Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Writers Websites Wednesday - Creativity Generators

 Visit Seventh Sanctum if you want a generator to help the creation of your novel along. It's a site of ite of random tools for creativity. Here you'll find a collection of 'generators' that make random characters, plots, ideas, and more to use in your writing, games, art and more.A collection of generator sites in one place. They even link to sites with more links to generators.   A fun way to spend a day in prep.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Wanna Go Play?

Writers at play.  Not a sentence you read very much.  Most writers are pretty single-minded working their way into stories in their own fashion, mostly a pretty straight-forward, sometimes grimly determined adventure. 

See, writers have to discovery their stories and most don't value or even think about the process they use to get there.  Because we write alone we develop our own work ethic.  Don't have the nose to the grindstone, getting words on paper, then you're not working. Most of us go through this. Cover white space with black letters. The mark of your accomplishments.

But, in fact a writer needs to play just like anyone else, in some ways more than anyone else. Writers need not to simply allow themselves to play, but rather to order themselves to play.  In several articles and posts in other places I've mentioned the idea of writers working with, developing and getting involved in new hobbies. It's one way to play.  One way to let the mind wander enough so that it acknowledges new ideas and recognizes the path to the story the writer wants to create.

To touch off that creative spark within, we have to do things that are fun. Watch movies, work in the garden, read books (yes writers need to read - a lot), knit, create with beads, carve wood, ride a bike, go for a drive - something!

It's when you do something you enjoy when you engage the brain in other areas, that you'll discover the story you're about to write.  That's when the pieces will come together, when it will make some kind of sense and you'll be ready to assemble the final product. Ever notice that great ideas may come to you while you're driving your car or riding a bike?  That's because what you're doing is so automatic you allow your creative self to surge to the fore.

The same thing happens when you garden or carve or knit. What you're doing is so automatic tat the creative side of the brain is freed and ideas flow uninhibited.  And since, well, it's a whole lot less dangerous to write an idea down when doing something that doesn't involve forward motion, engage the part of your brain that wants stuff to do with something you really enjoy and can about do blind-folded and free your creative brain to take flight with those ideas.

Enjoyment should be the writer's key for the period immediately before beginning a new novel. The amount of time dedicated to this pursuit is up to the individual writer and should be considered part of the 'work' to be done to get the juices flowing. Plainly we can't all just waltz off, go play, and not work for months at a time, so it's best to figure out a shorter, comfortable timeframe, then stick to it. Once you've reached the end of that time, dig in. Take all the bits and pieces of the puzzle you’ve jotted down and write your story.

Will everything flow with perfect rhythm after that? Probably not. But you'll have collected a lot of the bits and pieces you need to write your novel and when you hit a place where you’ stumped you won't panic as easily.

An that’s another key to the writer’s life. Don’t panic. Allowing yourself the freedom to have fun, to play, you create an environment that allows you to push through things like temporary writer’s block much more easily.

Stuck? Then allow yourself a play break. Go grub in the garden, grab your pen knife and whittle, knit, go for a drive (if driving relaxes you and gets the ideas flowing please stop the car to write down ideas and then continue on), whatever you use to relax, play and just have fun. Whatever you do, don't just beat your head against the wall determined you WILL break through. Give yourself a couple of hours or maybe a day away from the work.

Ideas will begin to flow, trust me on this. Make notes. When you return to your writing you’ll be amazed at how the new pieces you’ve created will fit. You’ll find the flow of solutions to your problems have become much smoother and clearer.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Writers Websites Wednesday - writer's tools is an excellent online, at your fingertips resource for writers. It offers an extensive dictionary, a thesaurus, Famous quotes from writers, an encyclopedia, even a translator. I've used it a number of times and have always found it helpful and interesting - in fact I have to guard against being drawn off into fun research land by the site.  Add this one to your bookmarked pages if you haven't already.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Writers & Readers & Books, Oh, My!

Writers talk about many things regarding their craft and all the varied aspects of it. The nuts and bolts, the how-tos of the craft, the jungle of the publishing world, how tough it is it find a great agent/editor/publisher...etc. However, not enough time, I think, is spent considering the symbiotic relationship between reader and writer.

