:47
Let’s talk about that encouragement and how important that was, because you know, you changed it during the pandemic, when uh oh, we can’t actually gather together. And you guys, you just reached 500 members.
Heather Brooks 06:03
We’re at 506 as of this morning.
Mark Lefebvre 06:09
You left 500 behind? Do you have people primarily in the US, or do you have people internationally?
Heather Brooks 06:18
I think it’s mostly US. I think it’s because of my boosts that I’ve done for ads for my stuff. I think that sometimes people see the two things connected. And my stuff is tends to be boosted locally, when I when I mean boosted I mean like on Facebook or Instagram. And because my Book Fest is very closely connected to the Write Women Network, those two things have a lot of local focus, but I know that they’re women from all over, and I don’t know internationally specifically. I usually only know when I’ll say, this is happening. And someone’s like, oh, I’m in Australia, you know, or whatever. I think it’s mostly continental United States, but everybody’s welcome. I know the time difference can make it hard to connect live, but that’s what I like about the Facebook. Facebook has its problems. But one thing I like about their group system is very user friendly.
Mark Lefebvre 07:20
Yeah, yeah, that is good. And there’s a number of people on it already. So it’s a platform that people are somewhat familiar with already. They can just go in, and even if they’re, they don’t want anything else to do with Facebook, the cat videos, the arguments, all the things that happen on Facebook, that divisive stuff, they can just bookmark their favorite group and just say, okay, I’m gonna come in here, I’m not gonna get distracted by anything else, I’m gonna go hang with my writer peeps, and do some stuff. So let’s talk a little bit more. I want to talk about the salons, and then we’ll bring it into what’s happening in our favorite month of the year, October. So let’s talk about the salon. So I did a talk a couple nights ago for a group of writers as part of the salon. And that was recorded. And that’s something that, even though because of the time of day that it was, people may have just been getting home from work, may not have finished taking care of stuff with their family. And they can watch it at a later date. And I was presenting obviously some background for, okay, this is what Draft2Digital does, and this is how we can help you, etc. What are the other kinds of content that you provide in those salons?
Heather Brooks 08:34
By the way, I learned a ton of stuff from your salon. So I was really grateful that I had you for it. I love hosting these things, because I learn so much. So we had, for example, many of the authors in our group are newer authors, or some people who are just thinking about being authors or thinking about writing. And I try to really gear things towards the beginning writer and give them help where I felt like I needed help or things I didn’t understand. So for example, we had a great editor on there that talked about the importance of professional editing. We had a professional beta reader come on and talk about beta reading. What is a beta reader? You know, if you’re a new author, you might not understand beta reading, where it comes in the process, how it works, what to expect. A lot of people actually asked a beta reader when I saw some authors online, newer authors complaining that a beta reader had charged them or what I was like, wait a minute, beta readers should be allowed to charge you. Why are you upset about that? That’s work. So I had a beta reader come on and talk about what to expect when you pay or you don’t pay, those kinds of things. And then we’ll have a PA be coming on next month to talk about what a personal assistant does and how they can help you and the prices you can expect for those kinds of services. So those are some of the things that we’ve done, some of them are just very basic publishing, if you don’t know where to even begin, what are the steps? So we’ve had people who are both traditionally published talk about what that process is like versus publishing yourself or going with a small indie publishing situation.
Mark Lefebvre 10:24
So I love the fact that this is a place, because you know, there’s a lot of people who think, okay, I’ve always wanted to write, I don’t know where to start, where do I go. And it seems to be just such an open, and I’m just gonna pop this comment up from Jim, who says, support and inclusivity are two of my favorite words. So it seems to be a place that offers support, that offers inclusivity, but also is very open to beginning writers. It’s not a, hey, we’ve been doing this for a long time, we’re going to judge you, or any of those things. You really welcome people in and provide them valuable insights.
Heather Brooks 11:03
It’s a mentorship space, it’s a space for mentoring. And we have authors who have been there since the very first little group that we had, and they know and they understand, they’ve been doing this a while, I’ve been doing it a little while, I still have plenty to learn. But it’s a space for mentoring newer authors, for sure. And it doesn’t matter. You could be a young author like Ariel Cieling, who has published, I think she’s published up to 35 books now. And she’s in her 20s. So we can have a young author like Ariel come in, and she’ll do a salon for us. And she could be mentoring authors my age, you know, because they’re new authors, it’s more about where they are in their path of being a writer.
