Friday, March 29, 2013

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Are You a Liar?
"All readers come to fiction as willing accomplices to your lies."

Call it validation therapy or creative license or even perfidious prevaricating, if you like. But the fact is that if you're a fiction writer, your pants better be on fire. Lying is part of the game.

Yeah, that sounds a little harsh. We've been taught all our lives that lying is one of the Big Ten to be avoided. But before you go running off to light a few hundred repentance candles, allow me to expand this thought.

One of the definitions of the word fiction is:
Invention or fabrication as opposed to fact.

The thing is, when a reader picks up a piece of fiction, they know in the back of their mind that it's not true. There's no deception involved. Readers expect a story world of believable make-believe.

Next time someone asks you what you do, tell them you're a professional liar. It's a great icebreaker, worth the shockfactor in raised eyebrows alone, and fun to count how many times someone's comeback is, "Oh, so you're a lawyer?"

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The 4 Steps of Creativity

Personally, I'd like to be stepping through a garden full of tulips but all we've got around here is snow. Apparently winter isn't looking at the calendar. So I'll have to get a bit creative in my thinking to pretend all the white I see is really red and purple. How will I do that? With the following handy dandy list...


1. Preparation
This is the work phase. A writer prepares by researching, reading, or revising an earlier work. A musician plays scales. An artist visits art galleries. I just might whip out my gardening books and start planning a layout.

2. Incubation
This is when your conscious and subconscious mind collide to work on an idea, or weed them out, so to speak. The realm of possibilities is where you need to let your thoughts wander. This is the time to sit and ponder and not get sucked into Pinterest or Twitter. I will start thinking of color schemes for my yard.

3. Illumination
This is when the drive finally kicks in and you're at your peak. Ideas are flowing like crazy-go-nuts. You see your story clearly. You know your characters. It's magical. It's at this point you'll mow down anyone silly enough to get in your way as you speed toward your computer...or in my case, as I grab a shovel out of the garage.

4. Implementation
Your ideas are ready to roll. This is when that written piece flows out your fingertips. Or a canvas is slathered with paint. It may not be easy for an outsider to recognize your masterpiece yet, but you know it's there. It might take you awhile, but you keep pounding away at it. These are the gardening days I'm looking forward to when I fall into bed exhausted after working all day in the sun.

One last thought: except for the incubation period, the creative process is generally social. It's a rare great idea that comes from a person sitting an thinking by himself. Networking with others and incorporating their ideas into your own is like the rain on a garden. It helps it (flowers and ideas) to grow.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Steinbeck Six

Have you read any Steinbeck lately? Have you read any at all? Grapes of Wrath. Of Mice and Men. Tortilla Flat. Steinbeck's writing is raw and real and not for the faint of heart. Why in the world would I recommend him, then? Because his writing is so vivid and jaw-droppingly beautiful.

And that's why today I'm sharing his top 6 writing tips.

1. Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down. Rewrite in process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on.

2. If a scene or a section gets the better of you and you still think you want it--bypass it and go on. You can come back to it later and then you may find that the reason it gave you trouble is because it didn't belong there.

3. Beware of a scene that becomes too dear to you, dearer than the rest.

4. Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page for each day. It helps. Then when it gets finished, you are always surprised.

5. If you are using dialog, say it aloud as you write it. Only then will it have the sound of speech.

6. Forget your generalized audience. In the first place, the nameless, faceless audience will scare you to death and in the second place, unlike the theater, it doesn't exist. In writing, your audience is one single reader. I have found that it sometimes helps to pick out a real person you know, or an imagined one, and write to that one.

Monday, March 25, 2013

I'll Really Be Happy When...

I finish my manuscript.
An agent answers my query.
I sign with an agent.
A publisher asks for my full.
I get a contract.
X amount of copies of my book sell.
I hit the Bestseller List.
I get asked to speak as a keynote presenter.

