OCD About Books? You Bet! #amwriting

Am I the only one who gets a tad OCD about her favorite books? I have now created my very own “Still Life with Crows” on the shelf directly over my monitor. Every time I look up, I’m reminded of how much I love the Pendergast books. And crows. And then I continue typing, much inspired. Silly? Possibly. But it makes me happy, and what’s better than being hard at work with a smile on your face?  

BTW, the two books on the right of this little tableau are Leigh Bardugo’s duology, Six of Crows & Crooked Kingdom, two huge favorites of mine, too. How could I resist adding those gorgeous crow covers to my little vignette? I couldn’t. And I highly recommend using your favorite books in creative ways around your work space, too. It really is inspirational. That’s my story, an’ I’m stickin’ to it! 😀

Have a great afternoon and an even greater weekend, folks! ❤

A Wonderful Article on The Creative Penn by guest author Rob Eagar #amwriting

Check this one out, folks! Lots of practical advice for how to use words to increase your books sales, with plenty of examples included. This is something we can all do and it doesn’t cost a cent! I’m going to be working on some of these ideas as soon as possible, and I feel sure some of you will try them out, if you haven’t already been using these methods. (Don’t forget to share!) 🙂 

https://www.thecreativepenn.com/2019/05/31/book-marketing-3-ways-to-use-language-to-sell-more-books/

Listening to Your WIP – #WritingTip #amwriting

We’ve talked about this in the past, but as I avail myself of the process more and more, I now wonder how I wrote anything without stopping to hear my words now and then. At the very least, how did I dare submit my revised document to an editor, never having done so? And yet it’s SO easy.

Like many of you, I have a regular writing routine, even though it got a bit lost in the post-hurricane shuffle. I’m getting back to it again. I write every morning, immediately after taking care of any emails that won’t wait. I always plan to write at least two or three hours, but more often end up writing for longer periods of time. (Thank you, Fitbit, for reminding me to get up every hour and walk for a few minutes.)

The first thing I do when I sit down to write is to go over what I wrote the day before. I prefer to catch obvious errors and make little tweaks before moving  on. (It saves me lots of time in revision to start with a  fairly clean copy, plus it puts me back in the story for the day’s work ahead.) And for the last year or so, I don’t just read what I’m going over. I listen to it, as well. You can download several good apps to do this, but having tried a few, I prefer using the one that comes with Word. It’s free, and honestly, it sounds every bit as good. Plus, since I write my books in Word to begin with, it means I don’t have to open another program.

What’s that? You didn’t know Word would read your work back to you? Neither did I for a long time, but thanks to a post here some time ago, I found out it does, if you ask nicely.  😀  It’s EASY, and this is how you do it. First, open your WIP in Word. Take a look at the very top of the page, in what is called the Quick Access Toolbar. It looks like this:

The default setting for this toolbar includes the icons for Save (the disk), Undo/Redo (the arrows), and Speak (the speech bubble). If you have somehow removed that from your Quick Access Toolbar, click on the DOWNWARD pointing arrow to the right and scroll down to where it says More Commands. Click on that, and this is what you’ll see:

You can choose among the options in the left hand list to add them to the right hand list. Once they are in that right hand list, they will appear in your Quick Access toolbar. If you do NOT see “Speak” in that right hand list (note the red arrow), find it on the left side, and move it over. Click OK at the bottom, and when you close the menu, you should see the icon in your Quick Access Toolbar. See? Easy.

As for how you use it, just as simple. In your document, highlight the text you wish to hear and click on the speak bubble. (Be sure your speakers are on.) The voice will read what you have written. If you’ve never done this before, you may not realize this, but your ears will pick up lots of things your eyes miss. Double words ( to to, the the) and omitted words, for starters. That alone is worth using this. But you’ll be surprised at how often you’ll notice that a sentence you thought was fine is really quite clunky. Or perhaps you missed that it’s a run-on sentence, and hearing it aloud brings it to your attention. And phrases or character names that have been repeated far too often will positively jump out at you.

