Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Ka-Boom! Get Creativity-Working at Peak Speed.



By Laura Childs, author of Mumbo Gumbo Murder


One of the great perks of being an author is meeting new people at book signings, bookshops, libraries, and writing conferences. And while I adore folks who are passionate about reading, many of them are also secretly longing to become authors.

So I’m inevitably asked the following questions: How on earth can you write three books a year? How do you keep plots and characters straight in your head? How do you cope with writer’s block? And then there’s the biggie – how do you come up with all those ideas?

The answer, of course, is that most ideas spring from the imagination. And here I’m talking about all sorts of ideas – whether you’re trying to craft a novel, short story, book of poetry, or just want to infuse a spark of creativity into your job or everyday life.

The good news is that revving up your creativity isn’t nearly as tough as you think. But if you’re stuck, here are a few of my favorite tricks to get started:

Carry a notebook around with you. When ideas, words, phrases, or images run through your mind, jot them down. I’ve had concepts like “ghost train” and “shooting party” turn into entire book plots.

Try to work when you’re at your best. (I think this used to have something to do with biorhythms). But, seriously, you know when you’re best able to buckle down and work smart. For me, I start to pick up speed around four o’clock. That’s when my motor kicks in and I can write like the devil for the next four hours.

Doodle your ideas. Use circles, arrows, boxes, whatever. I do this when I’m plotting a book. I take a huge piece of paper and start sketching out murderous openings, then I try to connect them with suspects, plot twists, and a few more nefarious acts.

Don’t be afraid to ditch out and take a break. If you’re working on something and your mind starts to wander, stop and do something else. Take a catnap, read a chapter in a book, go outside and walk around, eat some chocolate. I also find that going to museums, concerts, and movies help recharge my batteries.

Try some collaboration. If you’re in a writer’s group, why not pitch ideas to each other? Often you can help build on each other’s themes and story lines.

Music unlocks the brain and sometimes stimulates it. I write to classical music, Stephen King writes to hard rock.

Go ahead and outline your book, your business plan, or the rest of your life. Write it down on paper, keep tinkering with it, and update as needed. Remember that each of us has been gifted with a brilliant, vivid imagination that’s fizzing with ideas. We just have to unlock those ideas to make our novel, poem, or movie script happen!

Best of luck!
________________________________________________ 
Laura Childs is the author of the Scrapbook Mysteries, Tea Shop Mysteries, and Cackleberry Club Mysteries. All have been on the New York Times, USA Today, and Publisher’s Weekly bestseller lists. Recently, Book Riot named her mysteries to their list of “25 of the All Time Best Cozy Mystery Series.” In her previous life Laura was CEO of her own marketing firm, authored several screenplays, and produced a reality TV show. She is married to Dr. Bob, a professor of Chinese art history, and has a new Chinese Shar-Pei puppy.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Do Your Readers Turn Your Pages?



By Susan Reichert, Editor-in-Chief, Southern Writers Magazine   


What do you think would grip your reader to make them want to turn the pages of your book?

Perhaps to a writer that may seem like a funny question.  But you see readers want to open a book and meet a character (person), your protagonist, and they want to come to identify with that character quickly. The more they care about the character the more they care about what happens to this character.

They are not going to put this book down until they make sure this character survives physically and emotionally. They truly want this character to meet their goals and secure happiness. In other words, they have become invested in your protagonists.

You might want to ask yourself is your character genuine. Are they reliable? Are they convincing? Gripping? Fascinating?

The more your character is developed the greater pull he/she has for your reader. Emotions become real and you can feel them.

I want to add, readers prefer the character to be active. In other words, full of life, energetic and involved.

Think of characters in stories you’ve read . . . which ones grabbed your attention? The ones who were active or the ones who were docile––inert?


Ernest Hemingway said, “When writing a novel, a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature.”

Perhaps as writers this is what we should work towards––turning our character into a person for our readers.



Monday, October 21, 2019

Going it Alone?


By LuAnn K. Edwards


Over my lifetime, I’ve described myself as an avid reader. My favorite pastime, better than movies or television, is to read novels. I’m not picky. I enjoy several genres.

