Tuesday, July 27, 2021

How to Write Vivid Scenes, Part I, by Chris Eboch

Prolific children's and adult author, Chris Eboch

Author/editor Chris Eboch has her foot in two worlds: children’s literature, as Chris Eboch and M. M. Eboch, and as Kris Bock, in adult literature. Chris has written over sixty books for children, including nonfiction and fiction, early reader through teen. Chris’s books on writing, You Can Write for Children, and Advanced Plotting, and posts on her blogspot, Write Like a Pro! A Free Online Writing Workshop, are chock full of down-to-earth advice for authors interested in honing their craft. Chris has been a member of SCBWI-NM for many years, has served as Regional Advisor, and currently serves in a new capacity as Published Authors Coordinator. Chris takes an active part in helping fellow authors succeed. We are very fortunate to have her. Read more about Chris in my WOTM February 2019 post: "Writing Tips from Author Chris Eboch", and in my June 2020 post, “Felany Melanie: Prequel to the movie Sweet Home Alabama.

During the next three months, Chris will be sharing her expertise on “How to Write Vivid Scenes,” information that has helped me personally with my craft.  

How to Write a Vivid Scene

In fiction writing, a scene is a single incident or event. However, a summary of the event is not a scene. Scenes are written out in detail, shown, not told, so we see, hear, and feel the action. They often have dialog, thoughts, feelings, and sensory description, as well as action. 

A scene ends when that sequence of events is over. A story or novel is, almost always, built of multiple linked scenes. Usually the next scene jumps to a new time or place, and it may change the viewpoint character. 

Think in terms of a play: The curtain rises on people in a specific situation. The action unfolds as characters move and speak. The curtain falls, usually at a dramatic moment. Repeat as necessary until you’ve told the whole story.

So how do you write a scene?

  • Place a character — usually your main character — in the scene. 
  • Give that character a problem.
  • Add other characters to the scene as needed to create drama.
  • Start when the action starts — don’t warm up on the reader’s time.
  • What does your main character think, say, and do?
  • What do the other characters do or say?
  • How does your main character react?
  • What happens next? Repeat the sequence of actions and reactions, escalating tension.
  • Build to a dramatic climax.
  • End the scene, ideally with conflict remaining. 

Scene Endings

Scene endings may or may not coincide with chapter endings. Some authors like to use cliffhanger chapter endings in the middle of a scene and finish the scene at the start of the next chapter. They then use written transitions (later that night, a few days later, when he had finished, etc.) or an extra blank line to indicate a break between scenes within a chapter.

Give the reader some sense of what might happen next — the character’s next goal or challenge — to drive the plot forward toward the next scene. Don’t ramble on after the dramatic ending, and don’t end in the middle of nothing happening.

A Scene Can Do Several Things

  • Advance the plot.
  • Advance subplots.
  • Reveal characters (their personalities and/or their motives).
  • Set the scene.
  • Share important information.
  • Explore the theme.

Ideally, a scene will do multiple things. It may not be able to do everything listed above, but it should do two or three of those things, if possible. It should always, always, advance the plot. Try to avoid having any scene that only reveals character, sets the scene, or explores the theme, unless it’s a very short scene, less than a page. Find a way to do those things while also advancing the plot. 

A scene often includes a range of emotions as a character works towards a goal, suffers setbacks, and ultimately succeeds or fails. But some scenes may have one mood predominate. In that case, try to follow with a scene that has a different mood. Follow an action scene with a romantic interlude, a happy scene with a sad or frightening one, a tense scene with a more relaxed one to give the reader a break. 

Don’t rush through a scene — use more description in scenes with the most drama, to increase tension by making the reader wait a bit to find out what happens. Important and dramatic events should be written out in detail, but occasionally you may want to briefly summarize in order to move the story forward. For example, if we already know what happened, we don’t need to hear one character telling another what happened. Avoid that repetition by simply telling us that character A explained the situation to character B. 

Avoid scenes that repeat previous scenes, showing another example of the same action or information. Your readers are smart enough to get things without being hit over the head with multiple examples. If you show one scene of a drunk threatening his wife, and you do it well, we’ll get it. We don’t need to see five examples of the same thing. Focus on writing one fantastic scene and trust your reader to understand the characters and their relationship. For every scene, ask: Is this vital for my plot or characters? How does it advance plot and reveal character? If I cut the scene, would I lose anything?

Next month: How to Write Vivid Scenes: Connecting Scenes, by Chris Eboch

Visit Chris at: www.chriseboch.comhttps://www.krisbock.com/; and her Amazon page:  https://www.amazon.com/Chris-Eboch/e/B001JS25VE/ .


