Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Avoid Humans

post by Michelle Griep
It always surprises people when I label myself an introvert. But I am. Sure, I can paste on a smile and yuk it up for awhile, but I need me some alone time to recharge. Like lots of alone time. Like I turn into a raging axe murderer if I'm with too many people for too long of a time. Thankfully, I've never reached the manslaughter limit of my aversion to people because I discovered a magical website that I'd love to share with all the other loners out there.

Yeah, I know. Great name, right? Here's how it works. You click on the link and then allow the site to figure out where in the world you're located. Using that information, it draws from a real-time database (based on Instagram and Foursquare check-ins) to let you know which places in your area are currently housing the least amount of humans.

The information is broken down into four categories: food, coffee, nightlife and refuge. Coffee shops are the one I care about most because that's where I do the bulk of my writing. I don't mind a little noise, in fact I thrive on it. But if the shop is full and I can't even find a place to sit down, that's annoying. All I do is click on the site and it brings up other coffee shops for me to go with less humans.

You might want to copy this site down. With the holidays coming, finding a quiet corner is always a challenge.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

What it Feels Like to Finish a First Draft

post by Michelle Griep
“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, 
like a long bout 
of some painful illness. 
One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”

~ George Orwell

I did it. I typed "The End" on my latest great American novel. Want to know how I'm celebrating?

I'm not. 

Oh, don't get me wrong. I love slapping a lampshade on my head and kicking up my heels as much as the next person. But I don't feel like partying, and that's a little hard for a non-writer to understand. Nevertheless, I'll see if I can explain this in layman's terms . . .

Think about spending four solid months with two people that you've gotten to know inside and out. You know how they think, talk, act and react. You've been with them through tragedy and triumph, day in and day out. You've felt what they felt the entire time. They're part of you because, well, you created them.

Then blammo! With the typing of two little words, end of relationship. Goodbye to your imaginary friends. They are, in all essence, dead.

Would you feel like celebrating?

Okay, so maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration, because there is a certain amount of pride and accomplishment at finishing a book. I'm just saying that it's a bittersweet end. 

But after I send in the polished draft and I get my advance check in my hot little hand, then goodbye sentiment and hello little black dress and heels . . . because then I'll really be ready to party.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Jesus Saves . . . Do You?

posted by Michelle Griep
I spent Saturday morning at a coffee shop pounding away at my novel. It's what dutiful writers do. Besides, they have some sweet doughnuts on Saturday mornings that are a-freaking-mazing.

So I'm typing along, la-de-da-de-dah, when blink, blink. Every word in my entire 97,000 word document turns into asterisks, like this: ************************* The whole manuscript. Every word. Not. Even. Kidding.

Let me tell you, that was some panic attack, especially when I found out that there's nothing you can do to recover any of it. Turns out there's a Word 2011 bug, and if you haven't updated in awhile, it can happen to you too. Once it hits, the document it attacks is completely unrecoverable. You can read more about it HERE.

The cure is prevention, and that's what today's post is about. So, attention all you Mac owners that use Word . . . UPDATE YOUR SOFTWARE! This bug was fixed in the 14.1.2 update. Once you've updated, you don't have to worry about seeing those nasty asterisks filling your screen.

Fortunately, I had my document saved on another computer at home so all I lost was what I'd written that day. Still, 1,000 words is nothing to sneeze at . . . but it's also nothing to hyperventilate over, either. Word to the wise: take time to save your work. Back-ups are gold. Yes, Jesus saves. You should too.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Easiest Part of a Book to Write

post by Michelle Griep
I’m rounding third base and nearing home on my latest manuscript. Just five more scenes to write and voila. Finished rough draft. It’s been a trip, I tell ya. Lots of tears. Some blood. A canker sore or two. But bruised and battered, I shall prevail. Want to know what the easiest part to write was? 

You may think it was the Beginning.

But nope, you’d be wrong. Way too much pressure. An author has about ten seconds to grab the reader by the throat and yank his soul into his created story world. Who needs that kind of stress? Not me. Great beginnings are super hard to write

So it must be the middle that's a breeze to pen, right?

No way. It takes a skilled hand to keep the story moving forward in the middle of Sloggsville. This is the most dangerous part for a writer to create because he’s got to keep the action going . . . but not too much.

The climax. It’s got to be the climax then, eh?

Unh-unh. This is the pinnacle. The heights to which you’ve lugged your reader and are now about to throw him off the edge. That takes careful wordsmithery, my friends. Evoking strong emotion without making the reader want to overdose and end it all is freakishly difficult.

