Thursday, April 19, 2018

A to Z - All Things Writing: Questions Make The Best Critiques

Welcome to the Blogging A to Z Challenge, where, this month, I'll be focusing on all things writing. This may be a random jumping around of topics within my theme, but hopefully something somewhere will be useful to someone. (V is for vague - see that last sentence.) Check out all the participants here . Now, lets get on with today's letter.

Q is for Questions Make The Best Critiques 

I've been trading critiques for ten years or so and I can easily say that my favorite ones have asked me questions. Sure they tell me what they like and what they don't, and I'm always open to suggestions if someone has a better way to convey something, but it's the questions that are golden.

I know what I mean. I can see the story in my head and hear the character speak. I know why they're doing what they're doing. But is that on the page? Is it deep enough? Is it clear enough? Logical to anyone other than me? Not always.

So if anyone ever asks you to critique or beta read for them, do them a favor and ask questions. Obviously, questioning everything would get on the writer's nerves in no time, but if you're wondering something, ask. Even if it's something that you find out is explained two chapter later. I'd like to know when you start to wonder about it. Is it in the best interest of the story to keep that information from the reader for two more chapters or do I need to drop a little more info earlier on?

Why is the character doing this? I would think they would act this way: ____
What does this place look like?
Remind the writer to use senses. What does that old woman smell like?
Did the writer through some unexplained gizmo into the story? Am I supposed to know how this thing works?

There are so many possible questions. Don't hesitate to be inquisitive.  And writers, don't answer the person asking. Put the answers in the story.

Some of my favorite parts of books I've written came from answering questions asked by critique partners and editors. Think of it as your chance to ask the writer instead of yelling at the tv, "Why are those kids going into the dark woods in the deserted summer camp to make out?"

One question can spark a whole train of inspiration. Never be afraid to ask. 




Would you like a free e-book? This April, I'm giving away free copies of my new anthology, Destiny Pills & Space Wizards. Claim your copy here: https://claims.instafreebie.com/free/vhJFWpLL Enter code atozpromo
Prefer paperback? The print book goes live on April 20. Reviews are always appreciated.





Wednesday, April 18, 2018

A to Z - All Things Writing : Plotters and Pantsers

Welcome to the Blogging A to Z Challenge, where, this month, I'll be focusing on all things writing. This may be a random jumping around of topics within my theme, but hopefully something somewhere will be useful to someone. (V is for vague - see that last sentence.) Check out all the participants here . Now, lets get on with today's letter.

P is for Plotters and Pantsers

If you get a bunch of writers together in the same room or forum, you'll soon learn that there are two main camps. There are pantsers and plotters. Building off of yesterdays outlining post, this seemed an appropriate direction to wander.

Plotters, are those organized writers who spends weeks or months or even longer in preparation before ever committing a word to the actual story. They outline, research, and create character sheets. Plotters might even break the whole book down by scene and know what happens and who will be in it. I've met a couple of people who do just that. Once they get to writing, it's just a matter of filling in the scene and checking it off. This sounds like the perfect method for those who like to jump around while writing that first draft because everything is still relatively organized.

A plotter would know their character, Gary's every quirk, his detailed physical description, that he failed math in the fourth grade, that he has a rash on his left elbow and prefers blondes because they remind him of the hot lady that used to live next door when he was twelve.

Pantsers like to just sit down and marvel at the words that flow from their fingers. Their stories seem to have a life of their own, twisting and turning in unexpected directions from day to day. You might often hear a pantser saying something like their character isn't speaking to them or they aren't behaving. If you're a plotter, this may sound like a bit of nonsense or outright insanity. Sorry, it's just how we write. We're often surprised by where our story is going and where it ends up.

A panster would say: Wow, when this story started I had no idea Gary was gay and that he was allergic to olives and that's what would spur him into discovering the cure for feline baldness!

Then there are the plantsers, the hybrid writers who plan a little and wing the rest.  

Which one are you?


Would you like a free e-book? This April, I'm giving away free copies of my new anthology, Destiny Pills & Space Wizards. Claim your copy here: https://claims.instafreebie.com/free/vhJFWpLL Enter code atozpromo
Prefer paperback? The print book goes live on April 20. Reviews are always appreciated.





