Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Author Advice Advice from Author and Editor Michelle Browne

As someone who’s not just an author, but an editor, I’m familiar with how many people are ready to offer advice on the field – but somehow, it always seems like the advice you need is never quite the advice you’re getting!

Here are a few of the main points I really wish someone had told me before I got started in the business.

1)   Get comfortable with talking about your books quickly. Whether it’s on Tiktok, Twitter, GoodReads, Tumblr, Facebook, or even in query letters, being able to describe your concept and vibe in a single sentence (maybe two) is a vitally important concept. For instance, I describe The Meaning Wars as a queer, found family space opera. That gets across a) the focus on LGBTQ issues, b) the coziness element of the story, and c) the drama, pulp, and politics in the storyline.

2)  Your work cannot be sacred. There will be times when you gotta consider cutting something you love because readers hate it, or marketing something in a way that you might be new to. Most of all, it’s important to know how to take a critique, even if you get bad news. Being defensive will make you a worse writer, for sure. That is not a question. But at the same time…

3)  Know when to reject a criticism. There’s a chance someone will just be wrong about something, and that’s okay. You don’t have to unfriend (or unalive) your editor, beta reader, or reviewer. Art is subjective, which means that sometimes, two subjective experiences will just not line up. And that’s okay! But try to make rejecting critiques the exception rather than the rule; again, creative fragility is generally just a terrible habit, and will make you worse at whatever you’re doing.

4)  Read outside your genre! You might be a romance writer, but picking up a military sci fi novel for the sake of learning about action scenes might be just the ticket. And vice versa – if anything, I think more people should read romance novels. It’s a gigantic genre, and there’s something for everyone, seriously. Even if you think a genre is “yucky,” give it a try –and even more than one try!

Reading is absolutely required for writers – and yes, of course both fan fiction and audiobooks count. Other forms of storytelling (movies, shows, podcasts) are also great – but the medium you work in should be the medium you take in, so audiobooks and ebooks or paperbacks are an essential part of every writer’s diet. If books aren’t your thing, maybe give screenwriting, playwriting, or graphic novel-writing a try! It’s okay to experiment with mediums until you find the right one.

5)  Know why you write. Is it for yourself? Okay, but this may mean that others don’t respond as well to your works as you might have hoped. It may also mean that your work is not suited for publication, or may not have broad appeal to others. And that’s okay!To quote a good friend of mine, “be on your bullshit, write your weird,” and go as hard as you can. And remember – it’s okay to make mediocre art, too, even for just yourself. It still matters.

Is it for an audience? Perfectly fine, but they may have opinions you dislike or disagree with regarding your own characters. You may also want to look into information and guides for writing commercial fiction.

Is it for money? If so, ghostwriting may be your best bet; many opportunities for that are available on Upwork. It can be a hard living, but it’s not impossible, and can be immensely satisfying.

6)  Creativity will come and go, but writing is in your bones. There may be times when writing is hard, or producing on a regular basis is difficult, if not impossible. The real measure of a writer is not how many books they produce, how much they publish, or how much they make on their books – it’s whether they keep coming back to writing and storytelling in some way. For me, I worried for a few years that I’d just “lost it,” whatever that “it” of creativity was, but now I know that I was just going through a hard time. What matters is coming back home to your characters and stories, and finishing your shit.

7)  Cultivate a good group of colleagues. This is the last, but most important piece of advice I can give any writer – we have this idea and image of writing as a solitary pursuit, but it’s entirely false. Many “great men” had wives and assistants quietly editing or even rewriting and assisting with their work; the idea that singular figures have shaped history or art is often broadly incorrect. It can take a while to find your people, and you may have some turnover through the years, but it’s entirely worth trying to cultivate a group of colleagues and friends who get what you’re trying to do. Don’t treat other authors as competition (or just possible customers); treat them as a community. And humans need community; we die when we’re too lonely.

For resources, I would recommend Chuck Wendig’s entire line of writing advice guides – I found them very helpful and interesting.

The Meaning Wars Omnibus: A Queer Space Opera
The Meaning Wars 
Book Six
Michelle Browne

Genre: Science Fiction, Space Opera
Publisher: Magpie Editing
Date of Publication: Nov 10, 2022
Number of pages: 550 
Word Count: 237,000
Cover Artist: Kateryna Kyselova

Tagline: Two best friends search the galaxy for love – while an oppressive human government hunts for them.

Book Description: 

Two best friends looking for love.

An oppressive interstellar government.

Adulthood has never been so stressful...

