Sunday, July 28, 2013

Deborah Heiligman's Casual Scream


Deborah Heiligman was scared. She wanted to write about Charles Darwin but she had a lot of questions. She wondered, Who am I to write about Charlies Darwin? How can I find my way? Where can I find the courage? Hasn't enough been written about Darwin, his voyage on the HMS Beagle and his book The Origin of Species?

Have Faith in your Process

These are questions Deb first asks herself before taking on any subject. First and foremost is that she needs to connect with the topic. How? She knows it's right when she becomes completely and utterly obsessed by it. The story needs to be an important one, one that needs to be told. Then she has to make sure she is the right person to write it. The story must have a beginning, middle and end. Perhaps most important is to check and make sure there are enough primary sources and that the information is available. Deb learned this the hard way. She spent many months researching a potential biographic subject before she realized that a story couldn't be put together due to a lack of information.

Tricks of the Trade

Yes, use the "tricks" of fiction, Deb says, character, plot, story arc, etc--BUT nothing is made up. You have to know he leaned against the gas lamp. You can't say it unless you know it. Regarding contemporaneous facts and descriptions--those that exist, occur, or originate during the same time period--that's a judgment call. Such as when you say he walked over the horse poop in London. That's okay because everybody had to do it. Again, bottom line is that you can't make anything up. Biographer Beware: A pitfall to keep in mind is possible bias of the person(s) who created the primary sources.

Deb's take-away: Remember, everything is slanted. The choice you make gives you your angle. Immerse yourself in everything about the time. I read Austen because Charles and Emma both loved Austen. My take-away: I found that what I learned from Deb can be applied to my work, both in fiction and nonfiction. Before beginning a project I immerse myself in studying publisher's guidelines, searching for what agents, editors and publishers are looking for, and making sure I have access to photos before beginning a nonfiction project.

Source: Deborah Heiligman is the award-winning author of the biography, Charles and Emma: Darwins' Leap of Faith. I heard her speak at a Highlights Foundation workshop in Honesdale, PA last October.

If you would like to read past posts in this series, please visit:

Part One: Two Ways to Hook and Keep Your Reader
Part Two: Nouns Need to be Concrete and Appear More than Once
Part Three: Tent Pole Structure
Part Four: Leonard Marcus: Maurice Sendak, Storyteller and Artist
Part Five: Leonard Marcus: Let the Wild Rumpus Start
Part Six: Behind the Scenes with Deborah Heiligman

Biography of Deborah Heiligman

For August, Part Eight:         On the Same Page with Betsy Bird
Grand Finale in September: Concluding Thoughts with Patti Lee Gauch
                                                 A list of the presenters' favorite books


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; 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.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Launching Into Success

  How to Become a Successful Freelance Writer

In a nutshell: write, submit, write, submit. 

Okay, there's more to it than that. But if you don't actually have a plan you will not be successful.

After 18 months of learning, thinking, and taking some baby steps with freelance writing, I carved out this week of July 15 – 20 to get serious. The goal is to launch a working schedule to stick with regularly. 

Sometimes, the conditions have to be just right for success. After 30 years of raising a family, homeschooling, and helping with our dairy and maple syrup business, I am now in a season of transition. And the conditions are right.

So, with my 11 year old off to camp, the always-available wife, mother, and friend had to make sure this was my week. It’s day 2 and I am thrilled at what I am accomplishing.


As I have been implementing all of the wonderful lessons which I have learned here at WOTM, and from other seasoned authors, I had to take a step back to not lose myself in the logistics. I believe in hard work. But I also believe one can get buried in crossing all the “T”s and dotting all the “I”s (pun intended) - to the point of not dreaming big and following your instincts.


One bit of advice I had printed off last January helped me find balance this week. On the topic of marketing strategies, Holly Weiss writes in Scaling the Marketing Ladder in One Fell Swoop:

“Are you trying to get your opinions, writing skills, or articles noticed? Do you spend hours a day reading advice from well-meaning experts on how to drive traffic to you blog?”

Yup! That’s me. Trying to get it all figured out before I moved off of square one. Thing is, I wasn't going anywhere. I was getting buried under a heap of "getting it right" and all I was getting was overwhelmed. 


Holly's advice was like a welcoming breeze. It filled out my sail and I started moving.


She continues to say, “Down deep, you know your own best marketing tactics. Find your talent and put it out in front of the public – consistently.” 

"Down deep, you know..."

This, coupled with the technical advice from seasoned authors, helped me find the right combination to set sail.

Only you know when the conditions are right. Learn, learn, learn. But don't be afraid to make a move when down deep you know yourself. Don't let too many opinions overwhelm you and hold you back.

