Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Writers Websites Wednesday

Hi there.  I've written tips, I've tweeted websites and helpful hints for writers.  Now I've decided to institute "Website Wednesday" wherein I'll provide a website I've discovered or have known about that might offer free software to writers, helpful information or is just plain amusing.  Won't be a lot of writing involved, just a few words to let you know what it's all about - then it's up to you to investigate.  Leave some comments and let me know how you like the feature and, if you try out the link, what you think of it. 

Print by Linda Hunsaker

Starting this feature with Open Office software.  It's a suite that's free to download and includes software  for word processing (includes the ability to save in PDF), spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, databases and more. It is available in many languages and works on all common computers.They'd much appreciate a donation if you like it and can chip in a bit, but basically the download is free. 

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

So, Writer, You Think You Don't Need a Vacation?

Yes you do.

I think it's pretty obvious, really, and if that was all there was, this would be my shortest blog post.  But I feel the need to elaborate in order to encourage fierce, nose-to-the-grindstone type writers who figure they have to write every single day with a minimum word count under their belts to dial it back a bit and take a break.

See, I'm writing with cliches and I know it.  I must be rested because I actually know I'm doing it and I don't give a damn.  I'm clear and focused and at the moment this is how I want to write.

Okay, I admit it, I ran away to Las Vegas for four glorious nights.  Saved up some bucks to go, sought out a great deal and had a blast seeing shows, eating great food, shopping and dabbling just a bit in the gambling world.  I took nothing electronic with me except my cell phone which I had turned off except to check twice a day for emergency messages from our housesitter (of which, bless her, there were none).  Ah, it was a lovely time.

And, when I began work on Monday I was refreshed and ready to get down to it.  A great feeling.  Energized, awake and aware.  Ideas for the novel I'm working on abound.

So why am I telling you all this?  Because everyone needs a break some time.  It doesn't matter if you have the money to run away or not, writers need time away from the words they crank out and the electronics wrapped around daily lives.

If you can go somewhere special and blow out the stops, do it - and don't take  your laptop along!  If that's not in your budget declare yourself a holiday and for a set time, don't go on the web, don't text or talk on your phone all day, dont' work.  Just kick back and do something you enjoy.  Go to a cheap movie, take some long walks, read for enjoyment, put a comfy chair in the sunshine and bask, visit a coffee shop with friends, cook your own favoite meal at leisure, take a long, hot bath, do some gardening, be creative; whatever it takes to recharge your batteries.

Don't cheat.  Don't take a quick look at your accumulating emails or texts or tweets.  You'll deal with all that later, when the time you've set for your break ends whether you've taken a writer's break of 2 days or 10.

The dividends that'll make this even better than just the rest you'll get?  You'll be amazed at how much sharper you feel, how much better your brain clicks.  New ideas will pop.  Novel writing, copywriting, non-fiction writing projects you were working on before your break will make more sense, new ideas will freshen them and ultimately you're just gonna work better, faster, and with more clarity.

Sometimes we writers forget that we, like everyone else, need to take a break.  Because freelancers and fiction authors don't get paid when they don't work they can forget the need to just shut down for a while.  Yes, lost income is tough to replace, but that doesn't mean it isn't necessary.  Breaks boost productivity and greatly lessens the chance of burn-out.

This reality is especially obvious after an illness or some other stressful situation.  While in the midst of whatever crisis we face we tend to forget ourselves and just keep hammering at the writing, working, writing, creating because we need to.  But there comes a time when even a best selling author takes a break.  And though the best selling author has more resources than the average writer, the fact remains the same.  A break is necessary and not taking one can be detrimental to your writing.

Why do we freelance writers need vacations?  So we can write even better when we get back to it.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Why Think About The Writing Rights You've Sold?

Word from is that my very first published book (Blown To Hell, a western first published by Doubleday), will be released in large print very soon.  Pretty firm, some time in April.  I'm pretty excited.  It's great to have an earlier creation return to print again.  Great for the ego and for the pocketbook.  Blown to Hell is already available in trade paperback through Amazon as well as a Kindle Edition and a Trade paperback Edition.

So, aside from my own ego being fed and exposing this reprint to folks who read, what other point may I have here? 

Simple - writers, take my advice and negotiate contracts carefully.  Keep all the rights you can, or have specific dates when the rights you've sold expire and they revert to you so you can once again determine if and where and when your written creation may be produced again, perhaps in another format. 

