Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Writers Websites Wednesday

You're a writer.  You need to know how people talk and understand the terms they use so you can, in turn, use them in your writing to create a realistic, textured world.

For help with this here's a great site that lists a group of on-line slang dictionaries.  Everything from western, to cockney to urban and hip hop and a whole lot more.  This site offers more than 20 such dictionaries, large and small. I suggest you ignore their sponsor as I'm not too keen on them, but there's a lot of good stuff here and the links are good.

You can find a whole lot more, if you need them, by simply tossing "slang dictionaries" into your search engine.

Don't get carried away using huge amounts of this in your stories, but a bit, while making meaning clear, can create mood or sense of time and place. A great tool.  Use it sparingly and wisely.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Want to Hurt The Ones You Love? - Advice for Writers

Here's the truth.  As writers we often times become enamored with our own creations, love our characters so much we don't remember that a story without conflict is no story at all.  If you're getting rejections of your work with comments like "didn't grab me," or "too passive", or even the dreaded "not right for our list", someone may be trying to tell you something.

Perhaps you're so busy protecting your protagonist from life's pain that you're interfering with what life needs to throw at them to make your story snap.

You don't want your story to become one long drawn-out drone, like a visit with Aunt Edna on a Sunday afternoon sipping tea.  What could be more deadly dull? 

If your goal is to keep your readers turning the pages it's important for you to remember your protagonist is on an emotional journey. He or she needs to grow and that growth which is so desperately needed can be frightening and painful - and no doubt something your protagonist will resist unless you, as the writer, force them into it.

You are the great God or Goddess of this realm you've created, so act like one!  Bring on the suffering, the pain, the fear, the dread that nothing will turn out for the good and we're definitely visiting the dark side.

Think about your story and consider how 'bad' you as overseeing God or Goddess need to be. If it's a dark, heavy story your weapons are things such a death, terrible injury, psychic destruction or other horrorific events.  If the story is in a lighter vein you could go for loss of a job, loss of a close relationship or possible humiliation. Calibrating is up to you, but it has to be tough on your beloved creations in order to keep your readers turning those pages and have your ending be a satisfying one.

So here are a few ideas to help you "hurt the ones you love":

  • Put your hero or heroin in a place where he or she has to choose between to evils
  • Have a ticking clock timeframe? Unexpectedly move it up, cutting the time to accomplish goals. If you don's have a ticking clock, maybe you should introduce one.
  • Take away your protagonist's indispensable ally.  Kill off a sidekick, let him or her suffer betrayal by a friend.  Really make it hurt.
  • Really make your villain rock - make that person seem more powerful than your hero - it'll make your hero more heroic in the end.
  • You know your protagonist's Achilles' heel.  Your readers should too.  Now put an arrow through it like the original Achilles!
  • Expand the possibility of disaster by putting others' lives in the balance; by making your hero/heroine responsible for those people.

I know you can think of many more.  Ponder books you've read and what the writers have done to their characters to make the story more interesting and crackling.  Really  make your characters earn their keep.

And you writers out there - more suggestions to help your fellow writers?  Post 'em here in comments.  Love to read them.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Writers Websites Wednesday

Yes, it's that day again and here's the site I recommend this week.  Clear Writing With Mr. Clarity.  Lots of posts at a blog aimed at helping you get your writing across with clarity. Clean it up and put it out there!

Who knows what we'll come up with next week!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Want to Locate those Writers' Guidelines?

You’re busy writing your heart out, but you know deep down that sooner or later you’re going to have to actually find a place to submit your writing to. You may have bounced into a website or two, looked for guidelines and found nothing. Well here are a few tips to help you find that information and do a professional submission that might actually get your work sold.

You're going to need a few things to pursue the elusive guidelines. A bit of time, some determination, logic, both straight-forward and twisted, maybe a few bucks and research abilities.

For starters yes, visit the publisher's website. Poke around a bit. They call their guidelines a variety of things. Sometimes they’re located under “Write for Us” or “Submissions”, or “Submit a Story”. These are the easy ones. If you don’t see an out and out link to guidelines, visit the ‘about us’ section and see what you can dig up there. That’s where I’ve frequently found the submission information link.

Beyond that it’s amazing the kind of wild goose hunt publishers seem intent on sending you upon just to locate their contact information. Now, some writers claim they’re testing us, trying to see if we’re lazy or not and if we actually locate their information then, wow!, we’re not lazy afterall. Or, some say, the publishers are testing us, trying to find out if we’re persistent enough to uncover the guidelines and if we are then we can research assignments. I’m not sure I buy that, but the fact remains, it can be a real headache to locate them.

So here’s another approach. You can subscribe to It’s about $3.99/mo. Last time I looked and it’s very handy, online, at-your-fingertips information. If you prefer the actual Writer's Market book you can peruse that at your library or purchase a copy. Amazon usually has it at a good discount. It’s probably worth your while to plunk down that money for a while.

