Posts Tagged ‘#amwriting’

Helping Author Friends

By: Trista Herring Baughman

Occasionally, I witness a rallying call to support local businesses. It’s a nice gesture, one I’d like to see more often. I prefer to shop local when I can: farmers’ markets, locally-owned specialty stores, mom-and-pop restaurants, etc.

I don’t think authors generally come to mind when we speak of local small businesses, but they should. Indie authors, especially. Their books are their business. Writing, formatting, marketing, and publishing are all their responsibility.

When you write a book, it’s a part of you that you’re setting out into the world.  It isn’t as much about the money as it is impacting your readers. But money pays the bills and allows you to continue your writing passion, so there’s that.

It’s a common misconception that authors make tons of money. Well-known authors such as J.K. Rowling and R.L. Stine probably do. The majority of authors aren’t there, just yet. I don’t know many authors that earn enough to write books for a living.

Most self-publishing authors make more per book in royalties, but typically sell less.

Let’s say you self-publish a full-color, 32-page book on KDP and sell it for $7.99 (The minimum price is $6.08). $3.65 goes to printing. Estimated royalties are $1.14 per book; the rest goes to KDP.

You’ll have to sell many copies to get a decent paycheck. To sell many copies, you need a marketing plan, which, you guessed it, takes more money.

As you can see, your author friends could really use your help.

Whether your friends are traditional or indie authors, here’s a few simple ways to be supportive.

  1. Buy their books. This one seems obvious. When I released my first book, I was so excited. I shared it on social media and told all my friends. I even booked a few signings around my local area. I gave out a few complimentary copies to select friends and family who congratulated me and were excited for me. But only a handful of those actually bought a copy, shared my posts, or came to events. Less than a handful reviewed my book. You may be thinking, “Well, maybe your book sucks.” Don’t think I didn’t wonder that myself. But it doesn’t suck. I came to find out that other authors (amazing authors) had this exact same problem. I think family and friends simply don’t realize all the different ways they can help. So, if your author friend has a book, buy it for yourself or as a gift for someone you know. Books make great gifts for all occasions! You could even grab a copy for your local little free library!
  2. Share their website. Like, follow, and share their pages and posts on social media: Facebook, Twitter, GoodReads, Instagram, etc. This will boost their visibility on these platforms and increase the chances of reaching more potential readers. Follow their blog, visit their website for updates. Leave a comment. All of these small things are huge to your author friends.
  3. Review and star their books. Did you like their book? Let someone know! Word of mouth is a great way to get more readers. Sites like GoodReads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble are great places to star and share reviews. It will only take up a little bit of time, even if you do all three! (No reason why you can’t copy and paste the same review). Five star reviews will help their book pop up in more search results. Think of it as a gift that keeps on giving.
  4. Add their books to your “reading” or “want to read” shelves on GoodReads. The more shelves their books are on, the more newsfeed they get into.
  5. Tell them personally what you like (or dislike) about their book. Authors need honest feedback! They will appreciate your praise or constructive criticism.
  6. Volunteer to be a beta reader. Beta readers read the book before anyone else and offer feedback. This may be notes on grammar errors or plot holes, or it could just be your overall opinion of the book. Before you offer to be a beta reader, get the details. How long is the book? Will you need to read the whole book or only part of it? When is the deadline? If you have the time, set a reminder on your phone so you won’t leave them hanging. If you think you won’t have the time, respectfully decline. Saying you will when you won’t is the opposite of helpful.
  7. Send some good old-fashioned snail mail. You can make an author’s day by writing to say what you thought of their book.
  8. Request a copy of their book at your local library and bookstore. If they already carry it, ask anyway! It may inspire the librarian or sales person to read the book themselves or recommend it to others. If enough people request a title, bookstores may order a few for their shelves.
  9. Go to their events. Show your support by stopping by with your copy of their book to book signings or festivals. There is nothing sadder than a book signing where no one shows up.

Whether you’re a writer yourself or not, you can do these things for your author friends. But there’s even more you can do if you are a writer, too.

Writers Helping Writers can…

  1. Interview your author friends for your blog.
  2. Review their books on your blog.
  3. Invite them to your writer’s group or start one with them.
  4. Carpool to a writer’s conference. This is a good way to network and learn valuable trade skills. It’s always nice to have a friend when learning.
  5. Host workshops to lend your expertise to fellow writers. Invite your writer friends.
  6. Mentor a new/struggling writer.

These are just a few ways to help your author friends. They are an excellent place to start. I think you will find that helping others will make you feel great, too!


Trista Herring Baughman

Trista Herring Baughman is a proud military wife and a homeschool mama.  She isthe author of The Magic Telescope. Her second book, Zombiesaurs, will be available soon at Barnes & Noble Press. You can find out more about her books on her website, or catch up to Trista on Facebook.

 

Injecting Humor into Your Novel and Characters

By: Georgiana Hall (G.G. Hall)

Let’s face it. After 2 years of Covid-related lockdowns, sadness, restrictions, and whatever else, we all need a good laugh. So, as I was working on that fifth revision of the tenth book in my series about dwarf two-headed red aliens who landed in Nashville to overtake Tastee Freeze, I decided it was time to consider putting a little humor into my work. As writers with endless amounts of talent, we all know this is easy. Of course it is, right? Well sort of. So how can you tickle your readers’ funny bones without going off the deep end?

Back away from your keyboard for a few minutes and ask yourself- who are my characters? Why are they unique? Is there something about one of them that just maybe would make someone laugh? Suppose for a moment that one of your characters is a tall, exceptionally beautiful blonde woman. She has striking pale blue eyes that match the color of the Colorado sky on a clear day. We have a vivid image of this woman in our heads but what happens when she walks?