Tall Boots by Linda Wilson,
illustrated by 1000
Storybooks, will be
available on Amazon
next month
Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher, has published over 150 articles for children and adults, several short stories for children, and her first book, Secret in the Stars: An Abi Wunder Mystery, which is available on Amazon. Publishing credits include biosketches for the library journal, Biography Today, which include Troy Aikman, Stephen King, and William Shatner; PocketsHopscotch; and an article accepted by Highlights for ChildrenSecret in the Mist, the second in the Abi Wunder series, is coming soon. Follow Linda on 
https://www.lindawilsonauthor.com.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Recapture the Joy of Writing

When I'm working on a writing project and things are going well – meaning, the words are flowing and the work is almost effortless – I call this "going under."

It's like I've gone deep under water and left the world above the surface behind to live in the world of my characters or my topic (if I'm working on nonfiction).

This is more commonly known as "working in flow."

I'm sure you know the feeling, whatever you may call it.

You're writing and suddenly you look up and notice the time.

You thought you'd only been working for a short while, yet hours have slipped by.

Writing in flow or going under is a wonderful feeling.

In fact, I think it's the real reason many of us love to write.

It's the writer's "high."

Unfortunately, it can be difficult to work in flow or go under when you have many projects ahead or a tight deadline looming.

Over the years, I've learned a few tricks of the trade that help me go under on a regular basis.

Maybe they'll work for you, too.

To Write In Flow...

First, it's hard to write in flow if you leave your writing to the last thing each day or you simply write whenever you can grab a few minutes here and there.

Your mind will find it difficult to relax and simply focus on the work at hand.

For that reason, schedule specific times to write.

For example, you might schedule time during the early morning to work on your novel – perhaps from 5:00 to 7:00.

If you get in the habit of writing regularly at this time each day, your mind will start preparing for your writing session as soon as you wake up each morning.

It won't be filled with thoughts about other things that happened earlier in the day yet, so it will be easier to focus on your writing.

Next, find a quiet place to work, away from all distractions.

You don't want someone or something pulling you back up just as you've gone under.

Next, if you find it difficult to move from one project to another during the day and work in flow on each project, take time to transition from one project to another.

For example, I may work on fiction in the morning.

Before I move to nonfiction in the afternoon, I take a break.

I might sit and meditate or listen to music for a few minutes so my mind is ready to make the switch from fiction to nonfiction.

Have Fun!

Most importantly, don't forget to have fun as you're writing.

Just write what comes naturally.

Be yourself as a writer.

You can rewrite later.

Now...go under today and recapture the joy of writing!

Try it!


For more writing tips, delivered to your e-mailbox every weekday morning, get your free subscription to The Morning Nudge now.

Suzanne Lieurance is a freelance writer, writing coach, and the author of over 40 published books.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

How To Write A Book


By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

Often writers will ask me, how in the world have you written over 60 books with traditional publishers? I have a simple answer, writing books is like eating an elephant. The task seems daunting and impossible at first.

How do you eat an elephant? It's an old joke but you eat an elephant one bite at a time.  It the same way to accomplish any huge task—one action at a time. Recently I began to write another book.  It doesn't matter that I've done it over and over through the years. Each time it looks daunting to write an entire book manuscript. No matter what others will tell you for everyone getting started is hard. The writing in the middle is hard and finishing is hard. Yes the task is difficult and looks impossible. So how do you get it done? One bite at a time.

What is the deadline for completing your book? If you don't have a deadline, then I suggest you set one. After you have a deadline, how many words a day are you going to write to complete the deadline? Make sure you build in some extra days for the unexpected (happens to everyone) but make sure you hit your deadline.


Or maybe your goal is tied to your social media. You want to reach a certain number of followers on Twitter or a certain number of connections on LinkedIn. Are you actively working on these networks? Are you posting a number of times each day? Are you connecting with new people? Without your regular actions, then it will be hard to increase your presence and meet your goals.


Do you want to do more speaking? Are you pitching different conference directors and leaders? From my experience you have to be proactively promoting your speaking skills to get more speaking meetings.


Do you want to appear on more radio shows and talk about your latest book? There are thousands of radio stations and programs which use guests on their program. These bookings do not happen just sitting back and waiting for them to call. Your phone will be silent if you take this action. Instead, you need to be actively pitching the producers of these programs.