Mark Lefebvre 11:48
I like that. So let’s talk a little bit about the in person event that is happening. Is this the first time you’ve been in person? Or is this a return to in person after a little bit of a break?
Heather Brooks 12:01
So in 2019 was our first in person year of the Write Women Book Festival. And it did pretty well. First years, you never know how they’re gonna go. It was about 35 vendors at the time, we had about 275 visitors, something like that. That was very good. And there are a lot of resources you don’t get in a first year that we now have, like, for example, the rangers come help, the park rangers come help us do parking and things like that. But the second year was 2020. And Cardin and I, Cardin is my co-organizer, and my outreach director, she’s my rock, she and I decided that we didn’t want to lose momentum. When the pandemic came, and the parks shut down and everything, nobody could go anywhere. So we did have it all virtual, and all the information is still online on our website, under the 2020 tab. So we did an online store, which has profiles and bios and links and things like that. And then we did live and recorded interviews, workshops, readings, things like that. I did an online Tea Party, the fantasy writers’ Tea Party kind of thing. So we did those things. And then in 2021, last year, which was our third year, we did a hybrid, it was still limited capacity allowed for the park service at the time. So we had about 20 vendors that year. And then so it was like half of it was online, maybe even two thirds of it was online. And then the rest of it was in person. There were some authors who didn’t want to come because they hadn’t been fully vaccinated. Or we also asked that people be vaccinated during last year’s event. So some things kept people away. We still had a good amount of visitors, though. And then this year, we have over 100 vendors, most of those authors.
Mark Lefebvre 14:06
Oh, so authors will have their tables and display their wares.
Heather Brooks 14:09
Yep. So we’ll have, some will be under our tent, we have a certain amount of space within our tent. And then a number of them will be bringing their own 10 by 10 pop ups. And it’s a one-day event on Saturday, October 8 from 12 to 5, and if you can carpool, carpool, because you know there is a limited amount of parking we get. We did get access to an auxillary lot with shuttles. So hopefully that’ll help. But we’re so excited about it. We’re going to have a romance tent that is going to be doing panels all day and then we’ll have a classroom in which you will be in giving a workshop there for our authors that come to the event, because it’s a reader and writer event. And then there’s a little building that used to be, it’s a historic property. It used to belong to a Supreme Court judge and there’s a little law office out front. And that’s where we’ll have some mini salons, in that room. And then there’ll be storytime, there’ll be mermaid storytime, drag queen storytime, fire fighter storytime with a female firefighter, as well as live poetry all day with EC poetry and prose with Patti Little Pie Ross, who is well known in this area in Prince George’s County, for her group, her and her group all have a lot of poets who are in the area, and they will be doing live poetry all day. So it’s gonna be really cool. We also have a live jazz and harp band. Yeah, it’s gonna, it’s atmospheric. We also have a few vendors that are not book related that are like, homemade bath products, homemade bath products, like, you know, boutiques, bath products, and what else, like journals and things like that, that I think kind of go well with reading and book loving. I wanted us to have a cupcake vendor this year. So if people want to just buy themselves a bath bomb and go get a book, and you’re all set.
Mark Lefebvre 16:20
So I know I’m going to be there doing one of the workshops, one of the presentations, specifically geared to help writers. What other writer-centric things, presentations, or presenters are going to be featured or spotlit or included in the day?
Heather Brooks 16:37
So it’ll be a variety. There are, you know, writing coaches, people who have done, for example, for Kickstarters, who to tell you how to do a Kickstarter, if you want to, how to get in touch with your journaling side, poetry. Just like a variety. There’s no, the romance tent will have romance panels all day, for example.
Mark Lefebvre 17:06
That makes a lot of sense.
Heather Brooks 17:10
Yes. But the stuff in the classroom is one author or one presenter giving some kind of mentorship or education or workshop about a specific topic. And those are listed under the Event tab on our website.
Mark Lefebvre 17:28
That is cool. Now I know someone we both respect and admire who will not be there in person but will be presenting virtually. Is that going to be a live virtual, or is that prerecorded? The one and only Erin Wright of the Wide for the Win fame.
