Saturday, October 23, 2021

Autopsy of a First Novel


Contributed by Bonnie Cook

From its beginning in 2013 as a disembodied voice whispering in my ear, “Nothing ever happens in Oysterville,” my novel and I have been on a journey.  
    
I’ve always had an aversion to pretentiousness.  Well, my version of pretentiousness.  Phrases like ‘eats like’ and ‘I’ll do the fennel salad’ make me cringe.
    
For the longest time that was how I felt about the word ‘organic.’  Until it happened to me. Kind of how a friend’s opinion on undocumented citizens changed once her daughter’s husband turned out to be undocumented.  
    
Well, my new YA novel, Just Eve, was organic.

I was drifting to sleep and the whisper in my ear startled me. I had no idea from where it came or the story I would tell, but I knew where it would begin.

And from that inspiration a story grew.  

To be honest many stories grew, because Just Eve had three ugly stepsisters. When I look back on these drafts there’s hardly even a family resemblance, but something interesting happened.

The early drafts provided background that was necessary for me to understand my characters.  To know where they came from, secrets they held, quirks that made them unique.  It allowed me time to put to paper things I needed to know.  Often times the telling was slow and dull and even rambling.  And the rambling parts? Road trips that will be used in later novels.

I know my process was not efficient. Beginning with a story arc, character profiles, plot construction and story outlines might have cut my writing time in half.  And nine years is a long time.  But I learned so much in this writing process, in the slogging through, rewriting, dumping, and I am finding that my second novel is the recipient of all that hard work. It is coming along at a faster pace and with greater clarity.

This process has given me insight into myself as a writer.  It has given me confidence in my ability to grow, to learn, to change course.  I trust in the inspiration I get through meditation, intuition, and in the hard work of just plodding through and getting words on paper however they sound at first.  I found a supportive writing group that helped me focus on the story I wanted to tell, and I learned to trust my own voice while staying open to constructive criticism.
    
And so, yes, have a map.  But do not be afraid to meander off the path. Who knows where it will take you?
    


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

BG Cook lives the life of a nomad as she divides her time between London, California, and Minnesota - always on the lookout for new adventures and new inspiration.  She loves family, travel, yoga, all things spiritual, and curious minds. As a public-school educator for many years, her first love may always be teaching, but… she has fallen in love again! Follow her on Instagram @entradanotebooks and check out the first novel in The Entrada Notebooks series, Just Eve.


 

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Thursday, October 21, 2021

Is Book Publishing Like a Sprint or a Marathon?


By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin
 
Many writers want to publish a book. From my many years in publishing, I find few of them have thought about whether the process of publishing a book is like a sprint (something with a burst of speed) or a marathon (steady and consistent to complete the task). I often see authors who want to sprint to publication or sprint to get a book contract or a bestseller. Reality is that often it takes consistent, hard work to produce anything of excellence—the writing or the marketing. Authors are not overnight successes but instead spend years in the trenches faithfully working to get their work noticed and sold.

Recently a young author outside of the U.S. wrote and asked if a decision had been made on his manuscript. It had been less than two weeks since I had corresponded with this author and it took a number of emails until he gave me what I needed to submit his work. I told this author if he wants a “no, thank you” then I could do that right away but if he wants a “yes” with a publishing contract then that takes patience and time.

While there are many keys in book publishing, in this article, I want to emphasize four important areas.

1) You Need A Great Product

Too many authors want to dash off something and rush it into the marketplace. I've seen it in my own work and the work of others. Haste often makes waste or mistakes. Take the time to write an excellent book or book proposal. The book proposal is your business plan for your book—whether you are writing nonfiction or fiction—whether you are self-publishing or traditional. You need a plan and it is important to build the plan with a great manuscript. The writing has to be excellent. You need others to affirm that excellence before rushing it to the market. 

The devil is in the details. Are all of the details in place for your book before you take it to the marketplace? Does it have a great title? Does it have an attractive cover? Does the first page make me want to turn to the second page? Does the copy on the back cover, draw me to going to the cash register? Another author sent me a full-color children's book which had no descriptive information on the back cover. Yes it had a barcode and the name of the publisher but nothing to draw me to buy the book. It is a huge omission and lowers the standard for this product. Don't make these basic errors because you are eager to get your book to the market.

2) You Need to Build an Audience

You've poured a lot of energy and effort into your book. Will you have readers or people who want to read your work—and who are excited about it that they tell others? When someone tells another person about a book, that is called “Word of Mouth.” It is golden when it happens and takes work from the author. As an author you can't lean on your publisher to market your book and build your audience. You have to take your own responsibility for marketing your own book. I understand the reluctance—and I've been there too but I tell every author as an acquisitions editor at Morgan James that they have 80% of the responsibility. Our publishing house will sell the book into the bookstores but all of those books can be returned if the author doesn't promote their book. 

