Monday, October 28, 2013

Disarray Leads Writer Astray



When the itch to write wouldn't go away, I decided to do something about it. I bought how-to books to see what writing was all about. That's when I learned that writing is a process, and not to expect  results overnight. To enjoy the process itself--to have fun--and the end result will take care of itself. At the time, I had no idea what the writing process would entail.

Over time, a writing process did develop into a tool I use every day. Recently, however, I've taken the leap from writing short stories and articles to writing my first book. Oh my, suddenly my calm, solid, reliable plan developed leaks! There was much I needed to know. And much in my life that needed to get organized if I was ever going to succeed. Below, I've laid out the step-by-step process I use and my most recent revelation in the hope that it will help you. Here goes:

My house needs cleaning, my office needs organizing, but so often I ignore all that and get right to work. I shove aside the books and papers that clutter my desk, or if I'm feeling particularly creative, I have been known to pop my WIP right on top and dig in, often for hours on end.
I've come to the page convinced that I've covered all the stops. I:
·         stack my notes so I can find whatever information I need

·        include with my notes an outline, whatever ideas have occurred in the shower or at 3:00 a.m., pictures I'm using for characters and scenes; in short, anything that helps me visualize where I'm at in my story

·         tune up by reading a few previous chapters or pages

·       gather the latest problem-solving I've done, which I attack in two ways, either by stating the problem head-on and thinking up solutions, or putting the problem aside and doing something else, like sewing, or taking a walk, or shopping; and take a break, knowing that at some point in my mind's restful state, ideas often present themselves for further investigation

·       sometimes have a seemingly insurmountable problem, so at night when I'm getting ready for bed, I write it out and read it several times, which I believe sends the problem to my subconscious, thus allowing my subconscious to work on it overnight

·       keep in mind that the toughest problems often take more than one day or night to solve. I continue this process while searching for a suitable solution

·         still don't like it, so I put it down and let it cool for a week or so

·         edit, polish and prepare the passage for my writing group and readers to critique

·         enlist the help of a professional editor when I think my draft is ready
The Missing Link
Before I opened the envelope from my editor, I thought all my draft would need would be tweaking. It needed much more than that, though. But I wasn't discouraged because I liked my editor's suggestions very much. But before beginning work, I made myself take an honest look at my work habits. I'd made writing such a priority that I got into the habit of not putting things away, telling myself I would finish a household job later, etc. I realized that even though I was sitting at my desk many hours each day, I was perhaps not as productive as I thought I was being. Meanwhile, the rest of my life had stacked up into a big, unorganized heap.
That's when I decided to get organized. I went to work right away. I cleared my desk, took care of unfinished business and sorted, cleaned, finished jobs and polished. Then I took a break. Once I returned to my work I realized that organizing everything else in my life had helped to organize my writing life, too, and after that, my WIP started to fall in place. To my Great List, I added: clean up and organize.

Being Organized = Being Productive
I look at my desk now as I write--it is not organized. Enter the beauty of chaos. I think I need some chaos to create. So, I go back and forth, creating with chaos, taking a break to organize, and then creating some more until the need to get organized presents itself again. Creating and organizing take turns; I do each one separately.
Help from an Old Friend
As I busy myself with my new set of suggestions from my editor, I turn to an old friend, Julia Cameron, for inspiration. I don't know Julia personally, but had become a tremendous fan of hers when I first ventured down the writing path. After reading books on writing and publishing a few articles in our local newspaper, I discovered The Artist's Way. Each day I wrote my Morning Pages. Each week I took myself out on an Artist's Date. Gradually, the ideas rolled out on the page, and I began to sell in earnest. According to http://juliacameronlive.com/about-julia-cameron/, Cameron is "credited with founding a new human potential movement that has enabled millions to realize their creative dreams." I'm one of those millions. In the same article, Cameron strikes at the heart of the matter: "Most of us have no idea of our real creative height. We are much more gifted than we know. My tools help to nurture those gifts."
I looked Julia up on Amazon.com and was pleased to see that she had written follow-up bestsellers, Finding Water, The Vein of Gold, Walking in this World and The Right to Write; in addition to three more devotional-type books that I keep on my desk and refer to for inspiration, Heart Steps: Prayers and Declarations for a Creative Life; Transitions: Prayers and Declarations for a Changing Life; and Blessings: Prayers and Declarations for a Heartfelt Life.
Above all though, Cameron's memoir, floor sample, helped me round out my Great List of Bullets. floor sample reminded me of the value of MP's and I began to write them again, in different places that made me feel warm and whole, either with a steeping cup of tea first thing in the morning, or my last cup of tea at night before bed. And . . . Cameron wrote that she has found that writing three pages of a novel per day (in addition to writing MP's) makes her a productive writer. It doesn't sound like much, but she wrote that the three pages add up to a novel in a shorter time than one would imagine.
My take after finishing and thoroughly enjoying floor sample is, in addition to writing the MP's, to write those three polished pages each day, and then feel free to pursue other interests. If I happen to be editing a completed manuscript, I don't count the pages but edit in the same amount of time it would take to finish the three pages, and be done with it. So now, I've not only found a way to stop work and get organized in order to promote productivity, but I've learned to be satisfied with finishing three pages or their equivalent each day. Also, I've added in a good measure of throw-it-all-to-the-wind chaos. The bonus is that feeling satisfied with the work accomplished each day has actually re-energized the other aspects of my life; which in turn, as we writers know, only adds the fuel that feeds our writings!