We as writers must remember only one person at a time reads your book. It's not a theater crammed with people who react and share the experience. One person, with a book, reading. That's it. The truly excellent writer must learn to link with his or her's reader's imagination. The writer offers ideas, thoughts, a story, but it is the reader who sits with the book and strings those thoughts and ideas together. It is the reader the writer must seduce and draw into the story. It is the single reader the writer must trust to 'get it'. Much better to assume your reader is smarter than you are than the reverse.

So what is is about the reader that we as writers must remember?  Well most writers are readers, think about what it is you get out of what you read.  What you expect from a good writer you read.

In addition to that, here are a few thoughts.

*Why read a story? To see someone struggle against all odds, succeed, and somehow grow while succeeding. Such stories are uplifting and give hope to what is experienced in non-reading moments.

*People love to read about themselves. Writers, in great books, convince their readers they're doing just that.

*Readers really do want to suspend disbelief. They don't want to just read the words you've written, the story you've created - they want to be drawn in, seduced to experience it. They don't want to, however, suspend credibility. Your created worlds must be real and true to their own reality.

*When it comes to book series, readers love them. A good series provides familiarity and deeper connection to the characters. Emphasis on the words "good series".

*When you really think about it, the gift of the writer is to stimulate other peoples' imaginations. The book is given birth in the writer's mind, but it is in the reader's mind where it truly lives and expands beyond the limits of what was written.

*Another bit of reality: it doesn't matter how good your book is, someone won't like it. There is no way for any single piece of writing to appeal to everyone equally. And, whether you as the writer see it or not, accept it or not, the writing will not speak to all readers in the same way.  Each one will take something different away from the experience.

There are  many other aspects of the reader/writer relationship; all sorts of nuances to discuss. But remember, in order for a writer to create a really great book that will appeal to his reader he must keep in mind the fact that readers automatically ask several questions when picking up a book:  Who are the people?  Is this story even possible, could it happen for real? and Why the heck should I care about any of it? They may not ask those questions out loud or even consciously think about them, but they're there.

Fortunately for the writer the reader wants to be convinced. He wants to care. So the writer's job is to bear these questions in mind and answer them even before the reader picks up that book.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Writers Websites Wednesday - helpful tools

Roger J.  Carlson has a site for writers. He says it's mostly for new writers, but believe me, established writers can find helpful stuff here as well. The link take you directly to the page offering helpful utilities for writers such as the passive word highlighter or preposition highlighter.  These are great help by themselves, but do check out the rest of his site.  Not huge, but very helpful.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Are You Looking Toward Publishing?

photo by Chance Agrella
Yes?  I hope so.  If you're writing, unless you're writing only a journal for yourself, then your aim, one way or another should be publishing.

No fair hiding stuff in a drawer, stacking it up and showing it to no one but your mother (and maybe not her). You may be creating great art, great entertainment, the bread and butter of the writing world, but if you don't submit it, who's going to know that?

Many of us writers lack in confidence, and even after we're published it doesn't change a whole heckuva lot. The question always remains, who's going to publish that next piece of mine? Where will it find a home.?

But there's also a simple equation.  Write and rewrite, then submit and resubmit.  Eventually you will publish and publish again. As I've mentioned in other places, every published writer has created his or her share of unsalable work. I have manuscripts and partial scripts right now on my shelves that may one day be reworked and resubmitted, but are 'resting' now as they  haven't found their mark. That's okay, because others have. I've been published by Doubleday, Harlequin, Pinnacle, G.K. Hall, Five Star and others. In hard copy and, now Ebook format.  I've optioned screen scripts, written for an animated TV series and published short pieces elsewhere.  None of which would have happened if I hadn't thrust those works out into the world.

The reality is you must submit, and submit frequently. If you don't have a manuscript out there, there's no chance there's a check in the mail.  Remember, no matter how much you revise and rework, no matter how many times you tear the piece apart and put it back together it will never be perfect. So, get as close to perfect as you can, reach a point where you simply feel it's as good as it can get - for now - and then send it out.

And, as professional, forget fancy fonts and prettily boxed text. Don't use brightly colored paper and don't punch it and put it in a binder. Follow submission guidelines the publisher puts out precisely. With word processors that isn't hard these days. A lot of publishers accept Equiries too.

