Friday, May 30, 2014

Friday Links -- Volume 32

It's been a busy week for me.  After recovering from the Memorial Day weekend, I spent the rest of the week either reviewing or editing books for other writers, which explains my lack of a post on Wednesday.

Speaking of which, I posted a review of World Cup Mouse over at the Sher A Hart: Written Art blog, so if you're into fun MG books about soccer playing mice, be sure to check it out.

Have a great weekend!

6 Steps to a Professional Amazon Author Page

15 Articles on Cover Design for Self-Publishers

Michael Crichton’s Method for Plotting Out a Story

Are You Serving Your Story?

How to Write a Sequel

A Journey through Theme Development

Another Look at the Subjunctive Mood

Friday, May 23, 2014

Friday Links -- Volume 31

I'm not entirely sure what happened, but the Feedburner problems I mentioned a week or two ago seem to have fixed themselves, at least for the the moment.  My mailbox is now suddenly overflowing with email notifications for new blog content. While this means I'll need to spend this weekend catching up with all the blogs I follow, it also means I have plenty of links for you this week.

Enjoy the weekend!  Especially those of you who commemorate Memorial Day in the U.S.


The Power of Covers

Blogging Tip: Increase Shares with Images that Pop

10 Reasons Why You Should Know How To Format Ebooks

Indie Writers: Make MS Word Work for You Instead of Against You

14 Questions to Ask Before You Self Publish

Varying the tension level to keep your readers’ interest

Your Query Checklist

Do Your Characters Need to Get a Life?

Uncontriving Characters

What Makes A Novel Into A Page-Turner?

All Hail Dilemmas: Why Your Characters Need to Make Tough Choices

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Amping Up Your Story

One of the hardest things I’ve had to accept about writing is that just because you have a great idea for a story worked out in your head doesn't mean you’re anywhere close to writing a book. Writing a book is more than taking the story and slapping it onto paper. It’s about organizing that story and telling it in such a way as to maximize the reader’s enjoyment.

For one thing, the story that’s been bouncing around in your head for months (years?) is frighteningly incomplete, although you may not realize this until you begin typing it onto the computer. I’m a research chemist during the day and the companies I’ve worked for have all required I write reports and give presentations on that research. Although I find these activities annoying at times, I understand (and agree with) their purpose. They force me to consolidate my thoughts into a coherent picture, and often reveal logic flaws I’ve missed.

The same goes for fiction. How many times have you sat down and written out a scene you were sure you had all worked out in your head, only to stumble across numerous logic holes and loose ends? Character actions that made sense while they floated around inside your brain no longer seem plausible on paper, and you realize your scene is going to need one heck of a rewrite.

But fixing plot holes is only the beginning. To make the book the best it can be, you have to convey the story in the most entertaining way possible in order to make it stand out among all the other books out there. Are you writing an epic fantasy where some lowly peasant with a special ability rises up and claims the throne? If you just tell the reader what happened in a competent and straightforward manner, how will it be any different from the other hundred versions of the same story released just last week?

In other words, you have to take your perfectly logical story and amp it up a level or two. It’s not about writing a scene that moves the story forward, it’s about writing a scene in the most entertaining way possible. I fret about this all the time. Are my characters entertaining enough? How can I turn them into unforgettable characters? How can I change the setting to make the scene more interesting? How can I rearrange the order in which things are revealed to maximize their effect on the reader?

These are the habits that distinguish so-so writers from the good ones, or the good writers from the great ones. Because it’s not enough to tell a good story, it’s the way you tell it that’s most important.

So what tricks do you use to amp up your scenes beyond the ordinary?

Friday, May 16, 2014

Friday Links -- Volume 30

Another week.  Another weekend. You gotta love the way that works.

Before I give you this week's links, I have two other announcements to make.  First, Melissa Maygrove's debut novel, Come Back, released this week.  Congratulations, Melissa.  Check out the blurb below.

Second, Cherie Colyer's book, Challenging Destiny, is free for download until the 17th. Don't miss this opportunity to grab it!

Enjoy the links!

How Can We Show a Character's Internal Journey?

The No-Stress Way To Create Your Story’s Logline

The Why's, When's, and What-Not's for Opening a Story

Should Secondary Characters Change?

Prologues: Not as Evil as You Think

How a Good TV Show Can Help You Write (and Edit) Your Novel - Part One

Melissa's book
Sometimes a single choice 
alters the course of a person's life 

Left behind by everyone she loves...
Rebecca Garvey had the promise of a California future dreams are made of, until the wagon train her family was traveling with left her behind. Now she’s slowly dying in the wilderness, abandoned and stripped of her self-worth. Once the shock of her desertion turns to embittered despair, she doesn’t want to be found. Then a handsome stranger challenges her convictions and changes her mind.

Headed for Texas, chased by the demons of his past...
Seth Emerson knows exactly what he wants. Working to save for a cattle ranch of his own keeps him busy and keeps his pain buried. Rescuing a stubborn woman from the hills of New Mexico Territory isn’t part of his plan—but she’s exactly what he needs.