I often struggle with a tricky paragraph, and will stop to listen just to that before moving on. It’s amazing how hearing  it out loud immediately alerts me as to why I was having trouble with it. I can often fix the problem simply by reordering the sentences. And sometimes, when I hear the paragraph out loud, I realize it’s just dumb, and should be deleted at once. 😯

So there you have it folks. Whether you use this tool as you go along, like I do, or save it for final revisions, I bet you’ll find listening to your work a major help. I hope so, anyway. I sure do. Give it a try, at least. What have you got to lose? 🙂

 

Writers, have you discovered the Pomodoro technique? #amwriting #timemanagement

Are you a full time writer?

I’m not, so like a lot of others, I have to fit my writing time around my full time business. And my business is VERY full time – I train and judge competition dressage horses at National and International level. It’s a fabulous job, but very time consuming, not to mention sometimes exhausting.

This is me in my day job

When people glibly tell me that there is always time to be found in the work day, I know they have NO idea what my life is like. I can often be on the road by 7am, and not home until 10pm, having been either driving or working the entire time. Please tell me where I am supposed to find time to write in that schedule?

I’m not complaining, no sir, I’m just making a point. Not everybody’s life lends itself to a regular writing routine. Mine certainly doesn’t.

So what is my point?

Well, I recently followed a short writing course, largely because it had a great module on plotting (guess who is trying to learn more about plotting vs pantsing?). But what it also had, was a section on time management.

My first thought was, ‘here we go again, I’ve heard it all before’.

But I hadn’t! This course introduced me to the POMODORO TECHNIQUE.

If you haven’t come across it yet, it is a time management approach developed in the late 1980s, and named after the Pomodoro kitchen timer.

 The reason I found this so useful?

Because I have always felt that there was no point starting to write unless I had at least a clear hour available. Anything less than that seemed to me to be unproductive, and I hate to get started only to find I have to give up.

The nub of the Pomodoro technique, though, is that you work for exactly 25 minutes. Not more, and not less.

If you have that magic hour free, then you can fit two sessions in, with a small gap in the middle for coffee making or similar.

I guess, now I think about it, that this is at least partially based on the knowledge that we (humans) can only concentrate fully for 20 minutes at a time, so the 25 minutes stretches that just a touch, followed by the short break, and then back for another 20 (or 25) minutes work.

What it has meant for me, personally, is that my next book is coming along much quicker than previous ones, because I can often find 25 minutes spare, where I might have to wait days to find one of those precious hour gaps.

It has enabled me to give myself permission to write for just 25 minutes, and without guilt that I didn’t get that full hour of work in.

Crazy, huh? But it’s working for me.

I’ve finally realised that my one hour rule is yet another of those dreaded procrastinations we writers are often so prone to.

How about all of you, how do you manage your time?

Even if you are a full time writer, with all the guff that goes with it these days, how do you arrange your productive writing sessions?

Does anyone else have a favoured minimum writing time?

Deborah Jay

Mystery, magic and mayhem

Join me at:

http://deborahjayauthor.com/

https://www.facebook.com/DeborahJay

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7172608.Deborah_Jay

Amazon author page: http://viewAuthor.at/DeborahJay

 

 

 

 

From Pantser to Plotter, or Maybe Plantser? #FabulousFridayGuestBlogger

Marcia asked me to share this post with you all. It’s one I wrote recently for the Alliance of Independent Authors, on the need to occasionally revisit the pantser/plotter question as we progress through our writing careers.

From Pantser to Plotter, or Maybe Plantser?

by Kassandra Lamb

For eight years, I’ve been a die-hard pantser. No outline, no character sketches… just sit down and write.

But now I’m going over to the other side, or rather straddling the cusp.

I’ll always be grateful for my pantser roots. I didn’t successfully finish a manuscript until I realized I was a pantser. For years, I’d write the beginning of a story, outline the rest and then the whole thing would languish in my hard drive. I’d lost interest. The story had already been told.

In 2009, I sat down to once again tweak the opening of a novel I’d been playing with for fifteen years. (Yup, fifteen years!) But I couldn’t find the outline. Somehow I’d lost the file. So I started writing, and six weeks later the first draft was finished.

cover of Multiple Motives

My first finished novel, 15+ years in the making. Now it’s the permafree first book in a 9-book series.

Now it’s 2017. That book, Multiple Motives, is the first in a nine-book mystery series, and I’ve recently released Book 3 in a new series. But in recent years, it’s been like pulling teeth to get through a first draft.

