Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Writers Websites Wednesday - Shortcuts To Stronger Writing

This one's a posting at the  Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America website.  It isn't new, but it sure applies for all writers.  Not a bad review for the established and lots of good advice for the new writer. Writerisms & Other Sins sit back, read it through and give it some thought.  As they say at the site, "Writerisms: overused and misused language. In more direct words: find ‘em, root ‘em out, and look at your prose without the underbrush."

Have at it! 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Top Five Free Resources for Broke Writers & Some Extras

Want to get started writing, but you're broke and think you have nothing to start with?

Well, you're wrong.  One of the best things about freelance writing is you don't have to spend a lot of money up front to begin writing and hopefully making some money from your work.
You will need some basics though:

Paper of some kind (you can frequently get this free), ask around, companies change letterhead and throw out the old, some notebooks get partially used before someone tosses it out - tear out used pages & use the rest. Use the back side of one-sided paper someone has thrown out. Be creative and think. Watch for sales at office supply at the beginning of the school year; they frequently offer notebooks at $.01 each or maybe $.05 each.

Writing implement - you can score free pens in the bank or maybe left lying around somewhere. You can get them really cheap at beginning of school year sales. They're probably just lying around the house and lots of places hand them out as promos.

A flash drive whether you actually own a computer yourself or not.  Again, watch for sales at office supply stores. I've gotten a 3 meg flash drive for as little as $5.00 - sometimes with rebates you can get them free. Maybe a friend has a bunch lying around and wouldn't mind sharnig one with you. Ask for one for a birthday or holiday gift.

Okay, so you have the rudimentary basics. Here are some things you can get for free or use for free.  Some of this may not be terribly convenient, but convenience usually costs $$$ so once in a while that has to be sacrificed until you can afford your own set-up.
With that in mind:

You need a computer but don't have one yourself yet.

1.    First resource: Public Library - Yes, they  have computers for public use.  Most want you to reserve time so keep that in mind. If using this resource it's best if you do your draft work on paper, then plug in your flash drive, transcribe your work, proofread and save to the flash drive. At that computer you can also create a free email account perhaps at, or some other you may know of.  That account is from where you can later send your queries. Just make sure you remember to create a password that can withstand a nuclear hit and make sure, since it IS a public computer, to sign out when you leave - every time.

The library will have rules for computer use and accessing the internet. Some have very short periods you can use the computer. Obey the rules. Type fast! Make friends with the librarians.

Oh - a side note - you're in the library, they do  have a lot of reference materials. It doesn't work like the net, but it defintely fills a need. Don't pass up that great resource.

You actually do have a computer with internet access, but you can't afford all that software.

2.    Second resource: Free Software - Yes there is software out there you can download free (hopefully when you make some money you'll donate to help keep them going). A really great one is Open Office Check out the freeware there. They offere a suite of software that does most of what you need. Words processor, spreadsheets for your bookkeeping or query tracking, and several more I haven't had need of yet, but came with the package. The word processor is compatible with Microsoft Word so people can open your .DOCs  when you email them. And, if you plan on some self-publishing you can make PDF files with Open Office very easily. They also have lots of templates for things like books and screen scripts. Check it out.

Spacejock offers free software for the writer-especially novels at

Plotbot offers free online screenwriting software

You have a laptop computer with wiFi ability but no internet connection of your own.

3.    Third resource: Free Wi-Fi. There are lots of places now that have signs posted offering Free Wi-Fi. Just look around. Coffee shops frequently offer it. Your library may offer computers for use as well as free Wi-Fi. There are even 'hot spots' that offer free Wi-Fi such as bookstores & cafes. Check out your own town with an eye to those places. If you can't buy a cup of coffee try sitting outside and see if the Wi-Fi extends that far. But remember, don't become a problem or an obstruction. If the joint starts jumpin after you arrive and you're taking up valuable table space with one cup of coffee for two hours be considerate: pack it up and come back later.

You're a writer but sometimes you get stuck or just can't get it moving, you need some motivation.

4.    Fourth resource: Dr. Wicked's Write or Die: You can use it online free or purchase a desktop version for $10.00 (no I'm not selling it). Look to the right on the site and you'll see the Write Or Die Online box where you can type in your goal of number of words, your own time limit and a 'punishment' level. It does have sounds so either turn those off or use headphones. You're gonna love it. He now offeres the "Edit Minion" as well.

So now you're rolling, what the next thing you need? Writing work!

5.    Fifth resource(s) There are a number of places out there where you can bid for work, check for job postings, etc. There's (lets you make a number of free bids per month - but remember with Elance you're bidding against low bidders so it can be tough to make any serious bucks) and of course you can post on offering your writing services. offers advice and market listings as does  Most magazine websites list writer's guidelines or submissions under "contact us" or something along those lines. If you want to write for a particular magazine and the masthead doesn't give online contact info check out the editor section, get the address and use snail mail (as primitive as that sounds).  You acn also find publsiher listings in books such as Writer's Market, Writers & Artists' Yearbook, Writer's Online Markets and more at your library. Another thing to do while you're there!

These recources should get you well on your way. Plainly, using a bit of creativity and being persistent there are ways out there to get started and earn money with your writing even when you're too broke to put some cash out. Have at it and good luck.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Writers Websites Wednesday - Association of Authors' Representatives

This is just a great site. Association of Authors' Representatives Its a great place to check out prospective agents. It's a not-for-profit organization and it's members are required to abide by a strict code of ethics. It offers some frequently asked questions and links to professional associations in addition to info on agents.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

How To Cope With Being A Shy Writer

Many writers, if not a majority of us are shy. And that means we can have a variety of problems in furthering our careers since we don't particularly do well in making human contact!

But, these problems, like most others can be overcome, or at least minimized. We all just need to take a deep breath and think about this, then plan a course of action.

Now it's very unlikely that someone is going to yell at you or call you bad names simply because you make a professional business contact. They may not be interested, but really, is that so bad? Move on.

Don't let yourself think only the extrovert and boisterous have a shot at real success in the book writing biz.  Here's the thing, nobody knows what goes on inside someone else, but the extrovert is likely to be even more insecure in his or her own skin than the introvert who may not be great out in the big world, but is likely to pretty comfortable with him or her self.

But, to an introvert who's happy and content tucked away behind the keyboard, creating stories, polishing and pampering them, it can be nothing but burning agony to do a cold-call, a sales pitch or speak to a group. It can mean sleepless nights, the jitters and sweaty palms at the minimum.

At the risk of repeating myself, take another deep breath.  You, the shy writer, can do this. You can face humanity, you really can deal, make a difference and do it all on yoru own terms.


