Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Tornado in My Mind

     It's been a whole month, and then some, since I last posted to this blog. I have a good excuse, although some writer's wouldn't think so. I am moving back to my 'home' state of Washington after trying on South Dakota. However,  SD did not fit. 

     Some writer's would say 'You could have written 20 minutes a day! If you were a real writer you..." Really? If I weren't a real writer I wouldn't have had a book published, even if it wasn't the one I put all the work into. 

     Fact is, a real writer never stops working even if (s)he is not sitting at the keyboard. The mind is always working. The buzzing of ideas in their head rarely stop. If watching television to unwind, news included, ideas creep in or pop to life like a jaguar on the prowl growling what a great idea for a story or hey! that gave me an idea for this character's downfall

     Problem with the unexpected intrusive thoughts: they come at the most inopportune moments. Where'd I put that pen? Who took my notepad.  Oh, dang, I missed the bit I was waiting for on the news.  Arrgghhhh.  Next time you tell yourself  I will keep repeating it in the back of mind and write it down in 10 minutes. During the commercial break you grab your paper and pen and   Oh no, what did my mind NOT memorize again?

     The trouble with thoughts flying in and out of the mind is trying to catch them at the right moment. Lately I have tried to memorize some when driving, when my arms are elbow deep in soapy water,  or sorting piles of "keep", "sell" or "toss out" items while my back is aching, or when I am sticky with packing tape. Write down the better idea of how the situation in the book I just read would have worked, be sure to look up exact date of the Challenger launch so my story will be accurate, don't forget to read the update on publishing news and send in the dues for the Writers Club, and thus we have the tornado of the mind. Ideas flying this way and that, intruding on a writer, taunting you, screaming at you Write about ME !  

     One of the ideas broke through twice, maybe three times. I had to follow up on it. It was interfering with my packing! It took a couple days but it is nearly finished. three more lines. Dear readers, I am packing and moving back to Seattle the end of next month. I have not given up on you, or my books. But sometimes real writers do have other commitments that just will not wait. 


Saturday, July 20, 2013

Do Writers Need a Face-to-Face Peer Group?


     Do you sit down each day with endless words pouring through your head and not enough time to write them all? Are ideas and perfect verse bursting to spring from your imagination onto your page - either literal or on screen? If so, then you probably do not need a peer group.  But, if you sit and stare at your keyboard, wondering which way to go with your story, or  - worse yet - how to proceed, then you might benefit from a good face-to-face meeting with other writers. 
    I have been a member of many Internet groups, and a group owner of a few, in my lifetime and prefer a face-to-face group for several reasons I will list shortly but briefly want to explain why Internet groups may be undesirable for some of the gentler souls who want to write.  

    Where there is anonymity there is the potential for rude, obnoxious and hurtful behavior, especially when it’s an open group without good moderation and hundreds of members. If the members list is not readily available for all to see, that seems to give license for some people to act out even more so. And where competition is allowed there is even potential of conniving, catty behavior. 

    It sounds like I am totally against Internet groups. Not at all. I have been members of good ones, and have left many because I was tired of the bickering and drama and several self-appointed know-it-alls who failed to understand that there is (to borrow a phrase) more than one way to skin a cat if you happen to be in a cat-skinning group.  I would NEVER be! Poor kitties.  

    Face-to-Face writing groups are superior to     
Internet groups for some very good reasons. 

    1] YOU GET TO KNOW THE PEOPLE IN THE GROUP. Knowing someone and being face-to-face makes it more unlikely for someone to be bullied or spoken to in a manner that is hurtful to.

    2] YOU WILL IMPROVE YOUR WRITING SKILLS FASTER. Groups that meet on a regular basis will teach more and at a faster rate. You will learn to organize your time better because most groups ask you to bring in a piece of what you are working on (or what you prefer) in order to help you improve.  Constructive criticism is part of every good group.  Your new found friends can offer ideas for improvement, suggest ways to help you improve, and tell when something is working well in your piece, or if a part is not quite sounding right. Often times when a writer knows something is wrong, but can't quite put the finger on it, the group can! And YOU will be able to help others!  We are not all alike, and what I lack another has, and the little bitty skill that I never considered will help another. It's give and take and we build up one another, as our friendships grow.

    3] YOU WILL LEARN HOW TO SPARK NEW IDEAS. As stated, we are different.  An eclectic group of different people - fiction novelist, sci-fi, poetry, magazine article writer, or screenwriter - can still teach one another things. Did it make sense? Did it appear real or was it over the top? Sharing helps everyone, but the best part of sharing is when something in another genre spares an idea in yours. For example, the wording of a poem can flash an image in your mind to sparks a fantastic story idea! Or a scene in your story can offer up an idea for a magazine article.