Giving this character a name just for fun, let “Alice” be the beautiful woman who looks fabulous in an evening gown but cannot walk three feet in high heels. Instead of letting Alice fall and get injured why not describe her “trials and tribulations” of ambulating in 3-inch spike heels in the snow. Will her heels get stuck? Will she curse her way to the door? Or will she kick off her heels, hold up her head and tiptoe barefoot in the freezing cold flakes of powdery snow? Somewhere in describing all of this, we realize that despite Alice’s elegance, she has just enough clumsiness in her gait to make this a funny scene. By focusing on one small physical flaw or mistake we have now captured our readers’ hearts and tickled their funny bones.

Once again, take a step away from your computer screen and look out the window this time. Where does your novel take place? In a house? A forest? A castle? What is one thing in that setting that you could turn into a “humorous moment?” I remember a scene in a movie one time where the staircase had a wobbly banister pole at the top of the stairs. It drove the main character nuts. One day out of the blue, he decided to fix this nagging pole by suddenly firing up a chain saw and cutting the wobbly part off. As he yelled out “Pole is fixed,” the entire audience burst out laughing.

Is there something in your setting that is broken down? Makes noise? Take that stair or door or window and mock its problem. Is it a creak or a crack or a wobble? Sometimes just the slightest noise can be tremendously funny when the author focuses on it and attempts to describe or fix it in an unusual way.

What about an object in your scene that is just absolutely ugly? A chair? A wall? A car? I remember once trying my best to describe a pink kitchen. But “pink” is such a boring word. So I asked myself, “What reminds me of pink?” And the light went on in my head. Pepto-Bismol.

Yes, that’s quite pink and certainly is probably an image that most readers will never forget. And guess what? It probably made you snicker as you read it. So in describing the color of an object (or even a character’s hair!) get creative. Instead of saying “deep forest green” try something like “it was greener than the stinkiest swamp in Louisiana.” I would be willing to bet that it will make your reader giggle and remember the color of that hideous chair in the corner.

I hope this has given you a few ideas and maybe they will invoke a tiny bit of light-hearted laughter from a reader.  So, the next time I am sitting in the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport waiting for my twice-delayed flight, I look forward to laughing out loud as I read your next novel. And don’t worry about the aliens, all they wanted at Tastee Freeze was frozen custard.


Georgiana Hall (GG Hall)

Georgiana Hall (“G.G. Hall”) is the author of the novel Hershey- A Tale of a Curious House Rabbit and the sequel, Trouble in the Attic. A retired physics and astronomy professor, she has written numerous editorials which have appeared in USA Today, the Miami Herald and others. She and her rabbit novels were featured in an article by pet columnist Sharon Peters in a USA Today article in January 2011.

She and husband Oren, also a retired professor, share their Colorado springs home with 2 cats, a rabbit and 3 birds. Currently, G.G. is  working on a third Hershey novel as well as several other young adult novels.

 

Metaphorical Thrills

By: Deborah Brewer

What’s not to love about metaphor? Our language would be impoverished without its contribution to our poems, jokes, stories, and rhetoric. Metaphors enlighten us about one thing by relating it to something else. This connection flashes through our brains like an epiphany, one of the best feelings in the world. In his book, I Is an Other: The Secret Life of Metaphor, James Geary jests that “metamorphine” is a habit we all get into as children. We love to chase life’s ah-ha moments, those thrills of discovery—the satisfaction of our innate curiosity.

Writing with metaphors is fun, and adds so much to our work, but working with them can be tricky. Before we discuss how to write metaphors well, let’s review their definitions.

What’s in a Metaphor?

In the “The Oxford Companion to the English Language (1992) pp.653,” is found the following reference:

METAPHOR … (1) All figures of speech that achieve their effect through association, comparison, and resemblance. Figures like antithesis, hyperbole, metonymy, simile are all species of metaphor.

In case, like me, you’ve half-forgotten, here are some short definitions:

  • Antithesis is the comparison of opposites.
  • Hyperbole makes an obvious exaggeration. 
  • Metonymy is name-calling or name substitution.
  • Similes are explicit (explained) comparisons.
  • Metaphors are implicit (implied) comparisons.

All of these are useful for adding interest to stories. Try adding hyperbole to humor, and metonymy to romance and fight scenes. You might use similes and metaphors when your characters unite, but antithesis when they go their separate ways.

Characters and Setting

When crafting a metaphor for your fiction work, consider the characters and setting in your story. Use an image consistent with that context, whether the setting is 1920’s America, or the narrative voice is that of a child. Keep in mind, that a good metaphor, like a good joke, requires some commonly understood background or a little setup for success.

It’s good when an effective metaphor aids in understanding, but it can also be destructive when deployed as a negative stereotype, or meaningless when it has degraded into an outworn cliché. Restraint is recommended when weaving a single metaphor throughout a work. Repeat it one too many times and it will lose its impact like a boring old joke. Outdated, overused, mixed, and bad metaphors are all well avoided.

The Old Cliché

These historical metaphors are so outdated they’ve lost their cultural context:

Stan sold goldbricks and well-watered cattle. The other landscapers hated him for it.

Do Stan’s competitors hate him because they are envious of his lucrative business model? No. A goldbrick is a counterfeit gold bar and watered cattle are those that have been watered ahead of an auction to tip the scale, and sales price, higher. Stan’s competitors hate him for being a crooked businessman, but owing to these outdated terms, modern readers might not understand.

A frozen metaphor has completely lost its original meaning and taken on a new one, while a dead metaphor has become so ubiquitous it no longer brings an image to mind. Here are examples of both:

            The time before the author’s deadline was running out.

The word “deadline” is a frozen metaphor. It was first used during the American Civil War. A line was drawn around a prison. If prisoners dared to cross it, they were shot dead. Now it means “due date.”

