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1. Three Easy Tips to Jumpstart Your Creative Writing PLUS a Giveaway of THE YOUNG ELITES

Do you edit censor yourself as you write? Before you even start to write?

We all second guess ourselves, at least to some extent. I do. Something happens, someone says something negative, or I read something brilliant by someone else, and the doubt demons start nibbling away at my self-confidence, whispering that what I'm doing isn't good enough.

There is so much noise in this business, so much whispering, so much doubt.

We can't let it take hold or we'll paralyze ourselves. Deadlines don't give into paralysis or doubt. : )

When I'm feeling like writing has become a chore and I need to regain the joy of writing, I find that there are a number of things I can do that practically guarantee to get me back on track.

If you're doing NaNoWriMo and feeling like you're overwhelmed, don't give up. Here are a few tricks I use to convince myself that I can keep going.

  1. Connect to what you love. If you're anything like me, the characters are what you love most about your manuscript, but if you're more invested in the plot or the concept, that's okay. Make a list of what you love and why you love it. Concentrate on rekindling that initial enthusiasm. Got it? Good. Now look at the scene or chapter you're currently writing and find a way to incorporate what you love into that chapter. Make your character do something that shows who she is, or demonstrate the "cool" aspects of your plot or concept.  
  2. Write a letter. Get in the head of your character more deeply by writing a letter from her to someone else in her life. What is bugging her most? What does she need someone to know? What would she tell someone who wronged her if she had the chance? What would she say to her best-friend, right here, right now.
  3. Write a paragraph. Focusing on writing a thousand words or two thousand or more can be debilitating. The task can feel too huge when you're not feeling inspired. Instead of telling yourself you have to write ALL THE WORDS, tell yourself to write the first sentence in a paragraph, and then another sentence. All you have to write is one paragraph. Then another. You can quit any time, but once you've met your goal for the day, the words may come more easily. 
Remember one more thing: your words may not be perfect, but they don't have to be when you first put them on the page. Focusing on word count can be debilitating, but words don't matter.

Hear me? Words don't matter.

Words change. Sentences change. Paragraphs and scenes and chapters may be deleted. 

Focus on what the characters want and why your main character isn't getting what she wants, why it's almost impossible for her to get what she wants, and your story will write itself. Once it's down on the page and you are happy with the story, THEN you can focus on the words. In the meantime, focus on the joy of story! : ) 

Happy writing,

Martina

Giveaway This Week


The Young Elites
by Marie Lu
Hardcover
Putnam Juvenile
Released 10/7/2014

I am tired of being used, hurt, and cast aside.

Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever. A decade ago, the deadly illness swept through her nation. Most of the infected perished, while many of the children who survived were left with strange markings. Adelina’s black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and now she has only a jagged scar where her left eye once was. Her cruel father believes she is a malfetto, an abomination, ruining their family’s good name and standing in the way of their fortune. But some of the fever’s survivors are rumored to possess more than just scars—they are believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and though their identities remain secret, they have come to be called the Young Elites.

Teren Santoro works for the king. As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out the Young Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. He believes the Young Elites to be dangerous and vengeful, but it’s Teren who may possess the darkest secret of all.

Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society. This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they’ve never seen.
Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle. But of one thing they are all certain: Adelina has abilities that shouldn’t belong in this world. A vengeful blackness in her heart. And a desire to destroy all who dare to cross her.

It is my turn to use. My turn to hurt.


Purchase The Young Elites at Amazon
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2. Outlining Your Novel

outlining your novelI am a big believer in creating an outline of your story and keep telling other writers how much it will help them with writing their novel. They nod their head, when they really want to pat me on the head and say, “Thanks, but no thanks.” So tonight read the beginning of K.M. Weiland’s “how to write book” titled, OUTLINING YOUR NOVEL, hoping to find someone else who could help persuade others to realize how much it will help them with their manuscripts. After reading the excerpt below, I bought the book and I hope you will check it out. She lays out some good reasons to outline.

Here it is:

Benefits of Outlining Your Story

 

  1. Ensures Balance and Cohesion

In an outline, you can see at a glance if the inciting even take place too late in the sotry, if the middle sags, or if the climax doesn’t resonate. Instead of having to diagnose and remedy these problems after the first draft, you can fix problems in the outline in only a few keystrokes.

  1. Prevents Dead-End Ideas

How many times have you started writing an exciting new plot twist, only to realize – 5,000 words later – that it’s led you to a cul-de-sac? You either have to spend valuable time bactracking and trying to write your way around the roadblock – or you have to cut the subplot altogether and start afresh. Outlines allow you to follow plot twists and subplots to their logical end (or lack thereof) in much less time. You can identify the dead-end ideas and cull them before they become annoying and embarrassing ploy holes.

  1. Provides Foreshadowing

It’s nearly impossible for an author to foreshadow and event of which he has no idea. As a pantser, when a startling plot twist occurs late in the book, you’ll have to go back and sow your foreshadowing into earlier scenes. Not only is this extra work, it can often be difficult to make the new hints of what’s yet to come flow effortlessly with your already constructed scenes. Because an outline give you inside knowledge about what’s going to happen in subsequent scenes, it provides you the opportunity to plant some organic foreshadowing.

  1. Smoothes Pacing

Like foreshadowing, pacing often requires inside knowledge. If the author doesn’t know the protagonist is about to be shot in the back, he can hardly adjust the pacing to introduce this shocking new event in the right manner. An outline shows you the places where your story is running too fast and the places where it is lagging and sagging.

  1. Indicates Preferable POVs

When working with multiple points of view it can often be challenging to know which scene should be written from which POV. Too often, we write a scene from one character’s POV, only to realize a different character’s narrative perspective would probably have offered a better experience for the reader. As a result, we’re forced to go back and rewrite the entire scene. Outlines allow us to make educated decisions about POV, thanks to insights regarding plot and character. Just as importantly, outlines permit us to look at the balance of you POVs over the course of the entire novel, so we can ensure each character is getting an appropriate amount of time at the mic.

  1. Maintains Consistent Character Voice

When writing without an outline, we’re often discovering the characters right along with the readers, and because our perception and understanding of our character often evolve over the course of the story, the result can be an uneven presentation of the character’s voice.

  1. Offers Motivation and Assurance

Writing a novel can be overwhelming. Typing thousands of words is an undertaking in itself – but when those words all have to hang together in a way that is sensible, entertaining, and resonant, that’s enough to make our knees start shaking beneath our desks. Outlines give us the assurance that we can craft a complete story; all we have to do now is fill in the blanks. And because those blanks are ones that fascinate us, outlines also motivate us to keep on writing through the tough spots, so we can get to the good stuff.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, How to, inspiration, reference, revisions, Writing Tips Tagged: Benefits of outlining Your Story, K.M. Weiland, Outlining your novel, Reason to outline

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3. Before the Sale – Book Appeal

Have you ever thought about how you decide to buy a book? In my case, unless it is written by a friend or someone has told me I must read a book, I first look at the cover. If the cover has a good title and the cover art grabs me, then I look inside. If the flap jacket pitch sounds interesting, then I flip through the pages.

I look to see if the book has good margins, short paragraphs, and good amount of white space. Long blocky paragraphs exposition, narrative, and description make me think… SKIP!

