Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Computer Vacation

Hi all, just wanted you to know I'm taking a week's computer vacation.  

Time for a break. Have some fun and stare at no screen. Really, NO screen!

I won't be posting here next week, but regular posts will resume the first week of April.  In the mean time I'd love it if you checked out some of my work: 

Stormrider  - Fantasy/Sci-Fi adventure novel.

Out of Thin Air --book for new writers; helps & tips & helpful websites

To Hell And Back --Ebook published with Fictionworks via Smashwords. A great Western

Blown To Hell --Ebook published with Fictionworks via Smashwords - digital  edition of original Doubleday publication 

Eye Of The Hawk-- Hardcover Western published by Five Star

Wedding Planning On The Cheap --great wedding planning book on how to do it yourself, get help and cut lots of corners while having a wonderful time.  

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Writers Websites Wednesday - Script Frenzy

This one is for the screenwriters out there.  Script Frenzy is the screenwriting answer to NaNoWiMo (National Novel Writing Month).  Write 100 pages (that really is an entire script) in April and be part of the action.

Get your head in the right place - it's about to begin.  They even offer a young writers program. 

Cruise over and check it out.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Write What You Know???

Oh, come on, really?  How many times have we, as writers, heard that old, tired phrase.

Write what you know?  Only what you know?  Wouldn't that be, well, a bit limiting? Boring too, for you as a writer, and your reader as well.

If we're to write only what we know what the heck is that imagination we've been gifted with for? And what about the visionaries who've come before? Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, and so many others.  Did they have intimate knowledge whereof they wrote? 

Sometimes we take things far too literally.

If you don't know about it you can't write about it - right!  How silly is that?

I have a theory.  When that old saying was first said I believe the person who said it meant it in reference to a general state - a sort of life experience state; not a literal if you haven't been to the moon you can't write about it or if you haven't seen a vampire you have no basis for your writing.

Look at it this way, it actually is quite easy to write about something we don't know about, but in actual fact, on some level we do.  Life gives you lots of experience and that imagination I was talking about gives us the ability to relate those experiences into pretty much anything we do.  It's a facile faculty of the mind writers have huge reason to be grateful for. That area of the brain is constantly picking up bits and pieces and relating them one to another. Pretty amazing, huh?

It's true, once we're past childhood (and even to a lesser extent during childhood) we have experience to draw from and that experience encompasses pretty much every aspect of life.  We've gleaned a glimmer of understanding about so many things on so many levels and on so many subjects that we can relate to them and extrapolate even more data. Yes,  it's true, we can write about them!

And, of course, for those breaks in knowledge, those holes that need to be filled, there's research.

Lucky us, we writers have springboards we never had before.  We have the web, libraries, experts that are easily contacted for vital detail. We have movies, TV and DVDs. Knowledge is everywhere.  We  have the tools to plug those holes in story to make it balanced and believable.

Research, though, is not necessarily the center of your creation: experience is. Dig deep for emotions you've experienced in your life, for situations you've lived through.  When you were a kid you fell off a bike.  As an adult you wrecked the car. You may not have met a zombie, but you've experienced real fear. You've seen beauty and ugly. You've breathed sweet roses and smelled foul air. You've felt love, anger and hate, joy and sadness.

Use the tools you've spent a lifetime thus far in collecting.

Write what you know.  But do it the way the originator of the phrase no doubt intended - use your experience and expand.  Don't get so hung up on an odd interpretation of advice that you limit yourself and curb your own potential. Exercise your imagination, tap your inner world and write what you love.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Writers Websites Wednesday - Fiction Writer's Guide to Psychology

Happy Writers' Wednesday followers and visitors.  Today I want to recommend The fiction Writer's Guide To Psychology.  Yes, it's Psych 101, or something like that. Seriously, it's a very  helpful site for writer who want to get the Psyche behind their characters right and avoid the pitfalls of the cliche.  Ms. Kaufman offers articles, psychology, a blog and more. The site offers helpful info for authors of any genre.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Scattered Ruminations on Some Writng Basics

Today I'm feeling a bit unfocused so I thought I'd do a matching, rambling blog post. This is going to be far from laser-focused - I'm going to bounce from one subject to another in brief paragraphs.  Bits and pieces of experience I've had along the way. 