The metaphor of “time running out” is dead. It refers to the sand in an hourglass. Modern readers know what it means for “time to run out”, but the image of an hourglass won’t likely come to mind.

Here is a metaphor first without, and then with, some background to give it clarity:

She was like a daisy with the paparazzi.

She was a daisy, heliotropic, turning her eager face toward the light of the paparazzi sun.

This is a mixed metaphor full of clichés:

When the opposing team closed in on him, Marty lost it. Claws out and teeth bared, he was a cat’s-eye marble short of a bag, playing hard-ball for all he was worth.

When baseball’s the game, the cat’s out of the bag, the marbles are lost, and for all Marty was worth, he was still a few pennies short of nickel, the image of Marty resisting attack is not made any clearer.

Troubleshoot Your Metaphors

If we think of a metaphor as a meaning machine, how do we troubleshoot a broken one? In Geary’s, I Is an Other we find a hint in the example of Carl Jung. When a patient used a phrase such as “a ticking time bomb,” Jung would follow up with questions.

A writer might ask whether there is more to learn about the nature of this bomb. What happened in the moments before the bomb was set? What happens when the bomb explodes? Is there a way to defuse it? There is no need to include every little thing about the bomb in a story, but if the metaphor isn’t first clear in the author’s mind, neither will it be clear in the mind of a reader.

A metaphor comes in two main parts; the target and the source. These are connected by a verb, which is usually “to be.”

A bad, or “broken,” metaphor is, more likely than not, suffering from an identity crisis. The true identity of the metaphor’s target is for the author, still unknown. Thus, the first question to ask would be, who or what is the bomb? Who or what exactly is about to explode?

Consider this example:

She was a ticking time bomb, incessantly nagging until her husband blew up.

Who is the bomb? It can’t be both she and her husband.

The fix:

She was a ticking time bomb, incessantly nagging until she blew up. Her husband was on constant alert for the fallout.

A couple of years ago I read several books on metaphor and set a goal of writing 50 for practice. Here are two that struck literary notes:

She was a fancy font—so ornate and complicated, she was hard to read.

She met him at the library but decided not to take him home. He had a great cover, but his pages were all glued shut.

I encourage you to experiment with metaphors. While the little thrills of epiphany are alone worth the effort, it may also improve your writing skills. You might even discover a silken thread to tie one of your stories together.

Further Reading:

While there are many books about metaphor available, listed below are a few I’ve personally enjoyed.

I Is an Other: The Secret Life of Metaphor and How It Shapes the Way We See the World by James Geary, 2012. An exploration of how metaphor touches every aspect of our lives. Find “metamorphine,” on page 151; Carl Jung on page 215. Borrow it from a library.

I Never Met a Metaphor I Didn’t Like by Dr. Mardy Grothe, 2008. A collection of metaphors from an author who has made collecting quotes a lifelong hobby.

Dream, the PPW 2022 anthology. The short story “Dream Crush” by Cepa Onion, and flash fiction stories, “Sleepstone” by John Lewis, and “Blanket of Joy” by Uchechi Princewill, all employ memorable metaphorical language.


Deborah Brewer

Deborah L. Brewer joined Pikes Peak Writers a decade ago, seeking help with a cozy mystery. When the novel was completed, she stayed for the camaraderie. Now she’s writing short stories. An editor for the PPW 2022 anthology,  Dream, Deborah contributes to Writing from the Peak to help fellow PPW members write better with more enjoyment, and ultimately, achieve their writing dreams.

Waxing Poetic

By: Deborah Brewer

What writer doesn’t want to improve their prose? Let me recommend dabbling in poetry to do just that. Reading, studying, and practicing verse have improved my fiction writing experience in several ways, improving my mood, my vocabulary, and my emotional expression. You might try it too.

Use Poetry to Ease the Blank Page Syndrome

Writers are often intimidated by the emptiness of a blank page. Poetry eases my blank page dread and replaces it with enthusiasm. Writing a very short piece that no one else may ever see removes the pressure from performance. I can revel in my imagination and create something that never existed before without imaginary critics looking over my shoulders. I don’t need to write melancholy verses to enjoy poetry’s benefits either, I can write silly poems that lift my mood. This mindset of joy and confidence stays with me as I write my fiction, helping me overcome procrastination and feelings of inadequacy. If this were the only benefit of writing poetry, it would be reason enough.

Break Out of Your Vocabulary Rut

Writing poetry also breaks me out of vocabulary ruts. Poetry requires rich, concentrated meaning from a very few words. Once I’ve exhausted my memory for poetry words, I call on my second favorite “dinosaur,” the thesaurus, for help. I might also research my poem’s subject online to refresh my memory of descriptive words or enter “Words that rhyme with…” into my online search engine. It’s common for people to comprehend more words than they regularly use in writing and speech. Searching for the perfect word, rhyming, alliterative, or otherwise, is a great way to limber and strengthen working vocabulary.

Find the Emotion in Your Writing

Emotion is at the core of poetry, as it is at the core of fiction. Poetry puts me in touch with my feelings. A poem is more than the mere sum of its words. Word placement, rhythm, and allusions all contribute to the emotion of a poem. While I do want to put more emotion in my fiction, I often don’t because emotions are scary. Writing poems helps me shed this reticence. It provides me with a safe place to play with my feelings and learn how to control their expression.

Now if perhaps, you’re wondering;
In my loneliest girlhood dreams,
Though other creatures joy did bring,
The brontosaurus reigned supreme!

Even writing terrible poems makes for great writing practice. For me, attempting a highly structured poem form, like a sonnet, haiku, or a quatrain, is a more entertaining brain exercise than working sudoku or crossword puzzles. You, too, might enjoy the puzzle aspect of highly structured poems.

