Monday, February 27, 2017

Creating Your Story Title




Something writers of multiple stories will experience: Titles may come to you in a flash. Some will take a bit of thinking through.
Say you’ve written your first and only story thus far. You may feel you have a great title for that one piece of prose. However, caution should be taken due to lack of experience in titles. You can only know how easy or how difficult choosing a title will be after you’ve written a few stories.
For the person who writes many stories or many books, again, choosing a title may come easy, or it may be one of the most difficult aspects of writing.
Some writers are unable to start a story unless they have a great title lined up. Then, with that title in mind, they set out to write, only to change the title once they see where the plot and characters lead them.
Some authors cannot title a story till it’s written and rewritten for the umpteenth time. Then they decide.
Whatever your preference, titles are just as important as the overall story itself.
Your book will first be judged by its title and cover art. Those are the first two criteria that will attract a potential buyer if they know nothing about you or your books. The title and cover must entice the viewer to look further and flip to the back cover and read the synopsis.
Here are some tips to help both the beginning writer and the experienced:

Your title should convey the overall message of the story.
An example would be if your story is about a crime taking place in an apple orchard. So, you title your book The Apple Orchard. Then you might have the front cover showing something happening in an orchard, or something related to the crime. Otherwise, a bland title like The Apple Orchard could represent anything from a romance to a UFO abduction under the apple trees. The title and cover of this book must work together.
An example of this type of title is Joseph Wambaugh’s The Onion Field. His cover is a very dark field with telephone poles and gorgeous sky in the distance. Not knowing the crime behind The Onion Field, you would have no idea what the story might be about. Wambaugh is just lucky enough to be a bestselling author so people know him and what type of stories he writes, but most of us are not yet bestselling authors.

We need more help to attract readers.

Use an important phrase from within your story. It can be from the narrative or a bit of dialogue.
In Down to the Needle, the character Joe Arno is goading Det. Britto to hurry. Time is running out. An innocent person will go to lethal injection. Arno says, “Do something, Britto. We don’t want this case to go down to the needle.” This story is about how the case slides mercilessly all the way down to the needle. In my mind, I asked myself: What better title could there be?
Be selective. Choose some of your very best lines of narration or dialogue. Use something enticing or revealing, or change the wording a bit to fit.
An overall theme: In River Bones, I selected from the overall theme. The Sacramento River runs through vast rural farm and crop lands. Tourists vacation in boats and some sidle in for anchorage and stay through the summer. Though illegal, they use the flowing river water as a garbage can and dump their leftover meat bones and other foodstuffs off the side of the boat. It’s easy to find bones here and there or washed up on river banks. It’s also easy to find bones when a crime is committed by a person who buries his victims in the soft damp river banks that promote decay.
I named that novel River Bones for that reason, also because just the mention of bones can send shivers down a person’s spine.
In order to decide just the right title for your story, think about what you’ve written or about your intended plot. Think about the best lines you’ve written or that are still rumbling around in your mind. Your title could be right there in your prose.



  BIO:

Mary Deal is an award-winning author of suspense/thrillers, a short story collection, writers' references, and self-help. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee, Artist and Photographer, and former newspaper columnist and magazine editor.

She has traveled most of her life and has a lifetime of many and diverse experiences, all of which remain in memory as fodder for her fiction. A native of California's Sacramento River Delta, where some of her stories are set, she has also lived in England, the Caribbean, and now resides in Honolulu, Hawaii. Having traveled a bit, she continues to paint and use her art and photography to create gorgeous products.

            LINK TO AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE

           LINK TO SMASHWORDS AUTHOR PAGE

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Writing Rules by Mary Deal



Writing rules are part of our free lesson plans to help you build an ever-growing repertoire of prose that has been published. You can make money writing. You’ll need published prose and much more being readied for submission in order to call yourself a writer.
Here are some DOs and DON’Ts to help aspirants over some stumbling blocks all writers face, whether you write short stories or novels, even nonfiction.

Do – write regardless what people may think. Write for yourself first. Set your muse free. Be driven. Write like your life depends on it.
Don’t –  worry what other people may think about your personal writing rules and habits. Avoid hearing negative comments—unless it’s a critique you have sought out. You write because something inside prompts you to do so.

Do – let your friends know that you are writing and it’s the reason you’re not around much.
Don’t – share the details of your stories with even your best friends because one negative remark, or a suggestion to do this or that a different way, can send your muse fleeing, causing self-doubt. Stick to your writing rules.

