Write what you know. Research what you don’t.

I had the perfect blog topic as I was falling off to sleep last night. It was brilliant, witty and even funny. This morning it was gone. Not even wispy shadows of it remain. Don’t you hate when that happens?

It also annoys me when I’m loving a story, reading along, drinking it all in and then, SLAP. A bit of faulty information. Blech! Cliche doesn’t mean correct. And artistic license has its limits, unless you’ve prepared your readers for the change.

If you were reading a story which included a location, hobby or past time you know well, wouldn’t ignorance or improper artistic license annoy you?

My favorite example is in the film, ‘The Fabulous Baker Boys.’ Jeff Bridges character enters Pike Street market and comes out the front of ‘Ivar’s on the Pier’. Okay, this restaurant is situated with the back overlooking Puget Sound. The entrance is south, west and down the hill from the market. It was a major annoyance to the residence of the Seattle area. A piece of masterful editing to the rest of the population.

Why do I bring this up? Readers are more sophisticated. They have fewer dollars to spend and more authors to chose from. Under estimating your readers is a costly mistake. If they buy one of your titles and are disappointed, they won’t be telling their friends to pick up a copy, nor will they be looking for new titles. Or worse? They may not buy your book at all.

The internet is at our fingertips. Even if you’ve never clapped eyes on a live horse, there is a plethora of websites dedicated to educating people about horses. Never been to Seattle? Go to Google maps and view the city from street level. This resource is a major advantage, which shouldn’t be ignored.

Every writer should find other writers to interact with, on a regular basis. The improvement in my writing was off the charts when I met up with the Writing Wombats, my most beloved writers group.

A writer’s group also affords first hand experiences which can enrich your stories and make them more believable.

Good is in construction. Great is in the details. I don’t know about you, but when I pick up a book filled with rich, pertinent details in well crafted sentences it’s a thrill. Making a believable neighborhood or area is good use of artistic license. It says to the reader, this author cares enough to get it right.

I’ve had the privilege to be part of a submissions screening process. If the piece is well written, I’m excited. If there is no clear start, but I can find it, we’re still okay. A senseless oversight in research will give me pause, two, I’m done.

Sending out queries is a laborious, nerve fraying, process. All of us do it. All of us hate it.

Give the editor reason to keep reading. Write well. Write what you know, and if you don’t, do the research to make it what you know. Nothing excites me more than finding a submission I can get behind and say, “Hey, look at this little beauty!”

What pulls you from a story? What makes you want more? And as authors how do we do a better job?

I’m them

When I was young, I marveled at the aunts. They were living libraries. Ask them any family related question from medical conditions to birthdays and one, if not all, of them would know. Mom didn’t know? No problem, one of the aunts would, or vice versa.

Today it hit me. I’m one of the family walking libraries.

I should have seen it last year. My mother-in-law died and my sisters-in-law and I were fielding questions ranging from, ‘When did grandma get this?’ to ‘Who’s this picture of?’ In my defense I was in shock.

Today as I sat in a doctor’s office with my son for the first time in over two years it came around and slammed me in the back of the head. I know and, more amazing still, remember all of his asthma medications, what years he took them and which ones don’t work anymore. My son was seeing this doctor for the first time for his asthma and wanted back up. That and instructions on how the doctor should write the scripts for our insurance made his eyes cross.

I know basic medical information on every family member of this generation, and my friend’s kids. Privacy? What’s that when mom’s get to talking. I remember how old they were when they started driving, dating, their first heartbreak and greatest personal achievements. I’ve become one of the aunts. I’m the keeper of what came from where and who got what, when and how.

And then I wonder why my short-term memory isn’t what it used to be? LOL

As a writer this data base serves to deepen and strengthen my stories. There is a bottomless reservoir of emotion, facial expressions and silly, wonderful laughter. I’m pretty sure none of them would see themselves in any of my books. My characters are an amalgam, not featuring any one person in my life too pointedly. Still they are there and it makes my heart smile.

It’s the holidays, and I want to write!

My muse has a very strange sense of timing. I’m trying to finish edits on a completed manuscript. There is the piece I started for NaNoWritMo tugging at me to work on it and WHAM out of left field the opening I’ve been searching for on another work-in-progress comes out of left field and wants to be written RIGHT NOW!

Okay, well let’s see. Christmas Eve is upon us. My house will be full of guests. And you want me to write? Now? Blank stare.  Where in the devil were you in November when my Nano stalled because I was sick. There was no inspiration or muse around then. Why is it these wonderful, exciting dances with inspiration always hit when I’m too busy to make it to the keyboard.  In this case, I’m going to have my two year old granddaughter. Ever try to write with a two year old about? Oh yeah, great gobs of fun. “Sweetheart, what are you doing?”  “Nothing.”  Right.

So tomorrow, I will be chasing a pixie princess. There are party trays to make and baking to finish. And the entire time a story will be spinning in my head with no where to go. All I can say is, at least I won’t be bored. 

How do you handle ill timed inspiration?

NaNoWriMo – I must have lost my mind!

What’s NaNoWritMo? It’s National Novel Writing Month. The goal? To write 50,000 words from November 1st to 30th. No editing or reading allowed. All doubts and editing witches checked at the door. Creation stripped bare for the fun of it all.  Thousands of people all over the country will come together to write and support one another.  

Last year members of my writing group jumped head long into NaNoWritMo while I recovered from a very intense writing competition and entered another one. I watched in awe and the with a bit of regret that I hadn’t joined in for the fun.

The competition landed me a book deal with Second Wind Publishing so all things considered I made out well despite missing NaNoWriMo.  This year I’m plugging my new title, ‘Safe Harbor‘ and editing what I hope will be my second book with Second Wind, Escape to Love.  