   4] YOU WILL GAIN CONFIDENCE AND EXPERIENCE.  In most face to face groups you will get current information about writing, publishing, writer conferences, trade groups that are good to join, and possibly even tax deduction information.  Some teach points of using grammar, how to make a scene or create characters, the proper way to write a inquiry letter, where to search for publishers in your genre, the elements of proper tense or point of view, etc. Consider a face-to-face writers group as job training. If they offer writing exercises, even better!  These exercises are designed to stimulate the brain, your imagination, and your speed. You will be able to do things you never thought yourself capable of before!  

    5] YOU WILL GET HONEST FEEDBACK.  Unlike the Internet and reading words in print, if you are observant, you will get an honest response when asking for feedback. Watching their facial expression, body language and listening to their tone of voice can be very telling.  
Having said that let me assure you that a quality group will have some rules set down on how to provide feedback.
This benefit sounds a bit intimidating to some but remember one thing. We can choose to take the advice, or not. It's up to the receiver and often group members differ on what they tell you. I have had some say, I did not care for this because . . . while another member states, I loved it! It worked for me. We are there not to dictate, only to advise. We take the advise we feel most comfortable with in our gut, not theirs.

   6] YOU WILL MAKE NEW FRIENDS.  This is a bonus, because we cannot have too many good and honest people in our lives. Even if you don't eye to eye to everyone, you will find someone similar to you to make friends with! 

   There is much more you can gain from a face-to-face group, but a blog only allows so much sharing before boring you to death. Don't be afraid to try a face-to-face group. After all we arrive for the same thing: to be with like-minded people to share a similar passion!


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Pondering the Gut


Pondering the Gut


       It's been more than a week since I last wrote here, but for good reason. I have been pondering, and pondering, and questioning my gut instinct on part of the book I am working on. That's part of a writer's life.  Hopefully not a major portion but a portion none the less. 
        When a writer starts a project that could take years because life may get in the way, or another project has been picked up and this one will pay, then you shelve what you are working on temporarily, and as Churchill may say, bugger on. 

        As on proceeds with life we watch movies, read books, meet new people, perhaps join a writers group and the years may slip away as the children grow from waddlers to toddlers to explorers to - YIKES - teens.  You pick up your "baby" once again - feel the pages, smell the ink, and realize that times have changed and what you have written no longer thrills you. In fact, you feel the hit in your gut by the fist of doubt!  Why? 

      You have become more knowledgeable. You have become more seasoned. You have matured - your skill has aged like a fine wine. You are the maestros ear of a composition you created the sound of the words on the page no longer seem as sweet and musical as they in previous years. When the fist of reality hits you what do you do?  

      That all depends on who you are, how well you can take criticisms and what you do with it. I can't tell you what other writers do but I try to keep an open mind to constructive criticisms. I had changed the beginning to my book after considering the comments from my writers group and it’s been that way. This year I have been experiencing the dull punch in the gut. The beginning was bothering me but what about it? I went over it and changed some of it. I polished it. I clarified it, still my gut ached and my mind would not leave me in rest: Until this week. 

      I pondered. I thought back.  I pondered and thought back further. What had I learned these past several years of reading books I enjoyed, watching movies, reading trade magazine, books and attending writer conferences. What had I learned from speaking to other writers or the news of the publishing industry? Where was the clue, the medicine needed, to ease this punch in the gut warning that 'this is not good enough'? 

       I like the TV show Sherlock on the BBC.  I think Steven Moffat is a genius - albeit an irritating one at times.  So, I did what Sherlock, or Moffat might do.  I looked at the facts and asked myself about possibilities and pondered. Pondered until the solution came to my thinking place, my muse, my heart and gut of the baby I was creating. The solution followed and I may now continue - butterflies instead of lead in my gut once again. 

       It was simple really. Once you ponder. For me it was not that the beginning was poor advice. Not at all. It was overkill! I had written far too much on a piece that lead into the really story.  I had explained in detail how the protagonist ended up in the hospital - not a greatly important part of the book but a need to know never the less.  The solution?  I cut the page and one half beginning down to a short paragraph. I set the tone of drama instead boring my reader to death with unnecessary facts they did not need to know.  I pondered. I remembered. I discovered the problem and corrected it.  An open mind to do surgery on your 'baby' to make it better - - - and perhaps transplant that part of your 'baby' into it's sibling later on - improving two of your creations.    

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Are Your Characters and Scenes Believable?

  Are Your Characters and Scenes Believable?

     One important aspect of writing fiction is your character development.  Are your characters flat and dull, or full of life and individualism? A book will not sell if the characters are nothing more than a person, a job and an existence. 

