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Archive for the ‘How To Be A Writer’ Category

 

It’s the age old question. Just how the heck do you write with an 80 Lb dog in your lap?

Maybe you are on a deadline. It might be self-imposed. Or it’s the one moment in days you can carve out of your busy schedule for ‘you’ time, aka writing. It’s a rare moment. It’s that early morning you woke up despite your best intentions to sleep in on the one and only day you can all week, but your mind or body has other plans and you are up, wide awake, but OMG the house is quiet with everyone else sleeping, so you can actually WRITE. It’s the perfect time for it. Maybe it’s simply that the creative juices are flowing or your muse just bitch-slapped you with an idea that you absolutely must get down right now before you forget it.

And, naturally, at that very moment your dog decides life cannot go on without climbing in your lap, on your desk, on your keyboard, in your face, trying to force play time, squirming and wriggling and won’t take ‘No’ for an answer.

Maybe it’s not an 80 Lb dog. Cat? Baby, toddler, kid, teenager, or partner. Your squawking bird, hamster, pot bellied pig, or other pet. They all have the same goal, to have your 5000% undivided attention.

So, what’s a writer to do? Give them a few minutes of total attention and hope they are happy. Deflection. Here’s a toy, someone else to play with, cookie, boozy latte with extra whipped cream (please only try this with adult humans), send your dog outside in the back yard to, “Go find your rabbit” (just don’t tell them it only exists in the world outside the front living room window).

Meow at them or squeak the squeaky toy until they go mad.

Give them a craft, project, job, or anything you can grasp that might get their attention for five minutes or more.

It’s frustrating, yes. But ultimately you have to realize they are bugging you because they love you and are yearning for your attention like a puppy full of energy and starved for playtime.

In the case of the oversized purse-dog, I find the best solution is to exhaust her with attention. Give her some time of hard play, love, petting, tricks for a cookie, rabbit seeking, and ultimately hope it’s not the super hyper loud frantically playing with the loudest squeaky toy in the house while shrieking and riling the dog up under your feet and impossible to string a single thought together because of the hyper loudness kid who takes her attention next.

And, sometimes, you just have to resolve to having to try to single finger type around an 80 Lb dog in your lap because she really does think she’s the size of her head.

 

Above all else….

Keep writing, my friends.

 

L. V. Gaudet Books:

Vivian Munnoch Books (and Roxy photobomb):

Roxy aka The Big Dumb Bunny

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Photo by Anthony Cantin on Unsplash

A writer friend and published author once told me of how she learned about the power of three. Three times repetition. No more and no less. If something is important for the reader to remember, you should repeat it. Somewhere throughout the story, bring it to reader three times.

And there, I did. In the above paragraph, as an example, I repeated telling your reader three times. (This makes four and breaks the rule, so you can now forget with impunity that I ever said it .) Although doing it all so close together is highly not recommended in your story.

In teaching and learning, repetition again stands out. From teaching toddlers to learning yourself as an adult, remembering comes easier with repetition. Tell me your name once, and you can bet on my forgetting it. (It’s not you, it’s me. I’m atrocious for my inability to remember names, and no, I do not think people are unremarkable or unworthy of remembering. Quite the opposite. It’s just something I’ve always been very bad at.)

And as a parent, who has not found themselves repeating repeating repeating? And then perhaps secretly or unknowingly repeating again while talking to yourself? Seriously, it can feel like no one hears you otherwise in the hubbub of a household.

 

While your thrice said story development spread across your book can help lure the reader into that aha moment when the pieces begin to fall into place at the end of the narrative, revealing that what may have seemed irrelevant now seems obvious, repetition can also harm your story.

 

This is something I’m guilty of. Particularly in my earlier writing. It is also something another writer friend and published author pointed out in a review of one of my earlier books, which was a reminder I need to always be vigilant about it while writing and editing.

That thing is committing the blunder of bad repetition. Even in writing this piece, I catch myself repeating the same words in the same paragraph, and even in the same sentence. It is a terrible habit, and one that can be hard to break. I do it when speaking to people, repeating my words over and over (After years of having only small children to talk to all day?). I do it without even knowing as the words flow from my head through my fingers to the keyboard.

 

Regardless of the cause, and regardless of your actual efforts, It comes across as lazy writing, poor editing, and an oversimplification of the story.

See? In the above paragraph, ‘regardless’ shows its face twice in the same sentence. It might make sense coming out of your head, but on editing, this should be revised. You may mean the same thing, but change your wording, if only a single word.

Regardless of the cause, and in spite of your actual efforts, It comes across as lazy writing, poor editing, and an oversimplification of the story.

Marginally better.

 

The lesson here? If it’s important for the reader to remember, tell them three times over your 5,000 to 150,000 writing piece, and be ever vigilant of your word choices. (I way over-spoke the power of three references in this article. Yes.) Analyze every sentence, every paragraph, every scene and story bit for poor wording, less than ideal word choices, unnecessary and damaging repetitions, and the whole host of other writing pitfalls that can harm your work.

 

 

Keep writing, my friends.

 

 

L. V. Gaudet Books:

Do you know #WhereTheBodiesAre?
Disturbing psychological thriller

Learn the secret behind the bodies.
Take a step back in time to meet the boy who will create the killer.

Everyone is looking for Michael Underwood. HMU picks up where the Bodies left off, bringing in the characters from The McAllister Farm.

Sometimes the only way to stop a monster is to kill it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Garden Grove project is a hotbed for trouble. Who wants to stop the development?

They should have let her sleep. 1952: the end of the paddlewheel riverboat era. Two men decided to rebuild The Gypsy Queen.

12 years ago four kids found something in the woods up the old Mill Road. Now someone found it again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vivian Munnoch Books (and Roxy the photobomb):

 

They heard noises in the basement.

They thought it was over. Then Willie Gordon disappeared.

It started with a walk in the woods … on a stupid boring no electronics and thank you very much for ruining my life camping trip. Madelaine’s life will never be the same.

