Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Writers & Readers Websites Wednesday

This week I stumbled across Squid Inc.  Here's what they say about themselves: 

"Squid Inc is all about the writer. It is our mission to bring independent, self-published authors and poets to the attention of readers and publishers alike.

We aim to serve you by showcasing your talent, introducing you to a wider audience and offering advice on taking the next step.

We want to help you to sell your book."

I like it - I'm going to give it a shot; always good to find new ways to generate publicity. They offer free services (asking for a donation if you can) and for pay services. It's definitely a site worth checking out. 

Great for writers and an excellent place for readers to check out new or undiscovered writers to add to their favorites.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Should Writers Write For the Market?





There you are.

Writers are a funny bunch. We want to be original, unique, outstanding, and at the same time catch that trend that can drag us along to fame and fortune so to speak. Not only can we make a living from that pinnacle, but we can push our creativity in our writing in lots of new directions that acceptance allows.

So the question arises, whether we want it to or not, should we write what the market demands or should we write whatever we want to write and then find a market for that writing?

Well, darn it, both.

Yep, if you come across some opportunity for a kind of writing that pulls at you, intrigues you, sparks the creative drive, then pursue it, take a shot, see what you can come up with to intrigue readers.

Just because a writing project isn't being created from your original root doesn't make the project less valid. And if you spark with it, it does take away some of the pressure and makes writing that much more fun for that particular project. If reading a post somewhere or receiving an invitation to join a project, one that's riding the tide of a fad or a trend, gets your juices flowing and slaps a smile on your face, then that's the route to go. Every road has many twists and turns so go with it.

But, and it's another one of those big BUTs, don't let trend-chasing become your be-all, end-all. Chasing trends, if that's all you do with your writing, isn't going to get you far.

If you focus only on the writing trend rising, spin it, put out some great writing and finally get it to market, the trend you originally followed is most likely going to have faded like the sun dropping into the ocean at sunset.

Besides, latching onto a trend that's already flowered is likely to leave you  holding a dead stem.

Keep in mind, every trend was started by a book or a movie or a game that didn't fit what was then the trend. It became the 'NEW' thing - exciting, head-turning, drawing the people looking for entertainment into the next trend.

Readers, producers, editors, they're all looking for the next big thing.

And the next big thing will come along.

So, coming full circle, don't you think that you, as a writer, will be better off writing what really interests you, what grabs you and sparks your creative juices so strongly you can't wait to sit down to write, and to write it so well that you create a market for your writing; the next trend, the next big thing. A trend you start and somebody else wants to follow along.

Readers, aren't you looking for material that is new, exciting, refreshing and not just a part of the latest fading trend?

Give me your opinions on reading, writing and trends. Don't hold back - lay it right out.  All thoughts and opinions encouraged.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Writers And Readers Websites Wednesday

We writers need readers.

We love readers. 

And readers obviously return the affection

So, today I'm going to recommend the Guys Read website.  

It's a great site and the whole thrust is getting boys to read. There are lots of suggested titles for boys you can buy or get from a library. Classics you can probably download online with a bit of a quick search. 

The site offers reading lists, ways to encourage boys to read, books that can be listened to and advice to get those boys reading at an early age and keep them reading. 

Not forgetting girls here, but this site is aimed at getting boys to read who, by the way, are not as interested generally in reading as girls and that's a shame. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Three Observations On How to Add Punch In Your Writing

Okay, first, as writers, we (at least most of us) know we need to flavor our writing with sensations that go beyond sight and sound. We add things like the aroma of chicken grilling, the smell of tangy perfume, the feel of a too-heavy gold chain dragging against the back of a neck, the feel of a chilled breeze ticking up one's back beneath a jacket or the really sour taste of overdone lemonade to add life to our writing. You know, stuff everyone experiences, maybe notices.

But, when writers are reaching for more, and it's true, editors just love more than the five senses we're used to providing, consider body language. Remember, all the extras we add as subtle touches in storytelling don't just add to the setting, but fleshes out your characters as well.

