Get in the Game

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Do you want to try freelancing? Get some publishing credits? It’s time to get your work out there.

Writer’s Digest– This is a great website for all things writing related. You get great tips as well as useful information from people who really know this business. Writer’s Digest also sponsors several writing competitions that are perfect to showcase your work. The short-story contest is even published in a bound book and sold. It’s a great opportunity to write what you want, and maybe get published or earn some cash.
Freelancewriting.com – Here’s another place to check out some cool contests. Everything is listed on one easy to read page with links to the official site. This site also has helpful tricks and tips for writers who want to freelance.
Craig’s List – Check out Craig’s list for some writing jobs. Sometimes it can be as simple as a person needed to write a daily blog entry or write for an online magazine. They change daily so check back often. You could find a great start to a career as a freelance writer.
Freelance Writing Jobs – This is another site that you can check out available freelance jobs. It is a great source of information beyond available jobs as well. It gives information on copyright and business tips too. You can even advertise your company if you need freelancers.
There are tons of options out there for writers all you have to do is look!
Be sure to check out Editors and Predators before submitting your work. This site is amazing and will tell you how trustworthy the company is.

Keep Making a Scene

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I’m sure your characters are fabulous, zany, and one of a kind, but what about the world they live in? Your scenes need to be just as engaging as your characters. The reader wants to be a part of their lives and creating a realistic and viable scene is a major step.

1. USE SENSORY DETAILS: It’s more than merely telling the reader what is in the room, you have to explain it in a way that appeals to their senses. What did the room smell like, could you feel the briny ocean breeze? Take advantage of your 5 senses and draw the reader directly into the scene.

2. BE REALISTIC, BUT CREATIVE: You want your reader to understand where the characters are. So if you tell them the scene is taking place in a kitchen there are certain expectations, maybe a refrigerator or stove, a sink. Your job as a writer is to describe these things in a manner that is unique to the story and the characters.

Fantasy and Science Fiction commonly delve into unknown scenes, but these writers also have to be realistic. If your characters float through the scenes or interact with unexplained objects your readers are lost. The unique and fun theatrics you make in a cyber world or fairy realm are great, but if a reader can’t visualize them you’ve developed all that creativity for nothing.

3. INTERACT WITH THE SCENE: Have your characters interacting with their surroundings. Real people don’t just stagnantly stand in a room doing nothing, no they sit on the sofa or wash their hands. They rake their fingers across the leather bound books, leaving a trail on the dusty bookshelf. Characters live in the world you created, so be sure to show that.

Write Daily

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The best tip I can give is simply to write.

If you want to be a writer the first step is doing just that. Try writing a little bit everyday. It can be additions to a story in the works or it can just be random thoughts or feelings. The best way to improve your writing is practice.

When I first wrote my manuscript it was a complicated ordeal. I was always editing. It was never good enough, and I got no where. I was so focused on getting my grammar perfect and picking the best word or creating the best scene that I missed out on a lot of creativity. I also tired of writing. It became a chore. It made me want to quite. So I did, and started something else. I thought about my characters and story a lot, but it was always tainted with my criticism. A couple months ago I went back to that story. I just wrote. Now it’s finished. It could most certainly still use some polish and there are still some strings that need to be tied together, but the tale developed organically. I didn’t over think things and it was once again a story I wanted to tell, a story I felt inspired to write about.

If you can’t think of something to write about here are a few great go-to themes:

  • Relationships: Family, boyfriends, girlfriends, friends, anyone you have a relationship with and you want to write about.
  • Yourself: Write about your day, your week, your childhood, just go through memories or dreams I’m sure you’ll find fodder.
  • Passions: Do you love soccer? Skiing? Dogs? Just cover what you love.
  • The world: Write about the room you’re in, write about the color of the tree outside. Use the scenery around you to inspire.
The idea of your daily musings is to be comfortable writing things that aren’t publishing worthy. Just write knowing that you love it. When you pick a theme, exhaust it. Write sensory details, create a setting, expand on every detail. Pick a place you feel comfortable. It can be a comfy chair by the fire, or an antique desk in the attic. You can even go to Panera or Starbucks and get inspired by the other patrons, but be comfortable so you are only thinking about your words. If there is a cramp in your back or your baby sister or daughter is poking you your mind isn’t focused on your work.
Write until you want to stop. It’s not meant to be homework or a challenge. It’s meant to be a fun way to practice your writing. It can be a simple ten minute character sketch or an hour long perusal of an intimate childhood memory. It doesn’t matter what you write, just that you write.
After a week I guarantee you will come to treasure this time. If you write in the morning it’s a nice way to casually wake up, or in the evening to unwind. This alone time gives you the means to shut out negativity and do what you love. Write.

The Hunger Games satisfies, but still leaves room for dessert.

