Writing Tips – Trent St. Germain

According to this week’s guest author, Trent St. Germain, he is a graduate of the University of Louisiana at Monroe and enjoys the gym (not hard to see that his efforts are paying off ;~j), running, other outdoor activities, and reading when he isn’t writing. He is also a self-proclaimed “pop culture nerd,” and warns us not to get him started on anything 1980’s!

Below are his author tips.

Trent St. Germain
Trent St. Germain

WRITE. This is where it all begins, and even if it turns out to be something you don’t think anyone else will ever want to read, it doesn’t matter … put it on paper, on a document page in a word processing program, or in your doodle book. Not to sound cliché, but writing makes a writer. I used to trash things I didn’t think were worth holding on to, but I no longer do that. What you may think stinks today could give you a new idea or a building block for something even better down the road. You can always open a new folder on your computer, stick it in there, and go back to it at a later time. I usually don’t start out with a plan when I write a story. I have a concept in mind, and then I let my fingers do their walk on the keyboard. It often grows like a plant or a tree, branches out, and I will get a different result than I expected.

A piece of advice I took from Anne Rice, in one of her YouTube videos (one of my favourite pastimes is to watch videos of other writers offering advice–I highly recommend it), is to remember there are no rules. You can start anytime, at any age, and it isn’t required you have advanced training or a Ph.D. in creative writing to put a novel out into the world. I never took a creative writing class. The extent of my writing training was in journalism school. But there isn’t a rule anywhere saying you even need that.

If a scholar wants to criticise my style of writing, then it is their right. But I’ll still happily use a conjunction to start a sentence. I see nothing wrong with it. I’ve even done it at the beginning of a paragraph. But for God’s sake, make sure your subjects-verbs agree and that you know the difference between their/there/they’re. I’ve tried to read self-published novels on Kindle Direct and given up after three pages because someone tried to write a book without such basic knowledge. It’s not up to me to judge others, and who should or shouldn’t write a book, but in the age of Kindle Direct Publishing or Smashwords, you will live in constant fear of your hard work getting lost in a sea of shit. And it can and will really quickly if you go the self-publishing route without willingness to pay out of pocket for marketing or public relations help.

Image by Unsplash, courtesy of Pixelbay
Image by Unsplash, courtesy of Pixelbay

IF A SENTENCE WORKS WITHOUT THE WORD ‘THAT’, THEN ELIMINATE IT. I don’t think that needs further explaining. “That” and “suddenly” are my go-to words. I try to be conscientious of them.

WRITE THE STORY THAT ISN’T OUT THERE YOU WANT TO READ. It is easy for anyone to say, “I want to be the next Stephen King, Charlaine Harris, Stephen King, E.L. James, Nicholas Sparks, or (insert name of bestselling author here).” They arrived where they are because they developed a concept different from all the others before them. Speaking of E.L. James, I kind of dissed her while having coffee with a writer friend a while back. The writer friend informed me she was friends with James, and while not everyone thinks James is the greatest writer, she did latch on to a concept not done before in her genre. And she laughed all the way to the top of bestseller lists around the world–despite what her critics say or think. Point taken.

I don’t mind my novel The Incubus and The Others being called a “vampire book.” I don’t call it that, but when you write a story with undead characters who drink blood, well, it will inevitably be called a “vampire book.” However, I worked to set mine apart from the other five-million “vampire books” out there. As far as the better known ones, there is only one Bram Stoker, Anne Rice, or Charlaine Harris, so don’t try to imitate them. Invent your own concept.

Try to find an untapped corner of the genre and ease into it. Imagine you’re at a table with fellow writers and are given two minutes to explain, “mine is different because …” If you’ve written the story not already out there that you want to read, then you have probably succeeded and don’t even realise it.

If it isn’t out there yet, you want to read it, and you’ve written it, chances are you will find a group of readers who feel the same way you do.

Image by Tookapic, courtesy of Pixelbay
Image by Tookapic, courtesy of Pixelbay

BE WILLING TO GIVE AWAY, NOT SELL, COPIES OF YOUR BOOK. This is especially true if you’re self-published or published by an independent house. My novel was published by an indie, and while they pay me traditional royalties and help me with some advertising and things, they do not have a Random House budget, and much of it is work I must do myself. Give away copies of your book to potential reviewers, even those who aren’t paid critics but will publish a review on Amazon or Goodreads. Many people who read your book for free and like it will spread the word. I would rather fifty people read my book, not pay for it, then go tell three other people about it versus fifty people pay for it, throw it aside, and never tell anyone about it. If word spreads, you will be eventually get a buyer out there.

Remember, giveaways on Amazon and Goodreads can be your best friend. They will also work in your favour when it comes to rankings.

Keep your day job. Love what you do because–and I hate to sound pessimistic–most of us will never become wealthy or famous. There are a lot of books and a lot of authors out there. I love what I do, so I don’t have a problem with it. It also means endless possibilities if you enjoy checking out new books. Of course, I often fantasise about being on the New York Times bestseller list. Anyone who’s written a book and says they haven’t is lying.

READ OTHER AUTHORS. I cannot wrap my brain around people who want to be writers but do not like to read. To me, that’s the equivalent of a swimmer who’s afraid of water. I simply do not understand. I have yet to meet a writer who doesn’t love books, but I have heard of the odd cases of non-reader writers.

Network and make friends with other writers. This is especially true of others starting out or striving to succeed and build readership. Offer to trade reviews. Honest reviews. If someone reads your book and doesn’t like it, it is only one person’s opinion. There is a possibility they don’t understand what you are trying to say.

If you do find success, take someone under your wing who wants to do what you do. Outside of my NYT bestseller fantasies, I truly hope this is something I can one day do — lend a helping hand to another author.

MAKE YOURSELF AVAILABLE TO YOUR READERS. Without them, you won’t ever have much. Acknowledge their social media comments, correspond with them by email, and don’t let days or weeks pass without getting back to them.

And those are my simple six.

I’d like to thank Trent for some great advice this week. Some of it made me rethink the way I approach things. Make sure you check out his novel, The Incubus and The Others, and you can find out more about him at his website. Next week, Matthew Bright shares his tips. CLICK HERE to read.

2 Replies to “Writing Tips – Trent St. Germain”

  1. A good article. One of my favourite authors Jake Arnott says just the same, “Write the kind of books you want to read because others will want to read them too.”, so I’ve taken that to heart.

    For me though, reading is the problem: there’s so many good books out there, so many great authors I’m meeting online, so little time to fit them all in. At the moment, I have 3 books on the go and am even trying out a sci-fi/space opera novel alongside my usual literary and crime genre favourites. I’ve just joined Goodreads and am loving being part of Facebook groups (it’s how I discovered this post and your blog Kevin. Thanks Trent!) for the company and motivation and ideas members spark off in each other.

    And, of course, I’m working on making my own writing work. Currently, I’m thinking of Youtube as a platform for reaching out to readers and other writers going through the same experiences at getting their stories out there for people to read.

    I would add if a sentence can start without “The” your sentence has more impact on readers, especially at the start of a sentence.

    Making connections with other writers, published or not, is a great way of getting in front of your potential readers.

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