My love for reading and stories that flooded my mind placed in me a wish to one day become a novelist. I hid that desire inside my heart until a friend asked me to write for our church blog five years ago. After I submitted a few posts, she told me I wrote clean, and she encouraged me to attend a writer’s conference.

At the conference, I met with the author who taught the fiction track. She reviewed the first page of a short story I’d written. Her advice: “Show not tell. And increase your dialogue to move the story forward.”

I put the story aside and began my first novel. I added dialogue and action. This same novelist presented the next year at the conference. She read my first page and said, “We need to see the action.” She gave me a few ideas.

I rewrote my first chapter to pull in more expressive action and asked my friend from church to critique what I’d written. She asked, “Have you considered a writing coach?”

One problem I wrestled with was cost. Not cheap to hire a coach. But the bigger obstacle was making myself vulnerable. Exposed. Ask someone to read my entire manuscript? They’d learn so much about me. I wrote what I knew.

When I weighed my insecurity against the benefits of having a knowledgeable author tell me what worked and what didn’t, I decided to move forward. Not only did my coach find where my writing could be better, he gave suggestions for improvement. He encouraged me with a “Nice” or “Wow” when what I’d written was good. He pointed out rabbit trails, and he pushed me to add more tension. We focused on deep point of view, richer dialogue, and setting.

In working with a writing coach, not only did my confidence grow, but my manuscript became stronger. My coach pulled out creativity I’d hidden away.

If you hope to write your first book, I recommend you hire a coach. An invaluable resource. If you’d like a recommendation, please shoot me an email.
____________________________________________________________
LuAnn K. Edwards lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with her husband and youngest daughter. In addition to writing a weekly blog, she looks forward to publishing her first novel and finishing her second book in the series. She enjoys reading, hiking, traveling, and spending time with her family. You may find her online at www.luannkedwards.com. Email: luann@luannkedwards.com.

Friday, October 18, 2019

From Novelist To Screenwriter, An Unexpected Journey



By Mike Lynch


Some years ago a friend asked me if I'd ever be interested in writing a screenplay. My answer was an emphatic--NO. I was nice about it, of course, but my only interest was in writing novels. I had published a number of books by then, and was eager to continue with that as long as the ideas kept coming. Besides, I knew no one in Hollywood. Over time, however, an unexpected thing happened; I had grown weary of promoting my novels. I felt more like a pitch-man than an author. To make matters worse, my sales weren't exactly approaching best seller lists. Don't get me wrong, every published book was an achievement I celebrated, the reason I’d become a writer. But a salesman, that wasn't me. What to do? Then I had a revelation.

Advertisers, not writers, promote TV shows and movies. Why not let them do that for me. So I decided to chase the impossible and became a screenwriter. Great. Then it occurred to me--I had no idea how to write a screenplay.

Acknowledging my obvious cinematic ineptitude, I set about scouring the Internet for articles that focused on how one writes screenplays. I also immersed myself in the world of produced scripts. I noted how they were structured, the cinematic language incorporated into them, and ways writers developed their characters. Fortunately for me, story arcs for movies generally follow the same format as novels: the 3-Act structure.       

Act I    Setup: Exposition, Inciting Incident, Plot Point One
Act II  Confrontation: Rising Action, Midpoint, Plot Point Two
Act III Resolution: Pre-Climax, Climax, Denouement

I chose one of my novels, a story I felt would work as a movie, and set about adapting it into a screenplay. That meant I needed screenwriting software. After doing some research, I decided on Final Draft. Used by most industry professionals, the interactive software is easy to navigate, and it gives you the adaptability to write any script you need. But I won't lie to you, Final Draft isn't cheap. In its current incarnation the program costs around $250. For those who are more money conscious, a free, legal website exists that is similar to Final Draft, called Celtx (https://www.celtx.com/index.html). The software is similarly formatted, and you can store as many scripts as you like on their site for free.