Aha! So the end is the easiest to write.

In a word, no, this is not an easy portion to write. Why? Because of the looming cloud of doubt shadowing every word. Did you tie up all the loose ends? Is this a satisfying finish? You suddenly wonder why your story is in a handbasket and where it’s going.

That leaves only one little part that never—ever—breaks a sweat on an author’s brow. The easiest part of a book to write is . . .  drum roll please . . . the author’s name.

Writing Trick #172

post by Michelle Griep
Readers are smart and they like a challenge, whether they'll admit to that or not. It's your job, little writer, to provide that challenge, which brings us to today's writerly trick . . .

Always keep your reader guessing.

Think of your story as a rousing game of hangman. Give your reader chances to guess letters, but don't reveal the entire word to them until the very end. Yeah, I hear ya . . . "Sheesh! Books are a collection of words. How the heck can you write a novel without revealing a word until the very end?! Are you crazy? On drugs? Been hit in the head with a ball-peen hammer?"

To which I respond with a resounding, "Uh, unbunch your undies there, Hoss. I'm talking allegory."

Webster says allegory means:
a story, poem, or picture that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning, 
typically a moral or political one.

And that's what you want to dish out one spoonful at a time to your reader so that by the end of your story they feel satisfied. Your writing needs to convey some kind of message, some takeaway value, without beating the reader's head to a bloody pulp with it. Let them figure it out. Don't be a big party pooper and go spoiling the surprise at the end.

Don't panic. You don't have to do this all in the first draft. This is something you can layer in later. Capture your story first. Often by the time you've penned the first sweeping saga, you'll discover exactly what your message is and will be able to go back and embellish.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Castle Contest

post by Michelle Griep
When you're a published author, sometimes life is all prancing unicorns and free dark chocolate mochas. And sometimes it's not. Like now . . . because I can't enter a dang sweet contest. But if you're not published yet, you can enter and possibly win A FREE WRITING IN A CASTLE EXPERIENCE! YES, I'M SHOUTING, EVEN THOUGH I CAN'T ENTER BECAUSE THIS IS SUCH A FREAKING AWESOME CONTEST!

Whew. Sorry. Got a little carried away there. Now then, here are the details.

What the Contest is
Some crazy writer dude and his wife decided to rent a castle in Europe next November for NaNoWriMo 2016. The giveaway is for a room for two guests for the entire month. The focus will be on writing but there will also be time for brainstorming, plotting, book marketing and publishing advice and a free book cover and formatting service.

Who the Contest is For
Writers who've been writing for a long time but haven't been able to finish anything worth publishing. Entrants must be able to get themselves to and from Europe (no airfare coverage) and have spending money for food. You also must be able to take a month off of your life.

They're hoping to rent out a whole castle and have an entire writing group. The giveaway ends on November 30th and winners will be announced on December 5th. Since I'm already published, I can't enter, but I'm sure happy to spread the word about this contest. Here's hoping one of my readers wins!

To enter, click HERE.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

3 Key Ingredients of a Great Writer

post by Michelle Griep
It's November. That means thousands of writers are pounding away at their keyboards this month, hoping their manuscript will become the next #1 NY Times Bestseller.

See what I have in my hand, kids? It's a pin. A sharp, pointy silver rod of death, and I'm stabbing balloon after balloon. Pop. Pop. Pop. Because the ugly truth is there's only one thing that makes for a great bestseller and that's a great writer. And there are three ingredients that go into all the greats. Look deep inside, little writer, and see if you have the makings or if you're short an egg or two . . .

3 Ingredients of a Great Writer

There's a fine line between knowing writing rules and being hog-tied by them. It takes courage to cross the line now and then and break those rules. That implies you must know what the "rules" are first, but at some point you need to let go and freefall into your writing. Take risks. Not care anymore if your story gets published. Write for the breath-stealing exhilaration of creation.

Great writers read. Excessively. And in all genres. There's something to be said for osmosis. Reading great writing tends to come out as great writing.

This is the ingredient everyone wants to skip, especially all the bright-eyed newbies out there who think their first manuscript is God's gift to mankind. It takes time to become a great writer. Blood. Sweat. Tears. Lots and lots of chocolate and weeping. Granted, the timeline isn't the same for all writers, but it's a rare genius who gallops out of the gate into novel stardom. Most pay their dues one year at a time, critique by critique, workshop by workshop. Slow down, little cowboy, and enjoy the ride.

If you're missing one of these ingredients, don't despair. Just work toward the one you need most. Stick with it, because there's a kingpin of all ingredients inside every great writer: perseverance.

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