Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Writers Websites Wednesday - Babbles From Scott Eagan

Photo by Allen
Babbles From Scott Eagan is a great blog run by Agent Scott Eagan, founder of Greyhaus Literary.  Check it out.  Lots of columns, frequently posted on query tips, defining your genre, pros and cons of social media and much more.  A great site to visit when you have some time and want to read about writer's subjects. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Writing's Great Beginnings

Got ideas?  Thinking of writing?  Want to get that story down on paper, grab your reader's attention and not let go?

If you're at that stage then you're thinking about beginnings.  Or in the case of some writers you may be thinking about the middle or the end - but for most writers at this point you're wrestling with the beginning. 

So you need a strong beginning, something to pique the reader's or editor's interest and they'll want to turn page after page until the book is done.  All that hinges on the beginning - at whatever stage you think about such things.

So, how do you hook 'em?

A question can work well.  I've seen that used many times with great results. Pick up a few books, read the first page and frequently you'll find that question, the one that makes you wonder - and enough information to catch you, the reader.  After all, if the question engages you and makes you wonder about the answer you'll no doubt do a bit more reading before thinking of putting it down. And if you read past the answer you're probably going to buy the book.  That's what you want in your own book.

Another great hook is action.  Action always gets a reader's attention, at least initially.  "Still swathed in her ridiculous bridesmaid's dress of yards of purple voile, Casey ran like a sprinter to the root cellar, hiked her skirts well above her knees and dove straight in."  It's almost like another question.  Wouldn't you want to know what the heck was going on there? 

Want to catch attention?  You might try throwing your main character into the middle of a terrifying situation. "The forest trembled, the fire erupted around him with a force that sucked the oxygen from  his lungs and all he could think was, I didn't do it!"

Your first words can be someone else's.  Dialogue is a great way to open a story and catch a reader's attention.  People love to come in on other people's conversations. Ever picked up a weird tidbit when passing strangers in public? "Is it just  me or has the entire world gone stump stupid?" Sherrilyn Kenyon's "No Mercy".  Now there is a line to keep your editor or reader reading.

But  you don't always have to depend on some kind of action to get things rolling.  How about "Six minutes from now, one of us would be dead.  That was our fate..." Brad Meltzer's "The Book of Fate".  Now that's a problem!  How can the book continue if that's the  case?  Have to read on to find out.

So, you have that idea for a book swimming around in your head?  Pluck out a bit that's sure to grab and start your story there. Grab your reader from the beginning and don't let go.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Writers Websites Wednesday - Daily Writing Tips

This week I want to mention Daily Writing Tips. Ignore the ads  or don't, your choice.  But beyond those few blandishments there's grammar help, competitions, business writing, writing basics, articles to help and much more.  A good site to explore when you have a bit of time to spend.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

So Where Are the Ideas For Writers?

I've had aspiring writers ask me that question when I've taught a class and I've received Emails with the same question.

Call me strange, but it's a question I've never had to wrestle with myself.  Ideas are all around us all the time.  Many times they just appear out of thin air (that's one that no one can teach you, it just happens when you're in the shower or maybe reading a magazine or taking a walk).

"A writer never has a vacation. For a writer life consists of either writing or thinking about writing."  Eugene Ionesco

He pretty much had it right.  And, it's the 'thinking about writing' that keeps you open to new ideas as you cruise through life. 

Think about it. No matter where you go, what you see, there  can be a story behind hit.  A baseball game?  A player gets slammed with a line drive ball, knocked unconscious.  I saw it happen.  But then, a woman jumps over the wall down into the field and runs to the fallen player.  Girlfriend?  Wife? Sister? Fan?  Is he seriously injured? Could he die?  See a story emerging?

And what about the hummingbird you see hanging right outside your window, wings going like mad, suspended, seeming to stare through the glass at you? 

Is it a sign?  A spiritual experience?  Just a hummingbird, but is there something else coming?  Can you connect it with something like a "Narnian" story?  Fantasy or Science Fiction perhaps?

