Tag Archives: Writing

Get it done

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People don’t typically ask how you write. They seem more concerned with the content or what drove you to write, but how a writer accomplishes their task is just as interesting. The writing process is so different for each person that I am always interested in learning how others “get it done.” I have found there are a few writing stereotypes that I fall into.

The Procrastinator: I love to write, but sometimes I have to complete everything on my to do list before I can get my creative juices flowing. The dog needs a walk, it’s lunch time, my room is too dirty, the excuses abound. It isn’t until everything is perfect that I can start to craft my stories. It’s difficult to encourage creativity when your brain is going in a million different directions. To fight the procrastination monster I try to keep the distractions to a minimum. So turn off the TV, give the dog a bone, and put on some soothing music… I’ve been enjoying Adele and the new Decemberists’s album. The key is to remove tempting distractions and get down to business. Also, I always make sure I have a drink and a snack near by–just in case.

The Homebody: More often than not I try to write at home. I love the comfort of my bed and a big glass of Diet Dr. Pepper to encourage me, but it seems like whenever I write in my home my characters aren’t as interesting, or my scene ends up flat. As much as I love writing in the comfort of my own bedroom, I know that I do my best work writing in the company of others. I love hitting up a Starbucks or Barnes and Noble and just occupying a chair for a while. The people are great creative fodder and having rows of books surrounding me keeps me focused on my goal. I can just imagine one day having my name grace those shelves.

The Determined: This happens to me a lot. I want to write a scene so badly that I force it. I am determined to finish a chapter so I rush through the details. I am so involved with fitting my writing time into a block of space that I forget to let it happen organically. The need to complete a page or section is a powerful motivator to get things done, but it all happens in good time. I try to carve out a chuck of time for my writing–say an hour everyday– but some days I just need more time. I have a busy schedule, but writing is my passion. It is important to not confine creativity. I struggle with rushing through paragraphs, so to slow myself down I think about all the time I will be spending editing that same page. Knowing I am going to need to fix it later and probably spend more time doing so really drives me to take the time and get it right.

Do you fall into any of these stereotypes? Do you have any others? Speak up! It is always interesting to hear about other writing processes.

Recreating Holiday Cheer

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Have you noticed that as the fall leaves begin to change, store fronts are looking more and more Christmas-y. It isn’t even Thanksgiving, but that hasn’t stopped Starbucks from decorating their cups with Christmas trees. It hasn’t stopped Macy’s or Barnes and Noble from decking their stores with wreaths and lights. It seems Christmas is coming sooner every year, and with it the old holiday classics.

Holiday favorites like Dickens’s Christmas Carol, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street, and many more have been remastered time and time again. They’ve been remade in print as well as on the silver screen. It is obviously that some of these remakes are sub-par, so how do you successfully recreate a classic?

The best tip I can give is creativity. Everyone is familiar with the plot and storyline of these classics, but unique characters or settings can really revamp the traditional aspects. If you are re-creating the Grinch, try something outside of the box. Your new Grinch could be a beautiful, wealthy, young heiress or even an alien. You could create a whole new world rather than who-ville. Maybe it takes place 8,000 years into the future or maybe the main characters are animals not humans. The world is your oyster, use your imagination.

Be unique when you are revising a classic, but remember sticking to key points is important. You want the reader to recognize the original story in the frame work of your piece, but you don’t want to plagiarize either. The need for aspects like the three ghosts of Christmas in A Christmas Carol, make the story easily recognized, but it could be something rather than a ghost. Just making a specific nod to past, present, and future portions of your Scrooge’s life will link the two.

Also don’t be afraid to stray as far as you want from the script. You can change anything. It may be fun to alter the ending completely. You can give the readers a twist that they would never expect and in turn maybe make an improvement on all other remakes. Your goal is not to be hidden amongst a slew of awful interpretations, but stand out like a unique gem.

These tips can be useful for any sort of remastering attempt. I recently read a book by Sharon Shinn called Jenna Starborn. This novel was a unique take on Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. The science fiction novel is set on a foreign planet with creative advancements and interesting side notes. The plot stays true to the original, but the new setting and creations make this a fun, original take on a classic.

All in all writers are always getting inspired from previous work, but it is important to remember that your creative ideas have to be present as well. You can’t just take someone else’s idea and not improve on it. So keep thinking and writing, new spins on classics can be great ways to practice you technique and creativity!

Music and Lyrics

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As a musician that writes the music and the lyrics a question that often arises is what happens first?

Sorry to disappoint, but there isn’t a specific answer to that question. The truth is both occurs, and on a regular basis. Often times I write a poem or some couplet of words that I think would make a good song, and then strive to find a melody to match. The whole process is so dependent on the mood I’m in that it’s hard to be consistent, but my advice on the matter stays the same.

