Writer’s Wednesday with Tim Waggoner: Avoiding What’s Been Done To Death

Having a horror writer as today’s guest–it being Halloween– seemed to be fitting. I was first introduced to Tim’s writing over ten years ago by a mutual friend. I was looking for a few writers to invite to write stories for an anthology I was putting together, and it was suggested I contact Tim. After reading Tim’s short stories, I was hooked. He’s a talented writer, and a wonderful person.  I’m thrilled to have Tim as our guest today!

Tim Waggoner wrote his first story at the age of five, when he created a comic book version of King Kong vs. Godzilla on a stenographer’s pad. It took him a few more years until he began selling professionally, though. He has published more than twenty novels and two short story collections. He teaches creative writing at Sinclair Community College and in Seton Hill University’s Master of Fine Arts in Writing Popular Fiction program. He hopes to continue writing and teaching until he keels over dead, after which he wants to be stuffed and mounted, and then placed in front of his computer terminal. Visit Tim’s website at: http://timwaggoner.com/

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” –H.P. Lovecraft

Writers often refer to the above quote when discussing what makes great horror fiction, but when they do so, they’re usually referring to the fear part. But I want to highlight the word unknown, specifically referring to the elements writers build their stories from. Genre fiction is marked by certain shared elements called tropes, but when a trope becomes too familiar and overused, it loses it power and descends into cliché. The princess that needs rescuing by a handsome prince, apocalypse survivors named Adam and Eve, a character doesn’t realize until the end of the story that he or she has been dead all along . . . Each of these ideas may have been fresh once, but now they’re stale to the point of fossilization.

Clichés like this are especially deadly in horror fiction. Once something is known, it can’t be unknown. Vampires, werewolves, witches, zombies, knife-wielding serial killers, abduction-obsessed aliens, haunted houses . . . An audience raised on a steady diet of horror – especially horror movies – has encountered each of those tropes and more dozens of times, and if you use them in your horror fiction, you’re more likely to elicit yawns of boredom then you are shivers of delight.

But there are ways to take dull, flat tropes and, like Dr. Frankenstein cobbling together a new creation from bits and pieces of the dead, make them live again. Let me tell you how.

Deconstruct Tropes:

Tropes exist because they embody a primal idea. The trick is understanding what that idea is. Take Jason from the Friday the 13th movies. What does he look like? He’s a silent figure who wears a white mask and featureless dark clothing, carries a bladed weapon and relentlessly hunts down his victims. Remind you of any well-known myth image? If any of you said the Grim Reaper, go the front of the class. White hockey mask = skull face. Dark clothes = black robe. Machete = scythe. Jason worked so well for audiences because they instinctively recognized the trope he was built on. He’s the embodiment of Death.

In my story “Anubis Has Left the Building,” I wrote about the ancient view of death versus a modern view. Anubis embodies the old gods of death: mysterious, powerful, terrifying, and majestic. For the modern god of death, I used a disaffected youth to whom the end of life is nothing more than a simple biological process. As he says, “Sometimes meat moves, sometimes it doesn’t.” Anubis represents an old trope, and the youth represents that trope deconstructed and reworked for the modern age.

In my novel Darkness Wakes, there’s a creature called the Overshadow. If you feed it the life force of another, it will directly stimulate the pleasure center of your brain, giving you ecstasy unlike anything you’ve ever known. At no place in the novel do I use the word vampire, but that’s the trope I built my monster from. By reworking tropes, I’m able to avoid reader’s preconceptions, and I can focus on the concepts underlying those tropes. In the case of Darkness Wakes, I wanted to focus on the ideas of symbiosis and addiction, and the Overshadow allowed me to do this without centuries’ worth of vampire baggage getting in the way. You can do the same with your stories. Pick a trope, strip it down to its essential core, and then rebuild it. Or to put it more simply, take your trope shopping and buy it some new clothes.