Your take: I hope in some way your own creative process has been helped by this post. Please leave a comment with your thoughts. I would love to hear from you.
Next month: Keep a Personal Account of your Progress
Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 40 articles for children and adults, six short stories for children, and is in the final editing stages of her first book, a mystery story for 7-9 year olds. Publishing credits include seven biosketches for the library journal, Biography Today, which include Troy Aikman, Stephen King, and William Shatner; Highlights for Children; Pockets; Hopscotch; and true stories told to her by police officers about children in distress receiving teddy bears, which she fictionalized for her column, "Teddy Bear Corner," for the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office Crime Prevention Newsletter, Dayton, Ohio. Follow Linda on Facebook.
Labels: Julia Cameron's blog, An Interview with Julia Cameron

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Writing is Healing

Did you know that writing is healing? 

No matter what kind of writing you do, I am certain there is a healing component in there somewhere. You may not even be conscious of it.

Your story doesn't have to be limited to a journal or a memoir to tell it. If you've written a novel, perhaps your character development is a refection of your own life. Maybe you've hit your pain head on with a self-help book to assist others.  I have particularly found writing in allegory style to help me process pain.


Whatever your writing style, whatever your genre, studies have shown that writing is therapeutic.




Rochelle Melander, author of the article, "Heal By Writing About Your Trauma" (Psychology Today; November 21, 2012):
Many psychological and medical studies have shown that writing about difficulties and dreams helps people experience increased happiness, health, and productivity ... psychologist James Pennebaker wrote about the multiple research studies he has done on the transformative power of writing. He discovered that people who use writing to make sense of their traumatic life experiences felt happier and less anxious.

You may have suffered a traumatic event. Write.


You may be a worrier. Write.


You may be fearful. Write.


You may have unfulfilled dreams. Write.


You may be having a bad day. Write.

