Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Writing Tips Anyone- Why they Can Be Absolutely Useless Plus the Writer's Update

First - an update for our readers:

 Our latest comic in the Planet Of The Eggs Series, Eruption, is now available in paperback as well as Kindle editions. The latest newsletter just released as well. Join the fun at - tell your friends and click the sign up button to be sure to get your copy of the next newsletter filled with character interviews, freebies, contest notifications and more! 

And now on to the pros and cons of writing tips:
Writers seem inclined to want to learn. That’s why writers, both newbies and old hands, are always on the lookout for tips to help improve the writing, speed the writing, promote the writing, create compelling characters – pretty much any aspect of writing.

But here’s the problem. There are tons of tips and instruction out there. Some of it is really good, other, not so much. In any event it’s tough to tell which can be chucked and quickly deleted from the brain bank and which is worth keeping. It’s so overwhelming the studious writer can end up simply wasting time…lots and lots of time. And time is where the true value lies for the writer for the amount of time to write for most is limited. Sometimes tucked into neat segments at designated times.

But some things learned are so valuable they’re not to be missed. You’ve learned to fine tune your adjectives. You’ve reduced your adverbs. You’ve brought more emotion to your writing.

Right – all that’s good and writers generally have a mental inventory of writing tools and techniques they regularly employ. Problem is a writer can reach maximum saturation with so many tips and teachings flowing through the brain cells that it throws everything off. It can even cause writer’s block (I’ve never experienced this, thank goodness, but I can see where it could happen).

So what’s to be done? Probably less than one would think. The trick is to codify all that learning into sturdy, straight-forward techniques that work for you (and you is certainly a broad audience – each writer sees things differently).

Think about the many hats of creativity. Walt Disney was said to have claimed to wear many different ‘hats’ when he attended creative meetings. There was the dreamer, the critic and the realist. The dreamer creates, the critic picks things apart and the realist pulls it all back together in a powerful way.

When I break my thinking down that way I can see my ‘dreamer’ comes up with the ideas, extrapolates them and creates, infusing characters with life and the story with energy. I give my dreamer full rein in the beginning. Anything goes.

My critic then does a dandy job of picking at all the lose threads, finding things that don’t work and criticizing sentence structure, story ending and everything else. All the while those tips and teachings I’ve picked up over the years are on alert, watching out for floods of adjectives, verbs that just lay there, repetitive words and a whole host of other details.

Until the end when the critic is told to shut up and the realist within takes over to slap on the last polish, pulling it all back together into the comprehensive story it was meant, from the beginning, to be. 

So, the moral is, don’t toss out the tips you come across as a writer, but don’t allow them to swamp you in a sea of bits and pieces either. When a new idea on how to create the perfect story comes along let it join the others in your toolbox and see how it improves your writing. If it doesn’t, let it go. There is not right and wrong way to write the story.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Writers And Readers Websites Wednesday


I admit I haven't had time to keep up with this on a regular basis - but that doesn't mean I've given up on providing cool sites when I find them!  

Today's is KidLit TV (and radio and more). It's at www.KidLit.TV. Don't just sit there - go on over and check it out! Helping parents and educators explore the world of children’s literature.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

What Are Writers Afraid of? Using Emotion To Create Compelling Characters

What’s anyone afraid of? Everyone is afraid of something whether they want to talk about it or not. It might be the dark, spiders and snakes, heights, guns, crowds…something! There is something that sets your nerves to jangling and teeth on edge, not to mention raises a cold sweat.  

Just thinking about whatever that is can make the hair stand up on the back of your neck, your heart pound and the breath hitch in your lungs if you get into the zone closely enough.

Reason. We all try to use it at such moments, but reason can be at war with that fight or flight we’ve all got so deeply embedded within us. The urge to run or do battle is something hard to deny. So what’s all this about?

The writer’s muse.

A writer’s best work can stem from connecting with that moment, getting inside yourself to pull out those deep-seated fears and expose them to daylight in the service of harnessing the power those emotions and channeling them onto the blank page.

Writers want to reach inside the reader’s head and feel things. The gamut of human emotions and dark thoughts. It’s so easy to ‘make it up when we go along’ when writing, but the fact is the best writing stems from the gut. The best writers reach deep to plumb their own experiences and inject that into characters. Remember and regurgitate those emotions in order to really bring a character to life.
Terrified of walking alone in the dark on a city street? Think of all the nuances as my mother did when she was a young woman and had the night shift at a switchboard. She walked home on the dark sidewalks of a Chicago night with every other street lamp blown out. She hugged the building side when a car came past and hugged the curb side when passing alleys. She walked fast…very fast. Sounds, common and unfamiliar were all around. Strangers on the street with her; were they as she, walking home from work…or a threat? Adrenaline. Inject the fear. Inject the urgency. Clip the sentences and paint a vivid picture. Hurry. Pause. Confront the dark fear of an unlit alley as a garbage can lid bangs within the blackness.

That was one reality. There are many others, and they aren’t always in the physical realm. A character doesn’t always have to worry about being stalked by a murderer. 

It can be much closer to the heart, much more emotional. Is there fear a marriage is failing? Is a student an outcast at school afraid of one more indignity? Will a friendship end with betrayal? Will a job be lost to a character charged with supporting siblings after their parents die? Nightmares. All of it. Emotional wrench and perhaps destruction.

Either way. Emotional or physical – what do you fear? What can you hand a character that will give him the cold sweats?