Use Tropes From Other Cultures:

Remember when Japanese-inspired horror was all the rage in America? Movies like The Ring and The Grudge were big box office, and the reason was simple. They presented tropes that were fresh to American audiences. Of course, those tropes have become clichés of their own now, but there’s still a world’s worth of legend and myth for you to draw on to help you write your own stories.

For example, I recently heard that according to an Hawaiian creation myth, our universe was born from the death of a previous universe, and the only creature to survive this process of destruction and rebirth is the octopus. Now, you don’t have to use this myth in its entirety. You can take the basic concept of an endless process of universes dying and being reborn, with one creature from the previous universe always surviving. Maybe this survivor hates the new universe and is determined to bring about its death. Maybe this is how the cycle is supposed to work. That would mean the “monster” is actually a vital part of the cosmic scheme of things, and in that sense, not a villain at all.

And there you have a brand-new trope, born out of another culture’s myth. All it takes is a little research and a little imagination.

Find Analogues of Tropes:

Let’s say you want to write a zombie apocalypse story, but – ever mindful of to avoid clichés in your horror – you want to create something fresh. Pick one aspect of the trope and take a step sideways with it. In this case, let’s choose the contagion aspect of the zombie apocalypse, along with the loss of identity. Maybe some force – the government, an evil corporation, a foreign power, extraterrestrials – have created a virus that destroys a human’s psyche, overwriting it with a single personality and set of memories, effectively creating a race of mental clones who are really many expressions of one individual. No flesh-eating, reanimated dead here, but that’s the point. You’ve grabbed hold of an old idea, taken a “step to the left,” as they say in Rocky Horror, and by doing so made it seem new again.

Combine Tropes Or Elements of Tropes:

Take a werewolf, an evil spirit inhabiting a mortal body, and a serial killer, throw them into your mental Mixmaster, and viola! You have a character who, when the sun goes down, becomes possessed by the spirit of a killer. Take a mad scientist, the concept of eternal punishment in Hell, and witchcraft. Mix well, and you get a scientist who’s created a virtual reality program that simulates Hell, perhaps as some kind of extreme psychological therapy. But one of the subjects in his experiment is taught dark magic within the simulation – magic that somehow actually operates in the real world, much to the scientist’s dismay.

Learn to mix and match tropes like this, and you’ll have an endless supply of story ideas.

Create Your Own Tropes:

Aristotle said the only way to get to the universal is through the particular. Want to find new tropes to create your horror from, tropes that will strike a universal chord in your readers? Then start by taking a good look inside yourself.

What are you (and no one else) afraid of?:

      Death, torture, mutilation, the loss of a loved one – especially a child . . . Humans share so many fears. But if you want to create a new trope, you need to find out what you as an individual are afraid of that’s unique to you.

When I was a child, my sister and I were afraid of feathers and band-aids. I can’t remember which of us was scared by which item, nor do I remember why we found them so frightening. But those innocuous objects don’t, in and of themselves, conjure up feelings of fear for most people. That makes them ripe ideas to base new tropes on.

When I was in fifth grade, my dad took me to see Jaws in the theater. Not long afterward, I was taking a shower, and it occurred to me that I was surrounded by water, like in the movie, and I imagined a shark emerging from the shower head, expanding to full size as it came, like some kind of bizarre cartoon character. It’s a strange imagine, one I could easily base a new trope on.

Look To Your Dreams:

I have to admit to not having a lot of experience in this area. My dreams are usually quite dull, consisting of me talking to people I don’t know (and no, I don’t remember what we talk about). But sometimes I have nightmares of all the lights going off and someone pounding violently at the front door. And sometimes I dream of wandering through an endless series of rooms with no way out. Neither of these scenarios seems all that interesting to me, but I know people who have wild, incredibly vivid dreams. And if you’re lucky enough to have an interesting dream life, make it a habit to record your dreams in a notebook every morning upon awakening. I bet you’ll come up with numerous original ideas for your horror fiction, thanks to your own subconscious (which is no doubt far more inventive than mine!).