Let the ashes be turned into beauty. Not only will you be helping the reader to enjoy what you write, but you will very likely be helping yourself!


~~~



 Kathy Moulton is a published freelance writer. You can find her passion to bring encouragement and hope to people of all ages at When It Hurts -http://kathleenmoulton.com


Saturday, October 26, 2013

To Beat or Not to Beat


What is a beat? And what is its purpose? A beat is a little bit of action that can involve physical gestures. They are used to remind you of who your characters are and what they are doing. An example of a beat is:
            “Where are you going?” Charlie grabbed her arm, his fingers digging into her flesh.
They can increase the tension where needed or they can give the reader a bit of relief where the tension is really great.
            A reasonable balance is necessary or you can interfere with the flow of the scene. You have a scene where the dialogue is building the tension (example: an argument that is increasing in tension and building toward a critical moment such as a murder). Too many beats can interfere or disrupt the tension and make the murder scene less exciting. This can damage the flow of your scene and keep your scene from building. In other words, it can slow you pacing. The result can be the loss of your reader’s interest. So your goal should be a proper balance between dialogue and beats.
            Interestingly beats can be used to vary the rhythm of your dialogue. Remember, good dialogue has an ebb and flow to it. The areas where the tension is high you need to cut the beats to a bare minimum. If you have two high-tension scenes in a row, you should allow your readers to relax in the next scene with some quiet conversation containing more beats.
            If you are not sure just where to put a beat, read your scene out loud. Where you find yourself pausing between two consecutive lines, insert a beat.
            Beats can be used to define your character. A good example of this is body language. It can allow breathing room in an emotionally tense scene. To reinforce the point I’m trying to make, beats can accomplish three things: 1) They can increase tension; 2) They can allow breathing space for the reader; 3) They can define your character.
            In looking over your scene(s) there are some questions you should ask yourself:
            1. How many beats do I have? Try highlighting them. 
            2. How often am I interrupting the dialogue?
            3. What are the beats describing?
            4. How often am I repeating a beat?
            5. Do the beats help illuminate the character?
            6. Do the beats fit the rhythm of the dialogue? Read it out loud.

Faye M. Tollison                                                                                                                                                                              
Author of: To Tell the Truth
Upcoming books: The Bible Murders
                             Sarah’s Secret
Member of: Sisters in Crime
                    Writers on the Move

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Writing for Success

Writing is now big business. It has the world-wide 
stage, a global market. Spin-off businesses like 
tutors, publicists and agents spring up and prosper.

The writer and writing have always been  commodities 
to be marketed. The difference now is that more 
books are published per day than used to be 
published annually.

It is the best of times but also the worst of times for 
writers--and especially for those of us who choose 
to write fiction.



Difficulties of marketing fiction

Books for sale, photo by Peter Griffin, www.publicdomainpictures.net

In the main, fiction writers write to entertain, tell stories that encapsulate human experience. They have something to say--a message to share. This idea of theme pervades all successful writing.

But if you are writing to make money, you'll be very 
lucky to become one of the big hitters on Kindle, no 
matter what the marketers and publicists tell you.

You are competing against millions of books, both new and from successful authors' backlists as well as those which are sourced from the public domain, or are written to order.


So how can you make money to fund your writing?



Think about it--money is being made in copy writing, 
ghost writing and to some extent blogging or content 
writing for websites. 

Profit can be made from spin-offs--webinars, 
teaching writing courses, even writing lots for others.

But often the best money can be made at home 
through networking. Talk to librarians, local schools, clubs, businesses. Discuss courses/ visits and talks on your area of expertise. 

Offer to run a reading and writing hour in school or as 
an after-school activity, suggest a talk on self-
publishing to attract more people to the library, 
promote your services as a business writer,
enhancing staff communication skills or providing new website content on a regular basis.

As a bonus, whatever the result, you'll be gaining new experiences,meeting new people  and finding even more ideas and customers for that new novel.

 Anne Duguid is a freelance content editor with MuseItUp Publishing and she tries to pass on helpful writing,editing and publishing tips at Slow and Steady Writers The photograph is by Peter Griffin and can be found at www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=4176&picture=books-for-sale


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

November Writing Challenges

Next month, I will be participating in Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo) http://taralazar.com/piboidmo/ and National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) http://nanowrimo.org/.

Registration for PiBoIdMo starts October 24. You can sign up now for NaNoWriMo. Both events are online and start November 1 and end November 30. Winners are eligible for prizes. See each website for details.

PiBoIdMo began in 2008 by children’s author, Tara Lazar. Her book, The Monstore, was released in June of this year by Aladdin, an imprint of Simon & Schuster.

Chris Baty started NaNoWriMo in 1999. His book, No Plot? No Problem! A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days, is a recommended read for NaNoWriMo participants. 

This will by my first year for PiBoIdMo. This is my second year for NaNoWriMo. It will be a challenge trying to do both!

Will you join me?

Debbie A. Byrne has a B.S. in Mass Communication with a minor in History. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and is working on her first children’s book.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Create Your Own Personal Writing Retreat





A quiet cabin hidden in the Poconos
Luscious meals prepared by a five star chef
No cell phones
Great writing coaches
An eclectic group of talented and generous writers



These are the ingredients I remember from Room to Create, a writers retreat in 2011 put on by the Highlights Foundation.  This fall a reunion retreat was planned for this group.  Sandy Asher and Linda Oatman High were once again the facilitators.  Unfortunately, I was unable to attend this year. 
Disappointed that I couldn't attend and realizing that my writing life needed a jump-start, I decided I would give myself a personal retreat.  I took a day off work, and committed it to writing.  I did not leave the house or clean the house. My house definitely needed cleaning and there were tons of errands I needed to run, but I was giving myself the gift of a writing day. 