Heather Brooks 17:43
Yes, we are so excited to have her as our keynote speaker this year. It will be recorded. And there will also be a chance for people, I don’t want to give away too much, but I’ll give you a little bit of the scoop since you know her. But there will be a special workshop that people will be able to take with Erin Wright. We have not announced it yet. But it’s wonderful. I can’t wait to announce that.
Mark Lefebvre 18:11
And this is virtual too. So it means that people who are attending virtually can enjoy just as well. Right?
Heather Brooks 18:18
It will be a live virtual, not on the day of, so it won’t conflict with the 8th, but the keynote speech will be recorded. But the special workshop, which I don’t know if you’re watching this, let me just tell you, it’s a little hard to get in with Erin Wright, because she’s good at what she does. And her schedule is packed. So we have arranged a special situation in which people will be able to sign up for a group workshop. Watch for that information on our website. I will let you know when that’s all together. But that will be announced as soon as we have it sorted out and it’s a really good opportunity to get live with Erin in a way that is much harder to do individually. I’ve been lucky, I got in way ahead, like I booked months in advance.
Mark Lefebvre 19:13
And one thing that I neglected to properly ask is, I’m coming down, I’m driving down there so I can bring my Draft2Digital banner. We’re sending some swag for the bags and stuff. Am I going to need to bring a tent as well? Or do I get to squeeze into the into the big one? I can do either way. I just want to ask you live, put you on the spot.
Heather Brooks 19:35
Oh, well, we can put you in the classroom, we can put you under partial one of our 10 by 10s. Or you can bring your own and have your whole space to yourself. It’s up to you. We will accommodate because you’ve been so supportive and so wonderful. We cannot wait. We know you’re just, I’m gonna put you on the spot. We know you’re gonna work with us next year and support us next year.
Mark Lefebvre 19:57
There we go. There you go. Yeah, I’ll probably just bring the tent if that frees up your options in your spaces.
Heather Brooks 20:05
We’re going to two days next year, it got so popular we’re gonna do two days next year, probably a reader focus day and an author focus day. But we already have, if there are any authors watching this who are interested in participating with this event, if you go to the website, up at the top, on the right is an author interest form for 2023. We’ve already got 140 authors who have filled that out for next year. So we may have to like split, or I don’t know. I mean, this property is only so big, so we’ll have to figure that out. But I’m good at pivots and I’m good at figuring stuff out.
Mark Lefebvre 20:42
Excellent. And for anyone who is listening to this in the future on our podcast feed, the website Heather is talking about is thewritewomenbookfest.org, just like it sounds. Write, like what we’re passionate about doing the act of.
Heather Brooks 21:08
Always when we do audio, the captions, always I have to go in and correct every single right to write.
Mark Lefebvre 21:14
That’s true. That’s true. So you also talked, I think, before we went live, we were chatting and you were talking about doing these small weekend writing retreats with workshops, but you had a very specific focus for those workshops. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Heather Brooks 21:31
Yes, I’m gonna do my first retreat next April. It’s very small, five people or less, it’s a weekend style. And the focus is women over 40. The focus will be either people who want to learn to write their first book, or manuscript. And then also, I’ll probably branch out into publishing information, at some point, for just like editing and refining your book and things like that. And then we’ll see what 2024 holds. But next year will be my first writing retreats that I’ll be offering. And the focus is on the first time writer over 40, women over 40. I think a lot of women, I’m sorry, a lot of women, you know, they get their kids raised, they get them out the door. Now, this isn’t exclusively true. Some women just have a career of one kind. And then they reach their middle age. And they’re like, I want to write now, I’ve been putting off my book forever. And I don’t have the mentorship and the confidence and the imposter syndrome and all that, sometimes you just don’t feel like, and I was like this, like I don’t deserve to write a book. People spend their whole lives going to school to learn to write a book, who am I to write a book, you know? So you have to kind of overcome those things. And I think women definitely have roles that they feel they have to fill, and I’m here to give them permission.