Pay Attention to the Wonderfully Weird World Around You:

      I do this a lot. I make it a point to be, as Henry James said, one of those people “on whom nothing is lost.” I’m constantly looking around, checking out my environment in search of anything that strikes me as a strange. As soon as I see something cool, I open the note app on my phone and write it down before I forget it. I figure that if I’m the only person in the world who notices something, then it’s bound to be a new trope when I eventually incorporate it in a story.

For example, I often write in Starbucks, and one time in the very store where I’m now at (sitting, as a matter of fact, at the same table where I’m writing this), I saw a man staring at his laptop, muttering over and over, “What are you doing here? What are you doing here?” I also once saw a woman breathe on her hand and then wipe it across the seat of a chair before sitting. Also at this store I once saw a girl child wearing what looked like a wedding ring. I’ve already used the muttering man in a story. The hand-breather and child bride are still on my list, waiting to be used.

While driving around town, I once saw a vehicle that had the word Soulless on it and a personalized plate that read SKINNER. Intrigued, I followed it to a restaurant called the Chop House. And people wonder why I write the kind of stories I write.

All of these images/events are things that I noticed. Who knows what kind of things you’ll notice if you start paying more attention to your surroundings? And that’s the point – we don’t know. We can’t. And that’s why what strikes you as strange and interesting can make for the most original horror tropes of all – because they’re your observations and no one else’s.

So go forth and venture into the unknown – and make sure to take the rest of us with you. To paraphrase Clive Barker’s Hellraiser: you have such sights to show us.

For Further Reference:

Not sure what ideas are clichéd in horror? Then check out these sites:

“Horror Cliches” http://horror.about.com/od/horrorthemelists/ig/Horror-Movie-Cliches/Dollheads2.htm

“10 Cliches Horror Writers Should Try to Avoid” http://writinghood.com/writing/10-cliches-horror-writers-should-try-to-avoid/

“Horror Fiction: Ten Cliches to Avoid” http://horror.fictionfactor.com/articles/cliches.html

“Horror Stories We’ve Seen Too Often” http://www.strangehorizons.com/guidelines/fiction-common-horror.shtml

“51 Worst Horror Movie Cliches” http://www.dreadcentral.com/story/51-worst-horror-movie-cliches

Thank you, Tim, for being our guest today, and for the great tips! In case you’re wondering, yes, Tim did write a story for me. Two, in fact. 🙂  “Fixer-Upper” appeared in Single White Vampire Seeks Same, and “All In the Execution” for Places To Be, People To Kill. If you have questions or comments for Tim, he’ll be with us all day. Thank you!

Writer’s Wednesday: Bryan Thomas Schmidt And Writing For Children

BTS & Friend

Today, we’d like to welcome Bryan Thomas Schmidt to The Editing Essentials! Bryan is an author and editor of adult and children’s speculative fiction. His debut novel,The Worker Prince (2011) received an Honorable Mention on Barnes & Noble’s Book Club’s Year’s Best SF releases in 2011. A sequel The Returning followed in 2012. The Exodus will appear in 2013, completing the Saga Of Davi Rhii. His first children’s books are 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Books For Kids and Abraham Lincoln: Dinosaur Hunter- Land Of Legends. His short stories have appeared in magazines, anthologies and online. He  has also edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6. He hosts #sffwrtcht (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer’s Chat) Wednesdays at 9 pm ET on Twitter and is an affiliate member of the SFWA. Visit his website at: http://bryanthomasschmidt.net/

Making the transition from writing adult novels to children’s books can be challenging. There are both advantages and disadvantages to be considered. Vocabulary, plotting, descriptions, dialogue–so many aspects must be simpler, depending on the age group targeted for the book. But children are the most enthusiastic audiences (usually), much more so than adults. Their eyes light up when you’re introduced as an author and when you read to them. They look at the silliest illustrations with utter seriousness and laugh at the jokes with gusto, even when they’re mildly amusing ones. Here are some of the considerations authors have to consider in making the switch.

