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Posts Tagged ‘writing advice’

“If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.” – Thomas A. Edison

I’m not sure if I am astounding myself, but I am working hard on numerous projects:

*Judging a poetry competition–both a fun and challenging job. I love reading what creative minds come up with!

Rocket space ship . Mixed media*Editing 2 anthologies, “Re-Launch” and “Re-Quest” for Pole to Pole Publishing. And I will be reading for 2 more anthologies (“Re-Terrify” and “Re-Enchanted”) shortly.

*Finishing a novel, adding to 2 in-progress short story collections, and working on a nonfiction book.

*Writing several short stories and poems for anthologies or magazines.

*Thinning the book herd. (My bookshelves are sagging dangerously low).

*Putting together a bibliography of my writing and illustrations – then, entering the speculative work into http://isfdb.org  Plus, if the publication qualifies, adding it to my listing on Poets & Writers data base.

*Working on genealogy–and putting together several books based on that information. Yes, I know these publications won’t be “best-sellers,” but it’s a nice way to preserve the information and make it available to family members and other interested people. And I have no “time limit” on these books — as more information trickles in and I want to include as much as possible. (Librarians be warned, I will need help in doing the research to “ground” these historical accounts in history).

*Knitting 30-plus scarf & hat sets by Christmas for daughters (I do call my daughters-in-law, “daughters,” too, because they are dear to me), sisters, nieces, etc. I was given a huge amount of lovely yarn, and I’m aiming to use up much of it in the process. Plus, knitting at least a dozen men’s hats for sons, nephews, brothers-in-law, etc. for Christmas.

*Then, there is family: time spent with husband, kids, grandkids, friends, my mom and other family members. And art – I want to paint at least 2 new pieces of cover art this summer. And visits – I’ve fallen behind on my visits due to a 2017 and 2016 filled with trips to NC and SC to help older relatives who were dying. Wait, I’ve forgotten gardening! My gardens so need work. And the birds – feeders need to be repaired or replaced and birdhouses need to be hung.

I could (and should) go on. But I hope you get the idea.

I encourage you to look at your life. List what you are doing and what goals you can set for yourself. Can’t think of anything to do? Check out the volunteer opportunities in your area. I challenge you to astound yourself!

 

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“Your heart knows the way. Run in that direction.”–Rumi

In the bustle of our hectic lives, writers sometimes loose their sense of direction: A blog and/or website to maintain. An online presence to keep up-to-date (Goodreads, Twitter, Facebook professional page…) Reviewers to locate, query, and send copies of our books to — then, if a review is done, thanking the reviewers. Keeping our Amazon Author’s Page current. Appearances, whether book signings or presentations. Guest blogs. Oh, and writing new fiction (or poetry or nonfiction).

That last item on the list is the most important. Writers should be writing. Your mind and heart both know that is where your passion is and where your time should be spent. When an author is successful enough, she can hire someone to do everything else — but the author must do the writing.

As to what to write — again I refer to the Rumi quote: listen to your heart. Maybe writing book reviews and hosting guests on your blog gives a writer more visibility, but is that your heart’s desire? Would you really rather be working on your next story, book, or poem? If you answer, “Yes, I’d rather be working on my own writing,” then you need to cut back on the distractions and get back to your work.

So I say to writers, run in the direction of the next piece of your writing. Your readers are waiting and your heart knows the way — so run to your keyboard or pad of paper and write!

 

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152 “A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds.” – Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon’s statement is true for all of us (regardless of gender). Opportunity does come knocking occasionally, and sometimes chances for success appear serendipitously in our inboxes, but more likely we must create our opportunities.

As a writer, I can sit back and wait for editors of anthologies to ask for my stories – which is lovely when it happens, but still a rare privilege for me. Or I can research markets, locate opportunities, and either write a new story for an antho or check my files for an appropriately themed piece of fiction to send.