Poetic Form – A Closer Look

There are so many variations of poetic form—ancient, classic, and contemporary—that you are sure to find one or two that suit you. Sonnets are grand. Haiku poems are meditative. Limericks are good fun. Odes of praise are usually serious, but can also be silly or satirical. Even highly structured poem forms are often written with irregularities, and you are certainly free to create a form of your own.

To a Button Lost

Oh, button iridescent,
Sweetest pearl of milky white,
Freed from m’ lady’s “precious” sweater

In the middle of the night.
Our dalliance was jolly
As we frisked about the house,
Until you hid between the floorboards
Like a timid little mouse.

Your snub has left me sullen;
My lady is fuming sore.
You have departed, dearest button,
Lost to me forevermore.

To improve my poetic capacity, I did a personal study of haiku poetry in late 2019. I remembered enjoying haiku in grade school and thought I might recapture some of that feeling. I read about the history of the form and its masters. I explored haiku organizations and publications online. I read lots of haiku. Finally, I wrote 50 haiku poems myself.

What is haiku? It’s a very short, poetic form adapted from Japan in the late 1800s, in which two images from nature are juxtaposed to invite feelings of quiet awe and inspiration.

During my studies, I chose some guidelines for my poems that would satisfy most haiku enthusiasts:

  • A seasonal reference (snow, flowers, fruit, falling leaves)
  • A focus on nature
  • Two concrete images with a change to a new image at the 1/3 or 2/3 mark.
  • A story or feeling is created by the marriage of the two images
  • Evokes a sense of quiet, awe, and/or the sublime
  • Uses sentence fragments
  • No rhymes or alliteration
  • No titles
  • A lower-case letter at the beginning of each line
  • The classic, English language grade-school structure—three lines and 5/7/5 syllables—or not

Below is a selection of winter haiku. The first poem changes images after the first line. The second poem changes images after the second line. The third poem eschews the classic syllable count.

a walk with my love
cottontails luxuriate
in winter’s soft light

owls hoot together
on a snowy moonlit night
dogs whimper and bark

tall pines
snowflakes fall
like petals

Freeform Poetry – Laugh at Yourself

When I can’t come up with haiku or don’t want to, I write whatever poems come to mind. One day, reflecting on an experience at a Pikes Peak Writers Conference, I wrote this short poem to capture a memory.

My smile full spent,
I retreat
to scones and tea

But a year into my poetry practice, I found this new poem to be more emotionally open.

Four hundred voices
Eight million eyes—
Refuge in a toilet stall

Perhaps you too have felt that way at a conference.

I’m not a published poet, nor do I aspire to be, but I enjoy and benefit from writing poems all the same. My own poems are included in this blog so you can see the very amateur level of my work and know that you too can write such mood-enhancing poems. If you need a use for your poems, consider writing them inside greeting cards, on bookmarks, or collecting them in a journal. Write poems about subjects you love.

I heartily recommend both the study and practice of poetry. Read some books, take a class, maybe attend a poetry reading. Then set a goal to write some poems of your own. (I usually write a full draft of a poem on the first day, and fiddle with it a few days more.) The practice may not make you into a poet laureate, but your prose will surely wax poetic.

A writer thought writing appealing,
But mostly, she stared at the ceiling.
To enliven her tomes,
She wrote flirty poems;
And now, writes with passionate feeling.

 

For further reading:

Write Like Issa: A Haiku How-To by David G. Lanoue (2017). An English professor and former president of the Haiku Society of America gives insight into the creative process of a haiku master.

Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years, edited by Jim Kacian, Philip Rowland, and Allan Burns (2013). This broad anthology includes poems both ancient and modern, an introduction by poet laureate Billy Collins, and a historical overview by Jim Kacian, the founder of the Haiku Foundation and Red Moon Press.

The Discovery of Poetry: A Field Guide to Reading and Writing Poems by Frances Mayes (2001). Mayes, also the author of Under the Tuscan Sun, writes that “…almost everyone can learn to write good poems.” I hope that means me.


Deborah Brewer

Deborah L. Brewer joined Pikes Peak Writers a decade ago, seeking help with a cozy mystery. When the novel was completed, she stayed for the camaraderie. Now she’s writing short stories. An editor for the PPW 2022 anthology,  Dream, Deborah contributes to Writing from the Peak to help fellow PPW members write better with more enjoyment, and ultimately, achieve their writing dreams.

The Five Insurmountable Problems of NaNoWriMo

By DeAnna Knippling

So you’re thinking about doing NaNoWriMo this year for the first time. Or you’re thinking about doing better this year. Or you’re partially through NaNo and you’re stuck and you hate life and you’re reading NaNo blogs because you just like to punish yourself for not being good enough as a writer.

Um, yeah.

NaNoWriMo is a kind of hothouse of writing.

NaNoWriMo is a kind of hothouse of writing. It brings up all kinds of ugly things that encapsulate our failures as writers – or at least the failures as we see them.

So let’s get past that, not by treating NaNoWriMo as a kind of writers’ resolution, (”This year, I will write 50,000 words, mostly by…I don’t know, just forcing myself!”) but by looking at the root causes.

Here’s my premise: anything that stops you from writing is a bad writing technique.

1. I don’t know what to write.

Tip: Pick the first memorable person you think of, drop them in a memorable setting (it’s easier if you know the setting reasonably well), and give them a problem they can’t solve using their normal M.O. (that is, don’t give a firefighter a fire to put out–give them a parent with cancer).

It’s not that we don’t know what to write. It’s that we get hung up on finding the perfect thing to write. Why is that? Because we’re secretly convinced that stories aren’t about how the story’s told, but about the idea that sets them off.

