Finally Finished That Novel by Dellani Oakes

So, you’ve finished that 460 novel. You sit proudly and pat the cover page tenderly, smoothing the white surface when much to your horror, you see a mistake! Cold sweat breaks out on your brow, fingers tremble, mouth suddenly goes dry. As your eye wanders down the page, more and more errors jump out at you! Fear grips your heart as you stumble from the desk, desperate for a calming cool drink. It’s a nightmare, but you can’t wake up. It’s real. Your brainchild, the fruit of your creative efforts, is flawed and it’s up to you to fix it.

This is a scenario each of us faces. Sometimes it’s as minor as a misplaced comma or a dangling modifier. Other times an entire scene, or even half the novel is so bad it has to be scraped and retooled. I started an historical novel about ten years ago, set it aside since it wasn’t going anywhere, picked it up a few years later and realized the reason it hadn’t gone anywhere was that it was garbage! No other word for it. After careful review, I threw away all but ten handwritten pages. Of those ten pages, perhaps parts of seven survive in the retooled version.

Several things were problematic that I didn’t realize until much later. First, and most important, the point of view and style were all wrong. Set in St. Augustine in the Florida territory in the late 1700s, it was told in first person by a young Spanish woman. I had chosen to do it like a diary (not really sure why) and it was far too limiting to my story.

Second, after doing some more research, I found that the time period would have to be moved from the 1780s to 1739 or I could not incorporate certain facets of the novel. It would have been grossly inaccurate.

Third, and most difficult, the man I had intended to be the bad guy simply wasn’t working. No matter what I did, even in the retooled version, he wouldn’t be villainous. The heroine refused to fall in love with anyone else. Even the good guy couldn’t be relied upon to behave. He became the villain, the villain became the hero, the heroine didn’t succumb to another man’s charms, and they all lived happily ever after. (Except for the villain, because he, of course, was dead.)

It got terribly out of hand. After lots of time and effort reading and re-reading, honing, changing, and fine tuning, it is a really solid piece of literature that I am proud to put my name on. A few years ago, when I started re-writing it, I wouldn’t have given ten cents for it. It was the catalyst that started me writing in earnest and made me realize I had stories inside me to tell. None of the rest are historical in nature because with that novel I learned something else important. You can’t do too much research if you want to be historically accurate. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’d rather spend my time bleeding profusely from multiple wounds that tracking down that evasive, all important fact.

Sci-fi is far easier for me to write. Once I have a believable setting, the rest is easy. Don’t ignore the laws of science, throw in some really good fight scenes, add a few interesting aliens and voila! Creating my own world is far easier than working within the confines of someone elses, but that old adage “write what you know,” is nonsense. What I know is boring! Who wants to know about raising kids, doing endless errands, making phone calls and taking out the garbage? No one.

Writing is the ultimate escapism. For that short span of time, things work out; the hero and heroine fall in love and live happily ever after. The bad guy gets his just desserts, the good guy wins, and there is always a happy ending. It’s far more interesting than washing the dirty dishes, cooking dinner or sorting laundry.

But I digress. Despite the thrill of putting words on paper, the hard part is making sure that everything is right. We can live with the small stuff like ending a sentence with a preposition. Frankly, it sounds odd if it’s correct. However, misplaced modifiers, sentence fragments and subject – verb agreement are very important. Even if a writer can’t name the errors, wrong is wrong.

One solution is to read and re-read your own work, honing and perfecting it. It’s easy to miss simple errors that way. Sometimes running off a hard copy helps, but it’s still difficult to catch it all. Better yet, get people who are gifted in grammar to help you. They might not be able to name the error, but they can spot one and can offer suggestions on how to correct it. If you can afford it, have an editor review it. Few of us can, so it’s up to us to read and re-read our own work until it is smooth and as error free as it can possibly be.