I have much more detail and many more ideas in Platform Building Ideas for Every Author which is free (click on the image). 
   
3) You Need to Have Patience

The majority of book publishing is not quick. You send your material to editors and agents yet do not get a response or receive a response months after your submission.  The reality is that it takes time to build consensus among colleagues to issue a book contract or to make a contract offer to publish. As a writer you want to follow-up and make sure the editor or agent received your material and everything is in process. But in contrast, you do not want to push because most of the time when you push, you will nudge that professional toward sending you a polite “no thank you.”

Instead of pushing for a decision, you are better to begin another project. Write a one page query letter for a magazine article. Pitch a magazine editor to assign you to become a columnist. Begin a new book project or book proposal. This effort will remove your focus on the project which is under consideration. 

4) You Need to Have More Than One Project

If you have more than one proposal or one book, you will be less anxious about the submission and be able to shift your focus to the new project or new writing assignment. It will increase your own productivity in the writing world. 


How do you view book publishing? As a marathon or a sprint? I'd love to have your comments or any other way I can help you with this process. As an acquisitions editor, I'm constantly looking for good books to publish. Don't hesitate to contact me and my work contact information is on the second page of this link.

W. Terry Whalin is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. He has written for over 50 magazines and more than 60 books with traditional publishers.  His latest book for writers is 10 Publishing Myths, Insights Every Author Needs to Succeed. Get this book for only $10 + free shipping and over $200 in bonuses. On October 5th, his classic Book Proposals That $ell (the revised edition) released to online and brick and mortar bookstores. At the book website, you can get a free Book Proposal Checklist. He lives in Colorado and has over 190,000 twitter followers

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Techniques for Cultivating Creative Writing Ideas by Deborah Lyn


Make cultivating ideas part of your writing process. Creative writing needs inspiration—motivation will follow quickly to get that personal essay, story, or novel written!

“To stimulate creativity, one must develop the childlike inclination for play.” And
“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” Albert Einstein.


Whether we write fiction or non-fiction stories, growing our list of project ideas is vital. As our list grows and our process expands, we’ll foster descriptive writing techniques. We will use sense words—sight, sound, smell, taste & touch to enhance our writing.

So let’s get playful!

The “What If” game is great for exploring ideas outside the box.
“What if I could…?”
“What if my hero…”
“What if I had made a different _______________ choice?
“What if someone found out…?”
Continue to ask “What Ifs” to use now or later for inspiration.

Be curious with “Why” questions:
“Why a story instead of a poem?”
“Why set it in the country rather than a metropolis?” Rural vs City dwellers
“Why not write from a different perspective.
•    How would my favorite author describe this?
•    How would a four or five-year-old describe this scene?
•    Describe a scene from a fast-moving train or flying in a single-engine plane, or better yet, a helicopter.

•    Use story structure basics, then branch out to make it original, even inventive: A character struggles to overcome a problem, and meets with eventual success.
    -Jane Austen used this format to create great original variations. She borrowed and created new.
    -Heidi is another example: orphaned children journey to find a home
    -It’s a Wonderful Life, classic Christmas movie
    -Cinderella: cruelly and unfairly treated, in the end she’s the heroine

•    Try using TV listings, or movie synopsis as prompts to stimulate ideas
•    Magazine and online images can be great writing prompts, for story or free writing
•    Folktales retold your way
•    Coming of age struggles, confusion, and solutions
•    Contemporary prince or princess in love with a commoner
•    A school for superheroes to rescue ______________
Keep building your ideas list.
It’ll be hard to keep-up with the rush of thoughts!

Good practice points for a satisfying writing life:
•    Don’t wait for inspiration. Do something you love, it will spark ideas.
•    Set aside your best time to write for 20-30 minutes, make it an appointment and keep it.
•    Let go of perfectionism! It defeats playfulness.
     -Change things up—write by hand, write on scraps of paper, be messy, break rules, whatever works to stay playful!
     -Forget mistakes. You can fix them easy enough on the next draft.

Just Write!
Try Stuff, First Get It Written, Revise the Next Draft


See post: WOTM: 9.17.2021 Read Well, Creative Writing Resources, by Deborah Lyn Stanley


Deborah Lyn Stanley is an author of Creative Non-Fiction. She writes articles, essays and stories. She is passionate about caring for the mentally impaired through creative arts.
Visit her My Writer’s Life website at: https://deborahlynwriter.com/   

Visit her caregiver’s website: https://deborahlyncaregiver.com/
Mom & Me: A Story of Dementia and the Power of God’s Love on Amazon



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Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Using Psychology to Write Characters

By Mindy Lawrence

One of the first writers I fell in love with was Edgar Allan Poe. His gothic horror latched on to my mind. I was powerless to save anyone from going over the precipice. He not only got into the heads of his characters but also into the heads of his readers.

