Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Writers Websites Wednesday - Baby Name Genie

Struggling to find the perfect name for your character? Baby Name Genie could be your solution.  He comes up with some great combinations. Only hitch is, you supply the last name - he focuses on first and middle. A great way to kickstart the thought process even if the genie doesn't come up with the exact name you're looking for.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Writer - Tell Your Readers Only What They Need To Know!

As writers, it's good for us to think a bit about how the brain works and what it's really looking for in many things, but for us the important issue is what does it want from a story? 
If you read, and as a writer I know you do, you've no doubt come across various statistics as to the information we're deluged with on a daily basis -- even on a per second basis.

Recently I read over 11,000,000 pieces of information comes at our five senses every second.  All I can say is I don't know how that was calculated, but if true -- OMG! 
But, our brains, tireless filters that they are, sift through all that info at incredible speeds pulling out what we need to know from what we can, with little or no consequence, put side and ignore. With that in mind and these statistics reverberating through our thought processes, that same article pointed out that 99.9 percent of all that incoming information is instantly tossed aside. 
Hmmm, that gives you, the writer, a .1 percent chance of your information making it through the filter. Not very good odds.
Now, don't panic. The reader is there because he or she wants to be and so is happy to be absorbing the information the writer is presenting - that's you. 
But, and it's a big BUT, that doesn't give you license to bore or overload your reader. Those readers are still wired to filter out the extraneous material. So, that means you, as the writer, must introduce things the reader needs to know. In fact, in this situation the reader is assuming that everything the writer tells him or her is something he or she needs to know. And that means that if, while you're writing, you add words for the sake of adding them, if you provide pointless information your reader is going to read meaning into it, even if you were typing empty words. And that being the case, the reader will read the wrong meaning into those written words since there can't be a right one if you're just pumping out 'background' that doesn't relate to the story other than to fill space.
Okay, that's bad.  So, the solution?
You've heard it before. 

I'll say it again.
Kill your darlings. Do it with enthusiasm. 
Write tight and learn to recognize when you've gotten a bit carried away and, while the writing may be great, have created a whole spiel that's unrelated to your story and keeping it on track. 
Think about it. Provide what your readers need to know and you'll keep them hooked through your book.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Writers Websites Wednesday - Wired For Story

The website, Wired for  Story based on the book of the same name, is one worth exploring.  Yes, the author does have a link to sell her book, but offers "insights into unlocking the secrets of story to hook your readers from the very first sentence."  A site worth digesting and I even have a link to her book, Wired For Story in my Writer's Emporium shop, which should tell you a bit about what I think of the book. 

But, book or not, visit the site and read some of the articles - very helpful and interesting. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Writing, Writer & The Writer's Life

I've done a lot of articles for this blog and offered a lot of links to helpful writing sites. for the new and aspiring as well as the established writer.

Today I think I'm going to kick back and just discuss some of the less 'nuts and bolts' of writing and talk a little about what it's like to be a writer.

Of course there's a lot of writing out there and a lot depends on what kind of writing you do.  I lean to advice for the fiction writer mostly as I am mostly a fiction writer. But, I recently participated in a conversation where one faction was telling a writer that she could consider her writing only a hobby and not to think about trying to make a living from it.  Now, I suspect they were thinking of and talking about writing fiction and I can see the thought process in that direction. However if we don't pursue our dreams, life can seem a dull place.

So, I say, if writing fiction is what you want to do, what you passionately love doing - then go for it.

Will you have to have other jobs to support you along the way?  Probably; almost assuredly.

Will it be hard work?  You better believe it.

Will you have to dedicated part of your precious writing time to promoting the book once it's published?  No doubt about it.

Is it worth it?  That depends on how much you passionately want it.

It is a jungle out there for the fiction writer, no doubt about it. 

However, you can also hone your skills at writing and earn money doing  types of writing in addition to your fiction.  You can prepare yourself for technical writing, journalism, grant writing, writing for newsletters, magazines, online, copywriting and more. If you stop to think, there isn't hardly an area in every day life that doesn't involve writing.

*Who wrote the script for the TV commercial?
*Who wrote the text for the promotional letter you got in today's mail?
*Who wrote the detailed instruction manual that comes with the new item you bought?
*Who wrote the articles for the magazine you read  (and all the hundreds of them you may not read?
*Who wrote the material that got the local college, foundation or non-profit their grant?
*Who came up with the cute text in the greeting card?
*Who writes the many non-fiction books out there?

Well, you get it.  It goes on and on.  I left out writing scripts for movies and TV because those are very tough markets to break into as well though of course if it's your passion, reach for it.

It's never been easy for the fiction writer. 

There are a  handful who do very, very well, who could finance a small country with their earnings.