Mark Lefebvre 23:00
I love that, because again, it’s never too late to start if you want to, if you’ve always wanted to write a book, you’ve got great mentors and great support and great inclusivity. Even a guest that we had on the podcast last week, Jenny, who popped up this comment, “Awesome. Love it. I’m a 50-year-old new writer.” So you know, again, just saying yes, you can do this. And for those who aren’t sure and want to be able to connect, this is a great opportunity to find those people who are just as passionate about writing and also passionate about wanting to support and wanting to help other writers, because you get it, right?
Heather Brooks 23:39
Yeah, yeah. And that’s partly what the book fest is about as well. Like when I started the book fest, I look for women focused, because there’s genre focused ones for sure. Like, if you went to a romance book fest, you’d mostly find women there. But I wanted one that was women focused. Because like I said, I think women face unique issues. But it’s definitely one of those situations where I just want to help women achieve their goals, you know, to give them permission to do those things and to be happy and feel like that they’ve at least done the thing that they set out to do, or maybe they’re not even ready to set out to do it. Am I ready to set out to do it? And I’m here to answer that question. Yes, you are. And the book test also was to make, even though we have plenty of traditionally published authors, indie authors, there’s still this like side eye that we get from the publishing industry, and I’m here to make indie published people, self-published, people feel like a million bucks, because they are a star. They’re the main character in their story and they deserve recognition and to have their voice heard.
Mark Lefebvre 24:55
I love that. I love that. Thank you. I’m gonna dig into the comments and share just some of the things that we see. We see this from E-Car E-Books says, “This is cool. I think most authors need to network more often. Thanks.” Thank you for doing this kind of thing. And then you were talking about beta reading. And Write Your Family History says, “Beta reading is so important,” which sort of leads to another comment from Jenny, who said, “I had beta readers pushing me in a direction I did not want to go. I felt bad at first for dropping them. But it’s my story.” And so the question there is, is that a common thing? Where the beta reader and the writer, it’s not necessarily a match made in heaven?
Heather Brooks 25:42
I think that that’s true. One of the things that our beta reader talked about, she’s been on twice, was how you have to be a good match with the author. She will do an intake sheet and talk to the clients. If you ask family and friends or whatever to do it, you’re in a whole different boat, but I’m speaking from a professional beta reading standpoint, I think that you can have definitely have a mismatch. But the way I approach beta reading is, I will take whatever feedback they have. And then I will decide what I ultimately decide has merit or value for me. And then I integrate it. I have a thick skin now, I was a painter, you know, a sculptor and a photographer, I’ve been doing art a long time. I did body focused art, you know, body image art and things like that. So I have a very thick skin about things. So I’m like, that’s your opinion, I asked for your critical feedback. But some people, one thing that I found really interesting that Kristin said, her name is Kristen West. One of the things I found really interesting that she said was that some authors don’t actually want critical feedback. And so she asks a question on her intake. “Do you want me to just tell you nice things?” And like, do you just want good feedback? Or do you want critical feedback? Because some authors actually don’t really want that. Maybe they just need the boost, you know? I don’t know. If I’m paying somebody for beta reading, I want all the, I want to know everything I’m doing, you know, whether it clinks or clanks anywhere, so I think that’s valid to say, okay, this beta reader is not for me, and to maybe move on to a different one.
Mark Lefebvre 27:22
Fair enough. And I imagine this same thing would be true for working with an editor, right? I mean, that’s much earlier, obviously, in the process, but the same thing goes for editors.
Heather Brooks 27:33
Oh, yeah. And many professional editors will definitely tell you, some won’t read certain genres, and some won’t edit certain genres. So, yeah, I think you can have a mismatch there as well. Just like with any business, you can have a mismatch. And don’t give up on editing for Pete’s sake, or don’t give up on beta reading, never do that. Just find the right one.
Mark Lefebvre 28:03
I like that. And just a reminder that with beta readers or with editors, ultimately, you are in charge, it’s your IP, this is your product you’re paying for, and you can decide to use all or some or none of the feedback that you get. I mean, I’ve found in my own writing experience, when I’m working with an editor, I usually take about 75 to 80% of their suggestions, but there’s some things where I draw a line in the sand and say, no, this is a hill I’m gonna die on. This is really important that it be this way, maybe for some other reason that’s important to me as a writer or something I haven’t revealed about a character that I’m not going to reveal for a few books, I don’t know. But there are those things where I will kind of, you know, not argue, professionally fight with them. And sometimes I’ll do it to challenge.
