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Showing posts from October, 2010

The Halloween Experience

There are two ways to look at Halloween. You can make it fun with great costumes at a party with monster music. Or you can make it scary. This tribute trailer to The Shining should put you in the mood. ------------------------ Patricia Stoltey is a mystery author, blogger, and critique group facilitator. Active in promoting authors in several genres, she also helps local unpublished writers learn the critical skills of manuscript revision and self-editing. For information about Patricia’s Sylvia and Willie mystery series, visit her website and her blog . You can also find her on Facebook (Patricia Stoltey) and Twitter (@PStoltey).

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I admit I can't write very well without some sort of a plan. But I don't use an outline. I use a mind map . I first learned the technique from a Tony Buzan handout in a corporate training course decades ago. I've used the technique ever since, for taking notes, making a shopping list, planning a story. There is a ton of information online about mind maps and mind mapping programs for computers. Me? I prefer drawing them by hand because I'm a doodler, and in my finer moments, I even use assorted colors. I find it gives me the bones, but still allows me plenty of seat-of-the-pants opportunities. (Example below not mine. Isn't it beautiful?) How about you? Have you tried plotting this way? How are you preparing for NaNoWriMo ? Are you a plotter or a pantser? Leave us a comment! ~~~~ Dani Greer is plotting a number of different projects this week and has a mind map for each one.

November Is National Novel Writing Month

Yep, it's NaNoWriMo time again, and this is the fifth year I'll participate. I think I've only finished and hit my goal once, but that doesn't keep me from signing up every year. It's an opportunity to renew my resolve to write daily, and to work on projects other than articles and blogging. I don't even necessarily try my hand at fiction, though that's the scariest and the most fun. For me, just getting into the writing groove with a (now) huge group of fellow writers, has a persuasive power that I don't get from smaller groups and certainly not on my own. (To give you an idea of how large this group has grown, just over 3% of the group has donated and has already raised over a quarter million dollars to fund their Young Writers Program.) I've written hundreds more pages during NaNoWriMo than I would have written otherwise, and every word has honed my writing skills. Some of them are even downright good, and someday I'll do something with the

Writing in 140: Making Friends with Your Internal Editor

I used to advocate killing the internal editor, but I now see the importance of making friends with her. The IE often whispers things like, "Scene needs development," "Show more," or "That’s flat dialogue." Instead of halting your writing flow, make friends with your IE and take notes of what she says. I'm currently working on a novel that’s filled with IE notes I will handle in REVISIONS, not in the writing stage. I like having a book DONE, not perfecting a chapter for weeks. We need to learn how to listen to our IE, see how she just might be right, make note of what she says, and MOVE on in the story. Doing so will enable us to get a book DONE and have great notes for revision. How do you "make friends" with YOUR internal editor? ----- Writing in 140 is my attempt to say something somewhat relevant about writing in 140 words or less. ----------------------------- Shon Bacon is an author, editor, and educator. She has published both

The sexual journey: Exploring erotica with Kathy Kulig, Part 2

This is the conclusion of Kathryn Craft's interview with erotica author Kathy Kulig. Click here for Kathy's bio and Part One . Kathryn Craft: You write under your own name; others take on pen names. What went into this decision, for you? Kathy Kulig: Writers use pen names for different reasons. Some say if you write erotic romance it’s a good idea to use a pen name for privacy. For me, Kathy Kulig is my real name. I liked that it was short, easy to say and spell. I’d caution about using cutesy names or over obvious pen names like D.D. Stiletto or Raven Maniac. Or names close to well known authors like Stephen R. King, Norah Roberts, JK Rowling, etc. Kathryn: You know everyone's dying to ask: do you research all of the, um, situations in your novels to make sure they're workable? Kathy: My husband would love it if I said, “YES!” But you don’t need to commit a murder to write about it. You don’t need to be an FBI agent, a spy, an astronaut, an alien, etc. t