Using psychological information to reach out and grab your audience can create unforgettable characters that burrow into the psyche. Questions you can answer to create memorable protagonists and antagonists include:

What are my characters afraid of?

Is your character afraid of water and has to take a trip at sea? Is your protagonist raised by a family that strongly believes in hell and tortures them with the fear of going there? Fears like these can drive characters to do what they might not have done without their unconscious psychological upbringing. Decide what triggers those in your novel to fear.

What do my characters hate and why?

Did your protagonist or antagonist grow up in a household that hated cats? How about people or another religion or background? Making your characters try to overcome their faults (or carry through with them) can drive your story.

What are my characters’ oddities and what caused them?

When I think about oddities in characters, I think about Ignatius Reilly in A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. In the first few pages, we get a snapshot of Ignatius that we picture in our heads throughout the entire book. He hates so many things. He writes his worldview in Big Chief notebooks. He’s obviously unsound of mind but winds up solving a crime by accident.

What backstory affected my characters?

What does the character(s) go through before the story begins that causes them to react as they do? Were they raised in a cult? In poverty? In a well-to-do family? All this affects the way the character thinks and acts.

Is there any salvation for my character(s) or is the story destined to follow the path it takes?

Like Captain Ahab in Moby Dick, does his hate doom him from the beginning? Or like in Lord Jim does the main character find his own salvation and come to terms with his actions?

Characters that remain in our heads come from good development. Consider building your story using psychology to grab your reader, maybe forever.

Take some time to dig into the minds of your creations.


LINKS (For those not hyper, just copy and paste into your browser.)

Character Development Fears
https://unblockingwritersblock.tumblr.com/post/110467516538/character-development-fears

Imagined Human Beings: A Psychological Approach to Character and Conflict in Literature
http://plaza.ufl.edu/bjparis/books/imagined/imagined.pdf

What Really Drives your Characters?
https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/psychology-writers/201109/what-really-drives-your-characters

The Psychology of Character
http://theeditorsblog.net/2011/02/17/the-psychology-of-character/

How to Diagnose your Character
https://www.amazon.com/How-Diagnose-Your-Character-Depth-ebook/dp/B00CH3WERA

How to Craft Characters Scene by Scene
http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/how-to-craft-characters-scene-by-scene


==


Mindy Lawrence is a writer and artist based in Farmington, Missouri. She worked for the State of Missouri for over twenty-four years and has retired to her sumptuous home office where she’s writing, doing calligraphy, and making a mess. She has been published in Writers Digest magazine and interviewed by All Things Considered.

 

 



Saturday, October 9, 2021

Podcast Guesting: 10 Ways to Find Podcasts Where You Can Pitch Yourself



There's nothing like sharing your enthusiasm for your projects through a podcast. When you are interviewed - whether it's on camera or audio-only - you get to share your expertise, as well as talk about your books and your business. Plus, it's so much fun!

As an extrovert, I love interviewing - I host the #GoalChat Twitter chat, #GoalChatLive show on Facebook and LinkedIn, and The DEB Show podcast - and being interviewed. 

The challenge for authors, experts, and entrepreneurs is finding good podcasts, along with hosts who ideally share your interest, values, and energy.   

Last month, I wrote about how to be a good guest on a podcast, video show, or blog. In this post, I will share tips for finding podcasts to pitch.

But I am getting ahead of myself...
 

Here are 10 Ways to Find Podcasts to Pitch 

 

1. Check Your Podcast Player. What podcasts do you listen to? Are any of them a good fit for you as a guest? As a fan of a podcast you pitch, you are at an advantage, since you know the show.

Get Recommendations. You can ...

2. Ask Your Friends. Who has a podcast? Who listens to podcasts? 

3. Post to Social Media. (Same questions as #2.)

4. Ask Hosts. The podcast community is small. After you are interviewed, see if the host can recommend you as a guest to any friends.

5. Check Your Peer's Media Pages. See where your friends, as well as your competitors, have been interviewed.  

6. Suggest Podcast Swaps. Interview your peers and ask that they do the same. 

Do Podcast Networking

7. Join Facebook and LinkedIn Groups. There are plenty of social networking groups dedicated to matching podcasts with guests. Do a search. 

8. Sign Up for Podcast Matchmakers. Options include 

9. Go to Podcast Meetups. Groups, such as Speakers Playhouse and Podcasters Connect & Collaborate, run the speed-dating version of podcast pitching. 

10. Attend Online Mixers. Meet new people, so you can expand your network. You never know who the people you meet know... Then go back to #2 and #3.

* * *

Before pitching a podcast, be sure to listen to at least a few episodes. You want to have a sense of the person you are talking to and their beliefs. For instance, if you are a vegetarian cookbook author, the Meat America Podcast would not be a good fit. (Yes, a googled it. That podcast does exist!)

