Feel Grateful, Not Guilty to be a Writer

E. Tip of the Day: Time Management Skills With a Smile. Start your writing time happy to dig into the character’s lives. Not to get away from your own life, but to create something really beautiful.

In today’s world we have so many things pulling us in different directions.  Sometimes time alone can make us feel guilty for not spending time with our families, friends, or doing those things that we keep putting off. To spend any time pampering yourself, or doing something selfish like writing for hours at a time seems selfish.

Well, writing is selfish, isn’t it? But it’s also this wonderful gift so few people have the talent to do. It’s something so many people wish they could do. So, instead of feeling guilty, dear writer, start feeling grateful.

Don’t get upset with yourself for taking this time to write. YOU deserve it. You’ve worked hard to get to where you’re at, and it’s okay to take a few hours for yourself and write. Relax. Smile. Feel excited that YOU are a writer. Don’t beat yourself up when you only have 10 words on the page after an hour. It’s okay. That happens. Instead of beating yourself up, believe in yourself. Look in the mirror and tell yourself you deserve this career. You are determined to finish the writing project you are working on, and IT WILL NOT BEAT YOU. You can do this!

It’s important to me to keep a positive attitude. Every day I wake up with a smile on my face so excited to start the day’s work. I love being an editor. It is a pure joy for me to have this career, and to have the opportunity to work with so many talented writers. To me, every day is a blessing. I admit I’m not happy every minute of every day (I have three teenagers after all!), but I try to be. 🙂

It’s one of the things I see daily in my husband; his positive attitude is simply amazing. No matter how much pain he’s in, or what worries he has on his plate, he always remains positive. Doom and gloom is not part of his vocabulary. Doom and gloom only makes you feel worse anyway. And who wants that? Being happy, grateful to be the writer you are, will make the day go faster. You won’t be dreading having to write the next word on the page. You’ll be looking forward to it!    🙂

Vague Descriptions

E. Tip of the Day:  It sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? Vague descriptions? Yet we see them all the time in some of the manuscripts we review here at Written Dreams.  What the author is really doing is telling the story to the reader instead of showing what is happening to the characters. What the reader reads is a vague description that doesn’t really say much of anything at all, takes them out of the story, and frustrates the  heck out of them.

The reader can’t see what the author is seeing inside their head, so instead the reader finds something else to do with their time. Reading that book is not one of their options.

So, as an author how do you fix this? How do you learn to show the emotion and tension of your story without telling it? How do your recognize when you are telling instead of showing?

One way to see the vague descriptions is by reading the story back to yourself aloud. We’ve talked about this before and doing this yourself as a writer is an invaluable tool. (You’ll have to put the story down for a few days to distance yourself first so you’re reading it with fresh eyes.) When reading aloud, you won’t be able to feel the emotion that the characters should be feeling at that given moment. You know the emotion that you had thought you had written into the story? Instead, the characters may feel hollow or wooden, and not really alive. Just partly alive–like a walking zombie. 🙂 If you’re writing a zombie book, this might be a good outcome. If you’re not writing about zombies, then you may want to go back and revise to show more emotion and tension.

When showing the emotion, put effort into the words and be creative. Really get inside the heads of your characters and become them. Learn their habits, hobbies, and skills. Learn their vocabulary. Do they like to complain about the referees when watching football (my dad is famous for this 🙂 or do they sit back and enjoy the game? Once you get the hang of it, it will actually be easier showing than it is telling. Hard to believe, I know, but true. Don’t give up! You’ll get there. Just keep working on putting down those words with emotion.  🙂

First Annual Dreams Short Story Anthology Contest

We are so excited to announce, in celebration of our one year anniversary, Lara and I will be holding our first annual short story contest! Stories that are selected from the entries submitted will be published in the Written Dreams annual anthology to be released in February 2013.

Copyright © 2012 by Sabrena R. Koren

We’re looking for romantic fantasy short stories where at least one character fulfills a life-long dream within the context of the story. Examples of possible dreams could be: finally getting their dream job, buying their dream house, going on the vacation of their dreams, etc. Stories can be about humans, elves, pixies, vampires, and everything in between.

 

RULES:

Submit your 2,000-8,000 original short story in a word document attachment to us at contest@writtendreams.com by December 15, 2012.  We’d like to see a variety, so use your imagination and be creative!

Who can enter? Anyone. This is an Open Contest.

No reprint stories please. We’d like an all-original anthology.

One submission per person please. First time authors welcome.

Stories should be a PG-13 rating in sexual content, language, and violence.