Roxy aka The Big Dumb Bunny

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Photo by Perchek Industrie on Unsplash

When is your story ‘enough’ of whatever it needs to be? When is it sci-fi enough? Fantasy enough? Enough romance, gun slinging, drama, steampunk; whatever the genre is?

 

On the surface the answer might seem easy. Toss your characters a few hundred or thousand years into the future and imagine a world with tech we don’t have now. Throw in some extraterrestrial planets and beings for good measure. Maybe push them back into the past in a historical setting complete with the lack of tech and medicine, period clothes and speech, and some historical drama. Invent a world with magic and mythological creatures and, wham bam thank you Ma’am, you have a fantasy story. Monsters, be they vampires and werewolves or other imagined monstrosities; seemingly impossible monsters or the all too real ones that thrive in some humans’ black souls, and you have a horror or thriller. Throw in a few more cogs, spaceships, dragons, kisses, gun fights, romantic drama, or car chases.

 

But it takes more than a future setting and space tech to make a science fiction story. More than dragons, magic, and various Fae Folk to have a compelling fantasy. Romantic moments and unrequited love alone do not make a romance the reader wants to read.

 

While the make or break of the story is and always will be a compelling storyline filled with rich characters, diverging strings of narratives woven throughout, and the roller coaster ups and downs of drama; that is not the complete picture. Science tech, fantastical creatures, love and romance, those are the things that categorize your genre.

 

But what actually makes the genre, and the story?

 

A good start is to get your head into it. Fully and completely; head, heart, and soul; into both the genre and the story. Weave that insidious web of treachery around your unsuspecting, or fully cognizant suspecting, characters. Push your characters to the brink, draw them back to safety, then push them a little further until they surely must break.

 

Even then, when do you know it is <insert genre> ‘enough’?

 

Is there truly an answer to this question?

 

Readers and writers alike of any given genre may feel they have the answer. I don’t. I struggle with the same question too.

 

I write dark fiction. Horror, thriller, things that don’t just go bump in the night, but may be the very stirrings of the nightmares that keep some awake in the dark. But is it enough? Is it thriller enough? Horror enough? Scary or gross enough?

 

Dark fiction is an encompassing realm that embraces all things dark and sinister. Twisted and deviant. It runs the gamut from shock and grossness to subtle whispers of fear. Fantastical or fanatical monsters imagined and real. Supernatural and remarkably, or unremarkably, all-too scarily human. It subverts all genres it infests into its peculiar twists of blackened souls and fears.

 

But is it enough? Is the story dark and twisted, terrible and traumatic enough? Is it too much? Who decides if it is dark enough? Thriller or horror enough?

 

I have yet to write something that scares me. So, is it ‘enough’? Will it, or can it, ever be?

 

 

Keep writing, my friends.

 

 

L. V. Gaudet Books:

Do you know #WhereTheBodiesAre?
Disturbing psychological thriller

Learn the secret behind the bodies.
Take a step back in time to meet the boy who will create the killer.

Everyone is looking for Michael Underwood. HMU picks up where the Bodies left off, bringing in the characters from The McAllister Farm.

Sometimes the only way to stop a monster is to kill it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Garden Grove project is a hotbed for trouble. Who wants to stop the development?

They should have let her sleep. 1952: the end of the paddlewheel riverboat era. Two men decided to rebuild The Gypsy Queen.

12 years ago four kids found something in the woods up the old Mill Road. Now someone found it again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vivian Munnoch Books (and Roxy the photobomb):

 

They heard noises in the basement.

They thought it was over. Then Willie Gordon disappeared.

It started with a walk in the woods … on a stupid boring no electronics and thank you very much for ruining my life camping trip. Madelaine’s life will never be the same.

Roxy aka The Big Dumb Bunny

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Write this scene, any feel, writing style; any genre. This is a rough draft writing practice.

Photo by Daniel Lincoln on Unsplash

 

Paradise

 

The sun sparkling on the sea behind him in a dancing promise of hope fed into the lie that is the beach paradise. The breeze barely breathed on the softly swaying palm fronds. It was perfect. Each second we faced off it felt increasingly too perfect. Off.

This man, who refused to give his name, stood resolute in his defection from the normal. His eyes were narrowed in determination, or perhaps against the sun. His face held no real emotion. Not anger or determination. He just was.

“It’s all a lie,” he said. “Your world. The sea, trees, even this.”

He knelt and scooped up a fistful of sand. He stood again and held the fist out towards me as though I should take it. I could only stare at that closed fist. He waved it towards people in the distance, roaming slowly up the beach.

“They are a lie. Toxic.”

“They’re just people,” I said.

He shook his head slowly at my foolishness. He seemed saddened by my failure to see. This man, this stranger in a weakened paradise, thrust his fist toward me again.

“You would take strength from this… this false promise of a better tomorrow. It never gets better. It’s just another today. This earth,” he started letting the sand fall in a slow stream from his hand, “is weak. It’s is poisoned, pale.”

“It’s pale because it’s sand.”

He stared at me, pale sand trickling in a soft sieving from his fist.

My focus on his face and that falling sand, I did not see the twitch of his shoulder muscle preceding his body moving until it was too late. He had me by the shirt, fabric twisted in his fist as he yanked me off balance towards him, holding me up with seemingly impossible strength.

“I will show you then.”

My mouth gaped open in silent shocked protest; he rammed his fist at it. I was certain he meant to punch me in the teeth, but instead he was shoving sand into my mouth. I choked and gagged on the surprise of it, on its crunchy grittiness and the though in my head of its uncleanliness.

The sudden lurching of my heaving stomach felt like a gut punch. My eyes watered and my limbs felt weakened.

He released me then, letting me fall limply to the ground where I mewled and pawed weakly at the sand. The same sand that was inside my mouth, my throat. I coughed and it was sucked into my lungs, choking me with its grainy dust.

The burning foulness set in then, my tongue and mouth on fire, the sand eating through taste buds like dull acid.

Pawing at my mouth only made it worse. Mewling and simpering weakly in the sand, the granules clung to my hands and I only managed to shove more inside my mouth. My throat screamed with it and I moaned, gasped, inhaling it deeper into my tortured lungs. I couldn’t cry out. Could only gasp weaker as the strength and all of my feeble fight left me.

