Posts Tagged ‘writing tips’

“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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“I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.” – Shannon Hale, author of The Princess Academy and lots of other books.

Great quote by Shannon Hale which reminds writers what a first draft is really like — nothing but a bunch of sand in a box! It’s the rewrites and revisions that take the sand and compress it, shape it, and add a little magic to it. Then, you have your story (or book).

Shoveling sand is where I am on several projects. I don’t mind the shoveling or knowing I’ll be spending lots of time trying to make a castle out of the raw ingredients. It’s all part of the journey.

Today, was a good day. I discovered 2 books which will aid in my research. Both are terribly expensive, but I think they’re worth the cash. I also managed to jot some notes down which will end up in a manuscript. And then there’s the story which I’ve been trying to build — it seems to have a mind of its own. Not such a helpful thing when the story needs to fit in a themed anthology. It feels like every time I get a castle nearing completion, a wave knocks it down and I must start again.

So to my writer friends out there, have a great day, whether you’re shoveling sand or building castles.

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People often ask me where do I get some of my more unusual ideas for writing and art work. My response is often, “Truth is stranger than fiction.” Then, I tell them some of the “true” things which were the beginning place for a story, poem, or painting.

Yes, I use conversations I over-hear or oddities I spot while traveling, but sometimes the internet has links to marvelously weird science. Here’s the link to a video of 10 of the strange, but real creatures on our planet. If they don’t inspire alien life on other planets, nothing will!

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