Fair winds!


*Edit: week 2 and I'm sticking to my writing schedule!

Photo Credit: Jared and Corin

You can find her passion to bring encouragement and hope to people of all ages at When It Hurts -http://kathleenmoulton.com/

Friday, July 26, 2013

Understanding Profiling


To truly understand profiling you must first look at the basic definition of it. With that in mind, then take and break it down into the different areas of profiling. The basic definition of profiling, according to the World English Dictionary, is as follows:  The use of personal characteristics or behavior patterns to make generalizations about a person, such as gender, unique characteristics (such as scars), hair color, color of eyes or skin, nationality. The use of these characteristics is to determine whether or not a person may be engaged in illegal activity.
            Racial profiling is considered to be used by law enforcement in deciding whether to engage in enforcement of the law, such as making an arrest or a traffic stop. It uses an individual’s race or ethnicity to make these decisions. It is controversial and in some jurisdictions illegal.
            Criminal profiling (or offender profiling) is described as using numerous factors such as race, dress, and interactions to determine whether or not a person is involved in criminal activity. Various aspects of the criminal’s personality makeup are determined from his/her choices before, during, and after the crime.
            Predictive profiling attempts to guess who is likely to commit a crime that has not happened yet. This type of profiling occurs when a police officer, while patrolling, observes and tries to spot suspicious behavior that could mean a crime is going to take place.
            Psychological profiling is a method of suspect identification which seeks to identify a person’s mental, emotional, and personality characteristics, which are manifested in things done or left at the crime scene.
            There are four phases of profiling that profilers attempt to collect to determine the personality of the offender:
            1.  Antecedent:  What fantasy, plan, or both did the murderer have in place
                  before committing the crime? What triggered the murderer to act some 
                  days and not others?

            2.  Method and manner:  What type of victim/s did the murderer select, and
                  what method and manner of murder did he/she use? Shooting, stabbing,
                  strangulation, or something else?
               
             3.  Body disposal:  Did the murder and body disposal take place at one
                  location or multiple locations?

            4.  Post-offence behavior:  Is the perpetrator trying to inject himself into the
                 investigation by reacting to media reports or contacting investigators?

            In the case of serial killers a phase of criminal profiling is case linkage, which is the process of determining if there are connections between two or more unrelated cases. Involved is the establishment and comparison of physical evidence, victimology, crime scene characteristics, modus operandi, and signature behaviors between each of the cases.

            As you can see there are numerous categories of profiling. As a writer, knowledge is imperative to making our story sound convincing. Do not just write, but know what you are writing.

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
           
                  
            

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Honor among Writers

As an editor of commercial fiction, and a student of Kindle marketing,I have a pretty good idea now of what sells and how /why it does.

I love the noir genre with its laconic anti-heroes, the iconic Bogart movies, and Chandler's essays on writing.

But every so often I come across a book which concertinas my confidence into the equivalent of a wrecked paper plane.

This weekend I rediscovered the grandaddy of tartan noir, Scottish novelist Willliam McIlvanney, the champion of doubt. I devoured his Laidlaw Trilogy, one book after the other.

It was a revelation and will change my writing and my Kindle reviewing forever.

Five Star Reviews?


I can no longer give five star reviews to accomplished novels which keep me turning the pages, waiting to see what comes next. I need more.

I can no longer give five star reviews to many top selling thrillers or romantic novels. I need more.

The commercial Kindle creed is that the more books you push out, the more money you make. Maybe so but at what price?

Detective Inspector Laidlaw, based in Glasgow, could admittedly mean less to a non-Scot who might not recognize the impeccable truth of the characters and their landscape. But the brilliance and compassion and the novelist's skills for observation are an eye-opener.

And there I go, sounding like all the culture shams McIlvanney mocks in the passing...

But every phrase is telling, every simile as fresh as morning. Nowhere do I ever remember reading before that someone should have been "festooned with friends." One to cherish.

Is There a Moral?


Know thyself? Be true to yourself? Never settle for anything less than your best?

The first of the Laidlaw Investigations was published in 1977, the second in 1983 and the third in  1991.

Now in his seventies, William McIlvanney is considering writing a fourth in the series. I expect it too to be well worth waiting for.

And until then, it'll need a very special novelist to make me write another five star review.

Over to you--what book or books have changed your writing or your life?


 Anne Duguid is a senior content editor with MuseItUp Publishing and   her New Year's Resolution is to pass on helpful writing,editing and publishing tips at Slow and Steady Writers far more regularly than she managed in 2012.




Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Free Online Resources for Writers

If you are just starting out or have been writing for awhile and are on a tight budget, there are many freebies, both online and offline, for writers. This post is about free online resources. Webinars, e-books, email lists, conferences, clubs, writing challenges, classes, blogs, and articles, are examples of what you will find. Some of these I have used, subscribed to, or attended. This list does not include every freebie available to writers. It’s merely a sampling to give you an idea of what is out there. I recommend you use your own judgment before subscribing or downloading. The majority of what I have utilized has been very helpful.

Conferences

I have mentioned these two conferences in past posts.Write On Con will be held August 13 and 14,  http://writeoncon.com/. The Muse Online Writers Conference is scheduled for October 7 – 1, http://themuseonlinewritersconference.com/. Instructors for both events are professionals such as authors, agents, and editors.

Writing Challenges

Earlier this summer, I signed up for the "100 Days of Summer Writing Prompt Challenge." From Memorial Day to Labor Day, participants write every day, using a prompt provided by the creator of this challenge,  http://www.shannonabercrombie.com/100-days-of-summer/.

These two events are held every November. There are also prizes. Most writers have heard of National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo, http://nanowrimo.org/. Picture Book Idea Month or PiBoIdMo, is a little different. This involves creating a picture book idea every day in November. Start checking in late October for more information, http://taralazar.com/piboidmo/.  

Classes

There are many classes, writing and otherwise, that are offered by a variety of entities. Also check out your local public library. They might offer online classes through a community college or other school, organization or business. The following resources might be worth investigating.

Goodwill Community Foundation has a website for free online classes. These cover many subjects and topics, including software programs and social media, http://www.gcflearnfree.org/topics. Additional sources for education are http://academicearth.org/, https://www.udacity.com/, http://redhoop.com/, and https://www.coursera.org/.

Magazines

It’s not free to subscribe to these publications, but they do have free content, such as blogs, articles, downloads and webinars. The Writer and Writer’s Digest are two of the main magazines in this field, http://www.writermag.com/ and  http://www.writersdigest.com/

Email lists  

Subscribers of email lists will receive countless ideas and advice to help improve skills.Writers may also find e-books, webinars, and other freebies.You can sign up to get a writing tip each day from Daily Writing Tipshttp://www.dailywritingtips.com/. Do It Yourself MFA, http://diymfa.com/, has writing prompts. Karen Cioffi's, The Writing Worldhttp://thewritingworld.com/, offers webinars and e-books.

Clubs

The Working Writers Club, http://www.workingwritersclub.com/ is free to join. Members have access to a variety of articles, audios and other resources.

Blogs

There are many blogs about writing, including Writers on the Move of course!  Two more are Sharing With Writers, http://sharingwithwriters.blogspot.com/ and On the Write Track, http://donasdays.blogspot.com/2013/07/writerly-wisdom-wednesday-donna-l-martin.html. This particular page contains a list of additional freebies.

There are many other free resources for writers online. Ask around, do your own research, and choose which ones are best for you. And feel free to add your own finds in the comments section below. Happy hunting!

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.




Sunday, July 21, 2013

How to write Satisfying Endings

Like an open bookshelf, your story needs “bookends”—a solid beginning and ending.  

We all know how important it is to hook your reader from the first page, but what happens when you’ve hooked them in, but have a less than satisfying ending.  It’s likely that the reader will not pick up your next book. 

I personally find endings much more difficult to write than beginnings.  Like many writers, by the time I get to the end, I just want to be done.  A great ending is revealed through the revision process.  When revising your manuscript, here are some ideas to consider when working on the end of your story.

  • Did you answer all your reader’s questions?  If you are writing a sequel some questions can be left for the next book, but even then, readers want answers to the major questions.
  •  Did you resolve the conflict in a satisfying way?  Having a great build-up in the climax of your story but a less than complete resolution is never satisfying to the reader.
  • If you are planning to surprise your reader with your ending, make sure it fits and doesn’t seem gimmicky.
  •  Think about the take-away of the book.  Not every story has a moral, but every story leaves the reader with an idea or feeling.


After considering the above suggestions, if you are still struggling with your ending, put your story to bed for a while.  I had a manuscript that I had revised and revised and revised.  It seemed ready, but I didn’t like the last line.  I put it away and picked it up nine months later.  With the perspective of time, I came up with what I believe is the perfect last line.  

Sometimes endings just need a little time .


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







Saturday, July 20, 2013

Driving Mom Right

Last month I shared with you how my elder son added a GPS app to my cell phone.

Recently I visited the mega-city of Johannesburg in South Africa. The traffic at rush hour on the ring road around the city is so bad that the best way to change lanes is to step out of your car and climb into the one next to you.

Seriously? The solution is to get off the concrete highway (if you can) and negotiate your way through the suburbs. If you're my husband, who has an excellent sense of direction, that makes sense. If you're me—it doesn't. You’ll never see me again.