I can check my email and phone messages for bloggers and reporters begging for an interview or a feature, or I can get online and look for blogs which might be a good fit for me and my book/books. Then, I can write a query letter and go through the process to “land” an interview, guest blog slot, or feature.

I can sit on my sofa and wait for a bookstore manager to contact me for a book signing, or I call the bookstore, find when the manager has a moment to chat, stop by, and see if a book signing (whether individual or with a group of other authors) is something we can make happen.

I can slump in an armchair and moan because lots of writing conference organizers aren’t calling me to appear and lead workshops, or I can contact the people in charge of writing conferences and ask about the process for presenting a program at their next conference.

I can sigh loudly and lean my chin on my hand while gazing out the window wondering why more science-fiction/fantasy cons are not inviting me to be a panelist or I can find out who is inviting guest authors/editors to various sf/f/h cons and learn what I have to do to get an invite.

You get the idea. I need to make opportunities, not wait for that lucky break. And though I’ve written this post from a writer’s point of view, it applies to most goals which require someone to open a door for you.

So readers, think about how you can make opportunities to reach your goals. And though I wish you good luck — don’t rely on luck, rely on yourself and hard work!

(And if you are interested in interviewing me, featuring me or my books, or having me post a guest post on your blog – let me know. If you are a conference or con organizer and want me to participate – contact me. Just practicing what I preach, and trying to make my own opportunities!) 🙂

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One of my pet peeves is when a novel has a prologue.

At worse, as a reader, I view the addition of a page or two or more of world, setting, and/or character description before the start of a book’s narrative to be a sign of weak writing. At best, a prologue tells me this author doesn’t have confidence in either their writing or a reader’s ability to grasp the details of their novel’s world unless it is clearly explained.

Even at my jumbled desk in my chaotic office, I can hear the gasps of many of my fellow writers. Yes, yes, I know many fine authors have used a prologue to transition their readers from the mundane world into the universe of their book. And prologues have been en vogue during certain periods of time. But I, for one, never read those prologues! (And I don’t think I’m alone).

A book should begin on page 1!

Drop the reader into your world, then slip in the necessary information about your setting, rules of magic and/or science, the state of religion and politics, the geography, flora, fauna, etc., and the characters’ places in that world bit by bit as you move through the narrative.

And by the way, this does not mean dumping all that information in one place, but rather, judiciously dropping a crumb of info here and there. Readers will pick up those crumbs and begin to understand your world as they become involved with your characters.

Likewise, I rarely read an introduction or foreword. Again, get to the book itself.

Perhaps the only exception to my dislike of extra material prior to the start of a book, is a preface. Letting a reader know why you’ve written a non-fiction book, and your level of expertise on the subject might be important enough to delay the start of the book. Though to be honest, I prefer an author’s note in the back of the book containing that information.

I know there are other opinions on prologues and their kin, but for this reader, they are pages to flip past on my way to page 1.

For another point of view, check out Should You Use a Soft Opening by JA DuMairier on the Thanet  Writers’ site.

 

 

 

 

 

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Murder on Marawa Prime (reviewed in the December 2016 issue of Analog magazine) is my only published murder mystery/ action adventure tale. Yet, I enjoy reading murder mysteries and crime fiction. In my “in progress” fiction files, there are several other crime stories which, I hope, will be completed, polished, and submitted to magazines or anthologies in the not too distant future.

Murder_Cover_CS_front Like all writers, I try not to use clichés, so it was with interest I read an article on clichés in crime fiction (which will include murder mysteries).

Here’s the link – I hope you enjoy Crime Fiction – 10 Cliches to Avoid from Freelance Writing.

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As a writer of speculative fiction, I have to be aware of the spelling and pronunciation of the places and people which are part of the imaginary worlds I build.

A long jumble of letters with a weird pronunciation might seem to be a good way to announce that my story is set in a fantastical world. Bizarre accents and hyphenated names might appear to be an easy way to signal to my readers that the characters aren’t human. But I don’t want to work that hard to figure out (and remember) crazy pronunciations, and neither do my readers.