Join me if you dare.

First I'm often asked, where do you get your ideas?  This could be a long, rambling post in itself, but I'll keep it short and be blunt:  Open your eyes, ideas are all around you. In the news, in magazines, in people you see on the street, in fluffly clouds that drift across the sky.  They're everywhere - open your mind along with your eyes and you'll see.

Many times people want me to give specific guidelines, rules for writing.  Hello!  There really aren't any.  Okay, rules of grammar, spelling, etc.  if you want to be understood. But there's no particular number of pages to a chapter, no number of words to a page.  You'll need guidelines from publishers if you want to submit directly or from an agent you wish to approach. But your writing itself, that's up to you to develop your style and polish your craft. There is no neat box you can cram yourself into and be guaranteed publication.

Another good one I hear frequently is "I've been told to write what I know."  Uh huh, like Stephen King has all those weird things he writes about happen to him or may be Dean Koontz, or perhaps H. G. Wells traveled through time. (well, actually, maybe he did, but that's another urban legend altogether).  When you're told if you don't know about it you can't write about it, that's a bunch of bull you-know-what. Life is your experience and the trick is to relate that experience into what you write. Of course you haven't experienced everything life has to offer so you hone your research skills. Research is central. Your mind coordinates it all, quite amazing that. Write only what you know.  What a crock that is. And if you take it too much to heart it is the one piece of 'advice' that may stop you from reaching your full potential.  Writing what you don't know may be the most exciting thing you've done.

Writers, would you PLEASE proof read your work in addition to the spell check?  There are many typo slips that are actually words which the spell check will skip over and may make absolutley no sense.  I know, I know, it takes a lot of time, and after the umpteenth read-through it may even bet to be trying, but it's worth it.

Then there's the 'nose-to-the-grindstone, write every day no matter what crowd.  Yes, it's important to have a schedule and to stick to it most of the time, but there are days when we simply  have to give ourselves a break and step away from the computer. Keep your schedule but occasionally let yourself play some hooky.

Please don't try to explain your work.  Quite simply, it's there on the page.  If you have to constantly 'explain' what you're trying to get across, then you aren't. It's just that simple.

Here's a little tip about agents.  Do you need to have one - need is a tough word.  Maybe.  Do you want to have one?  That's another question.  For a lot of reasons yu may.  But remember the agent can't sell your manuscript.  The agent represents your manuscript.  What's on the page is what will sell your manuscript.

Promotion.  Yes, you the writer have to do it.  It won't happen magically and unless you're already a famous author it's doubtful your publisher will budget much, if anything, to promotion for your book. Start thinking about promotion before your book is sold; while you're writing it.  What can you do to get the buzz going?  Who can you partner with to do cross promotion? Can you get a book tour going?  Build your platform, let your publisher know you have it.  It makes you just that much more saleable.

That's it for today's ramble.  Hope you've plucked a few helpful nuggets from the heap. 

Best of luck and keep writing.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Writers Websites Wednesday - Time to Chat

Ever want to just chat with writers about writing and publishing? the whole enchilada?  Want to hook up with a vibrant group of writers whose work spans all genres, who join together to encourage one another and to share important information regarding the profession of writing? Then The Writers Chatroom is the place. They offer Celebrity Sundays, Open Chat Wednesdays, a Forum and more. There are some articles and book reviews posted there as well.  And it's one of Writer's Digest's 101 top sites.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Avoid Annoying Phrases And Words

Writers are a wordy lot.  We're clever with words, it's true.  We love them. We play with them.

We write short stories, articles, reports, screen scripts, novels and lots more only rarely do we write too little. Some of us write in fantastic fashion, a great many in exceptionally good style and a whole lot more are aspiring to really excellent writing.

So I want to use this week's post to remind us all about the tired and overused phrases that are so common in our writing, the cliches that keep cropping up; the words that hardly seem to be words at all, but rather some barely noticed (or not noticed at all) filler that your readers are going to gloss over, skip, or possibly cause them to lose interest altogether. (horrors!)

I mean come on, doesn't it 'boggle your mind' to hear the same phrase over and over? We've all heard 'it's not rocket science' or 'think outside of the box' so often they're in our genes by now.