Studies show that using white space is important because it helps make a book look friendly. And, it is dialogue that provides the eye candy for a reader. As a potential buyer flips through your book, rapid back-and-forth dialogue will make your book more appealing before the reader even reads a word.

So paying attention to dialogue when you revise it is worth the time and effort. I would start by flipping through the manuscript for places that look dense and circle them. Later go back to read and analyze. Ask yourself, “Can I use dialogue to breakup this long paragraph? Would dialogue work better here than what I have now?”

Here are ten things that dialogue can do to help keep your reader reading.

  1. Dialogue draws a reader into your story.
  2. Dialogue adds immediacy, picks up the pace, and makes your text easier and more fun to read.
  3. Dialogue can give the writer a more effective way to provide information about emotional states and inner thoughts.
  4. Dialogue can reveal motive, insight into a character without overt telling.
  5. Dialogue can help set the mood of the scene. Example: “This doesn’t feel right… It’s too quiet.”
  6. Dialogue can intensify the conflict. A confrontation conversation between adversaries can ramp up the tension and remind readers what’s at stake.
  7. Good Dialogue moves the story forward.
  8. Dialogue is a useful tool to provide information the reader must know without slowing down the pacing.
  9. Dialogue is good to use to get out critical bits of information, back-story, and background.
  10. Dialogue can even be use to suggest a theme.

Of course, dialogue is only one thing to work on while you revise, but the above list can help you can see the many things it can help improve in your novel.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, article, inspiration, Marketing a book, revisions, Writing Tips Tagged: Book Appeal, Getting readers to buy your book

2 Comments on Before the Sale – Book Appeal, last added: 11/24/2014
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4. Hey indie ebook authors, here’s how to succeed

Smashwords

Smashwords

Attention, indie ebook authors. Mark Coker at Smashwords wants you to know that there’s never been a better time to be you. He writes, “Thanks to an ever-growing global market for your ebooks, your books are a couple clicks away from over one billion potential readers on smart phones, tablets and e-readers. In the world of ebooks, the playing field is tilted to the indie author’s advantage.”

Then, the wake-up call. Coker goes on to report that “the gravy train of exponential sales growth is over,” with indie (self-published) authors seeing “significant” sales decline at Amazon, especially since the July launch of Kindle Unlimited. He had predicted the slowdown and attributes it to the glut of high-quality low-cost ebooks, the increasing rate of ebook supply outpacing demand, and the slowing, much-discussed transition from print to ebooks.

However, all is not lost. He offers tips on how to succeed in this new ebook environment. You’ll want to see his entire piece at Smashwords, as space constraints require editing them down. Here is a short take on Mark Coker’s 20:

1. Take the long view; focus on aggressive platform building.
2. Good isn’t good enough. Are you bringing your best game?
3. Write more, publish more, get better.
4. Diversify your distribution.
5. Network with other indie authors.
6. Publish and promote multi-author box set collaborations; you can build your base.
7. Leverage professional publishing tools, like preorder, to your advantage.
8. Best practices; there are seven, and Mark gives a good summary in his blog. Your fellow indie authors pioneered these practices, so listen up.
9. You’re running a business: be nice, ethical, honest, and humble. It pays.
10. Pinch your pennies; practice expense control.
11. Manage your time.
12. Take risks, experiment, and fail often.
13. Dream big dreams; aim high. Salvador Dali said: “Intelligence without ambition is a bird without wings.”
14. Be delusional.
15. Embrace your doubters.
16. Celebrate your fellow authors’ success. Their success is your success.
17. Remember that past success is no guarantee of your future success.
18. Never quit.
19. Own your future.
20. Know that your writing is important.

I’ll just repeat that last one: Know that your writing is important.

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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5. My NaNoWriMo Tip: Stop Writing and Start Seeing (at Chronicle Books)

Truth? I haven't written anything remotely bookish for a while because, well, I've been busy. That harried woman running from place to place, topic to topic, responsibility to responsibility, and only sometimes to her own kitchen? That would be me. There's wind in my hair.

But I've been thinking about writing and when the good folks at Chronicle asked me to offer writers a NaNoWriMo tip, I knew exactly what inspiration I wanted to offer.

It's all here, along with a few of my photographs. And one silly picture of me. What I wouldn't give to be pretty. What I wouldn't give.

Wait. I'm off topic. I'm also off again, and running —

0 Comments on My NaNoWriMo Tip: Stop Writing and Start Seeing (at Chronicle Books) as of 1/1/1900
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6. Three Tricks For Showing Rather Than Telling

Three Tricks For Showing Rather Than Telling

 by Trish Wilkinson

trish20131226_D800_trishwilkinson_family_5447_trish_2x3-225x300For readers to become invested in a story, they need to “see” characters’ movement and action within a setting. Writers often hear, “Show don’t tell,” and sometimes we think, “But I did show – didn’t I? How do I fix this?”

Here are a few quick tips for showing rather than telling:

  1. Use ACTIVE VERBS rather than passive ones wherever possible.

Keep this list of passive verbs near your computer until you get in the habit of using them sparingly. (I tell my students: “If you must use passive verbs, limit them to no more than one or two on a page.”)

  • Forms of be to AVOID: is, are, was, were, be, being, and been
  • Auxiliary verbs: am, did, do, does, can, may, might, will, would, shall, should, must, has, have, had, could
  • Adjectives (describing words)
  • Adverbs (words used to modify verbs that tell us when, where, how, in what manner, or to what extent – words ending in –ly; other examples: yesterday, here, barefoot, fastest)

Telling/Passive: She was running quickly to the dilapidated shed because she needed a place to hide.

Showing/Active: She sprinted to the shed, slipped inside, and crouched under a sawhorse behind a stack of paint cans.

  1. Place your characters in a setting at the beginning of every scene, so your reader can “see” them.

Begin every scene with a few words of setting BEFORE a character shares thoughts or engages in conversation. Otherwise, fuzzy talking heads float in space until the writer gets around to putting the characters in a specific location.

Example:

I heard the T.V., so I went to the living room and found my dad on the couch rubbing his temples.

            “You got it wrong,” I said. “Someday these time-wasting doodles will make me rich.”

A quick aside: Forget all the fancy words you learned in middle school – replied, chortled, stuttered, etc. – and use SAID, which is considered the invisible dialogue tag.

  1. Write ACTION TAGS within conversations rather than dialogue tags wherever possible.

If your characters shove their hands in their pockets or tuck a curl behind an ear or move to the other side of the room, action tags can show details and movement, adding to the depth of the scene.

Example:

I heard the T.V., so I went to the living room and found my dad on the couch, rubbing his temples.

“You got it wrong.” I dropped my drawing in front of him on the coffee table. “Someday these time-wasting doodles will make me rich.”

These three things: active verbs, establishing the setting, and using action tags in dialogue, will transform your scenes from flat and fuzzy into mental motion pictures.

Trish Wilkinson is a writing coach, content and line editor. You can find her at: www.write-to-win.com

Thanks Trish for sharing your expertise with us. I am sure it will help many of the new writers who visit and also help remind the rest of us to always strive for an active voice.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, article, How to, Process, reference, Writing Tips Tagged: Action Tags, Active Verbs, Trish Wilkinson, Write to Win

6 Comments on Three Tricks For Showing Rather Than Telling, last added: 11/14/2014
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7. A lot of writing & marketing ebooks on sale today only for #writers today only. Grab them while you can!