Once you find a podcast you like, write a review, tweet about it, and interact with the host on social media. That way, when they receive your pitch, it will not be from a total stranger.

When you pitch, you want to stand out. Be sure to personalize your email: call the host by their (spelled-correctly) name and reference something specific as to why you like the show. Share who you are, why you are a great fit for their podcast, and talking points. Bonus points for referencing your social media following and how you plan to promote the episode.

* * *

When you pitch yourself to be on a podcast, let your enthusiasm shine through. After all, you are doing the hosts a favor, as they are always on the lookout for great guests! 


* * *

What's your best tip for finding podcasts to pitch? Please share in the comments.


* * *

Debra Eckerling is the award-winning author of Your Goal Guide: A Roadmap for Setting, Planning and Achieving Your Goals and founder of the D*E*B METHOD, which is her system for goal-setting simplified. A writer, editor, and project catalyst, Deb works with entrepreneurs, executives, and creatives to set goals and manage their projects through one-on-one coaching, workshops, and online support. She is also the author of Write On Blogging and Purple Pencil Adventures; founder of Write On Online; Vice President of the Los Angeles Chapter of the Women's National Book Association; host of the #GoalChat Twitter Chat, #GoalChatLive on Facebook and LinkedIn, and The DEB Show podcast. She speaks on the subjects of writing, networking, goal-setting, and social media.


Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Writers on the Move Contributor Carolyn Howard-Johnson Talks Book Covers


 
 To One Degree or Another

Why and How Your Book Cover Is Always Your Business 

Most authors start dreaming about their book covers well before their manuscript is ready to publish. They start paying attention to what they encounter of the internet, which is often more disinformation than something they can or should use. One of the least helpful tells them that if they are going the traditional route, they should expect their publisher will not welcome their ideas or expertise (if any exists) to be used under their trademark. In fact, an effort on the part of the author will be an annoyance. Basically, they are told to butt out. Actually, the professional thing an author should do when they have a question is to ask—in the publishing process or—even better—in the contract-signing process.
 
My series of books for writers is a case where these naysayers were wrong. The publisher of Modern History Press made an effort to work with the book cover designer I used when I was self-publishing the series. We ended up with his designer and both publisher and designer accepted most of my suggestions or helped me understand why it wasn’t viable. In fact, occasionally they asked me for ideas or suggestions.
 
That is the reason authors—no matter how they hope to publish or how they end up publishing—will benefit if they start considering what their book cover should look like beyond what they see in their dreams.
 
Here are five things that an author can do to better prepare them for whatever role they play in the publishing process:
 
1.     We can learn a lot about what makes a good book cover by just looking at the best of them--in airport bookstore windows and in our favorite bookstores.
2.     We can learn a lot about what not to do by looking at book covers on Amazon where they are often only thumbnail size. I got a reminder about the importance of bookstores as I was scrolling through the books offered on an online book promotion service as I was trying to decide which books to retweet to my 40,000 plus publishing industry followers. I had to bypass many that might have otherwise worked for me but for lack of a prominent author's name on the cover. A cover must feature the name of the author big enough to be seen from a distance or in an image shrunk to accommodate the layout needed for online bookstores’ formats. That author name should be defined by color, outline, font style and more to be read. You’ll see some with the authors’ name in three-dimensional gold foil! Keep in mind you, the author, may one day be a star and it will be your name people remember, not necessarily the title of the book.
3.     Even poetry and fiction authors should watch how poorly (and well!) some book covers use subtitles. It’s a good idea to jot down ideas that occur to you and put them into Notes or some other file.
4.     Pay attention to the way front and back covers blend into the design of the spine. Having a hard delineation for what can be an imaginary line can cause big problems for a printer. (You may end up publishing independently and will be ahead of the game if you’re aware of this before your select your professional designer. You will be her or his partner and boss.
5.     Pay attention to the covers of already-published books in your genre. It will teach you what you like and what to avoid. 

So here is the new book cover of my recently published  second edition of my booklet "Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers" (Modern History Press). I broke the "rules" and suggested a larger author name for my problematical name, a very, very long one. I quickly learned, all my “advisors” had been wrong. Victor Volkman, the publisher, was able to magically improve it by using what is widely regarded as the most easily read font of all, Times New Roman, using more contrast in color, and choosing a font that doesn't take up a lot of space—that is the letters are naturally narrower than in some other fonts. And he did it by using a readily available font—no special, expensive font design needed! And we were able to keep the retail price of the book down by using an appropriate image from an online catalog. They are sometimes reasonably priced, but they are often free. You’ll probably have to poke around a bit on image services to find the perfect one for your book.


Note: I am fussy about what I called “canned images.” Some authors select something that other authors found useful, many others. See the suggestion about paying attention to books in your genre that have already been published.
 
