Friday, July 31, 2015

Seven Writing Links -- Volume 87

Last weekend I went kayaking with my daughter and almost ended up drowning.  Okay, maybe it wasn't quite that dramatic, but my kayak did flip over and I'm a terrible swimmer.  The fact that I was wearing a lifejacket and that I happened to flip over in one of the shallower parts of the lake just lessens the entertainment value of the story , so I'm choosing to ignore that part.

Anyway, I hope this weekend is MUCH more relaxing and productive.

Enjoy the links!


The Key to Writing Good Action Scenes (Hint: It’s Not Just the Action)

Advice for Authors from a Bookseller’s Perspective

Pre-Orders, Sticking on Amazon, and Hitting Best Seller Lists

4 Key Ways to Ramp Up Tension and Pacing in Your Fiction

Hacking Your Reader’s Brain

The Difference Between Setup and Setup

Three Traps to Avoid in Love Stories

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Dialogue Isn't Real, It's Code For Real-Life Conversations

If you believe my critique partners, my dialogue writing skills have improved by leaps and bounds over the years. Sometimes I wonder if they’re simply being kind, but considering how poor my dialogue skills were back when I began writing over six years ago, I guess it wouldn’t have taken all that much for me to become noticeably better.

Perhaps it has something to do with being an introvert, more accustomed to listening than talking, but dialogue has never come naturally to me. Heck, six years ago, I didn’t write dialogue, I wrote telling summaries of dialogue. As if I was afraid of using quotation marks. It wasn’t until I compared my chapters with those in published books that I realized the problem. No wonder my chapters had seemed so short.  :(

Fast forward to the present and I’m feeling a lot more comfortable with the whole dialogue thing, although I still have plenty left to learn. If anything, my dialogue now goes on for too long. Experts tell us it’s what’s left unsaid that delivers the most punch, but leaving stuff unsaid leaves me with a queasy feeling in my stomach. (Maybe because I used to be a teacher) Having characters talking at cross purposes or evading each others questions or misunderstanding what the other is saying are techniques I still struggle with.

Lately, I’ve been paying attention to television dramas to see how their writers write dialogue. One of my favorite shows for this is “Suits.” Even though there’s plenty of conflict and tension during an episode—almost all of it revealed through dialogue—the dialogue exchanges are surprisingly short. In fact, they’re much too short to adequately cover everything the characters would really need to know. And that’s the point I’m beginning to understand. Dialogue isn’t there to communicate information between the characters, it’s there to relay information to the reader in a manner that maximizes its entertainment value.

Dialogue isn’t real-life conversation, it’s code for real-life conversation.

So what shows do you watch for the dialogue?


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Optimist/Pessimist Ratio for Writers

It seems to me writers live on the blade’s edge most of the time, precariously balanced between an almost childlike optimism and a no-holds-barred pessimism. It’s the nature of the beast.

To be a writer is to be an optimist. Only an optimist would spend years hunched over a keyboard, spilling their souls onto the page, shunning friends and family for long stretches, with absolutely no guarantee anyone will ever like their story—assuming it even gets finished. Heck, I’m not sure optimism is even the proper word. Perhaps delusional is a better choice. Either way, we writers are blessed with an almost amazing ability to ignore reality for long periods of time.

In between those periods of optimism, however, writers often find themselves deep in the abyss of pessimism. At least I know I do. Times when we’re convinced there’s no way anyone will like our story and, no matter how hard we try, no matter how much we study the craft, no matter how many gallons of ink we spill, nothing is ever going to change that simple fact. Those times when it seems the only reason we still write is because it’s the only way to purge that story that’s stuck inside our heads, screaming to be let out.

Hmmm… Maybe I should have saved these thoughts for the next Insecure Writers Support Group post.

Is your Optimist/Pessimist ratio greater than, equal to, or less than 1?


Friday, July 17, 2015

Seven Writing Links -- Volume 85

For those of you who stopped by my blog earlier this week expecting to find my usual Wednesday post, I apologize for my laziness.  I was making so much progress on my story I simply couldn't force myself to stop and write a post.  I know most of you will tell me that working on the story is more important, but I still wanted to apologize and thank you for stopping by.

If all goes as planned, the family and I are going to see Antman this weekend.  The reviews have been surprisingly good, which almost makes me wonder if there's something wrong with the movie.

Anyway, have a great weekend and enjoy the links!