For goodness sake, don’t rely on the grammar check in Word! It’s garbage and will cause for more problems than it solves. I don’t care if it’s the primary word processing program used world wide, the grammar check is terrible. Spell check, on the other hand, is a godsend, but won’t help you if you simply type in the wrong word. I once finished typing out a test for my 11th grade class only to find that I had one very important little word wrong and the spell check hadn’t caught it. Instead of saying, “What is the theme of this story?” I had, “Shat is the theme of this story?” (For those of you who don’t know, that’s the past tense of the verb ‘to shit’. — 11th graders knew that!)

There is no easy way to get through the editing process. It is tedious and time consuming, but if it makes the difference between selling a book and having it gather dust, it’s well worth it.

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Writing Tips from Four Famous Authors by B.Y. Rogers

A few minutes ago, not more than twenty, I was checking my Twitter messages and one of the tweets caught my eye. I clicked on it (imagine that!) and it led me to the Facebook page of Reno Pete. I scrolled down the page and noticed a link to a blog called Brain Pickings. I have run across this blog once before but this particular link made me stop so I clicked on it. It brought me to a post concerning writing tips. The blog offered writing tips from Kurt Vonnegut with links to more tips by David Ogilvy, Henry Miller, and John Steinbeck.  I quickly opened the links and copied them into my Evernote file. I then went to bed but my mind was racing and I knew I would not fall to sleep until I read these tips carefully.

I do not know what to make of them. Some are obvious, some I need to think about. In any case, I think each of the tips are valuable to authors who, like me, are still perfecting their craft (are we ever finished?).  So here they are. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did. I have not attributed them as I should, but the link to the original blog is above. If you want to know who said what, please click on that link. There is another link to even more writing tips, in the Kurt Vonnegut blog post, but as they are mostly business related and not fiction writing, I did not provide the link here.