After breakfast, I sipped my coffee and sat down in front of my computer.  What should I work on?  I opened one of my picture book manuscripts.  I closed it.  I opened one of my non-fiction projects.  I closed it too.  I decided to spend the day organizing my writing life.  I reviewed each manuscript to determine its status.  Some of my manuscripts are at publishing houses waiting for feedback; some need massive revisions, while others are in their final stages.  Then there are the projects that are little more than research notes and beginning ideas.  

I am someone who always has many writing projects in the hopper.  I know some writers start a writing project, dig in their teeth, and keep at the one project until it’s done.  That’s just not me.  I dig in, chew and gnaw at my manuscript, but then I need to put it down, let it ferment while I work on another project.  In order to keep track of my many projects, I use a mind mapping program called freeplane.  So, on this personal retreat day, after I reviewed each manuscript, I updated it on my mindmap.  Here’s the outline of my map for my children’s writing without the specific projects.



I didn't get a ton of writing done during my personal retreat, but I did reset my focus and determine where to put my writing energy.  Instead of feeling overwhelmed, by what I need to get done, I felt empowered by what I had accomplished.


If you’re feeling like your writing life needs a reboot, consider a personal retreat.

Mary Jo Guglielmo is writer and intuitive life strategist. For more information check out:

http://facebook.com/DoNorth.biz  

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Who Am I? Finding Your Writers Voice

I remember listening to a tape recording many years ago. The speaker, Mike Warnke, was sharing of his experience as a new Christian and speaker. He determined to be the very best . . . and studied the top speakers in the field.

He imitated Billy Graham as he thundered out an evangelical message. 

He spoke with the authority and passion of Kathryn Kuhlmann, as he preached to the sick and invited them to come forward for healing. 

He urged people to step out in faith in the style of Oral Roberts. Yet he had little or no response.

One day, in frustration, he asked the Lord, "Why don't I get results when I preach?"

To this, he said, the Lord replied, "I don't know. Who are you?"

We can laugh, but isn't that what we do as writers? We long for the inspirational writing ability of Karen Kingsbury, the gift of story telling of Jerry Jenkins and the creativity of J.K.Rowling. We try to use the poetic prowess of Helen Steiner Rice, the tension-creating techniques of Brandilyn Collins and the light-hearted approach of Max Lucado (voted best Christian Writer of 2009*). 

And we wonder why we don't get results!

Each one of us have our own abilities and gifts. We have strengths unique to our own writing style, and we have weaknesses. When we compare ourselves to other writers, we have no hope. We can't be as good as them. Chances are we won't make the same mistakes as them either. We can't write like them. We're not them.

As you read, admire the writing style of the author, but don't try to copy it. Develop your own style. Find your own voice.

Here are some suggestions:

Study writing techniques. Learn all you can. Put what you learn into practice. Find out what works for you--and what doesn't. Then have the freedom to use the techniques in ways that suit what you're trying to say.

Write. And write. And write. The more you write, the more you will develop your own techniques and voice. Don't try to say it like some great author would. Say it like you. Free write. Put your pen to paper - or fingers to keyboard, and go flat out. Don't stop for a break. Just get those words out.

Edit and polish your work until it's the best you can do. Put it to one side while you work on something else. Then come back to it. Read it aloud. Does it flow? Does it sound natural? Is this the way people talk? Most importantly, is it how you talk?

Look for advice, critiques, and professional input. You will never get to a point where you don't make mistakes. You will never become a writer who doesn't need an editor. The greatest writers are those who recognise their need for critique and are open to suggestions. Gather a group of people who are prepared to offer that advice. Join an existing critique group, or form your own on-line support group.

Choose the best time for you. Figure out what are the best hours, the time you are most productive, and write during those hours. Do the mundane tasks of writing, and there are many, during the other times. 

Read in the genre you want to write. As you soak in books by experienced authors in your field, you will start to pick up techniques and tricks you enjoy--and learn what you don't. 

Write for an audience. And that audience is you. Write stories you want to read. Write articles that will help you. Describe scenes you enjoy reading about. Create characters that bring you pleasure.

Enjoy your writing. If it becomes a drudge, put it away. Do something else. Start another project. Go for a walk. Do some gardening. If you force your voice when you're singing, you'll lose it. And when you start to force your words, you'll lose your writer's voice. 

Finally: 
Aim to become the best writer you are capable of being.

And always remember: There are millions of writers in the world today. But there is only one you.

Over to you: Who are you? What is your real writing heart? Share an answer below and help us hear your very own heartbeat.


Further reading on the subject of voice:

SHIRLEY CORDER  lives a short walk from the seaside in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, with her husband Rob. She is author of Strength Renewed: Meditations for your Journey through Breast Cancer. Shirley is also contributing author to ten other books and has published hundreds of devotions and articles internationally. 

Visit Shirley on her website to inspire and encourage writers, or on Rise and Soar, her website for encouraging those on the cancer journey. 

Follow her on Twitter or "like" her Author's page on Facebook, and if you tell her who you are she may even follow you back.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Grammarly and #GrammoWriMo – Join In

Grammarly has a great idea. If you’re not aware of what grammarly.com is, it’s “an automated proofreader and your personal coach.” And, it corrects “up to 10 times more mistakes than popular word processors.”

But, as I mentioned, Grammarly has a great idea and it goes beyond proofreading. Grammarly is introducing a new take on NaNoWriMo with it’s own verson, #GrammoWriMo.

Here’s the gist of it, taken right from the Sign Up page:

If two heads are better than one, imagine what a whole community of writers can do! Let’s find out together. In November 2013, Grammarly will organize the largest group of authors ever to collaborate on a novel—we’re calling the project #GrammoWriMo.

How cool is that!

When Grammarly’s Nick Baron sent me an email asking if I’d help spread the word, I immediately jumped on board. I love the idea.

In NaNoWriMo each author writes his/her own novel. In #GammoWriMo a large group of authors will create one book. Imagine the collective juices flowing, the muses flying!

If you’d like to join in on this unique writing journey, the submissions cutoff date is October 25th.

To learn more and to sign up today, go to: http://www.grammarly.com/blog/2013/nanowrimo/

This is not an affiliate thing, it’s just a unique idea.


