What Do Cliches Do to Your Readers?

I read a book over the weekend riddled with cliches. I would have been more annoyed if I had paid money for it, but it still bothered me. The very first sentence included a cliche (she ran as fast as her legs could carry her). I probably should have counted them.

When I first read that writers should avoid peppering their writing with cliches, I didn't get it. The cliches sounded 'right' to my ear--probably because they were so familiar. I figured others might wonder why cliches are a no-no. Here's what I came up with.

Cliches are distracting. At least, for some readers. I don't think they used to bother me as much before I began to study writing, but now they tend to pull me out of the story for a moment.

Cliches are not fresh. Anytime I use a cliche, I try to look at it as a kind of plagiarizing. Think about it. This particular set of words has been used so many times before, it's not unique to me. It's the easy way out, instead of working to find a new way to say something.

Cliches invite skimming. I don't know about you, but when I get published, I'd rather not give my readers any excuse to skip sections of the story. When a cliche appears, readers instinctively know the rest of the phrase, and tend to skip ahead. Why not describe characters, emotions, and setting in an unexpected way, so the reader doesn't want to miss anything.

Here are some resources for identifying and changing cliches in fiction:

Use the Cliche Finder to pick out cliche's you might have missed in your editing.

If you worry that you use certain words too often, these three resources will help you out.

Did you know there are many kinds of cliches in writing? Read the list in No More Cookie Cutters.

And check out my favorite novel for fresh, cliche-free writing. I reviewed it here.

Do cliches bother you as a reader? Do they sneak into your writing? And do you have a book recommendation for an author who writes fresh?

Free Ebook: Creating a Life Plan

Just a quick post today, since I woke up with a migraine.

Michael Hyatt, former CEO of Thomas Nelson publishers, is giving away a free ebook. I've already downloaded it, and it's definitely something I'll be working through. It's called Creating Your Personal Life Plan

The ten-chapter book is designed for users to plan their goals, and keep themselves on track. The ebook comes with a chapter of worksheets to fill in, and Hyatt encourages readers to revisit their life plan and tweak it as necessary.

Why should you have a life plan? Hyatt explains in this post. You'll find detailed information about the book on Hyatt's website, along with the download button. And if you don't read Hyatt's blog, you ought to. At least click on the 'publishing' button on his site to catch up on what he's been talking about.

Do you have a life plan? Where does writing fit into it?

In Praise of Independent Bookstores

Yesterday was a wonderful day. My daughter had the day off, and her first choice of activity was to hang out in a bookstore.

We drove to Denver's wonderful Tattered Cover Bookstore (the vintage LoDo location), and I had so much fun introducing her to this gem. The exposed beams and brick, the old lamps and overstuffed chairs make you want to read--or write.

An independent bookstore creates a mood that puts you in a literary frame of mind.

Katie browsed the shelves, while I worked on a scene I'd been mulling over on the drive there. The difficult thing was deciding which cozy nook to choose.

Before we left, Katie purchased a set of the complete Sherlock Holmes. I told her that not only did she add to her (ever-expanding) personal library, but she now possessed a souvenir from the Tattered Cover. She decided that when she puts her name in a book, she'll include the bookstore where she bought it, as a remembrance.

Of course, talking writing on the way there and back gave us the best bookends a day could have.

Do bookstore visits make you want to write--or just curl up and read?

Book Review: The Muir House, by Mary DeMuth

I love it when I find an author who mesmerizes me with words. Who chooses each phrase deliberately. Who paints pictures with sentences you won't find anywhere else.

Mary DeMuth is that kind of author.

I read The Muir House in a day, sucked into the life of Willa Muir, a young interior decorator struggling to fill a blank year in her childhood memories. So many things ride on the outcome--her potential marriage, possible reconciliation with her abusive mother, and her pressing need to feel whole.

Her obsession with discovering the truth threatens to destroy the beautiful things in her life.

But Willa's fiance, Hale, suggests that maybe she doesn't need to know. Maybe she's whole just the way she is.

Willa returns to her hometown of Rockwall, Texas, to the mortuary-turned-bed-and-breakfast where she grew up, to her mother stricken with Alzheimers. The more she searches for answers, the more questions pop up. The property's caretaker knows all the secrets, but won't say a word. Anything Willa's mother might share is locked in her stricken mind. And the reappearance of Willa's first love complicates her search even more.

This is a beautifully told, Southern story, full of quirky characters and the hometown we wish we had. And how a search for answers can change everything.