And yet. Everybody who’s ever admitted to being a writer in public has heard this: “I have this great idea for a book. Why don’t you write it for me – I’ll even give you a percentage of the profits. Fifty-fifty!” As though the idea was worth half the work in the book. You’d laugh at that person…if it wasn’t you.

If you’re held up on the idea, then coming up with the perfect idea has got to go. Because anything that stops you from writing is a bad writing technique.

2. I have no time to write.

Tip: Give up Facebook and Twitter for November. If you want to get really extreme, give up all non-job reading and entertainment for the month…no reading, no games, no going out, no socializing…but them’s desperate measures.

You have time to write. I’m sorry, you do. It’s not about time, it’s about fear.

I once had a talk with my daughter about math class, which she normally likes and finds easy. She had a math teacher who threw things at her faster than she’s comfortable with. I could have a talk with the teacher about slowing things down for her or helping her somehow. Maybe getting her a tutor (well, other than me). Instead my daughter and I discussed learning and what it feels like, and how easy it is to run away from feeling like that. I told her that part of a good teacher’s job is to unsettle you, to get you used to and over the terror of learning.

I told her it’s okay to take breaks from your homework, but she can’t run away.

You have time to write; it’s just easier to justify cooking healthy meals and spending some extra time with the kids and doing laundry and Dr. Who and even puttering around on Facebook than it is to face learning something new. If you have fifteen minutes, you can have a page of fiction.

Yes. You can. When you’re not screwing around like a kid trying to avoid homework. When you’re not paralyzed by fear.

Telling yourself you have no time to write stops you from writing–it’s a bad writing technique.

3. I write nothing but crap.

Tip: Check all the items on this list:

  • Did I drink enough water?
  • Have I eaten? Have I eaten something other than crap during one of my last two meals?
  • Have I had enough sleep?
  • Have I had enough exercise?
  • Have I journaled/stress relieved lately?

Some people are surprised to find out that mental effort is physically draining, and learning something new is even worse. NaNo is a writing marathon, and it will burn energy and other resources faster than you’re used to. When you feel drained and horrible about your writing, first check that your body (or subconscious) isn’t trying to send you a message: I need fueland/or repairs.

The other part of this issue is the nature of crap.

The bad news is that we all write crap. The good news is that when you know you’re writing crap, it means you’re ahead of the game–seriously. In order to learn something new, you have to be uncomfortable with where you are now. Viscerally. Painfully.

The idea that you have to feel like you’re writing well in order to be a good writer sounds logical but it will keep you from writing and improving. It’s a bad writing technique!

4. I wrote for a while, but now I’m stuck and I don’t know what to do.

Tip: Write the next thing. Or maybe back up a paragraph or two, delete that, and then write the next thing.

A few years ago I took up knitting as a bucket-list kind of thing. I’d failed miserably at it as a kid – my mom’s right-handed to my leftiness, and she’s no good at explaining things from the other direction. I thought I was doomed. However, then I realized I have the Internet. I must have gone through fifty knitting videos on learning how to get started knitting before I found The One That Made Sense. At one point, I could have watched knitting videos all day. Instead of actually, you know, knitting.

You can, and should, and will do research to find out what works for you. But it has to be based on your personal trial and error, not on other people’s advice. No class, no mentor, no co-author can replace Butt in Chair, Fingers on Keyboard. The only way to get comfortable with writing is to write.

But what if you’re stuck? Seriously stuck? And you can’t write another word?

You can. You must.

During any long writing project, you will more than likely get stuck at some point, especially as you realize you have no idea what you’re doing, what you’ve been doing, or what you’re going to do next. I’ve talked to writers at various levels of experience. As far as I can tell, this feeling never goes away.

So you look up and realize you’ve painted yourself into a corner. Oh, no – there’s no way to get the characters out of this situation! Clearly, it’s time to completely rewrite the entire book. Or just quit writing. FOREVER.

Except there always is a way out of every fictional situation, no matter how bad, because the characters get to destroy the walls and tramp all over the paint. Nuclear bombs? Alien invasion? Falling in love with someone else entirely? That’s what edits are for: rewriting the opening so the ending fits.

When you get stuck, write the next sentence. It might be weird, ungrammatical, awkward, annoying, offensive, etc., etc. Just plain wrong.

It is also yours in a way that the best-planned, structurally pretty sentences will never be. When you have pushed past everything you can think and plan, then you enter into a territory of naked honesty, which is often ugly and just plain wrong.

This is where the art of writing lies. The rest is craft. You need to know craft. I love craft. But this is where the art is, where you go, “I have nothing. I know nothing. I am writing out on a limb, on a one-sided bridge off a cliff with no opposite bank. I am skydiving without a parachute. I am a fake. I am full of crap and so is this.”

But that’s where the good stuff is.

This idea that you’re stuck because you’re at a dead end – it’s a lie, it’s fear talking. It stops you from writing – so it’s gotta’ go. You’re stuck because you’re at the edge of the cliff. The next sentence you write must be magic. Not because it was good (although it will be, if you let yourself recognize it), but because you were able to write it at all.

5. Now what?

Tip: Continue to be a pain in the butt and do what’s right for you as a writer.

At some point, you’ll decide that you’ve finished your NaNo novel, or that you’re not going to.

In either case, you’re going to hear some negative things about NaNo authors, or people who don’t finish, or people who do, or new writers in general, or whatever. The people who depend on you will be relieved that it’s over. You will be relieved that it’s over.

You’ll be left dangling. Now what?

People will give you advice. A lot of it will sound really logical.

