Friday, March 27, 2015

Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses

We all know we have them right? We excel in certain areas in our lives and there are issues that remind us we are a work in progress. Hey, we're only human.

But to acknowledge that we need to work on things is the first step. And where we need to keep our egos in check. Nobody's perfect. Lately, I have been reminded where my weaknesses lie and I plan to put my energy toward conquering them. 

Sure our day to day stuff is one aspect, but really, I'm talking about our creative writing strengths and weaknesses. But I believe this pep-talk can affect both. 

One of the things that has always helped me is the years I was a trainer. I realized that no matter what we're learning, we are starting from the beginning. In essence, we are being trained. Whether we are a first time parent, or new on the job, it is a learning curve. As we move along and collect more and more knowledge, we become comfortable in our role, but tend to forget that we are not perfect in that role.

This goes for writing as well.

I have seen articles that state there is no right way or wrong way to write, and I beg to differ. Mainly because, as a reader, I am affected. When I spend my money on a book and find many mistakes, it makes it harder to continue reading and I put it down. 

Now again, I'm not talking about a few little mistakes, I'm talking about creative writing ones, like head hopping and info dump. I know there's never going to be a book with no errors, but when the book is filled with them it makes me want to leave a review and tell the author to take some classes.

Of course, they would become defensive and ignore the jibe, but really if you care about your reader you will realize you need to always work on your craft, even if you have 40 books out there. 

What really concerns me are the younger readers of today who think this is how a book should be written. Sure they like the story, but it does affect their learning. They truly think that the writing is how it should be and that's not the case.

I have seen many writers who faithfully take writing workshops and talk about writing with others in their field. And many of us have critique partners and listen to what they have to say about working on our skills. you should always be working on your craft.  

Discover your strengths and enhance them. Discover the areas where you need to give more attention and learn how to fix them. That's all I'm saying. Until you own up that you aren't the perfect writer and you do have weaknesses, you will always struggle.

I hope my little tips and hints each week help you in your writing endeavor. Anytime you have a question, feel free to leave me a comment. I would love to get to know you and help you on your way. And if you would like to share your favorite tips and what your working on I would love to see them!

Have a great weekend all!

Love, Lisa

PS. I am sending out a newsletter soon catching everyone up on the status of Lore and everything else that pertains. If you would like to be kept in the loop, go to my website and sign up. Thanks for all of you who have supported me with my writing journey! I appreciate all of you!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Writing Raw - 5 Tips with writing your first manuscript

The last couple of posts I've talked about getting started with writing your first novel, and some hints to help you with your writing. Now you should be ready to tackle "The Rough-draft".

To me, this is the funnest part of writing. Getting those ideas from your brain to paper. Some writers love revisions, some research, me, the raw words filling the page and slowly molding into a manuscript.

This is where your imagination becomes electric. Where your creative juices flow and land on the page. And this is where you let it all hang out. I have a few simple tips for those of you at this stage of the craft. I hope they help.

1. Just write: Whether it sounds funny to you, or there are a lot of mistakes, don't worry about it at this point, just write your story. When you've come to the end, that's when you will make plans to begin revisions.

2. Don't worry about chapter beginnings, or how long the manuscript is: After I wrote Fable, and we started on the revisions, I changed where chapters began and even scene layouts. As your writing the rough-draft put them where you think they should be for now, and worry about that later. Also, the length of a chapter is not a concern at this point.

As far as how many pages, that won't matter either. Originally Fable was 299 pages, when I finished the revisions, it was over 500. We added a lot of details that were needed and fixed the plot and sub-plots so there were no holes. Some writers go crazy and their rough-drafts are way too long, this can be fixed during revisions, too. You will learn where you can cut.

3. Keep track of the basics: Ah, the inevitable outline. My outline was very basic, but helped me to keep track of what was happening throughout the book. I simply bought two poster boards at the local store, some different colored markers, (to make it fun) and made separate boxes on the poster. Each box was a chapter, starting with the top left-hand corner, chapter one. I filled in just what was important in that chapter and color-coated with each character.

For example: Stevie was the pink marker. I would write what she did in that chapter under her color and so on. I did this for the entire book and hung them on the wall near my desk so I could keep track.

