Thank you

For your 200 likes.

I’m guessing you guys like my 13 word stories.
I will keep them coming while you still like them.

Cheers.

giphy

#13wordstory

For F-sake-Friday

Today in England (Britain/Brutain/UK?) is 4Fawkes-sake-Friday! A special evening indeed, the first night following Diwali, whereby fireworks, firelight and even tealight-type celebrations were withheld from all public areas other than those supported by one or few local BBC radio station events (apparently). Not quite tonight being Firework Night (as that’s tomorrow), I’m here while resting in bed taking up a belated challenge while enjoying some recommended listening, hoping those plenty near-off noises are only fireworks and not mortar fire(!) Sparing, our few thoughts for those global neighbours in the vicinity of such atrocities as war and violations of civilian life – and resisting the evil influences of political propogandas whilst we have no way of knowing…

The first Friday of each month we have this thing titled ‘3Quotes’ within our sidebar thing titled ‘Friday Special Feature’ and the weekly features page. @piyushavir these pages are in need of at least setting to private members view only please while active members can perhaps manage front-end with only open-forum structure in the meantime please? Also, @sashay909 – hoping that you are happy for the generic clip-art logo and font-over placement that you created for Blogger’s World to remain as forum visual branding for community benefit? Much appreciation for your DTP skills in creating such a strong identifier (and assuming all members have and remain happy with this logo?)

Of course you can all gladly vote me off membership and I’ll visit and only use comment spaces if that’s more appropriate support and of greater benefit to the wider community… however…

Recommended reading #1 https://blogging101alumni.wordpress.com/about/

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Timeless Writing Advice

I’ve been reading a controversial collection of short stories called Crimes of Love. (Oxford World Classic, translated by David Coward) The author is none other than the notorious Marquis de Sade. That’s right, the man’s whose name is the origin of the term sadism. Before you bail on me, just listen. As a preface to the collection, the Marquis includes his insightful Essay On Novels.  I am pleased to share some of his timeless wisdom with you today.

“The novel, if I may express it so, is the ‘picture of the manners of every age’. To the philosopher who seeks to know the nature of man, it is as indispensable as history. The historian’s pencil can draw a man only in his public roles, when he is not truly himself: ambition and pride cover his face with a mask which shows only these two passions and not the man entire. The novelist’s pen, on the other hand, captures his inner truth and catches him when he puts his mask aside, and the resulting sketch, which is far more interesting, is also much truer; that is the point of novels.”

“The first and most important requirement is an understanding of human nature.  … A man learns nothing when he talks; he learns by listening. Which is why those who talk the most are, in the ordinary run of things, fools.”

“Any fool can pick a rose and pluck its petals, but the man of genius breathes its scent and paints its forms: that is the kind of author we will read.”

“But while I advise you to embellish, I forbid you to depart from what is plausible. The reader has every right to feel aggrieved when he realizes that too much is being asked of him. He feels that the author is trying to deceive him, his pride suffers and he simply stops believing the moment he suspects he is being misled.”

“No one forces you to ply the trade you follow. But if you do choose it, then acquit yourself to the best of your ability. And above all, you should not think of writing as a way of earning your living. If you do, your work will smell of poverty. It will be colored by your weakness and be as thin as your hunger. There are other trades which you can take up…  Our opinion of you will not be any poorer, and since you will be sparing us acres of boredom, we may even think the better of you.”

Regarding characters:

“If you send your characters on a voyage, be sure you are acquainted with the countries where their travels lead them, and spin your tales with such magic that I can identify with them. Remember that I voyage at their side wherever you send them to, and that I may know more than you and will not excuse your errors in reporting manners and costumes nor forgive a geographic blunder.  …you must make your descriptions of your chosen localities authentic, or else you should stay at home. This is the only area of what you write where invention cannot be tolerated, unless the lands to which you transport me are imaginary.”