Body language is a great resource for writers and you never hear anyone commenting on it. It just is if the writer injects it smoothly.

How about a character sneaking a smoke where it's forbidden. Cupping his hand over the cigarette, whether he telegraphs he knows he's breaking the rules and is embarrassed, avoiding eye contact, or if he's arrogant and defiant, staring down those who notice him smoking, it telegraphs how the character feels, tells the reader something about his inner workings. Take some of your research time and read up a bit on body language. Then apply.Your writing will take an expansive breath.

Another thing to consider when adding depth to your story is people. You know, the characters you're writing about. We people are a strange lot. Our behavior is rational only some of the time. When you think about it, how often have you taken stupid risks or done something you're at a total loss to explain? 

You've probably heard "truth is stranger than fiction". Well, it is. You, I, all of us do strangely unpredictable things at one time or another with no rational explanation. That's a bit at odds with convincing your reader to go along with the suspension of disbelief thing. So the other side of that coin is believability. It's a high-wire act. You don't want to be cranking out boring fiction, focused on absolute rational behavior at all times.You don't want to lose your reader.

So here's the thing. The weird behavior patterns of us human beings (great fodder for writers and fun to read about) are actually just that - patterns. Others of our species can relate to or understand much of our strange and irrational behavior - heck, they've done it too!

I mean there's love, sex, obsession, weird habits. Love and sex are always basis for irrational behavior. Weird habits like never showing up on time or being obsessively punctual can easily serve as fodder or unsettling decisions, irrational anger or a host of other reactions. The obsessed can become single-minded which can lead to absolutely horrible judgment. Control freaks can have fatal consequences. You get it, more grist for the writer's mill.

Plainly, characters afflicted with human weirdness must either find redemption or with grit teeth cling to their habits to the very end. The oddity of a character's behavior is not only fascinating in your story, but it grips the reader, making him or her wonder what's coming next, why that character is reacting that way and if they'd do the same.

Inject the weirdness of human behavior into your storytelling and create sparks. It applies to all writing.

And readers, tell me if I'm wrong, but aren't you more interested, more transfixed by a character with some behavior, some quirk, that can lead to disaster or salvation? Consider stories and gripping characters you've known and get back to me on that.

And there's the third and last point I'm going to  make today. I mentioned it in another blog post and it bears repeating. You can't write delicately. You can't put restraints on your writing so you don't offend someone. Write what moves you. Don't avoid a topic because it's a darker one like incest, racism, occult or whatever you find to be the dark side. And don't put self-imposed restraints on the way you write. Let it all go. Write with abandon, feel what you did when you were a kid; the freedom of attacking almost everything with abandon.

Turn yourself loose, your readers will thank you - won't you readers?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Writers & Readers Websites Wednesday - NaNoWriMo

This week a reminder - National Novel Writing Month is next month. - Writers dedicate November to writing your novel - readers, get in on the excitement, see what writers are doing, how they're progressing. There's fun stuff, stuff for new/young writers, events and more. A fun time for writers and readers. 

Follow in the footsteps of the greats - read! write!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Too Much Work And No Play For Writers

Hey, you, are you working too much?

Yep, you. Yes, I know, you're working a job and you just have to write so you have to juggle both and that means working...a lot.

Many, actually most, writers have to do this if they want to write. Few of us actually reach full-time writer status, at least in the fiction arena. And if you become a successful full-time copywriter or grant writer or creator of newsletters, etc. and love writing fiction, you still work too much. 

So how to you work less and still pursue your love of writing?

For starters you realize that taking breaks optimizes your work and creative flow so the writing goes smoothly.

Being pumped up on caffeine and pulling all-nighters is plainly not optimal no matter what your 20-something buddy (or your own 20-something brain) may claim.

And what is optimal? Well, the experts tell us it's a period of time in which you perform, mind and body, at your best when engaged in high-imagination and thinking projects. During that time you can keep your focus, your body is firing on all cylinders, your attitude is good and your imagination (really critical to fiction writing) is through the roof.