The sexual journey: Exploring erotica with Kathy Kulig, Part I

Gutsy heroines and hunky heroes face the unexpected and overcome formidable odds, because with courage, true love can find a way… Such are the steamy romances Kathy Kulig loves to read and the stories she loves to write. Her erotica has been published in print, e-books and anthologies.    Kathy is an award-winning erotic romance author whose works include elements of BDSM and the paranormal. She has published several novels and novellas for Ellora's Cave. Her latest release, Summer Sins, is part of a series called Dark Odyssey. Besides her career in writing, she's a cytotechnologist and has worked as a research scientist, medical technologist, dive master and stringer for a newspaper. Kathy resides in eastern Pennsylvania with her husband. Kathryn Craft: Define the difference between romance and erotica. Kathy Kulig: There are actually three terms you should know: A Romance is about two people falling in love and struggling to overcome obstacles to make the rela

A New Respect For Romance by a Romance-Hater

A few weeks ago, I attended the Emerald City Romance Writers Conference, put on by the Greater Seattle branch of the Romance Writers of America, in Bellevue, Wash. About 300 women were registered. That is, 300 women and ... me. Other than a few guest speakers and a few spouses floating about, I was the only man there. Let me assure you that while this sounds wonderful in theory, the reality was terrifying. At first, that is. Until I relaxed, and allowed my natural off-to-the-side objective observer's stance — strengthened through 23 years as a newspaper journalist — to step up. I completely let go of the fact that romance writing has no appeal to me, and let go of my vague notions of the genre as formulaic, simplistic and even condescending to its audience. What I came away with is this: These women know their stuff like nobody else does. There isn't a single aspect of writing and publishing craft they haven't considered from every conceivable angle — and reassembled

Sex Scenes vs. Intimate Scenes

Becca stepped out of the bathroom. Wrapped in an oversized towel, she sauntered toward him. A seductive smile brightened her beautiful face. He exited his e-mail and hit the off button rather than wait for the computer to shut down. Pushing himself out of his chair, he hurried toward her. She dropped the towel and wrapped her arms around him. “What’s the matter, sexy man? You’re not ready for bed.” “I . . . thought you’d be in the shower longer. I was checking my e-mail.” “And I rushed through because I couldn’t wait to get out here to you. This is serious. I’m coming in a poor second to cyberspace.” He pulled her tight against him. Her warmth invited him to places he longed to go. Resting his head atop her damp hair, he struggled to lose himself in her presence. Her heart beat strong and steady against him. He loved her more than life itself. Without a second thought, he would die to save her or Haley or Mali. But a threat he couldn’t see coming from a source he couldn’t track—ov

Sex is Revealing

The first sex scene I wrote was for my second novel, and I almost didn’t write it. I plan my novels quite extensively, and, in this one, I’d planned for two characters to fall for each other and have a romantic tryst, but I hadn’t really planned for them to take it much further than a kiss. In the first draft I used the typical PG-13 Hollywood tactic of “fade to black, cut to next scene”. When I read it through, however, I faced a mental neon sign flashing “Cheat, cheat, cheat”. I couldn’t get passed this: I had to write that sex scene. So I did. I’d read books where euphemisms are used to describe what is going on between the couple and I was determined to avoid this. I used correct anatomical terminology and no cutaways, but I did stick to what my protagonist was feeling (emotionally and physically). And suddenly my characters revealed a lot of information that I would never have guessed otherwise. The nudity revealed a scar on my protagonist’s body that not only explained her mo

Sexual Tension Is Sexier Than Sex

One of the sexiest scenes I've ever read in a novel can be found in Free Fire , a mystery by C.J. Box. In it, Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett teams with Judy Demming, a National Park Service ranger, to investigate a killing in Yellowstone National Park. Pickett, as usual, is away from home, which has been causing problems between him and his wife. Demming is bored with her job and her husband. The spouses are both good people, and their partners love them, but they are largely offstage while Pickett and Demming bond during their travels through the park. Their shared career frustrations, and clear respect for each other's investigative acumen, lead to a subtly crackling chemistry that neither wants to acknowledge and yet cannot deny. In a painful, halting moment, they express unwilling vulnerability toward one another — and then mutually decide, with no small regret, that no physical lines will be crossed. So nothing happens. And yet, everything happens. I remember r