I don't know why we, as humans, do this with such gusto - adopt a word or phrase and use it to death - or until the next new word or phrase comes along.  Then repeat.

And then there are the ones that just linger forever.  "A stitich in time saves nine."  Huh? Okay, I get it, but Why? 

Well, we may never know why, or if asking a professional why, could well be 'bored to tears' by what we're told.  So, lets just 'get real' and I'll give you a list of some words and phrases to avoid.  Hopefully this little list will trigger your "oh my god, am I doing that?" response and you'll search your latest manuscript for just this sort of thing.  Unless your characters are using a cliche or some particular phrase or repetitive wording for a particular effect, don't do it.

So here's the 'short list' - I'm not going to make it to terribly long, I'll leave the rest to you. Focus!

Tired of "ballpark figure" or "bear with me" or 'bottom line"?  I know I am.

How about awesome?  Are you sick of  "awesome" yet?

Here's an "oldie but a goodie" "between a rock and a hard place."

Why does "is your glass half full or half empty" continue to hang around?

"I hear what you're saying"  - frankly I doubt it!

"the fact of the matter is" - why did that start and why won't people stop using it?

Another one that makes me cringe, "touch base".  Come on, stop already!

"Preaching to the choir", "pushing the envelope"  Again, stop already!

"Needless to say,"  - oh, really?  Then don't say it.

And how many times have we all heard "anyway" as the beginning of a sentence? Don't put it in your writing.

All of these phrases are more to fill space than to get anything across.  So think about these things in your writing if you don't want your readers' eyes to glaze over.

Oh, and it's annoying too, so stop it.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Writers Websites Wednesday - Brainstormer

Okay, this one is just fun.  Visit Brainstormer. Click the center 'Random' button and see the wheel spin. There are there rings to the wheel actually and it comes up with a different idea combo each time. It even offers an iPhone app.  Spin the wheel and see what ideas you might get based on something like "Unconditional Love" "intergalactic" "volcano".  Fun to play with and who knows, it just might lead you somewhere.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

If Only Psychos Would Write

No seriously, think about it.  How many writers, artists, or musicians have you ever heard of who murder - let alone in a particularly gruesome way?

There have been stories written by - well - writers about writers who kill, (I think there was even a movie in 2006 called Psycho Writer) but how many times have you heard about it for real? 

Carravagio, who was a painter and managed to kill a young man in a brawl - one of several he got himself into - is about the only one who comes to mind and he was an artist - not  writer.and that was a brawl, probably not premeditated murder.  He also didn't live very long himself. Still he was in the creative soup.

Today's post is more of a rumination than out and out instructional though it does have it's educational side.  And I'm half serious.  If only we could get psychos to write.  There is a therapy in writing. It tends to curb aggression and acts as a real therapy for the mind.  Soothing. Scatter the corpses on the pages if you like and walk away.

Think of all the characters you, the writer, create in your God-like position of 'creator', 'builder of worlds'.  So, in the progress of your story you can contemplate, "who shall I kill today? Who's really ticked me off; and in the fictional world of your creation who deserves to die?!  (heh-heh-heh). 

Those rare violent impulses inside us all have an outlet through our writing for those of us who indulge in the craft. Even the most easy going need an outlet for frustrations of monumental proportions which occur and what outlet better than writing?  Isn't there something of the real in all fiction?  I mean what a great release! Fictional characters bite the dust - far and away different from real people. And not just murder, all sorts of mayhem is permissible on the page.

So, wouldn't it be logical to think if we could get psychos to write they could well mellow out?  If short-tempered average Joe mellows out when writing wouldn't it have a positive impact on psychos?

I'm all for supplying lots of paper and pens should my theory hold water. I mean shouldn't we have writing programs in prison? Just a thought.

Meanwhile, for the rest of us decidedly non-psychos, what a great way to treat ourselves to some mellow of our own. Channel whatever aggression you have into your craft.

Hey, writers may be a little crazy, possibly prone to being a bit erratic, admittedly sometimes a bit undependable, but at least in general we're non-violent. Except, of course, perhaps on the pages of a novel or short story.

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