“Avoid any display of moral earnestness. Morality is not something anyone wants in a novel. … It should never be the author who preaches, but his characters, and even then only when the circumstances leave him no alternative.”

And finally, in his defense (because he was in trouble most of the time…) he writes:

“It is not my wish to make vice attractive. … I harbor no dangerous plan to make women love men who deceive them, but on the contrary, to ensure that they loathe them. …  And with this in mind I have made those of my heroes who tread the path of vice so repulsive that they will certainly inspire neither pity nor love. In this I make bold to claim that I am a more moral writer than those who make their villains attractive.”

Fascinating insight, no? And really, advice on novel writing that stands the test of time. As always I hope you enjoyed and found this helpful.

#weekly #creativewriting

Organize Your Writing

One of the things that can get out of hand quick when you’re writing a novel is keeping track of the details. As the story pours out beneath your fingers tapping away on the keyboard, you don’t want to have to stop and page back through the previous 10,000 words to find an important detail that’s relevant to a scene you’re currently developing. It might be things like who said what to whom, how many days have passed, does it makes sense with the way the plot is unfolding, and so forth.

I use several tools to organize my writing so as to avoid rereading the whole manuscript to find one detail. Here are a few of them:

  1. Timeline spread sheet:  this is essential for keeping track of the order of events. The way I do it is to decide on a date for the opening of the story, and since my books are set in present day, I usually pick a day and the date of the current year. Then for each day on which action happens, I make a brief note of the significant event. For days where nothing happens I may make an entry that reads: August 4-6 Jen waits for news from the police, or something like that.
  2. Character biography database: this can be as simple as writing your character’s physical description, age, career and hobbies on an inex card. I keep mine filed on another spreadsheet. Other details that are helpful to include are personality traits. List things like he is intelligent, short tempered, bossy, meek, shy, funny, easy going, intense, artistic, serious or grumpy. You may also include events that have shaped their life so far. For example they were raised in a wealth and comfort or they were abused as a child. They lived in the city or grew up on a farm. They might have been happily married and widowed or divorced with a nasty custody battle. All this helps shape the way your characters will act and react in certain situations.
  3. Pinterest boards: this is something that won’t appeal to everyone, but I like doing it. I create Pinterest boards for each of my novels and “cast actors” to “play the roles” of each character. This helps me to “see” the character perform the action in the story.
  4. Mapping the location: I physically draw the layout of my locations: the town, the character’s house or apartment layouts, and so forth, again to help me visualize the scenes. And you don’t need to be an artist to make this work for you. A crude map is fine. No one else has to see it!

Keeping track of the details means you won’t be making as many mistakes along the way. This will save you a lot of time and aggravation when you begin proofreading and editing. And being able to visualize your characters and the setting of your story will help make it more real to you and that will translate into your work. As always, I hope this was helpful. Have a great weekend, everyone!

#weekly #creativewriting

Need Inspiration? Then, watch TV!

Before I started hardcore watching television again, I had a month’s worth of writer’s block. I could barely write about Swiss cheese in an interesting way, no matter how hard I tried (to be fair, work has been crazy; thus, my creative juices had been sucked out of me). So, I became an information vegetable/sponge and started watching television at work. Oddly enough, my inspiration came from watching Littlest Pet Shop (2012). I really like the orange hedgehog named Russell. He is very similar to me because he is obsessed with neatness and order and is intellectual (and lets everyone know about it, too) and surprisingly the most social. So, my stories have involved him or rather, people being in love with him. Blythe, the human who takes care of the pets as her day job, is the person I pair him with. She is also similar to me because she works very hard and is always busy doing something productive. She also likes to balance many facets of her life like I do. Also, Russell is her favorite pet, so it only seemed appropriate (despite the non-canon aspect of this unique pairing). He also spends more time with her than any of the other pets do; there was an entire episode devoted to both of them spending alone time together at a sleepover at the pet shop (until Sunil (the moongoose) and Vinnie (the gecko) crashed the party). Also, there are many times when they are caught spending time together without the other pets (an example of when Russell is sitting on the sales counter while Blythe was the cashier). So, I’ve been writing a bunch of RussellxBlythe fan fiction; one of my stories is devoted to a spin-off of that episode.