My favorite tips are in bold.

~~~~~~

Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page for each day, it helps. Then when it gets finished, you are always surprised.

Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down. Rewrite in process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on. It also interferes with flow and rhythm which can only come from a kind of unconscious association with the material.

Forget your generalized audience. In the first place, the nameless, faceless audience will scare you to death and in the second place, unlike the theater, it doesn’t exist. In writing, your audience is one single reader. I have found that sometimes it helps to pick out one person—a real person you know, or an imagined person and write to that one.

If a scene or a section gets the better of you and you still think you want it—bypass it and go on. When you have finished the whole you can come back to it and then you may find that the reason it gave trouble is because it didn’t belong there.

Beware of a scene that becomes too dear to you, dearer than the rest. It will usually be found that it is out of drawing.

If you are using dialogue—say it aloud as you write it. Only then will it have the sound of speech.

Write the way you talk. Naturally.

Use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs.

Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally, judgmentally. They are hallmarks of a pretentious ass.

Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action.

Start as close to the end as possible.

Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them-in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

Work on one thing at a time.

Don’t be nervous. Work Calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is at hand.

Work according to Program and not according to mood. Stop at the appointed time.

When you can’t create, you can’t work.

Cement a little every day rather then add new fertilizers.

Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it.

Don’t be a draught horse! Work with pleasure only.

Discard the Program when you feel like it. But go back to it next day. Concentrate. Narrow down. Exclude.

Forget the books you want to write. Think only of the book you are writing.

Write first and always. Painting, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterwards.

Beating the Block by Dellani Oakes

Writer’s Block – these ominous words send shivers down the spine of any writer. Insidious, it strikes with no warning, clogging the brain, paralyzing fingers, bringing grown writers to their knees. There are many types of writer’s block, each with its own pernicious characteristics. Below, I have listed those which plague me the most often.

1) Mid-Line Crisis: This is less destructive than its brothers, but still annoying. This is the unfinished sentence, incomplete thought or dialogue left hanging. The tortured …. of the soul. Though frustrating, it is not insurmountable. Usually a little brainstorming, trial and error and copious use of the delete button get me past this tiresome creature.

2) Ex Thesaurus: Also known as “What Word”? This usually runs with mid-line crisis and is fairly easy to circumvent. A visit to Thesaurus.com or a quick flip through the desk copy of Roget’s can pull a writer past this hurdle.

3) Post Climactic Stress: Or “Where Do I Go From Here?” The hero has saved the day, villains vanquished, lovers unite, children dance around May Poles – celebration time! All right, where does the story go now? It’s not over, but it needs to be soon. However, these pesky little loose ends suddenly electrify, screaming “Solve Me!” What to do?

Falling action after the climax isn’t always easy. The one question a writer fails to answer is the one readers will point to and say, “Hey! What about this?” To avoid the lynch mob, sometimes it’s better to eliminate a secondary thread unless it’s absolutely necessary to the plot. Otherwise, it’s a trip to blockage category # 4.

4) The Never Ending Story: As much as we might want our book never to end, it must. Sometimes though, we can’t seem to find a stopping place. The book goes on forever, until we get fed up and stop writing, or force an ending.

I have one book that is 873 double spaced, typed pages. Not only can I not find an end point, I can’t even read all the way through it without getting lost. The problem is too many sub-plots. (Hearken back to Post Climactic Stress.) Everything needs resolution, making the book go on forever. It will require a might re-write or splitting into multiple books.

None of these minor blocks are as frustrating as the fifth category. It really needs no introduction because even the most prolific writers have, at one time or another, suffered from it.

5) The Full Monty: Like its name implies, this is full blown, frontal exposure writer’s block. Insurmountable, uncompromising, frustrating, infuriating, aggravating, annoying, constipating….

There are no words at our disposal formidable enough to fully describe this condition.

Any writer who has never experienced Full Monty Writer’s Block obviously hasn’t written long enough. Suddenly, out of nowhere, completely by surprise it strikes! I equate it with being hit by a Volvo station wagon at 90 mph. Maybe an Escalade?