So, with all that in mind, it's true, that 20-something brain may work faster than a 40-something brain. They may have an edge on efficiency, really cranking it out, but the 40-something has the edge on effectiveness. 

45-year olds have it all over 25-year-olds in verbal memory and vocabulary.  Yeah, well, there it is. 

And, remember our bodies and minds (emphasis for writers on mind) have a natural rhythm. For most of us humans that cycle is around 90 minutes to 2 hours. So, with that in mind, it would appear the best time to take a little break is after that cycle.

For writers with day jobs that means not only do you need to take those little breaks during your work day - step away from the desk for a few minutes, grab a cup of tea or just walk down the hall - for optimum performance, but you need to do the same when you lock yourself down for your writing.

If you write during your lunch break at your day job, eat your lunch, savor your food, walk a few steps, then write before going back to your 'other job'. Yes, you lose a few minutes from your cherished 'writing time', but it will cause you to write that much more effectively. This applies to folks who have to do a lot of reading as part of their jobs (this includes you writers) as well. Short breaks and distractions will improve reading comprehension and speed.

And if you include taking breaks when you write during your evening hours you'll find you're not 'over-doing' it and burning yourself out. And, if you want to sustain that writing momentum over years and decades, not just right now, take those breaks.

Even short breaks are a tremendous help. Step away from your work area.  Look out of a window. Maybe sit in a comfortable chair near a window for a few minutes and embrace a memory that gives you pleasure. Step outdoors for a quick breath of air if you are able and while there savor the breeze, the colors, the sounds and smells. Movement is even better - a brisk short walk, even a block and back - more if you have the time. For night I have a treadmill - five minutes at a brisk pace and I'm good to go.

And I've reached a stage in my writing career where I don't have to work evenings. My work days are my work days. If you don't have to write in the eveings, don't do it. 

Relegate your writing to the 'work day' if you can - on the bus, during breaks or lunch hour, get up early to write before leaving for job, some writing on week-ends and days off. It's much more relaxing - and thus leads to better performance if you keep your evenings free, disengage from all work and allow yourself pockets of silence, play, self-indulgence and reading. If you can't eliminate all evening writing work, then make sure you shut down about a hour before you intend to go to bed.

Give yourself a break and see how your productivity and quality will improve. Life (and by extension your work) is not a sprint, it's a marathon.

Give yourself a break.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Writers And Readers Websites Wednesday - Reader's help

Writers - we need to think about reading. Yep, without readers what's a writer to do?

And, the more readers, but more informed people are.  

Reading is great!  

So, today the link is to Reading Rockets, a site to launch young readers. Teaching kids to read and helping those who struggle.  Fantastic! They offer help for parents, teachers and other learning professional to guide kids into reading and reading well.  There are free reading guides, link to children's books and authors, guide to PBS shows and more.  

Great little hub site so let's get reading!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Hook As A Gimmick - The Writer's No-No

It's easy to fall into the trap.  There are lots of writing instructors out there who'll tell their students they need to start their story with a good hook in order to pull the reader in, to gain their attention, to  keep them reading.

Are they right?  Yes, to a point, but unfortunately many writers go well beyond that point. 

Here's the thing - don't start your story with a wild car chase, guns blazing, tires screeching, people tossed around inside the cars and a big explosion at the end if what you're foreshadowing isn't a 'pedal to the metal' action story.

Yes, your story needs a good hook, and yes you want to grab those readers by the eyeballs. But, and it's a big but, you don't want to send your readers off in the wrong direction. You don't want to prime them to expect one thing and then deliver another. 

Readers have expectations. You have to anticipate and deliver in the context of your story. Your hook will be way different if you're leading into an action/adventure tale than if you're leading into a romance. That's not to say you can't have suspense and action in a romance, in fact you need it, but you want to set your hook differently.