Or maybe you want to write more magazine articles or appear on more podcasts? Waiting for the phone to ring will likely not happen. What proactive steps are you taking to either go ahead and write the article then submit it to the publication? Or you can write a query letter and send it simultaneously to different publications and get an assignment?


Many are surprised that I have written over 60 books through the years. There are several keys in this process but one of the most important is consistent writing.  It is a matter of writing one paragraph, then another paragraph which becomes one page then another page. It is the same process as eating an elephant—doing it in bite-size pieces.


Do you break your writing into smaller pieces? I'd love to have your tips and insights in the comments below.


Tweetable:


It appears impossible. How do you write a book? Learn the secret in this article from this prolific writer and editor. (ClickToTweet)

W. Terry Whalin is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. His work contact information is on the bottom of the second page (follow this link).  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 will be released. He lives in Colorado and has over 190,000 twitter followers

Sunday, July 18, 2021

What Is Creative Writing?

 

by Deborah Lyn Stanley

Creative writing is any original writing that falls outside technical, journalistic or academic writing. But wait, there’s more.

Storytelling and fiction, screenwriting, songs, poetry, playwriting are considered creative writing. However, creative writing is not limited to fictional classifications. It also includes personal essays, memoirs, journals and diaries, letters and literary journalism—stories about the human experience.

Practicing creative writing is beneficial to all writers.
It helps:
•    Develop imagination and creativity
•    Organize thoughts, logically to create the plot
•    Grow confidence
•    Improves communication skills
•    Creates a change of pace and stimulates fresh ideas

So, how will we write more creatively? We grow with creative exercises that foster creative thinking & ideas. Make time for art and read well.

Art feeds our creativity—we cannot produce creative works unless we take them in. All forms of art are inspiring, so, make time for your artist’s dates. Films and books inspire story lines, and pictures or photographs can inspire a memory or story.

We must read well to write well. Try out new author’s works, go beyond blogs and social media to classical literature—there’s a wealth of written works to learn from and enjoy. I recently have found three new authors’ from the 1890s and early 1900s—my new favorites! Their well-developed stories, short or novel length, are entertaining. Gratefully, these stories are expanding my grasp of descriptive writing and character driven stories. Newspapers published serials of short stories in that day.

Nurture your creativity, take care of it, and devote time to this grand adventure. Here are a few ways to foster creative writing skills:
1.    Schedule creative writing sessions, choosing your topic ahead of time, then dive in for 20-40 minutes.
2.    Use writing prompts: one word or a theme sentence to boost your ideas and motivation.
3.    Use photographs to trigger the start of your piece. Is it a memory that promotes a story? Write it!
4.    Listen to music, get into your favorites, move and sing it out! Is it smooth and lovely, or wild and hopping fast? Write the memory or story you imagine.

Write a Page or more, Prepare an Outline or a List of Ideas—Just Get Going
Your creativity will flow.


Helpful Links:

Experiment with creative prompts.
https://www.tckpublishing.com/creative-writing-prompts/
https://www.tckpublishing.com/creative-writing-exercises/

Unusual Writing Activities That Will Boost Your Creativity by Melissa Donovan
https://www.writingforward.com/creative-writing/writing-activities 

 

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
https://www.amazon.com/Deborah-Lyn-Stanley/
& https://books2read.com/b/valuestories



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Tuesday, July 13, 2021

What Comes Before Anything Else?

 

"Before anything else, preparation is key to success."

~ Alexander Graham Bell

 

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, preparation is "the things that you do or the time that you spend preparing for something." 

This can pertain to anything, but for writers, preparation is about learning the craft of writing. 

It could also be about preparing for a story or article you're writing. Even with fiction children's stories, I do research for my projects. Or, you might be giving a workshop, a speech, or instructing a  class.

 Preparedness brings self-confidence, less stress, and less time and effort on the actual event or project.


MORE ON WRITING AND BOOK MARKETING

A Story Revision Checklist

Tips for Writing Character Driven Description

Writing and Time Swapping

 

Saturday, July 10, 2021

What's Your Summer Fun Goal? A Book, Novel, or Screenplay Passion Project


Summertime! And the living is ... easier than it's been in a while. Still, there are plenty of challenges in the latest normal.

Want to know one of the best things you can do for yourself right now? Choose a summer goal and work toward getting a win!
  • What's that project you love but can never quite get to?
  • Where is the book draft that has only one - very well-edited - ch
    apter?
  • What is one publication you've always wanted to write for but never even pitch?
Btw, summer goals are not limited to writing passion projects. You can also:
  • Plant a garden
  • Cook a feast ... or several 
  • Start a new workout routine
  • Find a new job
  • Launch a side hustle
Ready for a win this summer? I'll make it simple. After all, I am all about goal-setting simplified.