There are a number of writing technique and book marketing ebooks on sale today only (Fri Nov 7, 2014) for only $0.99 on Amazon that, if you’re a writer, published or pre-published, you may want to buy. I’ve snatched up most of the ones I’ve listed here myself. As a writer, I think I can always keep learning and growing, perfecting my craft.

Writing Technique

Mary Buckham’s Writing Active Setting Book 1: Characterization and Sensory Detail.
Mary Buckham teaches courses on writing technique, and I’ve loved very article I’ve read by her, so I snatched this one up immediately. I highly recommend her work.









Write Your Novel From The Middle: A New Approach for Plotters, Pantsers and Everyone in Between by James Scott Bell.

I’ve bought and read James Scott Bell’s books on writing technique before; I know he has solid, helpful advice, so I snatched this one up, too. :)










The Indie Author Power Pack: How To Write, Publish, & Market Your Book

This is a 3-book set, combining: WRITE. PUBLISH. REPEAT.: The No-Luck-Required Guide to Self-Publishing Success by Sean Platt & Johnny B. Truant; LET’S GET DIGITAL: How To Self-Publish, And Why You Should by David Gaughran; and HOW TO MARKET A BOOK by Joanna Penn. I know Joanna Penn’s work; she’s the author of many fiction and non-fiction books and blogs at thecreativepenn, so I snatched this deal just for her book, but I’m also really interested in reading Write, Publish, Repeat, and at $0.99 for all three this is a steal.




Writing the Heart of Your Story: The Secret to Crafting an Unforgettable Novel (The Writer’s Toolbox Series) by C. S. Lakin.

C.S. Lakin is an author and a writing coach; I’ve appreciated (and recommended) many of her articles on her blog LiveWriteThrive, so I snatched her book up, too.









Writing a Killer Thriller: An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction by Jodie Renner.

Jodie Renner is an editor offering advice on creating fast-paced, compelling fiction. I think editors, because they see so much work (both good and bad), and because they’ve trained in writing and editing, have a lot to offer writers that we can learn from. So I bought this book, too.










Mastering Showing and Telling in Your Fiction (Busy Writer’s Guides Book 4) by Marcy Kennedy.

Even when we know writing technique and “rules,” sometimes a refresher helps, or hearing it a different way. I liked the conversational tone to her book, so I bought this one, too. :)







Book Promotion

Book Marketing is Dead: Book Promotion Secrets You MUST Know BEFORE You Publish Your Book.

As published authors, we’re expected to market our books. This book sounds like it may have some good advice and takes a different approach than some books and articles I’ve read, so I also bought it.










Goodreads For Authors: How To Use Goodreads To Promote Your Books

I know GoodReads can help readers find our books; I’ve used GoodReads for contests for ARCs and finished books, and I have my blog appear on GoodReads. I’m interested on reading what else authors can do.









How To Get Honest Reviews: 7 Proven Ways to Connect With Readers and Reviewers (Book Marketing Survival Guide Series 1) by Shelley Hitz and Heather Hart.

I don’t have trouble getting reviews–I query book bloggers–but if you’re just starting out, or if you haven’t had to do this for yourself before, you may want to get this book. I may still pick it up myself because it looks like they have some things I haven’t thought about before.





2 Comments on A lot of writing & marketing ebooks on sale today only for #writers today only. Grab them while you can!, last added: 11/7/2014
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8. Guest Post: I killed My Mother by Terry Jennings

terryjenningscropped

Terry Jennings

I killed my mother, I must confess. And while I’m at it, I should admit I killed my baby brother too.  In the interest of full disclosure I should also own up to doing away with an uncle and a few cousins as well.

I know full well that matricide, fratricide—familycide in general—are frowned upon in polite society.  But I’m not the least bit sorry. In fact, under the right circumstances, I wouldn’t hesitate to repeat the act. I had to do it. My story, a fictional novel very loosely based on my life, was drowning with the weight of its characters.

To assuage any sensibilities that may be aroused by my dastardly acts, I will let you know that the murders were done off stage, very discretely. I could have lined them all up against a wall and shot them, right in front of God and everybody, and been totally within my rights. My story, after all, is set during the Cuban revolution in 1958—executions were common place. But I disposed of my family gently, elegantly. My mother, bless her soul, died giving birth to me. With one stroke of the pen I not only got rid of one very significant adult, but I also gave my protagonist a reason to have guilt—because she lived, her brother didn’t have a mother. I transformed the baby brother into a 17 year old and morphed the essence of the combined souls of the rest of my relatives into his character.

Having to kill and change people is a peril you run into when you write a novel loosely based on fact. Not just historical novels, like mine. When we know the story so well—when it’s our story, or the story of someone we know or have come to know—it is difficult to sacrifice the truth in order to let that fictional story shine through.

I think it was Stephen King that said you have to kill your darlings. I’m not sure he meant fratricide and matricide, but in essence, he said get rid of anything that doesn’t move your story forward. That is particularly hard when it comes to characters. Each one of those people had a story, an experience, which was significant to the historical context. Their experiences weren’t darlings to be cast aside. They were representative and exciting. And my real life was so lame, I had to draw on their experiences for my plot. I needed their experiences. Every one of them. But even I realized that the reader would need a cheat sheet with the names and life stories of each relative in order to keep up with the plot.

It was my friend Ivy Ruckman (Night of the Twister), who suggested an older brother replace the uncle. Why hadn’t I thought of that? That simple change made everything simple. In the brother I could develop the mindset of the young revolutionary, in love with Fidel Castro who could be the foil against the pro-establishment and anti-Fidel father. The brief discussions about the revolution which happen as a result of the action, are now organic. A perfect case of the new pared down cast showing rather than telling what it was like living in those first two and a half years of Castro’s revolution.

Another result of my murderous binge was that now my protagonist participated fully in all of the experiences without having to take a taxi. In the previous version, an older cousin (it happened, I promise) was writing pamphlets against the revolution to hand out at school.

Eventually, someone finds out, calls her and tells her she’d better stop of else. My cousin ended up in an embassy not long after that phone call. But in order to get my protagonist to see that, I had to invite her to a meeting at her older cousins’ house, find a way to get her money for a taxi and a way to sneak off to her cousins’ house, hear what the older kids are saying and later find out about the phone call and her cousin’s exile from her father. With the brother embodying some of the experiences of other characters, my protagonist is right there, in the same room. She chooses to write pamphlets of her own to distribute at church, and she is the one who picks up the phone when the ultimatum is received—who’s the ultimatum for, her or her brother? Now the book is full of energy and the narrative moves quickly from one exciting scene to another. No more taking a figurative taxi or a bus to get the protagonist to the action.