My younger son and daughter-in-law, who live in Johannesburg, seemed to see this as a very real danger, so they gave us a GPS for the car. They—and I—knew very well Dad didn’t need one, so this was clearly an attempt to drive Mom right. This was the second GPS I received from my family in a matter of weeks. Anyone would think they didn’t want to lose me.

As most of you probably know—and I didn’t—the initials G.P.S. stand for Global Positioning System. This space-based navigational system is based on signals received from satellites which orbit the earth about 12,000 miles above us. Mind-blowing. Once I got used to the spooky feeling of being watched by unseen robotic eyes, I found it amazing. Driving along the long, deserted South African roads on the way home to Port Elizabeth, I found it comforting to think of all those eyes up there keeping watch over me. I had my husband in the car with me, but I know that next time I make a long trip on my own, I will often touch the bottom right corner of the screen to hear a pleasant-sounding lady reassuring me that she knows just where I am, even if I don’t.

I soon learned how to punch in new addresses into my GPS and listen to a calm voice who clearly knew the way to my destination. If I got stuck in traffic, I could try for the nearest exit and trust my robotic companion perched on the dashboard to "recalculate" and find me an alternate route. She never got annoyed, although I’m sure at times she wondered why she hadn’t been allocated to a Ferrari or a Mercedes with a switched-on driver. She even kindly reminded me of changes in the speed limit to prevent me getting a ticket! Sweet.

As long as I follow instructions, and the GPS is correctly programmed, I can be sure of arriving where I need to be. Even if I make a mistake along the way and miss a turning, she quickly "recalculates" and gets me back on track.

Mind you, I’ve heard a few horror stories of people who followed their GPSs into unsavoury locations, perhaps because there is more than one street with the same name. I hardly think we can blame the GPS for that—but it does show the need to double-check our destination on old-fashioned paper maps or new-fashioned Google maps before we set out on a journey.

As writers, the GPS has much to teach us.

1. We need to know where we want to go. Are we writing for children? Or is this a niche-specific article? Are we looking for a general address such as a woman’s magazine? Or are we aiming at a particular house such as breast-cancer survivors? We need to program our thinking clearly before we even start out on the journey.

2. We need a general idea of the directions to our chosen location. We may not have details on the exact plan we intend to follow, but we at least need to have an idea of where we’re headed. That will save many hours of frustration when we find the book we’re almost 2/3 of the way through writing is headed in the wrong direction.

3. It is good to know more eyes than ours are watching the article’s journey. We need critique partners who will look over our writing and say, “I think you need to do some recalculation in this chapter.” It’s good to have them offer alternative wording or a possible change to our direction.

4. It’s great to have companionship along the way. As writers, we tend to enjoy working in isolation, and it’s possible for our story to veer off track while we’re looking the other way. If we chat with someone else who knows the journey and where we’re aiming to go, we may hear words like, “What’s happening here? You seem to be changing direction.”

5. We need to follow the guidelines provided by the publishers, editors, or fellow authors. They are there to steer us along the right route. We shouldn’t think that because our Christmas children’s story is cute, it will be accepted by a woman’s magazine.

6. We need to keep track of the distance. I am beginning to get better at estimating, but when I first started using the GPS I can’t tell you how often I heard her say something like “In 400 meters, turn left.” I spotted a road to the left just ahead, so obediently slowed down and turned left. There would be a slight pause then a patient voice would intone, “Recalculating. Turn right and in 300 meters, turn left.” As we gain experience, we will get better at estimating word counts. But until then, it’s a good idea to work in a program such as MS Word with the word count visible. That will prevent the need to cut a 2,500 word article down to 250 words. (And yes, I’ve done that. More than once.) When the GPS says “turn in 400 meters” it means 400 meters. Turn after 100 and you’ll have to relocate—or get lost. If a publisher requires 500 words, they want 500 words. Offer more, and your story is likely to be relocated—to the trash can.

7. We need to listen to the GPS. If we don’t, we can hardly blame it if we get lost. There’s no point in having it on the dashboard if we don’t switch it on or if our music is louder than our guide’s voice. When writing, if we don’t follow the guidelines or listen to our internal GPS, we’re likely to get lost along the way.

Over to you. Can you think of any other similarities between the GPS in your car, and your writing journey? Next time you switch on the GPS, give some thought to your current writing project and ask if you need further direction to help you arrive at the right market.

Other reading on this topic: Positioning Mom 

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 now that she has a GPS, she may even follow you back.


Valentine's Gifts: Sometimes Words Fail Even a Writer

  He Won’t Write You a Love Letter By Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writer...