Honestly, do I need to go on? Because I could. The point is that if your happiness, or feeling of success, or fill-in-the-blank emotion depends upon reaching milestone after milestone, you'll NEVER be content. Why? Because that's following your agenda. What if God's agenda is different from yours?

This applies not only to writing, but pretty much everything in your life. Here's a bone for you to chew on for awhile...

"Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him." 
(1 Cor. 7:17)

Friday, March 22, 2013

Shakin' It Writerly Style

Have you seen a Harlem Shake yet? All the krazy kids are doing it...which means it's kind of mandatory that I give it a whirl.

Hungry for more? Here are my two favorites...
Miami Heat
MN Timberwolves

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Divas Need Not Apply

"It is our responsibilities, not ourselves, that we should take seriously."
~ Peter Ustinov

The second a writer thinks they're somebody, they've crossed into the land of divadom. Don't go there. It's a very lonely place.

Assuming you're an aspiring writer who wants to take your writing responsibilities seriously, it would be helpful to know what they are exactly, hmm? Never fear. Here's a handy dandy list.

The Top 5 Responsibilities of a Writer

1. Immerse a reader into a world different from their own...yet not so different that they can't relate to it.

2. Impart truth via story without standing on a soapbox and pointing a finger.

3. Entertain but not waste time doing so.

4. Write the absolute best kick-butt prose that'll make a reader see the mundane in a way they've never before thought of.

5.  Be real.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

What Makes Your Characters Tick?

Want to find out what's really inside your main character. Have your heroine just about to take a nice hot shower when wham! Nothing but cold water comes out. Anywhere. The hot water heater is broken. And she's got house guests coming to stay with her for a long weekend. How will she react?

Wait a minute. That's me. Today.

Back to fiction land (sorry for the whiplash)'s little tests of character that actually build your character. This type of scene shows what's inside your heroine in a far more lasting way than simply saying "Jane Doe is a sweet gal" or "Jane Doe has a temper." Giving the reader a peek at her reaction to the monkey wrenches life sometimes throws is the best way to showcase your character.

Even better is to show change in her reactions over time, throughout the length of the book. A cold shower might raise the needle on her rage-o-meter in the first few chapters, but by the end of the book the same situation could drive her to her knees in prayer. That's called a character arc. Do it.

Now then. I'm off to heat up some water on the stove to wash my face. My reaction? Neither of the above, actually. I simply called my husband.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Learn From a Teenager

Yesterday my 18 year old was in the kitchen baking a few desserts for me. No, we don't always have dessert and neither am I a child-slave labor advocate...though technically she's an adult now. She owes me some KP duty in exchange for the immense amount of time I spend hauling around her rear end. She doesn't have a driver's license yet because we require our kids to have the cash up front to pay for their own insurance and buy their own car. And the reason we need desserts is because a writer buddy of mine and her family are coming here for a visit this week.

Cut the backstory. Who gives a rat's buttocks about my kid not having a driver's license? Did you really need to know who's coming to visit?

So 18 is baking away, la-de-da-de-dah, when she hits the doldrums and the wind sags her sails. "I'm sick of this. Can't I do it later tonight?" I gave her my suck-it-up-and-do-what-you-need-to lecture. Not that she was happy about it, but it did get me my desserts baked.

Write even if you don't feel like it. Putting off writing just because you're not in the mood will not get a novel written.

Then she toodled off with 21 for a clothes shopping spree. That was a recipe for disaster. Not only is 18 not a fan of shopping, but I happen to know the kid has no money. Sure enough. An hour and a half later I get a series of texts from her:
Her: I'm Grumpy.
Me: I'm Dopey...nice to meet you.
Her: Mooooom!
Me: Think of unicorns and puppies.
Her: You're not helping. I just want to come home.

Leave the angst for your characters. That's the great thing about characters--saves a ton of money on therapy. Work out your emotions through them and voila, you'll create memorable heros and heroines that people can relate to because basically they are you.