Don't Make Me Do It

 First of all, let me say I have nothing against a well-written love scene, and I do mean love scene, not sex scene. However, I draw the line at gratuitous sex and don't care for erotica. I just don't see what titillation has to do with story. Like every other element of writing a story, sex, violence, or colorful language should serve a purpose. For example, in Play It Again, Sam, I have a love scene that is a very important part of the story and the growth of the character. Sam is single after 25 years of marriage and the whole dating scene has changed. She is not sure about recreational sex. So when the love scene happens it is because she has worked though many issues. It's not just there because romance readers expect it. When One Small Victory was first published by Five Star, my editor there kept wanting me to let the central character, Jenny, do more than kiss the man she was attracted to. Problem was, Steve was the detective she was working for as a confidenti

Talking Sexual Overtones with Author Rachelle Chase

Two years ago, I talked to author Rachelle Chase about writing sex scenes as part of a series on my blog All the Blog's a Page . For the talk, I asked two questions: Is sex an important component to develop in your writing , and how are you able to weave it into a work and also have a strong plot development? Her detailed response is still relevant because as Chase points out, it's not just about having sex in your story; it's about layering the sexual undertones into a fully developed story. As Chase is quick to point out below, sex is not the story; it is an integral, organic component to the story. Below is Chase's take and a "lesson" on sexual development within a story... I write erotic romance, so sex is VERY important. The way I weave it into the story and have strong plot development is by making sex a part of the story . When my characters are doing nonsexual things or are talking about nonsexual things, there are sexual undertones. When my

Listen to Yourself

Naturally, ghostwriters need to be good writers, but there is another skill that is equally important. We need to be good interviewers. Interviews are not only for gathering information; they also allow me to capture the unique voice of my client. I wrote an article titled “My 12 Interview Rules” sharing some things I’ve learned about this facet of my job. But it’s intended for ghostwriters, which most of the readers of The Blood Red Pencil are not. However, here’s a tip that I think all writers, ghostly or not, can use: interview yourself. Talk your thoughts instead of writing them. Tell a story, or muse and ponder, out loud – and record yourself doing so. Then play it back. What metaphors and idioms do you use? Do you have an accent, or use words and phrases that betray your origins? What are you not saying, and why aren’t you saying it? Pay attention to the cadence of your speech, the rhythm of your words. Do you write true to your own voice? Transcribe the recording verbatim

A Parallel Universe

At the top of my blog, A Mind Adrift in the West , there is a quote from Ernest Hemingway: "Prose is architecture, not interior decoration." Papa was a smart man, and this quote is one of my guiding lights when I sit down to write. If I build well, my story will stand up. The time to worry about the color of the walls (just to stretch this metaphor to the breaking point) comes later. I would posit that one of the essential elements of rock-solid writing is balance -- properly weighted words, meanings, cadences. A well-designed sentence has structural integrity that promotes simple elegance and ease of reading. One of the ways this balance is achieved lies in parallel construction. Consider this sentence: She wore taffeta, diamonds and had a gold ribbon in her hair. That sentence is out of balance, and it thumps along the page like a warped wheel. The solution? Make the construction parallel: She wore taffeta and diamonds and had a gold ribbon in her hair. The o

Writing to Sell: POV

L. J. Sellers’ excellent post entitled “ Publisher Evaluations ” provided invaluable information on the various aspects of our manuscripts that publishers review when deciding whether to take on our book (story). One of those areas in particular—point of view—often challenges writers, including some of us with considerable experience. Point of view has been addressed before, but let’s play with it another time to see how different POVs change the same scene. The paragraphs below depict three points of view in this abbreviated lesson from my writing manual. The first one—omniscient—is the most cumbersome and least effective. See if you can figure out why? #1 Spot glanced over his shoulder. The dogcatcher’s vehicle turned the corner and began following him. Sprinting across the street, he headed down the block toward the park. “There he is!” the driver shouted to his partner. “Let me out!” his partner yelled. The man hit the sidewalk at a full run. “I’ll get that mutt if it’s the