Practice. Find a conference or workshop for writers nearby or far afield. Attend. Now, it doesn't mean you suddenly have to emerge from your shell and bounce from one thing/person to another. Instead, check out the event before you go. Know a lot about it and decide what this conference can do to help you with your goals. Then grab yourself (figuratively) by the shirt collar and go meet a presenter. Or if not up to that  yet, ask a question after a presentation. If you ask a question of someone else it shifts the attention away from you, the asker, onto the person who answers. This  helps you in several ways.  Hopefully you've asked a question you'd really like an answer to thus getting you some information. It forces you to open your mouth in public in a small way, but experience is experience. You gain just that much more self-confidence.

Make sure you have some nice business cards along on your conference trip and don't forget a professional looking and sharp name tag. Many times the name tag alone will draw people to say hello to you who might not otherwise do so. And if you have a business card to present, all the better. Make a point of keeping those cards handy and presenting them to folks who have something in common with you. Other writers in your field, maybe agents or editors. 

While at the conference be sure to observe people, to study how they make introductions or share a story.  It will relax you by giving you somewhere to focus and it will provide helpful tips for you to use in your own social interactions.

And, when you meet someone you can use the same tactic as you did in the presentation. Ask a question. It breaks the ice and the added bonus is, psychologically, when you avoid attention to yourself by turning it onto someone else in the form of a question, the other person generally believes you are a very cool and interesting person to get to know. That starts more interaction which may result in the first person introducing you to others (keep those business cards handy). Not bad! The more you do this, the easier it will become.  Believe me, I've been there. From close-mouthed, terror-stricken youth to self-confident social networker, that's me!  (with shy person still very much present inside) You can do this, and on your own terms. Breathe, take stock of who you are and plunge in.

Oh, and one last tip when you attend a writer's gathering. People do judge you by your appearance even if they aren't aware of it themselves and certainly wouldn't admit it. The fact is, decisions can be influence dby your appearance, what clothes you're wearing, how you look, how your put yourself forward, so keep it in mind, and work with it. Look your best.

That doesn't mean you have to wear a suit or fancy dress. Instead be neat, clean and well-groomed. Wear clothes that are appropriate. That means avoid torn, stained clothes, shorts, T-shirts and the like. Wear something like business casual; clothing that shows respect.  It's still generally true that it's better to overdress a bit than the opposite. What could be wrong with looking your best and frankly, smelling your best? Remember, at a conference you'll no doubt find yourself in close physical proximity with lots of other people. Comb your hair, take a shower, use a deodorant, brush your teeth. You want them to remember you for your pleasant company and  your good ideas not your ragged jeans, your overpowering breath or that awful smell! Don't laugh, I've experience just exactly that from a few choice others at a convention.

So get out there, you can do it. You don't have to be a star, you just have to be you.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Writers Websites Wednesday - Random loglines

It's Wednesday - getting close to holidays so I figured what the heck. whip out the link to the Random Logline Generator.  Now this may seem a bit odd, maybe even not so helpful, but here's the thing.  While it produces random loglines it's entertaining - and it may spark an idea for you.  Doesn't matter if you're a novelist or screenwriter. Some very fun nuggets can be found with a bit of playing at this site. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What About Romances? - Crunching the Numbers

The economy isn't great, in fact, it's still pretty bad, and though statistics are really only in through 2009 (we've yet to see what 2010 has done) the undeniable fact is that though the economy is still struggling to bounce back from the latest recession, book sales increased slightly in 2009 from 2008.


Who knows.  Some say it's because the cost of a book is relatively cheap compared to other forms of entertainment out there (does that include playing with a computer game already purchased?).  Others claim its because reading a book offers an escape for readers from tough times (movies already owned on DVD don't accomplish that?) I don't know the why and the 'experts' aren't very convincing, but really, does it matter to the writer? He or she just wants to be read and carve out a career so any reason is a good reason for book sales to climb even a little. In fact, just holding steady right now is a major plus.

In fact, Romance fiction continues to hold the largest share of the consumer market, beating out other categories like Mystery, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Crime, Horror and others.  

For romance writers the good news is romance fcction (with all it's sub-genres such as Historical, Paranormal, Fantasy, Sci/Fi, Inspirational, Regency, Suspense, Erotic) has, for a long time, been the mainstay of the mass-market paperbacks.

More good news for the romance writer; the genre is gaining a foothold in the Ebook format (which is pretty much exploding about now) as well.  As a mater of fact it went from number 3 position in 2009 and is currrently in number 2 postion for 2010.  The year will have to end to see how that shakes out overall.

So who publishes all those Romances?  Well, the primary publishers are Mira, Berkley, Avon, Little Brown, Pocket, Dell, Grand Central, HQN, Ballantine and Zebra. Tuck that info away in your brain if you're writing or thinking of writing a romance. The best selling 'sub-genres' are Contemporary (series), Contemporary (single title), Paranormal and Historical. But choose one your really enjoy writing, not one that's simply in the 'best-selling' category.

Who is the general audience for the romance writer? Apparently the core of the readership is women between thirty-one and forty-nine - oh, and apparently in a romantic relationship of their own.  And over 90% of romances sold are to women - guess that tidbit isn't too surprising. And obviously those who read specific sub-genres have their interests there.

Another thing to keep in mind is how these readers find out about the books they buy.  Apparently personal websites aren't having too much impact as yet - at least when it comes to generating direct buys.  Mostly it's word of mouth, impulse buying from a book display at a store, generally liking the subject of the book before opening it and perusing the best-seller lists. I haven't seen much about what's hooking them for the Ebooks they purchase, but can only project its similar, but with cyber displays, etc. 

Oh, and in case you're wondering how that translates into dollars, Romance Fiction sold better than one and a third billion dollars worth of books in 2009.  Overall book sales were more than ten billion dollars for the year just past.

So if you're considering writing a romance, go ahead, have at it.  You  never know where it may lead.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Writers Websites Wednesday - brainstorming

Are you into mindmapping to help you brainstorm your next writing project? Heres a free, online mindmapping source.  Works pretty good too!  Really good for brain play when you get stalled on a story.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Want to UnMuddle Your Writing?

Okay, so shoot me, I got creative with 'UnMuddle", but ponder this. Why do you write (no matter what you write)?

To communicate.

So, tell me, what good is it all if the one you’re trying to communicate with can’t easily understand what’s being said?

Whether the person you're writing to is reading a novel, trying to decipher an instruction manual, perusing a travel magazine or just reading a sales ad, if that person you're writing to finds it difficult to follow along, you’ve lost your reader. The book gets closed. The magazine gets laid aside, the advertising is ignored. That’s where Keep It Simple comes in. You've heard of it. KISS. Keep It Simple Stupid (well without the 'stupid' part, because plainly you aren't).