Highly recommended.

See the book trailer and read the first chapter here.
Read my review of DeMuth's $2.99 ebook, The 11 Secrets of Getting Published, here.

I Wanna Be a Writer: Free Novel-Writing Videos

Authors Traci Hall and Kathleen Pickering have teamed up to give new writers the tools they need to get started. Each video is only a few minutes long, and will give the 'big picture' steps for writing a book, starting with the idea, and going all the way to submission.

Visit the authors' websites at Traci Hall and Karen Pickering for more information on these helpful ladies.





What's the best tip on novel-writing you've received?



C.S. Lewis on Writing

C.S. Lewis is one of my favorite authors. Whether or not you agree with his spiritual beliefs, they're always thought-provoking. For example:
"A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest."
C.S. Lewis
 Lewis had a high opinion of what children could comprehend in a story, and the idea makes writing for children and young adults a weighty task. My favorite of his books is not widely known. Till We Have Faces is a retelling of the story of Cupid and Psyche. I guess you could say it's an early paranormal! But sharing the story from Psyche's sister's point of view makes it deep and compelling.

Here's a sampling of what Lewis has to say about writing:

This week, a friend sent me a link to 8 Writing Tips from C.S. Lewis. Reading through them, I wholeheartedly agree with each one. Check them out. You won't be sorry.

I also found a .Pdf file with quotes from Lewis on writing for the child-like.

And here's five tips on writing Lewis penned to a girl who asked his advice.

One of the tips Lewis gives is "write with the ear, not the eye". What do you think he means, and do you think it's true?

Get Out of Your Novel Writing Rut

 I'm so sad this string of guest posts has come to a close. I've learned so much from our generous contributors. Thank you to each of you who offered your words. If you missed out, I'm planning another series for August. Got a writing post to share? You can send it ahead of time to dallenco[at]gmail[dot]com. Our last offering is from Krissy Brady at Keeping the Passion for Writing Alive. Definitely check out her site. She offers an amazing amount of resources for writers, from freelance advice, writing tools, links, and more. You won't be sorry for a stop over there.

Get Out of Your Novel Writing Rut by Krissy Brady

You've finally started the novel that has been buzzing around in your head for years. Chapter one, no problem. Chapter two flowed out of you like a waterfall. Chapter three was a challenge at first, but you carried yourself through the process like a champ. Chapter four... well, you've written Chapter Four at the top of the page... and that was two months ago.

You have finally admitted to yourself that you're stuck; unsure now of where this story is going to take you and your characters. Where do you go from here?

Step away from the screen. Disciplining yourself to meet deadlines is one thing, but pushing yourself to write is another. Sitting at your computer, fingers propped on the keys, hoping they will magically start creating your masterpiece for you isn't realistic, and certainly isn't the productive way to go. Plus, the potential frustration this brings will spill into your future writing endeavours, conditioning yourself to feel a sense of dread as soon as you sit down to write (and last I checked, we started writing to get away from these feelings in our life).

Figure out why you're feeling stuck. Stepping away from the computer does not mean that you are procrastinating or putting off your writing goals—it will have the opposite effect, giving you the space necessary to figure out why you're stuck. A novel is a deep and lengthy project, one that takes a lot of time and planning, and sometimes we need to restructure our plans to get back on track.

Maybe you know where you want your main character to be by the end of the story, but are unsure of how your character is going to get from Point A to Point B, all the way to Point Z. Maybe you know exactly how your character is going to get there, but are struggling to develop the characters around him/her to bring strength and relevance to your story. Maybe you're wondering if your setting suits the plot, or maybe the name of your character's significant other isn't quite right. What is causing you to detract from your writing could be the slightest little thing, and pinpointing your concerns will help to alleviate the strain so you can go back to focusing on the task at hand.

Read what you've written so far. One way to get back into the mindset that encouraged you to begin writing your novel, is to read what you have written so far. Familiarizing yourself with the current draft of what you've written will help you to reconnect with your characters, your story, and what you want to accomplish with it. Read it out loud too—it may help you to pick out certain parts of the story that need to be developed more, which in turn will help you figure out where the story will lead your characters next.

Declutter your desk, declutter your mind. Let's face it: writers are famous for thinking of great ideas at the most inconvenient times. Take all of your scrap papers, post-its, napkins, cell phone notes, and add them in point form to your manuscript. In consolidating your notes, you can take the point form ideas and plan where they will fit, ultimately helping you to form the shell of your next few chapters.