Here's what you need to do:
1. Go in your calendar and look at your availability
2. Make an appointment with yourself at least once a week to work toward your goals
3. Choose a goal that you can easily achieve
4. Steadily work toward it each week
5. Report on your progress - here or via my Thursday LinkedIn check-in posts

Bam! Before you know it, you will have a win!

Because sometimes all it takes to get a win is to claim a win. Then work towards it a little at a time.

Remember, you can do it!

* * *

What is your #summergoalchallenge goal? Please share in the comments.

* * *

Need some extra help setting and achieving your goals? At the time of this posting, the ebook version of Your Goal Guide is on sale at Amazon. Be sure to join the Your Goal Guide Facebook group too!  

* * *

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.

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Everything You Need to Know About Why Getting Great Reviews Is Your Job


 

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Excerpted from Carolyn’s 
How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically: The ins and outs of using free reviews to build and sustain a writing career

You need this article! Here’s why: 

In spite of a contract or even an advance, your publisher may not be a true publisher. True publishing includesthe marketing of a book. Think big names like HarperCollins, Knopf, and Writers’ Digest, the publisher of Nina Amir’s books like Creative Visualization for Writers. They assign a marketing budget to your book and an actual marketing department complete with actual human-type marketers who are trained in the specialized field of not just marketing, but marketing books. Except for those who write only for pleasure, there is no reason to publish a book that doesn’t get read.

Even sadder: Those big publishers need their authors’ help, too. No matter how they are published,  authors can’t count on a free lunch when it comes to the marketing their book. That’s especially true when it comes to the getting of reviews—the kind of reviews that keep a book alive.

Some publishers—even traditional publishers—may not respect tradition, be uncooperative or goof. One of my writing critique partners was published with a fine press. When she learned they had not sent advance review copies of her literary novel to the most prestigious review journals before their strict sixteen-week deadline, she was naturally upset. They explained it was a snafu that could not be fixed. That was no comfort at all. It did help her to know that because thousands of galleys sent to the important review publications lie fallow in slush piles, the chances of having a book reviewed by a major journal—even one published traditionally let alone getting a glowing review—is remote. Because she had me to nag her, she moved on to alternative marketing and review-getting strategies found in the flagship book of my multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally Series of book for writer, The Frugal Book Promoter, third edition from Modern History Press, using my backdoor review-getting method. 

Soon after my writing-friend’s experience, I realized that what authors need to know about reviews deserved a full book. I knew early on that reviews are the meat and potatoes of marketing for books. What I didn’t know is that reviews are a magic ingredient from beyond the launch to reviving a book that should by now be a classic but sadly isn’t! That resulted in my How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically: The ins and outs of using free reviews to build and sustain a writing career, a real tome of more than 300 pages of easy reading. It covers everything an author needs to know about reviews—their easy-to-do and do-it-by-yourself powerhouse for successful writing careers. 

These days most small publishers have no marketing department—or marketing plan. In fact, many admit that when it comes to marketing, you are on your own. No offense, publishers. I know many of you do a terrific job considering the profit margin in publishing these days. Let’s face it, you can use help, and you don’t need to deal with disappointed (irate?) authors. And, authors! We are ultimately responsible for our own careers. Sometimes when we wait to take responsibility, it is too late in the publishing game.

Some publishers charge the author an additional or separate fee for marketing. Many who offer marketing packages do not offer a review-getting package. If they do, the review their authors get is a paid-for review, which is definitely not the route you want to go. More on that later in a complete chapter on getting ethical reviews in , How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically. You know, the kind of reviews that influencers like librarians and bookstore buyers respect.

Many publishers do not even have lists of people to contact who might help your marketing with endorsements or reviews. Further, many big publishers are relying on bloggers for their review process more and more as print journals and newspaper book sections shrink or disappear and as they begin to understand that grassroots publicity—reviews or otherwise—can produce a very green crop. And bloggers? Well, that’s a resource pool you can easily plumb yourself. 

My first publisher supplied review copies only upon written request from individual reviewers. They did not honor requests generated by their authors’ initiatives. This meant that I could not count on them to supply books to reviewers I had successfully queried for a review. Unless the reviewer accepted e-copies (and many reviewers don’t!), I had to order copies directly from the publisher and then reship them to my reviewers. This method is slow, cumbersome, unnecessarily expensive, unprofessional, and discourages authors from trying to get reviews on their own. 