Heather Brooks 29:01
Yeah, you can be like, okay, thank you for your feedback, and then you go from there.
Mark Lefebvre 29:05
Yeah. Jenny’s comment says “Yes, I want critical feedback. Love the intake form idea. My book one had no room for sex, and they wanted me to game of thrones it up.” That’s good, game of thrones with the sex. And so again, yeah, that was your decision. There’s no room for this in my book. So yeah, that’s not the kind of book you’re going to get from me. At least not with book one. So that’s kind of cool.
Heather Brooks 29:36
If that’s something you’re not wanting to write regularly anyway, you’re setting a tone.
Mark Lefebvre 29:42
Yeah. Going back into another chain of comments. So Lexi says, “It can be good having a network of people with their own unique perspectives that also share common experiences and can be there to aid with your writing journey.” That was like a namaste sort of. For anyone who’s listening, you just made the gesture.
Heather Brooks 30:09
I forget, this is gonna be for ears.
Mark Lefebvre 30:11
Well, eventually. Right now, it’s video, and the videos will always be will be available to watch. But just for anyone who’s happening to be listening. Write Your Family History asks, “Would you agree that the way to build confidence in writing is just start with what you have and improve as you go?”
Heather Brooks 30:35
I would say yes. One of the things we talked about in the salon that Mark recently did with us was, what did you call it when you have too many options? Analysis paralysis. There are so many things to learn after, I’m going into eight years of self-publishing. And there are, I’m still learning new things all the time. I go to salons like this. I listen to podcasts like Joanna Penn’s podcast. I visit Wide for the Win, which is a great Facebook group that Mark Leslie’s in. And I’m learning those things all the time. And it can be overwhelming, because you see people going back and forth about, well, what should I publish on this platform? Where do I get an editor? And what my feeling is, is that you cannot publish a book that you don’t write, and you cannot edit a manuscript that’s not been written. If you don’t write the book, it cannot be published. So first step, always, is writing the book. So just focus on that. And then you can look, like there are people who want to have 10 steps ahead. They want to have their marketing plan, they want to have their launch party and their pre-sale. And that’s fine, if that’s what you want to do. I feel like those kinds of things come after a few books, like you learn how to do them as you go, as opposed to knowing all of that ahead and then writing your book. So also kind of one of the things I learned, I really really learned that was hard to learn coming from an artistic background, is that books is business, and you have to learn the business side of it. And so that is part of what I learned in my meetings with Erin Wright, was things like making sure to have certain keywords and having my subtitles in my series and all these things that could have helped me years ago had I known about them. But I wouldn’t have written the book if I had to learn all that because I would have been worried about all that stuff. So yes, just start where you are. Think about what you, if you want to plot your book, great. If you don’t want to plot it, if you’re not a plotter, though, I highly recommend having a goal date to be done. Like when I wrote my first book that I ever wrote, which was back in like 2001, or something, it was my first manuscript, I should say. I wrote 3000 words a day, period. Just every single day. And I had a book done in a couple of months. If you’re not going to be a plotter, you definitely need to have some goals set for yourself for your first book, so that you actually finish it.
Mark Lefebvre 33:16
Yeah, I like that. And the goal could be a word count, a daily word count. It could be participating in NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, that’s, you know, 50,000 words by the end of the month. It could be, and in my case, what I often do is, when I’m working with a traditional publisher, I’ve got the contract deadline on when I have to turn in the manuscript. Or when I’m indie publishing, I’ve got the agreement and the contract signed with an editor that I’m going to get the manuscript to my editor by that date. And boy, does that ever motivate me.
Heather Brooks 33:49
These are great ways to help make you have that finish point. Because especially when you’re self-editing, like you don’t have an outside voice going, “I need this by,” you’re the one that’s going “I need this by,” it can just drag on.
Mark Lefebvre 34:06
I don’t listen to myself. It was 12 years of giving authors the same advice to write in a series and I only started following it a couple years ago. So I should pay attention once in a while. Eventually, I hear that nagging voice. That whiny voice in the background, Mark, that’s you. So I want to pop up this question that came in, or comment sort of, for clarity, from Write Your Family History, is, “Could you clarify plotting a book? I think you might have a definition that’s different than what I understand.” So what is plotting a book to you?