I lay in the sand softly moaning, stomach dissolving and lungs struggling. My nose was pressed against the sand, breathing in its subtle saltiness.

“If you are still here tomorrow you will be dead,” he said simply. “This place will poison you.”

He walked away and did not look back.

I would have swore I was already dead.

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Photo by Riccardo Mion on Unsplash

The other day I talked to a young budding writer with a kind of problem that can afflict writers of all talents, ages, and experiences. Perhaps especially so of a less experienced writer.

You might call it a writer’s block or any of a thousand names. This writer’s issue is that she gets through the beginning, the first two or three chapters, and then gets stuck. She is a linear writer, writing from start to finish, and at this point can’t push through the insurmountable wall that comes up.

She can’t think what to write next. Where the story needs to go. What the characters should do. It’s not for lack of thinking out the storyline. She does plenty of that, hours of planning, plotting, and working out an outline. She is convinced the writing is bad, the story, plot, characters, all of it. It needs to be fixed; that she needs to go back and not edit it, but completely rewrite it or even scrap the story altogether.

I’ve read some of this writer’s short pieces and she is not a bad writer. Inexperienced, yes, but not bad.

In this case, the block sounds like a combination of the desire for perfectionism and being filled with doubts. No surprise there. The story needs to be perfect before it’s ready for publication, no writer should settle for less, and doubt is natural.

The challenge is pushing past this wall to keep writing. For me, if I’m stuck, I’ll jump to writing another scene somewhere else in the book. Oh, the horror for a linear writer for whom that feels utterly unnatural and twisted.

 

So, how does a linear writer push forward without jumping scenes? I gave three suggestions.

  • Deeper outlining. Taking the outline to the next level can serve multiple purposes. Absorbing yourself in the details can help you forget the feeling of disappointment or failure with those first chapters. It grounds you in the story and characters. And, when you feel stuck because your mind won’t let go of those worries to let you write on, the more in depth your outlining, the more you give yourself to work with. You can’t tell yourself you don’t know what needs to happen next when you’ve detailed it in your outline.

 

  • Writing practices. I’m a fan of suggesting doing writing practices. Flash fiction, micro fiction, random scenery and scenes. My suggestion to this writer, who feels as so many of us do the drive to get this story done, was to use it for writing practices. Write little backstories about characters, places, and details of the world being created in the story. Things that will never be in the actual book and nobody is ever going to read. This will help with the character and world building, as well as finding her voice in the story. And the most important thing is that practice makes you better.

 

  • This is the toughest piece of advice. Get over it. That’s it. I’ve been there too, stuck and feeling

    Photo by sydney Rae on Unsplash

    like writing is impossible. You just can’t form the words in your head. You’ve inconceivably lost the ability to focus, to think, to make coherent things happen in your head in relation to storytelling. You have to just make yourself get over it and force yourself to write. Write something, anything. It doesn’t have to be good writing because editing fixes that. The challenge here is to get over the need for perfection, get over letting the self-doubts control you, and push on. Push through that wall and just write.

 

Keep writing, my friends.

 

 

L. V. Gaudet Books:

Do you know #WhereTheBodiesAre?
Disturbing psychological thriller

Learn the secret behind the bodies.
Take a step back in time to meet the boy who will create the killer.

Everyone is looking for Michael Underwood. HMU picks up where the Bodies left off, bringing in the characters from The McAllister Farm.

Sometimes the only way to stop a monster is to kill it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Garden Grove project is a hotbed for trouble. Who wants to stop the development?

They should have let her sleep. 1952: the end of the paddlewheel riverboat era. Two men decided to rebuild The Gypsy Queen.

12 years ago four kids found something in the woods up the old Mill Road. Now someone found it again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vivian Munnoch Books (and Roxy the photobomb):

 

They heard noises in the basement.

They thought it was over. Then Willie Gordon disappeared.

It started with a walk in the woods … on a stupid boring no electronics and thank you very much for ruining my life camping trip. Madelaine’s life will never be the same.

Roxy aka The Big Dumb Bunny

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

What do you do when you just don’t know what to write?

 

It happens to all of us. Okay, maybe not to Stephen King (but it probably has at some point even if he won’t admit it), however it happens to the rest of us. You sit down to write and . . . your mind is blank. That’s where I came up with the idea for this subject. I couldn’t think of anything, so I decided to write about that.

 

But if you really wanted to write, you would just sit down and write. Right? If only it were that simple. The reasons for the blank mind syndrome are as varied as we writers trying to write are.

 

 

Perhaps the biggest culprit is self-doubt. Who hasn’t faced off to that one at some point? You might not even recognize this is the problem because self-doubt can be a sneaky thing. It is the anti-muse of a thousand wicked faces. You don’t know if you can do it. You question how to start, what to write. Will it be garbage? Will anyone like it or are you wasting your time? And those are only a few easily recognized symptoms of self-doubt.

 

No one is going to want to read it. No one will like it. Will even you like it? You doubt you’ll ever be published anyway, or find that ever elusive agent you need to get your work considered by the big publishing houses. You can give yourself any of thousands of excuses that all boil down to one simple thing . . . self-doubt.

 

 

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Time is not on your side. We all get that. Life is busy. How many things are you juggling in your daily life? Full time or part time work; maybe both with two jobs. School, maybe both school and working; homework, studying, meetings, and volunteering. Family, extended family, friends, and pets. Household and life chores, running errands, and meeting your own basic needs.

 

Before you know it day after day has been sucked away and you haven’t had a chance to even think about writing. And, we all still need a little downtime to catch that favorite show, read a book, and just have a little bit of fun and time to unwind from the hectic everyday.

 

In the constant whirlwind of life it’s too often the just for you things like writing that get pushed back and left behind.

 

 

The story has stumped you. Fiction or nonfiction, prose, essay, short or long, whatever it is, sometimes it just stops us dead and can’t move forward. You can stare blankly at it all you want, but that inspiration just won’t come. Maybe you feel something is off, but cannot pinpoint what.