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With a movie production on the way many are scrambling to finish The Hunger Games. Suzanne Collins has crafted a dystopian adventure that while geared toward young adults still manages to entice adults as well.

The North American continent has been split into twelve districts, each reporting to the Capitol. As payment for an unsuccessful rebellion each district must submit a young boy and girl to compete in the televised Hunger Games. Chosen as the district 12 tributes, Katniss and Peeta enter the kill or be killed competition.

The Hunger Games is  a disturbingly engrossing tale. Even though it is marketed for young adults I wouldn’t recommend anyone under the age of 12 read it. The games are violent, pitting each tribute against the other and forcing them to kill to stay alive. In a generation obsessed with reality television, where shows like Survivor still dominate the ratings, The Hunger Games hits like a slap in the face. The gladiator style fighting amongst the tributes is shocking. The teenagers fight and kill with disgusting ease while the rest of the districts watch the television with rapt attention.

Collins has established a wonderful setting with fantastic twists and turns that keeps  the readers hooked. The unpredictable atmosphere of the games makes each chapter unique. The characters are realistic with flaws and astounding grit. Katniss’s stubborn determination and skill at survival as well as Peeta’s loyalty had me pulling my hair out and cheering at the same time. Katniss is a refreshing protagonist. She is a strong young woman used to hard times and fiercely loyal to her sister. Her uncertainty and fear, as well as her utter determination to stay alive without losing herself to the games is humanizing. The first person narrative is well done, and gives the reader unfiltered access to her sarcastic mind.

From the descriptions of the 12 districts to the glittering Capitol, Collins astounds the reader with a fully fledged world that resembles our own just enough to be disconcerting. I often found myself trying to identify how each district applied to current day America. The supporting characters are products of their districts. They have their own issues and personalities that come across strongly, but it is still in keeping with the first person narrative.

The Hunger Games will draw both boys and girls as well as adults into the dystopian future. The rebellious undertones are a subtle clue about what is to come, and the romance while prevalent isn’t embarrassing and is appropriate for young adults. Katniss’s emotional maturity is frustrating at times, but is accurate for the her age in the novel as well as the intended audience. The gripping novel is engrossing and once started is nearly impossible to put down.

While The Hunger Games has a distinct ending, the storyline is still incomplete and readers will no doubt be running to the store to purchase Catching Fire and Mockingjay the final two books in the trilogy.

 

May the odds be ever in your favor

Kindle Review

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Amazon’s product the Kindle is fodder for many debates. I can’t tell you how many times I have been on an airplane and the person next to me leans over to ask about my Kindle. They listen patiently as I tell them about the cool functions, it can store thousands of books, you have access to free wireless and have book delivered in under a minute, a glare free screen, and the added bonus of more room in your suitcase or purse. They stop listening after about the second item and start concocting their counter argument, but I love holding a book, you know turning the pages.

Now I can’t say I don’t relate. I will still buy my favorite authors in paperback or hardback and I still return to the library to flip through the yellowed pages, each with its own unique smell. I still love holding a book, but let me tell you the Kindle is a wonderful device for avid readers.

PROS

Like I said, the 8.5-ounce eReader can hold thousands of books. That is significantly less weight to lug to the airport or bus stop. Your library is alphabetized and you’re never going to lose a book.

No glare… enough said.

It’s just a few clicks and you can purchase new books from your Kindle, with free Wi-Fi. The books are delivered in less than a minute. This means if your plane is delayed you can start a new book at the drop of a hat rather than purchasing the only available novel in a gift shop.

You’ll never lose your books. Your electronic library is stored under your Amazon login and will always be saved. This means you can run over your Kindle with a car (trust me it happens) and still have access to your entire library. There are also free kindle apps that make accessing your Kindle library easier. You can now read eBooks from your smart phone, tablet, or computer and it’s all free.

Free books! There are thousands of these floating around on the net. From basically any classic literary book you can image to the free promotions some authors dish out. Check out Kindle Nation Daily for daily deals.

Some textbook are also available in Kindle format, you can even rent them. It’s cost efficient for cash-challenged college students, like me, to purchase eBooks for classes. It’s also lighter to carry than that 5 lb. physics book.

CONS

The annotation software is still a little complicated to use. While you can still highlight and annotate your books finding the annotations can be difficult. There is a “clippings” section that will show the highlighted line, but notion else in relation to the book.

No page numbers. This is another thing that makes access highlights and annotations difficult. (Note this is going to be fixed in upcoming software updates.)

The Kindle screen is delicate. My dog stepped on mine and broke it. I would suggest getting a case and leaving it in a safe location, especially if you have animals, or young children running around.

  While the Kindle may seem like an expense I can guarantee   you will get your money back in a month. Kindle books on       average are cheaper than the printed books and with all the    free stuff out there you are bound to rack up some savings        really fast. So take my advice and invest. You may be wary     at first, but trust me after you’ve tried it you’ll never want to     be without it.