It was a significant change in the book, I must admit. More of a re-imagining of the whole story than a revision. But I believe it has been well worth it. Now we’ll see if a power that be agrees with me and buys my story. I really hope someone does. My cousins are really not happy that I killed them, whether on or off the stage. They were all hoping for a cameo. The only way I’ll keep them quiet is to prove them wrong and have a best seller.

http://literarymidwives.com/

Terry Jennings began writing in 1999. Her first piece “Moving Over to the Passenger’s Side,” about teaching her fifteen-year-old to drive was published by The Washington Post. She has written a few other articles for them and Long Island News Day.  Since then she has written for Ranger Rick and had a family humor column in her local newspaper, The Reston Connection. Primarily she writes educational text for the Smithsonian Science Education Center and other educational outlets. Gopher to the Rescue! A Volcano Recovery Story (Sylvan Dell, 2012) was named Outstanding Science Trade Book by the National Science Teachers’ Association and the Children’s Book Council.  Her other book, The Women’s Liberation Movement: 1960-1990 (Mason Crest, 2013) was named to the Amelia Bloomer Project’s recommended feminist literature for women birth to 18. Sounds of the Savanna, a book about sound as told through predator/prey interactions in the African savanna  is on its way with Arbordale Publishers. It’s due out fall of 2015.  Currently she is working on a historical novel about the Cuban Revolution (1959-1961) loosely based on her childhood along with a couple of other picture books–one on Magnetism and one on Erosion.

Thanks Terry for sharing your article with us. I will be doing a lot of killing this week.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, article, Author, demystify, Process, revisions, Writing Tips Tagged: Literary Midwives, Terry Jennings

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9. Mastering Kid-Speak – Erika Wassall

erikaphoto-45Jersey Farm Scribe here on…

A Dialogue Tune-up: Mastering Kid-Speak

Dialogue is one of the most important pieces of any manuscript, and this often goes double for children’s works. Dialogue moves the story along, develops the connection between your readers and the characters and keeps things tangible and realistic.

That means that mastering Kid-Speak is unequivocally important.

There is a rhyme and rhythm to the way that kids communicate, where they pause to think, how they choose their words, the direction their stream of conscious takes them in. I’ve often wondered if there are linguists who study children specifically.  I bet we could learn a lot about the development of the brain and human instincts by looking at how and why kids pick their words.

As writers, if our characters don’t sound realistic, we’ve already lost the battle.  It’s something a child will instantly and instinctively pick up on.  The character will seem fake and they won’t bond with them.  Even in a plot-driven story, if the readers don’t connect with the characters, the story won’t resonate.

Here are a few things you can do to work on the dialogue in your stories: 

Eavesdrop!

Listening to children talk is one of my favorite things to do. This can be a bit trickier to do with older kids.  Teenagers aren’t big on you overhearing their devastatingly important and secret information.  But there’s a great trick to overcome that.  Stick two or more kids in the back of a car and drive around a while.  Even teenagers will fairly quickly forget that you can probably hear them and get swept up in the excitement of their chatter.  When hushed whispers are completely ignored, they often become full-volume conversations within a few minutes.

It’ll be a hit with the other adults in your life too! The fact that I’m quick to volunteer for anything kid and car-pool related is a much-appreciated running joke among my friends and family.

Listen to yourself:

Most writers understand the value of reading the dialogue sections of a manuscript out-loud. But you can take this even further.  Record yourself reading it.  Play it back.  Have someone else read it to you.  Have multiple someones read it to you.

Better yet, have an age-appropriate child read it to you. See how it sounds coming from them.  Does it sound natural?  Stale?  Funny?  Bland?  Vocabulary that encourages learning and reaching is excellent when carefully placed in children’s books.  But (unless it’s your character’s quirk) you want to keep the dialogue age-appropriate.

Hearing how the lines sound with the natural intonation of a child’s voice can be a simple and surprisingly effective way of polishing up the dialogue.

Give Everyone Their Own Unique Voice

If you ask five kids the same question, you will get five different responses, even if they all have the same general answer. You have a voice as a writer.  Be sure each of your characters has a voice of their own as well.

We all have our little verbal tics, especially kids. Some are simple speakers, short, two to three word sentences.  Some seem to look for any opportunity to use flowery, descriptive words.  They know different words based on who and what occupies the majority of their time.

A friend’s five year old used the word “bonemeal” when he was commenting on my conversation with his mother about my garden next year. Turns out, it’s basically a type of fertilizer in Minecraft.  I was amazed that he made the connection to a real-life garden, but it was just his natural Kid-Speak.

A great test for this is to pull out all the dialogue in your manuscript and see if you can tell who said what without even looking at the character name. 

It’s not an easy test. But for me, it’s given me great perspective on places I need to have the opportunity to personalize and develop that critical bond between my readers, and the characters they’re going to take the journey with.

Dialogue does so much in our manuscripts. It allows us to remove unnecessary words, breaks up long, difficult to read paragraphs, advances the story, gives us relatable realism and lets us see how a character thinks.  Take these opportunities to really let the uniqueness of your characters shine, and capture your readers.

Kid-Speak varies for different ages, backgrounds and situations, making it a versatile and powerful tool to make your story, and your character jump off the page and into the reader’s heart.

Your character’s personalities, and your manuscripts, are worth it.

Erika Wassall is a writer, a farmer and a liver of life. She is a member of SCBWI and a proud Mad Scientist, bringing science experiments right into children’s classrooms, and hearts. She has a small farm in New Jersey with sheep, chickens, pigs and vegetables. Check out her new website at www.TheJerseyFarmScribe.com where as a first generation farmer, she often takes the long way, learning the tricks of the trade on The Farm. On her website is also The Shop page with tips and a free Q/A from her husband’s mechanic shop, and The Writer page where she shares stories, experiences and characters from the heart. Follow her on Twitter at @NJFarmScribe. She’d love to hear from you!

Thank you Erika for another great post. I always enjoy them.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, article, How to, inspiration, Writing Tips Tagged: A Dialogue Tune Up, Erika Walssal, Guest Blogger Post, Mastering Kid-Speak

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10. 10 Writer Quotes to Keep you Working on Your Novel


30 Days to a Stronger Novel Online Video Course

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30 Days to a Stronger Novel Online Video course

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Writing teacher Darcy Pattison teachers an online video course, 30 Days to a Stronger Novel. Each day includes an inspirational quote, and tips and techniques for revising your novel. Here are the 10 of the inspirational quotes.

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Pattison
The titles below are the first ten entries of the Table of Contents for the Online Video Class. Sign up now for the Early Bird list. You’ll be notified when the course goes live.

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  1. The Wide, Bright Lands: Theme Affects Setting

    21-Morrell

  2. Raccoons, Owls, and Billy Goats: Theme Affects Characters

    22-singer

  3. Side Trips: Choosing Subplots

    23-morrell

  4. Of Parties, Solos, and Friendships: Knitting Subplots Together

    24-lengle

  5. Feedback: Types of Critiquers

    25-goldberg

  6. Feedback: What You Need from Readers

    26-king

  7. Stay the Course

    27-Parker

  8. Please Yourself First

    28-dillard

  9. The Best Job I Know to Do

    29-allen

  10. Live. Read. Write.

    30-Bratslav

Click Here to See 22 More Quotes for Writers

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11. The Grammar Nazi – Julie Phend

juiliephendI met Julie Phend at the recent Avalon Writer’s Retreat. She was in my group and I was so impressed because her manuscript was the most polished piece of writing I had ever seen. I found out that Julie is a English teacher and begged her to be a guest blogger and share some common errors that people could easily fix in their own manuscripts.

Here is what she sent.