While writing this last story (The Call of the Woof; Woof for short), I finally identified the problem. My motives for writing have changed.

Initially, the ideas arrived, the words flowed, and I wrote for the sheer pleasure of seeing what happened next.

Then the first-drafting process became more challenging. My editor said it was because I was a better writer. My stories were more complex, my characters had more depth, etc. She’s probably right, but something else was happening as well.

More and more, I was writing to a schedule, especially after I started the second series. If too much time passes without a new release, sales droop. The pressure is on to pump out more stories to keep readers interested.

Don’t get me wrong, this is good motivation. How can you not want to produce stories for your adoring fans?

But it wasn’t the same. I still loved the writing process—when the words were flowing. But all too often they weren’t. Before, the scenes would unfold in my mind as I went along. Now, I’d get to the end of a scene and think “What’s next?” And no answer would come. Often that would be the end of new words for that day.

With Woof, as I got closer to the end and had a clearer idea of what scenes still needed to happen, the writing pace picked up. Instead of forcing out a few hundred words a day, I was breezing through several thousand.

The story was flowing and I was having fun again!

Then I thought about the next project coming up, and felt nothing but dread as I faced the void between the opening and the climax. So I experimented with outlining. While Woof was “resting” before the editing process, I did a bare-bones outline for that next story.

And I’m excited about writing it! Indeed, I found myself stealing an hour here and there to pluck away at it, when I was supposed to be editing Woof (and I love editing).

With the plot points already thought out that will get me through the murky middle, all I have to do is enjoy the flow of the words.

I doubt I’ll ever be a full-blown plotter with character sketches and beat sheets (not even sure what those are) and such. But if I have a better idea of where I’m going, I think I will get there a lot easier and faster in the future.

And have more fun doing it!

k - IMG_0004 lighter-on1

Kassandra Lamb is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer who spends most of her time in an alternate universe with her characters. The portal to this universe, aka her computer, is located in North Central Florida, where her husband and dog catch occasional glimpses of her.

She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological mysteries, set in her native Maryland, a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida, and a guide for novice authors, Someday Is Here! A Beginner’s Guide to Writing and Publishing Your First Book.

cover of book

This easy-to-read, how-to guide is full of both practical advice and emotional support. Psychotherapist turned successful mystery writer, Kassandra Lamb takes novice writers by the hand and walks with them on their journey, pointing out pitfalls along the way, some of which she discovered through stumbled-head-first-into-them experience.

From the decisions to be made before setting pen to paper to whether to submit to agents or self-publish, from the basics of writing craft to the nuts and bolts of copyrighting and ISBNs, from promotion strategies to the perseverance needed to make your writing business a success, this overview of the writing and publishing process is a must-read for new authors who aren’t sure what they’re getting themselves into.

 

12 Crime Lab Tidbits

Taking Marica at her word. Here’s this week’s post at misterio press, which you all might find interesting.

12 Crime Lab Tidbits

by Vinnie Hansen

In March, I visited the Santa Clara Crime Lab because hey, that’s the kind of thing crime writers do on a lovely spring day.

My husband, Danny, went along. He enjoys police info, too. I guess you better if you’re married to a mystery author.

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We were disappointed to learn that we would not be able to traipse about the lab. Even though the event was advertised as a “virtual” tour, when Danny and I visited the FBI Crime Lab in San Francisco, our guide led us right up to the line of weapons waiting for rifling tests.

Read More…

 

Hope you feel better soon, Marcia!!!

 

To Write or Not To Write Short #amwriting

by Kassandra Lamb

Hi all!  Marcia and I thought you might find my guest post interesting. I’m over at Janice Hardy’s Fiction University today, talking about the pros and cons of writing short stories and novellas versus full-length novels.

Please check it out (and share if you are so inclined).

To Write or Not To Write Short?

a SomedayIsHere FINAL

Short stories, novellas, novels—what’s the best route to go as a fiction writer? Are there advantages to writing short?

This is a more complicated question than it may seem to be on the surface. There are several factors to consider:

● The definition of a short story vs. a novella
● The appeal of writing short for the author
● How readers feel about short stories and novellas vs. full-length novels
● The benefits of shorts for authors
● The bottom line: how much can you make off of shorts?