 

I always find that for me if it feels like something is off, then it turns out something is off. Maybe I need to delete the entire beginning, or it might work better moved much later in the story. Something somewhere is off track so the pieces just aren’t fitting together right like trying to force in puzzle pieces that don’t go there. Scenes need to be moved or removed, details expanded on, and bridge scenes created to fill in gaps in the story.

 

Twice I have taken the drastic step of actually tearing up and deleting an entire story, scrapping it completely because it was going nowhere. They still haunt me.

 

 

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

You’ve been away from writing for too long. It can be hard to get back into it after not writing for a while. You’ve been hit by the lack of time, and now it’s compounded with self-doubt. Or maybe life just got in the way and you sidelined writing. Whatever the reason you took an extended break, you feel like you haven’t written in so long that you forgot how.

 

Or maybe writing has been that dream you wanted to do, but just have not managed to actually start yet. Does that mean you are not a writer? No. In the dry technical term of the definition, you do actually have to write something to have written. But self identity is a powerful thing and is what drives you to be a writer. Think of the age old saga of the chicken and egg. The chicken must lay the egg to birth the chicken, but the chicken came from an egg laid by a chicken, so. . . Are you a writer because you felt like a writer and were driven to write? Or because you wrote, which you would not have done had you not been driven to it?

 

 

Regardless if you are having an extended dry spell, have yet to dip your toes into your dream of writing, or are facing off against the inability to make the words flow, the result is the same . . . you are not writing. So how do you get back into it? Or start in the first place? Let’s explore some tips.

Photo by Sven Brandsma on Unsplash

Getting back into writing can be like riding a bike. You never really forget how, but you can feel pretty rusty at it and need to get back that sense of balance and relearn the comfort zone. That takes time and practice.

 

It doesn’t have to be good. Not everyone can write a carefully thought out perfectly planned and executed word by word draft of perfection. If they did, odds are pretty good they actually wrote and rewrote it over and over in their head before committing it to the proverbial paper. The magic of editing fixes all . . . later.

 

 

There is power in small. This is one of my favorite project tools. It’s the same trick I used when overdue schoolwork snowballed out of control for my kid in grade school, or when one of my kids is overwhelmed by the size of a large project. I also use it when I just can’t think what to write when trying to work on a novel, although it probably works better if you actually outline first. I write mostly long fiction. The whole project can be daunting.

 

It is also an effective tool to combat writer’s block in all its forms. Where to start? Start small.

 

Pick a scene. If you have to number scenes and draw a number from a hat, then do it. If it’s something more epic those numbered scenes can be a mix of scenes, locations, characters, peoples or creatures; or anything else. Whatever you picked you must write. Block out everything else to do with the story, write it and own it. Put everything you have into it and make it the best little piece of writing you can. If it doesn’t fit, you can fix that later with editing. You know you’ll be editing and revising it anyway.

Photo by Soragrit Wongsa on Unsplash

 

You don’t have to write chronologically. So what if you can’t think of what to write in the next scene? Is it better to not write and mope over the next scene or keep writing? If you can write something, anything, then do it. Maybe you are on chapter two and the only inspiration is chapter 32. Go write that chapter 32 scene. The rest will fall into place in its time.

 

 

My favorite rule in writing is ‘break all the rules’. There is an overabundance of so-called ‘writing rules’. From the ‘proper’ writing rules of formal writing handed down by the generations before our time to new rules being invented on the fly, rules are everywhere. The one thing they all have in common is that in writing no rule fits every single situation.

 

Sometimes it’s our own perception of what the rules we are supposed to follow are that holds us back from writing. That ingrained fear of breaking a rule. What would our grade five English Language Arts teacher think of us? What would our mothers think? Oh, the horror.

 

Be a rebel. Get reckless. Break the rules. You are not writing a business letter to the CEO of your company or formal fifth grade essay on a book you don’t understand. You are creating literature art. Feel it and let the rules go. Nobody even has to know or read it. It can be our dark little secret. You decide when you are ready to let someone read it.

 

 

Schedule time to write. Ten minutes here, fifteen there, or multi-task it during waiting time. Everything else you do daily has at least a loosely planned schedule. You get up at a certain time to go to work or school. Meals are eaten around a certain time. Maybe you don’t really have anything to do during a spare or coffee or lunch break. Do it while you are waiting for the bus or during the bus ride. When I’m waiting for an hour during my kid’s boxing class, I’m sitting there writing or editing. Maybe you decide lunch on Tuesdays will be your writing block. Once you schedule it, stick to it. It becomes easier when it is habit.

 

 

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Use writing prompts. They are useful when you want to write but don’t have a specific project. A prompt is a tool to get the writing juices flowing. There are scores of writing prompt tools online; everything from random title generators to first lines to subjects or pictures to write about.

 

The point of a writing prompt is to make you write something, anything, about something random. If you can’t get going, start by describing it in great detail, down to every last scuff, scratch, and imagined imperfections that may be hidden beneath the surface. How it must feel in the hand, its heft and balance. How it smells. How it makes you feel to look at it. Imagine who might have conspired to create such a thing; what might have motivated them. Who might have labored to build it? Who would buy it? For themselves or someone else? For pure purposes or mischief? How did it come to be right there in that spot, in that condition, perhaps abandoned or lost, or intentional?

 

 

Edit your work. So what if you haven’t finished writing it? Who cares how long it has ‘collected dust’? Just pick it up and start working through editing it. You have to anyway. Research any little thing. This gets your head back in the game and on the story or poem, or whatever you are writing. This trick doesn’t always work for me the first time I sit down to edit. It might be the third or fourth time, but inevitably the new story ideas start to flow.

 

 

Write something else. If you really are stuck, move on. Work on writing something else and keep that writing momentum going. Your nagging sub-conscious will probably be worrying at that other piece in the background. Go back and revisit the work you are stuck on. I have multiple WIPs going all the time.

 

 

L. V. Gaudet writing hat

Create a writing trigger.  You are entering dangerous territory. Really, you are. Call it a writing trigger, focal object, behavior modifier, your process or routine; or your ‘writing hat’. Anything that works goes, within reason. Let’s keep it legal. The point is finding something that flips that writing switch on, naturally or trained. Like a bedtime routine for toddlers, it switches your brain into writing mode.