Payment will be $0.06 a word with a pro-rata share of 50% of the royalties. Writers who have their story selected to be in the anthology will also receive one contributor copy. Non-exclusive rights.

If you have any questions regarding this contest, please email us at contest@writtendreams.com.  Thank you!

 

Creative Choices

E. Tip of the Day: Try to avoid using the same word twice in one sentence, or in the same paragraph, if possible. Be creative in your word choices, especially when using verbs.

Example A: She walked to the store and then walked home.

Revision: Sarah went to the store to pick up the needed items to make brownies, then completing her task walked home.

With the revision, it’s much easier for the reader to visualize what the character is doing. The reader doesn’t need to see the inside of the grocery store unless it’s integral to the plot.

Example B: He drove to work, stepping on the gas to get there on time. When he parked, he stepped out of the truck and went up the steps.

Revision: Michael slid into his 4X4 truck, put the vehicle in gear and stepped on the gas. He was late for work again. Speeding through traffic, he was in the parking lot of his office in no time. Jumping out of the truck, he ran up the stairs to the large glass doors of the building adjusting his tie before going inside.

The revision gives the reader a sense of who the character is by showing the details of his day. He was late for work. How did he react? Instead of calling to say he was running late, he sped to work. He’s a character willing to take a risk, but not too great a risk to jeopardize his job.

There also isn’t any redundancy of verbs so the reader isn’t bored. Instead, they are constantly learning about Michael’s character.

Happy Revising!

Edit of the Month for September 2012

For September 2012, our Edit of the Month will be Amateur Sleuth mysteries. We will edit your 75,000 word Amateur Sleuth mystery for $300.00. The edit includes embedded comments using the track changes feature, and a cover letter explaining any overarching issues with the manuscript. We will edit for inconsistencies in the plot/characters, grammar, typos, story depth, and much more. Manuscripts must be received between September 1st and September 30th 2012, and must be 75,000 words or under to receive this rate.

Contact us at brittiany@writtendreams.com for more details. Thank you!

Teleporting Characters

E. Tip of the Day: If you’re writing a science fiction novel, teleporting can be a great mode of transportation. However, if you’re writing a contemporary, historical, or any other genre and there’s not a time travel device anywhere in the story, you may want to rethink how your characters are getting from Point A to Point B. Make it clear your characters are not teleporting as a way to get around and showing up in the middle of the beach when they haven’t left home yet.

Not every action needs to be shown but when the characters seem like they “teleport” somewhere you may want to show the action how they traveled from Point A to Point B.

Inspirational Photo of the Week taken at Haigh Quarry in Illinois.

 

 

 

 

 

Where would this path lead your character?

August 2012 Edit of the Month

Exciting news for writers!

Here at Written Dreams, Lara and I want to be able to help as many writers as we can put forth a well-written story. We know editing fees are something writers may dread due to the sometimes heavy costs.

Every month we will post on our Facebook page the current sub-genre that is the Edit of the Month. August 2012’s sub-genre is Romantic Suspense. Send us your 60,000 word or less romantic suspense manuscript anytime in the month of August 2012 and the rate for editing will be $250.00. This rate includes a cover letter explaining any over-arching issues. The manuscript will be edited using the tracked changes feature and will include embedded comments in the margins.

Manuscripts can be sent to brittiany@writtendreams.com. Please type Edit of the Month in the subject line.

For manuscripts longer than 60,000 words, please query us for an estimate. Thank you!

August's Inspirational Photo Taken in Illinois at Haigh Quarry

Consistency and Convenience

E. Tip of the Day: Proofread your story for more than just typos. Look for inconsistencies and convenient placement of objects and actions. Convenient placements and inconsistencies in the plot can push the suspension of disbelief or even pull your reader out of the story.

Here’s an example:

Consistency:

End of Chapter 1:

Before going to bed, Brenda realized she didn’t have coffee for the morning and George was planning to be over early.

 

Beginning of Chapter 2:

The next morning, Brenda woke up to the smell of coffee.

“Good morning,” George said. “I made coffee. Would you like a cup?” he asked coming into the bedroom. “I found some in the cabinet.”

As an editor my comment would be: How did George find coffee in the cabinet when Brenda was positive the night before she didn’t have any? Please clarify.

Even little errors like this could bother your reader. For this story, having or not having coffee might not be a big deal. But it could be. It could make the reader think Brenda was under too much stress to remember what was in her kitchen cabinets. It could also pull the reader out of the story to think: “So, if this isn’t consistent in the story–a little detail like whether she has coffee or not–what else isn’t consistent? Should I even waste my time reading this book?”