Think about it. Feel it. Write it.  

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Creating Comics - an abbreviated how to

Since our newest in the Planet of The Eggs series, Eruption, is now releasing in paperback, I decided this week to talk a bit about the creation of the comics. It takes a whole lot of work, but the creation process is such great fun I thought I’d share a bit of it with our readers.


I really can’t tell folks how to find a story idea other than to be open, to research and to be aware of the weird world around you. I can, however give some practical tips.

There’s a lot to it, but basically my writing and creative partner Charlene Brash-Sorensen and I use Comic Life software (you can try it free, but there is a low cost to buy - no, I'm not an affiliate so I won't make any money if you buy a copy) to create the actual comic, but prior to that there’s a lot of prep work.

Since neither of us are sketchers or artists of any variety, except the manipulation of pictures into our stories, we depend on photography and occasional clip art to create our books. So one of my first tips is your camera. Your phone camera, whatever will take decent pictures. There’s scenery and events all around you that can make great backgrounds for stories (be aware of not taking pictures of people without their permission), but if you need plants, mountains, forests, animals, whatever, keep that camera handy and take lots of pictures. We even have mini ‘photo shoots’ using things like (in our case) eggs
we’ve painted against white background for easy cut-out in photoshop, feathers of various colors from various angles against white, again for easy cut out and a whole lot of other items which makes the images our own and we don’t have to worry about copyright. I’ve even taken close up pictures of flower bouquets and a vigorous fennel plant for backgrounds. 
Beyond that there are places online where you can find free and royalty free pictures that can be used.  We use Pixabay a lot and of course a google search for ‘commons’ photos and illustrations can yield other resources such as Open Clip Art and many others. If you want to use any pictures you find online make sure they’re royalty free and free to use in any fashion. Or purchase the pictures you need and be sure the license covers what you’re using them for. Read the requirements and follow them. Copyright infringement is a no-no.

We use Photoshop a lot for cutting out characters, changing colors, etc. But, there are phot manipulation tools available that are free. Check out Gimp and for a couple I know about. We even use Powerpoint to create some images when we won’t want to work with all sorts of layers and effects. What is created can be saved via Powerpoint to Jpg or png formats.

The whole thing sprang from a simple idea – Heroic eggs determined to save their world. We’ve had to learn a lot to put our books together – I haven’t even mentioned the required dimensions and details here that are required for digital and print publishing. The fun just never stops (and I mean that truly and sarcastically.)


Dive in if you’re of a mind – see what you can create – oh, and while you’re at it, grab copies of Planet Of The Eggs comics –

          Available in Kindle Edition and Paperback with more to come!

And visit the Planet Of The Eggs Facebook Page to get the first in the series free and join the adventure with a FREE collectible monthly newsletter with freebies, updates, character interviews and more. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Writing The Wham Bam Action Scene

I’m a writer. I admit it, I’m a sucker for creating action scenes. Now it’s possible you might think my everyday life is full of excitement and action to spur such scenes, but no, it usually begins with a cup of hot green tea at my computer desk.

Nonetheless I’m an action junkie; books, movies, tv, whatever.

Star Wars, Deadpool, Sword Dancer Novels, Orson Scott Card! Yes, I like detail as well, background, the backstory, but what really sucks me in is the action. Don’t make that backstory and setting too lengthy or I’ll be peeking ahead or see where the action again picks up. Not everyone is like this, but that’s me.

Probably that’s why I like to write action as well.  That means I want to write it well and I put a lot of demands on myself. I also get the chance to back flush a lot of aggression – you know, run those horses, fight you ninjas, blow stuff up and even, maybe, kill off your favorite character. It’s a lot of fun on a lot of levels and it’s a powerful type of writing short-cutting, at least for a time, descriptions and character development. Hey, they guys are pounding on each other so what’s to develop in that scene? (There are exceptions to that, but that’s not what we’re talking about here). Short, staccato, keep it moving! And, action verbs all by themselves lend color. Who simply yells? No, it’s shriek, scream, bellow, howl, screech. Hey, what’s not to have fun here?

But, there’s more to it that Wham Bam! The pressure is on to write a really GOOD action scene, not something the reader yawns his way through. It goes deeper. It engages the emotions. Why is the heart racing when reading an action scene or viewing an intense movie action scene? It’s simple. It’s because the reader or watcher is engaged with the characters and actually cares how it all comes out. We’re rooting for Dean Koontz’s Odd Thomas to prevail and survive. We watch Deadpool and despite all his oddities, want him to come out on top.

I write primarily with a movie running in my head whether novel or script. I see what’s happening, but even more to the point, when writing an action scene, I put myself in my characters heads. The reality is, in real life, people don’t know what’s coming next. They don’t know they’re going to die (or not) in a car crash. They don’t know that killer is going to pop out of the alley and try to do them in. It’s all a surprise to them and that’s where the engagement comes in.

The trick, then, is simple and complicated. The answer is to put yourself into the character’s head just as you allow yourself to be swept into a story when reading or watching. Feel what they feel, think what they’d think in that moment. Dig deep for the emotions of terror, anxiety, desperation. Get those emotions on the page and the person reading the novel or the script from which the movie is made won’t just be reading – that person will be right beside the characters when the bullets fly, the horse stampedes or the great Pacific wave looms over the fishing boat. And the adrenalin will surge.

Now we’re talkin’…that’s action!

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