GUEST POST (and a little more): My Top Five Writing Tips for New Authors by Anita Dickason

Anita DickasonRetired Dallas police officer turned detective novelist, Anita Dickason, is sharing the good news about her debut detective novel series, featuring strong female lead characters.

To kick things off we’re highlighting Sentinels of the Night, which puts FBI Tracking Agent Cat Morgan on the trail of a brutal serial killer.

Cat teams up with town police chief Kevin Hunter to accomplish one crucial goal: catching the sadistic killer before he strikes again. Although Cat and Kevin soon recognize that the romantic tension between them is undeniable, both hard-working, dedicated professionals know that catching the killer comes before anything else. Cat and Kevin must set aside their personal feelings to put a final end to the killer’s reign of terror.
Sentinels of the Night
This week, Dickason is showing up around the Book Blogosphere with some guest posts. We’re happy to have her drop by this little patch of cyberspace with these writing tips and a giveaway. Click here to enter.

My Top Five Writing Tips for New Authors

I came across a website that ran a short story contest. The theme was based on a picture posted
on the site and was limited to 500 words. The image caught my attention. A tattered and broken
doll stood in a barren, run-down old room with spider webs and torn and stained wallpaper. I
later learned the doll did exist and was used in haunted houses. While it was designed to be eerie,
there was also a sense of tragedy.

I thought what the heck, its only 500 words. I wrote my first fictional story titled Not Dead, Not
Dead. To my utter amazement, I won third place. I was hooked. I now have two published
books, Sentinels of the Night, and Going Gone!, and am working on a third.

I have learned a lot about the craft of writing along the way and would offer these suggestions.

1) Write! Now that seems like a simplistic answer to a complicated question: how do I start?
However, it is so true. I enjoy talking to writing groups about writing and publishing.
Someone will always ask this question. Most everyone who has a yen to write has ideas
rolling in their head. Start putting them down on paper, just start writing.

2) Start with the challenge of a short story. It is a fun way to learn the dynamics of writing.
When limited to 500 or 1000 words, you cannot ramble. Once the story is complete,
submit it to a short story contest or magazine.

3) Don’t worry about perfection in the first draft. Get the ideas and flow of the plot down.
Trying to get a paragraph or dialogue 100% perfect will only slow down the creativity.
Write, get it all down, then go back and edit.

4) Keep a notepad by the keyboard. It helps to keep track of character names, dates, times
and other pesky details that can get lost. I use multiple changes in POV (point of view) as
I shift between agents and locations. The technique can get complicated, and I use the
notepad to keep track of who knew what and when.

5) Edit. There are software programs that can be invaluable. I use Grammarly and
ProWriting Aid. Each has several great features to catch not only errors in punctuation
but also sentence structure, overused words, etc.

For more information on Sentinels of the Night and the second Tracker novel, Going Gone!,
please see my website or the book trailers.

www.anitadickason.com
Sentinels of the Night: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4m00v2W4K4o
Going Gone!: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DGI9MzkBkSE

Advertisements

WRITER’S WRITE PROGRAM

Inkitt launches a free program to help you turn your idea into a novel within 30 days.

Have you ever thought about writing a novel? There are millions of people in the world who have ideas floating around in their heads that they want to write down but never find the time.

Inkitt, the world’s first reader-powered book publisher, will be launching their first ‘Writers Write Program’  on November 1st to help you turn your idea into an original novel. The 30-day program is completely free and filled with special benefits such as:

  • Free, 30 min private sessions with professional writing coaches (including the editor of The Martian)
  • Events and tips with bestselling authors like Andy Weir, Lauren Kate, and Gayle Forman
  • A variety of community features such as the choice to get a writing buddy who you can exchange manuscript feedback with

“Our intention is to enlarge the writing community by encouraging more people to become writers,” said CEO of Inkitt, Ali Albazaz. “The program is completely free so for us this isn’t about making money; it’s about encouraging talented and committed writers to keep going and finish what they started.”

If you are serious about taking on the challenge or want to finish (or start!) a manuscript then make sure to get your spot in the program now. There is less than a week left before it starts.