However, if it makes you want to stop writing, it’s a bad writing technique. No matter how logical it is, no matter how long people have been doing it. It’s bad. If you just want to work on something new and not finish your NaNo project – do that. (If you never want to do NaNo again – then don’t!) If you want to keep writing every day despite the fact that people tell or imply that you suck – then write. If the idea of submitting makes you want to never write again – then don’t submit (yet). If the idea of having to perfect your work before you can submit it makes you want to roll up in a ball – then submit before it’s perfect. If getting too many rejections kills you – then take it slow, or wait until you’ve written five other things and you don’t care whether that old thing gets rejected or not.

Work around the problems until they aren’t problems anymore. Learn one thing at a time, not all at once. Be kind to yourself. Keep writing.

Everything else is a bad writing technique.


DeAnna Knippling

DeAnna Knippling has two minor superpowers: speed-reading and babble. She types at over 10,000 words per minute and can make things up even faster than that. Her first job was hunting snipe for her father at twenty-five cents per head, with which she paid her way through college; her latest job involves a non-disclosure agreement, a dozen hitmen, a ballerina, a snowblower, three very small robots, and a disposable dictator in South America.  Her cover job is that of freelance writer, editor, and designer living in Littleton, Colorado, with her husband, daughter, cat, more than one cupboard full of various condiments, and many shelves full of the very best books. She has her own indie small press, www.WonderlandPress.com, and her website is www.DeAnnaKnippling.com.

Marketing During NaNoWriMo – Are you Crazy?

By Jennifer Lovett Herbranson

National Novel Writing Month is right around the corner, and I’m going to talk to you about marketing while you’re writing. I know what you’re thinking: Are you nuts?

Writing 1667 words a day every day for 30 days is daunting enough, and now I’m asking you to think about marketing while you’re doing it. Why yes, I am.

Wait! Hang in there!

What’s awesome about NaNoWriMo is the flood of ideas that rush in your head while you’re furiously writing your book. A lot of those ideas won’t make it in the book, so I want you to write them down.

Why?

Because writing down any ideas you have while you’re in the midst of this windstorm of fiction will give you exactly what you need to focus your marketing later.

Huh?

Marketing is simply finding a way to reach readers. That’s it. In order to do that, you need content. Anything you have in a story can be used for your author brand. Drink the Koolaid because no matter if you traditionally publish or go indie, you’ll be doing the bulk of your marketing.

Writer’s Digest hosted a panel at their annual conference in August with publicists from Hachette and Penguin Random House, and right up front, the moderator said, “All authors should have a fundamental understanding of marketing.” 

I’m not going to get into an explanation of the fundamentals of marketing right now. I’ll have a post on that after the maelstrom of NaNo is over. In the meantime, I just want you to be prepared and ready to go.

So, after you’re done writing for the day, take three minutes and make a quick note. What burst in your brain today about these characters and the story? Think about it like a book bible. Simply write down the pieces.

Use the list below to help you.

  • Character names
  • Character jobs or careers
  • Character hobbies or interests
  • Settings
  • Locations
  • Histories of the town or the people
  • Minor characters your MC came in contact with..their jobs and hobbies
  • Restaurants that appeared in the story
  • Businesses that appeared in the story

Not only will this list help you organize your thoughts about the story, it gives you tons of fodder to develop a marketing plan in December. I’ll walk you through it. Until then, simply take notes.


Jennifer Lovett

Jennifer Lovett is the founder of Writer Nation, a podcast and Facebook group dedicated to helping writers market their work. With 17 years communications experience, she regularly writes on social media, internet marketing and face-to-face publicity.
You can find her on her
 WebsiteFacebookTwitter, and Pinterest: @jennylovett

A Visit with Laura Ingalls Wilder

By: Margena Holmes

My husband and I recently celebrated our 33rd anniversary by taking a trip to South Dakota. He wanted to visit Mount Rushmore and I figured if we’re going to go there, why not take a trip to De Smet to visit the Laura Ingalls Wilder sites and museum? Laura Ingalls Wilder is the biggest influence of why I’m an author today, so visiting De Smet, where the last five books in her series take place, has been a Bucket List item of mine ever since I found out you can visit the site and see where she lived.

Open prairie at the Homestead of Laura Ingalls Wilder
Open prairie at the homestead of Laura Ingalls Wilder

In her writing, Laura’s use of description painted a picture of everything she saw. As a young girl, she had to become good at describing things. Her sister Mary became blind at the age of 14, so Pa Ingalls told Laura that she had to be her sister’s eyes and “show” her the scenery. That is why as writers we must show what is happening in our stories instead of telling.  We paint the picture for our readers so they can see what the characters see, and experience what is happening in the story.

We first toured the surveyor’s house. While reading the books, I understood the houses that she lived in were small. “Small” to me was having a living room, a bedroom, a kitchen, and a bathroom. The surveyor’s house did have four rooms—three downstairs (the kitchen with a small pantry, and bedroom, and the parlor) and one upstairs (another bedroom). Laura, used to living in smaller houses, called it a mansion! It was about this point of the tour that I found out that Laura was tiny—4’11”. So, when Laura’s father called her his little “half-pint of sweet cider half drunk up” he wasn’t joking!

Claim shanty at the homestead of Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Claim shanty at the homestead of Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Next we drove out to where the Ingalls family had their homestead. The house was gone, but there were other things to experience. The five cottonwood trees that Pa Ingalls planted for each of the girls and Ma Ingalls were still standing. As I stood in that area, I tried to imagine how Laura might have seen everything for the first time. I could truly see why Pa Ingalls had spent the night at the land office to make sure he got that parcel of land. Everything was as Laura described. The Big Slough with its coarse grasses, the soft grasses of the prairie, and the flat land with little prairie swells, though there are more trees there now than were probably there in Laura’s time. Pa Ingalls said at the time that tree claims would put trees all over the area, and it looks to be true.