And that’s something no writer ever wants the reader to feel–that their book is not worth the time to read. Because your book is worth it, you just need to take time to read your novel and make sure even the little inconsistencies within the story are clarified.

Convenience: Placing an object or action somewhere without any foreshadowing.

“Good morning,” George said. “I made coffee. Would you like a cup?” he asked coming into the bedroom. “I found some in the back of the cabinet.”

“Thanks.” Brenda said.

Let’s just use this line of dialogue and forget about the thought Brenda had about not having coffee the night before. Let’s say it’s never been mentioned at all what she drinks at home. For all we know she may drink vodka for breakfast. The reader has no idea.

As an editor my comment could be: That Brenda drinks coffee for breakfast should be mentioned sooner. Otherwise it feels like it’s conveniently placed to have it here. George conveniently found the coffee in the cabinet. Sometimes things that are convenient can push the suspension of disbelief for the reader. It’s important for the writer to be aware of this.

A better example for a mystery novel might be: She pulled the gun out of the drawer and pointed it at the intruder.

If the gun had never been looked or mentioned in the previous chapters, that would be a convenient placement.

It’s impossible to foreshadow every little detail, so as a writer you have to pick your battles and go with your gut on the important issues. The characters wear clothing, have a home, etc.

When editing, if I get a feeling that something doesn’t feel right, I’ll let the author know. It’s important to me as an editor to tell the author what feels odd or awkward or convenient so they’re aware of how the reader may react to that part of the story.

If you have specific questions on a scene in your novel that may have either too many inconsistencies or convenient placements, we’d be happy to take a look and let you know what we find.

 

 

 

Writer’s Wednesday Guest Blogger Lily Silver on Indie Publishing

We’re happy to welcome Lily Silver to The Editing Essentials today!

Lily has been swimming opposite the mainstream currents for most of her life. She has been practicing the art of writing since 1992, when as a homeschooling mother of two, she desperately needed something to do that didn’t involve the kids. Once her children were grown she returned to college as a non-traditional student at 42 years of age, and spent the next several years trying to pick ‘just one’ major. As a journalism student, she achieved an award for excellence in journalism, and went on to become the editor of the college newspaper, a staff writer and staff photographer.

Lily never did find that one perfect major as she explored art, writing, theatre, photography. She graduated with a B.A. in History and a B.A. in Humanistic Studies with an emphasis in Ancient and Medieval Research, a minor in Art History as well as a minor in 2 Dimensional Art. She’d still be in college if they’d pay her to keep learning and acquiring degrees. True to form, Lily has chosen to go against the flow again by choosing Independent publishing over traditional. She published two full length Historical Romance novels on Amazon in the spring of 2012.

 

Dark Hero by Lily Silver

Dark Hero is a Gothic Romance with paranormal overtones. It is Book One in the Reluctant Heroes Series. Some Enchanted Waltz is a Time Travel Romance depicting the events of the United Irishmen’s failed rebellion of 1798. Bright Scoundrel, Book Two in the Reluctant Heroes Series, will be released in October 2012.

Visit Lily’s website and blogs at: lilysilver.webs.com  strictlygothic.webs.com romancinghistorylove.blogspot.com/  strictlygothic.blogspot.com/                  incurableromanticandlovingit.blogspot.com/

 

Independent publishing has divided the publishing world. There are authors who love it and those who reel back in horror, regarding it as <gasp>  vanity publishing.  In the past, self publishing was considered a poor substitute for the traditional publishing routine. Independently published authors had to spend oodles of money hiring a printing press to print large orders of books the author then had to try to sell on his own. And, there was a stigma connected to the practice as the author was considered ‘not good enough’ to have found a real publisher to accept his work.

With the advent of e-readers and e-book retailers, writers can now upload their books directly to online platforms and readers can purchase them within hours. This phenomenon is similar to what happened in Paris with the Impressionist Art Movement. You had a traditional gallery system; art curators decided what would be shown to the public and what wouldn’t. Unknown artists like Van Gogh kept trying to gain admittance to these exclusive salon exhibitions. The curators refused to allow the Impressionists to exhibit paintings, so these imaginative men held their own art show and invited the public to attend. It was a success, and brought new styles of art to the forefront for art lovers to purchase. Art dealers of the time thought Van Gogh’s painting was crap. Today, everyone knows who Van Gogh is. Thankfully, he and other artists were persistent about presenting their work to the public when it was refused entry into the traditional salons.

A similar revolution has taken place in the publishing world today; writers can upload books to digital stores and readers can decide what they want to read instead of corporate publishing houses.