Then there are many who vary from 'get along' to 'pleasant income' and that's not a bad place to be. 

Then, unfortunately there is a whole pool of 'never make it' who write, maybe publish, maybe even self-publish and promote, but just never get off the ground. Maybe it's not even because they're not talented and skilled, but rather for some reason what they write just doesn't seem to strike a chord. For whatever reason there's no 'lift-off'.

For them, perhaps it does become only a hobby, something they share with friends and relatives. Perhaps they resign themselves to just putting it out there for others to enjoy and not making any money from it.  Unfortunately that last one is a double-edged sword.  I'm not saying you shouldn't do that if that's what you want. But, the more folks who treat their fiction writing as a hobby and put it out there free, the harder it is for writers attempting to make it their profession as it drives down the value of their writing.

And if you become one of the 'rocketing' writers, great, you won't have a whole lot to worry about.

However, if you're in that middle pool there are things you need to consider.

Where are you going to get health insurance? There are some writer's organizations who offer it at reduced rates once you're published and of course there's the possibility of a life-partner who works a 'day job' and carries the insurance for you both. Sadly, even a minor illness can mean bankruptcy in this country. That's where we are.

What if you have a dry spell?  There's no 'unemployment' for a fiction writer who's between books or royalty checks or who just can't get that new idea finished.

Can you put money back against a possible rainy day? For example, what if there's a family emergency and you become a temporary care-giver and can't write at all for six months or a year?

And what about vacations? Can you take time out of your writing to just relax? When you're a freelance writer, not writing means a gap of no pay.  You're self-employed so you need to plan for these things.

But what most self employed people who run a business such as a small store or service provided don't have to think about is the freelance writer is dependent entirely upon his or her own brain and ideas to make a living.

If there is discord in life, if there is tragedy or just a bump in the road, the average self-employed person with that small shop can still show up and go through the motions, selling things or whatever is needed.  It's a show up, do work kind of thing and while it may take some creativity, in most situations there's a bit of 'float' time before a crash might be imminent.

As a freelance writer, a disaster could well be more wide-spread in the ripples it causes as the writer's brain could well go into melt-down dealing with a huge emotional wrench. That means no writing and no writing means no income - maybe further down the line, but it will be felt.

A lot of the reasons above are why many writers keep day jobs, whether part or full time, long after they publish and sometimes for the life of their writing careers. It's something to consider.

Of course a lot of the above can be off-set by that gushing fan letter the writer receives or the really nice royalty check that shows up at the end of a reporting period.

There's a lot to think about in being a freelance writer of any type. Or, sometimes, nothing to think about because it's your passion and you're determined to write and work out the details as you go along.
Did I give you something to think about?  I hope so. Feel free to post your thoughts below. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Writers Websites Wednesday - PaperRater for online proofing

Need online proofreading? Grammar check? Vocabulary building? Then Paper Rater is the place to do it. It's free and there are no downloads.  Young or old, new or experienced, this is a free resource, developed and maintained by linguistics professionals and graduate students. is used by schools and universities in over 46 countries to help students improve their writing. Perhaps it can help you to