~~~~~
P.S. To keep up with writing and marketing information, along with Free webinars, join us in The Writing World (top right top sidebar).

Karen Cioffi

Friday, October 18, 2013

A Slam Bam Finish

Some days I want to stay in my soft jammies and cuddle my cat just like the character in my picture book and not think about marketing, social media, or the business side of writing. But alas, like all of you I write, and I need to make money from that skill so thinking about marketing, social media and the business side of writing is a must. Sooooo, folks there are only 10 Saturdays till Christmas and that screams to me that there are only 10 ish weeks until the end of 2013. If I want to rally and make the most of the rest of the year for my writing I need to do a couple of important things, some of them may be slightly painful.

 I need to FOCUS. Now more than ever I need to stay focused on the tasks at hand. The end of the year is not time to dilly and dally but rather time to look long and hard at what I still need to do to meet my writing goals for 2013. I still have a few submissions floating around out there so one I need to check the calendar and see if it is time to send them out to the next publisher on my list, etc to get those current submissions into the hands of someone who may read them before the end of the year.

Once I have checked those floating masterpieces and updated my submissions list, next I need to list the most important tasks left undone. I have invoices that need to be sent, two query letters to fine tune, and at least one story that needs to be sent to my critique partners. Little tasks like these sometimes get put aside for another day and it is time to get it done. I also have to fine tune my target list of publishers and look again at my list of topic ideas to see if there are last minute article ideas I can send out.

Next, my weakness is promoting myself so this is the painful part for me. Promotion is the number one thing writers need to do to finish strong in 2013. I need to get my media package fine tuned for the hospitals and Childhood cancer centers, research centers, and key parents who want to help me promote my new book. I have difficulty asking for help from others and you may too, but the reality is the books we write will not sell themselves. We must ( meaning me) help get the word out by asking for reviews, sending copies to key contacts, and using social media including Facebook and Google + to say " hey I have something you have got to see. "

Finally, as we go into the holiday season with all of the busy activities of family and friends take time Rest. While you are resting and appreciating your blessings also take time to Plan. Planning and  mapping out your writing and promotion goals for 2014 will help you  to see where you have been this year and where you want to go in 2014. I have many ideas swirling in my head for 2014 and focusing and planning will be key.

 Here is hoping you all  have a slam bam finish to 2013.



Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Writing and the Balancing Act


A little over a year ago, I requested authors share their stories of how they were able to keep their lives balanced, and a small volume of shorts was born called The Write Balance.

As a writer the ability to get it all done seemed to elude me. The balancing act of not only family, work and writing, but also of writing for pleasure (otherwise known as my novel writing) with my professional writing (writing non-fiction for trade journals, clients and publications for money), and marketing (putting myself out there).