LEARN MORE

Guest Post: The Delicacies of Writing Non-Fiction by Nathaniel Barber

The Delicacies of Writing Non-Fiction:
What to Leave In or Omit and Why Asking Permission Is the Greatest Hurdle to Telling a Great Story

Luck Favors The Prepared is a collection of nonfiction short stories. But, that ‘nonfiction’ part has been a tricky business. Nonfiction is rarely flattering. Seldom does its characters move about as gracefully or as tactfully as we believe we move about our own lives. Most people long for privacy—while the goal of nonfiction (as is the goal of any writing) is the opposite of privacy, to reach an audience. Additionally, the claim (and the sting) of nonfiction is that these are stories which have actually happened, concerning people who actually existed—people with feelings and, possibly, access to legal counsel.

What if I get it wrong? What if I muddy up the dates or fail to nail the dialogue verbatim? These, while valid points, were the least of my concerns. The ultimate hang-up was whether a person would be not flattered by the character I’d made of them.

The conclusion I always reached (which was no) held up the writing of these stories for many years, until, at long last, I was able to call a truce with my inhibitions and get to writing.

What explains the shift?

For starters, these are good stories so they were not easily dismissed. Given time and pressure, eventually their persistence forced me to reconcile this seeming insurmountable hurdle to nonfiction: the spectre of fairness.

Readers of Luck Favors The Prepared will notice I traffic in some incredibly unsavory characters. Was it fair of me to write them so? Probably not. People, however, have had more than enough time to get along without fairness. Indeed, we’ve lived in a dearth of fairness since time immemorial. It is audacious of my characters to demand fairness would make a historically rare visit just to save their hide.

The best we can do is be proactive, and behave ourselves. If you’re good, most assuredly, nobody will write about you.

We’ve developed many ways to live well, even in this absence of fairness. Chances are you’ve had a brush with Christianity, the founding tenets of which warn we should (to paraphrase a number more eloquent passages) watch our ass. If you feel exempt from the offerings of Christianity, the scientific community has an equally potent formula coined by Newton’s third law: every action has an equal and opposite reaction. There are some still who feel left behind by both Christianity and science, for them I can only hope they have a magnanimous sense of humor. After that, you’re S.O.L.

The idea is, in a world where what goes around, comes around—fairness is a red herring.

It took me longer than it should have to come to this conclusion. When I did, it was like a fresh breath of air. Which is why I am now gleefully submitting Luck Favors The Prepared for publication, just under the wire, during this lapse in the Universal Calendar when fairness seems to have checked-out.

If nothing is fair, what then, will keep the world from coming apart?

In this supreme absence of fairness, Christianity, science or humor implores us to act with kindness, beauty and grace. It is, you could say, a last-ditch stopgap to prevent everything from going to pot. This is an idea I can get behind in a major way. It has allowed me to finally locate my voice—and write nonfiction to my heart’s content. But to do so compassionately, in spite of appearances to the contrary.

In the spirit of kindness it is important to note: while I have not shied away from capturing a character at their very worst, that unfortunate snapshot is strictly happenstance. I am not aiming, specifically, to capture a character at their worst. Though, to be fair, I am not straining to capture a character at their finest either. One should not aim to catch a character behaving any which way. They should only aim to capture the story. Kindness should be, above all else, a commitment to the story.

While many of my characters found themselves illuminated in such a harsh light, kindness suggests that (hopefully) they were just going through a rough spot. Their only real crime (in the universal sense) was they experienced a fevered lapse of judgement in the company of someone with such an impeccable memory.

Kindness forces us to consider the angels of our better nature, that people are great, complex creatures. We are brimming with contradictions. Sometimes we are terrible and evil. Other times, we are beautiful and reaffirm all of the wonderful things.

How does one know when they’re writing from a place of kindness? Crap stories are usually unkind. We’ve all heard an embittered divorcee seethe about their poisonous ex-wife or husband. It’s nothing you would treat yourself to after a day’s work. That’s what red wine is for.

Nonfiction without kindness reads flat and vindictive. Any too-thin story is so obviously a sad revenge-vehicle to facilitate a tantrum. It is painfully uninteresting. Yes, sometimes unkind nonfiction is fun to read. But it’s a dirty, bitter pill and should be enjoyed sparingly.

Are the stories objective?