To keep your ready source of ideas flowing you need to teach yourself to be aware of your surroundings; to watch people; to observe nature; to read newspapers and magazines with an open mind that may pluck a good story idea from a few sentences. 

Bears come down from the mountains into the city in great numbers due to a fire destroying their homes and food.  What now?  Is it a great nature story with a hero saving bears and people from each other?  Or does it morph into a supernatural story of bears gleaning a hive-like intelligence after the disaster and lumbering into town bent on revenge for their loss?

Ideas can come from friends and acquaintances as well.  Stories they tell you.  Things they see happen around them and can't wait to tell someone else - you. 

Many ideas won't work out, but you have to play with them, think out the 'what ifs' and you'll find yourself spinning tales daily.

"Life is what happens to a writer between drafts."
Damon (aka Dennis R. Miller) …who spent 25 years completing his novel The Perfect Song.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Cloud Dancer 25% off Aug. 22 thru 29

I'm offering my newly Epublished novel (from original paperback publishing) Cloud Dancer at a special 25% discount to my blog and twitter followers.  Go to Smashwords  and use coupon code TQ72F to claim yours today.  Special offer runs Aug. 22 thru Aug 29.  Grab your copy today!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Writer's Websites Wednesday- Book Catcher

Ganesh-remover of obstacles
I was wandering around the web (a pretty big place as we all know) and I stumbled on BookCatcher.  It's a site for writers, promoters, publishers, etc with quite a bit of info offered in the form of articles and downloads.  Might be something you could use here. I got some Amazon promo tips for my novel Cloud Dancer that were helpful.  Check this one out.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

So You Want To Be A Writer

photo by Donna Weeden
Lots of folks do and lots of folks are. 

Today my brain is rambling on a bit so I'll just let the words ramble on my computer screen and allow them to pay a visit to yours.

Today I'm not going to talk about 'how to' do anything or 'where to go' for help and tips and all that stuff.

Today we're just going to ruminate about writing. What it's all about and what you can expect.

So, the first question I'd ask someone who said he or she wanted to be a writer, is what kind of writer?  Being a writer doesn't automatically mean writing novels or short stories or even magazine articles though of course all of those are possibilities.

However, you may choose to be a non-fiction book writer. A textbook writer, a technical writer, a writer for TV or movies, a blogger, a commercial writer, a copywriter, a comic book writer, or any of many other 'branches' of writing.

Or, you might consider using one type of writing you enjoy to support another type you love.  For example, if you love to write novels, they take time and frankly, getting it written, published and a decent income from them is a long haul and many writers always have to maintain a 'day job' even after published multiple times. That being the reality, perhaps you can cultivate a higher or more quickly paying type of writing to fill in the gaps, because believe me there are areas for writers that pay much better than others and on a more regular basis.

For example, copywriting can be a lucrative business.  That's writing the copy for advertising.  Maybe that long letter like what you received in the mail. Somebody wrote that and learning the craft of copywriting can certainly add to your bottom line. You can start out promoting your copywriting abilities locally for businesses and expand into larger markets.

You might consider honing your abilities to be able to offer a service to people writing resumes or writing newsletters for local businesses.  When you are handy with words, there are a lot of areas you can break into that you'll enjoy to help support yourself doing something you love.

Use your imagination.  Think of where the writers are - everywhere.  Newspaper? Writers. Magazines? Writers. Advertising? Writers. Scripts for TV, movies, even commercials? Writers. White papers? Writers.  Newsletters and how-to manuals? Writers. Greeting cards? Writers.  You get the drift.  Writers are everywhere in print, online, on billboards, for companies that need materials created. Editing is another off-shoot.  Become a great editor and you help not only yourself but can hire those skills out.

Of course all these outlets take some working your way into, but if you realize from the beginning that writing is a business as well as an art and craft, the value of training yourself in more than one area will become apparent.

So lets talk about money for a minute.  Be real, if you're just starting, you're at the bottom.  The odds of you selling a book first shot out for a six figure advance is astronomical (yes I know it's happened, but it hasn't happened often).  It's sort of the 'finger of god' if it does happen.  So, it could happen, but don't count on it.