Writers are so frequently focused on getting a book published - in print - that they forget about important things that may lurk in a contract.  Things that could prevent the originator of the work (that's YOU, the writer) from selling rights to reprint in Ebook format, in audio book format, in Large Print, Paperback, Hardback, perhaps even be considered as movie material. 

Contracts should have a timeframe, if they don't watch out.  Hesitate, consider before signing.  There are times when you, as the writer, will have to swallow some things that you don't particularly like, but others when simply questioning a paragraph can get big changes.  If you have an agent he or she should be looking out for you, but question anyway, there's more to your writing career than getting one book published right now, today.  If you don't have an agent, read the contract very carefully yourself and if you don't understand something, ask for intent and clarification.  You can also locate an attorney who specializes in creative arts contracts.  It could well be money well spent to have such a person look the contract over after you've read it.

Have some contracts already - a few years old?  Book sales have slowed to a trickle?  Then read them again.  Look for expirations or paragraphs that would allow you to exit the contract.  Once you comply with whatever requirements the publisher has put forth to get out of a stalled contract you can seek publication elsewhere or perhaps submit to audio publishers or send the idea to production companies.  Writers must train themselves to be business people in addition to their creativity - that is if they hope to make any worthwhile money from their writing.

Take my advice, set up a tracking system for everything you write and follow those expiration dates.  Doesn't matter if it's articles, novels or some other 'for pay' writing.  Know what's required of you and your rights and think creatively in the business world to make the most of anything you create.

Meanwhile I have To Hell And Back, published by Fictionworks as an Ebook and am definitely open to having ti go to paperback or Large Print.  Have to check into that.  Another western.  I love them and love to get them out there.  Stormrider, a great fantasy, deserves to see multiple venues as well.  It's in Ebook format now; I'll be looking into others

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Monday, April 12, 2010

Telegraphing Happy

Okay writers, I'm sure this is something  you've pondered in some way before, but let's talk about setting mood and telegraphing feelings through your writing and get the juices flowing. 

To write really well, a writer must polish his or her craft of telegraphing what's going on and not simply state John was happy, or John was angry or John was sad. 

So, we want to get that message across, but how to do it.  Well, as always, it's the little concete things that make up a story, give it texture, make it come alive.  There are times when the writer wants to convey the mood of the scene, not just the feelings of a character.

So, let's think about it.  What adds 'happy' to a scene?  What brings a smile to your lips or makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside?  A field of flowers blowing in the breeze; the sun shining; the sound of laughter in the background; a dog or multiple dogs wagging tails; bird singing?  Some are cliche, but you get the point.  If writing a scene wherein you want to not only  let the world know your characters are in  good frame of mind, but to telegraph that 'feel good' feeling into your story you need to write with an eye toward that goal and immerse yourself in that feeling.

The flip side of happy is sad or depressed or dark.  Again, what comes to your mind in connection with that kind of feeling?  A storm; darkness; a heavy, deep silence; a setting in a small, tight space; an omen such as ravens circling; a combination of elemements like ravens circling against a storm darkening sky? Again, some are cliche (actually many have become cliche), but if you as the writer apply the idea to your own story, new ideas will appear.

And there are all kinds of signals a writer can give in many situations.  The scene is transitioning from one siutation or mood to another.  What to do to signal that aside from the primary action of your characters?  Cliched again, but symbolic, the gathering of clouds before an oncoming storm.  A main character's encounter with a threat, perhaps a minor one, but one that's disruptive - maybe a face-off with a snarling dog in the park.  Perhpas the car won't start.  Maybe a feeling of deja vu when spotting another person in a crowd.  How about an appraising look from a shifty looking characrer on a bus or subway?  Play with ideas, come up with something uniquely your own. 

The story gets better and better when the writer comes up with something new, or a new twist to something old. Read some of your favorite authors.  Look for places where the mood, whatever it is, is a tangible, living part of the story, then re-read for how the writer accomplished that feeling, that goal.  You  might try watching some movies and see what elements come together to make up the mood projected from the screen (aside from the music in the background - in fact, turn off the sound, just absorb the pictures). 

Each writer has to find his or her own voice.  Sometimes that means taking action (go to the library, read, cruise the net for research) and for others it means daydreaming. 