Writing with clarity is tougher than most folks think who aren't writers so, the simpler the better. That’s not to say you’re to write ‘down’ to your reader. It’s not that other people are stupid (well, not many of them are, and plainly my readers and yours aren’t), it’s just that they’re busy. They’re distracted and let’s face it, nobody, whatever their level of ability, wants to have to stop and decode what they’re reading.  Just don't want to, don't have to. They can move on and that's not good for you, the writer.

The concept applies well to all your writing. Keep sentences and paragraphs short. Don’t you find it off-putting to be confronted by a sheet filled solidly with print and very little white space? Isn’t it easier to follow down a page that offers some breaks? Maybe it’s dialog or shorter paragraphs for fiction. Perhaps it’s sub-headlines in advertising copy. Could be beautiful pictures in travel magazines. All of those help to draw the reader along, into the flow of the written page. Eye candy, whether text or pictorial.

Generally it's best to use easily understood words. Some writers use huge vocabularies and use them well. Other writers use vocabularies which are much smaller. Hemingway fell into the later camp by the way; Steinbeck too seemed to love single syllable words. That’s not to say you should not use colorful words. Simple and colorful are not exclusive of each other.

The key is clarity. Don’t use a hundred-dollar-word when a five-cent edition will do. This is especially true when you aren’t comfortable with that hundred-dollar-word in the first place. When you write what you are comfortable with it will naturally come across clearly - at least the great majority of the time. Write within your comfort zone. Don't think you have to prove anything.

I personally think all of this is a remnant of childhood. Remember children's books with large print and lots of pictures? Remember that first time when you were young and decided to read a ‘young adult’ book without pictures (well, mostly without, maybe there were a few line drawings at chapter beginnings)? Kind of a shock wasn’t it? I think we continue to carry a little bit of that kid along with us through life. A sort of “hey, where’re the pictures?” kind of attitude.

Reading what you’ve written out loud is a great help when you’re trying to keep your writing simple and clean. Remember, you’re not trying to impress your reader with how big a vocabulary you have or how perfect your grammar or how long a sentence you can produce with all the comas, semicolons and exclamation points in the correct places. Nope, that’s not what you’re doing. What you’re doing, is communicating. Telling a story of some kind. Whether fiction, non-fiction, or advertising, the writer is telling a story. And if you can't read one of your sentences aloud without running out of breath, you're in trouble.

So, think in terms of talking to a friend. If you were talking to a friend would you speaking to impress, or would you simply be relaying a story? Think about it. Through your writing you are communicating - be effective you must be understood.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Writers Websites Wednesday - I Write Like

Okay, this one is just for fun. It's called I Write Like and it compares your writing to the greats (and maybe not that great).  All you have to do is paste a few paragraphs of your writing into the box, click on analyze and see who you come up with. 

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

What's So Great About A Writer Being Invisible?

You should think about being invisible when you write, really you should. 
Immediately I hear the distant wails," I don’t want to be invisible! I want to show my own distinctive style, I want to be a really GREAT WRITER and entertain my readers! I want the world to praise ME!"

Well you can go that route, no invisibility for you! But if you do take that course you may miss out on creating the really great story you intend while you’re obsessing with being a ‘great writer.’ The wise writer’s focus is more on clear, crisp sentences that creates pictures for your readers, phrases that evoke emotion, words that touch an empathetic place. So if you've thought about it a moment and have decided you want to try out this "be invisible" thing and have your work take center stage, gather your patience, thoughtfulness, empathy and direction and read on.

First, move your focus away from yourself and what you expect to accomplish, think about your reader and what he or she hopes to get out of your book. How do you get them to that place where they suspend their disbelief and dive head-first into your story, wrapped in the conflicts you’ve created, the worlds you’ve painted and the characters who inhabit them? How to get them to forget about you, become unaware of you until you are really no longer visible and your story and characters are all they perceive?

For starters think about what you learned in your English classes and your Composition classes, then recognize you have to unlearn a great deal of it. As a writer you don’t need to throw your impressive vocabulary in your reader’s faces. Keeping it simple and clear is better. Try not to use alliteration often. Don’t write long, complicated sentences. 19th Century novelists did it, it’s past, get over it. Your goal is not to fill up many pages to pile on long descriptive passages. All of this just serves to put the writer (you) center stage and that’s not really a good place to be.

Don’t stop your reader with a particularly long sentence, detailed phrase or a word they need to run to a dictionary to understand. Mark Twain would slap you, so would Hemingway, and unless I miss my guess, Stephen King as well. Use familiar words and make them count. Instead of vague phrases like “the librarian walked slowly down the aisle with a painful limp,” think more colorfully and concisely. How about, “the librarian hitched her way down the aisle, cane thumping in hollow rhythm.”? Don’t have a character of yours simply ‘eat’, when he or she can, ‘gulp, crunch, slurp or inhale’ the food. And learn to trust your gut instinct and depend on the context of your story. There are times when a more ‘fancy’ word is better. Just don’t constantly search your thesaurus for a replacement for that straight-forward word you began with.

Don’t jerk your reader out of our story with too many things like exclamation marks. This really does just point to the writer as being a bit too lazy to make the sentence exciting enough to get the reader’s attention without punctuation. Or perhaps the writer is just too inexperienced. Either way is not good. Use words to build that excitement, not marks on paper at the end of a sentence. Practice, you can do it.

Beware figures of speech. When you use one you momentarily pull your reader out of the story to consider what you’ve put forth. Forget old, boring ones you’ve heard forever like ‘a stitch in time…’ They don’t belong in your writing or mine at all. If you’re creative enough you may well come up with delightful ones on your own. If you need to, use an old, boring one as a place holder and highlight it in your writing, then come back later and replace it with something sparkling, and new. Something like “I felt like Van Gogh’s ear,” or “the water was cold, almost frozen, swimming through it was like dog-paddling cold oatmeal.” Plainly you can do better – so please do.

Lastly, for the moment, don’t make mistakes in your writing. Your readers pay attention and you’ll hear from them. If you use real places, spell the name correctly. Writing a western (I’ve written a number of them) remember a shotgun doesn’t shoot bullets, it shoots pellets. Chicago is not in Florida. Double-check and then check again. Don’t let this jerk your reader out of the reader’s trance you work so hard to create.