On the other hand, don't work for nothing. Just because you're new doesn't mean you should work for zip.  After all, if you were just starting at some fast food restaurant you wouldn't be working for nothing.  Very little maybe, but not nothing.  Don't buy into the myth that new writers have to put their work out there and work for nothing.  Find a way to earn money with with you do.  Skip the non-payers.

Oh, and remember if you are shooting at writing and selling novels and are fortunate enough to land a contract, the 'advance' if you get one, means it's payment to you ahead of time against future earnings.  That means it's the only money you'll see for quite some times as the book has to be published, sold, and accounting periods pass before you earn out that money in sales and potentially earn more than that (which for a first book is usually small bucks or  no bucks above the advance).  So, don't give up that 'day job' or whatever other writing outlet you have that's earning you money.

Keep in mind as well that once you go solo - freelance, you're self-employed.  You get to pay more taxes and you need to keep up with them or find yourself in big trouble with the IRS.  You'll also need to get your own health insurance coverage. There are other things as well, but I figure these two will serve as warning to you to cover your back before you take the plunge.

All that said, would I change all that I've done to be a freelance writer?  The times of hanging on by my fingernails waiting for the next check, the jobs I held in addition to my writing earlier on.  No. I love it, but I'm a realist.  And things are changing rapidly with the net and computers from my early days as a writer when it meant mailing a complete manuscript and waiting for a response.

So I say use your imagination, cultivate more than one area of expertise and full speed ahead!

Enough rambling for this time - I'll have a new Website for writers in tomorrow's post.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Writers Websites Wednesday - Plot Whisperer

If it's one thing we writers have it's a lot of resources and Plot Whisperer for Writers & Readers is a great one.  Stop by International Plot consultant Martha Alderson's blog and see why.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Conflict vs. Tension or Conflict & Tension

It's almost like the chicken and the egg.  Which comes first?  DOES one come first? 

Aren't they pretty much the same actually? Conflict/Tension? The terms seem to be used the same way and they can actually be synonymous, but...

Um, no.  Conflict is when a character makes his or her presence known in a scene with a goal and is immediately confronted by an obstacle.  That's great and it's necessary to hold the reader's interest.  We all confront obstacles in our lives, we all need to understand how to face them, to overcome them.  The reader can identify.

Okay, got that? 

Now, tension is what evokes emotion in your reader.  You know, that hair-standing-up-on-the-back-of-your-neck and the squirmy feeling in your stomach and the jittery, gotta-do-something feeling.  That's the kind of stuff you want to make your reader feel. Those are the kinds of things that gets your readers involved with your story and will keep them reading until the end...and then want to pick up another book you've written.

So, Conflict and Tension have a sort of symbiotic relationship. Conflict should create tension, but unfortunately it doesn't always.

That in mind, how do we writers ratchet up the tension?  What's the  magic formula?

Well, I wouldn't call it magic and I sure wouldn't call it a formula, but here it is.  Make your stakes high.  Give your reader something to relate to, a struggle everyone can relate to and make sure you offer a clear conflict. 

The more the writer digs down to the primal roots like the struggle to just stay alive, love, revenge, fighting hunger, lust.  Make one or some combination of these the basis of your conflict and it'll be much easier to jack up that tension and keep your readers interested because it's something they can relate to in their own life. It's human

Conflict can be huge and in your face like a car chase, a martial arts battle or it can be a much more low key event like a clear break between two people with opposing desires. Whatever way you play it, make sure the conflict is there.  If it isn't, rewrite, rewrite!

Oh, and with all this conflict and tension, pay attention to your characters.  Are their responses clear and emotional in themselves?  You need to know your characters inside-out.  How they would respond.  What would bring on the volcanic emotional eruption you need to keep your story snapping.  

After all, if your character's response is unemotional, without vinegar, then why should your reader care? If there is a big event occuring, then your character should have a big reaction. Almost killed in a car crash?  Don't have your characer walk away with a shrug. Just lost the talent contest that he/she'd prepared for for a year or more? - not very ho-hum.  Match response with event. Dig deep for your own emotions, then understand how the character you've created would react and get it down on paper.


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