Do Your Research

First-hand research is always best. Sometimes it’s not an option and a writer has to depend on books, Internet searches and second-hand accounts. You’ve got a character zipping off to Mexico City, but you’ve never been there and can’t go do research. So you turn to secondary sources. Luckily, writers can find out lots of information from other places and they can go to chat rooms and ask questions of people who live in Mexico City or other places they need to know about. Some places never seem to change, making it easy to get by without a lot of searching for info. Like Central Texas. Hot. Little rain. The trees are always green. We only have two seasons: flip flops and shorts … or flip flops and a long-sleeve t-shirt. January or July – it’s all the same. Wrong. That’s a myth perpetuated by Texans like me. Today is beautiful. Granted, most days in Central Texas are, but we do have rain. We do occasionally have to wear coats. Some people even wear close-toed shoes – I’m not often

Word Play Tuesday Today by Morgan Mandel

It's the second Tuesday of the month, which means it's time for Word Play! I'll pick words that sound the same, but look different. Then it's your turn. You fashion as many of them as you can into phrases, sentences, or more. Of course, you'll want to make some sort of sense when you do it - either funny, strange or serious. This is your time to play with words instead of struggling over where or when to use them. Hopefully, by doing so your brain will nimbly skip over the words in your manuscript. Here's the first batch: Wear - Verb - My closet is full, but I haven't a thing to wear. Ware - Noun -  The only ware I see in this entire store is a toothbrush. Where - Adverb - Where am I? And the other batch: Wore - Verb - Past tense of wear War - Noun - Opposite of peace - War, what is it good for? Okay, the comment section is your playground. Go Play! ------------------------------------------------------------ Morgan Mandel http://morg

Writing in 140: Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words (or More)

I spend a great deal of time going around the town, taking pictures of things that fascinate me. I also like using pictures to jump-start my writing, especially when a lull finds me. When a lull finds you, you can go take your own pictures, or you can scour the Internet, newspapers, magazines, etc. and find pictures that strike you—whether for their setting, for the people in the picture, for the colors, etc. Ask yourself, "How can this picture spark a story?" Think about character, setting, detail, description, conflict, etc., and how these storytelling components can resonate from one single image. It can help jog your mind back to writing as an exercise, or it can help you flow right into a new story. Have you used photographs to help you generate story ideas? ----- Writing in 140 is my attempt to say something somewhat relevant about writing in 140 words or less. ----------------------------- Shon Bacon is an author, editor, and educator. She has published both

Publisher Evalutions

I evaluate fiction manuscripts for a publisher, using a standard form crafted by the publishing house. The form contains a list questions, grouped by subject: opening, premise, plot, POV, character, dialogue, and setting. I’m sharing some of the questions here, so you can see specifically how a publisher might evaluate your manuscript. Opening: Does the first page grab the reader’s attention? Does the first chapter set up the basis for the rest of the story? Premise and Tone: Is the basic premise or theme interesting? Believable? Unique? Is the focus of the work revealed early in the novel? Is the basic premise of the novel well executed? Point of View: Is the point of view consistent throughout? Are shifts in point of view, if any, necessary and simple to follow? Is the point of view used appropriately to convey the thoughts or emotions of various characters? Structure, Plot, and Pace: Is there a planned series of carefully selected interrelated incidents? Are there

Self-Publishing: Baby Steps

By Scott Nicholson If I can’t talk you out of self-publishing, the least I can do is get you thinking like a pro. Because once you decide to become a publisher, you have no more excuses and no one to blame but yourself. You have just promoted yourself to executive editor, CEO, sales rep, publicist, accountant, and copy clerk. The first step is finding quality editing, either through the fine professionals here at Blood Red Pencil or highly skilled friends. If you’re going to use peer editors, I’d recommend at least three different readers, but one experienced person should give it a thorough final edit. Usually, you come up with not only a better book but better writing skills for a lifetime. While the book’s out for edits, you’ll want to round up cover art. I have been using Neil Jackson at Ghostwriter Publications , and we have a trade arrangement where I format his e-books for design work. He does some covers for hire so you can check with him, and there are a number of other