4. It should take you 3 months: Well, according to Steven King, it should take 3 months to write your rough-draft. That's how long it took me actually. But keep in mind, some people have to work or have children. This can interrupt the creative process, but do your best to get it done. Again, don't try to edit as you go. This will slow you down.

5. Now you've reached "The End": At this point, celebrate! Not everyone can write a book, and you should be proud of your accomplishment. Also, this is where you walk away for at least 3 weeks. Give yourself time to catch up with your life, and to plan your next step - revisions. And when you return, you can look at your rough-draft with fresh eyes.

Look into classes at this point, not necessarily college classes, but somewhere other authors get together and hone their craft. I began with Meetup. You can Google the one's in your area, and join a writing group.

Another idea is join a writing organization, like RWA (Romance Writers of America) or maybe a fiction writing org. in your area. And just because RWA is mostly romance, they do have other genre authors in their groups. And of course, go to conferences in your area.

Getting to know other writers, and even authors, is a valuable tool. Most are very welcoming and helpful.

I hope these tips help you on the road to becoming an author. Yes, it's a lot of work, but for me, rewarding. It is a calling, and not for everyone. If you're only looking for a way to work from home and make money, this is not for you. Sure, anyone can put words to paper, but it doesn't mean they should publish.

That's all for now. I planned to announce my cover this post, but I had to pull it - too many issues to fix. So, for now, still working on that part. Lore is very close to the end, but there is still the beta-readers, and edits. It won't be much longer though, I promise!

Have a great weekend all!

Love, Lisa

Friday, March 13, 2015

Write With Your Readers In Mind

Fiction writing is not the same as other artsy crafts, unless you never plan to publish your work. When you've decided to sit down and write a novel to share with the world, you have to think of your readers. They're the one's who will make you, or break you - as it were.

If you feel you're a pretty good writer and want to do it for a living, the ego needs to be kept in check. Maybe you have a degree in creative writing, or a master's, and you think you've got this - well - think again. Just because you know all the rules and believe you are a very smart person, doesn't mean you know how to reach your readers, no matter what genre you choose.

There are a few things to keep in mind as you go on your journey as a fiction writer. I'll share the one's I've learned and hopefully they will hit home with you. Maybe even help you to feel good about what it is you are writing.

1. Write to the average person's level. 
     What do I mean by that exactly? Well, simply put, most readers read at an 8th grade level. When you use really long words, that no one uses in their day-to-day life, you'll lose them. They don't understand some of their meanings and will not stop to get a dictionary to see the meaning of the word. People want to be immersed in a book, not be stopped every paragraph. Quit being pretentious, and showing off. 

2. Learn about the rhythm of writing.  
     There are several steps to the rhythm of writing, but mostly it's realizing when best to use longer sentences, and when short, tight ones are called for. When writing an action scene, usually short sentences will move the action along. If describing a mountain pass, longer ones bring the reader in and helps them to imagine the scene. Also, it's okay to use fragmented sentences once in a while, especially when conveying action, or dialog. People don't speak in complete sentences, and shouldn't in your dialog either. Unless, of course, you have characters like mine who are from a different world.

3. Who is your intended audience?
     Are you writing religious books, Christian romance, or are you writing fantasy fiction, or sci-fi? If it's the latter, than it's okay to speak to the reader in their "words". But if it's a sensitive reader than you probably don't want to use curse words. I think this question's, answer pretty much describes itself.

4. Read and read a lot.
     Why do I say this? Well, to put it in Steven King's words, reading is homework for the writer. The more you read, the more you will see the types of style and what works or doesn't work. If you're reading a best seller, you'll see how they capture the imagination of the reader. If you find a book with a lot of info dump, or head hopping, you'll see why it can be put down.

5. Let go.
    Imagination is one thing we all have in common. Let yours go to new heights. Don't be afraid, it's what will drive you to write, to finish that novel. When I first started writing my series, I remember looking at myself in the mirror one morning and telling myself, go for it - let it all out. It's what the reader wants, what they crave. So go back to that childhood pastime of pretending, and getting carried away with your creative personality. It's the way to go!

Well, these are the basics. I know there's more, but for now, start with remembering these few steps. Whether you're writing to a child audience, or adult, these suggestions will help you along the way. Remember, you're not writing a paper for your professor, but one for the public at large, so don't use a big, long words every other sentence. It's, in the words of Steven King again, excessive and embarrassing. 

