Wednesday, December 2, 2015

December 2015 - Be Fearless: Wrestle You Characters!

Well, I never thought this would happen to me as a blogger, but I missed the opportunity to blog for an entire month.  I could blame NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), my Critique Group, Thanksgiving, housekeeping chores, but the real culprit was the conflict between my story idea and my main character.

I was drowning in a sea of ideas and misdirection for two weeks. Yes, I did outline my story. I had a neat, readable mind-map on the wall in my office. I had a character, a plot, and an ending. Then it happened, the  main character took over the story. I've had characters do this in other NaNo Challenges, but this one had her own plot in mind. She took over the story in Chapter Three.

What I had planned to write changed. The story bore no resemblance to my map.  My main character decided to bring in four more characters, and three more dramatic incidents. My character's disregard for my plot threw me into a serious case of writer's block.

 I looked for help. I found it in the pep talk written by Charlene Harris published November 17, 2015. Miss Harris suggested to write your story's ending when you can't more forward.  Following her advice was magic, my wild character became cooperative. Yes, once my main character knew how the story's ending, she started following the plot. I made the 50,000 mark with a few more words to spare. 

This isn't the finest first draft I've written during a NaNoWriMo Challenge. It's okay. I have a first draft of 50,000 words of a novel that needs some serious work. I can't wait to wrestle with this story, plot, and these characters in 2016.  

Saturday, October 24, 2015

October 2015 - Be Fearless: Take the NaNoWriMo Challenge

Ghosts, goblins, and pumpkins don't fill my mind during October. It is the multiple ideas that come to me at odd times that need to be jotted down as potential book ideas for November's National Novel Writing Month's (NaNoWriMo). It is writing at its best. It is you, your ideas, and your imagination. Some WriMos (NaNoWriMo  participants) have an outline, some just write by the seat of their pants (better know as "pantsers") all write for 30 days to attempt to achieve 50,000 words,

Now, there are doubters out there reading this blog saying it is not possible. Well, it is possible, with a little dedication and determination. The Office of Letters and Lights sponsors this world-wide annual event and helps all participants with tips, newsletters, and writing sprints for daily warm-ups.
Sponsors of this writing celebration give authors several free 30 day trial options for new or standard writing tools.

You can be a loner and write each day without talking to another writer or you can form a group of WriMos who meet and discuss their writing and write together. This event is for every level of writer.  You can take on the challenge and let your mind, heart, and muse echo the spirit of creativity.

Yes, I am a big fan. I have written four books in four years. Are they all published? Hell no, the revision process alone takes a year, and then there are the beta readers, editors, and proofreaders, Formatting for submission and much more, but if you want to write and you have a story to tell, jump in, and have the time of your creative life.  

Now is the time for those of you who have been writing forever and have never participated in NaNoWriMo to jump start your imagination. Stimulate that rush of being on a roll as the words fall onto the screen or page.  Bring back the memories of wanting to do an all "nighter" because you can't stop writing. 

Writers everywhere. Go to and join with authors around the world and scribe. Link up with other creative types on the following links:

Prepare! The challenge begins at midnight on November 1, 2015.
Write on!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Be Fearless: Computer Sick-Revert to Other Technology

When a writer's computer is out of commission, (mine left me for three days) you find yourself using another technological tool.  My phone became my life line, "Galaxy" the android version of "Siri," understood me clearly by the end of the first day. This app was never on my radar until my computer became ill.

Urgent Facebook replies to family and friends accomplished with my phone's voice activated feature. The absence of my trusty computer lead to many an "ah-ha!" moment on my phone. "Galaxy" became my new 'modus operandi' for returning text messages.

My office took on the appearance of being organized. The family calendars coordinated with my phone. I even took on my husband's iPad to do some critical financial checking.