Heather Brooks 34:45
Plotting a book to me is, and I did this with that first book, where I wrote 3000 words every day, which is I outline. I did an outline, a full outline of what each chapter title was going to be, what that chapter would contain. And then there are of course, various theories about the rhythms of the, you know, like save the cat and things like that, or various rhythms, you should have points at which things happen. I didn’t know that back then, but I know that now because I’ve taken workshops. But the plotting would be a person who plans out, and it could be very detailed, or just maybe you know, you want to get from this point, and at the end of the book, this is what you want to happen. You’re kind of loosey goosey in the middle. But plotting meaning you have a plan for the book. You should still try to set deadlines for yourself. Otherwise, again, they can stretch on.
Mark Lefebvre 35:39
Okay, I like that. Thank you. I’m gonna go back, we’re gonna go back to beta. The comments about beta readers, it’s coming up in the chat a lot. So Write Your Family History says, “Beta readers can help me know when I’m not well understood. For instance, I wrote about using a product during a stage show that others wouldn’t understand. And the feedback from the beta readers helped me explain more.” Obviously, because this writer probably has a background in theater and understands that, but someone else goes, what’s that? Like, glow tape was one thing, for example, we used a lot to mark things in theater. But then the beta reader goes, what’s glow tape.
Heather Brooks 36:25
That’s an inside joke. This book is for theater nerds.
Mark Lefebvre 36:30
And then the other thing is, Lexi says, “One thing I feel I would look for from a beta reader would be reading from a perspective I don’t have but might appear in characters my story. As a white woman, some things could totally not register to me in a way that it could for others.” And I would say, you know, as a male trying to try to write from a female perspective, that’s where people can give me insights and say, no, Mark, that’s not how you do this thing that you have no clue about, obviously.
Heather Brooks 37:01
Yes, I can think of some famous examples, but I’ll refrain at the moment.
Mark Lefebvre 37:08
There’s no breasted booballies is going on here right now, right?
Heather Brooks 37:16
And this is also a place where you could get a sensitivity reader. If you are writing a diverse cast, and you approach anything from the perspective of that person’s lived experiences. And I see this with fat representation a lot. I’m a plus size woman, I see people write fat characters, and I’m like, you know, it can be very stereotyped or whatever. But I think that a fat person can write a fat character better because we have that lived experience. But you can have sensitivity readers. We definitely, you know, there are varying opinions about whether or not you should be writing a different person than what’s your lived experiences. And that’s why we have Own Voices books, for example, and things like that, which are great, because then you know that the person who wrote it is writing from a lived experience. But we also want to have, like, I grew up in a military environment. And so we had many races all around me all the time, I grew up with various races. So that’s what I’m familiar with. But I’m a white woman. So I’ve never lived as a black man or a black woman. So I would never write from their lived experience. But I might like to have a black woman character in my story, just because I want a diverse cast of people. And some people don’t think you should do that either. And again, this is where we have the choice of what we read.
Mark Lefebvre 38:48
No, I agree. And it’s really, really important. We’re seeing a lot of it in the media now, related to let’s say the Little Mermaid is, representation matters. People want to look and see people who are like them, like Ohara in Star Trek, which was unheard of. An officer, you know. But that’s where you can run into the risk of, without sensitivity readers, or even the beta readers can also have a specialty in certain sensitivities too right? Whether it’s gender, sexuality, whether it’s body size, whether it’s different cultures as well, I think that’s really, really important to do the research, because you don’t, I think it’s kind of like, something that I remember learning from Dean Koontz in one of his early writing books way back in the day was, you don’t want to use the wrong gun in a scene in a thriller or mystery. That’s going to kick people out of the story, because the story is what’s important and the characters and their development are what’s important. Similarly, you don’t want to make a blatant, silly stereotype, right? Which throws the reader out of a story who knows better and says, wait a second, that’s not true. Not all Canadians say “a-boot.”