So, if you're interested in writing screenplays in the hopes of getting your project produced, all you need is a great idea, a whole lot of determination, and it can happen for you. How do I know? Because it happened for me. I sent out dozens of query letters to producers listed online, until one of them wrote back. To date, three of my scripts have been optioned by production companies, one of which will go into production this October, The Peaceful Kingdom. If given a chance to write a follow-up article, I'll let you know how that experience went.
_____________________________________________________
Mike Lynch is an award-winning author whose first book, Dublin, came out in 2007, followed by When the Sky Fell, American Midnight, The Crystal Portal, After the Cross, Love's Second Chance, After the Sky Fell, Arena Planet and Mind Writer. He has also published a number of novellas, short stories and writing articles in various magazines and anthologies. Turning his attention to film, his screenplay, Jason’s Hope, was awarded as a finalist in the Hollywood Screenplay Contest. Mike's other screenplays, After the Cross and The Peaceful Kingdom, have been optioned by production companies, the latter of which is scheduled to start filming in October.


Thursday, October 17, 2019

HAMMER DOWN AND GO FOR IT



By Vicki H. Moss, Contributing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine


Cecil Murphey once said that writers had to be a tad egotistical to write. All that rejection couldn’t be about our writing…. But there’s that word again—rejection.  Who in their right mind wants to keep getting rejected? Writing rejection feels lousy and can ruin the best of days. Then why do we do it?

The odds of getting published can be frightening. Let’s just heap all of that rejection on our heads why don’t we. Let’s schedule in a daily weep fest—just what we need when we go to the mailbox everyday to get another rejection letter. While we’re heaping on rejection, let’s go ahead and pile on some resentment and jealousy while we’re at it.

I’ve heard more than a couple of writers say they don’t understand why so-and-so’s books sell better, etc. (Anne Lamottwrote about her rejections and how they hurt.) The first time I heard that from a writer, I was surprised. The first time I read those words in a writer’s book on writing, I was even more shocked. Isn’t there enough fame and fortune to go around for all writers? The answer is—sorry—but no, according to Cec Murphy and others.

With many owning computers these days or at least having access to them, practically the entire world is writing a book. Especially in the Scandinavian countries. One writer who had recently moved to the States from that area of the world told me that with short winter days, people had nothing to do so they were all writing books to while away the time until spring’s thaw.

Who’s going to read all of those books even if they do make it out of the drawer to be published?  
Let’s face reality. There are only so many hours during a day to read books. I still haven’t read all of the classics, much less the millions of contemporary books out there waiting to be read by somebody. Anybody. One warm body.

So why do we keep writing when the odds are stacked against us? Once more, I’d like to share some of Madeleine L’Engle’s thoughts, this time on what she had to say about why she wrote—especially when her husband was her most ruthless critic and a friend once told her, “It’s been said better before.”

“Of course,” Madeleine replied. “It’s all been said better before. If I thought I had to say it better than anybody else, I’d never start. Better or worse is immaterial. The thing is that it has to be said; by me; ontologically. We each have to say it, to say it our own way. Not of our own will, but as it comes out through us. Good or bad, great or little: that isn’t what human creation is about. It is that we have to try; to put it down in pigment, or words, or musical notations, or we die.”

Madeleine’s reply made me think: Writing a story is like decorating a room. If ten different decorators style a room, every room will probably turn out gorgeous, but different. (Unless they put shag carpet on the wall. Sorry, Elvis.) The same goes for a novel. Give the same idea—boy meets girl on the beach, they fall in love—to ten writers and they’re all going to come up with different characters, different plots, different beaches. Not all beaches have to be in sunny climes. We could be talking about two Native Alaskans meeting for the first time on a beach not far from ancient fishing territory.       

As writers, particularly writers who feel the need to write with a no holds barred attitude—our fingers must type words or else—we must stack our words next to each other until our own personal story is fleshed out. It will be different from a neighbor’s story. More nuanced, perhaps. Intimate in different ways, perhaps. Yes, you might have been in the same neighborhood when a tornado hit but what one person experiences is usually totally different from what another experiences.

You might be out on the same fishing boat but only the person in the captain’s chair reeled in the sailfish. Everyone on the boat will tell the story from a different viewpoint or angle. Some stories will be more compelling than others. The sailfish might get longer and longer and weigh more and more by the end of the telling for some. I guarantee no two stories will be exactly identical.

Therefore, don’t be discouraged about the odds stacked against writers. Keep writing stories. You won’t know unless you try. Some might say it better, but their voice isn’t your voice. You might find your niche. You might write a bestseller. No matter the success or lack thereof, your grandchildren might one day get a huge kick out of what gramps or granny had to say in their own voice. You won’t know the results unless you hammer out your masterpiece. Hammer down and go for it!        
   