Now with the Holidays looming, a daughter's wedding in a few weeks and an upswing in clients the lessons I learned are even more important. I'll share a few of the tips I learned.

1. Take them on one at a time. My tendency is to worry and fret and then worry some more over what I will write and when I will write it. I have found listing the items in need of my attention can give me the space I need to not try to worry them all into creation at one time.

2. Exercise creates a clear space. I have found that any type of activity - walking, yoga or running - eventually forces me to let go of all my thoughts. That means that when I return to a project, I return with a clear space and many times a different perspective that propels me forward at a much more rapid pace. It's also good for my body.

3. Eating and drinking are good for you too. Living in Phoenix, dehydration is a concern. Sitting at my desk for hours and hours as I get into the groove, is not healthy and ultimately takes its toll. Not to mention that sometimes the time taken away from work, again allows me to see things differently and come back refreshed and with new ideas.

4. Know yourself. For me, creative writing is best done early in the morning. I reserve this time for my novels and first drafts of non-fiction. Marketing is my least favorite challenge and so it comes next as I need to be more focused to get it done. I finish my day with editing. In some strange way it feels more pleasurable to end my day this way and, as I enjoy it, I do not put it off.

5. Give yourself a day off here and there. Yep, its mandatory. Okay, not the whole day. You can still use your notepad to write thoughts and bits of dialog, but give yourself permission to relax and not think of any of your characters or deadlines.

Which is what I'll be doing this wedding/holiday season. I've already scheduled my days off. I love being organized & balanced!
______________________________________


D. Jean Quarles is a writer of Women's Fiction and a co-author of a Young Adult Science Fiction Series. Her latest book, Flight from the Water Planet, Book 1 of The Exodus Series was written with coauthor, Austine Etcheverry.

D. Jean loves to tell stories of personal growth – where success has nothing to do with money or fame, but of living life to the fullest. She is also the author of the novels: Rocky's Mountains, Fire in the Hole and, Perception. The Mermaid, an award winning short story was published in the anthology, Tales from a Sweltering City.  

She is a wife, mother, grandmother and business coach. In her free time . . . ha! ha! ha! Anyway, you can find more about D. Jean Quarles, her writing and her books at her website at www.djeanquarles.com

You can also follower her at www.djeanquarles.blogspot.com or on Facebook

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Three Reasons Why DRM is Your Enemy

There’s no avoiding the subject of Digital Rights Management (DRM).  If you’re an author who has a book being published by a traditional publisher you’ll often get told whether your e-book will have DRM.  You may be asked if you want your book to have it.  If you self-publish, you’ll have to decide at the front end whether you want it.  Kindle Direct Publishing asks you to make that choice as part of your set-up, as do many other platforms.  So what is DRM? DRM is a range of technologies that restrict what consumers can do with your electronic book (or product) once they buy it.  There are different types of DRM, the most common being restriction on copying, sharing, and printing purchased books.  This may involve encryption of the material, password protection, limits on format changes, and other ways to lock the data.  If you’re the author of copyrighted material, this may seem like a good idea – limiting illegal downloads and keeping your work secure.  However, at the end of the day, the real losers in DRM are the authors and readers. Here are three reasons why: 
1.      It’s not at all hard to break the DRM code, rendering your books unprotected.  There are a whole bunch of DRM codebreaking apps, tools, and scripts that can remove DRM. Of course your average honest reader isn’t going to bother with these tools – it’s just not worth the time when there are so many good books available that are DRM free.  But for those who really want to pirate your content, print and sell your book (good luck with that), or give a copy illegally to someone, DRM won’t make a bit of difference. 
2.       DRM is expensive. It costs more to produce an e-book with DRM. So royalties to authors from books with DRM are often lower. Costs to reader are often higher. Because DRM is complex to manage from the reader’s point of view, there are often much higher support costs as readers attempt to make books work on their readers.  All those costs become part of what it takes to get your book out. 
3.       DRM is a pain in the neck for legitimate readers. This is the biggest problem with DRM.  DRM is almost always specific to e-reader and format. A Kindle book with DRM can only be read on a Kindle.  If you buy a book for your Sony e-reader but get a Kindle for Christmas and want to read it on that, forget it.  If you’re a book reviewer like me and want to read a DRM book on your Kindle but refer to a copy in .pdf on your PC when you're writing the review, forget it.  Often a DRM book can’t be read on an upgraded e-reader of the same make. The different formats make moving from device to device difficult enough – you don’t want to make it any harder for readers to get at your wonderful words. Of course readers can crack the code if they want to (see point #1), but your average reader is not going to want to spend time cracking technological code (I know I don't) when they could be reading a DRM-free book.
I know that it’s a scary world out there and no one wants their content stolen, but as the great marketer Seth Godin famously said, the enemy is not piracy, but obscurity.  If you make it hard for readers to read your books on the variety of devices that we all like to use, you won’t minimise the risk of piracy, but you will certainly increase your chances of obscurity.  DRM counters sharing (the most important driver of fame), it impedes reading, and it limits the value of your ebooks.  In this flooded market where getting your book into readers’ hands is the name of the game, DRM is to be avoided at all costs. 