  A scene telling the reader why he prefers a grey suit to the black one, or that she made a salad using lettuce, tomatoes, celery and avocado “because she knew they healthier than coleslaw” is boring, boring and boring. Unless every word advanced the story in a needed way don’t write them just to fill space.

Successful writers learn to weave information into a story when it’s most needed to advance the plot or outcome of the story.  Readers don't give a diddly-squat about irrelevant ‘facts’ that do nothing to explain what has happened, or will happen later on. Irrelevant facts only annoy seasoned readers who are paying to be entertained by either larger-than-life characters, or those they can relate to. They can often be both when we create realistic characters in our stories. Readers won’t finish reading a book or story filled with similar cookie-cutter characters that look alike but sport different names. How you develop each character can make, or break your story. 

 When developing characters consider what their purpose is, and how they will advance the story.  Who are they and how will they related to your protagonist . . . or your antagonist?  Will they choose sides in a conflict, or will they stay neutral?  Will be true blue, or will stumble and betray?  

What is their personality like? Are they fleeting, steadfast, moody, free-spirited, brooding, introverted, happy, cautious, curious, adventurous, fearful, shy, boisterous, flighty, smart, inexperienced, dumb as a rock, or pure genius? Will they have a tendency for being a psychopathic or sociopathic–or perhaps be outright crazy?  

Some details are needed in a story to detail who and what they are in the here and now, as well as what made them so, for the reader understand fully where they are coming from at this point in time.  However, don’t over explain, and don’t bunch all the details into one part of the story.  Unfold your story in layers. 

Think of it as peeling away the layers of a cabbage– mild on the outside, strong at the core.  The more you peel away, bit by bit, the stronger the story is.  Each layer will increase the readers understanding. A layer can have both strong and mild elements to increase, or soften, conflict.  Unfolding the inner depths of each personality adds three-dimensional traits to each character: showing their different sides.  We are not the same day in and day out. We have fluctuating emotions, dreams, expectations, and drive. Humanize each character with faults and favor for a more interesting story. 

   Develop a sketch of what each character will be like and what their purpose is to help your story progress. If a character has no real purpose it's better to get rid of that character, or provide them with a workable plot-twist. 

   Remember this if nothing else:  Your 3-dimensional  characters must be needed. Every scene needs to make sense and be important to the scene and in understanding the characters in it. Every page must advance the story's plot.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

What's a Writer to Do?



     So you think you'd like to try your hand at writing? You've predicted outcomes of several books and movies, and even had ideas for improvement? Welcome! You have symptoms that writing may be a future prospect. You gather up paper and pen, jot down ideas, consider the possibilities with excited anticipation, and begin your new career. What joy!
     However, if you are like many of us in the beginning, the tap, tap, tap of the typewriter (or computer keys) slowed over time as you realized there is more to writing than just sharing a story. A word you had to look up to ensure its correct spelling, or meaning, to match the context of your prose. Perhaps a doubt crept in after listening to an author interview about multiple rejection letters, some quite vehement, before an editor took a chance and published her novel? 

You erase the fleeting doubt by reasoning, I'm intelligent. I can research what I need about the publishing business; the how-to dos. My family and friends agree my story idea is good. Relieved once again you turn to the largest research library in the world - the Internet - and now you're good to go! 
What? You're not good to go? You’re more confused than ever? You find your confidence suddenly wilting into the salad of doubt? Don’t worry. To paraphrase Apple’s famous catch phrase “There's an app for that”, I assure you ‘There's of att for that'. As in attitude.
     Consider a couple truths. No two people are identical.No one truly thinks exactly like another. This has been demonstrated over and over again. Police ask witnesses to describe what they saw during a suspicious activity. There may be six witnesses watching at the same moment, yet when questioned privately the police will receive six different versions of the same happening. This is true of movie scripts and book plots. Individuals will analyze adn describe depending on their past collective experiences. One may think a character changes from brave into a coward and is digressing, while a doctor may see that character changing for the better – perhaps more thoughtful and less reckless. Our past experiences dictate what prefer, or don’t care for. How can one know, for sure, what is the best advice with so many differing opinions? Its really not rocket science.

     Writers must look at things logically. You’ve already decided you want to learn more about writing. Deciding what you need to know. That is your first priority. Is it proper language structure? What the most acceptable way to format a manuscript is? Which genre your story fits into for an upcoming contest? Consider who will provide you with the most accurate answer. In my opinion language structure is best learned through language teachers or education websites through schools. There are many free websites offering language education, examples and exercises. Many language teachers offer critiquing services for new writers work, particularly during summer months. They usually charge far less than a good editor or agent charges.