First come up with some concept that is close to your heart. Music is all about heart, the same goes for poetry or writing of any kind. (All in all writing music is very similar to writing other forms.) If you aren’t emotionally connected, how can you expect the listener or reader to be? Being emotionally connected doesn’t mean your lyrics have to be sad or depressing. It can be a fun up beat emotion or some happy memory. Just make it something that means something to you!

Next jot down everything that comes to mind. You never know what you’ll want to use. This comes in handy no matter what you’re writing. If you think you will remember it, don’t kid yourself. Trust me I know from personal experience. It will tingle at the back of your mind, rest on the tip of your tongue, but you will most likely never recall that fleeting idea. SO, WRITE IT DOWN!

Now that you’ve written everything down, take the time to rearrange the lines and words until the appropriate flow appears. This is also a good time to start working on simple chords that could be attributed to the lines. Once you have the general rhythm it will help structure your lyrics too.

Also play an instrument that you are the most comfortable with. My personal preference, the guitar, makes it easy to try out notes and sing while you play. If you don’t have experience with an instrument you are going to be focusing more on how you play rather than what you’re playing. Start simply, once you have the general rhythm add a bridge or a solo, you can even over lay your recording with some fancy finger picking or a harmony.

Additional Tip: If you have a computer with a video or a recording device on your phone, record yourself messing around. This way you can play back any genius chord sequences or lyrical riffs that you may have forgotten along the way. 

Finally, play everything over and over again. Tweak it until you love it. Play until you are comfortable with how it sounds, then set it aside. Wait a day or two and play it back again, if it is still as wonderful as you previously thought, you’ve got yourself a song.

Now all you need is a back up band, a recording studio, or an audition for American Idol and you’ll have it made!

Grammar Mistakes Galore

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 Bill Cosby’s first print of Come on People is strangely missing a comma. The book’s original printing sans comma has all sorts of funny innuendos attached. Come on, Bill Cosby’s publishers. Let’s edit correctly.

 

If you can’t read this it says, “Rachael Ray finds inspiration in cooking her family and her dog.” This hilarious lack of comma makes the lovable cook a cannibal.

 

 

 

 

I can’t believe I didn’t notice this before, but have you ever wondered why there isn’t a comma after slow? Maybe the children playing are just moving at a glacial pace. Living life in slow motion would be challenging.

Queries about agents

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You’ve written your manuscript. You’ve fine tuned and edited every last word. It’s your best work. Now what?

The publishing world continues to get more and more competitive, but there is still hope. New ideas and authors are always welcomed, but you may need a little help getting noticed by publishers. In fact the majority of publishing houses are now only excepting solicited manuscripts. So now you have one more step before seeing your name in print, finding an agent.

Literary agents are extremely helpful in maneuvering the confusing realm of publishing. The contracts and copyrights are a lot to handle alone, plus your agent will have a vast assortment of connections that will make finding the right publisher for your book easier. To get an agent I recommend buying the Writers Market or the Guide to Literary Agents, it is a little on the expensive side, but totally worth it. The comfort of knowing you are querying an agent that is reputable is important. If you aren’t interested in investing in the Writers Market, definitely go to Publishers Marketplace and browse for an agent that fits your manuscript.

After you have found a slew of agents you feel could adequately represent your book it’s time to query. Every agent has a specific preference about how to receive a query so be sure to check out the agency’s website and follow instructions to the tee. These agents are getting hundreds of queries a week and it is easy to be ignored if you haven’t followed protocol. Now that we are entering the digital realm many accept queries via email, but some still want snail mail so be sure if you are mailing a query to include a stamped self-addressed envelope.

First step, make sure you address the query to a specific person. Agents don’t want the run of the mill, copy and pasted queries. Each query needs to be directed to a specific person. Mentioning how you found the agent is a nice touch. The first paragraph is a good place for this. You should also include the name of your manuscript, word count, and genre.

Next comes the summary. This is the part you have to nail! Give the hook and back story, but don’t give it all away. There is a fine balance between a detailed synopsis and telling the entire story. I’d suggest having a non-friend/family member read the query and see if they then want to read the book.

Finally, give your credentials, and why you think they are the perfect agent for you. Also be sure to thank the agent. It never hurts to be polite. Also if you don’t have too many publishing credentials don’t sweat it. Just explain why you are the right person to write this book. If it is a medical drama, the ten years you’ve spent as a nurse are extremely important to add!

Keep it short, your query shouldn’t be longer than a page!

If you want more information on queries check out Pub Rants, it is run by Kristen Nelson, an agent in Denver. She does a great job of explaining what was great about queries she has excepted.

Remember it all goes back to your ideas. If you have great ideas and feel passionately about your manuscript you will find an agent for you. Don’t be swayed by the rejections, keep at it and someday you’ll see your book on the shelf at Barnes and Noble.

Note: If you find any agents online run them through editors and predators before submitting any work. Also if anyone ever charges to read a manuscript DO NOT SEND IT. Agents are paid by their companies to read manuscripts, it’s their job. You DO NOT have to pay them. 

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.