Create a flexible plot outline. To coincide with this idea, if you have yet to do so, create a plot outline for your novel, starting with the parts of the main plot you know are critical to the story, and then fill in the outline with the critical parts of the subplots and how you can realistically connect them. Keeping your outline generalized will give you the opportunity to mix-and-match your ideas as you go along, making it easier to enhance what you've currently written, and get rid of the ideas that no longer suit the direction you wish to go in.

I say "if you have yet to do so," because I'm hoping there are writers out there who began their novel, introduced their main characters, main plot, and subplots, and then wrote an outline for the rest of the novel to coincide with what was already written. I'm hoping, because this is what I did. The idea for my novel had been simmering in my mind for about three years before I actually sat down and began writing it, and once the introductory chapters were complete, I then wrote an outline for the rest of the novel to make sure all characters and plots would be developed according to my goals.

Outlines and planning are an important part of the writing process, but there is no one way to go about doing it. You have to find the method that works for you. This will take a lot of experimenting, but the outcome will be very rewarding.

Write what you know, then fill in the blanks. In an ideal world, we would write our novel in a chronological, organized fashion, but as in life, our creativity can surprise us with its spontaneity. Write the areas of your novel that you know are strong, and sound, and are able to stand on their own. The areas that you aren't ready to flesh out yet, you can place in point form around the sections of the plotline that are already fully formed, giving you a great starting off point, no matter the chapter.

These are just a few simple techniques to help you revive your novel writing mindframe.

What are your techniques for getting out of a creative rut?

Krissy Brady is a freelance writer located in Gravenhurst, Ontario, Canada. If you have a writing-related question, would like to write a guest post, or have a content suggestion, e-mail Krissy at info@krissybrady.com. You can also follow Krissy through RSS, facebook, twitter, and LinkedIn for the latest writing-related information.

What to do with Your Inner Critic(s)

We're on our last two days of guest posts. I don't know about you, but I've been learning a ton! Today we have Jennifer Bertman, who blogs at From the Mixed-Up Files of Jennifer Bertman. My favorite part of her blog is the weekly photo-interview with writers and illustrators, highlighting their work spaces. Who wouldn't want a peek into a writer's room? She's got a huge list so far. Check it out.

What to do with Your Inner Critic(s) by Jennifer Bertman

Since I last posted I’ve been working on something fun that will be taking place in this spot starting next week. If you’re interested in creative people and hearing more about how they work, especially children’s book writers and illustrators, make sure to check back here on Monday.

I’ve also been chipping away at my revisions. I have to say, one of the biggest challenges in writing for me is stifling that inner critic. Critics plural, really. I imagine them all up there in my brain, squished together on a couch (a large couch, there are a lot of them) watching my creative process like it’s their own personal reality show. Chomping chips and spraying crumbs all over the place as they talk, wet rings from their beverage glasses marking up the furniture. Jumping all over each other’s words to point things out:

“How many times do you think she’ll rewrite that sentence?”
“She’s going with that version? The way she had the sentence two versions ago was way better.”
“Pass the chips, Stan.”
“The screen’s not magic, honey. Staring at it like that doesn’t make the words appear.”
“Could this scene be any more boring? Where’s the tension?”
“Stop hogging the dip, Hilde. And don’t think we didn’t notice that double dip.”
“For pete’s sake! What does the character want? Cheesecake, world peace, give me something here.”
“Maybe the character wants boring dialogue. That’s what they’re getting anyway.”

Like that. They’re a fun bunch, aren’t they? So what do you do with these inner critics. I’ll tell you up front, I don’t have an ironclad solution here. But I’ve gathered this much:

The worst thing to do is let them win. You always have to come back to the writing. You can’t walk away forever. If it matters to you, you have to come back to the writing.

You can try to fight them. Sometimes I argue back. Or I imagine gagging them with a bandana and duct tape and locking them in a mental closet so their chatter becomes more like a mumbling hum of bees. But it can be mentally draining to fight these critics, and eventually they work themselves free and resume their spots on the couch.

You could set up a nice bar and try to appease them with booze. But that road can easily lead to a louder and unruly environment, with the critics coming to blows over your excessive use of adverbs. And it’s pretty much inevitable that someone in the mix will end up being an emotional, crying drunk and someone else will be retching in the toilet. By the time they all pass out you’ll be too exhausted and the stench will be too unbearable to get any writing done.

