Thursday, September 22, 2011

5 More Fun Writing Tips for Anyone!

Hi everyone!

Whenever I do an interview, I’m usually asked if I have any advice or tips for aspiring writers. Well, I sure do! Today, I decided to share five more writing tips. (In a blog earlier this summer I shared five other fun tips.)
Writers will (hopefully) find them helpful, and readers will get an inside look at some “secrets” that go in to making interesting and sexy stories. These writing tips are based on advice I received in my writing classes and discoveries I made as I wrote. I included brief examples from some of my Amber Quill Press romances to illustrate a few points.

Divide by Three: As a writer, you should be doing one of three things: writing new material, revising/editing what you’ve written, and submitting. Divide your writing time into thirds and get to work. Some days I’ll work on outlining a new story, then I’ll spend a day sending out submissions, and then go back to revising an existing story. Someone once said that you should never not be writing, so don’t wait around to hear about a story you’ve just finished before you start another project—especially if inspiration strikes.

For example, when I was halfway through editing my book Trust with Hearts, the entire plot for A Perfect Match popped into my head. Not wanting to lose a scrap of the story, I put Trust with Hearts aside for two or three days and wrote a very detailed outline for A Perfect Match. Juggling projects/stories/ideas may seem hard, but every so often it’s a good idea to switch up and do something different for a day or two.

If you’re already published, you’ll also have to make room for a fourth element: promotion. Getting your name out there on blogs and websites, participating on guest author days, doing interviews, and contacting review sites is like a job itself. So make time to promote all the great things you’ve written!

“Someday” I’ll Use That: Keep a folder for ‘someday’ story ideas, characters, settings, and anything else that sparks your attention. File all those notes, scraps of plots, bits of dialog, and photos of scenic views that you’ve accumulated in one place. If you’re ever stuck on your writing, open the folder and see what inspires you. Long before I wrote A Most Unusual Princess, I had scribbled down the name “Elara” to use as a character’s name, along with the description “unusual princess.” At the time, I had no idea where I would use it. The idea for the pleasure palace and nasty Emperor Salizar in Dalton’sTemptation came from a hastily scribbled idea I wrote down on a scrap of paper. If I come across a catalog with interesting clothing, jewelry, furniture, etc., I tear out the page and file it away in case I can use in a story. Periodically, it’s a good idea to go through the folder and review what you’ve saved. Often you’ll find yourself muttering, “What the heck did I save that for?” or you’ll uncover a gem of an idea just when you need it.

Keep a Writing Resume: This is an excellent bit of advice I received from my writing teacher. Note the date of publication, the title of the piece, where it appeared, and include a link to the publication or story (if it appeared online). If you want to set up a website, having this info readily available in one place will help you locate your writings (and links). I also note reviews and interviews on my resume (with links) to help me with my newsletter and website updates.

A writing resume is also a great motivational tool for when you’re not feeling 100% confident in your work. You can look back and see all that you’ve accomplished over time. (I like to revisit all the sci-fi and mini-romances I wrote for The Sun.) If you haven’t been published yet, start a resume anyway. List any degrees you have, writing classes or workshops you’ve taken, contests you might have placed in and writing organizations/groups you belong to.

Don’t Be Afraid to Cut: Suppose you have a great story that’s 2,500 words and you find a contest that has a 2,000 word limit – what do you do? Cut! Don’t be afraid to edit your story to fit a market or contest guideline. Yes, you may have to lose a bit of the back-story, details, dialog, or condense a scene, but it might just get you published. (Be sure to save the “long” version, too. If the shorter story is rejected, you’ll still have your original.)

I did this with my gothic historical, The Dark Lord. The Amber Heat contest limited stories to 15,000 words. My original version of The Dark Lord came in around 20,000 words or so and included a few extra scenes. To make it fit the rules of the contest I deleted and condensed a few scenes and the book worked just fine.

Sometimes you need to cut scenes to make the book “work”. Believe it or not, the original version of Trust with Hearts was an additional 20,000 words long. I had at least four more chapters and a completely different ending to the book. (It still had a HEA, but the characters got there via a different path.) Why did I cut it? Several readers didn’t like it and said that it felt too contrived. I figured that if more than three people thought the same thing, they might have a point, so I changed the ending before I submitted it to AQP.

Take Writing Classes: Whenever I’m asked if I have advice for writers, I always advocate taking writing classes. Writing classes (or workshops) are an excellent way to learn storytelling techniques, explore different genres, and understand the basic mechanics of writing. (I started out taking one little writing class for “something to do” and it blossomed into a writing career.)