Yes, my handheld device provides multi-purposes, but it does not give me the creative tactile feeling of my fingers on a keyboard responding to the impulses of my brain to form letters to words, words to sentences, sentences to paragraphs and paragraphs to a draft. All of the technological wonders of the my phone cannot replace the feeling of sitting in my recliner with my laptop on my thighs typing away my next big idea.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

September: Be Fearless-Ask a Writer About e-Publishing

These last few weeks have taught me a few lessons about myself and my writing processes. Let's examine the question: "How will I publish my book?" I lost count of the number of revisions Changing Habits morphed from its conception two years ago. After multiple beta readers, critique group examinations, selected readers to critique it, I felt ready to publish,  but fear held me in its grip until I remembered my theme this year is "Be Fearless."

I knew I wanted to e-publish. Taking my mantra to heart, I started studying the various avenues and choices of e-publishing. My notebook was filled with questions. The vendor choices are prolific.

I wanted hard copies for friends and family members who don't read online. Can I set up a"print on demand" system? Do I have to commit to a large run?  How many times have I listened to individuals who told the tale of spending thousands of dollars to print their book only to still have cases of copies still in their garage five years later?

Frustrated with all the information and no one to really give me advice except the vendors, I reached out to author Paul Genesse who has published several books. This generous soul knows me through a writer's organization and through a hospital where I volunteer.

This decision to ask someone in the writing world about how they distribute, promote, and manage their books helped me become an entrepreneur. Paul clarified my questions and fears in a ten minute phone call. He told me how he made his decision based on which e-publisher had the largest market share. He talked to me about the quality of a published book from several 'print on demand' vendors. He asked me if I  considered how much energy  I was willing to invest in promoting my book.  He probed to see if I understood niche market recognition, meta data, the importance of a professional cover, and more. I thanked Paul for his valuable time and his generosity. He said he would send me an email with links about e-publishing,

Paul 's openness propelled me.  I will publish. I understand the 'business-speak' of the e-publishing world. Thank you Paul for your time. Your expert opinion helped me.

Here are the sites Paul shared with me and I am sharing with you:

Near the bottom of the page, you'll see links to Brian Kittrell's videos that analyze the three of them, but here's a link to his YouTube page: 

Paul Genesse's books include:
STRATA: A story of the Future Suns, available now on the Kindle and Nook.
The Winds of Khalakovo, available now in print, and on the Kindle and Nook.
The Straits of Galahesh, available for preorder from AmazonB&N, and Indiebooks.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Be Fearless: Appeal to Your Critique Pals

On my way toward the "e publishing" finish line, the requirement to write a 'synopsis' and a 'summary' of my book stalled my progress.  You would think these task would be easy,  especially after working for months sharpening my verbs, enhancing and adding dimension to my characters, and authenticating and burnishing the scenes of my book. Yet, day after day, draft after draft, frustration prevailed.

What is a Synopsis?
The synopsis shows how the plot, theme, characterization, and setting converge to form the big picture. This document "needs to be concise, compelling and complete, all at the same time." (D. Matriccino, Writers Digest, February 1, 2010.) Read about writing a Synopsis

What is a Summary?
Book store buyers, agents, and editors are the summary's audience. Finding information on writing a summary for a novel is difficult. Few writers blogs about it, or haven't used a label to identify their experiences or information. Write Summary gives some ideas for writing the basic summary:
  1. write in present tense
  2. write in third person
  3. write to include cliffhangers and teaser
  4.  do not reveal any conclusion

Seek Peer Council
The tug of war between the blank screen and the printed page continuedfor months. Then, after hitting the bottom of my creativity well, I asked my critique group members for help. Why I didn't ask before? I can't answer that question, but I know the synergy of the group and the cold, honest truth, hit me like a Pacific Ocean wave.

WOW! It was cathartic.  The first draft of the synopsis is complete. The summary, well I have a problem summarizing the entire story. This hurdle is personal and it too shall be conquered.


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Be Fearless: Maintain A Writing Schedule

As I sit in my office, a small room tucked in the basement of my home, I'm attempting to maintain my writing schedule. The writing schedule repeated on the pages of my planner.