Do – carry your laptop or pen and notepad everywhere you go. Write down new material as soon as you think of it. Catch it when it’s fresh and you will also catch the emotion behind it.
Don’t – fool yourself into believing that you’ll remember all those great ideas that come to mind in a rush. If not noted when your muse presents them, the memory of the information may not carry the emotion and excitement you first felt.

Do – learn your peak creative times; maybe mornings, maybe evenings, or late at night.
Don’t – write when you feel sluggish. Do something to change your mood and how you feel. Go outdoors, listen to music, read. Take a nap if that refreshes you. Give your mind a chance to work out the scenes while you rest or get temporarily pre-occupied.

Do – set aside as much writing time as you need. Set a schedule and stick to it – unless your muse wants to write at all hours. Time set aside is, perhaps, when the young ones are down for their naps, or maybe after the rest of the family is in bed for the night.
Don’t – try to write when you have to rush around and your mind is full of to-dos that must be done immediately.

Do – turn off the TV and, maybe, even music if the latter distracts. If background music helps, fine.
Don’t – fool yourself into believing you must watch a certain show on TV in order to feel creative, or hear certain music. Oftentimes creativity is fleeting when learning of others’ successes. It brings us back to the knowledge that we’re not there yet when all we should think about is our own success.

Do – read books and other materials relative to the subject about which you write. A good example is how writers get ideas simply by reading the headlines. Also, reading writing rules in general can spark creativity.
Don’t – copy what you’ve read. Allow it to inspire you instead. What we writers produce is a product of all that our minds have absorbed. When we create, we are producing something that is unique to ourselves once our minds break down and reassemble knowledge into our understanding.

Do – allow yourself limited time socializing on the Internet. It’s important to keep yourself in public.
Don’t – allow any distraction that prevents you from your writing schedule. It’s one thing to market and promote your writing, another to fool yourself into believing you’re helping your professional career by chit-chatting about everything from the size of peas to shoestrings.

Do – have a clear mind when you write. During your chosen private time, think only of your stories and not about unfinished chores.
Don’t – try to write when you are angry or negatively emotional. That, of course, depends on what you’re writing. If a negative experience produces a heartfelt poem about your feelings, write it.

Do – set a goal to write X number of words or pages per day, if that motivates you.
Don’t – stop at X number of words or pages if they are pouring out and your muse is dancing all over your keyboard. Congratulate your muse and dance with her!

Do – get all your work edited if expecting to make money writing. Adhere to established writing rules. Knowledgeable friends can edit short pieces. Build your bank of benevolent friends who will help. Have several people available so you aren’t expecting one sole person to become your private critique group. Repay their kindnesses by taking them to dinner, remembering a birthday, or generally helping them when they need it. Longer stories like novellas and novels should be edited by a professional.
Don’t – believe you are an expert and that your grammar is perfect. Your grammar may be perfect but without an edit, you may have missed certain details, like a major plot point that needs to be tied up at the story’s end. A fresh set of eyes can spot problems like that. You won’t make money trying to shop unedited work.

Do – seek a knowledgeable person when looking for your first edits. An elderly auntie with time on her hands just won’t do, unless she’s a retired English teacher or similar professional. Remember: Friends and family will not tell you what’s wrong with your work for fear of hurting your feelings, but they may questionably stare at you a lot after reading your writing.
Don’t – show your work around endlessly looking for an emotional boost. It won’t happen. Period. Doing so is not on anyone’s list of writing rules. You’ll look like a beggar and nothing more. This is one of the best writing rules you can follow.

Do – see the results of an edit as constructive criticism and a stepping stone to learning to be a better writer. Put those critiques to work right away to improve your prose.
Don’t – see the edit as negative, no matter how harsh, no matter what and how much of your long, hard effort needs correcting. Resist shredding the critique or clicking the delete button. An edit that calls for corrections may be your ticket to a perfected piece of prose that could break your career wide open.

Do – read the results of your edit thoroughly. Accept what you feel applies; disregard the rest, but not too, too quickly. A good editor knows how to bring your piece of prose in line with what’s selling today. That is what you hope to accomplish, right? You want to become known as a professional.
Don’t – allow the suggested corrections to make you feel you are not much of a writer after all. Welcome any thorough edit. It gives you more improvement to consider. See the edit as the next step to having a polished piece of prose.

