Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border

Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border
photo by Gene Tunick of Eureka, Montana

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Tip O'Day for Writers #69

Carol Weekes offers three tips for the price of one!

1. Create a writing space: Although writers can and do write anywhere in order to get the word down, having your own space with all necessary materials puts one into the mindset to write. When you're there, you write, rewrite, edit, muse, etc. Make it special, make it your own. Decorate it to inspire you. Ensure it has good light, enough room to spread out papers, notes, etc. and to contain any necessary reference materials, as well as your computer.

2. On getting published: Get enough material out there and keep it circulating. If something gets rejected, note if you receive a few similar comments on a rejected piece - if so, consider a rewrite. If the rejections are form types, and you know you've done your best work, keep sending the piece out again and again until you 'hit home' with an acceptance. Some pieces take longer to sell than others. Persevere. Perfect your craft. Then submit, submit, submit. Learn to take criticism towards strengthening your craft; don't take anything personally. Believe in yourself - eventually, if the writing is good, you will break through.

3. Try collaborating with another writer on a piece from time to time; it can be fun if the 'synergy' between your styles is there. It allows two people to take turns submitting the piece. It allows for any discussion of a rejection, and is doubly exciting when the piece sells. It provides insight into how another writer works and develops an idea.

Carol has a blog at www.carolweekes.com

Friday, May 27, 2011

Saying for Writers #53

Another Quotation which Might (or Might Not) inspire you to write:

"Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way." - E.L. Doctorow

In the ongoing debate between Planners and Pantsers (writing by the seat of your pants), I'm firmly in the middle. I know generally where I'm headed, and have a clear plan for the next few chapters. I keep on writing, always knowing what will happen in the next 50 pages or so.

I see the road as the headlights expose it, and for me, that keeps the trip exciting.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Tip O'Day for Writers #68

Guest blogger Toby Tate says “Don’t let time steal your muse.”

Letting too much time pass between writing chapters in your book, scenes in your story, or paragraphs in your magazine article can put a serious damper on your enthusiasm. Trust me, I speak from experience. I have taken long breaks from stories only to come back later and have no motivation to finish what I started.

Taking breaks is good in short doses. A couple of days to think about plotlines or character development can be a positive thing because it allows you to rework parts of your prose that may not be panning out. On the other hand, getting lazy and just saying, "I don't feel like racking my brain anymore" can be detrimental to the whole creative process by putting too much time between you and your story.

No one said writing was easy, but you have to follow through until you finally type "the end." That's when it's time to put down the book or the story and give yourself a breather, then you can go back and look at it with fresh eyes.

Toby Tate is a freelance writer and the author of DIABLERO and SHADOWLAND.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Saying for Writers #52

Another Quotation which Might (or Might Not) inspire you to write:

“The purpose of life is a life of purpose.” - Robert Byrne

My favorite 9-word quote.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Tip O'Day for Writers #67

Guest blogger Laura Elvebak says “remember your timeline.”

As I work on the final edit on my WIP, I realize that I haven't been clear on the time when all the action takes place. You can do this with your initial outline, while writing the first draft or while editing the final draft. If you wait until the final draft, you might find you need to make some changes, add details of the weather or time of day.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Saying for Writers #51

Another Quotation which Might (or Might Not) inspire you to write:

"Imagination has brought mankind through the dark ages to its present state of civilization. Imagination led Columbus to discover America. Imagination led Franklin to discover electricity." - L. Frank Baum, author of WIZARD OF OZ

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Tip O'Day for Writers #66

Guest blogger Chantal Boudreau says “the story is what counts.”

Stylistically, despite what others may quote as the "rules" of writing, writers have to figure out what works best for them, which differs from person to person and sometimes from story to story. Practice and testing your work, are the best ways to find your best methods.

On the most basic level, the story is what counts, because that's what will draw in your reader, and the technical elements are secondary (although still important.) You can have a technically pristine manuscript, but if the story falls flat and does not engage the reader, nobody's going to want to read your technically sound work.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Saying for Writers #50

Another Quotation which Might (or Might Not) inspire you to write:

“Writing only leads to more writing.” - Sidonie Gabrielle

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Tip O'Day for Writers #65

Guest blogger Douglas Preston suggests you become a photographer.