In any case, WHAM! In the face, hard core, heavy metal writer’s block. There’s no way to avoid it. Once in awhile the Muse takes a coffee break and so must we. As frustrating as they are, embrace these blocks. They force us to leave the security and sanctity of our homes and participate in life for awhile. Use this time to observe others or engage them in conversation. Each encounter gives us a little more grist for our imagination mill.

What’s In A Character by Karen Vaughan

Developing a character people will love or love to hate~
My character Laura in my series can be said to have “balls” but she has a tender side towards people who become important to her and will kick the butt of any bad-ass who gets in the way.  Laura had an average childhood as a tomboy in her family much to her mothers chagrin.  There is tension between mother and daughter as Mrs. Hamilton hated her singularity after her divorce and the fact that she lives in a less than upstanding neighborhood.   Laura doesn’t take much guff from mom but shows up for dinner on Sundays.
Laura’s first marriage was less than stellar. Even though she married her high-school sweetheart, Lou the wheels fell off after a miscarriage and then she found out he was gay when he advertised this publically.
This is all backstory but it gives a character a three-dimensional look and the reader will have empathy and are more apt to root for the protagonist in matters of the heart and ass-kicking.
Give your characters either good or bad a sense of humor. The wise crackers make great protagonists or villains and breaks tension in a suspenseful situation.
I have given some of my villains some redeemable qualities as well so they’re not totally hateful. But when they’re bad; they’re very bad and it works.
TINY TODD CRAWFORD IN DEAD ON ARRIVAL was a little person embroiled in criminal activity but had a soft spot for Laura. Unfortunately taking her and the decoy cop hostage was not a great way to win her heart.
LEENA DUBOIS-BROWN/JULIE WRIGHT IN OVER HER DEAD BODY –is the daughter of a wealthy gangster and is used to getting what she wants and that includes knocking off the competition to her elderly husbands heart and bank account.
KILLER T. FORD MY UP AND COMING DAYTONA DEAD is a egomaniacal NASCAR racer with a bad case of road rage—fellow racers call him a whining prima Dona but don’t piss him off.
DAVE MEECHAM IS A LESSER VILLAIN THE SAME BOOK AS FORD—He unlike Ford has a few redeeming qualities which are revealed in a huge epiphany thus making him a not-so bad ass.
Every character needs a straight man—Laura’s is her fiancé Gerry or the homicide detective Gibbons –they ground Laura when she gets herself in a pickle. They are the ones she feeds off and turns to when things get tense.

When a Character Won’t Do What You Want by Dellani Oakes

My husband thinks I’m crazy. This is nothing new. We’ve been married almost 31 years and he’s been sure most of that time that I’m out of my mind. That’s okay. I accept that. Ever since I started writing full time, he’s become more convinced that I’m even crazier than he previously thought. I can’t imagine what makes him think this, but I suspect it’s conversations like this.

“He’s doing it again.”

“Who’s doing what again? Is one of the boys misbehaving? I’ll jerk a knot in his tail.”

“No, it’s not the boys. It’s Manuel.”

“Who’s Manuel? The kid next door?”

“No, that’s not Manuel! You know, Manuel! In my book!”

“Manuel. In your book.” He’s starting to give me that look and take a step or two away.

“Yes, you know. He’s not behaving again.”

“Ookay…” He takes another step or two back. “What’s he doing?” He puts a piece of large furniture between me and him.

“He won’t be bad!”

He takes a dubious sip of coffee, moving another step away. “Ookay…. Are you sure you’re alright? You’re starting to look a little wild eyed.”

“I’m fine! Pay attention! He won’t be bad! I’ve tried to make him the villain and he simply refuses to misbehave! I’m going to have to make him the hero! He’s messing it all up. Oh, and Gabriella? She won’t fall in love with anyone else. I’ve given her two other choices and she wants him. What am I going to do?”

“I dunno. Let her?”

“What? Are you out of your mind? That messes it all up! I’ll have to write a totally different book now. I don’t get it. They just won’t behave like they’re supposed to.”

“Honey, they’re characters.”

“So? I know that!”

“Darling,” he says in a very calm and soothing voice. “You made them up.”

“SO??? They won’t behave! I should just kill them all off and start over! I am so frustrated!”

By this time I’m looking for things to throw and he’s beating a hasty retreat to his garage sanctum for a couple of cigarettes and a cup of coffee. It’s cold out there, but it’s safe. He stays there until he thinks the manic phase has ended and comes back in, keeping a very low profile as he skulks to his computer.

I swear, I’m not crazy. It does happen, characters take over and won’t cooperate. They will refuse to go the direction I want if I take them down a road they wouldn’t follow. The second I try to do something with them that’s out of character, they stop dead in their tracks, the story grinds to a halt and nothing moves until I go back through and correct it. I can’t tell you the countless numbers of times this has happened. With my NaNoWriMo novel this year, I’ve had to cut over 11,000 words because I kept getting off track. I’m still not sure I like where it’s going, but the characters seem more comfortable, so I guess I’m stuck with it.