Do – set your prose aside for a few days or a couple of weeks once you feel it may now be the best you can make it. The waiting period is the time you will remember little ways to make the piece even better, like putting that final twirl on the frosting that’s already on the cake.
Don’t – forget to submit the finished piece should you become totally enthralled with your next story and it alone consumes your thoughts.

Do – submit your writing when you feel it is polished. If it’s ready, you need to begin to find places to submit your gem. Again, follow the writing rules of submissions.
Don’t – put your polished prose aside thinking no one will accept it. That’s self-defeating. Get over your hesitation. It’s only an unfounded fear of not measuring up. Instead, get excited about having finished something only you can write in your own inimitable way.

Do – follow submission guidelines. They are made available to help you zero in on markets that want your work. Many publishers produce their own free lesson plans on becoming a writer. These tell you what they in particular want to see in your submitted prose.
Don’t – take guidelines lightly, thinking you can slide past the instructions. If a publisher sets a word count, stay within it. Some publishers say they will entertain longer pieces but query first. If a publisher has a theme, stick to the theme, and don’t submit something that doesn’t fit just because it’s similar in quality to others they’ve published. Whatever the publisher requires, strictly adhere to the guidelines.

Do – continue working on other stories or books once you submit the finished ones. As you write, in time, you’ll be constantly aware of following writing rules and guideline protocols.
Don’t – think you have to wait to see what happens to this story before you work on others. Unfortunately, the odds are that most short stories get rejected, perhaps because short stories and other brief prose take less time to write and so many are written. What better way to get through rejection remorse than to have more prose either already submitted elsewhere or in various stages of completion.

Do – allow a publisher their stated time to consider your story or book manuscript. A publisher will set a deadline. That means they will not decide what they will publish till after the deadline. Many publishers tell you when you can expect a response. Many publishers have their own set of writing rules with which to judge your prose, and you will never know it.
Don’t – query—email, write, or call—the publisher the minute the deadline has passed. You may have to wait a couple months past the deadline to learn the disposition of your piece. If the publisher is in your town, don’t camp out at their doorway. After the deadline, they must read all those submissions. Usually one follow-up query after a reasonable waiting period is sufficient. When making a nuisance of yourself, you risk your prose being rejected because you’ll be thought of as too difficult to work with and there are just too many great writers out there already playing by the rules.

Do – enter contests. Enter contests charging fees only if your prose is some of the best on the market. You must have a stellar story and near-perfect writing to make it worth paying a fee.
Don’t – enter contests that charge a fee. This especially applies to new writers. Exceptions apply and you must discern for yourself. Unless someone like your favorite published author has told you that your writing is spectacular, don’t pay fees.

Do – send some sort of thank you to an editor who critiques, even in some small way. An email will do. If it’s all handled through the mail, splurge and buy a stamp and a thank you card. In fact, purchase a box of business-like thank you cards. You won’t find this in writing rules. It’s just a matter of professional graciousness.
Don’t – kiss off the editor who gives you a negative critique. Send that editor a thank you for their comments, saying that all comments help you improve your writing. All editors know one another. Can you see two or more editors or publishers sitting around having coffee and discussing clients? One says, “I sent one writer what I thought were constructive criticisms and what I got back was a nasty note telling me I didn’t know my business.”
Right away, the other editors ask, “Who is this person that we need to avoid?”

Do – send a huge thank you when your prose is accepted. Not gushing, mind you. Assuming you have a Web site, a thank you can be in the form of a link to your story on the publisher’s site. This is an important way you can support the editor or publisher’s effort. This is one of the rules you might follow last, but it is not the least of them.
Don’t – stay so long in shock at getting accepted that you forget to thank the publisher and do any follow up.

Do – have a Web site or blog where you can announce your acceptance. Do post on others’ blogs and Web sites where allowed. Build friendships in the writing world. Ask those friends if they will post a note about your story with a link to it or if they will exchange a permanent link with you. You setting a link to their site helps them too. Many blog and Web site owners are hungry for good information. Managing self-promotion will keep your name in public view.
Don’t – forget that you’re in this to leave your mark in the writing world. You won’t do it by keeping your accomplishments a modest secret.

Do – celebrate, perhaps according to the size and importance of your acceptance. One short story may not be worth a trip to Paris, but selling a novel and receiving an advance might.
Don’t – let one day go by when you don’t congratulate yourself. Whether or not you have acceptances, maybe all rejections so far, congratulate yourself for doing what you love, knowing you will be published more and more as you learn the ins and outs of the craft.