This story does have a happy ending. 18 & 21 made it home with their relationship intact. I've got a freezer full of goodies to serve to my guests. And you've got 3 tips to keep you on your writerly track.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Channeling Sherlock

Dare I admit I've never read Arthur Conan Doyle? I've deduced, however, that his hero Sherlock Holmes is a detective...a superstar investigator that every writer should aspire to be. What am I talking about?

4 Detective Traits a Writer Should Develop

Detectives Are Steady
Persistance and continuity are vital to the writing life. Don't feel like writing today? Too bad. Suck it up and do it anyway. It's not about being inspired, though it is nice when that happens. Writing is first and foremost about parking your rear end in a chair and writing.

Detectives Are Skeptical
Writers should be too. Why? Because you can bet that your readers are. If you're constructing a plot that you think might be a little iffy, designing a character that you suspect might not be fully developed, chances are a reader is going to point those things out in public. Being skeptical about the mechanics of your story up front will save you from embarrassment later on.

Detectives Are Systematic 
Plots are built one step at a time. Characters evolve throughout a story one change at a time. Learning to become systematic with these two key elements separates the wannabe-authors from the published.

Detectives Are Stubborn
Believe me, when you get back your first manuscript dripping red from a critique partner, this is where you find out just what kind of stubborn you are. Either you'll dig in your heels and keep it as is, send it off to publishers, and find out the hard way that it's full of mistakes. Or you'll hunker down and work in as many suggestions on your WIP as possible, which will pay off in the long run.

There you have it. Follow these simple steps and take your writing to a whole new level without even having to purchase a trench coat.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Evoking Emotion

You've all heard it before...
A writer must continually up the stakes in the storyline in order to keep the reader turning the page.

Sometimes, however, that can backfire. One car bombing after another makes for a real yawner. Or a rollover accident followed by the axe murder of a favorite character topped off with a mushroom cloud over New York. Seriously?

So the quandary of a writer is engaging the reader with increasing odds against the hero that don't turn into a series of comic book whams, bams, and zowies. How does one do that exactly?

Evoke emotion. Not every scene needs larger-than-life action. Connecting with the human heart is every bit as engaging and oftentimes the largest hurdle a character can overcome.

Here's a real life example. My dog died. I was the one who held him in my lap while the vet injected the drugs to stop his heart. Yeah, that's a tearjerker. Even worse, and what tore me up the most, was a dream I had later that night. My dog was still alive and I was petting him, but with each pet, he faded more and more until I was petting nothing but air. How freaking sad is that?! If that doesn't connect with a reader's heart, I don't know what will.

The trick here is obviously balance. Space out action and emotional scenes, all of them pulling the hero toward the climax where both should intersect in one big black moment.

But don't overdo it, or as I learned yesterday, you'll leave the reader wanting to slit their own wrists... Sorry Staci!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Pick Your Side

Now that you know the benefits of writing in only one genre…

            ~ Marketing
            ~ Expectations
            ~ Focus
And the pros of being a multi-genre writer…
            ~ Growth
            ~ Freedom
            ~ Adventure

Which side of the fence do you fall on?

As for me, I’m honestly okay with authors dabbling in different areas. I’m not saying I’ll do it…wait a minute…I think I already did.

Anyway, take the following sage bits of advice into consideration if you decide that writing multi-genres is for you.

1. Don't hop all over the board at once. Put out a few solid same-genre novels before you go venturing into another realm. That way readers can get a handle on your voice and decide if it's follow-worthy or not.

2. Consider using a pen name for each different genre. I know, sounds like I'm advocating schizophrenia, but honestly, for those vanilla readers who just can't make themselves sample a different genre by you, they need never know.

3. Work on branding yourself instead of specific books. Find the common thread that runs through all your books and turn that into your distinctive brand.

4. Know ahead of time that this is the slowest possible route to success. You will likely NOT make a heap of money on this road. When you are writing for yourself and not the market, it makes the marketing of the writing extremely difficult. You need to be okay with that, or don’t step foot on this road. Savvy?