So, if you have severe writer’s block like I do, you could always revert to writing fan fiction. I know that it might be frowned upon to encourage fan fiction, but it’s a good start to get out of having a writer’s block.

Xara Nahara O’Connor
#creativewriting #weekly

Unexpected consequences 

From Diary of a New writer – November 2015. This series chronicled my experiences as a first time self published author. And having just done it again for the fourth time, I can tell you, some things don’t change. 

This was the most difficult of all my diary entries to write. It’s a very personal post and one that I hope prepares some of you for the unexpected consequences of writing and publishing your first novel. This is not meant to be discouraging but it is realistic. When you write and publish your book, you might not get the reaction you expect. Not from the marketplace and not from your loved ones. For those of you who’ve already gone through this, I’d welcome you to share your experiences in the comments. Ok. Deep breath.

I had created this thing. This story I was so proud of. I enjoyed writing it. I enjoyed reading it. It was the kind of book I’d buy for myself. It had taken months to perfect. It was time to get the word out. The truth is, even with exhaustive marketing, it is tough to sell books. In fact, buried among all the other titles available in today’s market, it will be a miracle if anyone even finds your book. Sure you could spam the crap out of Twitter, Facebook and so forth. Tell me how many books caught your attention that way. … Right, me neither. Don’t be discouraged. It’s going to take time. You will not be an overnight success. If instant sales are important to you, consider doing some paid advertising. But please don’t tell me you are only in it for the money.

Here’s the rest of the story: Three Empty Frames was published at the end of June, 2015. There it was! Out there for everyone to read. I made a few early sales! Woo hoo! I announced it to my friends on Facebook and Instagram. Surprise! Apparently, not everyone is going to care that you wrote a book. Even worse, your family and friends might even think you’re crazy. Especially if you already have a day job, like me. (If you are a writer by profession and just starting out, that might be different.)

You know what? I am totally struggling with how to put this into words. I don’t want to make my friends who read this uncomfortable and I don’t want to come off as a whiner either. (I really hate whining!) Oh, who am I kidding, none of my real world friends are reading this blog anyway. And that’s kind of the point of this article. I really thought more people would be at least mildly interested in the fact that I wrote a novel! (This does not apply to a small group of my dear friends who were just as excited about the book as I was; they know this isn’t about them!)

But in general, hardly anyone asked me about it. Some who did would whisper to me, “I heard you wrote a book,” like it was a secret I was ashamed of. Like, “I heard you have toenail fungus. I’m so sorry.” Being a writer is not embarrassing, come on! Could it be that no one thought I could possibly be any good? Or was it, “Oh, she’s only self published,” with a snort and an eye roll, kind of thing? I’ll never know, because I will not ask. In fact, I’ve come to terms with it largely because I did ask the question in a safe place: a writer’s forum.

I was amazed to find out how many other writers experience the same responses from their friends and family. I will recreate that conversation here, without the names:
My question: How do your friends/family feel about your writing? Since writing is not my day job, it seems like nobody is really taking it seriously. It kind of hurts that no one seems to care that I’m doing this. I’m trying to not be oversensitive but it’s bumming me out. Anyone else have that experience?

Here are some answers:

J: I don’t really talk to my family about my writing–I’ve been writing since I was a kid, so they know I like doing it and that’s all they need to know. I talk about writing with my friends, but my real life friends aren’t writers, so there’s only so much they want to hear about it. It doesn’t matter if people in your life don’t take it seriously. Do you take it seriously? Will you pursue it no matter what they say? Is it something you enjoy? Also, make some writing friends. It’ll help you out tons if you have some people who understand what you go through

L: It’s pretty common, I think. My family supports me on a superficial level, but they don’t understand what it takes to put a novel together. Keep in touch with your writing tribe — we understand.