Advantages: Enthusiastic, eager readers and parents used to buying lots of entertainment for their kids at all kinds of prices. If your book has educational or historical elements, all the better. Then they feel even better about buying it. And if readers fall in love with you young, they may grow up and follow you from kid’s books to adult books. So, in a way, you’re helping raise your long term audience.

Children’s books are shorter and illustrated so it’s fun to see your story come to life in visual ways, and you can also write more books in less time. The advances are often larger than those for novels, depending on the writer, reputation and how much they like the plot or series. The market for children’s books is good.

But the biggest advantage for me has been creative freedom. Suspension of disbelief is a lot easier for kids than adults. You can posit many things to kids that they’ll accept which adults would demand more evidence of. For example, in my Abraham Lincoln: Dinosaur Hunter series, 9 year old Abe and Davy Crockett are sent back in time with two others by accident. Coming up with complex time travel theory was unnecessary. Being accurate with which dinosaurs and plants lived in which geography and proximity was not so important. As long as the names and basic facts match science and history, you can provide education and entertainment at the same time while having a lot of fun writing it. These books are some of the funnest stories I’ve gotten to write. I mean, how often do you get to write scenes with Abe Lincoln narrating Davy Crockett wrestling a saber-toothed tiger and fighting off bears and T-Rexes? As Mike Resnick put it, “Not often enough.” It’s a blast!

Disadvantages: Kids learn fast but appropriate vocabulary and sentence structures/length are a concern. The general rule is to not have sentences with more than two more words than the age of the oldest child in the age range of the intended audience. Writers and publishers fudge this though, because so many kids vary in their development cycle. A second grader can be reading at a sixth grade level and will want more complicated books and so on. This makes it easier for the writer on vocabulary, but harder on audience pitch because sometimes two friends whose reading is not at the same level can’t share books like they might want to. Disappointing children and parents is always disappointing, especially when you did your best.

A similar issue is dealing with description and nuances. Kids at different intellectual levels but the same age will understand things differently. Keep it too straight and simple, you bore the more developed children. Go the opposite way, you lose the less developed ones. On top of that, some kids handle violence and intense content better than others. So you have to write in a way that lets them off the hook in the right amount of time to avoid creating trauma or unnecessary fear for your readers. This often means altering your writing style in other ways. Also, schools and parents will evaluate content for a book based on varied criteria. So you have to leave out grittier elements which adults may take for granted and be very meticulous in choosing words and phrases, etc.

In truth, writing children’s books helps me write more clearly for adults. It also allows me to think and play outside the box, which keeps me fresh and happy and energized when I dive back into my novels. Plus, I have yet to see many adult reader’s faces light up the same way kid reader’s faces do when I show up for a reading or signing. And the hugs, well, they’re better than chocolate (or close). Writing for kid’s has taken me back to the age of wonder I had as a creative child, making up stories. It’s given me a chance to revisit old favorite authors and books. And it’s also encouraged me to write the kinds of stories I never would have dared otherwise. All in all, not such a bad thing, when you’re a writer.

Thank you, Bryan, for being here today and giving us great tips on writing for children! Please feel free to ask Bryan questions today. Thank you!




Writer’s Wednesday: Casey Clifford And How She Wrote Multiple Books In One Year

I first met Casey at a writer’s conference a few years ago. I felt instantly welcomed by her warm spirit and her love of writing. When she shared her story with me recently of the amount of work she had produced in the last few years, I knew other writers could gain from her experiences. Please welcome Casey Clifford to The Editing Essentials!

Born and raised in Wisconsin, Casey Clifford retired from college teaching and writes women’s fiction and romantic suspense. Her debut novel won the Holt Medallion for Best First Book and the Write Touch Readers’ Award for Best Romantic Suspense. She enjoys speaking about craft, writing under pressure and for pleasure, and motivation techniques for writers. She’s a seasoned woman who uses her experiences and her observations of life to enhance the stories she creates. Those stories always involve love, family, friends, good food, great wine, superb desserts, and problems–big or small. Just like life. Her Sunday blog does also. Visit these sites to learn more about Casey’s books: http://caseyclifford.wordpress.com/ or her Amazon Author page: http://amzn.com/e/B0046UYW3G

Brittiany suggested I write a few words about how I produced 4 books in one year. First of all I want to clarify I didn’t start from scratch, and the time frame was more like 14-15 months.