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

3 Writing Rules to Fracture Considerably

For writers these days there are so many rules and ideas, how-tos and do-nots coming at them that they forget they're there to just write.
So I think it's time to ponder a couple of the biggies. 
The first is "Show, don't tell".  Really?  Do you always 'show' everyone everything or do you tell as well? I mean in the real world, who gets up from a grog-inducing night's sleep, looks at him or herself in the mirror and does a critique of him or herself noting scars and other physical traits in the mirror? Okay, maybe, sometimes, something could catch your attention when gazing in the mirror other than the toothbrush in your hand, the fact that you got your mascara on a bit thick, or that cold sore coming up on your lip.
But SHOW, always, simply isn't real. And, because it isn't really real the writer ends up manufacturing an entirely artificial series of 'facts', 'woven' into the story. There's nothing wrong with ignoring the 'rule' of "Show, Don't Tell," and simply stating your character is five and a half feet tall with a killer scar over his right eyebrow. Really, it’s okay.
I mean, come on, have you been asked to show someone a story or is it that we, as writers, are asked to tell our readers a story? If you read too many rules and attempt to follow them all you can lose your readers not to mention making yourself a little nuts, tying yourself in knots, trying to figure out how to follow all those rules.
Those folks out there thirsting for a great story don't care about show or tell.  They just want a great read from an excellent writer and that means they need something that catches them by the eyeballs and won't let go. That means you need to combine showing and telling, hone your writing until it's crisp and engaging.
Yes, you must produce good writing despite all the rules.
Yes, there are many times when you, the writer, 'show' the action or exchange between characters. And yes, you want to avoid long explanatory narratives. That's where crisp and engaging comes in. It's your responsibility as writer to know when to use which and to do it with clarity and in such a way that it draws the reader into the story.
There’s another favorite no-no that many writers have thrown at them from a variety of sources and that is “don’t start your story with the weather”.  Really?  I mean never? What if it’s central to the story? What if it sets the mood you’re looking for?
If the weather is what your book needs to begin with, then begin writing with the weather. Geez. I mean author Alistair MacLean did it all the time. Just because Snoopy, the star of Peanuts, began all his novels with “it was a dark and stormy night” doesn’t mean it’s always a joke. In fact it doesn’t mean anything at all. Be a good writer. Do what’s good for your story and don’t be afraid of it.
All right here’s another. How about Suspense is always created by this, that, or another, in a story. Meaning you can pinpoint exactly what will cause suspense and one rule is that you can’t have suspense without creating sympathetic characters. More and more writers are taking chances and breaking this rule. Think about it. You’ve probably read something recently in which there is no sympathetic character to be found in the entire book. You can pinpoint bad guys, and worse guys. Which one of those to you want to sympathize with? What can create suspense is the asking of a question and the artful way the writer makes people wait for the answer. We humans want answers. We always want answers. So, you better have that answer, but meanwhile your reader sticks around, reading, because he or she is fascinated, digging for that answer. It seems like we’re all hard-wired for that answer seeking.
These are just a few of the rules that need to be brought into question. Basically I write with a general idea of where I’m going and a lot of ongoing notes as I progress, but I pretty much don’t know the answer to my question at the beginning and go forward scene by scene throwing in complications as I go. 
I can’t help it. I like to be surprised by the ending too.
So, in conclusion? Read about the ‘rules’, know about the ‘rules’, but don’t let them corner your writing. Take chances and explore.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Writers Websites Wednesday - The Market List

Hey writers - want a great site that offers hundreds of market listings for genre fiction writers?  It even offers screenwriting resources. Then go visit The Market List. An excellent resource.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Fiction is a Much Maligned Market

Karen Cole Executive Director of Ghost Writer, Inc. is my guest blogger today and she has her opinions on Fiction and Non-Fiction and conventional vs. indie publishing.  

Welcome Karen ~

Fiction is a Much Maligned Market-
Nonfiction is what sells, they all say. Depending on whether or not you’re an atheist, here would you include the Bible in that area? It sells more copies than any other book on the face of the planet, and it’s in dispute whether it’s a work of fiction or nonfiction. Which one do you think it is? Meanwhile, another best-selling book is Lord of the Rings, and there’s no dispute as to its category: fiction. Harry Potter: fiction; Star Trek: fiction; Alice in Wonderland…etc.

So you’d think there’d be more of a genre or niche market for general, original fiction. But it does tend to be the absolute niche markets that attract fiction writers nowadays, namely steampunk, urban fantasy, cozies, chic lit, fan fiction, etc. And the last market on that brief list doesn’t usually entail professional writing. Instead, the idea is to have amateurs write stories based on someone else’s characters, and mostly just have fun in the process. That’s all my daughter does when she writes, add to the growing fan fiction base of work.

Is there such a thing as a real market for fiction? Since it can be hard to go through the slush piles at agenting and publishing houses, and since once you get an agent it can be slogs again to find a publisher, a lot of people think the way to go is self or independent publishing. This way at least you can get a book in hand to show to your family and friends, maybe your coworkers too, and although it’s not a best seller you did indeed get it published. Some say ebook and independent publishing is how to go about getting a fiction book published nowadays.

I’m inclined to agree. Unless you can get an “in” with a literary agent, which entails practically inhabiting writer’s workshops and parties, it’s very hard to get hold of one of those erstwhile personages. It’s doable, and there are ways, but they usually involve building relationships over time with such people. Not the easiest way to go for a new author with a new idea, who’s never, ever published any books before.

It helps to have a swami mentality, building up a “feel” for when you can find an available agent who isn’t too persnickety to listen to you, but those can be as rare as finding a pearl in an oyster at a sushi bar. 

Still, you can try for it, but I’m starting to like self-publishing. Agents don’t always lead to publishers – if they don’t find you one, you have to break your contract with them and start over. And their lists of demands can be outright mean, even pathetic. Try to hang in there and make contact with a particular agent if you can, but you might want to consider indie publishing as well.
           ***                      ***                   ***           

If you need some help getting those stories written and polished, Karen's Ghost Writer, Inc. offers ghostwriting services for dreamers who should be doing.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Writers Websites Wednesday - FireFox as Writer's Suite

It's Wednesday again and I found this site for writers who use Firefox as their browser.  7 Writing Addons For Turning Firefox into The Ultimate Writer's Suite  

Big claim.  

Not sure I'd go that far, but these tools can be helpful for the writer. Check 'em out.

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