Just because I am the narrator, doesn’t mean I am exempt from the critique of these narratives. To lean faithfully on the story’s foundation means I should just as freely throw myself on the same pyre to which I’ve thrown these poor characters. Could I have been more critical of myself, the character? Maybe, but that’s above my paygrade.

Writing nonfiction is to shoulder into unfairness. So the very least a nonfiction author can do is make well and sure they’re writing from a place of kindness and objectivity. Or, at least, try real hard to do so. This is why I still write with boundaries. Very strict boundaries in fact. There’s much more I could write, but it’s a waste of time if there’s no redeeming story.

I am forty years old now. Does an inability to understand and reconcile the dueling perspectives of fairness and kindness explain why it’s taken me so dang long to offer Luck Favors The Prepared? Probably not. But lay off, I’m short on time. I suppose I could try harder, to completely throw myself at producing books, which is a lot like working a second job without pay. Try explaining that to a wife and a daughter.

Writing The Damn Book by Stacy Nelson (Guest Post)

A friend started talking about this book last week, and it sounded pretty interesting. Actually, when I said “talking,” I should’ve said “raving.” Anyway, it’ll probably be a few months before I can get around to reading this, and the author’d probably prefer something sooner, so my friend is allowing me to post her review instead of mine. Thanks, Erika!

Writing The Damn Book: How to Start, Write And Publish A Non-Fiction Book For Creative People Who Have A Hard Time Finishing Things

by Stacy Nelson

Kindle Edition, 83 pg.
BadAss Publishing Co., 2016

Practical Magic for Alchemists Who Like to Play in the Esoteric Sandbox

by Erika Nall

(I had the privilege of reading this book before it was released to the masses.)

The “Who Is Your Reader?” section is the MOST IMPORTANT section. It stopped me dead in my tracks!

I’ve bought countless courses and trainings but something always felt off. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. All of them had me “start with the end in mind.” I was painting these beautiful pictures of my days, my 3 months from now, my 1 year from now, and beyond. It was so yummy. It tapped into my superpower of visioneering. It satisfied my romanticism. It validated my idealism. Then I reversed engineered to create that in the present.

However, when it came to my readers and clients the “guru” always had me start at the beginning of their journey. “What are her pain points?”

EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. I start there my stomach clenches and my heart shrinks. Inside I feel small and powerless. I get confused and lack clarity. OUCH! It’s painful.

I can hear it now:
Guru: “Lean into your discomfort. Just push through it. This is good for you. This is an opportunity to grow.”

Me: “Um, I don’t think you understand this is not uncomfortable like my shoes are a little too tight or I have a bit of indigestion from the pepperoni pizza I just ate. This is killing me inside.”

Guru: “Well, that’s just a thought. Notice the thought. Let it go back from where it came. Back into nothingness.”

Me: “I don’t think you heard me. THIS IS LITERALLY KILLING ME INSIDE! I avoid death as much as possible thank-you-very-much.”

(And as an alchemist, I know I can excel in the dark art of manipulation to get what I want. I always felt like I went there when I started with pain. “I can help you. Or, better yet “I can save you.”)

Why do I die inside when I start with pain?

My reader is me. I am her. When I talk about her beginning, I am talking about my beginning. When I talk about her insecurities, I am talking about my insecurities. And believe me, they like to show up and be a part of the show anytime they can.

Now, I understand why the beginning is a terrible place to start. Brains are pretty clueless. Whatever it’s thinking, it perceives as reality. That’s its job. And, mine does it very well.

Now I understand that those sensations. That experience is also what happens when I am insecure.

When I wanted to share my message through writing, my self-assurance, my self-confidence, my self-trust was nowhere to be found. Frozen, I just stared at that incessant blinking damn cursor for hours as the insecurities played and had their fun in my head. Frustrated and feeling rather poorly about myself, I would give up. I’d walk out of my office thinking, “What’s wrong with me? How can I usually write so freely and unabashedly with great perseverance one minute, but not the next.”

I wrote the answer, “who is your reader going to BE at the end of the book?” (Honestly, I wasn’t sure if this was going to work.)