For the first time, all five books in The Meaning Wars are united as a complete collection. In this queer space opera featuring a diverse cast, a found family navigates the politics of revolution and freedom. 

Join Crystal, a wormhole engineer, and Sarah, an English Literature graduate with a chip on her shoulder, as they try to find romance and friendship - while an oppressive interstellar government watches their every move. 

As Crystal deals with her faltering marriage, Sarah makes risky career decisions - by doing what's morally right. Running from the surveillance state of the Human Conglomerate, will the Interfederation's multi-species alliance prove their salvation? A crew of old friends and a union of renegade space pirates may be their way out. But first, they have to save rebel icon Patience Ngouabi from arrest and certain torture - and make sure they all get out alive.

Fans of Ruthanna Emrys' A Half-Built Garden and Becky Chambers' Wayfarers series will love the cosy yet intense adventures of this crew of misfits fighting for political and social justice.


The leaves and trees here were soft shades of blue, ranging all the way to bold indigo. It was a sharp but not unlovely contrast against the pale sky, which looked white or a little yellowish because of the thick, protective atmosphere, shielding them from the insistent blue luminance of the F-class star. They’d seen patches of gold and yellowish plains, and even plenty of familiar Earthly green plants, which grew here quite well, but the native vegetation tended towards navy, periwinkle, and turquoise.

“Good job back there,” said Sarah in a whisper. “I thought you were gonna crack, to be honest.”

“Me too. But I kept thinking, ‘What would Sarah do?’ and I just tried to look bored,” Toby whispered back. He shot her a smile that started a bit wan, but gradually brightened. “Hey, we did it. And now we’re going to rescue someone.”

“Speaking of,” said Paulo, stumping over, “I finally got this shit figured out. Goddamn map was in really poor resolution and didn’t account for this fucking river valley having a flooded area. They sent me archived shit. I just figured out the discrepancies.” He sighed. “Sorry for snapping at both of you. I’m just worried and stressed.”

Sarah inhaled and let out a long breath. “You and me both. It’s not like I’m rescuing someone who’s basically my hero or anything, while caked in mud and preparing to flee for our lives—oh wait, yes I am. This is a nightmare.”

Toby bumped her shoulder and wiggled his feet in his boots, sluicing the mud off. “At least you’re not having this nightmare alone.”

Paulo pointed. “C’mon. Over there. Who knows how long we have before there are guards or a collection force? Those fake identities won’t hold forever.”

A cold pit formed in Sarah’s stomach. What if this was an elaborate trap? She’d seen that letter, sure, but did they know for certain that Patience was still alive? What if the guards had found her already?

“We’re in disguise,” Toby ventured, a tremor in his voice. “Um. Just so you know. That’s why we look like guards. But we’re not.”

There was a rustling. Didn’t sound like anything bigger than a rabbit—if those had even been introduced here.

The two guards circled them both, the person with sideburns keeping their gun trained right at Sarah and Toby’s faces.

“Wait. There’s supposed to be a woman here that Patience talked to,” said the one on the right.

Silently, a third person crept out of a hidey-hole Sarah hadn’t even noticed. Moss and a snarl of brush against the arch of a tree root parted and revealed a rather small woman with dark skin and large, anxious eyes, and a larger gun.

And then, abruptly, Sarah was face-to-face with her—Patience Ngouabi.

For many reasons, she was one of the most beautiful women Sarah had ever met, known, or heard of. Her skin was perhaps duller and less perfectly even in tone than it looked in interviews, but was still the glorious brown of fresh clay, with a hint of rust.

Still, she had the angelic features Sarah had seen in so many interviews: that heart-shaped face, broad, gentle nose, soft cheekbones, and full, plush lips. Her wide, dark eyes searched Sarah’s face in momentary confusion.

She had really been hoping to meet Patience under different circumstances—not while going by a dead woman’s name. If she took Patience’s hand, she thought, Patience would be touching the skin of a dead woman, not Sarah’s.

“I’m Sarah Jean White,” she said, just managing to hold her voice steady, trying to pretend she wasn’t starstruck.

“I’m afraid we’ll have to do the formal introduction later. There are soldiers on the way!” said Patience, without much of her name.

About the Author:

Michelle Browne is a sci fi/fantasy writer. She lives in Lethbridge, AB with her partners-in-crime and their cats. Her days revolve around freelance editing, knitting, jewelry, and nightmares, as well as social justice issues. She is currently working on the next books in her series, other people's manuscripts, and drinking as much tea as humanly possible.

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