Oh, one more thing - if you would like to see the new cover for Lore, it's posted on my website Djenworld Stop by and check it out if you have a minute. It's in the members only page! Be sure to leave me a comment and let me know what you "honestly" think!

Have a nice weekend all and happy writing!

Love, Lisa


Friday, March 6, 2015

Are You New To This Whole Writing Thing?

If you're anything like me, you probably always wanted to write. You dreamed of seeing your books on the shelf at the local book store and taking pictures of yourself pointing at the book. You announced "some day I'm going to write a book" to everyone you know. And you tried to work out a time in your life where you could sit down and do just that.

Well, your time has now arrived and you have no idea where to start - or even what to write about. What do you do now?

Good question.

I remember that day vividly, the day I decided I would be come an author. It was the day I met Lizzie, one of my author friends. She had come in to the restaurant I worked at and was one of my customers. (Funny how things happen. As if it was meant to be.)

I asked her if she was a writer, and she readily admitted to being one and introduced me to her editor who happened to be having lunch with her. When I told her I always wanted to write, it became the start of a long and fruitful friendship "At least fruitful for me", and she never stopped encouraging me - even to this day.

There are some basic tips and guidelines to getting started, but I think number one is, you need some support. Writing a book is not an easy endeavor, even if you've written ten books. I will list some suggestions on getting started. They sound easy enough and should help get you going, but as you will find out there's nothing simple about writing a novel.

1. As I said above, you need support. 
    One of the hardest things is finding a quiet space with extra time to sit down and just write. There is always something to interrupt your creative time, such as making dinner, bathing the kids, a job, running errands, but this is where the support comes in. Either your spouse of significant other could take some of the chores off your list to give you that creativity space. Even call your parents, or a friend to watch the kids for you so you can have that extra time. But I must warn you it is not an easy thing for your loved ones to accept. They don't understand your need to write, so this first step is one of the hardest to accomplish. They all seem to look at your writing as a hobby.

2. Sit down alone and figure out what genre you plan to write in, and the basic gist of the story. 
     Another toughy - figuring out what to write. There are so many fiction novels out there. The market is saturated with them. So my best advice is write what you love to read. Or at least attempt to. I always read thrillers, mysteries, and international intrigue. I also enjoyed historical fiction. When I attempted to write a murder mystery I found I couldn't wrap my mind around having a serial killer as a character. I just couldn't think like a nutcase, so I then realized the other genre I loved, and the types of shows I watched on TV - Fantasy fiction. I had found my niche.

Once I did that, next was figuring out the basic story line. I knew I didn't want to use the same fantasy characters that most writers used, such as Vampires and Witches. I wanted characters that were more unique. After establishing what kind of creature, the rest started to fall into place.

3. Create a character outline. 
     You don't have to come up with every character at the beginning of this process, just the main ones and a few secondary to get you started. Write down their, descriptions,  attributes, basic personalities, what they do for a living, that kind of thing. As you go along you will add to this list, but for now, you can begin the manuscript.

4. Write a basic outline of the book. 
     Again, this is just a beginning, not the entire book. What are your goals for your main character? Is there a quest? Where do the secondary characters fit in? Who is the antagonist and how will they interfere with the protagonist? Do you have a message, such as women's rights, or saving the planet?

5. Write out your first chapter. 
     I know it will be rough, and you will probably change it fifty times, but it's a start. It will get your creative juices flowing. 

6. Join a writing group or classes. 
     I avoided this little piece of advice for a long time, and I wish I hadn't. I think it was more embarrassment on my part. I didn't think I was much of a writer, but you don't have to share until you feel comfortable enough to do so. What is beneficial is you will learn a lot about creative writing skills and meet a lot of wonderful people. Some of which will become lifelong friends. And you want to talk about support?! Other writers completely understand your plight and will be by your side. 

7. Keep going! Never quit!
     This one is self-explanatory, but always good to hear. Just remember you are a work in progress. No one is the perfect writer, and there's always something new to learn. Be open to it and last, but not least, put on your thick skin - you're going to need it.

I hope these seven tips help you to get started on the wild ride or writing. Life's too short to put your dream on the back burner, so go for it!

Have a wonderful week, and don't forget, look for new things happening on my website Djenworld

Love, Lisa