Publishers should offer review copies to a list of reviewers—even unestablished grassroots bloggers—who have been responsive to their authors in the past. And they certainly should not charge an author for review copies. Publishers have a profit margin and publicity obtained by their authors (including reviews) affects their bottom line, too. They should send their author a thank you (or a red rose!) along with encouragement to keep up the good work

And about the idea that the very definition that “publishing” includes marketing: That means that even if they are too small or underfunded to have a marketing department, they should have a list of reviewers to query for reviews, a list of influential people to provide blurbs for your cover, access to book cover designers (not just great graphic designers) who know what sells books, and a whole lot more. Ask potential publishers about their marketing process before you sign, but—even if you feel assured after having that conversation—it’s best to assume you may be on your own. 

So, the marketing part of your book that includes finding the right reviewers to read and comment on your book will—in most cases—be up to you and well within your skill set after reading this book. And even when you have the luxury of a marketing department behind you, those authors who know how to get reviews on their own can keep a book alive for an infinite amount of time after their publishers relegate their books to a backlist or their contract expires.

Note: If it is too late to apply this information to the process you use in choosing a publisher, tactfully take hold and guide the publisher you have through the review process. There are lots of ways to do that in this book. I love Nike’s advice to “Just do it!” only I add “yourself” to the motto. Many publishers are in your employ. You may be paying them for services. At the very least, when your book sells, it makes money for the publisher. You don’t have to ask for permission (though it never hurts to listen to their reasoning before you make a decision).

------

 


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 both the first and second editions of The Frugal Book Promoter and The Frugal Editor 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.

Howard-Johnson is the recipient of the California Legislature’s Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment Award, and her community’s Character and Ethics award for her work promoting tolerance with her writing. She was also named to Pasadena Weekly’s list of “Fourteen San Gabriel Valley women who make life happen” and was given her community’s Diamond Award for Achievement in the Arts.       

The author loves to travel. She has visited more than ninety countries and has studied writing at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom; Herzen University in St. Petersburg, Russia; and Charles University, Prague. She admits to carrying a pen and journal wherever she goes. Her website, https://howtodoitfrugally.com, includes a media room. Yours should, too!

Cover Photo by Joy V. Smith


 

 

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Story or Illustrations, Which Comes First?



Contributed by Karen Cioffi

While most authors know the answer to the title question, whether story or illustrations come first in picture books, some newbies don’t.

The story should be written first then the illustrations should be created to enhance each scene (page or spread).

My reason for writing this article is because of a rewrite client I had. She created her own illustrations, which were good, but she wrote the story around her illustrations.

The sole purpose of the story was to describe the illustrations through a very weak storyline.

For this article, I’ll say she visited the pyramids in Egypt and the protagonist's goal was to find the largest pyramid.

He trekked through Egypt and talked about the things he saw on his quest, which related to the illustrations.

Being an artist, she wanted her readers to SEE everything she saw. She tried to incorporate as many tidbits of information about her journey into the story, and she wanted to do it visually.

The storyline and the characters were there just for the illustrations.

This doesn't work.

The story and the illustrations should complement each other. The illustrations enhance the story; they show what's not written.

The story itself must be properly written with story and character arcs.

While her primary focus was the illustrations, she did want an engaging and marketable fiction story to go with the illustrations, and after a couple of critiques realized what she created didn't work.

That's when she came to me.

I've worked from illustrations before. It was another rewrite project, but those illustrations were created for the story. I was able to rewrite the story around them.

With the pyramid client, the illustrations were the focal point. It's not a good idea to force a story around illustrations.

You may feel you have leeway if you're self-publishing, but if you want a quality book that you’ll be proud to be the author of and one that will engage readers, you need to follow the rules of writing for children.

As for my client, I recommended she create nonfiction books. This way she could spotlight the illustrations without bogging them down with a forced fiction story.

So again, a fiction story should be written before the illustrations are created.

But... there are no ironclad rules.

There are certain circumstances where text can be written around the illustrations. This could happen if you're working on a picture book with an illustrator. Or if the book is created primarily to tell the story through illustrations for young children.  You get the idea.

The general rule: Story first then illustrations.

This article was first published at:
https://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com/2017/05/21/picture-books-story-or-illustrations/

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 her at Writing for Children with Karen Cioffi.

And, check out Karen's The Adventures of Planetman picture book series, along with her other books.


MORE ON WRITING

Tips to Make Characters Real: Write Strong

Published Writers Must Be Pitching

Writing Reviews Can Be A Great Marketing Tool




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