As crazy as this might sound, you have to keep in mind that characters that are well developed do take on a personality. As a writer, you get a feel for where they will or won’t go, what they will accept and what they would refuse to do. Like real people, they have their stubborn moments, but usually only when the writer tries to push them in the wrong direction. The example conversation is based on a real one I had (more than once) with my husband about my novel, Indian Summer.

Manuel, the hero, was intended to be the villain, driving Gabriella into the arms of Sailfish. Well, he refused to give her up. Instead, he changed his wicked ways and became the man she would love and marry. Did I intend that? Not a lick of it. Would Gabriella accept another man? No. She wanted Manuel. Once I accepted this and let them go their own way, the story grew and I moved on to compensate.

A writer has to stay flexible. The minute you get too rigid, the story is going in the toilet. Keep it fluid, malleable. Don’t get so locked into what you want that you can’t see the big picture. Maybe your instincts as a writer are what is guiding those rebellious characters. Part of you sees that the direction is wrong and tries to correct it. Whatever is the case, try to look at the character rebellion in a positive light. Look at the story from an objective point of view – and don’t throw things at your spouse, it really isn’t his (her) fault.

The Plot Thickens by Karen Vaughan

Stories are either character driven or plot driven. Some writers will argue that there can be a bit of both.

This is good when there are rich characters and a good plot to carry them. My plots are usually quirky and most people who have read my books will know they are humorous but we have covered that already.

I have had plots where victims have been dropped on living room floors, face down in a bowl of cereal after being beaten over the head and in Daytona dead a car is the weapon of choice.

A good plot can be picked from either the headlines or ones imagination. I haven’t pulled one out of the headlines yet as most of them have been done by others or it’s just a subject I won’t touch with a ten foot pole.

I prefer to write things using people in my life as models or some experience I have had. I also take requests. For example my gay character Lou (Laura’s ex) had the same name as a friend’s ex-husband. At the time of her impending divorce she requested that I kill her hubby in a book but I didn’t want to have a second Lou so I just knocked off the gay man.  I revisited the premise of using a car as an instrument of death since Stephen Kings Christine. The time had come for the plot to be revisited.

I love revenge plots where some ones karmic mac truck is set to kick butt and justice is served but in DEAD COMIC STANDING some very funny people die before the killer gets what is coming to him.

So the next time you are looking for a good plot for a story think outside the box.

You Call Me Al by Una Tiers

What’s in a Name?
In 1986, Paul Simon wrote You Can Call me Al. Writers often build a platform that includes a distinct name, known as Pen Names.
Pen names (nom de plume) have been used for centuries. Some create distinct identities to avoid confusion when an author writes both fiction and non-fiction or if an author writes in more than one genre. They can separate two parts of a career such as writing and editing, or fiction writing and law. One of the allures about a pen name is that it may keep people guessing about your identity and generate a little internet buzz.
Some authors write under a pseudonym for anonymity, to stand out with an unusual name or to avoid confusion with other authors who have similar names. Others write under a pen name to avoid repercussions much like the witness protection program. In the past, female authors wrote under gender neutral or male names or an initial to disguise their first name, all for the sake of acceptability.
At least one author has used two or more pen names to have multiple articles published in the same magazine issue. Another author writes under different names since he writes more than one novel a year and thinks people will not buy two books from the same author in one year.
Do you write smoldering erotica with heaving bosoms? Want the neighbors to know? Many writers use their legal name along with their pen name to maintain their followers and to bring in new ones with a name that is sculptured for fiction writing.
Pointers on selecting a pen name include using the early letters of the alphabet to and getting close in spelling to a famous author. Names that fit a genre are another point of pen names: Lana Loving, Amber Asp, Derk Alleys or Sky Cubes. Names at the start of the alphabet and those with one or two syllables seem to be preferred. Try the names out in the beta stage to see how they sound to friends and your writing group. Check existing website availability.
Places to find ideas for pen names include my favorite: obituaries and of course the internet. Once you have your pen name, start branding and use it in your website, social networking and book sites. You are working on a clean slate.
Famous writers with pen names include Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain); Jean Baptiste Poquelin (Moliere); Emily Bronte (Ellis Bell) and Esther Friedman (Ann Landers).
Discussion: If you are choosing a pen name, please tell us the two main reasons you did. Thank you.
A special thanks go out the authors in WriteMindsAuthors Group. They are a hardworking dedicated group.