 

Maybe it’s going through certain steps to settle in to write, using a particular object, or a certain place you write. Learning to flip that switch will turn on the writer’s brain and its creative juices on command.

 

The problem with this is dependency on an object, routine, or place. Whatever you trained yourself on, if you make yourself too reliant on it, you risk being unable to write without it. Like George Stark’s Berol Black Beauty pencil (Stephen King’s ‘The Dark Half’). Thad Beaumont was an anxious writer, so he invented the pen name George Stark and the writing switch (and Stark’s author ‘thing’ to make him famous), the Berol Black Beauty pencil. Without that very specific pencil, he could not be Stark and could not write like Stark. Unfortunately, because it is a Stephen King story, the fictional Stark became real and sought to terrorize and murder his creator, Thad. Hopefully your writing trigger doesn’t do the same. Fortunately, the Berol Black Beauty pencil does not exist today.

 

 

Get an accountability buddy. Also called a ‘nag’. I’m my own best and worst nag. It could be as simple as marking a deadline on a calendar or making a phone alert; it could be posting promises on your social media, or someone who will regularly ask you about your writing progress. The point is having that niggling in your head droning on at you, “Write . . . write . . . write.” How embarrassing to always have to say, “yeah, sorry. I didn’t write again this week.”

 

Photo by hannah grace on Unsplash

Just write. There is one tried and tested way to get out of that blank mind no writing funk. You have to find a way to write. It doesn’t matter how or when. It doesn’t have to be good. Just. Write.

 

Force yourself to sit down and write something. Anything. The more you make yourself write, the easier it will come. By making yourself write you can spur ideas. I started with *(blank)*, literally. I banged my head on the desk a few times (figuratively), tried to force an idea, and finally settled on, “Fine, I’ll right about not being able to write anything.”

 

I started writing that and as I did, ideas for other things came to me. Reasons for the mind block beget ideas. Thinking of how to break the cycle of being stuck beget more ideas. And now I have a list of other possible future topics. And whatever you are writing, when that other inspiration strikes note it down for later.

 

 

L. V. Gaudet Books:

Do you know #WhereTheBodiesAre?
Disturbing psychological thriller

Learn the secret behind the bodies.
Take a step back in time to meet the boy who will create the killer.

Everyone is looking for Michael Underwood. HMU picks up where the Bodies left off, bringing in the characters from The McAllister Farm.

Sometimes the only way to stop a monster is to kill it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Garden Grove project is a hotbed for trouble. Who wants to stop the development?

They should have let her sleep. 1952: the end of the paddlewheel riverboat era. Two men decided to rebuild The Gypsy Queen.

12 years ago four kids found something in the woods up the old Mill Road. Now someone found it again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vivian Munnoch Books (and Roxy the photobomb):

 

They heard noises in the basement.

They thought it was over. Then Willie Gordon disappeared.

It started with a walk in the woods … on a stupid boring no electronics and thank you very much for ruining my life camping trip. Madelaine’s life will never be the same.

Roxy aka The Big Dumb Bunny

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Photo by Maddi Bazzocco on Unsplash

Photo by Maddi Bazzocco on Unsplash

It’s the start of the new calendar year. Are you going into it wondering if you are ready to publish? Convinced you are definitely ready? On the fence?

 

Wherever you are sitting on that question, moving from writing and editing to publishing is a big step. So, what if you are ready? What do you do now?

 

First, is to make sure you really are ready to take that next big leap.

 

 

 

If you are writing shorter projects: articles, short or flash fiction/nonfiction, poetry, etc.; you will likely find the rules on readiness for publishing less strict for some publications. Check their requirements before sending your piece in. And if it does not say otherwise, assume they want articles that are complete and edited to perfection, although that does not mean they won’t ask for revisions. Fiction submissions usually need to be completed work.

 

 

Photo by hannah grace on Unsplash

Photo by hannah grace on Unsplash

If you are writing a full length book, it’s going to take more work to make it ready for publication.

 

Pitching to a publisher with a book idea in the expectation of getting an advance to then write the book is almost certainly going to leave you lying flat in the depths of rejection. Unless you are Paul Sheldon (author of the Misery series in Stephen King’s 1987 novel Misery, made into a movie of the same name), or some other movie or book character, this is unlikely to result in a contract.  Big name authors with a track record of best sellers may score that advance based on an idea they haven’t written yet, but for the rest of us this is not how it’s going to work.

 

Whether you are writing fiction or nonfiction, your best option is to send that advance-seeking pitch to an agent, not a publisher. A small publisher may indulge you with a smile and nod, but they are unlikely to sign a contract for an unseen unwritten manuscript by an author whose work they don’t know. And, if you want to get in with the big publishers, you need an agent.

 

As an unknown or little known talent, your best option is to write the book first, perfect it, get it edited, and then pitch it. This way potential publishers and agents can see the quality of your writing.

 

 

Photo by Hannes Wolf on Unsplash

You wrote a book, but is it ready to publish? The answer to that is the answer to this question: is it edited to perfection? It is not enough to write a book. It needs to be written well, to hook and pull the reader in, make them yearn for more with the ending of each page. Editing and developmental errors can ruin this and your chance of being signed on with the publisher.

 

The book market is rife with editing mistakes from the big name authors at biggest publishing houses down to the smallest self-published author. They happen. People edit and people are fallible and let’s be real here, writing and editing a book are huge undertakings. You also don’t really know how much that publisher is actually investing in paid editing, so you want your book as perfect as you can make it before you submit it. Heck, I was published with a small press who claimed to have a paid editor. I suspect their editor was more fictitious than my characters; at least they have some form of life breathed into them through the pages of the books.

 

What kind of editing do you need?  All of them.