Notes from a Grammar Nazi by Julie Phend

Arghh! No writer wants to have her grammar questioned. BUT the truth is that as writers, we are judged as much by our grammar and punctuation as by our witty characters and suspenseful plots. So it makes sense to familiarize ourselves with some rules we’ll use over and over again. Here are a few simple tips to help you avoid common problems.

CAPITALIZATION OF PROPER NOUNS:

Names of Family Members: As writers for children and youth, we will frequently reference moms and dads, grandparents, aunts and uncles. When do you capitalize these words?

Rule: Capitalize family members only when part of a name or used instead of a name. Don’t capitalize when used with a possessive pronoun.

Examples: I wish my mom would listen. I wish Mom would listen.
I bought a gift for Aunt Alice. I bought a gift for my aunt.

Names of School Subjects: Again, as writers for kids, we’ll often reference classes they take.

Rule: School subjects are only capitalized when they are a specific title or when used with a number.

Examples: My math class is boring, but the worst class I ever took was Math 101. Or maybe it was Advanced Algebra.

PUNCTUATING DIALOGUE: Good fiction is filled with snappy dialogue, so let’s be sure the reader (or agent or editor) is not distracted by incorrect punctuation.

Rules: If a quote is interrupted by a dialogue tag, whether you use a period or a comma depends on whether the second part of the quote is a complete sentence. If the second part of the quote is a separate sentence, use a period after the dialogue tag and a capital letter to begin the next sentence.

Example: “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing,” Jenny groaned. “That hamburger weighed a whole pound!”

BUT when a dialogue tag interrupts a sentence, use commas around the tag, and lower case letters when the sentence is completed.

Example: “Don’t run,” Jenny screamed, “or I’ll shoot!”

OTHER DIALOGUE RULES:

Rule: Periods and commas ALWAYS go within quotation marks.

Examples: “Don’t run,” Jenny screamed.
My favorite quotation is “You can run, but you cannot hide.”

Other punctuation marks, such as exclamation points and question marks, go within the quotation marks if they are part of the quote, but NOT if they aren’t part of the quote.

Examples:
Are you familiar with the famous quotation, “You can run, but you cannot hide”?
“Who said that?” Jenny asked. “I can’t remember.”

Rule: If there is a quote within a line of dialogue, the quote goes in single quotation marks.

Example: “A famous person once said, ‘You can run, but you can’t hide,’” Jenny said.

A FEW PESKY COMMA RULES: Modern writing uses fewer commas than were once taught, but commas show a reader where to pause. Without them, a reader struggles to make sense of a line of type. Similarly, unnecessary commas slow the reader down or break a sentence in strange places. Hence, a couple of useful rules.

Rules: Use a comma before ‘but’ and ‘and’ when they are used as conjunctions to join two complete sentences.

Examples: I have often walked down this street, but I never noticed all the flowers.
I often walk down this street, and I always stop to smell the flowers.

Do not use a comma before ‘and’ or ‘but’ when used to join verbs, adjectives, adverbs, or clauses. (In other words, if the second part is not a complete sentence.)

Examples: She loved to run and play.
She loved to run through the meadow and stretch her long legs.
I loved him long but not well.

Never use a comma before the word because.
Example: She often paused to smell the flowers because her mother taught her to appreciate the little things.

A useful rule of thumb: Read the sentence aloud. If you need to pause, you probably need a comma. If what follows the pause is a complete sentence, you need a period instead of a comma.

Example: I couldn’t go home. The police were waiting at my door.
NOT: I couldn’t go home, the police were waiting at my door.

Thank you Julie for sharing your expertise. I know your manuscript will be snatched up, published, and people will be clamoring for more books.  You may be interested in her current book, D-Day and Beyond: A True Story of Escape and POW Survival or you may want to check out her webite: http://juliephend.com/and read about her lively WWII and writing presentations for schools, book clubs, and veterans’ organizations.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, article, reference, revisions, Writing Tips Tagged: D-Day and Beyond, Grammar Nazi, Guest Blogger, Julie Phend, World War ll

6 Comments on The Grammar Nazi – Julie Phend, last added: 10/10/2014
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12. Need a boost in your writing or editing? Check out Holly Lisle’s books and courses.

If you’re looking for some good writing technique books or online courses, I highly recommend Holly Lisle’s books and courses. I have her Create a Character Clinic, Create a Plot Clinic, and How to Write Page-Turning Scenes, and I’m seriously looking at her How to Revise Your Novel online workshop. Her books and courses are easy to understand and relate to, written in a conversational, approachable style, and full of useful information with an understanding of psychology and emotional depth and layers. She has a fresh way of presenting material, and it’s based on her years of experience writing and editing fiction (she has more than 23 novels published). I think I can always learn to make my writing better, deeper, more powerful…so I’m glad when I find more that helps my work. I hope these’ll help you, too!

0 Comments on Need a boost in your writing or editing? Check out Holly Lisle’s books and courses. as of 1/1/1900
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13. 90 Things to Know About Your Characters Before Writing

IF red g

Here is a character illustrated by Dow Phumiruk. Just from the picture we can see she likes to dress nice, is probably a princess, most likely loves the color red, and likes to dance with mice. This is just the tip of the iceberg for this beautiful girl.  Every agent and editor will tell you that it is a writers characters that make or break their story, so I made up a list of questions you can answer to help you get to know your character before you start writing. It can even help you with your next revision.

CHARCACTER CHECKLIST:

  1. How old is your character?
  2. What does your character look like?
  3. Are they tall, short, fat, shinny, big nose, big ears, long eyelashes, acne, etc.
  4. Is your character happy with the way they look?
  5. What kind of clothes do they like to wear?
  6. Does your character dream? What are they about?
  7. What are your character’s favorite food? Favorite junk food, Favorite ice cream flavor?
  8. What is their favorite color? Favorite flower? Favorite movie? Favorite game?
  9. Do the kids in school like him or her?
  10. Has that changed? Did the kids like them in a lower grade or vice versa?
  11. Are they interested in sports?
  12. Are they a natural athlete or someone who has to try hard to play a sport?
  13. What was their role in their family growing up?
  14. Do they love their parents, siblings, etc?
  15. Do they have a computer? What do they do on the computer? Are there any restrictions?
  16. Are they getting addicted to any technology?
  17. Do they have a cell phone? Any problems with how they use it?
  18. Do they talk on their cell phone when they should be sleeping? Do they text too much?
  19. Do they like to read?
  20. What type of books, magazines, etc. do they read?
  21. Do they play a musical instrument?
  22. What were they most proud of as a kid?
  23. What did they find terribly embarrassing as a kid?
  24. What still embarrasses them?
  25. Who is their best friend?
  26. Does your character have a best friend?
  27. Has that changed?
  28. What is their first best friend like?
  29. What do they like about their friend?
  30. Do they like to talk? Do they talk too much? Are they shy or a loner?
  31. Does your character cry alot? Gets mad easily? Laughs easily? Make jokes?
  32. What ‘group’ are they in during school?
  33. What do they want to be when they grew up–and how is that going?
  34. Have they ever been sick or in an accident?
  35. What music do they like? Do they hate the music that other people in their family like?
  36. What are their hobbies?
  37. Does your character collect anything?
  38. Do they play video games?
  39. Does your main character like getting dirty?
  40. Do they have good hygiene?
  41. Would you say your character is selfish?
  42. What annoys them?
  43. Are they a bully?
  44. What makes them laugh?
  45. Are they a dog, a cat, or an animal person?
  46. Does your character have a pet? Want a pet?
  47. What season do they enjoy most?
  48. Do they have a favorite holiday?
  49. Is your character religious? Does that play a role in their life?
  50. Is their family rich or poor?
  51. What type of house do they live in?
  52. Where do they live? City? Suburbs? Countryside?
  53. Has your character seen the ocean?
  54. Has your character traveled anywhere other than where they live? Would they like to travel?
  55. Does your character have money to spend?
  56. Do they care about money?
  57. Do they drink alcohol?
  58. Has anyone tried to get them to take drugs? Would they take drugs? Smoke?
  59. What is the worst thing your character has done?
  60. What do they feel most passionately about?
  61. What trait do they find most admirable in others?
  62. Do they want a job that helps people or a job that makes money?
  63. Are they a leader or a follower?
  64. What scares them?
  65. What are their long term goals?
  66. What are their short term goals?
  67. What are their bad habits?
  68. If they could have lived in another decade which would it have been?
  69. What do they do when they’re bored?
  70. What do they think happens after we die?
  71. If they were to come into money what would they do with it?
  72. Have they ever been in love?
  73. What happened to that person?
  74. Are they still interested in that person?
  75. Does the person know about that?
  76. What did the family think about this person?
  77. Who was or is the love of their life?
  78. Is your character afraid of anyone? Or anything?
  79. What is their biggest fear?
  80. Do they feel safe? Of not, who or what is causing that anxiety?
  81. Are they in a sexual relationship? Would they like to be?
  82. Do they look forward to growing up?
  83. What do they want the most?
  84. How close are they to getting what they want?
  85. What will happen if they don’t get what they want?
  86. Any negative forces around your character?
  87. Does your character have anyone to confide in?
  88. What is the best thing you character has ever done?
  89. Does your character get depressed? What depresses them?
  90. Does your character look at the world as being half full or half empty?