Final Notes: Writing rules provide guidelines to smooth your way into a solid career. Study any lesson plans you discover. They will help you not only with the publisher who offers them but can also be a sampling of market demands at the moment.
You can make money writing, so follow the writing rules. Polish those short stories, book manuscripts, articles, and pieces of prose, and send them out.
Write as if your life depends on it.


 BIO:

Mary Deal is an award-winning author of suspense/thrillers, a short story collection, writers' references, and self-help. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee, Artist and Photographer, and former newspaper columnist and magazine editor.

She has traveled most of her life and has a lifetime of many and diverse experiences, all of which remain in memory as fodder for her fiction. A native of California's Sacramento River Delta, where some of her stories are set, she has also lived in England, the Caribbean, and now resides in Honolulu, Hawaii. Having traveled a bit, she continues to paint and use her art and photography to create gorgeous products.

            LINK TO AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE

           LINK TO SMASHWORDS AUTHOR PAGE



Author, Painter, Photographer
Eric Hoffer Book Award Winner
National Indie Excellence Book Awards Finalist (past)
Pushcart Prize Nominee
Global eBook Awards Nominee
2014 National Indie Excellence Book Awards Finalist
Global eBook Awards Bronze
Global eBook Awards Silver
Art Gallery: http://www.MaryDealFineArt.com
Gift Gallery: zazzle.com/IslandImageGallery*

Thursday, February 9, 2017

9 Tips for Beginners


Tip #1 – Store Your Notes

Usually when I see great writing tips, I have a file set up in Word called - what else? Writing Tips. You should have one too.
I copy and paste the advice into my file to refer to when needed. Included is the name of the author of the tidbit, in case I wish to quote them at some future time. Any handwritten notes I’ve made as reminders also get posted there.
Simply for clarification: When quoting another person’s writing or spoken word, up to only 100 words may be used and the originator of the piece must be given credit.

Tip #2 – Be Prepared to Write

Keep writing materials handy no matter where you go. That one stunning idea you forgot to write down but were sure you’d remember, and then forgot completely, could have been the one fragment that made your story memorable.
We writers should make notes everywhere we go. If without a laptop, we carry note pads and pens. JK Rowling used paper table napkins because she used to sit in her favorite cafe lamenting her jobless plight - till a shift happened in her mind and she started penning the notes for her first novel.
Ernest Hemingway wrote on table napkins when sitting in one of his two favorite bars in Cuba, El Floridita and La Bodequita del Medio.

Tip #3 - Beginnings

Avoid using empty words to start a story. Some empty words are:
There - refers to a place
They - refers to people
That - refers to a thing
It - refers to almost anything

Without first knowing the content of your story, we have no idea to what each refers. For example, one person may write:
There were four of them.
Without yet knowing the story, ask yourself: There? Where were they? Who were they? A better way to bring the action forward would be to say,
Four of them appeared.
Or get directly into the meat of your story and say.
Four men dressed in black mysteriously appeared out of nowhere.
You can write much more succinctly when using descriptive words, and not empty ones to start a story or sentence or paragraph.
Exceptions are:
The Charles Dickens line: It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. I see no way to improve on that – or emulate it.
Also:  It was a dark and stormy night, coined by the Victorian writer, Edward Bulwer-Lytton in his 1830 novel Paul Clifford. Surely, you wouldn’t write: A dark and stormy night had overtaken us. Or would you?
Sentences beginning with It, especially beginning entire books, had their places in yesteryear’s prose. Such lackadaisical nondescript expressions are not acceptable in the descriptive writing demanded of these modern times.

Tip #4 – The First Word of a Story

The first word of the first sentence of the first paragraph under the story title must grab attention. The first sentence must sustain the attention, and on through the first paragraph. If the first word or sentence is boring, or says nothing in particular, the readers’ expectations of a good story are killed.
What effect does this sentence have on your expectations?
It was a quiet town with quiet people.
Does that give you any idea at all as to what the story might be about? As far as the reader knows from that line, nothing happens in that town. Boring.
You can use the word The to begin anywhere, but what follows must then become the attention grabber.
Here’s an example of starting with The from my adventure novel, Legacy of The Tropics:
The jagged scar on Pablo’s belly wriggled like a snake when he ran.

Here’s the attention grabber from my paranormal Egyptian suspense, The Ka:
“Witch!” Randy Osborne said as he strode around the room wearing a contemptible smirk.
And from my award-winning thriller, River Bones:
Blood-red letters filled the top of the monitor screen: Serial Killer Victim Identified.
Then from another of my next thrillers, Down to the Needle:
“The perp torched himself,” a fireman said, shouting to be heard over the clamor.
Whether narration or dialogue, start your stories with words and action that pull the reader into the scene.