Magdalena Ball is the author of the novels Black Cow and Sleep Before Evening, the poetry books Repulsion Thrust and Quark Soup, a nonfiction book The Art of Assessment, and, in collaboration with Carolyn Howard-Johnson, Sublime Planet, Deeper Into the Pond, Blooming Red, Cherished Pulse, She Wore Emerald Then, and Imagining the Future. She also runs a radio show, The Compulsive Reader Talks. Find out more about Magdalena at www.magdalenaball.com.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Finding the Story that Surrounds the Pivotal Event

Whether you are writing a memoir or developing character background, this is an exercise that can help you find the “story.”

First make a list of pivotal events from your (or character’s) life: for example, first day of school, a move to a new home, a first kiss, first loss of a family member, etc.

Choose an event from your list. Free-write for 10 minutes what comes to mind in response to these questions:

• What did you (or your character) desire in your life before this pivotal event?
• When and how did this desire begin or intensify significantly? Could this be the beginning of your story?
• Did you have a struggle in trying to fulfill this desire?
• Did you learn anything from the struggle?
• How did you change after the final pivotal event? • What did you do that indicated this change?
• What did you realize when this stage in your life came to an end?
• What do you perceive now as you remember it? When you read over your answers, you may begin to sense a story: a desire, a struggle and a conclusion.

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A native Montanan, Heidi M. Thomas now lives in North-central Arizona. Her first novel, Cowgirl Dreams, is based on her grandmother, and the sequel, Follow the Dream, won the national WILLA Award. Heidi has a degree in journalism, a certificate in fiction writing, and is a member of Northwest Independent Editors Guild. She teaches writing and edits, blogs, and is working on the next books in her “Dare to Dream” series.


Monday, October 7, 2013

The dossier - who is this character?

Guest post by Dr. Bob Rich

The dossier is a useful tool for a novelist. It can be entirely in your head, but if there are lots of characters, you may find it essential to write down the relevant details for each. That helps prevent glitches like Susie's son changing from Jim to John, or Mr Cartwright's occupation being posthole digger in chapter 5, and postman in chapter 25.

How you organise this material is up to you. I often have a set of notes at the start of the novel, to be deleted upon completion (or when the character is no longer relevant).

What goes into the dossier? Everything you as author know about the person. As more details emerge, you can add them.

You can see many examples of dossiers in published novels. A new character enters, and the author gives an instant summary of the details that will be relevant to the story. Here is an example:

Harold Smith walked into the room. He was a man in his 50s with a potbelly and salt-and-pepper hair, an overworked accountant with immense experience but questionable morals. Jill introduced me to him, saying, "Martin, meet Harold, just the man you need for your project."

This scene is clearly from Martin's point of view (POV). That is, in order to BE in the story, I as reader need to create the temporary illusion that I am Martin. The author has created a shady accountant for me to employ for some nefarious purpose, and I (Martin) am just meeting him for the first time.

So, how do I know that he is "an overworked accountant with immense experience but questionable morals?"

My point is: the AUTHOR needs Harold's dossier in order to write about him. The character Martin has no access to this dossier. Therefore, to stay within Martin's POV, the author must avoid this statement. Giving Harold's physical appearance is fine, because Martin can see that.

Here is a second example:

Genevieve Rocker felt like wetting her pants from terror, as she looked into the black hole of the gunbarrel. As a lady of 75, with a lifetime of helping people in all walks of life, she was used to all sorts of hardships. Despite the many pains of her body, she wanted to live. Her thin body shook, her blue eyes glazed over in the expectation of instant death.