Always remember, it's not about you, it's about your reader.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Writers Websites Wednesday - Fantasy Name Generators

An assortment of fantasy name generators.  Visit The Forge and see what names you can create for your fantasy characters there. You have the choice from several generators, and what they come up with  can really be a hoot. Great ideas, great springboards.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Want to Avoid Things Editors & Agents Hate From the Very First Chapter?

Writing is tough, writing well is even tougher. And at the top of the tough list is writing, while you keep in mind things that might turn off an agent or perhaps an acquisition editor in that very first chapter. Things that could stop your hopes for that book dead in it's tracks.
Then you have to decide, while keeping these things in mind, if something is important enough to your story to go ahead and do it anyway, despite the added risk of rejection.


Reprint in large Print Ed

But what follows below is, in general, a list of ‘don’ts’ for when you’re trying to get past that first hurdle and have your work seriously considered by those who can give the green light to your project. Those things you might waytto know about before you decide to go ahead and do them anyway.

For starters if you're thinking about a prologue, you  might think about skipping it – in general agents hate them and usually they’re just a lazy way to give readers a whole lot of back story that could actually be handled better throughout the novel.  BUT, you may have an excellent reason for a Prologue that doesn't fit into these niches. If you do, have at it. Just remember that magical word "Prologue" may well send chill up the spine of the editor or agent reading it.

Okay, I think we all agree the first chapter has to move quickly and draw the reader in. In General avoid any discussion of the weather here, i.e. “it was a dark and stormy night’. Also avoid lengthy character descriptions such as, “her hair was a silken black, curly and dropped to well below her hips. The color was the perfect contrast to her crystalline, sky blue eyes, large in a heart-shaped face with flawless alabaster skin. Her clothes clung to every voluptuous curve, caressing a hip here, cupping a full breast there, lace accenting the décolletage of her designer dress.” Somebody's head will be spinning after reading all that, unless he or she has fallen asleep.  My advice? Drop it in in small bits and pieces throughout the story instead. Give a tease and a taste, don't bombard your reader. 

In general the opening ‘my name is____’ is a real turn-off. Rarely it works. If you have some compelling reason to do it, hey, it's your book, go ahead. But, be aware, it sends up red flags.

Don’t create a first chapter in which nothing happens. People wandering around, streets getting described, people eating breakfast.  Nothing is worse than just laying background for a first whole chapter. SOMETHING needs to HAPPEN! Physical, emotional - something!

As a general tip, don’t have a lot of adventure and action throughout the first chapter turn out to be a dream. As a reader I find it terribly annoying and there are lots of agents who’ll tell you they hate it too.

Give your heroes and heroines some flaws.  Don’t make them too perfect. Boring. Hey, Indiana Jones was afraid of snakes. Odd Thomas in Dean Koontz's novels has plenty of problems.  They're just more interesting if they have flaws and find ways to overcome them as well as 'suffering' from them.

Don’t get yourself stuck in the ‘information dump’, the feeling that you need to cram in to the first few pages all the information you think the reader needs to know to understand the story. You’ve spent time getting to know your characters, do the reader the courtesy of allowing them to get to know them over time (the course of the book). Let their personalities evolve and be revealed. We don’t need a crash course - and besides, the end of the book is too late anyway.  I've probably stopped reading before then if I can't see the story and backstory unfolding as I go.  Same applies to agents and editors.

Mostly it's just common sense, but sharpening your attention to be focused in on it. Whatever bugs you as the reader will also bug the editor or potential agent. If you're overwhelmed by description, if you feel like you're being spoon-fed information and not discovering it on your own, if nothing is happening and the characters are just going round in circles, you don't want to go down that road as a writer yourself.

Now, all that said, sometimes you need to write with speed and go back and look for these flaws - they aren't always easy to avoid as you write.  That's why so many writers emphasize the rewrite stage as the most important.  You may want to do some of what I've brought to your attention  above. If you do, well, go ahead, I'm not the ultimate authority, no one is.  Sometimes you can make it work, but it is always a very difficult sell.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Writers Websites Wednesday - Author Tech Tips

Okay writers - today I pass along a site with hints for the techno-challenged author. Author Tech Tips. Helps the author wrestle with techie questions and get some good ideas to  help.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Want to Develop Some Character?

A lot of us writers, when faced with a new story, or a sagging middle think I know, I'll enter a new character.  I'll give him a tatoo or a scar, or a lisp.  Or I'll have her twist her hair, purse her lips like a blow-fish or dress in dominatrix garb. Oh, Oh, I know, it'll be some short phrase the character utters at moments of extreme tension that is always the same!

Well, actually, all that is what character is not. Oh, you can give your character any of those traits and more, that's not the problem.  If that's ALL you give them, that IS the problem.

Let's consider here.  What is character really?  Think about yourself. The character you create for a book is basically the same as you. It's what's inside. What you're like when there's nobody around. "Character" isn't what happens when life is all sunshine, lollipops and rainbows, it's more about what happens when things go wrong, when life throws unexpected bombs our way. So the same thing applies to your characters in your story.

How would your character react when confronted with real temptation, money, sex, whatever?  How would he or she deal with hardship? When challenged or attacked or hunted, how would that character move forward? What is your character willing to do to get what he or she wants? Those are elements of character and your fictional people need to possess them as much as do you.

Depend on your own experiences in life. Everyone has had moments of challenge.  Everyone has had times of temptation, managed to resist, or fell victim to it.  As a result we've felt bad or we've felt good about ourselves. The characters you create should have those moments as well. Present them with moments when that character may have been strong or weak, stalwartly honest or somewhat sleezy. A time when he or she did the right thing in spite of risk, cost or pain or did the wrong thing and felt regret or rejoiced in it.

And remember, it's not just the good guys who have these moments, these feelings, you need to give them to your bad guys as well. Obviously your bad guys have made more of the wrong choices and that's what makes up their character. The 'bad' guy pretty much acts more out of self interest than the 'good' guys.

So how do you get inside your characters' heads and dig deep to find out what their 'character' is all about?

One great way is to ask your character a lot of questions.  What does he need?  The basics, food, water, rest, safety from pain and more.  Think about it.  Work your way through and higher.  Once basics are met what else does he need/want? You might check out Maslow's Hierarchy of Need  for some ideas on how us humans operate and what we all need.  Beginning from the bottom up it's an interesting angle when working with character.

And keep it firmly in mind - if you want to create fleshed-out characters for your story, don't make any of them perfect.  Perfect can be terribly boring.


Monday, November 15, 2010

New Writer Discovery

This isn't a how to on writing. 

I just had to write about a new writer I've discovered, Ben Jones. At least new to me though he's been writing a while!