In most cases, writing classes will require that you finish a piece and share it with the class. It’s a great way to overcome any fear or shyness about sharing your work with others, and it’s always helpful to have different readers give you feedback and critique what you’ve written. Making the commitment to sit in a class for a few hours a week and actually write and share a story will give you an idea of the work, challenges, demands, and rewards involved in being a writer. (Trust me, it’s not as easy as people think!) If there are no “live” writing classes available in your area, consider taking online classes or attending workshops at writing conferences.

I hope you enjoyed these writing tips and learned something about the process of being a writer. If you’d like to catch up on all of my writings, visit my website:

I’ll be sharing another batch of tips in an upcoming blog, so stay tuned!

As a side note, this blog could use some more followers. I’ll be running a mini-contest in November, but feel free to tell your friends to sign up now and and follow along. I’ll be showcasing horror and paranormal writings all through October!

Happy Reading,

Kelli A. Wilkins

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Wading Through Job Hell…and Coming Out the Other Side Part 3 – To Thine Own Self Be True

Hi everyone!

Here's part 3 of my "jobs from hell" blog. I originally wrote this as a writing exercise to vent my frustrations. I hope you enjoyed reading it.

Wading Through Job Hell…and Coming Out the Other Side

Part 3 – To Thine Own Self Be True

Several years ago, I left a job that was emotionally draining and making me utterly miserable. Everyone was shocked, but the moment I left the place behind, I felt free.

After a few months, I decided it was time to look for another job. I quickly discovered that my old job had given me a skill I couldn’t put on my resume I was an expert at identifying potentially unhealthy work environments.

Here’s just one example:

After being screamed at by the boss for putting someone into his voicemail when he was on his three-hour lunch, I was told by a female secretary: “Don’t worry. He yells at all of us all the time. You’ll get used to it. You’re new here. If you like your job, you won’t make waves. This is how we do things here. You have to obey him."

Excuse me? Did she say obey him? When did I go back in time to the 1800s? I really wanted to ask her what the punishment was for not obeying. Beatings? More screaming? Did he have a whip? Did her husband know that her boss verbally abused her on a daily basis? Was he fine with it? Because I sure as hell wasn’t.

I couldn’t leave the building fast enough. But I really shouldn’t have taken it to heart (at least that’s what they told me). After talking to a few of the salesmen in the office (women weren’t allowed to be salespeople) I was told that the boss: “…yells at everyone and treats everyone like crap, but the women get it worse. He doesn’t pull that kind of crap with the guys because he knows we won’t take it.” Lovely! And here I was hoping for Equal Opportunity Misery.

If you like your new job except for a few minor things, great! Stick it out and see how it goes for a few months. But if the boss threatened you (“If you know what’s good for you, you’ll stay past six and type this letter, or else.”), or insulted you (“What are you, stupid?”), then it’s probably time to go.

And go. Don’t be afraid to leave. Leave for lunch, then call them and tell them to stick it if you have to, but go. Leaving doesn’t hurt. Being out of a bad environment is much better than staying somewhere filled with worry, anxiety, stress, and fear every day.

Give two week’s notice if you feel you won’t be further abused once word gets out that you’ve resigned. Otherwise, quitting on the spot after a public humiliation (or other inexcusable affront) will work just fine. It won’t matter what they say about you once you’re gone, and if you’ve only been there a week or two, you’re not listing the job on your resume anyway.

When I questioned things at my job, I was accused of “putting ideas in people’s heads” and “starting trouble” in the office. Was I advocating a revolution? Only a personal one. Everyone has different boundaries. Ask yourself: What will you stand for? What is your limit? How much is too much? And when do you know when you’ve had enough?

We all have different tolerance levels. Some people are afraid to leave or stand up for themselves. Granted, leaving is easier if you have someplace else to go, but if you find yourself trapped in a bad job, don’t feel like you’re bound by indentured servitude to stay there.

Once, I started a new job right out of college. When I walked in the door on my first day I saw the owner screaming at a female employee. His exact words have stuck with me all these years: “Are you so stupid you can’t remember to empty my garbage can when you vacuum my office?” The grown woman was in tears.

Later, when I asked about the incident, I was told: “He does that all the time. She’s been here three years, she’s used to it.” At that moment, I swore I’d never end up that way. After three days of endless shouting, I left unemployed, but wiser.

Oddly, it was always the women who told me to “accept it” for “the way it was” and not to “make trouble” and “get used to it.” A few times I asked them why. Why should we blindly accept bad behavior and tolerate abuse just because we work there? The men aren’t yelled at and they certainly aren’t forced to vacuum.

They looked at me like I had just landed a spaceship on the front lawn.