Thank you Dow for sending in the above illustration. Dow is an aspiring children’s book illustrator. She won the 2013 SCBWI On-the-Verge Emerging Voices Award that promotes diversity in children’s books. Please visit her newly organized portfolio site at http://www.artbydow.blogspot.com. She was also feature on Illustrator Saturday: https://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2013/01/19/illustrator-saturday-dow-phumiruk-md/

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: need to know, Process, reference, revisions, Writing Tips Tagged: 90 Things to answer about your characters before writing, Character Checklist, Character Questions, Dow Phumiruk

6 Comments on 90 Things to Know About Your Characters Before Writing, last added: 9/24/2014
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14. Call for Submissions: 2016 Writer's Market and 2016 Poet's Market

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS: 2016 WRITER'S MARKET

Until 11:59 p.m. (Atlanta, Georgia time) on October 20, 2014, I'll be accepting pitches for articles in the 2016 Writer's Market. Sometime in the end of October, I'll start making assignments. If you're interested in pitching an article idea or three, read on.

What I Like
So, what do I prefer? The best way to figure that out is to read a recent edition or two of Writer's Market. (Order the 2015 Writer's Market here). Anyone familiar with the book will know that I'm looking for articles that will help freelancers find more success from a business perspective.

Previous articles have tackled queries, book proposals, taxes, record keeping, business management, and more. If you're an experienced source and can interview other sources, that is ideal. However, I'm unlikely to assign featured interviews with writers (as I tend to tackle those myself).

I'm also not interested in articles on the craft of writing. While I think those pieces are extremely valuable, they're just not a good fit for Writer's Market. If you're in doubt, go ahead and pitch it. Read the full guidelines to learn how.


CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS: 2016 POET'S MARKET

 
Running until 11:59 p.m. (Atlanta, Georgia time) on October 15, 2014, I'll be accepting pitches for articles and original poems in the 2016 Poet's Market. Sometime in the end of October, I'll start making assignments. If you're interested in pitching an article idea or three-or submitting original poems, read on.

What I Like
As with Writer's Market, the best way to figure out why I like is to read a recent edition or two of Poet's Market. (Order the 2015 Poet's Market here). Anyone familiar with the book will know that I'm looking for articles that will help poets find more success, including articles on business, promotion, and the craft of poetry-which is one major difference between the two books.

Here's another major difference: I'm seeking previously unpublished poems! Yes, I want article pitches, but I also want poems. I will choose between 10 and 20 to publish.

So get together your article ideas, dust off your previously unpublished poems, and start submitting. But first, read the full guidelines to learn how.

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15. Things I Do (But Am Not Saying You Should, Too)


So, a while back I had a blog post called Things I Don't Do (But Sometimes Wish I Did).

You can read it HERE

I was surprised and delighted that I made a lot of folks feel better and maybe saved you a little money on therapy. You're welcome.

But in that post I promised to write about some things I do do. 

First and foremost, however, it's important to note that I am not telling you that you should do these things.

They are things that help me.

They might not help you.

So feel free to just roll your eyes and move along.

1. I make what I call a story map. You can read about what it is and why I do it HERE.

2. I often draw an actual "map" of my main setting. Clearly, I am no artist (as evidenced below). But this visual is useful when maneuvering a character around the setting.

A map of the setting of On the Road to Mr. Mineo's

Ironically, when the brilliant artist, Greg Call, was sketching a map of the setting for the interior of the book, my editor, Frances Foster, asked me if I happened to have drawn a map. I reluctantly told her I had, but it was, um, a bit primitive. (For a brief moment, I considered redrawing it - or better yet, having someone else draw it.) But I sent my silly map and, magically, here is Greg's version:



3. I use Scrivener.  I think most of my writer friends do, as well. There's so much to love about this program, but one is that it  provides a number of ways to organize a novel visually.

For instance, the corkboard, on which index cards can be arranged, rearranged, color-coded, labeled, etc.

This is The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis
I also love the Outliner feature, which can be customized to include whatever elements are important to you and your novel.

This is a work-in-progress. I've included a brief description of each chapter, along with setting and timeline. You could add characters or emotional arcs or whatever.
I had a computer crash a while back and lost my Scrivener version of On the Road to Mr. Mineo's. Dang it. I'd love to show you that because, since it had 10 points-of-view, Scrivener was invaluable to me. I was able to color code each point of view. I could also take them out of the manuscript and group them together to see how they flowed. (That probably makes no sense, but, trust me, it was very useful.)

0 Comments on Things I Do (But Am Not Saying You Should, Too) as of 9/9/2014 8:14:00 AM
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16. Writing Multiple Points of View | Writing Tips

The main challenge in writing multiple points of view is helping the reader keep everybody sorted out.

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17. Pledge This Before Starting a Thriller Novel

For my next manuscript I plan to write a thriller, so I bought
How to Write a Damn Good Thriller: A Step-by-Step Guide for Novelists and Screenwriters by James N. Frey to study.

damngoodthriller

I thought you might be interested in James Frey’s list of what to pledge before starting your novel.

A thriller is a pulse-pounding supsense. In the US, mysteries are not considered thriller, though they share some common elements.

In a mystery, the hero has a mission to find a killer.

In a thriller, the hero has a mission to foil evil.