Benjamin Jones was born in Greeneville, TN but currently resides in Little Elm, TX with his wife, two daughters, two dogs, and one cat. Ben's been writing for close to 15 years while working various 9-5 jobs but, all the while, finding time to keep the writing the main priority and always  honing his craft.  A writer of many genres, his H.U.B. series of books, Volume 1 and 2 on sale now at with Volume 3 coming out fall 2011, takes place in a world where vampires and humans co-exist though a rogue faction is pushing both sides to the brink of war. Benjamin also has a romance novel coming out early 2011 called Head Above Water and is also working on a collaborative effort with Tiffanie Minnis, author of ~D.I.V.A.~ - Domestically Involved in Violent Affairs.
Ben's a busy writer and like many writers juggles writing with a 'day job' and turns out really great stuff.  Visit his site, check out his H.U.B. series, download as a PDF and enjoy the read.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Writers Websites Wednesday - The Big Bad Book Blog

The Big Bad Book Blog offers something to every writer.  From the beginner who's trying to get published for the first time to the pro who wants to do more promotion. There are posts and blogs on almost every subject and additional resources as well. 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Need Some Help Editing?

I've been doing some editing lately, breaking one of my own rules (which you'll note later in the article), but of course 'rules are made to be broken,", right? Well yes and no, but that's another subject for another blog post altogether.
Anyway, I decided since I'm doing it I might toss out a few simple tips to help in the process of editing. Now editing your work is a big job and these few tips certainly aren't everything you need to do/know, but they'll give you a push in the right direction.

Editing your own writing is difficult. No maybe, might be about it. There's a lot to pay attention to and there is frequently the 'flavor of the week' in regard to the continually evolving dos and don'ts and 'forbidden words'. Most of the time I tell folks not to go crazy every time a new trend or a new word to be avoided is announced. However, I've created below a list of a few things you can keep an eye out for. Things that just might smooth your writing, make it flow a bit better and help to draw your reader in. At the same time take heart. Don’t worry if there are a lot of the so-called forbidden words scattered throughout your work. After all there are plenty of the classics and lots of current best sellers that are peppered with them. Consider theses helps, not commands and write from your gut and your heart. After all, nothing is perfect and we probably wouldn’t like it if it was!

One well over-used word is “Very”. There are times it’s necessary, but those are ‘very’ rare indeed. Just leave it out or reword. If you said, “The detective, a very tall man, stood close to the accused” how about “The detective loomed over the accused.” Or search your thesaurus and find another descriptive term that fits your style better. And that's just that one word. Examine your work for others like it. Believe me, you'll find them.

Shed clichés like a ‘duck sheds water’. Unless your character is one who spouts them (and even then, please don't over do), or there is another compelling reason for you to use one, remember, they’re just boring and worn. Their time is past. Come up with something new and fresh of your own. Start your own cliche!

The words ‘up’ and ‘down’ seem to be greatly overused and can be generally eliminated. “Elizabeth put her book down on the bedside table.”  It's just redundant unless Elizabeth put her book somewhere someone normally wouldn't put it. Try "Elizabeth set her book on the bedside table with gentle respect.” Or, here's another: “The drought dried up the earth to the point of cracking.” Eliminate ‘up’ and we might have instead: “The drought dried the earth into deep, dusty fissures.” A bit more life in the passage, don't you think? 

Consider eliminating phrases like “John could hear,” or “John could feel.” This is where showing your reader something is much stronger than telling. Instead of “John could hear the train in the distance.” Try making it more direct. Bring in the reader's senses and put your reader right there. How about: “John heard the distant rumble of the train.” Or, “The sound of the approaching train reverberated in John’s head.” Or: "The train's approach caused the walls to tremble and the knicknacks to dance on the shelves." Another example: Instead of: “Jane could see the vultures circling in search of their next meal.” Try “The vultures floated in widening circles in search of their next meal.- Jane seemed a good candidate.”

Verbs ending in –ing can get to be a bit trying. That’s not to say you need to eliminate them altogether, you can sprinkle them in occasionally, in fact I doubt you could eliminate them altogether. But watch out for excess. Things like, “Joe was watching the parade while tapping his feet to the rhythm of the band.” Better would be: “Joe watched the parade while tapping his feet to the rhythm of the band.” Or “Joe tapped his feet to the rhythm of the band as the parade moved on.” Experiment, turn things around a bit and try to stifle the –ing urge just a little.

Don’t repeat words with great frequency. Scan your page. Does any one word jump out at you? Does it pepper the page or reappear frequently throughout a chapter? Grab your thesaurus and have at it or visit

Now here's the rule I mentioned above that I am currently breaking. Edit after you've completed your piece. Don't try to edit as you go along. There are the occasional times when I have to go back and edit something when I'm in the middle of a story, but mostly I try to write quickly and save the editing until I'm done with the project. It just seems to work better, separating the two tasks - right brain, left brain.

Oh, and much as I love to save paper, many times the only way to really see what needs to be tweaked is to print your work and read from hard copy. People are different. Some can edit onscreen perfectly well, but others need to have that white paper with black print in front of them to do a great job. Decide which kind you are and do it the way that works best. Reading it out loud is a great help as well.  And use both sides of your paper in draft form and don't forget to recycle!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Writers Websites Wednesday - National Novel Writing Month

It's on, it's happening, it's already under way. NANOWRIMO But you can still join, it's only three days in. If you want to write a novel by the seat of your pants join up and have at it.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Anticipating Writer's Money Realities - Working Toward Writer's Security

Break out the champagne, start the celebration, whoo-hoo, you've sold a book, your first novel! Wow, well-done. Now you think you’re going to quit your day job and live on the advance and launch into literary stardom. Well, maybe, but don’t count on it just yet. Much as we'd all like to think of that as the writer's reality, it just isn't and forewarned is forearmed, right? Hmm, well, maybe a bit of a downer, reality can bite, but if you want your eyes open read on. If you'd rather be surprised, than stick your head in the sand and stop here.

Okay, you're still with me.  So, your book is being published by a large New York publishing house. This means you get a lot of money, right? Ah, probably not. Advances are small, when they happen at all, unless you're a big name in which case you wouldn't be reading this.  Writers with several books in print can usually support themselves with a lot of planning, but frankly even they are rare. Only the really big names get away with that stuff.

For starters, for all fiction, in all genres (and we’re talking large and small publishing houses here), the average advance for a new author with a first book is about $5,000. And that, remember, is average, many get less than that for statistics to reach that average.

But that looks pretty good for a first one out of the gate.  However out of that you may well have an agent to pay and if so that is a 15% commission right off the top. Then, the way things are these days, you’ll need a website. If you’re technically inclined you can save some serious bucks, but if you’re not it could cost you about $500 - $1,000 (or a whole lot more) to get that website created and put up. And to this point we haven’t spoken about the cost of self-promotion (yes you have to promote yourself), possibly attending a conference of one kind or another or other promotional items.