Making greater sacrifices than either of them could foresee...
Seth and Rebecca set off on a risky journey and a quest for truth, each healing the other’s love-starved soul along the way. Will they give in to their growing attraction?  Or will they honor their commitments when Seth returns Rebecca to civilization... and her betrothed?
Come Back
by Melissa Maygrove
Western Historical Romance
Adult / New Adult
Available May 12th from Truelove Press

Buy Links:

Native Texan Melissa Maygrove is a wife, mother, nurse, freelance editor, and romance writer. When she's not busy caring for her tiny nursery patients or shuttling teenagers back and forth to after-school activities, she's hunched over her laptop, complicating the lives of her imaginary friends and playing matchmaker. Melissa loves books with unpretentious characters and unforgettable romance, and she strives to create those same kinds of stories for her readers.

Where to find Melissa...

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Interior Thoughts Are Like Signposts For The Reader

One of the most common complaints I get from my critique partners is that they don’t know what my character is feeling. And the reason is all too obvious. I skimp on my character’s interior thoughts. Why? Because when I write, I assume the reader should be able to figure out what the character is feeling based on everything that’s happening around him. Shouldn’t that be enough?

No, because the reader doesn’t know the character as well as the writer does and because there’s rarely only one way in which a character might respond to an event. Is the character embarrassed when someone laughs at him, or does he become angry? Or defensive? Or confused? Without interior thoughts to help guide them, the reader may end up assuming a completely different emotion from what the writer intended. And based on comments by my CPs, that happens to me a lot.

Even if the reader guesses the right emotion, you’re still not making your story the best it can be if you skimp on interior thoughts. You want the reader to be emotionally invested in the story, and the best way to do that is to let them experience the character’s emotions right along with them. And that’s not happening if you don’t include the character’s interior thoughts.

But interior thoughts aren’t just about imparting feelings and emotions. They also act as signposts for reader, guiding them through the story, hopefully in the direction you wanted them to go. Want the reader to fall for a false clue? Let the MC think about the clue and the reader will often take the bait. Want the reader to detest another character? Make sure the MC thinks about how detestable that character is. If a reader sees your character thinking about something, they’ll assume it’s important.

This is doubly important for me because I write fantasies where unusual things happen around my MC or where my MC is surrounded by other characters with unusual habits or strange senses of humor. (Think Harry Potter or Percy Jackson or The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy kind of stuff). I’ve found that if I don’t take the time to have my MC reflecting on how unusual these events are, my CPs often end up staring at the page in confusion.

For example, if I have a secondary character open an umbrella before they walk inside a house, and leave it at that, my CPs will assume I miswrote the sentence. But if I have the MC stop and stare and think “what’s up with that?” then my CPs will assume there was a reason for this action, and will be willing to wait until that reason is revealed.

So if your CPs come to you and say they’re confused about a scene, see if adding more interior thoughts solves the problem.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Friday Links -- Volume 29

Not as many links this week, mostly because I haven't been receiving notifications of new content for the ridiculous number of blogs I follow.  In fact, I've been noticing a significant decline in email notifications for the past month. (I usually subscribe to emails notifications instead of RSS feeds).   I've tried resubscribing to some of the missing blogs, but all I get are messages that I'm already subscribed.  (So why aren't you sending me anything?)

After a little investigation, I've discovered that emails sent via Feedburner are no longer showing up in my mailbox.  Wordpress emails are fine.  Makes me wonder if my  blog's Feedburner emails are being delivered correctly.

I may just have to go back to RSS streams and Feedly.

Have a great weekend!

What Scandal Can Teach Us About Plotting and Tension

Dr. Watson, I Presume? The Importance of Killer Sidekicks

Digging for Writing Advice Gold

Top 5 WORLDBUILDING Must-haves

When Should We Skip a Scene in Our Story?

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Insecure Writer and the Sickness of Security

Today is May's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

Why am I an Insecure Writer this month? 

Hmmm… now that I think about it, I’m not feeling all that insecure at the moment.

I’ve made progress on my manuscripts. I think I understand showing and telling better than I did last month. I even managed to spruce up my blog’s template (Although I still have to add my blog’s name to the masthead! How did I miss that for so long?)

It’s not as if I don’t have plenty of insecurities about my writing, but I’ve documented them all in my previous IWSG posts. I have no new insecurities. That’s good… right?

To be honest, I’m not sure I’m comfortable with the concept of being a secure writer, even if it's only for a little while. I mean, aren’t writers always supposed to be insecure and stressed out over the things they can’t control? Even writers who’ve published more than one book admit to being insecure at times. Look it up on the Internet. Nature abhors vacuums and secure writers. Obviously, something must be wrong with me. 

Well, that settles it. As soon as I’m done with this post, I’m going to sit back and think real hard until I come up with some good old-fashioned, stomach-acid-inducing, not-being-able-to-sleep-at-night insecurities. Because if I can stockpile a few of them, I’ll be able to relax again, knowing I’m a proper writer.

BTW, if you wish to assist me in my quest for sanity, be sure to include your biggest insecurity in the comments below, and I’ll be more than happy to copy the ones I like.

My psychiatrist thanks you in advance.

BTW, I know another writer who should be feeling pretty secure right now. Her name is Melissa Maygrove, and her debut book, Come Back, will be released next week, so all she has to do now is sit back and wait for the checks and the accolades to come rolling in.

Be sure to stop by her blog and remind her how secure she ought to be feeling. ;)

Today's co-hosts for May are: Mark Koopmans, Joylene Nowell Butler, Elsie, and Lisa Buie-Collard!