So what’s a writer of science fiction and fantasy to do? I recommend selecting names that are easy to remember and pronounce – but ones which “fit” your world.

crist-dagger For example, in my epic fantasy novel, The Enchanted Dagger, I used baby name books to select Nordic, Celtic, Old English, Scandinavian, etc. names for some of my characters. Other characters’ names are mixed-up combinations of the names of family members and friends. Each time I began moving the letters around to create a character’s or race’s name, I used the sound of the letter combinations to determine if the result felt like it belonged in Lifthrasir.

Lifthra-what? Lifthrasir (LEEF-thra-seer) is the name of the imaginary world of The Enchanted Dagger and the forthcoming Beyond the Sheercliffs. It is from Norse mythology, and according to Teresa Norman’s book, A World of Baby Names, it means: “She who holds fast to life, desiring life…[Lifthrasir] is considered to be the mother of humanity after all perished at Ragnarok.” Well, what better name for the world I’m creating in which the good folk must fight for their lives, their children’s lives, and control of their world?

An example of my letter-scramble technique, would be Grindee, a particular kind of goblin. A dear friend’s nickname is Dee. She has a marvelous sense of humor, and I thought she’d grin during parts of the book. So why not name a goblin for her and her sense of humor?

Another example: a minor character in The Enchanted Dagger is named Mobree Dug. Mo is the nickname of another friend, and the first 4 letters of her last name are “bree.” Dug is the phonetic spelling of a brother-in-law’s name.

As for the title character, Beck – I have a sister and sister-in-law both named Becky. Plus, the name of the instructor who taught my Writing the Novel graduate course was Mr. Becker. In addition, Beck (again according to Norman’s book) is a Scandinavian name which is the “Transferred use of the surname meaning ‘dweller near the brook.'” In The Enchanted DaggerBeck comes from a seaside town, and water plays an important part in his interaction with magic.

The names of other family members and friends became a warrior race – the Janepar, a race close to nature – the D’Anlo, the wisewomen – the Alywyn Sisterhood, the Wenbo River, the towns of Raystev and Larmik, the country – Dobran, even the gravediggers Nate and Stu, and I could go on and on. (Though I won’t, since by now, you’re quite bored).

But you’ll notice, Grindee, Beck, Lifthrasir and the rest aren’t too difficult to read or pronounce. Believe me when I say your readers will appreciate the effort when you make names easy to pronounce and remember even if you world is far, far away or long, long ago or even beyond our galaxy.

To take a look at The Enchanted Skean, visit https://www.amazon.com/Enchanted-Dagger-Chronicles-Lifthrasir/dp/1941559182/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1489363491&sr=8-1

For a totally different take on Pronunciation, here’s the link to writer friend Andrew McDonough’s take on the subject: https://andrewmcdowellauthor.com/2017/03/12/pronunciation

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After a slew of acceptances, I’ve gotten 3 rejection letters lately. All of them were modified with “good, but not for us,” or some similar comment. But “close” doesn’t make much of a difference to a writer. We still see the word, NO, in blinking letters.

Taking off my writer’s hat, and putting on my editor’s hat, I know if an editor takes the time to add any comment to a form rejection, you made an impression. So it really is good news when there’s a positive comment added to the “not for us.” And, believe it or not, editors do feel bad when they say “No” to a good story, new writer, friendly writing acquaintance, etc. We’re trying to publish the best book or magazine we can, and honestly,  we just can’t fit all the good stuff in.

With another take on rejection from both side of the editorial desk, is On Sending and Receiving Rejections from the Liminal Stories Magazine blog.

So, like me, when you receive a rejection, take a deep breath, shrug your shoulders, and find another market for the rejected story. Send it off again. Then, start writing the next story. Persistence really is the key to success!

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