At this point you don’t have a lot left over – oh, and be sure to save receipts and track expenses closely because I won’t even touch the subject of taxes for the self-employed. Just let's say as a guesstimate you need to allow around 35% or so off the gross because yes you have to pay income tax and you also get to pay more on your social security as you are your own employer - you might think about incorporation at some point, but I'm not you financial advisor.

But, you say, after the book finally is published, then you’ll see some serious bucks, right?

Maybe. Hope so, but again, don't count on it. Remember the publisher pays itself back the “advance” you received before you see any more cash. So, if you’ve sold your book to a house that puts it out in paperback format and sells it for $7.99 which seems to be a very common price point these days with an 8% royalty rate (also common in contracts), they you’d get about $0.64 per book. To pay back that advance you received you need to sell over 7,800 books before you earn more cash from your new baby.

Okay, before you panic, most print runs from large New York houses are at least 10,000 copies (last time I checked - and these things change) so plainly they’re expecting to sell that many, which is more than the base needed to pay back the advance and then some. If that’s the case you’d earn about another $1,400 minimum and hopefully more. We won't discuss 'remainders' here.  That's mostly for hardcover and newbies don't usually start out with hardcover - though it can happen, in fact did happen for me (for better or worse).

But here’s something else to consider. Publishers pay author royalties twice a year. Usually for the periods of January through June, then July through December – and they don’t cut that check until about three months AFTER the cut off of the pay period. So plan ahead for some waiting for any additional monies.

Now, is this depressing? Well, yes, a little. But if you keep things in perspective and plan ahead you can build a nice career. And you can write in other areas as well to keep those writing checks coming in. spread your wings. Explore other venues. Write articles, reports, shorts for the magazines that have such. In general look into any other writing that appeals to you to help supplement.

And remember there are many variables. The rare first time author is very fortunate to receive a large advance. It can happen. There are multibook deals, maybe you’ll get one of those. A series can be a profitable avenue (look at Harry Potter or Orson Scott Card's 'Ender' series). Then there are other possibilities out there like sale of movie rights or audio rights, or foreign reprints. And, down the road, as you build your ‘library’, don’t forget to look into reversion rights after a book goes out of print so you have the possibility of placing it again.

So keep writing and producing those books. Oh, and don’t forget to keep up with publishing trends so you can work contracts to your best advantage and avoid the idea that writers always have to be broke. Forewarned is forarmed (had to toss in the cliché yet again - sorry).

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Writers Websites Wednesday - online writing talk with Talk Shoe

Visit TalkShoe for a series of live talks on the freelance writing life. Information and instructional. You can listen live or after the fact from their library of past audios. You can call in to join in the talk.

Photo by Chance Agrella

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Why Are My Queries Being Rejected?



It's something every writer must face, and frequently. Writers are hurt by it, obsess over it and continually cry out, WHY?  Why me?  Why did they reject that piece of writing; MY piece of writing when I know it's very good if not fantastic?

First question often is why are they (editors, agents, publishers) rejecting my writing when my friends and relatives love it so much.

Uh, well, first shot at this is objectivity.  The agent/editor/publisher has it.  Your friends and relatives don't. Editors are looking for something specific in the work they review - relatives and friends not so much.

So you're going to get rejections, probably lots of them, and you're going to have to learn to get over them and learn from them.

Sometimes a rejection is just an error in submission.  At times an error you couldn't even foresee.  For example:

*The publisher/agent you chose to submit to was not appropriate to what you're writing.  It happens. Maybe you didn't do your homework thoroughly enough or maybe they changed what they're looking for. Either way, result = rejection.

*With the economy as it is maybe your timing is just off.  Maybe where you sent it has cut back on their publications. Perhaps an editor who might have been interested left to go with another publication. Perhaps they perceive the market to have changed and your material no longer fits what they're looking for.

*Maybe what you've submitted is eerily similar to something they've already published or contracted for. That happens sometimes too. It's the universal consciousness thing - sometimes you tie into an idea someone else has had as well and that someone else has simply beaten you to it.

*Consider the materials you've submitted.  Are they as professional as possible? Did you address to a named person and not "Dear Sir or Madam"? Did you meet all the submission guidelines down to the last crossed t? Was your submission (if on paper) neat and fresh, not fingerprinted and dog-eared?

*Maybe the genre or area you've chosen is over published.  You might be able to sell it at a later date.

*If you're writing non-fiction - articles or proposing a book, are your credentials up to the job?  Have you  made your credentials clear in your query letter? Are you developing some sort of marketing platform such as a blog, Twitter, or some other avenue you can point to through which you can promote your books?

*If you're lucky enough to get a personal note are you taking it seriously, reading it, deciding if/what might be changed in you writing to make it stronger?

So you're getting rejection slips. How many should you collect before you decide it isn't worth it and give up on that piece of writing? That's something you'll have to figure out it your own gut. If it's something you've put years in on writing, a novel perhaps, giving up quickly would be tragic. Instead consider analyzing those rejection slips for a pattern for something you may need to change in that writing to make it more appealing.

The majority of writers don't sell t heir first novel.  Not a very up-lifiting thought, I know, but the truth.  You may have to give up on it.  But don't get rid of it. There may be parts of it that can be used in another novel or perhaps characters that work there.

Now, there's one last thing I'd like to say, no offense to editors, etc., but well, they're human just like we writers are. They can feel sick, have a bad day, or be served with divorce papers while holding your query on wedding planning in the other hand. What do you suppose would happen next?

There simply are times when it's just the luck of the draw.  Don't take it personally. See what you can learn from it and move on.

So consider all the angles, accept you're going to receive rejections and don't let it get you down. Writers aren't born published. Editors and Agents aren't born all-knowing.

You can feel free to rant and rave privately when you receive a rejection, then get back to work.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Writers Websites Wednesday- Query Tracker

Ah, Wednesday.  Here we go. Query Tracker is a great follow-up to the discussion I posted yesterday regarding pondering agents.

It lists well over 1,000 agents (more like over 1,200) and it will also help you track your queries. Free. Just sign up as a member and have at it. You can track queries to publishers as well if you aren't ready for an agent.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Thinking About An Agent

This is a question most writers are confronted with whether they want to be or not.  Do I need an agent?  Is now the right time to get an agent? If not an agent, then what?

Well, I could write a book on the subject, but this is a blog post so I'll try to keep it fairly short and clean, give you a few tips and get your thinking started.