Anyone who has aspirations to be a writer should take up photography. A writer must learn how to see things in a fresh and different way. This is an excellent way to do it.

NYT bestseller Douglas Preston has written 17 techno-thrillers and horror novels, most with co-author Lincoln Child. He has also written NF books about the legendary Seven Cities of Gold, Angkor temples, the Monster of Florence serial killer, and the Amanda Knox murder case. He teaches an intensive, week-long writing workshop every year for ten people, and one of the central aspects is photography.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Saying for Writers #49

Another Quotation which Might (or Might Not) inspire you to write:

“The only normal people are the ones you don’t know very well.” - Joe Ancis

The same goes for fictional characters. Sometimes it takes some digging to uncover their inner creepiness.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Tip O'Day for Writers #64

Today's guest blogger Debra Burroughs says we should learn from others, work hard and read a lot.

As a fairly new author, I have tried to learn from others who have blazed the trail of writing and publishing before me. One of the greatest people I have found to follow is J.A. Konrath and his blog JAKonrath.blogspot.com. He and his blog are a wealth of good information and inspiration for anyone hoping to make writing their full-time career.

He offers an eBook called The Newbie’s Guide to Publishing for next to nothing. It is a compilation of five years’ worth of his blogs, is rich with meaty information. The following is a quote from that book which always encourages me in my quest to be a successful author:

“Writing is a craft, and craft can be taught. If there’s a super-talented egomaniac with a sense of entitlement that matches his flair for prose and an average Joe who studies the market, hones his craft, responds to feedback, and keeps at it, my money is on Joe Average getting published first – then having a more successful career when he does. Hard work trumps talent. Persistence trumps inspiration. Humility trumps ego.”

Beyond that, someone once told me that you will never write better than the books you read. Pick a few successful authors in the genre you want to pursue and consistently read them. It will make you a better writer. I know it has worked for me.

Debra Burroughs is the author of CHICANA, a gripping account of survival, prejudice, heartbreak and love. It is available on amazon.com.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Saying for Writers #48

Another Quotation which Might (or Might Not) inspire you to write:

"The profession of book writing makes horse racing seem like a solid, stable business." - John Steinbeck

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Tip O'Day for Writers #63

Three guest bloggers post that you must persist.

Jason Wolfgang Gehlert: "Persistence... never give up and keep your momentum going."

P.L. Parker: "The best tip I have is to not give up. Keep trying and someday the right publisher comes along and the connection is made, but you have to keep trying."

Jennifer Allis Provost: “Write every day, aim for a specific word count (I aim for 2000) and get that story out. Don't worry about editing; that'll happen once the story is there. If you're suffering a case of writer's block then write something else - a poem, a short story, a blog post. It all adds up, and each word brings you closer to your goal.”

If you would like to submit a guest post for this blog, please email it to montananovels@yahoo.com

Friday, May 13, 2011

Saying for Writers #47

Another Quotation which Might (or Might Not) inspire you to write:

“An archeologist is the best husband a woman can have; the older she gets, the more interested he is in her.” - Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie was indeed married to an archeologist. She was an amazingly productive author, penning both the Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot series. I believe she also wrote the first mystery from the villain's POV, not disclosed until the final few pages.

Tip O'Day for Writers #62

Guest blogger Bob Weinberg says there are three steps to becoming published: Read constantly, learn from what you read, and write constantly.

You need to read all sorts of material, but especially the type of story you want to write. You need to be familiar with the structure of the stories you plan to create, know the vocabulary, and know your rules of punctuation.

You need to learn from what you read. A good writer learns from every book he or she reads. I still find myself noticing interesting sentence structure or wordplay by other writers, and that's after 35 books.

You need to read, to learn, and then to write and write and write. Plus, after you write you must submit what you have written and keep on submitting. The secret of most published writers is that they are determined to sell what they have written. So you need to write and submit constantly. If you continue to learn and continue to submit, you will sooner or later start selling. Simple as that. A good writer is a determined writer.

Bob Weinberg is the author of 17 novels, 2 short story collections and 16 non-fiction books. And editor of over 150 anthologies.