Heather Brooks 40:09
Now, I’ve been living on that dream for years and years. In terms of, you know, for me, it’s from a path, but you know, fat, plus size, I’m getting older now, I’m like an older woman. So it can shift and change what your orientation is, I belong to the LGBTQ community. These are all things that you, some people keep their writing very, very light and airy. And those topics really don’t come up at all. So it’s not a big deal. But if you’re writing anything with weight, or you’re stereotyping, you don’t even, you might not even realize you’re doing it. In fact, a lot of times you don’t, that’s why they exist right? That’s why sensitivity readers exist, because you don’t know what you don’t know. And I do think it’s an important thing. I love that they exist. In fact now that we’ve had this discussion, I think I’m going to try and find a sensitivity reader to come to a salon with us because I would love to have that.
Mark Lefebvre 41:09
I think I can introduce you to a couple of people I know if you don’t have anyone.
Heather Brooks 41:14
Not off the top of my head. So yes, please do that.
Mark Lefebvre 41:17
We’ll do that offline later on. Now, another question from Write Your Family History says, “Wouldn’t historical context”—this is a fascinating discussion, I’m learning so much. “Wouldn’t historical context editors also be important? I have found people project modern ideas on historical books that aren’t representative of the time.” And I think we run into that risk of, we know better now. But we maybe didn’t know better then. And this is the way that would have happened, even if it may be uncomfortable.
Heather Brooks 41:47
I think that it is important, if the history is important in the book. If the book is a historical romance and it doesn’t really matter if the color green wasn’t widely available, and her gown is green, and she’s a poor person or whatever. Like those things, if that book is not what that’s about, I would say it doesn’t matter. If to you, if you’re like one of those people who goes to the SCA reenactments or whatever. And it is really important to you to not have a zipper in your costume. If it’s important to the writer that those things be accurate. I would say yes, you definitely want a historical context reader to check on that for you, or have somebody doing research. In my opinion, if I’m reading a historical romance, I probably wouldn’t care. I’m not going to go look it up. I get really detailed because I’m a props person myself, I did set decoration, like I love eras and stuff. So to me, it’s really important. Like when I did my book I had like, I did research on the kinds of apples that grew in Scotland. You know, like that kind of thing. If I’m gonna put an apple tree in Scotland, I want to know exactly what kind of apples grew during that time or whatever. However, it was not important to the story. And in fact, it slowed me down a lot.
Mark Lefebvre 43:30
Well, and maybe that’s second draft material too. That could be second draft material if it’s starting to bog you down, like I’ll just stop and go look something up. No, no, get it written and then come back and fix it later.
Heather Brooks 43:42
And a fun thing I’ve learned to start doing with my husband who does my first read through, he’s a writer too, is if it’s like a car, like I want a really cool car right here. I’ll just put it in parenthesis and he’ll stick a car in there. So like my witch drives this car in my new witch series. So he’s like, I have this model. It’s like, yes, I love it. And it goes with my theme. So but what do you think? How important do you think the historical aspect is?
Mark Lefebvre 44:13
Well, I think it depends on who your readers are and who you’re writing it for. And depending on how it pertains or doesn’t pertain, because maybe it’s an element, you don’t even need to include something you can gloss over, let them fill it in with their own imagination. Or there are some writers who just really want to get it right and don’t want to kick them out. So Heather, we are running out of time. This has been such a fascinating discussion. Can you please remind listeners where they can find you online and where they can learn more about Write Women’s Book Fest?
Heather Brooks 44:47
So I’m at hlbrooks.com. I’m on most social media platforms as H. L. Brooks Writes, and the Write Women Book Fest is the thewritewomenbookfest.org. And we have Instagram and stuff, that’s all on the website, I would just recommend going to the website for that. And we are almost out of tickets. I don’t know when this is posting. But we’re pretty low on tickets.
Mark Lefebvre 45:15
So we’re live now. So it’s live from September 15 onwards, but the audio is probably going to be in the future, it might even be past the date of the event. Heather, thank you so much for hanging out with me today. And I just want to remind viewers where you can find out and not miss any of the awesome Draft2Digital Self-Publishing Insiders live, go to D2Dlive.com to find out, be sure to follow, like and subscribe so you don’t miss any of these fascinating chats. Even if you can’t watch them live, you can always enjoy the replays later on. You can also check out more fun things over at D2D.tips/insight if you’re looking for the business of writing and publishing, and of course, as always, some fantastic content from guest writers as well as our amazing folks at draft2digital.com/blog. Until next time, thanks again Heather for hanging out with me today and thank you guys for watching and listening.
Heather Brooks 46:17