Now you can do this for the next book you publish with Kindle Direct Publishing or anywhere else that offers handy (and frugal!) cover templates. Remember what I tell my clients. "You may love Stephen King.  But quick! Name all of his books. OK, name three." You can see that your readers remember you better than they remember your titles--even if you are as famous as King. 
----
Carolyn Howard-Johnson brings her experience as a publicist, journalist, marketer, and retailer to the advice she gives in her HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers and the many classes she taught for nearly a decade as instructor for UCLA Extension’s world-renown Writers’ Program. The books in her HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers have won multiple awards. That series includes The Frugal Book Promoter and The Frugal Editor which won awards from USA Book News, Readers’ Views Literary Award, the marketing award from Next Generation Indie Books and others including the coveted Irwin award. How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically launched to rave reviews from Jim Cox, Editor-in-Chief of Midwest Book Reviews and others:
 
“How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically [and other books in the series] could well serve as a textbook for a college Writing/Publishing curriculum.”

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Friday, October 1, 2021

Foreshadowing in Fiction

 


Foreshadowing is a literary device used to make the reader wonder. It gives the story a sense of mystery or anticipation. It can also create tension.

According to Literary Devices, using this device, “a writer gives an advance hint of what is to come later in the story." (1)

Foreshadowing is a great device to keep the reader involved in the story and the characters.

There are a number of foreshadowing strategies. Below are four of them.

An Approaching Event

An example of this type of foreshadowing is in “Walking Through Walls.” Wang (the protagonist) listens as his friend, Chen, tell how neighboring warriors kidnapped his sister.  

The reader surmises or anticipates that there will be an upcoming battle to rescue Chen’s sister.

The Pre-scene

A pre-scene hints at something on the horizon.

Another example might be a new student entering a classroom and another student eyes him up and down. Nothing else happens in that particular scene.
 
The reader automatically anticipates there will be trouble between the boys down the road.

In an article at Novel Writing Help, “a pre-scene is simply a smaller version of a larger scene to come. They are not significant by themselves, but they imply that there is something more spectacular waiting to happen right around the corner.” (2)

The Loaded Gun

This strategy is attributed to Russian author and playwright Anton Chekhov.

He said, "If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on a wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there." (3)

This type of foreshadowing doesn’t have to use a gun; it could be any object.

For example, suppose a boy is cleaning out the attic of a hundred-year-old home for a neighbor. He finds an old corroded coin. He absent-mindedly shoves it in his pocket.

The reader knows that coin is significant and expects something to happen pertaining to it in the story. If the writer is smart, she will fulfil the reader’s expectation.

The Prophecy

With this type of foreshadowing, a glimpse of misfortune to come from something that happens is given to the reader.

As an example, the albatross is a sign of good luck if seen by sailors. With the reader being privy to this knowledge, a sailor sees one fly over his ship at the midway point on every voyage he’s on. But, on this particular voyage, there is no albatross to be seen.

The implication to the reader is that there is going to be trouble for this sailor and this voyage.

Don’t Overdo It

While adding foreshadowing to your fiction story is an effective writing device, you don’t want to overdo it.

In an article at NY Book Editors, it explains that “to balance your story, there needs to be revelations and circumstances that catch the reader off-guard. If your reader is in a constant state of analysis [over foreshadowing], your pacing will suffer. To strike the perfect balance, introduce hints but then jolt your reader with something unexpected.” (4)

If you’d like to read more about foreshadowing and your fiction writing, check out the references below.

Foreshadowing is an excellent literary device when used properly. As mentioned early, it creates reader anticipation among other things.

References:

(1) https://literarydevices.net/foreshadowing/
(2) https://www.novel-writing-help.com/examples-of-foreshadowing.html
(3) https://www.writingclasses.com/toolbox/ask-writer/whats-this-business-about-chekhovs-gun
(4) https://nybookeditors.com/2018/03/how-to-foreshadow-like-a-pro/

This article was first published at:
https://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com/2018/04/08/writing-fiction-what-is-foreshadowing/  

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author. She runs a successful children’s ghostwriting, rewriting, and coaching business and welcomes working with new clients.

For tips on writing for children OR if you need help with your project, contact Karen at Writing for Children with Karen Cioffi. And, check out Karen's The Adventures of Planetman picture book series.

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Wednesday, September 29, 2021

How to Write Vivid Scenes: Cause and Effect, by Chris Eboch

Check out Chris's Haunted Series:
The Ghost on the Stairs, The Knight in the Shadows,
The Riverboat Phantom,
 and The Ghost Miner's Treasure

We welcome prolific author for children and adults, and editor, Chris Eboch, who is known has Kris Bock for her adult novels, has graciously agreed to share her three-part series of How to Write Vivid   Scenes, from her book Advanced Plotting. Part 1: How to Write Vivid Scenes, Part 1, and Part 2: How to Write Vivid Scenes: Connecting Scenes, appeared in the last two months. This month we present the last of the series: Part 3, "How to Write Vivid Scenes: Cause and Effect." 