To write a damn good thriller, you need a killer attitude. Pledge to yourself to do the following:

  1. Commit yourself to creating strong conflicts in every line of every scene.
  • Decide you will have fresh, snappy dialogue and not a single line of conversation.
  • Decide to write quickly when drafting. Fast is golden.
  • Give yourself production quotas of at least a thousand words everyday, even if you have a tough day job like kissing up to bad bosses. Three or four thousand would be better.
  • If your significant other complains your thriller writing is taking up too much of you time, get a new significant other.
  • Commit yourself to this: You will not have any major characters that are bland and colorless. They will all be dramatic types, theatrical, driven, larger than life, clever.
  • Create a step sheet for the whole novel or screenplay. You might start your first draft if you know your opening and have an idea for the climax.
  • Trick the expectations of the reader and create nice surprises from time to time.
  • Have your character in terrible trouble right from the beginning, and never let them get free of terrible trouble until the climax.
  • Have powerful story questions operating at all times.
  • End each scene or section of dramatic narrative with a bridge, a story question to carry the reader to the next one.
  • Always keep brainstorming and think about what’s happening off scene.
  • Make charts for the major characters that tell you what they’re doing when they’re not on scene.
  • Try to be fresh. Don’t use the same old cliches.
  • Be sure your prose is colorful and sensuous.
  • Keep the clock ticking and the excitement mounting right to the climactic moment.
  • Talk tomorrow,

    Kathy


    Filed under: Advice, Author, Book, demystify, How to, list, Writing Tips Tagged: How To Write A Damn Good Thriller, James N. Frey, Writing a thriller novel

    0 Comments on Pledge This Before Starting a Thriller Novel as of 9/9/2014 2:23:00 AM
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    18. Pledge This Before Starting a Thriller Novel

    For my next manuscript I plan to write a thriller, so I bought
    How to Write a Damn Good Thriller: A Step-by-Step Guide for Novelists and Screenwriters by James N. Frey to study.

    damngoodthriller

    I thought you might be interested in James Frey’s list of what to pledge before starting your novel.

    A thriller is a pulse-pounding supsense. In the US, mysteries are not considered thriller, though they share some common elements.

    In a mystery, the hero has a mission to find a killer.

    In a thriller, the hero has a mission to foil evil.

    To write a damn good thriller, you need a killer attitude. Pledge to yourself to do the following:

    1. Commit yourself to creating strong conflicts in every line of every scene.
  • Decide you will have fresh, snappy dialogue and not a single line of conversation.
  • Decide to write quickly when drafting. Fast is golden.
  • Give yourself production quotas of at least a thousand words everyday, even if you have a tough day job like kissing up to bad bosses. Three or four thousand would be better.
  • If your significant other complains your thriller writing is taking up too much of you time, get a new significant other.
  • Commit yourself to this: You will not have any major characters that are bland and colorless. They will all be dramatic types, theatrical, driven, larger than life, clever.
  • Create a step sheet for the whole novel or screenplay. You might start your first draft if you know your opening and have an idea for the climax.
  • Trick the expectations of the reader and create nice surprises from time to time.
  • Have your character in terrible trouble right from the beginning, and never let them get free of terrible trouble until the climax.
  • Have powerful story questions operating at all times.
  • End each scene or section of dramatic narrative with a bridge, a story question to carry the reader to the next one.
  • Always keep brainstorming and think about what’s happening off scene.
  • Make charts for the major characters that tell you what they’re doing when they’re not on scene.
  • Try to be fresh. Don’t use the same old cliches.
  • Be sure your prose is colorful and sensuous.
  • Keep the clock ticking and the excitement mounting right to the climactic moment.
  • Talk tomorrow,

    Kathy


    Filed under: Advice, Author, Book, demystify, How to, list, Writing Tips Tagged: How To Write A Damn Good Thriller, James N. Frey, Writing a thriller novel

    1 Comments on Pledge This Before Starting a Thriller Novel, last added: 9/8/2014
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    19. Copywriting–3 Things You Must Know About Content Writing

    Writing Web content is rewarding for many reasons. You […]

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    20. Can Non-Artists Write Picture Books?

    Picture Book Writing Tip

    Wanting to write picture books, but you  can't even draw a straight line? Don't despair. This video writing tip tells why.


    0 Comments on Can Non-Artists Write Picture Books? as of 8/19/2014 3:51:00 PM
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    21. Writing Tip: Raising Plot Tension

    Writing Instruction Video

    Sometimes beginning writers struggle to engage and maintain the reader's interest in their stories. Sometimes this happens because the protagonist solves plot conflicts too easily or too early in the story. Sometimes it happens because the opposite occurs, that it seems to take forever for the hero to solve the problem. This video demonstrates a writing technique that helps writers strike just the right balance in order to raise plot tension, thereby engaging and maintaining the reader's interest.



    For teachers interested in using this video as part of creative writing lessons, the instruction video along with slide handouts that can be used to review the raising tension technique can be found at www.kenbakerbooks.com/raising-plot-tension.html.

    0 Comments on Writing Tip: Raising Plot Tension as of 8/28/2014 5:13:00 PM
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    22. Ten Tips to Juice Up Your Protagonist

    Most writers know every story needs a protagonist with a problem, but your MC also needs to be interesting, compelling, and sympathetic to keep the readers wanting more. We want our characters to jump off the page and grab our readers by the throat. Plus, we want our readers to remember and think about our characters and our story long after they close our book.

    Here are ten ways to make your protagonist do just that: 

     

    1.  MC has a problem that needs to be solved

    Make sure your protagonist is the one with the problem and no one else can solve this problem (or solve it as well as he or she can. The MC has to be central to the entire issue.

    2.  MC has the ability to act

    Don’t let your protagonists go around just reacting to things when they happen. Your MC should make things happen and move the story along through his or her choices and actions. A protagonist who knows what she wants and makes the story happen is a far more compelling character than one who sits around and waits for the story to happen. Make sure your protagonist is more than just someone in the middle of a mess.

    If this is not happening in your book, you need to adjust your story in order to get your protagonist in a position where they can affect the change.

    3.  MC needs reasons to act

    You can always give your MC something to do, but they need to have good reasons for their actions or your story will start to stretch credibility as to why they would get involved in something that clearly don’t care about. If you want to have your protagonist risk their life or happiness, make sure it’s for a reason readers will understand. NOTE: This is where a critique group comes in handy.

    4.  MC needs a compelling quality

    Like I said in the beginning, we want to make our MC interesting. Maybe they’re funny, smart or twisted. Maybe your MC has an unusual talent, skill, or quark. Whatever you choose, there needs to be a quality that makes a reader want to know more. Most times the thing that is compelling is also contradictory, making the reader want to know how these two things work together, thus hooking the reader.

    5.  MC has something to lose

    Just having a reason to act isn’t enough, so think about having your MC lose something that matters. This is a powerful motivating tool that will enable you to force your protagonist to do what he normally wouldn’t. You can have them take risks they would never take if there are consequences hanging over their head. This will make readers worry that your MC might suffer those consequences and lose what matters most to him.

    6.  MC should have something to gain

    An important aspect of the story’s stakes that’s sometimes forgotten or not thought through well enough is giving the MC something to gain. Readers want to see a protagonist rewarded for all their hard work and sacrifice, and a reason for your protagonist to keep going when everything says give up.