My room contains a desk, couch, reference volumes, books read and to be read, and even a PC in case my laptop blows up. The sign on the door warns intruders: "Do not disturb. Novelist at work." You'd think with these lovely digs and furnishings I'd keep my schedule religiously.  Maintaining my writing schedule remains a consistent challenge.
Those of you who know me would say "How can that be? You are retired." Retire doesn't mean I don't volunteer, have appointments to keep, household chores to do, the need to eat, family interactions by phone,"'skype" or in person, a garden to maintain, critique group preparations, a blog to write, do I need to go on?
What I can't figure out is how those of you who write, work a full time job, have all the stuff I do on my list and still maintain a writing schedule. Every writer who elicits advice on writing parses out the wisdom of having a writing schedule. I would like to know how they do it.
 It is late Sunday afternoon and my fingers have just touch the keyboard. Monday morning's schedule tugs at me. Do I work with my husband in the garden or sit down with my novel and do the last revisions? Life, it gets in the way of my writing. Life the well which gives me my inspiration also drowns me in interruptions and distractions.
My desire to do nothing but write is overpowering. It is a drive that makes me angry when I don't have any time to hide out and write in my  inner sanctum. Here lies the lesson. If you want to write you will write. Stephen King wrote in a laundry room, John Cheever in a basement near a furnace. King advises your writing space needs only one requirement, a door. He believes a door is important for uninterrupted writing.*  If you need to leave the house, write at a library, coffee shop, park, you're a writer get creative.

The important step is to keep a writing schedule. Place your writing time on your planner, set the timer on your phone, or put it on the family calendar, but let your household, the world, and yourself know you are writing everyday.

*King, Stephen, On Writing.Simon&Schuster, NewYork, NY, 2000, p.155


Friday, June 26, 2015

Be Fearless- Check Out Those Lists

One of the events of summer is the launch of the annual O magazine 2015 Summer Reading List. Okay! snicker if you must, but as writers we also must be aware of the competition.The following link includes forty-two books reviewed by Natalie Beach, Hamilton Cain, Leigh Haber, Sarah Meyer, Elyse Moody and Richard Nash. If you just scan where the books are available you will see "IndieBound."  Do you know what that means? Do you know who they are and where they published and who owns it the company? 
You may never read a book from Oprah's 2015 Summer's Reading List, but you can find out a lot about the publishing world and book distribution by looking through the list. We as author's must become business managers, public relations gurus, and sales managers. 
Take a moment and look at what happening in the book world. Take a moment and review the link below:

Thursday, May 28, 2015

June 2015: Be Fearless - Seek and Heed an Editor

I won a book in a drawing and promised the author I would review it. It is the first book in a trilogy.The book's concept is wonderful. It presented another world where elves and ogres exist. The plot includes a young woman captured from earth by an elf who was betrothed to her at birth. He risks entering the human world because he needs her to avert an uprising in his world. The author's creative mind and the storyline both have great potential. 

My eagerness to read this story was halted by the abrupt changes in point of view, inconsistent verb tenses, run-on sentences, incomplete phrases, grammatical errors, spelling errors, and missing words. These writing errors plague me and many of my colleagues. It is the reason why writers use alpha readers, beta readers, and attend a critique groups. Even though I can write a book in 30 days. It takes me months to clean up my creations.

My heart went out to the author who paid someone to edit her book. She needs to get a refund. Her editor did not serve her well. This jewel of an idea wasn't polished. The lesson for all of us is don't print something if it is not ready.   

As frustrating and hard it is to hear someone else correct spelling, verb tense, misplaced modifiers, point out capitalization needs, and split verbs, a writer must accept a well-recommended editor or proof reader's suggestions. You book reflects you and when you publish it, the world sees you. 

Editors are important to producing the best publishing product. Self-publishing authors need to practice caution when selecting someone to assist them in revisions. Think of your manuscript like your child, perfect until you get that call from his or her teacher, the principal, or the truant officer. 