    

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Using All the Senses



By Paula Acton


As writers, we often focus on describing what our characters see, hear, and say but sometimes we fail to make use of the other senses in the same way.

Our sense of taste is very rarely used, unless, we are describing the characters eating a meal or the metallic zing of blood in their mouths, but when you consider how closely linked taste is to the sense of smell, it can be worth paying more attention to them in tandem.

Often it is not the actual smell or taste of something we are describing but rather the personal associations with it that can add an extra depth to a writer’s work.

It has long been suggested that if you are selling a house you should bake bread or brew fresh coffee prior to viewing, those smell evoking a sense of home, that the person looking around could have that lifestyle. Now, apply that to your writing, in romances image how the waft of the perfume or scent of a beloved one can evoke an almost physical reaction, a remembrance of embraces, but more than that the perfume itself can say more about your character. Think of the type of girl you think of wearing something soft and floral rather than heavy and musky, of how your own preferences change with age, change from day to night, many people have a signature scent that is associated with them.

The same applies to locations, you can describe a dark alley, but by adding a few smells it can transport the reader there and help build tension. If you are describing a scene by the sea then there is the smell of seaweed, and the sea but also that transposes with even the slightest breeze to the dryness of the characters lips and the saltiness as their tongue darts out to moisten them.
Of course, no one could possibly describe every taste, smell, or sensation experience in the tapestry of their stories, however, when used effectively you can enhance the immersive effects for the reader.
________________________________________________________________ 
Born in Leeds, and currently residing in Huddersfield in the UK, Paula Acton explores the darker side of fiction. The short story collections feature twisted love stories in Disintegration & Other Stories, whilst Voices Across the Void explores ghostly tales. Her novels fall into dark, medieval fantasy with Ascension the first part of her Queen of Ages Trilogy has been met with five-star reviews from readers new to the genre. Mother to two children, and grandma to two, slave to two cats, and owner of a demented spaniel, any free time she gets she loves to curl up with a book. She is also a lover of board games, regularly can be found assisting in fending off the zombie apocalypse and listening to true crime podcasts. She can be found on Facebook, at her website - http://paulaacton.co.uk, on Instagram - http://instagram.com/paulaacton Blog - http://paulaacton.com and all her work is available on Amazon and on Kindle Unlimited.


Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Should I Have a Blog?



By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine


Southern Writers Magazine is a big believer in having a blog. The official magazine blog, Suite T, has over 3.5 million views which is due to the hard work of our Communications Director Annette Cole Mastron. Many authors have posted here and our hope is they will continue to visit here and more will join. The blog archives are a treasure trove of writing information.

Annette has a total understanding of social media and knows the benefits of a blog, podcast or video blog. Annette explains the media you use is not as important as the message you send. As an author the blog is the best way to introduce your writing style to your readers.

On Suite T we introduce many authors writing style to many readers. Many authors that have posted on Suite T also have their own blogs. With their blog and Suite T combined they can introduce their own writing style and their personal websites and books.

For the most part social media is more of a short-term medium. It is important to not only be aware of that but know its value and how to benefit from it as well. Over time it has developed into something that isn’t an end to itself but a conduit for a more long-term medium like your blog, then your goal is your website. Social media introduces you to the reader and takes the flow of traffic back to your blog and website.

This feeds into the scientific marketing facts of search engine rankings and social algorithms. What that means to us is our books and online visibility is greater. This in turn should mean a higher number of views on your website. In the end your connection with your readers is enhanced. With that comes more book sales.    

Our purpose at Southern Writers Magazine is to promote authors and we have promoted close to 4,000 authors. We have done so through our magazine articles which are supported by Suite T blog post. Our readers can get to know and further connect with our authors by following us on Suite T then going to your website. We don't want readers to stay on social media - we want to drive them to the author's website. A blog is the best way to strengthen the connection between an author and their readers. They have a deeper interest in you and your books. The answer is you should have a blog and you should feel free to take full advantage of ours.

You are more than welcome to appear as a guest author and you can connect to our SWM's, Suite T by emailing Annette Cole Mastron at annette@southernwritersmag.com. I think you will like what we can do for you and help promote your brand and books.