Over the years I’ve learned a valuable lesson: When it comes to difficult interviewers and/or employers, you have two choices: rise up and be respected, or leave. There’s no harm in utilizing self-preservation and demonstrating self-respect.

If anything, it’s a liberating, empowering feeling to know that you’re doing what’s right foryou, regardless of what anyone else tells you. Everyone has to decide what’s best for themselves in their own time and in their own way. You may not get others to follow your lead, but in the end, you’ll be on a much better path.


Until next time,


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Wading Through Job Hell…and Coming Out the Other Side Part 2 – Always Trust Your Instincts

Hi Everyone,

This week I'm sharing part 2 of my "jobs from hell" blog. It's an amusing (and true) account of ridiculous things I've been asked during interviews, at jobs, and how I managed to come out the other side with my Self intact.

I wrote this "essay" ages and ages ago, mostly to vent and let off steam about the crazy people I had encountered. It was good therapy and goes to show you that writing something down (even if it's for your Self and not for publishing in the world) can certainly put things in perspective and make you feel better.


Wading Through Job Hell…and Coming Out the Other Side

Part 2 – Always Trust Your Instincts

What’s a woman to do when she discovers that she’s on the Interview From Hell? Run? Laugh? Lament? No, just be aware and beware. Some interview questions should tip you off that something is seriously wrong.

Two questions on the top of my “beware” list: “How do you react to being yelled at?” and “Are you okay with cursing and swearing in the office?” (I didn’t tell the woman interviewing me that I generally react by leaving, because the person is obviously irrational and might be better suited to working in the monkey house at the zoo – he’d blend right in.)

If you’re on an interview and anything sets off warning bells in your head, don’t second guess yourself. Always trust your instincts. Take heed if you see people complaining loudly, bosses screaming at employees, managers throwing things, or the interviewer says (while you’re waiting outside her office): “Let me just get rid of this person and I can go to lunch.” (Yes, that's a real quote!)

Take these signs to heart. You won’t be happy there.

And always, always take a tour of the building on an interview. If they don’t offer one, ask and see what happens, but don’t accept any job without one. If the interview went well and you like the place, ask to use the bathroom before you leave and nose around.

I know, it sounds silly, but the state of the office will tell you volumes about the employer. Maybe you should be concerned if the bathroom has overflowing toilets and they tell you: “Oh that happens all the time.” And if there is one bathroom the size of a closet for both men and women that reeks to high heaven – run don’t walk – to the nearest exit.

While you’re investigating, try to check out the kitchen area. A refrigerator, a microwave, and a sink with hot and cold running water are not unheard of office luxuries.

If there’s no place to sit and eat your lunch (if you bring it every day instead of going out) what will you do? I once was told: “Everyone sits at their desks and eats – but you still have to answer the phones.”

Thanks! Did I tell you I’m on the raw carrots and celery diet? Crunch, crunch, crunch!

Remember, every interview is a two-way street. You’re interviewing them as much as they’re interviewing you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and be wary if they balk at answering a “normal question” or seem uncomfortable with you asking any questions. Watch out for seemingly innocent phrases sprinkled into the interview, like: “It’ll be nice to have a pretty young woman at the front desk.” (Yes, it’s a real quote again!) “How old are you? You don’t look old enough to be…”

Ask yourself if the place is somewhere you want to be every day for eight hours. What perks (if any) apply? If the best (or only) good thing you can say about them is that “They’re close to home.” or “It’s a paycheck.” it might not be a good move.

Of course, if you want the job, by all means do your best to get it. But don’t settle. You don’t want to trade your peace of mind (or your whole mind) for a paycheck. You can afford to be at least a little bit choosy. After all, it’s your life and you decide how and where to spend your time. Do you want to be in a positive environment where you’ll be happy, or suffering in a hell-hole because you were afraid to say no?

So what happens if you take the job from hell like I did (Actually, I took three, but they were short-lived and gave me these great stories to tell!), and after three days find yourself crying at your desk wondering what the heck happened? Do you blame yourself for making a bad choice?

The answer is complicated. Sometimes the job is not what it seems. Maybe you didn’t realize it would be this bad, or they outright lied to get you to work there because nobody else wanted to. (That happened at all 3 of those jobs from hell - another sign that the inmates are running the office!)

In my case, the truth started to leak out after a few days. I found out from the office gossip that the position I took wasn’t open for two weeks because a woman left to have her baby and never came back. The real story was that six people were in the position over the last six months. They all left after three or four weeks because they couldn’t stand it.