Oh yeah, and don't be surprised if agents and editors get twitchy when they find out you write in more than one genre. You're going against the norm, and normals are easier to profit from.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Writing in More Than One Genre
Some days I wear stripes. Others solids. But I never, ever wear the same thing two days in a row, even if it's clean. Why? Variety. The same ol' same ol' grates on my nerves like when I'm shredding potatoes for hash browns and I accidentally get my finger in the way. Yep. Cringe worthy.

But should the identical high regard for mixing things up a bit apply to writing as well? Should a writer be able to publish a mystery and then go on to write a historical? Can a non-fiction writer breach the wall over to the fiction side?

Before I go into what others say, here's my two-cents from personal experience. If one of my favorite authors ventures into a different genre, I will follow them.

Case in point, Travis Thrasher. I started out on his YA horror series. Followed him over to his contemporary adult story, 40, and am now reading his latest about a baseball player. I don't even like baseball, but I do love Travis Thrasher's writing. The dude pens some killer prose, whatever the genre. Here's his perspective on multi-genre writing:
Early on, Travis made a deliberate choice of not wanting to be boxed in by a brand or a genre. Instead, Travis has chosen time and time again to write the stories that mean something to him at that moment.
Travis is a success story but it's not easy. Lets be realistic, here. It takes a considerable amount of dedication and work and you can't necessarily expect readers to follow you from one genre to the next unless your voice is strong enough to carry over. And even then it's iffy.

You also should know ahead of time that this off-the-leash kind of writing is frowned upon by agents and publishers. Why? Because it's hard to market.

But it can be done, and done well. J.K. Rowling went from YA fantasy to adult drama. Even Nora Roberts ventures out into other genres besides romance under the pseudonym of JD Robb. Did you know Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond, also penned Chitty Chitty Bang Bang?

So, in a nutshell, here are my
Top 3 Reasons to Write in Multiple Genres

1. Growth. Keeps your mind active and your writing fresh because you're exploring a new area for which you hold interest.
2. Freedom. You're in control of what you write, not the market.
3. Adventure. Good-bye writers block!

If you'd like to read more about multi-genre writing, I came across a great blog post by Women Writers, Women Books.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Write in One Genre

Recently a friend asked me what I thought about the wisdom of sticking to writing in one genre. I told her I'd think about it. I think better when I'm here we are. Think along with me.

Today we'll explore the case for single-mindedness, or focus, if you will. Tomorrow we'll move on to the opposite point of view, that being write whatever you're passionate about at the time. Wednesday I'll let you know which side of the fence I fall on, and you can tell me where you've landed. Ready? Let's go...

The most compelling reason to write in one genre alone is so that readers know what to expect. What am I talking about? Here's the standard 'radio station' example.

Let's say you're a talk radio fan. Every time you get in the car, you switch on the ol' heated political talking-head as you're driving. You look forward to it because you like the fella's snarky comments and it brings you up-to-date on what's happening in the ruling class, which is important when you're a plebian. Always good to know what's barreling down the pike toward you.

So one day you toodle out to the car and flip on your station. A country western twanger belts you "You Done Stomped On My Heart and Knocked That Sucker Flat." You chalk it up to a program manager who's on drugs. Surely tomorrow will be better.

Nope. The following day they serve up opera, and the next they're on to Bieber's 'Baby'. Three strikes and they're out, baby. You'll no longer listen to that station because you don't know what to expect...and you don't always like what they're playing.

Same with writing. If you garner a tribe of historical fiction readers and then switch to horror, your original pack of natives are going to scatter. They expect historical fiction from you. It's what they want. You veer out of that track and they'll no longer buy any of your books. Recently on Novel Rocket, James Rubart wrote a succinct post making this point. You Can Only Write in One Genre. Period. End of Story.