And, I felt it. For the first time I felt that what I wrote was coming from a deep place inside of me and not my head. I expected the sensation to be like a blast of, or at least a pulsating, bright light. (Well, that what I thought was suppose to happen when you are passionate and empowered.) Instead, my stomach was relax and I felt a gentle pressure across my chest. It was a constant glow and warmth like after the fire burnt up the firestarters -the tender and the kindling- and it’s just being a fire, doing what fires do. Sure there was an occasional popping of pitch, but I didn’t stop. My fingers just pounded a bit harder on the keyboard.

My breath deep and long. Every once in awhile tears would run down my face. My mind quiet. There was no judging. I just typed. I didn’t set a timer like I usually do to keep me on track. When I felt like I got up into my head, I paused, looked out the window and watched the birds for a little bit, took a few deep breaths, and went back to writing. When all that I had inside was out in black and white -unedited and raw- I looked at the clock and only 50 minutes had passed – talk about flow, baby.

I took a deep breath, exhaling slowly, coming back to my surroundings. Then my intuition said, “Is this making her BE EMPOWERED?” And, I cried.

Several times since then, I’ve tapped back into empowered and I’ve cried every time. Not because I am sad, or happy, or relieved because now I can feel the glorious ginormity of it. How badly, how passionately I want that for my readers AND for me.

You see, I was asking the wrong question. I was starting in the wrong place.

Now when I begin with the energetics of empowerment, I write within the place of security. My assurance, confidence, and trust will be front and center. And, when the writing gets hard and there is a call to perseverance, THIS is what will pull me through the challenges of spreading my message in whatever form I choose.

—–

4 Stars

Ideas and Inspiration for Fantasy and Science Fiction Writers by James Hutchings

Ideas and Inspiration for Fantasy and Science Fiction WritersIdeas and Inspiration for Fantasy and Science Fiction Writers

by James Hutchings

Kindle Edition, 453 pg.
2016


You know what this book could’ve used? An introduction. Just something to ground the reader in the books intention, design, scope . . . something. It just dives in, you flip from the Table of Contents to the first entry.

The only way you know what the book is for is to have read the description from Goodreads/ebook seller:

If you want to spark new ideas for worlds, plots or characters, you want Ideas and Inspiration for Fantasy and Science Fiction Writers. Medicinal corpses, the jargons of thieves and carnies, Nazi UFOs, the colonization of space and green children from nowhere are only a few of the topics covered. This sourcebook is for all writers of fantasy or science fiction–whether novels, short stories, games, or any other form of storytelling.

The afterword touches on it a little, but who wants that at the end of a book?

Smoother writing, maybe a touch of personality to the writing would’ve been a plus, too.

It’s not something you can read cover-to-cover, it’s a resource book that you can consult, or flip through. I’m pretty sure I’ve read almost all of it over the course of a couple of weeks. It sparked an idea or two (not that I have time for them), but that’s about it.

I guess, this book set out to do what it intended, is thorough, easy to read, so . . . 3 stars? Next time you’re trying to prepare for NaNoWriMo or a Creative Writing course, give it a thumb-through.

Disclaimer: This book was provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

—–

3 Stars

Opening Lines – Straight Man

We all know we’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover (yet, publishing companies spend big bucks on cover design/art–and I love this cover). But, the opening sentence(s)/paragraph(s) are fair game. So, when I stumble on a good opening (or remember one and pull it off the shelves), I throw it up here. In this selection, we learn everything — practically everything, anyway — we that need to know about our narrator, the next 300+ pages is just filling in the details.
I love this kind of opening.

—–

Truth be told, I’m not an easy man. I can be an entertaining one, though it’s been my experience that most people don’t want to be entertained. They want to be comforted. And, of course, my idea of entertaining might not be yours. I’m in complete agreement with all those people who say, regarding movies, “I just want to be entertained.” This populist position is much derided by my academic colleagues as simpleminded and unsophisticated, evidence of questionable analytical and critical acuity. But I agree with the premise, and I too just want to be entertained. That I am almost never entertained by what entertains other people who just want to be entertained doesn’t make us philosophically incompatible. It just means we shouldn’t go to movies together.
The kind of man I am, according to those who know me best, is exasperating. According to my parents, I was an exasperating child as well. They divorced when I was in junior high school, and they agree on little except that I was an impossible child.

from Straight Man by Richard Russo