Author Margena Holmes enjoys the trees around the homestead.
Author Margena Holmes enjoys the trees Charles Ingalls planted around the homestead.

There was also a replica of the dug-out house that they lived in on Plum Creek in Minnesota. It was exactly as Laura described it in her books—dirt floor, sod walls, and you wouldn’t know it was there until you had gone down the hill. I remember reading this as a young girl and I could smell the scents of the dirt as I read. This smelled just like I remembered reading.

Through Laura’s description of the area, I felt like I had seen these places already. That is why, as writers, we need to make our descriptions as real as possible, to bring the reader into the story. Laura did well in describing her life on the prairie.


Margena Holmes

Margena Adams Holmes was born in Bellflower, CA sometime in the 1960s. She has always had a love for both reading and writing, writing her first song/poem in 1st grade. Margena is a big supporter of indie authors and will read anything that draws her into the story. She is an observer of life, and many everyday things could (and do!) end up in her writings. Her publications are available through her author page. Contact Margena via email: jedi_anegram@hotmail.com.

ZEBULON – What’s New?

By: Amy Armstrong

Almost exactly two years ago, I moved to Denver with a lot of debt, a broken heart, and the urge to finally take my writing seriously. At 37, I was beginning to worry that I could die before I was published. My mom consoled me though. I have been published already. It was a short article in ArtCalendar about resume writing for artists, but she seemed to believe that item is now off my bucket list. I still want to write a novel that is traditionally published and I continue to nurture my big dreams because Pikes Peak Writers has been there for me since the start. Consequently, when SM Rose contacted me about volunteering to be part of the Zebulon 2020 Committee, I immediately agreed.

 Over the past few months, I’ve often wondered if I bit off a lot more than I can chew. Actually, I know I have, but I’m trying my best to stay afloat here because the Zebulon is a valuable part of everything we offer writers through PPW. It’s an opportunity for feedback that many writers receive on their writing for the first time as well as visibility for emerging writers.

The Zebulon Logo

 Unlike a submission to a literary magazine, The Zebulon accepts novel excerpts (most literary magazines do not) and provides each contestant with feedback in the form of ratings on various aspects of their piece. For an extra $25, contestants can receive a one-page critique from one of our judges.

The Judges

 The judges are another part of The Zebulon that are particularly special this year. I make a point of networking with authors throughout Colorado as well as around the country, and several of our judges are professionals I reached out to personally to help our writers grow and refine their craft.

No contest will ever be perfect. However, we have worked hard on The Zebulon relaunch to make it even more helpful to writers, and I hope that the changes are beneficial.

Here is a list of highlights of changes we have made:

  • Entries are sent via Submittable to remain consistent with our contest’s goal of mirroring professional publishing’s submission process.
  • We no longer require a query. Novel excerpt entries now consist of only a synopsis and the 2,500-word sample.
  • The short story category is back. Writers now can submit up to a 5,000-word short story from any genre.
  • Prizes are now monetary to encourage a diverse pool of applicants. While we hope everyone will want to join us at Conference next year, we know that is not always possible.

 Making these changes has been challenging. Some people within the organization embraced them more readily than others, but growing pains are part of the process. I’m still happy I agreed to volunteer for the committee. Anyone who wants to discourage me is going to need to try harder.

The Zebulon opens September 1st, 2019 and closes November 1st, 2019, 12:00 p.m, MST. Only the first 200 entries will be accepted.

Hosted by Pikes Peak Writers, the Zebulon gives fiction writers at all levels the chance to get their work in front of professional agents and editors. The contest simulates the real process of submitting to an agent, serving as an excellent learning experience. Do you have what it takes to get published? The Zebulon will help you find out.


Amy Armstrong

Amy Armstrong has been doing a little bit of everything in the writing community, since she came to Denver in 2017. She participates in live storytelling and readings throughout the Denver area. Locations include BookBar, The Mercury Cafe, and the Whittier Cafe. She volunteers for Pikes Peak Writers as Coordinator of Social Media and was recognized as the 2019 Volunteer of the Year. 

I Want to Write a Book Someday

By: Margena Holmes

We’ve all heard that phrase before, either from someone we’ve just met (once they find out we’re writers), or someone we know well and they want advice on how to start writing. What do you tell them?

Is it easy?

Most people think that writing is easy. You just sit down and write, right? Well, yes and no. What are you going to write about? When people tell me they want to write a book, most of the time they have no clue what they want to write about. I’m pretty sure they think being an author is some kind of glamorous life where lots of money is to be made, and we get inspiration every day. Well, news flash—it doesn’t always work out that way. I wish it did!

What makes your story unique?

Be Unique

That is the hard part—thinking about something to write, and writing it in a different way that hasn’t been done before. Remember, every topic has pretty much been written about before so what makes YOUR story unique?

Write, write, and write some more!

People (mostly teens with their parents) have come up to my table at comic cons and say they want to be a writer, and what should they do? Heck, if I had all the answers, I’d be making millions! What I DO know and can tell them is to read, read, read, and then write, write, write. Write about your day, write about a scene you might have witnessed. Practice your craft as much as you can. These kids are usually sincere about wanting to be a writer, and I will help them in any way I can.

What about the ones who say they want to be a writer and when you ask them what they want to write about, they give you a blank stare, or tell you, “Oh, I don’t know yet”? I’ll tell them the same thing as I tell anyone else—read and write and practice. I can always tell if they are serious by what happens next. If they get excited over the advice and start asking more questions, they genuinely want to write. If they say, “Oh, I don’t think I need to read, I just want to write something.” Welp, they’re enamored by the thought of it but don’t want to put in the work.