Tip #5 - Use of the Passive Voice

Passive voice should be used with serious consideration as to how it affects your story.
A bad example: The house was cleaned by someone else. Here, the object of the action is incorrectly the subject of the sentence.
A good example: Someone else cleaned the house. Someone else did the action. That person should be the subject of the sentence. Ask yourself who or what is doing the action. They are the subject of the sentence. The action they are performing should not be the subject.
Passive voice can best be used, and sparingly, when writing in first person. Example: I was hit by the car.

Tip #6 – A Rejection for a Comma

My former publishing house editor returned my manuscript again after I made most of the changes suggested in the first edit. The editor referred me to the Chicago Manual of Style and told me to get it right.
Can you find what’s wrong with this sentence?
He mumbled as if confused, tried the knob, grunted and tried again.
The Chicago Manual of Style (Page 173 of my 14th Edition) says: 5.57 - In a series consisting of three or more elements, the elements are separated by commas. When a conjunction joins the last two elements in a series, a comma is used before the conjunction.
Therefore the corrected sentence is:
He mumbled as if confused, tried the knob, grunted, and tried again.
Did you spot the correction? Can you sense the difference as you read it?
In order to avoid rejections, the grammar in your story must conform to the rules, especially since knowing that publishers adhere to the Chicago Manual of Style.

Tip #7 – Avoid Splitting Infinitives

Be conscious of any form of to be. A great example of a split infinitive is: To boldly go where no man….
Everyone knows that line. It just doesn’t sound right to use: To go boldly where no man….
Look at these two:
“To be, or not to be.”
“To be, or to not be.”
Though split infinitives are a matter of style, incorrect usage at the wrong time can ruin a good story and make the writer seem like an amateur. Contradictory, incorrect usage at the right time can set your prose apart from all the rest. It can be done, but seldom. How many writers have produced lines of narration or dialogue that can compare to that line from Star Trek?

Tip #8 – Edit and Revise

We MUST edit and revise as many times as necessary to get it right. Otherwise, what could we expect but another rejection? Knowing if a story is right comes with experience of editing our own work as if it were someone else's prose.
Once writers think their stories are finished and polished, even though they may have had a great edit, they refuse to go through another rewrite. Then, I ask, what's the sense of having the piece edited? I edited major portions of my entire Ka novel manuscript - 885 manuscript pages (410 book pages) - a minimum of 30 times over four years and stopped counting after that.
Point is, the story had to be right before anyone other than my personal editors saw it. All of that happened before the publisher's editor saw it. Then there were two more edits following that person's sage advice.
Most of us writers are not English majors with PhD’s. No matter how good we believe our writing to be, editing is the only means to perfecting our craft.

Tip #9 - Reference Books


Get yourself a current copy of The Chicago Manual of Style: The Essential Guide for Writers, Editors and Publishers. I also recommend the Complete Stylist Handbook by Sheridan Baker and Writing with Clarity and Style by Robert A. Harris.

 BIO:

Mary Deal is an award-winning author of suspense/thrillers, a short story collection, writers' references, and self-help. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee, Artist and Photographer, and former newspaper columnist and magazine editor.

She has traveled most of her life and has a lifetime of many and diverse experiences, all of which remain in memory as fodder for her fiction. A native of California's Sacramento River Delta, where some of her stories are set, she has also lived in England, the Caribbean, and now resides in Honolulu, Hawaii. Having traveled a bit, she continues to paint and use her art and photography to create gorgeous products.

            LINK TO AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE

           LINK TO SMASHWORDS AUTHOR PAGE



Author, Painter, Photographer
Eric Hoffer Book Award Winner
National Indie Excellence Book Awards Finalist (past)
Pushcart Prize Nominee
Global eBook Awards Nominee
2014 National Indie Excellence Book Awards Finalist
Global eBook Awards Bronze
Global eBook Awards Silver
Art Gallery: http://www.MaryDealFineArt.com
Gift Gallery: zazzle.com/IslandImageGallery*

Monday, February 6, 2017

No Winter Song by Patricia Crandall

 

 
Birds
did not sing
in the winter wood
this season.
There was no trilling,
garbling or birdsong
to enchant the cold winds.
Gone, were the vibrant reds,
violet blues and
snowbird yellows.
The song was an unnatural
eerie silence.
 

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