 

Photo by Makarios Tang on Unsplash

Photo by Makarios Tang on Unsplash

The four main types of book editing are (in the order they should be done):

 

1) Developmental Editing: This is a structural and developmental edit of . . . everything; including a critique of the essential elements of the story: plot, story structure, setting, timeline, characterization, pacing, and of course, presentation and marketability. You may have already rewritten your manuscript in whole or parts before this, but be prepared to have it stripped down to basics. You may do so again after the beta readers have read it and given you feedback. This is where you might find yourself re-ordering or rewriting events and chapters, reimagining characters, tweaking your story arc, and other major revisions. This will include line editing, copy editing, and proofreading, but does not replace those necessary steps afterwards. With the revisions that will be done, you will still need the following editing steps.

 

Note: at this point you should have or be enlisting beta readers to give you feedback on your story. You may have to go back to the developmental editing on parts or all of your book after their input.

 

2) Line Editing: Line by line edit focusing on the flow, tone, and style of writing. The goal is to clean up unnecessary verbosity, tighten sentences, and fix awkward sentences and paragraphs for readability.

 

3) Copy Editing: Essentially it is text editing. This is a word by word edit to find and correct spelling, punctuation, grammar, language, syntax, typos, etc. This should be done after you are satisfied with the story structure, plot, settings, characterization, and so forth, and have no further changes to the story.

 

4) Proofreading:  The final editing of the book ‘proof’. This is the last look at the print ready book proof before publication to catch any missed typos and formatting gaffes.

 

 

Photo by Ivars Krutainis on Unsplash

Photo by Ivars Krutainis on Unsplash

Your book is perfect. Now what? Now that you have let beta readers at your book and have done further revisions and had all the forms of editing done and maybe done again, your book is ready to publish. Now you need to decide how you want to publish. For some, the old school large publishing house is the only way they want to go. Others prefer the total control of self-publishing. There are also the in-betweens; small publishers, Indy presses, and hybrid options.

 

1) Large publishers. These are the ‘you need an agent’ publishers. They typically do not take unsolicited manuscripts, and by solicited that means coming from an agent who has already vetted the author and their book as something that publisher might be interested in looking at. They also are more likely to expect an instant best seller and less likely to settle for anything less. You write the book, and they put in all the expenses to publish it and take the risks of whether or not it will make money.

 

2) Independent presses are publishing companies that operate solo. They are not part of or operating under the umbrella of a large multinational or conglomerate corporation. These can be large or small publishing companies.

 

3) Small press. The title basically describes what they are. These are smaller independent publishing businesses. They don’t have the large finances behind them, which also increases the risk of them going out of business in the tough world of book publishing. They are unlikely to offer an advance and that’s okay, because an advance is borrowing against future royalties you have not yet earned. It also means they don’t have the same corporate weight in getting your books into bookstores as the larger presses do. The good news is that you don’t generally need an agent to query them on your behalf. Small presses are usually quite happy to discuss publishing contracts directly with the author and are more likely to take a chance on an unknown author or book that does not fall neatly into the mainstream popular market. Like the bigger publishers, they pay the expenses and take the risks, but you are likely to sell fewer books.

 

4) Hybrid publishing occupies the space between traditional publishing and self-publishing. It runs in various models and is called by different names. Hybrid publishing is a newer variation on the publishing business and can involve a larger publisher, independent or not, or smaller publisher. Whatever you want to call it, the premise is that it is a hybrid of traditional and self-publishing; a cooperative agreement between the author and publisher that involves some financial investment from the author. The author has to pay for some of the services to get their book published, generally in exchange for a higher percent of the royalties. The author will also have more control over their book than under a traditional publishing model. This should not be confused with a ‘vanity press’, a term for a predatory company preying on the author’s need to be published (considered ‘vanity’ long before modern marvels like computers and typewriters made being a writer easier).

 

5) Self-publishing is the do-it-yourself of publishing. This is all on you. The author is solely responsible for all the costs and risks of getting that book published. You are your own publisher. There are a lot of services out there available for everything from the four types of editing to typesetting and formatting your files for uploading both to print book and eBook. There are artists and stock photos, and the cover designers to make them into your book cover for you. You are also on your own to market your book or hire a company to market your book for you. Self-publishing authors often utilize POD (print on demand) tools and/or eBook publishing. Self-publishing is your most costly option as far as monetary investments go. It is also probably the hardest to find success at, since you don’t have the name of a known publishing house behind you.

 

 

Whatever publishing route you choose, make sure your manuscript is one hundred percent perfect and do your homework. Research the publisher or service you are planning to use. Look for reviews, Better Business Bureau complaints, and anything good or bad online. Check out the covers of their other books to make sure they look like professional quality covers. How easily found are their books? Are they professional in their dealings with you? And above all, never sign a contract without being one hundred and ten percent sure of it. If you are unsure of the publisher or the wording or a contract in general, the online writing community is an invaluable source of help. So is hiring a publishing contract lawyer.

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You’ve likely heard it, that you must build your platform. While a lot of us know what that is, not everyone does. In its simplest description, your platform is your (mainly digital now) imprint on the world. Don’t think of it as your ‘popularity points’. It is not you (and not literally, I hope) standing there waving your arms and shouting for attention. What it is, is what kind of a following you have.

 

Some will argue a platform simply is, but really it could also be argued that it takes multiple forms. Like weaving story threads together, all of these things and more come together to build your author platform. Each part of your author platform gives and takes support from each other.

 

When a potential agent or publisher looks at you, your platform is the likelihood of your book selling in the mass quantities that make it worth their while.

 

Your digital platform is your presence online and how likely new and existing readers are to come across your name or go out of their way to follow you. It is everything from your Facebook author page, Twitter, and Instagram, to your Amazon author page, Goodreads, your name appearing in Google searches, and your blog posts and website. Every like, share, and comment online is building your author brand.

 

Your product platform is the work itself that you do, your writing regardless of its form, or whatever services you are offering. This includes public speaking engagements.

 

Your professional platform is your level of professionalism and the quality of your work you put out there, and that doesn’t just mean your writing, editing, and book cover or the services you provide, although a high level of professionalism in those areas is a necessity. It is also the level of professionalism you show at every stage and in every face. It is how professional you come across online, in person, letters, socially, and, yes, in your actual work. This is also memberships in organizations.