Make sure the editor you're submitting to is someone who's worked with the type of material you've written. Don't send romance to a Sci/Fi only publisher. Don't send Sci/Fi to a publisher of mysteries. You get it, do your research

Quite simply, aside from being a creative writer, you are also an independent businessperson and your product is your writing. You are responsible for getting your work out there. For the emerging writer it's an inescapable fact. If you decide to get an agent and work toward that end, the work is still yours until you get that agent.  Even then, the burden is merely shared, it doesn't shift entirely to the agent. The new writer will need to have his or her own website, to promote their work, to work with editors. I had to cut a book almost 1/3 in length one time and that was just to get the contract.  There was more work after that.

So set your sites on publishing - but don't think for a moment that it ends there.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Writers Websites Wednesday - SF & Fantasy Writers

If you're a writer who's into Science Fiction & Fantasy Writing then this organization could well be for you.  It's the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America.  You can join if you qualify, with an association with publishing or as little as one published short story.  Read their eligibility requirements.  If you don't care to join, they offer helpful things on the website: free fiction by members, Writer Beware, and links to some helpful blogs. Worth checking out if you're writing in the field.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Chasing the Wild Endorsement

Most of us writers cringe at the thought of the need to promote our work, not to mention the need to  ask others to endorse our work - and if we can use their quotes on our book jackets, at our websites and for other promotion.  The whole thing can be a bit intimidating and cause us to lose a bit of our cool and possibly not approach those we need in the right way. 

First of all, keep your best manners on display.  Rudeness, even unintentional, is not the way to get someone's support.

So here are a few tips.

You're heading out to a writer's conference. Your favorite author is going to be there and your book needs a great endorsement.  What an opportunity!

Wait, no, not there.  It's never polite to hit up a professional in public - to put him or her on the spot.  Make the contact, be pleasant, get some contact info, and after the conference send that special author a friendly request.  Be sure to tell a bit about your book, your professional history and why you want that particular author's endorsement.  Be prepared to give a reason - hopefully other than "hey you sell a lot of books!" Maybe mention a book of theirs you've read, or the style with with they write. Make it personal.

Oh, and don't make the author (or authors) you've chosen to approach feel pressured or obligated.  He or she simply may not have the time to read your book or even a part of it. So don't get all huffy and hold some kind of grudge if you get declined. 

Remember this is one big favor you're asking of someone. You're requesting that author (or whoever you're asking for an endorsement) take his or her valuable time to read your book, or at least part of it. Then you hope he or she will take even more time to put together a blurb for you to use.  On top of all that since you're asking to quote that person, you're asking he or she 'lend' you their reputation.  All this for free.

And by the way, it's okay to solicit three or four authors at a time for their quote, but don't go nuts and ask 10 or 20 at a shot. 

First of all, you'll probably only have room to use up to 3 or 4 quotes and really showcase them.  So you don't want to insult anyone by asking for a quote and then not using it. Also, in general, you don't even want to use a long string of blurbs.  Too many and they don't mean a whole lot to the reader who probably won't read them all anyway.  And you don't want that special author or expert feeling lost in the crowd. So, ask a max of three or so at a time, wait for their responses and then, if negative, ask a couple more until you have the short list you need.

Most writers who do this huge favor will expect to have their blurb used on the book jacket, probably hoping for the front cover, and the website, not just a backwater website alone.

And remember, don't ever quote someone before you've gotten his or her permission to do so.  Just because someone tells you how much they've enjoyed your work, perhaps in the context of a conference or a casual meeting, doesn't mean you can quote them willy nilly without their okay. And, it's best to get their approval in writing.

So polish up your best manners, pause and give some thought as to how to best approach each person you'd like to solicit for an endorsement, and allow yourself plenty of time before the book's release to collect those endorsements.  Coordinate with your publisher so you remain aware of the deadline as to when things like endorsements can be added to the jacket cover.

Think of it as a opportunity to make some friends. 

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Writers Websites Wednesday - Horror Writers Association

Into Horror Writing?  Enjoy those really scary, horrifying reads?  Then you might want to check out the Horror Writers Association.  They offer (and have offered for more than 20 years) help for writers working in the Horror field. You can join whether a full-fledged, published writer or not. The requirements for basic membership are minimal.  Check it out.

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