Tuesday, April 17, 2018

A to Z - All Things Writing: Outlines

Welcome to the Blogging A to Z Challenge, where, this month, I'll be focusing on all things writing. This may be a random jumping around of topics within my theme, but hopefully something somewhere will be useful to someone. (V is for vague - see that last sentence.) Check out all the participants here . Now, lets get on with today's letter.

O is for Outlines

Some writers live for outlines others despise them as creative cages. I'm not an outline fan. I prefer to surprised and excited about where the story goes as I figure out it. It makes it easier for me to write in an engaging fashion if I'm interested in where the story is going just as much as the reader will be. That's just how my creative process works.

Outliners are more organized. Their rewriting process is probably a less extensive than mine because they knew where their story was going from the start. I tend to have to go back and add details or whole characters and scenes to properly set up later events.

You can outline to any degree. Again, there's not right or wrong way to do it. It could be as little as a short paragraph or a couple bullet points per chapter all the way to mapping out every scene.

So should you outline or not? There's no right or wrong answer. You'll have to find what works best for your writing process. If you've never tried an outline, give it a whirl. You might be converted to a plotter. If you write an outline and you find you've lost all will to write because the story lost it's creative magic, then outlining isn't for you.

Personally, I prefer the after-outline method as part of my rewriting/first edit process. Because I don't do one before I start the story, it is very helpful to do one after I have the rough draft in hand. I already have the words on the page, so I no longer feel hampered by having to stick with a plan. The after method gives me a good idea of where changes need to me made to make the plot flow better and to make the characters more active and add more tension. This outline is also the starting point for my synopsis, which we'll cover on S day. 

Do you outline?


Would you like a free e-book? This April, I'm giving away free copies of my new anthology, Destiny Pills & Space Wizards. Claim your copy here: https://claims.instafreebie.com/free/vhJFWpLL Enter code atozpromo
Prefer paperback? The print book goes live on April 20. Reviews are always appreciated.





Monday, April 16, 2018

A to Z - All Things Writing: NaNoWriMo

Welcome to the Blogging A to Z Challenge, where, this month, I'll be focusing on all things writing. This may be a random jumping around of topics within my theme, but hopefully something somewhere will be useful to someone. (V is for vague - see that last sentence.) Check out all the participants here . Now, lets get on with today's letter.

N is for National Novel Writing Month

Or NaNoWriMo for short, because it's easier to say (or not, depending on who is trying to pronounce it). This is a worldwide challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days, specifically in November. Sound intriguing? You can sign up here. While this challenge is totally free, the month-long event is put on by a non-profit organization that shares the love of writing with classrooms all around the world, so donations are encouraged. 

If you've been around my blog before, you've probably heard me wax on about the wonders of NaNoWriMo. Fair warning, I'm going to do it again.

Things that are awesome about writing 50,000 words in 30 days:

You can join a region. A region is comprised of writers all around you who are also participating in this challenge. If you're looking to connect with other writers in your area for marking / accountability / support / learning how to write / guidance / advice / to find beta readers / a writers group / and pretty much anything else, this is an excellent place to start. Within your region, events will be held throughout November. These are put on by a local volunteer (aka an ML - of which I am one). Most often, these events will be in in person, but are sometimes online in a chat room. Don't scare yourself out of going to events. Are you an introverted socially awkward person who would rather stay home and not talk to new people? You'll fit right in. Go. Meet your people. Seriously. Go.

Setting goals for yourself is one thing, but being part of a group writing with the same goal, makes accountability even easier. You get nifty graphs, a progress bar, and virtual badges for meeting word goals. There are even pep talks from famous authors if you need further encouragement.

There are forums to meet more people and share ideas. I highly recommend checking these out before November strikes. Find the threads that you'll find the most helpful and/or encouraging and stick with those. The forums are like the interwebs: giant and time sucking. You should be writing first and socializing second. The forums stay up long after NaNo is over so you can hang out with people after the writing is over too.