 

Building a platform involves creating your author brand. It is what people think of you. Your contacts: who they are and how many. It is you connecting with your audience, both existing and building it larger.

 

Everything is an opportunity to build your brand and platform. If you are doing the circuit of craft markets and genre events (ie poetry slams, SciFi, fantasy, and other genre conventions … the list is endless), use every chance you have to schmooze. Meet people, talk business, be sociable and friendly, mention what you do, make connections both professionally and with your potential fan base. Have a stack of business cards with your social media author links that you can hand out to potential peers and fans so they can connect with and follow you. You can get cards made up for a very reasonable price with Vistaprint (they constantly have coupon codes for deals!) and other print on demand business product printers.

 

Hint: When you are making your own business cards, remember to increase the brightness and contrast if there is a picture. Like book covers, it will print darker than it shows on your computer screen.

 

 

Think before you post. One wrong rant can derail your reputation as a writer and a person. In social media groups and on your professional pages be courteous, kind, and respectful. The impression you give when you communicate in social media is your online brand.

 

 

 

Think about the ways you can build your author platform (this list is not inclusive of every means):

  • Figure out your target audience and cater to them
  • Blog
  • Build an email list and send out newsletters (but don’t SPAM them!)
  • Social networking / social media
  • Write articles or columns
  • Do guest contributions to others’ blogs and websites
  • Public speaking appearances and readings
  • Membership in professional organizations
  • Interviews
  • Podcasts
  • Visit book clubs
  • Find places to do book signings (craft markets, conventions, libraries, stores, etc)
  • Schmooze and hand out your social media links business cards
  • Book readings
  • Put out more work. This is probably the most important. Keep working and putting it out there.

 

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Photo by Olivier Guillard on Unsplash

For some reason, NaNoWriMo entirely aside, November seems to be the busiest month every year for me. It’s the season of winter craft sales for those doing that circuit. If anything goes sideways at work it is always November (for me, at least). At home it’s the beginning of Christmas planning, decorating, gift lists, baking, and trying to figure out how to make that Christmas budget stretch farther than humanly possible. Even notwithstanding that, November just seems busier at work, home, and everywhere.

 

And then, just to make a busy month more so, we have NaNoWriMo. I hope you fared better than me. With working Monday to Friday at the ‘pays the bills’ job, my commitments to the Manitoba Writer’s Guild, and working doing book events and playing catch-up on the weekends, my NaNo time amounted to a random hour or so, dwindling to that in a week if I’m lucky.

 

Yet we writers persevere and push on, counting those words and plugging in five minutes here and ten minutes there of writing. The stress builds as our word counts rise, perhaps falling above or below the curve of 1667 words per day of the NaNo arc.

 

By November 30th you feel like you need to decompress or your will implode, or maybe explode, with that self-imposed pressure. It can be hard to put it down after obsessing over that project for thirty straight days. So, how do you do that?

 

As a general rule, I don’t let myself look at or even think about that NaNo book for two months. (This year will be different since I split it between multiple works in progress and essentially had to give up the ghost mid-November and accept failure). But this does not mean I take a months long break from writing.

 

 

Photo by Nicholas Green on Unsplash

First, breath! It’s over. You did it! You survived National Novel Writing Month. Let yourself take a well-deserved breather. Take a bubble bath with a glass of wine or binge watch something cringe-worthy. Whatever your go to relaxation method is, you deserve it.

 

Focus on another writing project. Whether it is outlining a new project, editing a finished one, working on an existing one, poetry, short or flash fiction, articles, it does not matter. While you are backing off the manic pace of NaNovember, put some of that drive and habit you gained into keeping a writing routine going.

 

Accept that your NaNo project may be junk and move on. It’s okay to feel like you wrote trash and you won’t be alone in that feeling. Heck, a lot of first drafts will incite that even with meticulous time and care put into them. And that is exactly what it is, a first draft. Do not dwell on it (yet). It’s not a waste of time or of writing. Editing fixes all (usually).

 

Think on what you learned through NaNoWriMo. What did you discover about yourself and your writing strengths and weaknesses? What will make next year’s challenge more survivable? How can you use it to improve your daily life and writing?

 

Through December put that compulsive drive into family and the holidays. After all, it is the season and a very busy month too, and you probably neglected them just a little through NaNovember.

 

January is the month of … Exactly! You will have made your New Years resolutions and maybe even meant it when you said them. You are probably already thinking of how you will get out of them, am I right? Keep that writing routine going. Life marches on.

 

Photo by Kristijan Arsov on Unsplash

 

March is when I traditionally revisit my NaNoStory. This is when I finally let myself look at it. First with an editing savagery that would do my Celtic/Viking ancestors proud. No sentence is safe. Over time that will work into the more finely detailed edits of spiffing the story up all pretty and cultured from developmental and structural edits to copyediting, line editing, and proofreading. Whether March comes in and out like a lion or a lamb, it’s editing madness month! Why do I wait two full months? For the same reason I will put a manuscript aside for months or longer – to come at it with a fresh eye.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Online articles for writers:

https://thewritepractice.com/after-nanowrimo/

https://prowritingaid.com/art/294/Life-After-NaNoWriMo%3a-Facing-the-Technical-Edit-Like-a-Pro.aspx

https://thewritepractice.com/nanowrimo-over/

https://justwriterlythings.com/blog/a-writers-guide-to-life-after-nanowrimo/

 

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Photo by Ryan Sepulveda on Unsplash

November. Are you ready? Will you spill yourself heart and soul out onto the written or virtual pages this month?

It’s November. That month where the world grows gloomy and cold, commuters begin their winter trek in the dim twilight or somber darkness, seeing little of daylight in their false indoor lights, and the long shadow of winter is upon us. Some of us are wallowing in regret from eating all that sweet Halloween candy bliss we had to panic re-buy last minute before we get tricks for not treating the ghouls, princesses, prancing unicorn ponies, and Ninja Turtles racing door to door October 31st.