S: My family and friends roll their eyes even after my 4th book got published

R: My family and spouse are all hugely supportive. Most friends too. I did have a friend who I shared a writing frustration with (she asked how it was going and I went beyond “fine”). She told me “good thing it’s just a hobby.” She meant to make me feel better. By then I had contracted with an agent and had a book on submission to pub houses. I was beyond hobby. I told her as much, kindly, but it was always awkward after that.

D: Hi Meg–I’d be lying if I said that writing isn’t a lonely place. You’re going to come to find that no one in your life is as interested in your writing as you are. And that’s okay! Because there are loads of us out there who understand exactly what you are going through right now, and we’re here for you. And we care about your writing. We know what goes into it: the heartache, the tears. We know how hard it is when a loved one seems disinterested. Try not to take it personally. People who don’t write aren’t as interested in writing because they have no way of knowing how much goes into it and why it’s so truly important to us. We get it though, Meg. We’re with you. You are so, SO not alone in this!!!

Some fabulous advice there. Yes, being a writer is a lonely endeavor. Unless you quickly make it to the best seller list, it will likely be your experience too. Remember that your blogging buddies and writing group pals will understand. Join forums, find other writers and make friends. These are the people who will relate to your struggles, help when you need advice, give you a kick in the butt when you’re moping and rejoice with you when you succeed! My door is always open for anyone who needs it. As a new writer, I might not have all the answers but I promise I’ll listen!

#weekly #creativewriting

It’s time to edit…

You’ve finished your novel, now what?

The next task was to go back, re-read and polish it up.  At this stage, most successful authors hand the manuscript off to their trusted editors.  You, on the other hand, are a nobody, fumbling along on your own.  What do you do now?  Try and self edit?  Shell out the cash to have a pro take a look?  Decisions, decisions.

What exactly does editing entail? There are two basic aspects: editing and proof-reading. A thorough edit may involve closing plot holes, altering time lines, rewriting clumsy dialogue, etc. whereas proof reading is more about finding grammatical errors, misspellings and punctuation errors.

When I finished my first novel, I picked option number one.  Why?  Because as a first time, unpublished author, I didn’t feel I had the luxury of going with a pro.  Professional editing can get expensive.  Depending on the length of your document and the level of editing you choose, it can cost several hundred to several thousand dollars.  I did however, have a couple of cards up my sleeve.

One: I knew a guy.  My friend Kevin (not Fictional Kevin, my other friend, real life Kevin) used to work for a big publishing house and was able to give some needed advice.  He read the book for me and without actually editing, gave me some valuable pointers on polishing it up.  Two:  I knew another guy.  (Yeah, I have a lot of guy friends!)  My friend Brett is an English teacher.  He gave it a once over and pointed out some of the grammatical errors I was making.

Lastly, after I had read, re-read, re-written, and corrected my errors, I handed the finished manuscript off to some beta readers.  What is a beta reader?  The term simply refers to a non-professional reader who will read your manuscript with an eye to finding plot holes, disruptions in continuity, grammar and spelling mistakes and possibly highlighting aspects of the story that might be unbelievable.  The thing with choosing beta readers is this:  make sure they aren’t just going to tell you what you want to hear because they don’t want to hurt your feelings.  You NEED constructive criticism!  So your mom and dad, husband or wife might not be the best choice for beta readers!

Are you in a book club?  Ask your group to beta read for you.  How about an online writer’s group?  Some folks there might help you out.  Ask your blogging buddies here on WordPress to read for you.  Just be sure to choose people who will give you an honest opinion and some thoughtful feedback.  And attach a copyright warning to anything you send out, too.

Finally, when you’ve made changes based on the feedback you’ve received, put the manuscript down.  Walk away.  Take a break and read something else.  Then, after some time has gone by, pick it up and read it through one last time.  There is a point at which, you just need to stop screwing with it and put it out there!

#weekly #creativewriting