Check it out for yourself, HERE!

The Power of “I”

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Contrary to the fact that in a first person narrative “I” is bandied about quite a bit, a writer needs to know it isn’t all about the narrator. The first person narrative can be an interesting way to develop a character or tell a memoir, but if used incorrectly can end up biting you in the butt.

The first person narrator is given the opportunity to express thoughts and ideas without being unrealistic or forcing dialogue. A reader can be inside the mind of the narrator, get to know them, and practically make them into a tangible figure.

In order to successfully utilize the first person narrative, the writer must know the narrator through and through. If you’re writing a memoir it makes this a little easier. Know the narrator so thoroughly that you can make up scenarios and know exactly how that person would react and feel. You have to be completely connected to this individual or the writing will sound false.

This narrator is telling your story, so make sure he or she is credible. You want the reader to know that your narrator is telling the tale accurately. You also want your narrator to be likeable. Having the villain tell a story is an interesting take, but they have to have some redeeming qualities. No one likes a one-dimensional narrator. There needs to be emotional growth, as well as some quality that makes the reader root for your narrator.                                                                                                  A book I read recently was written in the first person, but the narrator, a flighty girl, was so lacking in depth and understanding of the situations around her I could barely bring myself to finish the thing. I was supposed to believe that she could solve complex crimes, but most of the time I just wanted to jump inside the book and slap her. So, make sure your narrator knows what they’re talking about. You’re readers want to leave a book entertained not annoyed.

Your readers are also going to want to know about your narrator’s friends. It’s key to develop the supporting characters as well as your narrator. Switching perspective or using dialogue can be great tools to help introduce the personalities and emotional depth of the other characters. In order to fully understand your narrator you need to understand whom they hang with.

(It’s important to note that when switching perspectives you use two, maybe three, people to swap with. It can get really confusing, really fast, if you are using too many narrators to tell a story.)

You also have to remember to develop the scene. Tell it through the eyes of your narrator. Tell the readers how he/she sees things. It will help develop your character. For instance a certain narrator may see a room as…

“The room was dark. The light flickered and cast an array of shadows on the wall. I could smell the stale dust and mildew that clung to the curtains and hid in the corners of the windows. I cringed looking at the leaking roof. At least I was only staying for the night.”

A different narrator could see the room as this…

“The room was dark and the light flickered. I could even smell the damp stench of mildew, but there was a roof and while it may be a tad leaky, it would keep me safe for the night.”

First person narratives are interesting and useful, but don’t make a story selfish. It’s not always about the “I.”

The Wonderful World of Editing

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So you’ve just finished your paper, story, or some other writing piece and you’re extremely proud (or maybe relieved), but you’re not quite finished yet. As much as you’ll hate to admit it your paper is going to be riddled with mistakes. Don’t worry about it, it’s a first draft and that is where the miraculous tool of editing comes into play.

1. FIND A FRIEND

I always think it helps to have a friend or teacher, someone you trust to be honest, to read through your draft. They’re more likely to see errors that you may have glossed over. Plus, the reviewer doesn’t know anything about your paper already. You’ve thought about it, researched it, and even if it doesn’t make sense on paper it can still makes sense in your mind. This first net will sift through the obvious errors in punctuation, as well as any structural or plot issues.

2. READ CAREFULLY

Now it’s your  turn to look over your work with a fine tooth comb. The tricky part here is to take it slow. Your mind may automatically fill in errors if you read it too quickly. Read carefully and if you need to, try reading it backward. Start with your last paragraph and read from your last sentence all the way to the introduction. This will help with word choice and sentence structure.

3. WATCH OUT FOR SPELLCHECKER

An important note is also to be careful with spellcheck. Computers are wonderful things, but they’re not humans. It’s difficult for your spellchecker to catch things like the correct spelling of proper nouns, the ” their, there, they’re” and “your, you’re problem, and homonyms. Also, if there are grammatical issues, it will tell you that it’s wrong, but not how to fix it.

4. READ IT OUT LOUD

Now that you’ve gone through the majority of your edits the last step is to read it out loud. Speaking each sentence is a nice last check to make sure everything makes sense. You can read it for a friend or to the mirror, but it’s important that you actually say each word out loud. If you find any errors fix them, and after you’ve read the whole thing wait a day and read it again more time. No errors? Now you’ve got yourself a pretty good paper.

5. UTILIZE YOUR RESOURCES

Now that you’ve done everything you can, try another peer review or if your campus or work offers a writing expert, take advantage of it. At University of Colorado Denver the Writing Center (the website is linked) is an amazing resource students should utilize. This is your chance to get as close to an editor as you can, so make an appointment or convince your grammar smart friends to take the time and get that final expert opinion.

The editing process isn’t some complex thing, all you need to be successful is time, a grasp of the English language, and a little help from your friends. Go slow and read your work over, and over, and over.