One of the ironies of writing fiction is that fiction has to be more realistic than real life. In real life, things often seem to happen for no reason. In fiction, that comes across as unbelievable. We expect stories to follow a logical pattern, where a clear action causes a reasonable reaction. In other words, cause and effect.

The late Jack M. Bickham explored this pattern in Scene & Structure, from Writer’s Digest Books. He noted that every cause should have an effect, and vice versa. This goes beyond the major plot action and includes a character’s internal reaction. When action is followed by action with no internal reaction, we don’t understand the character’s motives. At best, the action starts to feel flat and unimportant, because we are simply watching a character go through the motions without emotion. At worst, the character’s actions are unbelievable or confusing. 

In Manuscript Makeover (Perigee Books), Elizabeth Lyon suggests using this pattern: stimulus — reaction/emotion — thoughts — action. 

  • Something happens to your main character (the stimulus)
  • You show his emotional reaction, perhaps through dialog, an exclamation, gesture, expression, or physical sensation
  • He thinks about the situation and makes a decision on what to do next
  • Finally, he acts on that decision. 

This lets us see clearly how and why a character is reacting. The sequence may take one sentence or several pages, so long as we see the character’s emotional and intellectual reaction, leading to a decision.

Bickham offered these suggestions for building strong scenes showing proper cause and effect:

The stimulus must be external — something that affects one of the five senses, such as action or dialog that could be seen or heard.

The response should also be partly external. In other words, after the character’s emotional response, she should say or do something. (Even deciding to say nothing leads to a reaction we can see, as the character turns away or stares at the stimulus or whatever.)

The response should immediately follow the stimulus. Wait too long and the reader will lose track of the original stimulus, or else wonder why the character waited five minutes before reacting.

Be sure you word things in the proper order. If you show the reaction before the action, it’s confusing: “Lisa hurried toward the door, hearing pounding.” For a second or two, we don’t know why she’s hurrying toward the door. In fact, we get the impression that Lisa started for the door before she heard the pounding. Instead, place the stimulus first: “Pounding rattled the door. Lisa hurried toward it.”

If the response is not obviously logical, you must explain it, usually with the responding character’s feelings/thoughts placed between the stimulus and the response. Here’s an example where the response is not immediately logical:

  • Knocking rattled the door. (Stimulus)
  • Lisa waited, staring at the door. (Action)

Why is she waiting? Does she expect someone to just walk in, even though they are knocking? Is she afraid? Is this not her house? To clarify, include the reaction:

  • Knocking rattled the door. (Stimulus)
  • Lisa jumped. (Physical Reaction) It was after midnight and she wasn’t expecting anyone. Maybe it was a mistake. Maybe they’d go away. (Thoughts)
  • She waited, staring at the door. (Responsive Action)

In some cases the response may be logical and obvious without including thoughts and emotions in between. For example, if character A throws a ball and character B raises a hand to catch it, we don’t need to hear character B thinking, “There’s a ball coming at me. I had better catch it.” But don’t assume your audience can always read between the lines. Often as authors we know why our characters behave the way they do, so we assume others will understand and we don’t put the reaction and thoughts on the page. This can lead to confusion. 

In one manuscript I critiqued, the character heard mysterious voices. I assumed they were ghosts, but the narrator never identified them that way. Did he think they were something else? Did he think he was going crazy? Had he not yet decided? I couldn’t tell. The author may have assumed the cause of the voices was obvious, so she didn’t need to explain the character’s reaction. But it just left me wondering if I was missing something — or if the character was. Err on the side of showing your character’s thoughts.

Link your scenes together with scene questions and make sure you’re including all four parts of the scene — stimulus, reaction/emotion, thoughts, and action — and you’ll have vivid, believable scenes building a dramatic story.

Chris Eboch is the author of over 60 books for children, including nonfiction and fiction, early reader through teen. This essay is adapted from Advanced Plotting, available for the Kindle, in paperback, or in Large Print paperback. Chris is the also the author of You Can Write for Children: How to Write Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers. Learn more at https://chriseboch.com/ or her Amazon page, or check out her writing tips at her Write Like a Pro! blog, https://chriseboch.blogspot.com/.


Tuesday, September 28, 2021

An Interview with Author Linda Wilson, by Kathy Wagoner


 

Recently, I joined Southwest Writers, an organization in Albuquerque, New Mexico, that serves writers of fiction and nonfiction in every genre worldwide. It is an honor to get to know the esteemed members and to be the fortunate recipient of the myriad of online webinars offered by the organization. As a welcome, Kathy Wagoner, a Board member and website facilitator, published this interview in the latest issue of the SWW's newsletter. If you would like to learn more about the organization, please visit https://www.southwestwriters.com/.