So, in a nutshell, here are my
Top 3 Reasons to Write in One Genre

1. Readers know what to expect
2. Easier to market
3. Focuses and hones your writing, inching your way toward expertise in that particular genre

Pretty compelling, eh? Stay tuned. We'll argue the opposite tomorrow.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Keepin' Fresh

What should a writer do with a few spare minutes? Creativity is key!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

What Genre Should You Read?
Who doesn't love to curl up with a great book that's shadowy and twisty-turny and screams at you if you dare to shut the cover before you're finished? Well...apparently a lot of people, considering the high sales of sweet Amish stories and fluffy romantic fiction.

As much as I think one should read outside their favorite genre, there's no denying that there IS a favorite genre each reader holds near and dear. What's yours? Are you sure? Whether you are certain or not, have I found a quiz for you!

Pop on over to Quibblo's What Genre Fits You Best? All you do is answer a few simple questions and voila. You'll discover what you love to read, which will either confirm your suspicions or elicit a "No way!"

My result was historical fiction. No surprise there. What's yours?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

New Kid on the Blog Block

Love historical Christian fiction? Love freebies? Have I found a site for you!

Christian Fiction Historical Society is a wealth historical tidbits, info about books on the market and upcoming titles, plus daily giveaways. The goal of the site is to unite those who love to write historical novels with those who love to read them. What a huge win-win for everyone involved.

But don't take my word for it. Pop over and check it out.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Clearing Up the Confusion

Just when I think I've mastered lay and lie, affect and effect rear their ugly heads. Sheesh. What's a girl to do? Here's what. Bookmark a handy dandy site that I recently discovered.

Confusing Words is dedicated to clearing up the confusion of befuddled writers around the world. They have a collection of 3210 words that are the most troublesome to writers AND to readers.

It's super easy to use. Words are grouped according to the way they are most often confused or misused. I may never have to irritate my crit partners again. Well, at least for improper use of a word, that is.

Disclaimer: Heads up that this is an older site, so there are no bells and whistles or eye candy. Just basic information.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Retail Therapy

Do you ever wake up with zero motivation? Except, of couse, for the motivation to roll over and go back to sleep. The only driving force that got me out of bed today was this:

What a little beauty. The Capresso Burr Grinder model #559. Mmm, mmm, mmm. A fan-freaking-tastic cup of java started my motor this morning...

And here's what will keep me inspired to make dinner:

Once I finished the paperwork for a home equity loan, this top-of-the-line saute pan was mine.

As you can tell, I was clearly motivated to shop yesterday. Why? I like to blame the second law of thermodynamics. In super easy lay terms: all natural systems degenerate when left to themselves. Granted, my grinder and my frying pan had a little help with that degeneration, but it was seriously time for them to give up the ghost. Now that I have new tools, I am ready to crush coffee beans and fry up a storm. Which made me think...

What tools motivate writing?

A new laptop, that's a gimme, but who's got a pile of cash laying around to pick up a new MacBook every time their inspiration wanes? So for those who aren't related to Bill Gates, here's a list of a few pick-me-ups that just might nudge you to spend some serious time with your characters.

A New CD ~ music has a way of wooing the muse

A New Red Pen ~ or purple or color-of-your-choice, and make it a G3 or some other super smooth roller

A New Chocolate Supply ~ set a goal of doling out a piece to yourself after you've reached your writing goal for the day

A New Book ~ seems counterintuitive to spend your writing time reading, but sometimes reading great writing kicks your own up a notch

A New Sweater ~ one you'll only wear when writing so go for funky or quirky

Desktop Doodle ~ I hear ya...what's a doodle? Well, when I wrote my Viking time travel, I had a small statue of Olaf Trygvasson for inspiration. For Gallimore, I had a small knight replica. Whatever works for you.

Those are just a few ideas. Keep the conversation going. What tools motivate your writing?

Friday, March 1, 2013

Practicing the John Hancock

When your big day finally comes, and you're sitting at a book signing table, what are you going to write?

(no, I'm not on meth...doggone YouTube for freezing on this particular frame) 
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