Yes, it is a great story, but it needs a bit of a revision. The links below direct you to other blog sites discussing what to look for in the editing process and in a freelance editor. Remember editing takes you to the "re-vision" journey.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

May 2015 - Be Fearless: 'Kill Your Darlings'

     More than a century ago, Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, a Cambridge University lecturer, authored the term, "murder your darlings.William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Stephen King, and Mark Twain also received attribution for the writing advice: "Kill Your Darlings.This phrase instructs the writer to edit and revise without emotional attachment. These three words remind writers to weed their writing of extraneous descriptions and flowery language.

       Every writer is guilty of harboring 'darlings' in my manuscripts. They include characters, settings, favorite words, phrases, and places. When I take off my writer's hat and put on my editor's glasses my darlings become glaring.

         One must plan to "kill their darlings."
1) Put the manuscript away. Give your document a rest. Clear your mind and desk of any evidence of its existence.
2) Exam your work as if is you are editing someone else's manuscript. Search for the following 'darling' symptoms:

  • cliches: they make the writer look lazy
  • rambling descriptions: the reader wants the plot to flow
  • semicolons: if you think you need a semicolon, check to see if you need a period instead
  •  characters names starting with the same letter or rhyming with another character: readers want each character to be an individual
  • redundancies: words or following a perfect sentence with another sentence with the same message.

3) Clear language is a goal. Eliminate excessive use of adverbs and prepositional phrases.
4)  Ensure the pacing and momentum of the story is smooth and steady.
5)  Read your manuscript aloud.

          Seems simple, but these are our "darlings." We are attached to them. We like them or don't even recognize how comfortable we are with them. So if you are paralyzed by love and can't remove your darlings, create a file and place the remains of all your "darlings" in this file. The removal of your words won't seem as final if they are in exiled in a file named "darlings.Perhaps one of our stashed "darling" can be resurrected in another story.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

April 2015- Be Fearless: Read, Learn, Write

The longer I write the more I appreciate the work of other authors. Some scribes have characterization down to a science. While wirters of suspense weave mysteries holding the reader's interest long into the night. My personal reason for reading these days is not only for the joy of a "good read." I use my reading as an opportunity to observe how other writers deal with those writing issues that send many a writer into the abyss of frustration.

I just finished reading, All The Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr. I chose   this book because of the reviews on, Oprah's Book Club, and Barnes andNoble recommendations.  I wanted to see why readers, not critics, not publicists, but readers called the book, "Excellent."

The book's two main characters have separate plots. The author writes about each in a separate country with different obstacles to overcome. The author's description of the settings and characterizations pull you in the story. The story answered a criticism from two of my beta readers.

My current work in progress has multiple characters with different storylines. Two of my beta readers said it was difficult for them to keep track of "who was who."  Another beta reader pointed out, it was difficult to keep track of the places the action took place. Anthony Doeer helped me realized how to fix my issues. His writing process lead me to solutions with the issues I was having with my own book.

Reading is a must for a writer. We learn from other writers. We can step back and observe how they apply writing techniques.  Thank you for a great read and some "teaching" moments

"You cannot open a book without learning something."   Confucius*


Monday, April 13, 2015

April 2015-Be Fearless: Seek Poetry

Society under values its poets. If you ask a reader to name an author, they rattle off several names of their favorite fiction writers. Ask that same reader who is today's up and coming poet? (Expect a pause.)  Better still ask who is the poet laureate of their state? (They  will change the subject.)

April is National Poetry Month and I am appealing to all my readers and writer friends to promote poetry this month. The following activities are simple and offer support to your poet colleagues:
  • Seek out the poets in your life. Ask them about their work. 
  • Buy a collection of poetry and read it. Send the poet a thank you note.
  • Go to a Poetry Group reading during this month.
  • Drag out any piece of poetry you have written in your lifetime. Read it, polish it, and submit it.
Poetry is the emotional reflection of life. It is an intellectual exercise in expression. Some forms of poetry have constraints and strict rules, while other forms are flexible and flowing. Don't be afraid of poetry: seek it, read it, write it.

Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance. – Carl Sandburg

Monday, March 30, 2015

March:2015 - Be Fearless: Ask For Help

           After drafting multiple books and outlining countless ideas, I concluded I needed to get serious about publishing. My regular "Critique" group produced a list of revision suggestions. I didn't want to start this process before checking if someone else stepped out a revision process.Deep in my soul I realized someone created a It was then I took the bold move and asked for help.
        I belong to several writers group on FACEBOOK. I reached out to members on Writer Unboxed (This group is by invitation.) My plead was simple:
"Help! I am in Revision Hell! 
Any tips on how to focus and get the work done?

       The response was fantastic. Encouragement, food ideas, time management suggestions, and this wonderful site Fiction Universityenter "Revision Plan" in the search box on the left hand side of the page. You ascend to another place where there are choices and plans to help you create your process of revising. 
       The responses from these writers also inspired me to look at Scrivener with a critical eye. I recently purchased a bundle of resources from The Write Life. The package contained the "Learn Scrivener Fast" program. I committed two days focusing on the program. I imported my novel from WORD to Scrivener. This tool reads the text back to the writer, (available only on MACs). This feature is an enormous help to me. 
        Thanks to my writing colleagues I am moving forward on the road to revision with a plan and powerful tools. Information infuses one with power and confidence. I learned a big lesson. Be fearless: 'Ask for Help,' especially when you are feeling overwhelmed.

“Writing is a delicious agony.”
—Gwendolyn Brooks


Sunday, March 22, 2015

March 2015- Be Fearless: REVISE

Revision: the act of reconsidering, altering, changing
     Look at each word, sentence, paragraph, and chapter. Seek to set the scene for the action and the characters. Action moves the plot.  It is a systemic process designed by the writer.       
   Tools exist to support authors during the revision process. Some of the available products are as follows: 
  • AutoCrit assists writers with pacing, dialogue, momentum, wording, passive voice, and repetition issues.
  • GrammarlySpell Check, the Dictionary, and Theasarus provides authors with verb agreement, correct spelling, and vocabulary choices.
  • Scrivener offers writers the choice to select the option of check spelling and grammar as they type.
Tools are helpful, but reading your document aloud in a room by yourself, the cat, or dog helps find the small often overlooked issues.
        Every writer needs to create a proof reading checklist. Align your list with the publisher's "style guidelines" (generally found in the submission requirements). Look for them and become acquainted with the various types of style guides. Many publishers and contests require the formal guidelines of The Chicago Manual of Style: The Essential Guide for Writers, Editors, and Publishers. This is one of the industry's standards. If you know the publisher's or contest's preference, it can save you time and perhaps the "slush pile."
Editing: correction
      Spelling verification is imperative. Spell Check, the Dictionary and Theasarus are aids, but names of people, place, and specific objects need authentication. Use Google, Bing, or your research (if it is accurate) to validate proper noun spelling.
      Additionally, editing need the following it steps: 
Eradicate as much of your passive voice as possible. 
  • Check for adverbs. Replace with a descriptive adjective when possible. 
  • Check the number of times a paragraph started with a noun or a pronoun. 
  • Check for run on sentences. 
  • Look for semicolons. A single sentence using a semicolon should probably be two sentences.
  • Check for missing quotation marks, question marks, and commas.
       An editing list continues based on the style guide's rubrics. Revision is a long process, an activity trying the best of authors.  Revisions challenge every writer regardless of experience level.  A "Critique Group" assists the writer with suggestions and editorial comments, but the work of the transforming a draft to a completed document remains in your hands with the aid of your creativity.  During the demand of this change protocol, a writer must let go of his or her ownership of the document. Your creativity must conquer your ego.

 “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”
—Elmore Leonard