All-too-soon I found out first-hand why people left. After being screamed at by the boss for putting someone into his voicemail when he was on his three-hour lunch, I was told by a female secretary: “Don’t worry. He yells at all of us all the time. You’ll get used to it. You’re new here. If you like your job, you won’t make waves. This is how we do things here. You have to obey him.”

Oh really? That was all I needed to hear.


I have more to say on this topic - and I know you won’t want to miss the conclusion of this blog next week!

Until next time!


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Wading Through Job Hell…and Coming Out the Other Side – Part 1

Hi everyone!

This month I'm devoting my blogs to "other" types of writing - not romances or horror - but things that I wrote because they needed to be written. Sometimes writer's don't write a piece to sell - they write it for their self.

Every so often, writers break out of their genres or modes and just write something for themselves. It can be anything - a poem, a rant about a personal or social issue, a humorous story, a nostalgic reflection - or just anything that's in their heads that needs to be expressed. Some people might even consider it a form of therapy!

I start things off this month with Part 1 of a blog entitled "Wading Through Job Hell" - it's an offbeat look at actual events that took place during job searches and interviews.

I'll be sharing Part 2 next week.


Wading Through Job Hell…and Coming Out the Other Side – Part 1

Part 1 – Still No Kids, But Thanks For Asking

By Kelli A. Wilkins

Several years ago, I left a job that was emotionally draining and making me utterly miserable. Everyone was shocked that I made such a bold leap, but the moment I left the place behind, I felt free. I took the summer “off” and devoted my time to writing.

After a few months, I decided it was time to look for another job. I quickly discovered that my old job had given me a skill I couldn’t put on my resume I was an expert at identifying potentially unhealthy work environments.

It seemed that every time I went on an interview, something strange happened or the interviewer asked a bizarre question. I started paying attention to this new “trend” and wondered if it was just me. Did I have the ability to draw out insane questions from hiring managers? Or did I just apply to “weird” places where nobody else wanted to work? Some of the questions I was asked surprised me, some amused me, and some made me wonder what the heck I was doing there.

What follows is my unusual (yet practical) advice to anyone going on an interview. There are hundreds of books and websites offering interview tips (bring a resume, wear a suit, etc.) but here are a few things I’ve learned first-hand from wallowing in the trenches. For obvious reasons, I won’t give out company names, but all of the quotes and situations are real.

Let’s start with the biggie:

As a woman in the 30-something age bracket, I’m often asked (mostly by other women) if I have children. Now we all know this isn’t a politically correct question, but how does one handle it? Several ideas came to mind, with: “I’m not answering questions you’re not allowed to ask” being the most polite. (I figured “None of your business” might be considered rude.) Interviewers decided to sneak around the issue by giving the “forbidden” question a preamble: “I know I’m not supposed to ask this but…” Well then, why are you asking?

I generally ended up following the old “just say No” advice. But many times, after hearing that I didn’t have children, the interviewers seemed overly concerned about a population decrease and followed up with: “Why not?” or “Are you planning to have any?”

Part of me wanted to answer: “Yeah, as soon as I get home and take off my pantyhose, I’ll start working on that.” Once I asked: “What does that have to do with this job?” The woman didn’t know how to respond.

After numerous rounds of defending my childless state, a friend suggested that I stop wearing my wedding ring to interviews. After all, if they didn’t see the ring, they wouldn’t be curious, right?

Wrong. The question changed to: “Are you married?” If I confessed that I was, then I got the usual “Do you have children?” as a follow up. My friend suggested I try a new answer: “I’m in a committed relationship with my life-partner.” And let them wonder.

Some of the jobs I applied for wanted a salary requirement. Almost everyone knows this is a warning sign. I played it safe and included a minimum salary requirement, thinking that employers knew the definition of the word minimum. Oops, wrong again!

After sitting through a dull interview (Nope, still no kids, but thanks for asking!), the woman interviewing me said: “You indicated your minimum salary requirement in your cover letter, but that’s not in our range. Is that the lowest you can go?”

I wanted to ask her if she knew what minimum meant, but instead I replied, “Yes, actually it is. I need to pay the bills.” (What if I had kids? I wondered. Would they pay more?)

Her response: “And what do you hope is included with that salary?” (I thought money would be nice…)

Since I was on a roll, I decided to ask what benefits were available. I was told: “We have benefits for employees only and it costs $730 a month. You pay for it yourself. We don’t provide anything.”

Wait! My mind shouted. Where’s the benefit in taking their benefits? With that extra-low salary that’s beneath my minimum, I won’t earn anything!

The woman followed up with: “Since you’re married, you can use your husband’s benefits.” Thanks! We’ve come a long way, baby!


(Horror and romance author Kelli Wilkins has more to share about her experiences – check back next week to read Part 2 of her article!)