Advice for Writers by Maria Imbalzano – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Maria Imbalzano will be awarding a $15 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Advice for Writers

Writing is a wonderful, challenging, scary thing. It takes time, education and persistence to get to being published, but I loved every minute of the fifteen years it took me to get from “I think I want to write a novel” to “Oh my god, I got a contract.”

The first thing I learned is that a love of reading novels does not translate into being able to write novels. If you read many books, you also probably critique books, either in your head or in a written review. It’s very easy to critique a book, and you may think that if he/she can write this novel, then so can I. However, so much goes into writing a story, and in my case, it took me years to learn the craft of writing fiction. Here are some basics:

1. Come up with a story – this can be taken from news headlines, magazines, TV shows, movies books or dreams. The beginning of my recent novel, Dancing in the Sand, came to me in a dream. It was so vivid and jarring, that I wrote it down the second I woke up. Writing down ideas, whenever they come to you, is a must so that when you are starting a new project, you can review those ideas and see if you want to use any of them in your new work in progress.

2. Determine what plot(s) you will use – I’ve heard that there are twenty main plotlines which are used over and over. Some of them are: quest, adventure, pursuit, rescue, escape, revenge, rivalry, underdog, temptation, love, forbidden love, sacrifice, and discovery. Coming up with your plot is not difficult, you just need to follow it through.

3. Prepare before you begin – some authors outline their books from beginning to end, while others have a vague idea and just sit down and start writing. I do the former and I plan out my book by first determining who my characters are. Coming up with their internal and external goals, motivation and conflict is key. I then plot the story and end up doing an in-depth outline that breaks my story down into chapters, scenes and paragraphs. This part of the process can take me a week or more, but it is so worth it to me, because once I have the basics, I can sit down and write straight through.

4. Learn your craft – when I first started writing I didn’t know the first thing about writing a novel. I went to seminars through Romance Writers of America and New Jersey Romance Writers, read books on point of view, characterization, tension, conflict, emotions etc. And I also just started writing. You can learn an awful lot from your mistakes.

5. Designate a work space – if you have an office, that’s ideal, but not everyone has the extra room. If you don’t have a writing office, pick a space where you can put your laptop. For each individual book, I have a notebook which is easy to carry around to wherever you’re working. In that notebook, I have my outline, a physical description of each character along with pictures from magazines, a summary of their goals, motivation and conflicts as well as whatever other information I may need in the future. It’s also good to have post-its, highlighters and paper clips to use when you’re editing.

6. Write every day – they say it takes 23 days to make a habit. Writing needs to become a habit if you want to get your book done. Writing every day, whether it’s for a half hour or five hours, will eventually get the book done. Although I’m giving this advice, I never follow it. Work family and other commitments get in the way and there’s just not enough time in the day. The key here is to strive to write every day.

7. Join a critique group – while we are our own worst critiques, many times we are too close to our manuscript to see the problems. Critique partners are so important to point out flaws in your story, characterization or conflict. Not only can you learn from them when they critique your pages, but you will learn from the mistakes they make that you see when you’re critiquing their pages.

8. Edit, edit, edit. Writing the first draft may take months (and months), but editing takes just as long or longer. The manuscript you are sending out to publishers or agents has to be 99% ready to go. So the major editing is up to you. In order to have the very best book you can have, you must take all the time you need to re-read your manuscript dozens of times to get it perfect.

9. Turn rejection into a positive. Rejection hurts and may send you into a funk. But save those rejections and re-read them. If they’re not just one line rejections stating that your manuscript is not right for their line, then there may be some very important criticisms that you can learn from. Our goal is always to write the best book, so take those criticisms and make them work for you.

10. Persistence – It would be so easy to give up after dozens of rejections. But if you give up, you won’t ever get published. If you keep on going, you have a much better chance.

11. Learn how to market your book – Whether you’re with one of the major publishing companies, with a small press, or self-published, you need to use social media to help sell your book. Creating a website is going to be your fundamental marketing tool. You will also need an author Facebook page and Twitter presence. In addition to internet social media, you may want to write articles for your local newspapers, or be a guest on a local radio or TV show. Every little bit helps, and you need to get the word out on your book, or no one will read it.