If your hook has become a gimmick you've lost the game. If your hook doesn't provide the springboard into your story it isn't doing its job. If you as the writer have contrived the opening hook just for the purpose of 'hooking' and not moving into your story your readers are going to catch on fast and they're not going to be  happy with you. 

Additionally, if that's what you do you're going to be forced to cram in a whole lot of back-story early on creating a sludge that drags your story down while you try to explain your opening hook. 

My advice?

Take your time. Think about your opening hook. Some writers think they have to have that opening sentence down pat at the very beginning.  

No you don't. 

If you do, great, use it, move on. 

If you don't, write your story, read it again...and're going to have to anyway in the editing process.  Then let that hook line evolve and use it to kick off a really great story.

Readers are gold.  Trust them.  Consider who they are and what they're reading for. That magic hook will appear.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Writers Websites Wednesday - Paper Rater Review

Manon  Eileen offers a great review at her site on Paper Rater. She gives the ins and outs on how it works and how it can work for you. Whether you're a professional writer, a student who wants to improve writing abilities or a reader who'd like to play around with this tool for your own amusement, it's a great one. Read the review, then click on the link to Paper Rater and try it out.  A great writer's tool for Writer's Websites Wednesday. Did I mention it's free?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Reading is Not Boring But Writers Are A Little Crazy

I Suspect Writers Are a Little Bit Crazy 

Yes, I mean you and me and all those other writers out there (regardless of what they write).  There are a lot of reasons for my suspicions but I could write another entire book on that so I'll just keep to one sub-topic beneath the general heading for today.

I can't tell you how many times I've heard aspiring writers say, "I'm not a big fan of reading...I just don't have time to read."


You intend to write but you don't read?  I mean if you don't read what the heck makes you think other people are going to read what YOU write?

Oh, they say, I'd rather just flip on the game console or maybe send a text (with letters that look like little better than gobbeldy-gook) or surf the net.  Reading is pretty boring they tell me.


So you don't think YOUR writing is going to bore someone else?

Ahem, let's analyze this truly twisted thinking a bit. From many conversations and my own observations this situation plainly stems from not the reading, but WHAT those people were reading.
Many young people read only because they've "had to" for school or for some learning endeavor.

Remember being forced to slog through a 'classic' in literature class that didn't interest you? Remember being assigned a long read in a dry text at school that held no more interest for you than dust?

Then, maybe later remember when you 'had' to read some technical manual for your work?

Granted, all that can be boring, but it's not reading's fault!

Okay, so I think the problem is plain and if you plan to write or simply want to have a better life you are going to have to read.

Sorry, that's the way of it.

Doesn't matter how you read, whether holding a book or a magazine or at your computer or on your tablet, you have to read.

So, putting aside for the moment the stuff you'll still 'have' to read over time, the key is to find things you're interested in, things that entertain you and/or ignite your passions. Novels, politics, science, whatever floats your boat. Trust me, reading will then be fun.

And, as a bonus, once you've found those things that inspire and fire you, and you actually begin  to enjoy reading, you'll discover lots of new ideas and topics that will engross you for hours, even days.

From there you'll leap into new perspectives, explore new frontiers. On top of that, reading will lead to better writing. Whether you desire to be a 'writer' of some species or just need to write clearly for your job or to communicate with friends, family and colleagues, reading will aid you in those endeavors. New ideas, new words, new perspectives.

And all of that will change your world. And one change spurs another. It's a process that goes on continually. One I've no doubt you'll come to love and embrace.

Write. Read. Be a little crazy.

Monday, October 1, 2012

A Writer's Refreshing Vacation

Hi everyone - It's true, I didn't add to my blog last week.  It was a tumultuous week, losing a beloved dog to heart failure followed a few days later by a long planned anniversary trip to Portland Oregon.  

            First part very bad    ~   Second part very good. 

Meanwhile, I did manage a guest post over at Larry Brody's - Big Moments In Writing.  

So, please, go pay Larry's blog a visit.  I'll wait right here until you get back and I'll have a new post up here on Tuesday as usual, so don't think I've forgotten about you.

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