Why choose to self-publish?

First, let me point out that the term self-published  is not favored among us because of past stigma attached to it. We prefer to be referred to as independent or Indie Author  to describe writers who have uploaded their works to digital platforms.

I have been writing seriously for twenty years. I submitted manuscripts to traditional publishing houses in the late 1990’s. I received very polite rejection letters. My last attempt at traditional publishing was in 1999. After that, I returned to college for several years. I still held the dream of one day sending a finished manuscript to a traditional publisher. At the beginning of this year I attended a talk featuring two authors with experience in independent publishing. They were having astonishing success selling their work on digital platforms. After hearing their experiences with both traditional and independent publishing, I decided to give independent publishing a shot.  The results have been amazing. With over 6,000 downloads at Amazon in two months as an unknown author, I have found an audience for my work. Another plus is making 70% of the royalties instead of the typical 8%-10% with a traditional house. The best part is receiving letters from readers who say they enjoyed my books and asking about sequels.

Is working on the cover art difficult?

Not really. I did need to spend time searching online stock photo databases. My son is a graphic artist, so all I needed to do was purchase stock images and send them to him for my first book. He did the rest. For my second book, I purchased a pre-made cover from Romance Novel Covers. I was pleased with the results of both covers. If someone is proficient in Adobe Photoshop, they could easily create their own cover.  If not, the good news is that there are tons of great graphic artists who can create digital cover art for a reasonable fee.

What have you learned from other writers about their experiences with Indie publishing?

Patience. You need a lot of patience. It’s like building a snowman. You start with a small snowball in your hand and keep rolling it in the snow until you have a life-sized snowman. It is the same with finding an audience for your work. It takes time. An added benefit of Indie publishing is your book can remain for sale indefinitely, allowing readers to discover it. With a traditional publishing, if your books don’t sell well within a few months, they are pulled from the shelves and returned by stores. Also, it is important to have someone proof your manuscript. This is where critique partners or freelance editing services like Written Dreams come in. You want to present the best book possible, so you need other people to help you remove the warts before you hit that ‘publish’ button.

Which outlets (Amazon, GoodReads, etc.) do you feel work well with authors? Which platforms are the easiest for new writers to use?

Amazon is easiest. It’s also the top digital platform at present. Smashwords is good, but their formatting requirements are a little more technical. If you download the formatting guide and follow it, you’ll be fine. Smashwords will convert and distribute your books to all the e-reader platforms (Apple, Sony, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, etc) for you, so that is the place to go if you want to have your work distributed on all platforms. All the outlets accept indie authors but a few, like Apple, only allow distribution to them through an aggregator like Smashwords. Others, like Amazon, B &N and Kobo allow authors to upload directly to them.

Goodreads is helpful to authors. I held a giveaway of Dark Hero in June. 786 readers requested the 4 print copies offered. As a result, many readers put the book on their ‘to read’ list and will hopefully purchase it. Through August 25th, I have a similar giveaway in progress at Goodreads for print copies of Some Enchanted Waltz.

 

Some Enchanted Waltz by Lily Silver

Indie publishing isn’t for everyone. It requires courage and determination. You wear a lot of hats; writer, editor, art director, and marketing. Yet, it is a rare opportunity for authors brave enough to take up the challenge. I’m glad I did. The rewards are well worth the effort.

 

 

 

Thank you, Lily, for taking the time to be with us today, and for the excellent advice on Indie publishing.

Wednesday’s Writers Guest Blogger Dorothy McFalls!

We’re so excited to have Dorothy McFalls as our guest today! 🙂 Dorothy, thank you, for sharing these wonderful tips on writing a great synopsis with us.

 

Dorothy McFalls

Dorothy St. James is the author of the White House Gardener Mystery series for Berkley Prime Crime. The Scarlet Pepper, the second book in the series, was released in April 2012. Dorothy also writes romance as Dorothy McFalls. The Huntress, an independently-published kick-ass romantic suspense, recently climbed the Amazon bestseller list, hitting #4 in romantic suspense. You can find Dorothy at www.DorothyStJames.com or www.DorothyMcFalls.com or on Facebook (www.facebook.com/dorothystjames) or on Twitter (@DorothyStJames). Other books by Dorothy McFalls include The Nude, The Marriage List, A Wizard For Christmas, and Neptune’s Lair. Visit Dorothy’s website to see a complete list of her novels.

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to attend an impromptu writing retreat with three other amazing authors. One of those authors also happens to be an acquiring editor. As we were talking, she mentioned how surprised she was at the poor quality of many of the synopses she receives with the submissions. She couldn’t understand why authors didn’t spend more time on writing a synopsis when it is one of the major elements editorial staffs look at when deciding whether to buy a project or not.