To begin you need to determine whether you need or want an agent and if now is the time.

Under that heading, as a new writer, you need to consider:

1. Do you  have a completed manscript?
2. Do you have the patience & ability to read a legal contract all the way through & understand what you've read - or the resources to have that done?
3. Are you thick-skinned and not easy to intimidate?
4. Are you willing to decide to walk away from a deal if it isn't the one you want?
5. Are you sure and comfortable handling business meetings regarding your artistic work?

If those questions are mostly yes, you might want to go it on your own, handling your own marketing for now.  But of course that can change later so....

If you've decided it's time to find yourself an agent here are some basics:

Hit the books.

Libraries are great resources and of course the Web. Check out Publishers Weekly to see which agents make the big deals and ones who represent the sort of work you do along with which may be looking for clients.

Writer's Market  has a great for pay site that can be very helpful.  You can also find a hard copy of Writer's Market (current ed) at your library, or buy a hard copy online.

Check out magazines for writers or ones that are genre-specific. Agents have been known to advertise in such places.  Try checking out your library or local bookstore for magazines that might fill the bill.

There's also a book called "Guide To Literary Agents" put out by Writer's Digest Books.  Also available at libraries or bookstores.

Another approach beyond the books and research is the personal touch.  If you know another author see if he or she can recommend anyone and if so, if that agent represents your genre.  If that is the case and you want to connect, write a very short, professional query letter and send it off.

If you don't know another writer, check with librarians (amazing what they know), or writing instructors at local colleges, etc. Maybe take a course to improve your writing while you're at it.

Even more personal if you have the time and funds, check around and arrange to attend writers' conferences, conventions or seminars. Literary agents often attend, interested in finding new clients and to represent their current clients. 

A few words on professionalism here if you're going to do the personal contact route. Remember to dress nicely.  You don't have to be formal, but don't be raggedy either.  Sorry, first impressions do count. Be polite at all times, not aggressive or demanding. They don't owe you a thing.  Try to have a private meeting if you discover an agent who particularly apeals and who reprsents your kind of work. If you're that lucky, be brief, think in terms of the famous 60 second elevator speech, explain your project (which manuscript should already be finished or so close to it as to effectively be there).  If you connect, don't thrust your manuscript under the agent's nose.  He or she probably doesn't want it right then anyway (how would you like to tote home many weighty manuscripts in a suitcase from a conference?)  Ask if they'd like to see it or a partial and where you can send it. Then be sure to include a cover letter to remind the agent where and how you met.

Remember this is a business arrangement, the agent is not your baby sitter or hand holder no matter what you've seen on TV or in the movies. Check out your potential agent as best you can. Ask what fees are charged. Most agents still charge between 10 and 15% of the income for domestic sales and 25% for foreign sales. An agent shouldn't charge for things like domestic phone calls or his or her own bookkeeping, but they do charge for special expesnses like overseas calls and photocopying unless you have an agreement otherwise. Ask.

One more thing to keep in mind about agents.  Yes, it's true they work for you. And most of them work very hard. BUT, they have to cultivate relationships with editors and remain on their good side in order to sell books. That can make it a situation where loyalties can be a bit confused.

In closing you can check out the Association of Author's Representatives as well.  The website offers info on agents.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Writers Websites Wednesday - Resouce for YA & Children's Writers

Yes, it's once again time to tell you about a website for writers.  This time it's Cynsations. Run by New York Times & Publisher's Weekly best-selling author Cynthia Leitich Smith - a blog - it offers lots of resources including general resources for writers, plenty of editor, agent, publisher and more interviews in a large archive, and more. If you write for children or young adults, check it out.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Elaborating On Story & Plot

What Do You Know About Story?

Aside from the fact that maybe you want to write them? 

Hey, I just got down from a three day kick-back and I'm feeling kind of mellow, so I don't want to write about anything to technical or complicated so I thought I'd give some time to the general idea of writing stories. An extension of what I posted last week about Plot.

Now here's the thing.  People  have been telling stories for thousands of year. Realistically, it's the same story over and over.  People, events and locations will change, but stories basically remain the same. They're based on fear, anger, love and hate. What motivates us humans; kindness, envy greed, ambition, power and lust, will always provide the writer with the fuel needed to hold a mirror up that human condition and create even more variations on stories that have been told many times over.

So, to manipulate all that information you need to have a plan.

Even a simple plan.

As the writer the setting and background needs to be plain in your own mind. You need to think of things like how the weather might affect your story ("It was a dark and stormy night"). Does the story cover some territory or is it set entirely inside an old mansion? Have you decided on a particular genre? Horror? Sci/Fi? Fantasy? Western? Mystery? Romance?

This all goes back to the planning. Some writers plan out every detail of every nuance in the story, some just go ahead with a minimal outline and fill in the meat at they go. Plainly, no matter the amount of planning characters will not always do what they're supposed to, action will change and locations will be adjusted to fit the evolving tale, BUT some preparation is necessary and many authors don't take the time to accomplish that step. This can lead to characters wandering aimlessly, a story that is disorganized and uninteresting and a possessing a number of other ailments.

For myself the best approach has proved to be having a structure - an organization of events I plan to have take place that lead in a path from beginning to end.  One problem solved from the get-go.  Many writers never finish the story they begin telling. It's good to have a horizon line in view - a destination. Of course a horizon is pretty much a moving thing so the writer has to keep tabs on what's happening and keep the horizon evolving. That's where destination comes in handy. You have a goal to reach, but much can change between here and there.

Part of the trick is to begin the story as far in as you can manage. Don't feel you have to pave a road to lead your reader down. He or she will be delighted to jump right in there with you. Readers are always ready to suspend their disbelief and real knowledge of the world, but the skilled writer gives them a reason to read. A hook to get started and a great tale to keep them going.

To accomplish that again, we go back to planning. If you as the writer know where you're going the reader will follow along. If you're rambling and your characters seem to have no purpose you're going to lose them.

So know where you're going, give your hero lots of obstacles to overcome and complications to deal with. Give him dead ends and frustrations, times he has to double-back, but always keep your end in sight and you're going to find no matter how complicated you've made it, no matter how many twists in your story, your hero will find a way forward to a satisfying end.

And now I'm sharpening my own focus, returning to the 'grind' so to speak and I have some great ideas as to where I'm going.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Writers Websites Wednesday - Screenwriting; The Hero's Journey

Screenwriting: The Hero's Journey  Okay right up front I'm going to tell you if you get enthused by this site it could cost you if you buy the Complete Hero's Journey for about $199 US.  On the other hand there's quite a lot of great info right in your face for free.  A couple of videos of instruction, some very clear text on the hero's journey, an offer to sign up for their mailing list of tips of the day and a free sample you can download before even thinking about whether you want to make the $ commitment.