An accomplished dance major in New York City, Ava Woodward is pursuing her dream of becoming a professional in a national dance company. But a celebratory weekend in Newport, where she meets the man of her fantasies, has devastating consequences that change her life forever.

Brian Stanhope, a Harvard graduate, poised to join his father’s company, suffers a brain injury in a horseback riding accident, which affects his memory. He has no recollection of his graduation party weekend or the beautiful dancer who turned his head and stole his heart.

When they reunite eight years later, the magic of their powerful attraction binds them together, but the past holds a secret that even love may not be able to overcome.

Enjoy an excerpt:

Approaching his sister’s dance studio to the right, he heard a pounding beat, not at all similar to the classical music that fueled Carrie’s usual dance practices. He stopped to watch through a small square window off to the side. Ava, dressed in a black leotard and tights, leaped and twirled through the air like a spinning top, set on its course around the circumference of the room while Carrie spun in a more confined area in the center of the room.

Brian’s eyes sought Ava as her tight body coiled and released, coiled and released. Her arms were at once fragile and muscled, highlighting biceps and long, graceful fingers, sweeping through the air to mirror her legs. Her leaps were huge, with powerful extension and maximum air between her and the floor. No sooner would she land than she’d pull her limbs into herself and pirouette on her toes, spinning fast enough to make him question the physics of it all. This was no prissy ballet. This was fast and furious modern dance where you could feel the beat in your throat. Okay, maybe he’d experienced a little too much dance in his life, but this was definitely as good as anything he’d seen on the New York stage. Ava was even better than his sister.

What happened to the shy, vulnerable girl he’d just met? On the dance floor, she was a powerhouse. Full of confidence, energy, and magnetism.

When the music ended, he stood rooted to the floor, and his hands came up in a spontaneous clap.

“Who’s out there?” Carrie flung open the door to reveal their intruder.

“Brian, what are you doing here? I thought you were playing tennis.”

“I am. I was. I-I had to come in for more balls.”

He stared at Ava, with her dark brown hair pulled tight in a bun at the nape of her neck, drops of sweat beading on her chest just above the scoop of her leotard and above her full upper lip. Hot and sexy. He swallowed, fantasizing about licking the moisture from her mouth, her neck, molding that cute little powerful body into his.

“Then why are you just standing there?” Carrie placed her hands on her hips, challenging him to stop staring at her friend and walk away.

“I’m going.” He backed away from the door, but couldn’t seem to make his body turn and move down the hall.

Until Carrie slammed the door in his face.

About the Author:

Maria Imbalzano is a matrimonial lawyer in central New Jersey where she not only uses her law degree to navigate her clients through the court system, but her psychology degree to guide them through their personal struggles. While writing motions, legal memoranda, and briefs is fascinating, it pales in comparison to creating memorable characters and taking them on their emotional journeys.

In addition to practicing law and writing fiction, Maria enjoys spending time with her husband and two daughters either at home or at the Jersey Shore.

Visit Maria at Facebook.

Buy the book at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Thanks for hosting!

  2. What is something you’ve always wanted to try but have been too scared to?

    • Hi Mai: I would love to bungee jump – but I am definitely afraid to try. I think the free fall would be thrilling. But what if the cord breaks or I hit my head on the bridge or I have a heart attack? What about you?

  3. Danielle M. says:

    Great excerpt, thank you for the giveaway!

  4. kim amundsen says:

    Love the excerpt.

  5. Great excerpt, thank you.

  6. Really great post – thanks for sharing!

  7. Your advice is top notch! I especially can relate to coming up with an idea from a dream you’ve had. So many times I’ve woken up from a dream and said ‘oh, man, that would make a great book/movie,’ only to forget it a hour later. Writing it down right away would be the perfect solution. Did you ever consider self publishing? Why/why not? Great excerpt!

  8. Becky Richardson says:

    Loved the excerpt and thanks for the chance to win.

  9. Do you write every day? Do you have a word goal for each day you write?

  10. I enjoyed the post, thank you! Terrific advice! This has been a great book tour and I have really enjoyed learning about you and your book! Happy writing and Happy Thanksgiving!

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