Writing is a process

And it is work. You have to think of what to write, outline it (unless you’re a pantser), write it, rewrite it, then either have a critique partner or beta reader read it, make more changes, THEN it’s ready for the editor. You’ll probably want to read books about the craft of writing, attend some writers conferences (which isn’t work to me because I love to learn), and read some more.

I’m still waiting for the ones who’ve said they want to write a book (and have asked for my advice) to write their book. How many people have told you they want to write a book? What do YOU tell them?


Margena Holmes

Margena Adams Holmes was born in Bellflower, CA sometime in the 1960s. She has always had a love for both reading and writing, writing her first song/poem in 1st grade. Margena is a big supporter of indie authors and will read anything that draws her into the story. She is an observer of life, and many everyday things could (and do!) end up in her writings. Her publications are available through her author page. Contact Margena via email: jedi_anegram@hotmail.com.

Blogging: Should you start & how to do it

By: Jennifer Lovett

Did you happen to attend a writer’s conference recently where you heard every author must have a blog? Or maybe you heard an agent won’t pick you up if you don’t have a blog. Or maybe you’d just like to join the community because believe it or not, blogging isn’t dead. New blogs still pop up all the time and become successful.

So, do you need a blog?

  • If you want to sell more books, no.
  • If you want to drive traffic to your website, not necessarily but it helps.
  • If you want to establish a daily or weekly writing habit that will also drive traffic, then yes.

But if you plan to start a blog, I want you to think about a few things.

  • It is a fantastic way to start and maintain a writing habit
  • It is a fantastic way to drive traffic to your website
  • It is time-consuming and requires some creative brainstorming for topics after a time
  • There are 31.7 million bloggers in the U.S. by 2020

Yes, there are a lot of blogs out there. That doesn’t mean you can’t make it work for you. Your fiction content is unique and more than likely, there won’t be too many other fiction writers out there clamoring away to write about your content. So that opens up a lot of post possibilities.

The best way to keep track of what you’re writing is to create a content calendar. It’s a device to help you plan out your blog strategy, which posts to write and when to post them. You’ll never be lost on what to blog again. Here’s mine, feel free to steal it.

To get you started, here is a list of topics you can blog about:

  1. Behind-the-scenes. Talk about how you get your ideas (because you know you’ll be asked), where you write, where you do your research
  2. Excerpts of your work. Do you have a really favorite scene? Share it.
  3. Character Interviews. These are always fun and can help you flesh out a character as well.
  4. Book chronicle. Journal your book. How you create your characters; how they respond to you on a given day; where you’re having writers block and why; how you resolved the issue
  5. Book covers. Talk about why you like one over the other.
  6. Research trips. Write about what you ate, where you stayed, what you discovered, where you discovered it.
  7. Location Scout. Write about your setting and its history
  8. Writers life. How you became a writer, stay motivated and started your career
  9. Supporters. Interviews with people who’ve helped you on your journey: librarians, researchers, biggest supporter, funny little guy you met on the train who was super excited to find out you’re a writer!
  10. Reviews. Connect something in your work to popular culture and become an expert on it. For example, Young Adult novelists could review episodes of Riverdale or Stranger Things. Mystery writers could review CSI or NCIS.

As you start blogging or want to punch up the blog you have, here are some best practices to help you:

  1. LONG form!
    1. Not 250 words. Not anymore. 1000 words. Why? Because Google likes search words and the more words you have, the more likely you’ll pop in a Google search. This maxes out between 1500-2000 words though.
    1. Will readers take the time to read all that? Yes. Statistics show people are reading just as much as ever, even with short attention spans, they are reading. They’re just doing it on their phones. (Source)
  2. Bullets, headers, lists.
    1. I know I just said readers will read up to 1500 words, but really that’s only true if you break up the text with these elements. It makes it an easier read for users who have the attention span of a gnat.
    1. Attention span has been reported at 8 seconds in the online word. But more than 30% of blog readers admit to liking lists and headers, and more than 40% admit to skimming. Breaking up the text will help your reader stay involved with the post. (Source)
  3. Video is still king.
    1. So what does that have to do with blogging? One of the best ways to up your search engine optimization is to create a quick 1-3 minute video that basically just tells the reader what’s in your blog. Pop that on the end of your blog and you should start to see an increase in traffic.
    1. In addition, 80% of blog readers report they remember more of what they read if it’s accompanied by a video. Win win! (Source)
  4. Images.
    1. Articles or blogs with images receive 94% more views. Even if you just use one, put it toward the top so you pull readers in right in the beginning.
    1. Find photos on Flickr, Google Images, Shutterstock and Pixabay. Most of these sites will have free or inexpensive photos you can use copyright-free. (Source)
  5. Launch with 20.
    1. Because content is how Google finds you, it’s better to have at least 20 posts before you officially launch your blog.
    1. Think about that … 20000 words. That will certainly help your search engine optimization.
  6. Be consistent.
    1. This one has been preached forever. Right now the going rate is at least every other week, but weekly is best.
    1. Never go for once a month. It simply isn’t enough content to drive traffic. (Source)

If you’re read to start, you’ll need a platform like Wix, Weebly, or Blogger – all of which have a pretty easy learning curve and free templates. I use WordPress because it has better integration with the Google search engine and an amazing SEO tool in the Yoast plugin which makes SEO super easy. You’ll also want to own your own domain (URL), so head over to GoDaddy, SquareSpace or HostGator and purchase the URL.

For slightly more information, check out this link.


Jennifer Lovett

Jennifer Lovett is the founder of Writer Nation, a podcast and Facebook group dedicated to helping writers market their work. With 17 years communications experience, she regularly writes on social media, internet marketing and face-to-face publicity.
She currently lives in South Korea and travels around Asia for fun.
You can find her on her WebsiteFacebookTwitter, and Pinterest: @jennylovett