For the record, no, I don't get any kick-back should you decide to buy the Complete Hero's Journey.  Yes, I looked quite closely at the sample and liked what I saw, and I do have a copy of Chris Vogler's The Writer's Journey in my library which I've often referred to.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

What Do You Know About Plot?

Plot Isn't Just Stuff That Happens

It doesn't matter whether your story is full of action in that things are gonna blow up and people are going to race around in cars or if it's more cerebral and emotional, like are John and Jane going to find true love. The fact of the matter is you as the writer have one imperative job and that is to make sure your reader is compelled to turn that page in order to find out what happens next.

To accomplish that it is essential that you have a plot and like I said, plot isn't just stuff that happens. So, what's the difference between a good plot that leads to publication and large readership and a bad plot that leaves the manuscript of hundreds of pages and hours of blood, sweat and tears, unpublished?

Here are the basics:

The (frankly bad) unpublished novel will usual introduce a 'hero' or 'heroine', then take the reader by the hand and introduce the main character's friends, mother, father, siblings, cat, neighbor's dog, co-workers and the neighborhood spy by putting each one in an interminable scene in which they demonstrate their many flaws and characteristics, one following another in an endless stretch of pages.  That's followed by long and plentiful scenes in which one or the other or multiples of the group interact with each other, react to each other while pacing floors, sitting on porches or driving across town.  Oh, and each element of every location is described in painful detail. The reader  is now nodding off - presuming he or she is even still reading which is highly doubtful. In fact, almost certainly not happening.

The good novel, and one which will have a much more positive chance of publication, begins with the introduction of a sympathetic character who has a truly thorny problem. It may be action oriented, it doesn't have to be. The plot moves forward and details emerge as the protagonist goes to the limit to solve the problem while coping with disturbing, shocking, even confusing information which flows to or is dragged to his attention. He may take action at every turn, may be temporarily paralyzed by events, but eventually the problem is solved - and in a way that hopefully surprises the reader. But, even with surprise, the ending must be satisfying, inevitable.

Basically, writing the novel that begs to be read boils down to the simple adage: cut to the chase. 

In order to do that you, as the writer, need to know what that is. Don't sit down and write, simply grinding out pages, not knowing where the story is going. Don't write pages explaining why you're writing the story you're writing or why the characters are doing what they are doing. 

Begin your story as late into it as you possibly can. Know where you are taking it. You may write an outline or just work it out in your head. Whatever works. Just don't cut off your story-telling momentum by spinning circular tales that may have some background interest but don't move the story forward. Background info necessary to the story must be woven into events as they unfold, not laid out in the beginning like a banquet. Don't give the reader your hero's life story to this point as a prolog to everything that's about to happen.
Instead feed your reader tidbits of information to draw him along, to provide small explanations as to behavior and goals and don't leave things hanging.  An element introduced must be  integrated, explained or tied up by the end.

Read your favorite book again, this time examining for plot. Note the way the author spun the tale, wove in details and finally concluded.

Because, you know, plot isn't just stuff that happens. 

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Writers Websites Wednesday - Creativity Generators

 Visit Seventh Sanctum if you want a generator to help the creation of your novel along. It's a site of ite of random tools for creativity. Here you'll find a collection of 'generators' that make random characters, plots, ideas, and more to use in your writing, games, art and more.A collection of generator sites in one place. They even link to sites with more links to generators.   A fun way to spend a day in prep.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Wanna Go Play?

Writers at play.  Not a sentence you read very much.  Most writers are pretty single-minded working their way into stories in their own fashion, mostly a pretty straight-forward, sometimes grimly determined adventure. 

See, writers have to discovery their stories and most don't value or even think about the process they use to get there.  Because we write alone we develop our own work ethic.  Don't have the nose to the grindstone, getting words on paper, then you're not working. Most of us go through this. Cover white space with black letters. The mark of your accomplishments.

But, in fact a writer needs to play just like anyone else, in some ways more than anyone else. Writers need not to simply allow themselves to play, but rather to order themselves to play.  In several articles and posts in other places I've mentioned the idea of writers working with, developing and getting involved in new hobbies. It's one way to play.  One way to let the mind wander enough so that it acknowledges new ideas and recognizes the path to the story the writer wants to create.

To touch off that creative spark within, we have to do things that are fun. Watch movies, work in the garden, read books (yes writers need to read - a lot), knit, create with beads, carve wood, ride a bike, go for a drive - something!

It's when you do something you enjoy when you engage the brain in other areas, that you'll discover the story you're about to write.  That's when the pieces will come together, when it will make some kind of sense and you'll be ready to assemble the final product. Ever notice that great ideas may come to you while you're driving your car or riding a bike?  That's because what you're doing is so automatic you allow your creative self to surge to the fore.

The same thing happens when you garden or carve or knit. What you're doing is so automatic tat the creative side of the brain is freed and ideas flow uninhibited.  And since, well, it's a whole lot less dangerous to write an idea down when doing something that doesn't involve forward motion, engage the part of your brain that wants stuff to do with something you really enjoy and can about do blind-folded and free your creative brain to take flight with those ideas.

Enjoyment should be the writer's key for the period immediately before beginning a new novel. The amount of time dedicated to this pursuit is up to the individual writer and should be considered part of the 'work' to be done to get the juices flowing. Plainly we can't all just waltz off, go play, and not work for months at a time, so it's best to figure out a shorter, comfortable timeframe, then stick to it. Once you've reached the end of that time, dig in. Take all the bits and pieces of the puzzle you’ve jotted down and write your story.

Will everything flow with perfect rhythm after that? Probably not. But you'll have collected a lot of the bits and pieces you need to write your novel and when you hit a place where you’ stumped you won't panic as easily.

An that’s another key to the writer’s life. Don’t panic. Allowing yourself the freedom to have fun, to play, you create an environment that allows you to push through things like temporary writer’s block much more easily.

Stuck? Then allow yourself a play break. Go grub in the garden, grab your pen knife and whittle, knit, go for a drive (if driving relaxes you and gets the ideas flowing please stop the car to write down ideas and then continue on), whatever you use to relax, play and just have fun. Whatever you do, don't just beat your head against the wall determined you WILL break through. Give yourself a couple of hours or maybe a day away from the work.

Ideas will begin to flow, trust me on this. Make notes. When you return to your writing you’ll be amazed at how the new pieces you’ve created will fit. You’ll find the flow of solutions to your problems have become much smoother and clearer.

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