In order to give you more than just my take on writing short, I surveyed several authors from various genres. I’ve included their experiences along with my own, and in some cases, quoted them when they said it better than I could.

Definitions:

First let’s define our terms. A novel is considered to be full-length if it is at least 40,000 words. A novella is usually defined as 17,500 to 40,000 words. Technically, a short story is under 7,500 words.

There is this thing called a novelette that is 7,500 to 17,500 words, but the reality is that readers have rarely heard of this term. The 12K novelette I published several years ago is almost always referred to as a short story in reviews, and even my 25K novellas are sometimes viewed as short stories by readers.

So perhaps we should be defining short versus long differently. A “short” story, regardless of its length, is one with a simpler story arc, few if any subplots and simpler character arcs for its main character(s).

The Appeal of Writing Short:

To put it bluntly, it’s quick and easy… READ MORE

#GardenInspiration – Painted Bunting

It’s an absolutely picture perfect day here in central Florida today. Cool enough breeze to keep you from melting, but warm enough for shorts and t-shirts. And as if the weather isn’t enough reason to spend some time outside, this morning, a stunning male painted bunting visited our birdbath. He splashed and frolicked long enough for me to really enjoy his vivid orange, blue, and chartreuse coloring. I’m hoping he’ll be back later for a snack at the feeder, but when he finished his ablutions, he flew up into the bamboo, and became invisible.

You wouldn’t think a brightly colored bird like this, or our year round resident cardinals could vanish among solid green foliage, but they do. You can stand beneath, listening to the scarlet cardinals singing, and not see them to save your soul. Mother Nature is always interesting, and usually inspiring. Today, I was reminded of that once again.

Writers, when your muse has deserted you, go outside. Take a walk around your neighborhood, or a hike in the closest wooded area. Go for a canoe ride. Take an eco-tour. Or just sit on your patio with a  cup of tea, and see what flies or scampers by. You might be surprised. Even in a busy suburban area, with nearby shopping malls, and an interstate highway, I regularly see things like today’s painted bunting. And when I return to work, it’s with renewed energy and inspiration.

 

#MidWeekPOV #wwwblogs – Let’s Talk

lets_talk_century_gothic

Let’s get a conversation going this morning. I’ll start. 😀 I have a new mantra: It takes what it takes to tell the tale that needs tellin’. Bulky, yeah. Probably won’t look so great on a t-shirt. But I’ve finally realized that it embodies the way I write.

My beloved beta readers often ask me how many chapters will be in a book I’m working on. My answer is, I don’t have the slightest clue. I don’t work out the number of chapters at the start of my draft, because I never know where the story might take me. I know what it will be about, in general–where  it will start, and where it will end. As for all the stuff that happens in between, not so much.

I may have one or two things I know must occur, but overall, the characters tell me what they want to do and why. And I let them. Not because it’s how it should be done, but because it’s the only way I, personally, can travel from point to point. I turn my characters loose in a setting and see what they decide to do, and write it down. They almost always surprise me.

In my current WIP, That Darkest Place, all I knew going in was that I’d left one of my characters from Finding Hunter in a horrible mess, and another one unharmed, but unhappy. I knew what I needed to do to fix the first one, and that the second one needed to find an HEA by book’s end. And that’s all I knew. As the story began to grow, the details came pouring into my mind, and the overall theme of the book came to me:

“There are dark places in every heart, in every head. Some you turn away from. Some you light a candle within. But there is one place so black, it consumes all light. It will pull you in, and swallow you whole. You don’t leave your brother stranded in that darkest place.” (Hunter Painter)

That Darkest Place is a book about brothers–how  they stand together in the worst of times, and help each other make it out of those black holes of despair. As I wrap up my draft, and get ready for editing, I hope I’ve been able to tell their story in a way that will resonate with readers everywhere. But whether it works out that way or not, I’ve been true to who the characters are, and how they relate to each other, in good times and in bad. I’ve told the tale that needed tellin’, and I hope I’ve done it well.

Now. Your turn. How do you do it? Do you work out every scene in advance, or go with the flow? Do you have an overall theme in mind when you begin, or does it grow out of the story in a more organic way? I’m hereby inviting you to share your thoughts and ideas today, so we can enjoy getting to know more about each other, and possibly learn a few new tricks along the way.

Let’s talk!