AN INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR LINDA WILSON

Former elementary school teacher Linda Wilson has written over 150 articles for children and adults, along with short stories and books for children. Her dream to be a children’s book author came true in 2020 with the publication of Secret in the Stars: An Abi Wunder Mystery, the first book of a ghost/mystery trilogy. You’ll find Linda on her website LindaWilsonAuthor.com and her Amazon author page. Visit the Writers on the Move blog where she’s a contributing author.


What would you like readers to know about the story you tell in Secret in the Stars.
My fondest desire is to create entertaining stories for young children about nature and the great outdoors. I would like readers to get swept away with the story and come away with a desire for adventure and exploring sports and outdoor activities.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
My biggest challenge in attempting to write a novel was living in a small town with no critique partners. I was a member of the Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), but because of distance, couldn’t be involved. It took about eight years to finish Stars. The biggest help was moving to Albuquerque and finding critique partners. Thanks to my connection with the New Mexico chapter of SCBWI here in Albuquerque, I finally learned enough to publish the book. I have since finished Secret in the Mist and two picture books.

Who are your main characters, and why will readers connect with them?
In the beginning of Stars, eleven-year-old Abi is anxious to get home from a camping trip with her grandfather. The first day of Summer Art Camp starts that afternoon. But her plans are dashed when her grandpa’s car breaks down and she becomes stranded at an old country inn. Abi, who lives in an apartment two hours away and is not athletic, meets eleven-year-old Jess, who lives in the country and is good at sports. A friendship blossoms based on the girls’ interest in solving the mystery in the story, and also on how much they admire each other. As a budding artist, Abi is aware of the world around her and uses her memory to create sketches of all that interests her. By Secret in the Mist, book two, she has awakened an interest in art in Jess. Jess is a fast runner, a good swimmer, and in Mist she takes Abi horseback riding. By the end of Stars, Abi finds that she can run faster than ever before. In Mist, she finds that she’s good at horseback riding, too. My hope is that Abi and Jess become role models for my readers.

Why did you decide to use the particular setting you chose?
I love this question because Stars and Mist both take place in fictional Pine Hill, a town based on Purcellville, Virginia, a beautiful town where we lived in the heart of horse country near where Jackie Onassis rode horses. In book three, Secrets of the Heart, we go to Abi’s apartment, which I think many readers will be able to connect with.

The country setting is deliberate, written for children who know and love the country, and also for children who do not have the opportunity to spend time in the country. There are personal reasons, too, which include the inn in Stars (based on an 18th century B & B a mile down the road from our house), and in Mist, horseback riders trotting their horses on our road and a marsh across the road where a bullfrog lived.

Where did the story idea come from?
We had so many guests for a wedding once that some needed to stay at the B & B down the road. Before our guests arrived, I paid the B & B a visit. The 18th century white-washed stone building loomed high on a hill, down a long, winding dirt road. Along the way, cows grazed on lush green grass and flowers bloomed in gardens, completing the Virginia country charm.

The proprietress sat me down in the old-fashioned parlor and regaled me with tales of the many renovations her husband had recently completed. On our way upstairs to see the bedrooms, I thought she said, “Oh, here’s my husband now.” I turned, expecting to see her husband climbing the stairs behind us. But I saw no one. Her eyes fell on a silhouette stenciled on the wall. I followed her gaze of a man in overalls and straw hat, lantern in hand, appearing to hurry up the stairs. Without another word, she continued to the second-floor landing. I followed, perplexed.

Where was her husband, I wondered? I asked her, still expecting to see him. She looked surprised and said, “Oh, he died a year ago.” Died? But he’s here. I can feel his presence. He hadn’t yet left her side. I knew that, though how I’ll never know. But I felt the truth of his presence in my bones. She tilted her head in the oddest way and added, “Why, I lost my Herbert a year ago, to the day!” She added, “I painted Herbert’s silhouette on the wall, as he so often looked on his way to bed.” Color rose to her cheeks. “I suppose it’s silly, but it’s my way of keeping him close.” I went home with the idea of her husband’s ghost dancing in my head and then finding his way into my heart. I still get goose bumps every time I think of that eerie encounter.

What was it like working with a cover designer and Tiffany Tutti, the illustrator for the book?
I gave Tiffany my vision of what my characters looked like and the scenes I wanted to see portrayed. I used two to three traditionally published model books because I wanted Star to look professional. I think we succeeded. As a self-published author, I was able to find two terrific companies to format Stars and create the cover using the manuscript and illustrations by Tiffany Tutti, Formatted Books, and 100 Covers. In addition to the book cover,100 Covers also created a beautiful media image, which I’m very proud of.