I have to admit that I used to struggle with writing a synopsis. The end result was often dull. Flat. And it, quite frankly, bored me to death. That was before I learned what I was doing wrong.

Your synopsis is not a summary of your book. Yes, the synopsis should contain a beginning, middle, and end. But don’t simply state what happened in your story. Don’t write an outline. First, that’s boring. Second, it doesn’t demonstrate to the editor how incredibly talented you are.

Your synopsis is an advertising tool to sell your book. This is especially true if you are hoping to sell on proposal (in other words—convince a publisher to pay you money for a book you haven’t yet written.)

Not only should the synopsis tell the editor about your book, you also want it to:

  1. showcase your unique voice,
  2. represent the genre you are writing, and
  3. make the editor excited about the story (so she buys it!)

The synopsis should match the tone of your book. If you’re writing a comedy, make the synopsis funny. If it’s a thriller, write it so the editor is on the edge of her seat when she’s reading the synopsis. If it’s a sexy romance, make the synopsis sexy. Let the editor know when the hero and heroine kiss and more. (I was forever leaving out the first kiss and deepening relationship details in my synopses for my romance novels. And, consequently, I didn’t sell a book until a writer friend insisted I add that to my synopsis. Remember: the synopsis is a tool for selling your book.)

Most novels are written using a three-act structure (whether the author knows she’s doing it or not.) So why not use the three-act structure to write your synopsis?

 

Act 1: The Beginning:

Just like in your book, start with an interesting hook. For my latest cozy mystery release, The Scarlet Pepper (a book that sold based on its synopsis), I opened the synopsis with:

Someone is tampering with the Presidential vegetable garden, and Casey Calhoun, organic gardener for the White House, is determined to track down the garden prankster. Red peppers are growing instead of the green ones that had been planted. There’s cabbage where the First Lady’s favorite variety of lettuce should be. And all the tomato plants are gone.

From this opening paragraph you know (1) who the main character is, (2) there’s a mystery to be solved, and (3) that the story will be light-hearted in tone.

Because your synopsis isn’t a summary or outline of the book, it doesn’t have to open where the book opens. Open the synopsis by introducing your main characters and the story problem.

 

Act 2: The Middle:

What are the major turning points in your story? What problems does your hapless hero face as he tries to win the heroine’s heart? How do matters get progressively worse as your amateur sleuth works to solve the murder? All of these things happen in the middle of your story. In your synopsis, you want to describe the obstacles your main character faces…and how things get worse.

If necessary, the middle is also where you would introduce subplots. For example, if you’re writing a mystery and there’s a romance subplot, you would want to introduce the subplot in this part of the synopsis. But I caution you to be extremely selective with subplots. You want a lean, fast-reading synopsis that catches the editor’s attention. Many subplots, while interesting in the book, will slow the action in your synopsis. When in doubt, leave it out.

 

Act 3: The End:

Don’t leave this part out! The editor wants to know you’ve written a complete story. She needs to know if the story fulfills its promise to the reader. She can’t know you’ve done your job if you don’t tell her how your book will end.

If you’re writing a romance, tell how the hero and heroine find their happily ever after. If you’re writing a mystery, tell how the mystery will be solved and the bad guys get caught. If you’re writing an emotional women’s fiction novel, show the conclusion of the main character’s emotional arc.

If you include subplots within your synopsis, be sure they are wrapped up at the ending as well.

 

Final Thoughts:

  1. Don’t forget to show/tell how the main character grows and changes over the course of the story.
  2. Leave out minor characters and most sub-plots. Give the editor what she needs to know and nothing else.
  3. Keep it short. Most editors want 3 to 5 page synopses. That said, every publisher is different. Check the publisher website to see if they’ve posted guidelines for what they want in the synopsis.
  4. Always write the synopsis in present tense.
  5. For guidance in developing a tight plot, I highly recommend Blake Snyder’s screenwriting book Save the Cat and his Beat Sheet (http://www.blakesnyder.com/tools/)

Now, go write that synopsis and sell that book!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And writers, if you still need help after you’ve followed these tips, Written Dreams offers editing services for writing synopses and query letters. See our Services Page on our website for details. https://7b5.22f.godaddywp.com/Services.html We’re happy to help in any way we can. 🙂

Thank you, Dorothy, for the terrific advice! She will be with us all day so feel free to ask Dorothy questions or make a comment on the post. Thank you! 🙂