Una Tiers is the pen name for an attorney in Chicago who writes about corruption in the courts. Her debut mystery, Judge vs Nuts has a female sleuth, Fiona Gavelle, and has been described as a humorcide, a traditional mystery, a cozy and a legal mystery.

To Pantz Or Not To Pantz by Karen Vaughan

To pantz or not to pantz

That is the question.

Whether it is nobler to suffer

The pains of outlining

Or fly by the seat of your pants

And write whats in your head

I have tried to outline stories that I write but I usually abandon the effort as it causes extreme anxiety.

I basically just go with what the characters say they want.  If that sounds schitzy then I am in the company of many authors who choose to go with the flow.

There is always the great debate between writers who will argue for organization and outlining or just letting it fly off the top of ones head.

I am arguing on the pantzing side of the argument.

I sat down to write DEAD ON ARRIVAL seven years ago. It was based on a warped dream I had. How do you outline a dream? You can’t, not really. Sure you can write down ideas based on the dream to flesh it out.

I find outlining makes me a slave to a rigid story. It doesn’t allow the characters to speak if the writer is not open minded in the plotting of the story.

I don’t get stuck if I let the characters drive the bus. They know what they want.
I also ask people who have read my series to let me use them or aspects of their personalities or I ask them for ideas for plots too.

I started as a pantser and I will end as one. I plot as I go and create and change as I go.

In Daytona Dead I changed one character from a bad-ass crooked cop who was totally unlikeable to someone who suddenly grew a spine and a conscience at the same time.

This wasn’t planned. The character basically stood up and told me he didn’t want to be a jerk anymore so I listened to him.

Writing Adventures…by Karina Gioertz

At the beginning of last year I had only just begun my journey into the world of self-publishing and being an Indie Author. Up until that point I hadn’t ever really considered myself an Author of any kind. Mostly my focus had been on writing screenplays and dreaming of the day when I would see my words come to life on the big screen. Writing an entire book, well that seemed like a rather ambitious undertaking. However, after a meek attempt at getting my scripts out there I had to face facts. While I may be a fairly decent writer I am a horrible sales person. Not only am I awkward and uncomfortable when it comes to selling myself as a writer, I also loathe doing it. Basically I would just like be able to write and then magically have people find my work…

The first book I wrote (Welcome To The Half Orphan Club) and self-published was nonfiction and it was nearly twenty years in the making. My mother had self-published her own version of the events following my father’s death shortly before, so she was there to guide me through what turned out to be an incredibly easy process. It was then that I realized, I didn’t need to go around knocking on doors I hadn’t been invited to in the first place…I could open my own doors.

It wasn’t long after, that I decided to pull out some of my scripts and turn them into novels. It took me a while at first to find my groove, but once I got started I stayed pretty busy. Now that last year has coming to an end and a new year has begun, I’ve completed four novels and am working with the fifth.

It’s been exciting watching the reviews come in and hearing from complete strangers that they enjoy my work. In a way, this year has been all about writing and having people magically find my work. Sure, I’ve had to learn my share on marketing, but it’s been more about letting people know that my books exist rather than trying to convince anyone to buy them.

Writing has always been an adventure for me. Imaginary fun that filled the empty spaces…but the adventure isn’t only on paper. It’s part of my life (which is now the life of an Author – eek!), and I for one, kinda love it ;)

 

Contrast In Writing by Prudence Hayes

Being that I am a newbie in the writing world, I am still in the process of finding my own style; the way that I write to differ myself from everyone else and solidify myself as an individual. I have not perfected this yet, but I am slowly finding my way.

But along the way of finding who I am as a writer, I am finding out more and more about myself personally. A major aspect about me that I have found out is that I like contrast. It rings true in a lot of things in my life, but it is very apparent in my writing.

In my writings, I tend to jump from something that is emotionally traumatic making the reader sad or miserable and then jump to something funny in the next page or so making the reader laugh or crack a smile. Or, at least that is what I hope I do…

I don’t believe I do it on purpose, though; it is just how it forms in my head and leaks out onto paper, probably because the saying, “write what you know” is true. I write a lot about emotions and mental issues. I am an internally emotional person and have dealt with a lot of things with the help of humor. So, it is only natural for me to form stories in my head that way.

I hope I keep this aspect with me along the way of finding my true style because I think it keeps it interesting and natural.
From tears to giggles, anger to happiness, grief to euphoria; it’s the contrast that I find appealing.