In the fall of 2010, I sold my second romantic suspense An Island No More to The Wild Rose Press. Edits didn’t begin immediately, but were scheduled to start early January 2011. My editor had a family emergency which shoved my start date into early February. The email with her suggestions, comments, and requested changes/edits arrived the same day my son died unexpectedly. Since I was his closest living relative, I faced edits and funeral arrangements simultaneously. I notified her and she offered an extension but that would put me at the bottom of her project list. Not going to happen. I said I’d meet her deadline and did. I edited through my grief.

My son’s death affected me deeply. He was too young to die. But his death forced me to come to terms with the fact that I was getting older. And I had many stories I wanted to get into the hands of readers. Traditional publishing is a process of being patient and waiting–contract to published can take up to 2 years. I could die before I produced another book publishers would take to contract. This was especially true for the women’s fiction stories that were really exciting me. My agent told me she loved my book, but couldn’t sell it. However, she believed readers would love it, so I listened when she suggested I look into independent publishing. I heard the buzz on the loops and from writers I knew personally who had taken the plunge and published some of their work independently.

After I finished with the edits on An Island No More in March, I decided to take out those manuscripts that editors had rejected for reasons that had nothing to do with readers but everything to do with not wanting to take a chance on something just a bit different from an unknown author. Then I got to work.

Revision was my way of dealing with my stress. Polishing and fine-tuning manuscripts I’d worked on and set aside because the “market wasn’t ready” or “romance can’t have the hero and heroine married to each other,” I realized I was now writing love stories of a sort. So in October 2011, I independently published Seasons of Wine and Love, a romance with a 40ish heroine/hero, which isn’t the norm. In December 2011, Fireweed went live. That one continues the adventures of Caitlin and Mike from my award-winning first novel, Black Ribbon Affair. But now they’re married so it’s not a romance. In February 2012, Better Than Dessert was published. In September More Than A Trifle went live. These last two are part of my ongoing women’s fiction series about a group of women friends in their early 50s. Each book is stand alone but characters continue and new ones are introduced. Each book centers on one of the friends who’s dealing with a serious life-changing event.

Only More Than A Trifle wasn’t finished in rough draft in 2011. So I guess I’ve polished and produced 5 books in 14 months.


As I mentioned. I’m driven to write–initially to work though my grief at the death of my son. Also, I love the process. Even the boring parts like doing that final check for too often repeated words excite me. Yeah, I know I’m crazy. I’d rather write than promote which isn’t a good thing. From what I’ve read, if you’re not good at promotion, then have more books available. I’m trying. 🙂

Besides being driven, I’m blessed with an adorable husband who loves to cook and grocery shop and supports my need to write. This allows me time to work uninterrupted in my office every day. And I do mean every day.

I set monthly goals and weekly goals to achieve them. I retired to my second career as a writer so I keep a daily log of what I accomplish each day to achieve those weekly goals. Generally I spend a minimum of 2 hours writing/researching/editing. One day is a “free” day, usually Sunday, but I’m reading or catching up on PR items on that day unless I’m doing something with my family. Holidays the writing schedule lightens but that means I only write/edit an hour a day unless we’re traveling. With my laptop I get writing in before anyone else gets up.

I have my own writing process but that’s another article. However, I will leave you with 2 ideas to ponder.

1.  A rough draft is a rough draft. Get your story on paper or in a file and don’t worry about making it pretty. After 27 years of teaching writing, I understand when ideas flow, let them flow and don’t worry about perfection. The more you do this, the better your rough drafts will get. No, they won’t be perfect, but those elements you’re strongest in will become stronger and those weak ones? They get better.