Deleting Hard Returns with Find and Replace

Many former typists find it difficult to break certain habits, such as pressing Enter at the end of each line (hard return) instead of allowing Word to automatically wrap the lines of the document, and typing a double space after a period or semi-colon. Word’s Find and Replace feature can be used to fix this habit retrospectively so that you can get on with writing (typing) the way you are used to. Find and Replace can be accessed with the shortcut Ctrl-f . Double Space After Punctuation Replacing a double space after punctuation is easy: simply type two spaces into the Find What box and one space into the Replace With box, and click Replace All. Hard Return To get rid of a hard return or Paragraph Mark, click “More” in the bottom left of the Find and Replace dialog box. The dialog box will expand to include further options. Click Special▼ and select “Paragraph Mark”. The code “^p” should appear in the Find What box. In the Replace With box, type a space. This will fill in

Time Out For a Little Humor

Thanks to my friend Tracy Farr, we have another installment of his very important advice for writers.... The final step to becoming a writer is to let someone read what you've written. Sounds simple, doesn't it? But it's not! After you've spent weeks, months or even years on your story (I limit myself to an hour, and I'm sure it's quite noticeable), the hardest thing you, the writer, can do is hand over what you think is a masterpiece to someone who may or may not like it, may or may not give you honest constructive criticism, and may or may not still be your friend depending upon what they have to say about your story. "Well, I think your opening really caught my attention, especially the part where the bad guy is chasing the good guy on a John Deere tractor through a hay meadow, looking to turn the good guy into goat feed, but I really think the second page was, how should I say it...it really sucked, and it kept sucking from that page to the end!&q

Ask The Editor Free-For-All Tuesday Today by Morgan Mandel

The weather's cool, the leaves are turning, plus it's football season. What more reminders do you need it's time to buckle down and tackle your work in progress, the one you put off finishing in the off season summer months? Perhaps an unanswered question is still weaving in and out of your head, blocking your way to the end zone. Where can you find the answer? Look no further. Our formidable editors are standing by, ready and willing to huddle with you. That's what Ask the Editor Free-For-All is about. Here's how it works: Today, and Every First Tuesday of the Month, The Blood-Red Pencil holds our Ask the Editor Free-For-All. We call out for e-group, Facebook, social network friends, and blog followers to rush over onto our field. Our Editors love clearing the way, no matter what your call - submitting a manuscript to an editor or agent, publishing on Kindle, e-books, or self-publishing in other formats. We're in your corner. The Blood-Red Pencil'

Got Rhythm?

What does writing have to do with music? When you are in the revision and self-editing mode with your Work In Progress (WIP), it is helpful to read it aloud, whether to yourself or to someone else. This not only helps you catch errors you might not have seen on the computer screen or printed page, but it also helps you create a musicality with your prose. “What?” you may protest. “I’m not a musician.” You don’t have to be, to create a beat or a rhythm with your sentences. You don’t want to have them all sound the same. Here’s a very simple example: He went to the cupboard. He looked at the bare shelves. He took out a can of soup. He heated it. He sat down to eat. For one thing, all the sentences begin with “He.” The second is that they all have the same rhythm or beat. To vary them, you might write something like this: Joe stared at the dusty shelves in the cupboard. Nothing but soup. He selected a can of tomato, opened it and heated it. With a deep sigh, he sat at his lone

Tips For Writing Effective Dialogue

Dialogue is one of the first things agents and editors look at when they receive a manuscript for consideration. If the dialogue is wooden, stilted, and artificial, agents will assume that the rest of the writing is amateurish, and the manuscript will be quickly rejected. Here are some concrete ways to make your dialogue more compelling.   A . Dialogue needs tension, conflict and emotion. This one is huge. As Randy Ingermanson and Peter Economy say in Writing Fiction for Dummies , “Dialogue is war! Every dialogue should be a controlled conflict between at least two characters with opposing agendas. The main purpose of dialogue is to advance the conflict of the story.” 1 . Leave out the “Hi, how are you?” “I’m fine, and you?” stuff, and cut to the chase. Skip past introductions and all that empty blah-blah small talk. 2 . Avoid   long monologues or dialogues that just impart   information, with no tension or emotion. 3 . Don’t use dialogue as filler – if it doesn’t advance the plot,