You will find time to write. 1,667 words is your daily goal. That may sound like a crazy amount of words, but it's really not. You'd be amazed how many words you can pump out in a 10 minute word war (aka word sprint). Who knew writing could be a competitive sport? It can be, even hanging out in the chat room isn't your thing and you're only competing with yourself. Yes, there is now a word sprint tool to use when you're writing alone. This is the perfect way to spend a month finding when works best for you to write and establishing a writing habit.

You will find that you can actually write the rough draft of a novel in 30 days. It won't be easy, but it's not impossible either. I've done it 11 out of 12 times. I was building a house the one year, so I was happy that I found time to write at all.

If you've never finished a piece of long-form writing before, you'll get that elation of a goal met. It's an awesome feeling, and even more so, because you get to share it with other writers who are writing right along side you, facing the same challenges of sick kids, errands, keeping up the house, needy pets and still finding time to spend with their significant others.  

Things that are also awesome, but to keep in mind:

50,000 words is not a full novel in most cases, but it's a good start.

This is a very rough draft and because you're cranking it out in 30 days it will contain a lot of suck, but also a lot of word treasures.

Everyone writes at a different pace. One person's 10 minute word sprint of 700 words is another person's 200 word major accomplishment. You might be at 40,000 words on day 28 while someone else pounded out 50K back on day 2. Don't compare yourself to everyone else. We write a different speeds. Some people fix every typo along the way, others turn their text color off or use an unreadable font and are blissfully uncaring until December. Others take vacation or are home for thanksgiving break and have entire days to write while you are cramming in six 10 minutes sprints between running kids to sports, making meals, keeping up your house, working full time, and potty training your new puppy who doesn't sleep through the night. Your goal. Your challenge. Being competitive and motivated is good, but don't stress about how everyone else is doing.

Too busy in November? Check out Camp NaNo - a smaller scale event with your own word goal that happens twice a year. Oh look, there's one happening right now!

Have you done NaNoWriMo before?

Would you like a free e-book? This April, I'm giving away free copies of my new anthology, Destiny Pills & Space Wizards. Claim your copy here: https://claims.instafreebie.com/free/vhJFWpLL Enter code atozpromo
Prefer paperback? The print book goes live on April 20. Reviews are always appreciated.



Saturday, April 14, 2018

A to Z - All Things Writing: Marketing

Welcome to the Blogging A to Z Challenge, where, this month, I'll be focusing on all things writing. This may be a random jumping around of topics within my theme, but hopefully something somewhere will be useful to someone. (V is for vague - see that last sentence.) Check out all the participants here . Now, lets get on with today's letter.

M is for Marketing

You might be one of those rare outgoing writers who loves marketing, but most of us would rather bang out words in the quiet comfort of our writing caves. We're not always super fond of talking to people in, you know...person. Not to mention having to put ourselves out there online, where we can pretend to be social from the comfort of our computers. Some days it feels like the only way to get your book seen is by spamming every soul you know with posts about your book. No one likes to spam people.

So how do you get your book out into the world where it might actually sell? Again, I wish I had all the answers here, but I'm struggling through it all just like most of us are.

There's book boast, instafreebie, reading deals, freebooksy, and countless other sites out there. Some will cost you, others are free. 

Those Facebook groups are a good go to for marketing as well. Find some group giveaways or sale groups for your genre. Most are free and only require you to send the sale out to your mailing list.

Get a mailing list. Easier said than done, but yes, work at it. 

Establish a web presence somewhere that you're comfortable and will actually use. You don't have to be everywhere, but do be somewhere that people can find you, be that a Facebook page, website, blog, twitter, or whatever else. Post there now and then so people know you're alive and will be more inclined to click when you have something to promote.

Connect with other authors in your area, be that your city or region or state. This is another place that those Facebook groups come in handy. Network with those authors, and see what they're doing that is successful. Do events with them and watch them in action. Discover what works best for you.

Get out there and sell your book. Attend author events. You can set up your own signing, and that's a great thing for a book launch, but also attend events with other authors. If you have twenty authors of various genres all bringing in book lovers to shop, you are greatly widening your prospective audience. Don't have one in your area? Organize one. Work with a local bookstore or venue that already has foot traffic coming in. I've done events in a retail store, library, theatre, farmers market, workshops, and at cons. If there are people who read going to be there, it's a good place to set up shop.