One would think my plate was full.  The last week or so I’ve started to question my sanity. Life and other things have interrupted my editing schedule. The promotion won’t get done on it’s own, and my poor husband is starting feel abandon. Why did I sign on to write 50,000 words in 30 days? Oh my goodness where will I find the time?

It’s just a bit under 1700 words a day. I’ve done more than that before. The most important reason I’m doing Nano? To remember what it’s like to create without monitoring my usage, premise, plot, figuring out whether or not the piece has commercial possibilities, is my point of view and tense all in line.. and the hundred other things I think about when I’m writing any more.

I’m doing this to take me back into the place where I wrote for me. What I wanted to read, and to devil with what anyone else thought.  Being a writer comes with a fair amount a pressure. It’s time to remember why I love it so much.  If you’re doing NaNo look for my login ‘dragonldy’ perhaps we can be joyful together.

~Make it your Best~

You only get one chance for a good first impression

 Before submitting your manuscript do some simple things to make sure it’s your best work. 

`Run your word processor’s Spell/Grammar check – this is by no means the best way to edit, at the same time you’ll be surprised just how much it catches. Have a trusted friend (preferably another writer) proof your work.

`Grammar does count. Publishers do employ editors. They are not there to police your use of commas or find your dangling participles.

`Send the cleanest manuscript you can present. Examine your work for lazy, unnecessary, or repetitive words. ‘That’ is one which invades a novel without the writer noticing.

Also look for where you can delete unnecessary descriptors. ‘She sat back down glaring at me.’ ‘She glared at me as she sat.’ 

Every line of dialog doesn’t require a tag (said, answered, etc). Show the emotion in the lead sentence and you don’t have to explain. Simple is better. Use said.

Examine your sentence structure. Look for diversity. Are you starting your sentences with ‘ing’ or ‘ly’ words too much? How many begin with he, she, character names or the?

Are your sentences too long with endless connectors? Or do you have a rash of sentence fragments which should be put together?

The right word – No spell check program will catch these errors consistently. As a writer it is your job to make sure you’ve got the right usage. 

Their – They’re  

Your – You’re

To – Too  

Complement – Compliment 

People ‘lie’ Things ‘lay’

`Does it start in the right place? As the author you need to know everything about your characters, all of the history which makes them act the way they do. The reader often doesn’t need to know or it can be worked into conversation as the story unfolds.

`Start the story where the action begins. Giving the reader pages of back story can put them off and you want to grab them from the first paragraph.

`Too much information, information dumps, are common and at times necessary. Examine these to see if they can be presented in conversion or action. If it isn’t necessary to move the story forward consider cutting it. Paragraphs of back and side stories can become tedious and put your reader off.

`Consistent point of view (pov). Every character does not need to have their pov shared with the reader. Give pov to your lead characters because what they know, see and think propel the story. Avoid jumping from one character to another every other paragraph. It can be confusing for the reader.

`Show, don’t tell: 

Troy saw a dog cross the road. 

Motion caught Troy’s attention. A scruffy, brown dog loped across the dusty road and into the trees as if he owned them.

`Writing is a process of constant learning. Be willing to listen to comments without getting defensive. If you’re still protective of your work, get over it or wait until you do. Submitting to Agents and Publishers can be a brutal business. A writer needs to develop a pretty tough skin.

What is the Heart of Love?

Their eyes met across a crowded room.’  This is about as cliche’ as it gets when writing about falling in love. Love at first sight.  I know it happens and outside of seeing your child for the first time it is exceedingly rare. Perhaps it’s why so many writers have taken up the cause, to bring fantasy to life.

One doesn’t have to write romance to face love in a plot. All relationships involve attachment of one kind or another. Friendship, parent, cousin, brother, sister, friend, collegue to list a few. In most of these relationships the attachment is implied. The attachment can also be twisted to create suspense or leave the reader questioning it to spring a surprise.

Will the hero save his wayward brother or let him dangle for his bad behavior?

Will the female lead believe her cousin has changed and chance being lead into danger for the loyalty of family?

How can anyone could trust Uncle Frank when it is so obvious he’s a putz?

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I write romance, so my story lines revolve around two people falling in love and navigating the mine field that can be love. I don’t like writing or reading love at first sight. Lust at first sight is more likely the situation. Love takes time because trust and respect are required for a long term ‘Happily ever after.’

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So how do you write relationships in your work?

How do they color your work and effect the rhythm and flow?

Are there elements of romance in your crime story?

What is the heart of love?

The Critique

I always find critiques interesting.

When the reader and author don’t know each other it can be taken as snarky or insincere.

When the reader knows the author, well that can get down right interesting.

You can hurt a strangers feelings and not feel too bad, but someone you know?

This is where the rubber meets the road. I picked people I knew would suck it up and tell me ‘It’s trash’ to read my early work. And they did too. I found knowing them a help. These people had a vested interest in me and they risked upsetting me. THANK YOU..this is how we grow as writers.

I’m not above injury, but when I put something out there for critique that’s what I want. How horrifying it would be to query crap and never get called on it.  Friends tell friends when it’s bad. Are you a friend or an acquaintance?

I always wonder at the would-be-contestants for American Idol. It is obvious, even to me, some of these people can’t sing. Doesn’t anyone care enough to tell them? “Darling I love you. You will only embarrass yourself.” Dang.

Throwing flowery words around is good for the ego, but little else.

Is it too wordy? Too lean? Confusing? Or can’t string a good sentence together bad?

If an author isn’t ready to hear the answers, they aren’t ready for the world to see their work.

I don’t want anyone blowing sunshine up my skirt.

How do you feel about it?

What’s really going through your head as you read articles looking for a scrap of good to say?

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