2.  Don’t believe in writer’s block. If you don’t know where to start, start where your mind takes you. With that scene that’s playing in your head–you know the one. OR maybe you need to do a bit more research or thinking about your characters, setting, that scene where you think you should start. Maybe write the setting, only hitting all your senses concerning it. Or “interview” an interesting secondary character. Or your hunky hero. Or that love scene you’ve been thinking about. Or the ending that you know exactly how you want to write. Any of these will get you going. You’re a writer, all you need sometimes is that little push.

I appreciate this opportunity to share my story with you. I’ll be available to answer any questions and in fact would love to hear from you. Write well. 🙂

Thanks so much for being our guest today, Casey! We hope you enjoyed her story, and learned something from her experiences. Please feel free to ask questions. She’ll be here with us all day.

Learning the Craft

E. Tip of the Day: Reading something outside the genre you normally read or write in is important to the writing craft. It keeps writers fresh and alert for new ideas. For instance, try reading the classic The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury if you normally write mystery or romance. Pay attention to how the words flow, the poetic way Bradbury weaves irony into the storyline, and how the story may be written so different from what you may normally write yourself. You may learn something new about the Science Fiction genre, and about your own writing!

Writer’s Wednesday, Author Eleanor Tatum With Her New Novel, Swamp Run

Social media can be a fun way to meet people, and that’s exactly how I first met Eleanor, on the Written Dreams Facebook page! We’re so excited to help Eleanor promote her latest novel released in early September. Please help me welcome Eleanor to The Editing Essentials!


Never a fast runner, Eleanor Tatum discovered the joys and advantages of walking. She would listen to classical music and remember the wildlife around her swamp. She would wave at the passing drivers as if thanking them for not hitting her. While she walked, she would imagine their faces in a romantic plot and surround them with the ducks, cranes and yes, the alligators. Before giving up her day job, Eleanor would walk in the mornings and swiftly jot down her ideas. The ideas turned to research, and the research to background and plot. She found it both exciting and soothing. Publication brought the willingness to share, to entertain, to offer an escape. Eleanor lives with her handsome, brilliant husband, and the turtles, bugs, cranes, ducks, water weeds, and yes, even the alligators in the swamps of southeastern North Carolina. Visit her website and blog at: http://eleanortatum.com

Cooking Advice

     “I could write a book.”

Soon after the publication of my first novel, I heard those words spoken and the meanness in me silently screamed, “Yeah, but you didn’t.” So many people say they can write a book, but never do. The speaker went on to say a few caustic remarks about her husband. If that’s what she would write about in her book, it probably wouldn’t sell unless his hair had fifty shades of gray. My acquaintance with the marital problems should instead write her book pitting her husband’s character against an active problem in a solution-supporting setting. Then, she’d most likely be successful.

The fictional books I’ve enjoyed the most, (of course, yes, mine included), took the subjects (husbands, drugs, travel, or poisonous blooms in India) mixed with fascinating characters, sensual settings, plausible plots, and sensuous solutions.

The mixture from Swamp Run stole bits and precious pieces from my childhood, such as Bostonian attorneys. Some were taken from my travels along Interstate 95, both north and south. Real settings were mixed with fictional solutions to please my romantic heroes. A forest fire was survived by this author sans the tall oak tree. There’s really a lovely state park near my swampy home and, of course, the island and alligators are real and respected.


Mixture is the key.

If you want to have a novel readers will enjoy, use a variety of culture, characters, and storyline. Since my next novel is Swamp Secret, I have two thirds of the project completed. Now for the characters stirring the mix…how about a beautiful medical researcher solving crimes with a handsome gambling addicted lawman?

Thank you, Eleanor, for your sharing your experiences with us! Please feel free to share comments or questions with Eleanor. She’ll be with us all day. Thank you!

Building a Local Readership

E. Tip of the Day: Having a successful writing career takes many different skills. Knowing how to market your novel(s) to a broad audience is one of the most important skills you need to be educated in. Contact us if you’re struggling to market your novel. We can help!