If you were terrified, expecting to be shot this instant, would you be thinking about your age, your past history of helpfulness and hardships, even the many pains of your body? Of course not. You would be in that present moment, entirely focussed on the current emergency. Genevieve will feel the same way. She is completely unlikely to be concerned with her body build or eye colour, or what her eyes might look like to someone else.

So, reporting a new character's dossier is a bad thing. It is an info dump, an author intrusion, and should be treated by amputation.

When a new person comes into your life, you immediately find out a few things: gender, approximate age, physical appearance, perhaps name, tone of voice, your automatic emotional reaction to this new acquaintance. Say Harry goes on a blind date, and meets Salicia. She is not going to hand him her CV, or biography, or her scores on various psychological tests. He will find out about her in dribs and drabs, as the occasion arises.

This is how it should happen with people in a book too.

About the author: Dr Bob Rich is an Australian storyteller, with 15 published books, 4 of them award winners. His latest novel, "Ascending Spiral: Humanity's last chance," is garnering a growing list of 5 star reviews, and a few 4 star. Check out his writing showcase http://bobswriting.com

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MORE ON WRITING

To Increase Your Chances for Publication, Submit Your Manuscript
Freelancers – Finding Real Writing Jobs
Dialog That Delivers

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Sunday, October 6, 2013

You Are Unique: This Writing Exercise Proves It

Image Copyright © 2013 Joan Y. Edwards

"You Are Unique: This Writing Exercise Proves It" by Joan Y. Edwards

You Are Unique. Your experiences make you different from others. You have different likes and dislikes.
If you have a snack bag filled with multi-colored M&Ms, each of you might choose the same color to eat, once or twice, but probably not with the entire snack bag of candy. If you made a design with the M&Ms before you ate them, your designs would be different. Why? You have different likes and dislikes. (Personal aside: You can personalize M&Ms for special occasions: http://www.mymms.com/default.aspx?)

Below are 15 words to use in this writing exercise. Even though each of you uses the same 15 words, the stories you write will be different. Your life experiences and interests decide what you write. Start a new story, add to an old story, or write freely as it comes to you, but try to use all 15 words in your passage.
Although the words are the same, the passages may differ in the following:
  • Genre
  • Characters
  • Dialogue
  • Conflicts
  • Senses
  • Emotion
  • Time
  • Place
  • Weather
There are verbs, nouns, and adjectives. I used http://www.wordgenerator.net to help me choose these words.

Find more exercises to stimulate your brain and put life into your writing in a book called, Writing Open the Mind by Andy Couturier. When you use random words, it stirs up wondrous experiences and helps you create passages filled with life.

This is a great exercise for writing groups that meet either online or in person. We did this exercise in our Savvy Wordsmiths Writing Group meeting in Fort Mill, SC. No one used the same characters or situations.

If you and another person have the same idea for a book, it will not turn out the same. Why? It will be different because each person is different. Enjoy being you. You are unique and a blessing to our world. Write and enjoy it.

Try this exercise. Ask a friend to try it, too. Compare your stories. I’ll bet they will be unique.

Directions for this writing exercise:
  1. Get out a sheet of paper (or open a new file on your computer)
  2. Print out this blog post.
  3. Take one minute to read, study, and think about the 15 words.
  4. Set the timer for 15 minutes.
  5. Write for 15 minutes making an effort to use all 15 words in your passage.
  6. Read your passage aloud at the end of your 15 minutes.
Enjoy yourself. You are a Master Writer. You have a gift. Go for it.

15 Words for This Writing Exercise
  1. spirited
  2. evaluate
  3. post office
  4. indulge
  5. newscaster
  6. muscle
  7. barrel
  8. incredulous
  9. slippery
  10. advertise
  11. annex
  12. sapling
  13. unveil
  14. tongue
  15. photograph
Now compare what you wrote with the passage I wrote at our writing group. It's in the comment area. Please do the exercise before you read my comment passage.

If you're willing to share your passage, copy and paste it into the comment area. It will be fun to read the variety of passages.

If you want to do this type of exercise again, you can choose 15 words at random from newspapers, magazines, wordsearch puzzles, or crossword puzzles, or your favorite books. Enjoy being you.

I'd love to hear from you.
  
          Celebrate your uniqueness.
                    Never Give Up - Joan Y. Edwards


Flip Flap Floodle, the happy little duck who Never Gives Up



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