Tell us how the book came together.
By the time I retired, I had written many articles for adults and children, had been editor of a newsletter, and helped a fellow author interview and write biographies of people who grew up in Westford, Massachusetts where my family lived at the time. I had always wanted to write fictional stories for children. I began by writing and publishing short stories. Stars is my first book. Though like many writers, I have partially-written manuscripts stashed away in my drawer.

The illustrations for Secret in the Stars, and the completed book, were accomplished with what is known as a “vanity publisher.” I worked with a terrific editor, staff, and illustrator while the book was in production. Just days before the book was to be published, I read 10 Publishing Myths by W. Terry Whalin, a fellow contributor to www.writersonthemove.com. From the get-go Whalin advises googling any company you’re about to do business with to check for complaints: “company name + complaints.” Was I in for a shock. I was directed to a private Facebook page of authors numbering forty-nine at the time, who had not received any royalties for their books for over two, sometimes, three years. I was lucky. When I cancelled my account, I was able to retrieve my files right away, both the illustrations and the interior, and was able to publish the book on Amazon. Other authors weren’t so lucky. Today there are many more authors involved and some were never able to retrieve their files. We have retained an attorney who has been helping the authors as well as finding ways to put this company (one man) out of business.

What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you began your writing/publishing journey?

  • How much revision is needed to create a polished manuscript.
  • How important knowledgeable critique partners are in editing things I can’t see, and also how much I’ve learned and enjoyed by critiquing their works.
  • How long it would take to feel competent in writing fiction. I knew it would be difficult and I had read that an overnight success takes fifteen years. I suppose I’m about at that mark, fifteen years! However, I wouldn’t change my experience as a writer for anything in the world.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
A Packrat’s Holiday: Thistletoe’s Gift is available in eBook, and the September 2021 paperback copy is available in full color on Amazon. Discounted and signed copies of Packrat’s Holiday and Secret in the Stars are available by ordering from LindaWilsonAuthor.com. Chris Eboch, prolific author and editor from Socorro, New Mexico, says of Packrat’s Holiday, “Children will love this story, where the littlest creatures have adventures and become heroes. Fun language and cowboy slang make for a great read aloud.” My next picture book, Tall Boots, features a 4-H Horse Show complete with the official 4-H name and emblem. Tall Boots will be available soon. You can read about the books on my SWW author page.


Source: https://www.southwestwriters.com/an-interview-with-author-linda-wilson/


KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kathy posts to a speculative fiction blog at klwagoner.com and writes about memoir at ThisNewMountain.com.

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Location, Location, Location: Researching Place - Part 2

by Suzanne Lieurance


In my post last month, I presented several ways to find information about any location.

It’s important to research location because even if you’re writing a novel that takes place in Maine (and not a true story) you still have to get the facts correct about Maine.



One of the ways to research location is to obtain materials about a specific location online (read last month’s post here to see what I mean).

But don’t forget about the resources at libraries.

Besides local public libraries, college and university libraries offer a wealth of materials.

Many have extensive archives of national magazines that include articles about locations all over the world.

These magazines, old and new, often contain detailed photographs that can be immeasurably helpful for writers who need to see what a city or town looked like years ago or how it appears today.

“I can’t emphasize enough the value of a good reference librarian,” says author Jane Buchanan, who writes historical fiction for kids. “It’s amazing, the things librarians can find that the average person simply wouldn’t know existed. Never be afraid to ask for help. The librarian who is good won’t give up until a source to answer your questions is found. It’s amazing what you find in a library if you know, or have help finding out, where to look!”

Other sources at your fingertips are the videos you can find at your library and even online at youtube, netflix or Prime Video, etc.

The libraries and many online sites have countless documentary videos that can provide writers with facts and tidbits about areas all over the world.

Most larger cities have their own magazines that can give writers a glimpse of what goes on there.

San Diego, Santa Fe, Kansas City, Boston, New York, Atlanta, and many, many other cities publish magazines that contain a variety of articles about local spots writers can include in their fiction, or use as background information for their nonfiction.

Many of these magazines have websites where writers can find articles from current and back issues.

Other publications, like Southern Living, Midwest Living, and Sunset Magazine offer articles and advertisements about broader sections of the United States.

Large bookstore chains like Barnes and Noble carry European magazines that cover topics like fashion, home furnishing and architecture.

These are sometimes helpful for getting a feel for a country the writer hasn’t visited.

In next month’s post (Location, Location, Location: Researching Place - Part 3), you’ll learn how to travel to locations in the past and how to capture the essence of a specific location even if you have never been there.


For more writing tips, be sure to visit writebythesea.com and get your free subscription to The Morning Nudge. Once you're a subscriber, you'll also have access to a Private Resource Library for Writers.

Suzanne Lieurance is the author of over 35 published books, a freelance writer, and a writing coach.

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