How to build local readership:

1.      Visit all book stores, libraries, schools, universities, craft fairs, and any other large gathering places in your area. Ask if you can do book signings.

2.      Send over-sized post cards out to libraries/book stores/businesses. Cross-market  especially with those businesses that may have an interest in displaying the theme of your novel. An example would be: Dorothy St. James writes the White House Gardener series and promotes the books in flower shops/greenhouses.

3.      Take out small print ads in community magazines/newsletters/musical programs. For instance, local ads in a school sport or music program. This is a great way to build local readership, and support the fine arts in your community.

4.      Ask your favorite local radio and TV stations to do an interview with you. Send them a short summary of your novel and an author bio. Tell them you are a fan of their show.

5.      Arrange to read a selection of your story or chapter 1 to high school students in English class, or in the library, with a Q & A session afterwards. Leave a signed copy of your novel with the person who helped you set up the event.

6.      Give out a free copy of your book for the holidays to three winners for gifts on your website, blog, Twitter, or Facebook page. Send the winners an autographed copy and a nice letter thanking them for entering the contest.

Good luck! If you’d like more tips on marketing, contact us at brittiany@writtendreams.com. Thanks!

Nose in a Book Photo Challenge

My kids are all avid readers, and all year long can be caught with their nose in a book. Post your photos of someone reading your novel on our Written Dreams Facebook page to win an exclusive blog review about your book. Keep it clean, folks. Photos should be a PG rating. We’ll notify the winner in December. Here’s a sample photo:

Sami reading a Sookie Stackhouse novel

Just Write…Anything

E.Tip of the Day: Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot of concerns from writers about how hard it is for them to stay motivated to write. Having that urge to put forth great stories and strong characters continuously can be daunting at times. Asking for help can be even tougher. Writing is a lonely occupation after all. Or is it?

Yes, writing can be lonely but it doesn’t have to be. If you’re struggling with getting words on the page for a week or two, or more, let us know. We’ll help motivate you to getting the right words on the page again. That’s what we’re here for. That’s part of the reason Written Dreams was formed. 🙂

Motivation to some people can be a no-brainer. If you want to do something, than do it. Clear. Concise. And to the point. No complaining. No wondering. Task complete. Simple, right?

No, not quite. Writing is a craft, and with every craft comes the need for creativity. Without that creativity you end up having a flat, life-less story. But, what most writers don’t realize is it’s okay to have a little flatness. It’s okay to write something horrible. It’s okay to stay on the page typing random letters and numbers once in a while. And it’s okay to write something that you will toss out later. Because the important thing here really, is that you’re writing–whether it makes sense or not every day is not important. If you have to get through a few hours of writing a story of silly, random made-up words, you might look at the screen and think you’re nuts. You’re not nuts. Really, you’re not. And just the act of writing something unconventional will motivate you. Try it, and see. 🙂

If you’d like more info on our Coaching services, please see the Coaching Tab on our website under Services. We’re happy to help in any way we can with furthering your writing career! 🙂


Writer’s Wednesday, Author Peg Herring Shares Tips On Writing A Series

Today we welcome author, Peg Herring, to The Editing Essentials! The first book of Peg’s I read was MacBeth’s Niece, a very enjoyable story. Thank you, Peg, for joining us today!

Peg Herring is the award-winning writer of three series and several standalones. A former educator, she lives in Michigan with her long-time husband. They often go traveling, much to the disgust of their cats, Trouble and Alice, who are left at home to guard the place. Visit Peg’s website at http://pegherring.com or her Amazon page, Amazon.com: Peg Herring

As a writer of three series, with nine published books and two more on the way, I’d like to address five writing questions people ask at my workshop, “Write, Edit, Publish!”

1. “I have a great story idea, but I can’t get started.” (or “I can’t get past the first three chapters.”)

It’s hard to write a book. Really hard. On the other hand, it’s easy to let storylines float through your head, where every idea seems interesting, workable, and compelling. It’s only when you try to write them down that you realize it won’t work.