Find a few blogs and Facebook book loving people who will feature your book. 

Find local bookstores who will take your book to sell. 

There are radio, newspapers and tv for the more outgoing and ambitious.

Know what your book is about in a quick sentence or two. Be able to speak about your book without tripping over your own tongue. It does get easier the more you do it. 

What marketing strategies have worked for you?


Would you like a free e-book? This April, I'm giving away free copies of my new anthology, Destiny Pills & Space Wizards. Claim your copy here: https://claims.instafreebie.com/free/vhJFWpLL Enter code atozpromo
Prefer paperback? The print book goes live on April 20. Reviews are always appreciated.



Friday, April 13, 2018

A to Z - All Things Writing: Line Edit

Welcome to the Blogging A to Z Challenge, where, this month, I'll be focusing on all things writing. This may be a random jumping around of topics within my theme, but hopefully something somewhere will be useful to someone. (V is for vague - see that last sentence.) Check out all the participants here . Now, lets get on with today's letter.

L is for Line Edit

We covered the Developmental Edit last week. What we're talking about today is the step between the Dev edit and Proofreading / Copy Edit. The Line edit will focus on tone, language, sentences and paragraphs and word choices among other things. It will not focus on typos. 

Things a line edit will focus on:
Word usage:
overused words - just / suddenly / like / and many other common offenders
clarity - Is the meaning of the sentence clear? Is it clear who is speaking?
repeated words  - using the same words in nearby sentences
Sentence and Paragraph structure:
avoiding repeated structures - which can make reading very boring
openings - making sure the lines don't all start with the same word or phrasing
length - avoiding run-ons or too many short sentences which can create a staccato effect.
Dialogue:
does it feel natural?
is it in character? 
Tone of the story: 
is it consistent throughout?
Action:
is it clear and easy to follow?
Pacing: 
do areas move too fast or too slow? 
Tightening:
are there wasted words?
can adverbs be switched out for better verbs?
can anything be removed that doesn't impact the story?
are there any areas where information is repeated or rephrased that can be removed?

A good line edit will put the final polish on a story and then all that's left is to hunt down those pesky typos and check punctuation. 

Would you like a free e-book? This April, I'm giving away free copies of my new anthology, Destiny Pills & Space Wizards. Claim your copy here: https://claims.instafreebie.com/free/vhJFWpLL Enter code atozpromo
Prefer paperback? The print book goes live on April 20. Reviews are always appreciated.



Thursday, April 12, 2018

A to Z - All Things Writing: Killing off Characters

Welcome to the Blogging A to Z Challenge, where, this month, I'll be focusing on all things writing. This may be a random jumping around of topics within my theme, but hopefully something somewhere will be useful to someone. (V is for vague - see that last sentence.) Check out all the participants here . Now, lets get on with today's letter.

K is for Killing Characters

Some writers never kill anyone. That's fine too. The death of a character should have meaning and add depth to the remaining characters' arcs and impact the plot. If we went around hilly nilly killing everyone for giggles, that wouldn't make for a very engaging story. Maybe it would for some people, there seem to be readers of just about everything. However, let's just say for the sake of this post, that it's not an ideal goal. 

People die in books. Sometimes its off the page, such as to launch a murder mystery or in backstory - your main character's mother died when they were six and that impacted who they are today. Those both have impact on the character and plot. But when is it a good idea to kill off a main or secondary character? Only if it is necessary to advance the plot or drive a remaining character into change/action. As a writer you want to get your readers attached to your characters, to care about them. Killing them off could anger your readers, so it better be for a darn good reason. If you've read any of George RR Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series, you know what I'm talking about. 

Writing the death of a cherished character is also hard for the author. They created this character. They brought them into this world, and now they're taking them out of it. As many times as your mother may have thrown out that threat, she didn't act on it. Writers do and it isn't easy. It's draining and makes us sad.  

Have you ever killed off any main characters?

Would you like a free e-book? This April, I'm giving away free copies of my new anthology, Destiny Pills & Space Wizards. Claim your copy here: https://claims.instafreebie.com/free/vhJFWpLL Enter code atozpromo
Prefer paperback? The print book goes live on April 20. Reviews are always appreciated.