Leaves have turned shades of yellows, oranges, and reds, like a burned effigy to summer, and fallen crisp and dry to the ground to house the creatures surviving the winter outside. Soon, tangled strings of mostly working lights will be pulled out to create a carnival of Christmas color.

November is the month of remembering those lost to us in forgotten wars of the past and the sacrifices made by both the living and departed veterans of yesterday’s and today’s battlegrounds.

It is also the month of awareness for too many causes to list; Movember (men’s health issues including prostate cancer), pancreatic and other cancers, crohn’s and colitis awareness, national domestic violence awareness, fall prevention, … let’s stop there.

What else is November? For some us it is the month of mad writing spurts, NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Are you ready for it?

 

Photo by Florian Klauer on Unsplash

For those unfamiliar with that strange term “NaNoWriMo”, it is an acronym of the first few letters of each word for this wordy month: National Novel Writing Month.

NaNoWriMo is about writing and getting out of your comfort zone. It’s about putting aside meticulously plotting and thinking out each word and sentence carefully before committing it to literary art.

The month long writeathon pits participants (Wrimos) against their own inner doubts with the goal of writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. That’s on the short end for a novel, and it doesn’t actually have to be a novel. It can be anything so long as you meet that goal of 50,000 words. You could be finishing a work in progress or starting something new; writing any genre or type: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, short stories. There is also a youth version of NaNo. The kids set their own word goals.

 

It’s free to participate and is a worldwide massive internet-based writing competition. If you win, you get to download virtual badges. If you lose, you can boast participation badges. There are no monetary awards and no magic publishing button at the end of the rabbit hole. Wins are awarded on a self-declaration basis. That is, you upload words to a counter that determines if you won or lost. So, yes cheating is easy and is done; but, who are you really cheating?

 

Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

NaNo is about challenging yourself to put aside thought and free your inner muse. Write. That’s it, just write. It doesn’t have to be good. It doesn’t have to be planned or outlined. It’s an exercise in freedom to write without constraint, to simply let the words flow. You might be surprised at what you learn about your own writing ability if you have never done this before.

 

More importantly, NaNoWriMo is about encouragement, support, and awareness. Yes, and having fun in a weird writerly way that non-writers will probably never understand.

 

From the NaNo Org:

“NaNoWriMo is a nonprofit organization that supports writing fluency and education. But it’s also a social network for writers like LinkedIn is for job professionals, or DeviantArt is for artists, or Facebook is for moms whose kids accept their friend requests only to provide them with “limited profile” access. It tracks words for writers like Fitbit tracks steps for the ambulatory. It’s a real-world event, during which 900+ volunteers in places like Mexico City, Seoul, and Milwaukee coordinate communal writing sessions in thousands of partnering libraries, coffee shops, and community centers like… well, like nothing else.

 

It’s internet-famous. It’s a community-powered fandom (before there was the Beyhive, or Nerdfighters, there were Wrimos). It’s a start-up incubator for novels (books like Water for Elephants, Fangirl, and WOOL began as rough drafts in November!). It’s a teaching tool, it’s a curriculum, and its programs run year-round.

 

Whatever you thought NaNoWriMo was, it is more than that.”

 

 

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

How the heck do you survive NaNovember?

 

50,000 words in 30 days is daunting. It’s the mountain of incomprehensible impossibility. The molehill the ant could not imagine to build. It is also only 1,667 words per day (rounded off). That’s only 69 1/2 words an hour. You got this! Okay, accounting for the need to sleep, eat, go to work/school, and all that, you might get two or three or four hours a day in, so realistically 417 to around 830 words an hour.

 

But hey, who really needs that eating and sleeping thing, right?

 

The NaNo community is very supportive of their fellow Wrimos. There are groups online and off to find encouragement in. You can get endless writing prompts and cues for NaNo sprints. A sympathetic shoulder to lean on, you go girls/guys/theys, and even encouraging articles from known authors. You can buy self-affirming posters, coffee and travel mugs, shirts, buttons, and other swag to litter your writing space with reminders.

 

The trick is not to let yourself feel overwhelmed. Give yourself a daily goal. If you can exceed that, great, you have a buffer for those days that will invariably come where you flop or cannot write at all. Life does have a habit of getting in the way of best intentions sometimes. The more wordy buildup you can get early on, the better you stand later. (I usually flop around the three-quarter mark of the month.)

 

Every word adds up.  If I get half a dozen words in before racing out the door in the morning, it’s a win. Write a scene on your phone notepad, or a real notepad, while your bus or ride trundles along through traffic. I strongly recommend against that if you are in the driver seat. Nope, no, not a good idea. And, it’s likely illegal wherever you are. (It definitely is illegal here in Manitoba!) Coffee breaks, lunch breaks, waiting for that ride home; every bit of scene, dialogue, and drama adds up. I will write in bits and spurts in the evening too, between supper, house stuff, fur babies, other commitments, and family.

 

Photo by Andraz Lazic on Unsplash

Find local NaNo gatherings where they encourage sitting quietly and writing, offer writing prompts and tips, and muse support. Hide away in a quiet corner in a coffee shop where you can disappear from family and friends (although you might want to let them know where you are so they don’t call the cops when they don’t hear from you for hours), focus, and unplug from the constant buzzing bleeping of your phone alerts to every post and picture of your extended online life.

 

The other trick is to ignore that inner editor. They can have at it later to wreak havoc on whatever you write. Don’t let yourself question or second guess the words spilling out. There is no going back to edit, revise, or fix anything, not even spelling. You can run it through the dreaded Spellcheck later, that nefarious creation which I’m sure was spawned with evil intentions and purposely tries to make you sound like an eighteenth century professor who hasn’t a wit about what half the words in existence now mean, or how people actually talk. You can rip, revise, and edit to your heart’s content – after the sun sets on November 30th and dawns on the crisp road gunk dulled snow of December 1.

 

If you’ve never tried it, don’t be afraid to give it a go. No one in the NaNo community will denigrate you for failing to reach that 50,000 word mark. You have nothing to lose, except maybe your sanity to the NaNo muse.

 

Don’t forget to join your local NaNo chapter!

https://nanowrimo.org/

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