I originally posted this on May 12th but it somehow vanished overnight. Don't understand how this could happen; however, here it is once more.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Saying for Writers #46

Another Quotation which Might (or Might Not) inspire you to write:

“Genius means little more than the faculty of perceiving in an unhabitual way.” - William James

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Post O'Day for Writers #61

Guest blogger Burl Barer posts about the difference between pros and amateurs.

Buying a stethoscope doesn't make you a doctor. Owning a pen doesn't make you a writer, and running off copies of your material doesn't make you a "published author." Harlan Ellison once said that there are no great unpublished works for the simple reason that great work gets published. There are professionals and there are amateurs. One is not superior to the other. The difference is whether you are paid for your work, or if you pay to work. I come from a family of journalists and authors. We find nothing unusual or extra-special about writing for a living. A family of real estate speculators or a family of ranchers regard their professions in the same manner.

I recently attended a writers group where people who didn't know the basics were helping each other remain ignorant. They critiqued a woman's ten page short story, suggesting her protagonist's name be changed from Mary to Sue, or perhaps Suzette. They argued over the type of sofa upon which she reclined on page five.

When my turn came, I read the first paragraph aloud and then stopped. "If you came across this story in a magazine, would you keep reading? No. Of course not. It makes no sense, says nothing of interest, and does absolutely nothing to engage the reader. Why bother discussing her name, the sofa, or anything else if you don't entice the reader in the first paragraph?"

Silence.

Well, thanks for dropping by. Sure. No problem. Now, excuse me. I have three books on deadline.

All great writers, and mediocre ones, have books written that may never be published. Why? Because they suck. They are the wrong book with the wrong characters at the wrong time for the wrong market.

If you wrote a book that no publisher wants, there is probably a damn good reason -- a reason better than the book. So, when your novel is rejected, write another one, and keep at it until you write one that someone wants.

Dixon says: Let me tread carefully here. I've learned that if I applaud 95% of a guest post and criticize 5% - well, you know what happens. However, I think the above post deals with important issues within the writing community, and I'm not sure there is a right or wrong way to approach them.

First of all, most of us lust for publication but I know a significant number who write for the pure joy of putting words on paper. Their "trunk novels" will never see the light of day, and they're perfectly happy with that. On the one hand, there is nothing wrong with that approach. As Burl says above, "One is not superior to the other." These writers probably embrace the title of amateur. On the other hand, not seeking publication doesn't mean they shouldn't still seek to improve their prose or poetry.

Secondly, I understand impatience towards writers who "don't get it." My local critique group has seen potential members over the years who (1) couldn't write a coherent paragraph if their lives depended on it, and (2) just wanted a pat on the back rather than constructive criticism. The good news is that they usually run screaming into the night at the first sound of honest feedback.

However, honest feedback can still be delivered in a diplomatic manner. Higher standards can be established and enforced with a kind heart. This won't happen overnight. It may never happen in a group that has become a social gathering rather than a self-improvement group. But I have seen it happen.

So I really appreciated Burl's comments, and hope all professionals can find a space for mentoring in their toolboxes.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Saying for Writers #45

Another Quotation which Might (or Might Not) inspire you to write:

"Chase down your passion like it's the last bus of the night." - Glade Byron Addams

Dixon says: I collect quirky quotes, which I post regularly in this blog. I collect weird country song titles, which I post on FB every single day, no doubt bugging thousands of strangers. I collect strange people I meet on the street, in the library or on the soccer pitch, and then twist and turn them until they become characters in my stories.

I guess I'm addicted to collecting. Luckily, it's fairly harmless compared to other addictions I've fought through.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Tip O'Day for Writers #60

Guest blogger Sammi Carter suggests you write every single day.

Learn the discipline of writing every day while it doesn't really matter. Once you sell and the pressure of deadlines and being under contract for books you haven't even conceived of yet settles on your shoulders, it can often be difficult to present yourself at the keyboard on schedule. The urge to wander off, to read, to think, to research, to walk, to catch up on reality TV -- to do anything else or everything else increases at a frightening pace once legally binding deadlines are on the horizon.