    7.  Give Your MC the capacity to change

    The sole of the story is character growth. It’s what turns it from a series of plot scenes to a tale worth writing. Giving your protagonist the ability to learn from his experiences and become a better (though not always) person will deepen your story. Your MC shouldn’t be the same person as they were when the story began.

    8.  MC needs an interesting flaw

    It is the flaws that make your MC interesting. Flaws let you show character growth and give your protagonist a way to improve themselves. Maybe your MC knows about this flaw and is actively trying to fix it, or perhaps he or she hasn’t a clue and change is being forced upon them. This flaw could be the very thing that allows your MC to survive and overcome the problems. Of course, it could also be the cause of the entire mess.

    9.  MC has a secret

    You don’t want your MC to be predictable – boring. A good way to keep your protagonist interesting is to have your MC hide something. Readers will wonder what that secret is and how it affects the story. Having your protagonist be a little cryptic, will keep your readers dying to find out.

    10. MC needs someone or something interesting trying to stop him

    Don’t forget that your protagonist needs an antagonist standing against him. The stronger the antagonist is that goes up against your MC, the more tension, suspense and victory you will provide for the reader. Give the reader a villain they will love to hate. The payoff will be keeping your readers turning the pages and reading into the wee hours of the morning.

    Do you have another tips for juicing up your characters? We’d love to hear it.

    Talk tomorrow,

    Kathy


    Filed under: Advice, article, How to, list, Process, revisions, Writing Tips Tagged: Juice Up Your Protagonist, Ten character Writing Tips, Writing compelling characters

    9 Comments on Ten Tips to Juice Up Your Protagonist, last added: 9/3/2014
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    23. Romantic Body Language

    boyandgirlteenMost writers add a little romance to the mix while telling their story. I found this over at http://www.Changingminds.org. It really isn’t a site for writers. It is a site to help us learn the signals people send through body language in order to communicate better, since 50% or more of what we communicate is done with body language. It is a very comprehensive site that covers everything.  

    I figured we could use some of the information to enrich our characters by adding a little BL. It would be a great tool when you want a character to say one thing, while signaling something completely different with their body language.

    Below are some body movements that signal to a person of the opposite sex that you are interested in romance.

    From afar

    From afar, the first task of body language is to signal interest (and then to watch for reciprocal body language).

    Eyes

    The eyes do much signaling. Initially and from a distance, a person may look at you for slightly longer than normal, then look away, then look back up at you, again for a longer period.

    Preening

    There are many preening gestures. What you are basically saying with this is ‘I am making myself look good for you’. This includes tossing of the head, brushing hair with hand, polishing spectacles and brushing clothes.

    Enacting

    Remote romantic language may also include enactment of sexually stimulating activities, for example caressing oneself, for example stroking arms, leg or face. This may either say ‘I would like to stroke you like this’ or ‘I would like you to stroke me like this’.

    Similarly, the person (women in particular) may lick and purse their lips into a kiss shape and leave their mouth slightly open in imitation of sexual readiness.

    Objects held may be also used in enactment displays, including cigarettes and wine glasses, for example rolling and stroking them.

    Displaying

    Attractive parts of the body may be exposed, thrust forward, wiggled or otherwise highlighted. For women this includes breasts, neck, bottom and legs. For men it includes a muscular torso, arms or legs, and particularly the crotch (note that women seldom do this).

    Faking often happens. Pressing together muscles gives the impression of higher muscle tone. Pressing together and lifting breasts (sometimes helped with an appropriate brassiere) makes them look firmer and larger. Holding out shoulders and arms makes the body look bigger. Holding in the abdomen gives the impression of a firm tummy.

    This is often playing to primitive needs. Women show that they are healthy and that they are able to bear and feed the man’s child. The man shows he is virile, strong and able to protect the woman and her child.

    Leaning

    Leaning your body towards another person says ‘I would like to be closer to you’. It also tests to see whether they lean towards you or away from you. It can start with the head with a simple tilt or may use the entire torso. This may be coupled with listening intently to what they say, again showing particular interest in them.

    Pointing

    A person who is interested in you may subtly point at you with a foot, knee, arm or head. It is effectively a signal that says ‘I would like to go in this direction’.

    Other displays

    Other forms of more distant display that are intended to attract include:

    • Sensual or dramatic dancing (too dramatic, and it can have the opposite effect).
    • Crotch display, where (particularly male) legs are held apart to show off genitalia.
    • Faked interest in others, to invoke envy or hurry a closer engagement.
    • Nodding gently, as if to say ‘Yes, I do like you.’

    THE CLASSIC ROMANTIC PURSUIT:

    • Girl fancies boy and makes eye contact.
    • Boy is attracted and continues eye contact (pursuit).
    • Girl looks away (rejection)
    • Boy looks away (retreat)
    • Girl looks at boy and holds eye contact for longer (pursuit)
    • Girl looks away again (rejection)
    • Boy goes over to girl to say hello (pursuit)
    • Girl plays hard-to-get (rejection)
    • …etc.

    Rejection works because of the Scarcity principle, where we desire what we cannot have.

    Up close

    When you are close to the other person, the body language progressively gets more intimate until one person signals ‘enough’.

    Close in and personal

    In moving closer to the other person, you move from social space into their personal body space, showing how you would like to get even closer to them, perhaps holding them and more…

    Standing square-on to them also blocks anyone else from joining the conversation and signals to others to stay away.

    Copying

    Imitating the person in some way shows ‘I am like you’. This can range from a similar body position to using the same gestures and language.

    Lovers’ gaze

    When you are standing close to them, you will holding each other’s gaze for longer and longer periods before looking away. You many also use what are called ‘doe eyes’ or ‘bedroom eyes’, which are often slightly moist and with the head inclined slightly down.

    Where the eyes go is important. Looking at lips means ‘I want to kiss’. Looking at other parts of the body may mean ‘I want to touch’.

    A very subtle signal that few realize is that the eyes will dilate such that the dark pupils get much bigger. This is one reason why dark-eyed people can seem attractive. Light-eyed people (typically blue) make the pupil easier to distinguish, so when their pupils do get bigger the signal they send is easier to read.

    Touching

    Touching signals even closer intimacy. It may start with ‘accidental’ brushing, followed by touching of ‘safe’ parts of the body such as arms or back.

    Caressing is gentle stroking that may start in the safer regions and then stray (especially when alone) to sexual regions.

    Talk tomorrow,

    Kathy


    Filed under: article, Character, inspiration, reference, Writing Tips Tagged: Body Language, Changing Minds, Communicating through Body Language, Romantic Body Language

    2 Comments on Romantic Body Language, last added: 9/3/2014
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    24. A Dozen Ways to Build Your Confidence as a Writer

    Guest post by Suzanne Lieurance, the Working Writers Coach It's tough being a writer, especially if you're just starting out. Rejection can easily tear down what little self-confidence you have, so here are a dozen ways to build your confidence as a writer: 1. Do Something First Thing Every Morning That Makes You Feel Good About Yourself. It might even make you feel powerful. Go for a jog,

    0 Comments on A Dozen Ways to Build Your Confidence as a Writer as of 9/4/2014 10:54:00 PM
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    25. How to Motivate Readers to Keep Turning Pages | Writing Tips

    It isn’t easy to tackle tension when writing a story, but keeping these things in mind can point you in the right direction.

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