Indie Authors: How to Get Visible in Libraries

Don’t Speak: The Power of What’s Left Unsaid When Crafting Dialogue

Cleaning Up Our Amazon Book Page

Another Post About Openings

How to Describe a Place

How Novelists Can Make “Unbelievable” Stories Feel Real

Blah Blah Blah: How Dead-End Dialogue Kills Pacing

Friday, July 10, 2015

Seven Writing Links -- Volume 84

Another week gone.  It always feels good to make it to Friday--unless I didn't get much writing accomplished during the week, which leaves me feeling a little depressed.  Fortunately I made good progress this week, so I'm satisfied.  Hope you all can say the same.

Enjoy the weekend and the links!


4 Ways to Create an ePub eBook

How to launch a book for fifty bucks

Why Query Letters Matter to Self-Published Authors, Too

6 Clues You’re Overusing Internal Dialogue in Your Fiction

Do Launch Parties Work?

The Only Self-Publishing Platforms You’ll Ever Need

When Friends and Family Read Your Book: Survival Tips

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Pushing Yourself As A Writer

Photo Courtesy Catherine Scott and Wikipedia Commons

Back when I was in graduate school, my advisor approached me about giving a presentation at one of national chemical society meetings that were held each fall. I was reluctant at first. I was still in the early stages of my research project, which meant I didn’t have much data to present, and the meeting was only six months away. Basically, my advisor was asking me to commit to standing up in front of a whole bunch of people I didn’t know and talk about data that didn’t exist yet, with no guarantee that the data would exist in six months either.

In the end, I decided to go for it, thinking that the pressure to generate data would be a good thing for me. And needless to say, it worked. The fear that I wouldn’t have enough data to keep from embarrassing myself got me into the lab early every day (well…almost) and kept me there late in the evening. Fortunately, the Fates were kind to me, so by the time the summer was over, I had enough data for a pretty nice talk. Although this experience taught me how much I could accomplish if I put my mind to it, I promised myself I’d never put myself in that kind of situation again.

So here we are, many years later, and I’m about to break that promise. I didn’t meet my writing goals last year, and at my present pace, I’m not going to meet them this year either. Why? Because there’s not enough pressure on me to write faster. I do belong to two critique groups, which you’d think would help keep me motivated, but it’s too easy for me to tell them I won’t have anything ready until the next meeting.

No more. Not only have I joined another couple of writing groups, I’m now promising them (and myself) that I will have something for them to read every time we meet. Heck, a few days ago I agreed to submit the beginnings of my next chapter at tomorrow night’s crit group, and those pages didn’t even exist yet. Am I spending every spare second this week working on those pages? You bet. Nothing like a little peer pressure to get one’s creative juices flowing.

I just hope the Fates are as kind to me as they were the last time.


Friday, July 3, 2015

Seven Writing Links -- Volume 83

Posting a bit later than usual today, but it's been a busy morning so far.  Unfortunately, none of it involved any sort of writing. :(

I plan on doing a lot of writing this weekend, but I dream of that every weekend, so who knows?

Hope everyone has a great 4th of July.
Enjoy the links!


SELF-e Gets Indie Books Into Library Catalogs

Openings: Intrigue Versus Engagement

Why "Start With the Action" Messes Up So Many Writers

Book Talk Checklist

How to Punch Up Your Action Scenes

3 Book Categories that Should Benefit Under the New KU

Oh, Woe Is Me: Giving Your Characters a Goal

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Insecure Writer and The Passage Of Time

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

Why am I an Insecure Writer this month? 

Because the year is officially half over and I’m nowhere near the goals I set for myself back in January.

It’s not that I didn’t see this coming. I knew I was behind schedule back in March, but I always convinced myself I would make up for my lack of progress in the next month. The next chapter will go faster, I’d tell myself, but it never did. So now I’m doubling down, doing everything I can to speed up the writing.

Not all the news is bad. I’m finding more and more ways to sneak in extra writing time, and even though I’m loathe to admit it at times, I am making steady progress, even if the light at the end of the tunnel still seems far, far away. The response from my crit partners has been encouraging and I find myself cringing less often these days when I look back over earlier chapters. Baby steps, perhaps, but maybe I’m figuring out this whole writing thing after all.

Still, it’s hard to fathom how I can give myself an entire year to complete a project and still be in trouble only six months in. It’s scary how time flies, especially when you see your children growing up and realize they’ll be leaving for college one of these days. I really need one of those Time Turners from Harry Potter to go back and savor these days over and over again.

How's the calendar treating you this year?