     Manuscript formatting advice is a bit more complex to decipher. It will change depending on the item in submission type and occasionally from publisher to publisher. Is the item to be submitted fiction or non-fiction? Will it go to a book, magazine, or online publisher? If you can do so I highly recommend subscribing to a reputable trade magazine.

I personally like the Writer's Digest trade magazine in hard copy so I can highlight items of interest. The hard copy subscription also includes online access for when you are on the road. Writer’s Digest publishes articles that keep writers up-to-date, guest editor and agent columns and articles, timely news on the ever-changing publishing industry, and interviews with well-known authors that are designed to help, and encourage, future writers. Other good trade publications are available, some aimed at specific genres. If you are near a Barnes & Nobles visit their magazine rack. Look inside each writer magazine offered and take note how they will or will not benefit you personally.

     Keep in mind that writers will always come across what seems to be conflicting information whether it is research related, local or online writing groups, in trade magazine, or trade news. If conflicting "never do" or "always do" advice comes from writers, editors or agents it is up to you to decide which opinion to go with while working on a story. There is no right or wrong way of telling your story. You are the creator. What some editors and readers hate, will be loved by others. There is a market for every writer, but it’s not all about the story. There are certain things you must get right to avoid extra work later on. For example, manuscript formatting is a technical question. Things to consider about the person providing the advice might include where did the editor graduate college? Which publishing houses have they worked for? Does the person come across as both knowledgeable and professional? Is the advice for your specific submission of non-fiction or fiction, book or magazine, ePublishing or hard copy publishing? 

Should you forget all else remember these common sense basics.
1. Research what you do not know (even with fiction it must sound realistic.

2. Editors, agents and writers opinions vary to their personal likes or dislikes when it comes to weaving stories. Be true to your gut instinct.

3. Are your mentor(s)encouraging you to grow in the direction you feel comfortable with and a good fit for your style of learning? 


Tuesday, June 4, 2013


     If you were to choose the life of a writer what would be your main goal? To entertain your readers? To weave a story that no one has ever fathomed before if you are a fiction writer? To educate the world about something that could change the readers life for the better if nonfiction? To make a lot of money and live on easy street - or at least enough money not to not starve?
The answer is yes, yes, yes, maybe, yes. But, what is a writer's main goal? I think this is that all-important question ever writer must ask himself, or herself.

     I have known I wanted to a writer since high school when my English teacher suggested I pitch my short story to a television station to see how it might come to become an episode of The Twilight zone. I don't recall now if I sent it in, but I don't recall it being shown on television, either. Maybe I should dust it off the original and attempt a short script? Hmmmm.

     Since days of old - pre-computer working on a Royal typewriter, then a Smith-Corona word processor - I have read many books on writing and enjoyed years of Writer's Digest magazine after as short stint of growing into adulthood, dating, marrying the wrong men. But, I digress.

     During my formative writing years I have read, studied and been a part of many online groups, both writing and other, and have seen how persons of like interest interact. I have seen the help that comes from nurturing what is today called a "newbie", and I have seen the ugly side of sharing a similar interest: Competition and envy. Thus, the prompt to consider the ultimate question: What is a writer's main purpose? It was my face-to-face writers group Write Night in Seattle that helped clarify the only answer one can honest come to. 

     Competition is bad for a writer. Any negativity is in my opinion. Oh, there are character's that are quite negative in good fiction, but for a writer to harbor it within is not healthy for his or her career. The love between a writer and those who can help them grow is not so different as that between a husband and wife - nurturing and caring creates a far more beautiful future than feelings of negativity. 

     My opinion on the main goal for a writer is that competing against him or herself is the only real competition that is healthy. It is what helps the writer become the best they can be, and no one can prevent that except himself or herself. So, if your goal is to become to learn the trade and become a writer don't be too concerned with what Janey or Jay thinks of your writing, just read and write, read and write, and you will improve no matter what anyone thinks.   

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Write or Right: a Writer's Introduction

     I am not one for blogging. I am a writer, and a poster of opinion as I see the world. But, I have discovered there are times that one must go off track from their story or novel or screenplay in an attempted to say, Hellooo? Are you nuts? or  Look, there must be a better way to accomplish what you want.  During those times I am usually address the U.S. Congress, but on occasion a different group of otherwise intelligent human being. 

    This is why I call my blog Write or Right. If you agree with my sentiments, then it is Right. If not, then for  you it will become Write - a bit of fiction in your eyes, but hopefully still enjoyable enough to contemplate where I am coming from. And I am hopeful that I know how to set up this blog to perform in a way that behaves in a way  I think it ought to. After all, I am a writer, not a computer programmer! Whether agree or not with my thoughts on any given matter, I wish all readers peace, happiness and love.