Even if you can get yourself to the keyboard, producing words at that stage of your career can be surprisingly difficult. That is not the time to decide that you need to be serious about the business of writing. The time for that decision is long before, when you still have the luxury of waiting for the muse to dance by and issue an invitation to write.

Sammi Carter is author of the Candy Shop mystery series.

Sammi's comments are so true. Have you ever noticed when a deadline is looming, you start wondering how long it's been since you turned the mattress? Or maybe you should replace the air in your tires. This FEELS like a productive use of your time, but it's that familiar old bugaboo, procrastination.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Saying for Writers #44

Another Quotation which Might (or Might Not) inspire you to write:

“Lady Godiva put everything she had on a horse.” - W.C. Fields

Just a favorite quotation that unfortunately has nothing whatsoever to do with getting published. Or Mother's Day. Or springtime or rainy weather or...

Wait! There is a topical tie-in - the Kentucky Derby! Yeah, that's the ticket.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Tip O'Day for Writers #59

Guest blogger Jamie DeBree says “Make your plot twist unpredictable.”

Whenever I find myself writing something that feels old or clich├ęd, I ask myself how I could twist just one part to make it more original. A character who gets mugged walking through a park is predictable. To twist that scenario, I’d have the mugger *give* something to the victim, rather than take something away. Perhaps the victim wouldn’t realize that until the mugger is gone, and the victim is getting up off the ground, checking for damage and loss. Relatively small twists like that can have a huge impact on the entire story, and make your work even more fresh and intriguing.

Jamie’s website is found at http://jamiedebree.com/

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Saying for Writers #43

Another Quotation which Might (or Might Not) inspire you to write:

“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.” - Ernest Hemingway

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Tip O'Day for Writers #58

Drew Cross says “don't look back too soon.”

“Until you've got a complete first draft, resist the urge to start polishing your manuscript or you risk losing momentum and never finishing it. It's a little harder to find a market for a 'perfect' but incomplete book.”

Drew has publishing contracts for a children's trilogy (US) and a crime fiction series (UK) so far.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Saying for Writers #42

Another Quotation which Might (or Might Not) inspire you to write:

"Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars." - Les Brown

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Writing Tip O'Day #57

Getty Ambau shares the secrets of The Art of Storytelling. Shhhh, don’t tell anyone.

1. Write from your heart NOT from your head.

2. Show NOT tell. The sun is shining--is telling. A glint of light coming off of a broken glass--is showing.

3. Identify with the characters in your story--go with them through the emotional and mental journey you are putting them through.

4. Don’t treat your characters like robots--they should be a living and breathing group, with all the frailties, vanities, attitudes and emotions all humans possess.

5. Choose all the qualities you admire in someone you know for the lead character--you need to make him/her likeable if the readers are going to love him/her and continue reading the story. Chose all the worst attributes or qualities of a person you know and give them to the bad person (antagonist) of your novel.

6. Involve as many of the senses as you can in your storytelling.

7. Open your chapters with a visual element to draw the reader right there in the place you are describing.

8. Write as if you are telling the story to a friend sitting next to you.

9. Write simply. Using big words is not only unnecessary but could also distract the readers and impede their progress.

10. Don't use cliches or tautologies. The first is a tired language, and the latter can be redundant.

11. Make sure your characters are distinguishable from each other but also memorable.

12. Challenge your reader to think, reflect and time-travel.

Author Getty Ambau’s website can be found at gettyambau.com

Dixon says: This is an excellent list, but I take some exception with #5. Many times I've heard the old saw that the protagonist must be someone the reader can admire and relate to; however, I've read some marvelous stories with a downright despicable protagonist. THE BROTHERHOOD by John Grisham comes to mind - there's not an admirable character anywhere between the covers.

Also, I think it's more interesting when the protagonist has some flaws and the antagonist has at least one positive characteristic. For example, I once read a crime novel in which the antagonist, a contract killer, is struggling to find a nursing home for his aged, demented mother, even while trying to kill off the protagonist. Awwww, he's a nice boy who loves his Mommy...

Saying for Writers #41

Another Quotation which Might (or Might Not) inspire you to write:

"Writing is an occupation in which you have to keep proving your talent to those who have none." - Jules Renard