Remember to do this when you have some time to spare, not when trying to beat a deadline. Pressure makes it all the more frustrating. Remember to bookmark your sources when you find them and to read the guidelines carefully once you get them so you can follow them to the letter.

Those are the basics. Get out there and start tracking them down.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Writers Websites Wednesday

It's Wednesday again, boy don't they roll around fast? 

This week's site is

Okay, short and sweet, here's the deal.  Register and this is a website that offers free screenwriting software.  More, it allows you to work online and to work alone or to collaborate.  You can write publicly or privately, Alone or collaborate with a group.  It's a great site and definitely worth checking out.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Plumping Your Book's Middle

We write, we create, we get those words up on the screen, moving right along, then, suddenly, there's a sag, a drop in the action, a slowing of pace.  You've hit the middle of the book doldrums.  You know the ending, you can see it in your mind's eye, but you have this slump to get through, to repair, to make it so it engrosses your reader as well as yourself.

What to do?

Well there are a whole host of reasons why the middle of your manuscript may drag, sag and trip you up.  But, for this post, let's just talk about characters.

They need to have great traits, but they need to vary.  If you have a heroine who's strong on every front, who rises to every occasion, who always comes out on top - it can get kind of boring.  If you have a hero who's out for adventure, who's ever resourceful, who can face any adversity and still triumph, same thing. 

Remember Indiana Jones and his revulsion of snakes?  How about a vapire hunter who fights by night, then goes home and cries because those monsters she's dispatched were once human and she spends her days (when not asleep) trying to find out their previous identities?

Try making your heroine strong and forceful in public, but quiet, a bookworm in her private hours.  She could be aggressive in business, the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, but reticent and shy when it comes to romance. 

The same goes for your villains.  If they're pitch black all the time they become uninteresintng.  The reader is reduced to waitng for what evil the guy or woman will next commit.  Maybe  he could be an evil, rotten so-in-so, but never misses his kid's baseball game - and that kid is a girl. 

Create multifaceted characters and you hand yourself the keys to multifacted plots.  The more your develop your characters, give them real and sustainable quirks to their personalities the more subplots will surface and the more your readers will look for your books and keep turning the pages.

Another thing to think about with your characters, is to try to put them into situations where they may have to do something they would never imagine themselves doing.  Something totally at odds with their personality.  If your character is a totally non-violent geek, give him or her a reason that's far bigger than he is that for this time he has to resort to violence.  Create that inner struggle, that desperate search for alternatives and the final acceptance of what he has to do. It will add tension, suspense and, yes, yet again, keep your readers turning those pages.

Nobody is the same all the time.  Everyone faces extenuating circumstances.  Work with it.  Develop it and your book will be a stand out.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Writers' Websites Wednesday

Plot Shot

This website is an amusing one, and may be helpful to writers of all abilities and experience.

Half serious, half for fun.  It generates random plots illustrated with photos from flickr.  It's a fun site if you just want to wile away a bit of time and generate a few plots (some are quite silly), and it can be helpful in kick-starting your brain, providing a seed that might lead to a great story or overcoming that irritating writer's block.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Novel Getting Bogged Down?

Well, if it is you're not the only one and you can consider yourself in good company.  It happens to the best of writers; it pretty much happens at times to all writers. If you find, upon rereading the beginning of your novel that you've gotten yourself and your reader trapped in a morass of introductory background information it's time to look for a way out.

One such way is to pick a pivotal action scene and start your novel in the middle of that scene.  If you begin the novel that way you'll introuduce your  main character when that character is already in the middle of some conflict that will grab the reader and get him or her involved.

Consider what you've aready written.  You could choose to use the first exciting event (this doesn't necessarily  mean a shoot-out or car chase) in your novel.  You might also think about beginning with the final crescendo of a scene that ends the novel, then use most of the book to circle back to the beginning and spin the tale. 

The thing to rememer is once you've kick-started your novel there will be plenty of time later to plant any background information that gives texture and life to the tale along with keeping your readers' interest.

Now, remember, an “action scene”, as I  mentioned above, doesn't have to mean literally “action” as in things careening out of control, things blowing up, people with guns or meteors from space, though those things can be valid if that's the sort of novel you're writing. 

For others though, “action scene” means a scene that moves things forward briskly.  One that grabs the attention such as, “Just out of the shower Jamie walked bare-foot across the thick carpet and glanced out the window of his 25th floor apartment just in time to see the window washer's platform swing past, and it was empty.” Or maybe, “There I was in the kitchen, my mouth full of peanut butter when the door slammed open and I couldn't even scream.”

Your story is your story, but consider your writing – how can you give it a start that will reach out and grip your reader by the throat and not let that reader go? How can you take that 'informational' beginning and give it some bite?  Remember, if you lose interest, so will your reader.

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