So lots of people have great story ideas, but only a few write those stories down. It might be that you really don’t want to write a book; you just want to say you’re a writer.

If you are willing to do the work, great–now apply the BITCH principle: Butt In The Chair, Honey! Thinking about your book, talking about your book, even outlining your book isn’t the same as WRITING your book. Set a time each day to work. Any active writing is better than that filmy wisp in your mind.

If (when) your progress stalls, do something else for a while, but then make yourself go back to work. It might not go well. You might even have to toss a day’s work (or two or three), but you must actively write rather than letting yourself imagine that point in the future when it will all flow seamlessly from your fingertips. Ain’t gonna happen.

2. “I’m three-quarters done, but I don’t know how to end the book.”

We sometimes call that the Muddle in the Middle. You’ve got so many strands going that you don’t know how to weave them into a whole. Again, the only thing to do is finish it. For me, writing the ending clarifies what has to happen in the middle. “Oh!” I say to myself. “A paragraph on page 92 will clear that little knot up nicely.” And it does, but only when I’ve seen how the whole thing resolves.

3. “I finished my book, and my mom likes it. How do I know if it’s really good?”

Don’t trust Mom; she loves you too much. In fact, don’t trust the opinion of anyone you know. (You might ask, “Will you give me ten bucks to read my manuscript?” That separates the wheat from the chaff!) It’s easy for friends and family to gush, “Gee, that’s great! You should publish.” When there’s no investment required, almost everyone will say nice things. It makes you happy.

My first advice for judging the quality of your own work is wait time. Let a manuscript rest for a few weeks and then go back to it. Often your reaction will be, “What was I thinking?”

I always read the manuscript aloud or have my computer read it to me. My ears find lots of things needing attention that my eyes didn’t see.

I read each of my manuscripts many times. One reading assures that I’ve included at least one non-visual description on each page. It’s easy to tell what things look like, but what do they sound, taste, feel, and smell like? That adds depth to your description and interest to your writing.

4. “What’s different about writing mystery?”

Mystery requires everything other types of writing require AND a puzzle for the reader to figure out. Mystery authors walk a fine line, tossing in clues to the solution while trying not to give away too much. A reader’s reaction upon finishing a mystery should be, “I didn’t guess the killer, but I should have.”

The modern mystery has lots of elements: suspense, romance, history, paranormal, occupational info, police procedures, and even crafting trivia. The writer needs to enlighten her readers without obscuring the mystery with facts, anecdotes, and quilting details.

5. “How do you keep yourself interested when writing a series?”

Aha! This is where I get to tell you about my work! I have a historical series with Five Star Publishing set in Tudor England (next book, THE LADY FLIRTS WITH DEATH, May of 2013).

My Dead Detective Mysteries (LL-Publications) are mildly paranormal, meaning some characters are dead (no drooling zombies). THE DEAD DETECTIVE AGENCY won EPIC‘s best mystery of 2012.

The new series, The Loser Mysteries (also LL), begins in November with KILLING SILENCE. Loser, a homeless woman, is haunted by her past and endangered by her present as she tries to help a young father accused of murder.

How do I keep three series from driving me crazy?( I often don’t!) Some things I’ve learned to do help: first, I work on one book at a time, whether writing or editing. I attack whatever’s most pressing and put other projects aside until I’ve finished it.

Second, I keep notes on what the characters look like, drive, eat for breakfast, etc. It doesn’t do to say Loser hates oatmeal in one book and then have her order it in a restaurant in the next.

Finally, I have in mind the general arc of the series before I begin, with an idea of how many books it will entail. The Dead Detective Mysteries is a five-book series, following the adventures of Seamus, who resolves problems he faces while helping others solve theirs. Seamus’ story weaves through the series, so the solution to the mystery in each book is only part of the reader’s enjoyment of the larger story.

That’s a little of the advice I give writers. If you have a specific question or a comment on something that works for you, I’m ready to listen.

Thanks, Peg, for the great tips! If you have a question or comment for Peg, she’ll be with us all day. Thank you!