Think seriously about this aspect of your story-telling, the many moods you as a writer can create, work on it, and what you create will become engaging and gripping for your reader.  And that's what it's all about, right?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Where Do Ideas Come From?

So-called Sappho, fourth style fresco; Pompeii...Image via Wikipedia
Seriously, I believe it's a question every writer has had to field at some  time or another. And it's a legitimate question. It is also a source of fascination for others who may be thinking of writing a book or undertaking some other creative endeavor.

Where do those ideas come from?  How can I find one, or two, or more?

When you think about it, we all come up with ideas all the time...again I say, all of us. It isn't just the ability to come up with an idea using our creative impulses, but the ability to trust ourselves, our abilities and our own thought processes.  For many writers, it's the ability to shed fear and move forward.  What if it doesn't make sense? What if it isn't good enough?  What if....

Well, remember your stories are pretty much based on 'what if' so cultivate that trust in yourself.  Are there hacks?  Yes there are.  But the ability to take chances with your ideas to push and pull until that idea is forced well beyond what you normally feel safe with, that's what will separate your ideas from the pack...or the hack.

So, where do those ideas come from?  Well, if you talk to several writers you'll get several answers.  Sometimes there are those who think in terms of creative radar.  Ideas float in the ether until someone picks them up.  This leads to the concept of daydreaming and emerging from it with an idea fully formed and fleshed out.  Works for some.

Then there's another, and more reliable method (at least for me) and that is the concept that ideas basically emerge from hard work and thoughtful contemplation.  The writer picks up an idea, perhaps from a newspaper article, or a photo, or witnessing something in public, then proceeds to work out a story and create it.

Ideas come from everywhere, from within ourselves, our memories and experiences and dreams.  From without ourselves, via active engagement with the world.

The trick is being ready to pick up on an idea when it slaps you in the face. Pay attention to the world aroaund you, cultivate the ability to pick up on detail and event. Be curious, investigate things that interest you and be sure to take notes when ideas occur.  The real truth is, ideas are plentiful, it's the execution that's a bitch.  If you don't capture an idea quickly, follow up on it and commit to it, it will disappear, simply evaporate and leave you wondering what happened.  Once that happens, it's very rare that you can get that idea or thought back. Pft!  It's gone.   Pay attention.  Take notes or photos, leave a message to yourself on your phone if you have to, but don't let it slip away.

And, as a writer it's important to attempt to maintain an openness, a willingness to  make connections between things that might seem unrelated, the quirk, the odd moment, the bit of scientific information crossed with a strange first date.  The brain is always churning, always willing to create new worlds. 

Basically, ideas aren't the private arena of the 'creative', everyone gets them.  It's what you do with them that counts.  If you prepare yourself, open yourself, you'll find ideas everywhere you turn, including when you're just sitting around daydreaming.

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Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Writer's View on Overcoming Rejection

Hemingway posing for a dust jacket photo by Ll...Image via Wikipedia
Rejection is part of writing.  If you've chosen fiction writing there will be rejection coming your way and probably a lot of it.  Paradoxically the writer who sends out frequent queries will, in all probability, receive even more rejections.  I've known writers who've collected them in the hundreds. 

So, why do we write at all?  That's a question left best answered by each individual author.  The real challenge is how to deal with the rejection that will come your way - how to use what you can, get over the hurt (because rejection does hurt, no matter how gently done) and continue writing without feeling your work is worthless. 
Hey, there are lots of ways to do it.  One is to understand rejection can be, but isn't necessarily about your writing. Could be the person to whom you submitted was simply having a bad day, could be that what you've written doesn't fit with what they publish.  Could be your writing.  

Now, before you get all insulted, writing really is rewriting and editing and rewriting.  So, if you're lucky enough to get any personalization on your rejection, read it, pay attention and rethink your work.  See how what you've been told could help improve the writing.  I know, I know, this step comes after you scream and throw things in frustration, but after you've calmed down it's the thing to do. The next thing to do is to  apply any lessons learned and send that piece of writing out again. And again.  And again.

Another track to follow when you receive a rejection is to hit the  rresearch, check out more places to send it, match guidelines to what you've written and again, send it out again. 

The trick, in truth, is not to take rejection too seriously.  It  happens to all writers. It happens to already published authors.  It happens to the very best - repeatedly.  So begin your collection of rejection slips today and you'll be in great company.

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