The thing is, as annoying as they are, there is some benefit to having these critics around. Sometimes they offer something worth listening to. Maybe the dialogue could be sharper or maybe that scene is lacking tension. Maybe you do need to knock it off with the adverbs already. I don’t think the answer is to plow forward stubbornly, ignoring everything they have to say, anymore than it’s to run away.

The key for me has been to learn to work with them. What I know about these inner critics:

1) They want me to succeed. Deep down at least. Because they know if I do, they can claim a part of that. The criticism is their know-it-all way of trying to point me down the path they think will work best.
2) You can never please them all. You will never write something that every single one is excited about or interested in. (Especially Stan and Hilde. Those two never agree on anything.)

So I continue to chip away and try my best to tune out my mental characters and tune in my novel characters. Occasionally I have to shout at them to pipe down, or they bait me into an argument. I might stuff them in a closet so I can finally get some peace and quiet. Often times it’s in the peace and quiet that their words resonate most. The relevant ones rise to the top and I might even get excited as I see their point and understand how I can improve a scene. And crazily enough, if the peace and quiet lingers too long, I might even start to miss their constant chatter and bickering. Ring marks, crumbs, and all.

Jennifer Bertram has worked in various aspects of publishing, including interning for YM magazine, reading slush for a literary agent, and most recently being the managing editor for the SCBWI's regional magazine, Kite Tales. She's currently revising her middle grade mystery.

How do you lock up your inner editor? Or have you learned to live with them?

What's Up With the Adverb?

 Today I give you the often hilarious Deana Barnhart. If you check out her blog, you'll not only be entertained, but inspired. Don't miss her Gearin' Up to Get An Agent Blogfest in July. You'll learn a ton of great information.

 What's Up With the Adverb? by Deana Barnhart

I didn't see a thing wrong with adverbs until recently when I submitted my work into a couple of writing contests.  I'm happy to say I placed third in one and top twenty in another but much of my negative feedback had to do with adverbs.  Can I tell you how sad this makes me.  I have loved peppering my writing with 'ly' words.  They have been a part of my life since grade school.  I suppose that's where they needed to stay.

So why are adverbs such backstabbers?

Mark Twain once said, "Adverbs are the tool of the lazy writer."

Huh?  Well, let's take a closer look and see why.

The Encarta World English Dictionary states that an adverb is:
  1. modifier of verb or adjective: a word that modifies a verb, an adjective, another adverb, or a sentence, e.g. "happily," "very," or "frankly".
So basically you use an adverb to spice up a weak word.  For example: "She tightly closed her eyes."  The verb "closed" isn't strong enough so you pop in "tightly" to better describe it.

What would happen if you used a verb with more zing from the start negating the need for an adverb all together.  How about this instead: "Her eyes slammed shut."  Bam!  Just by changing the verb from "closed" to "slammed" you instantly get a picture of what is going on and it isn't as wordy, which adverbs tend to bring about in writing.

Another problem when using adverbs too often is the risk of telling the story rather than showing it (another big no no we will discuss later).  You want the reader to feel like they are right there in the action with the characters, not on the sidelines watching.

I'm not saying adverbs should be banned from writing.  They are a part of the English language for reason and I personally like them every now and again.

If you're an adverb lover why not try to flex your writing muscle a bit more today.  Write something and go through replacing all the 'ly' adverbs with more dynamic verbs, adjectives, etc.  See where that takes you.

What are your thoughts on adverbs?  Do you love them, love to hate them or a little of both?
 Deana Barnhart is a thirty-something mom of two who constantly thinks of stories to write, and every once in a while those ideas make it to the computer. She blogs on Monday, Wednesday and Friday or whenver she's dying to spill the beans about something.

Need to replace your weak verbs? Here's a list of strong verbs.

What a First Draft Reveals

Andrea Mack brings us her insights on What a First Draft Reveals. She blogs over at That's Another Story, and always has something good to say.

What a First Draft Reveals, by Andrea Mack

Writing a first draft really shows up your strengths and weaknesses as a writer. Have you ever noticed how some parts come easily? It shows where your writing is strong. For instance, when I write dialogue, it seems to flow naturally. Later, I probably won't need to do much editing of the dialogue (unless it relates to the plot, of course). I'd say it's one of my writing strengths.

On the other hand, I'm not so good at establishing the setting (among other things). I've been writing so fast, concentrating on bigger things, like the story, that my characters are practically floating in the middle of nowhere. Not always a bad thing, but if your character is in a market and suddenly walks into their bedroom...well you can see how that could cause problems for the reader. My critiquers often point out that I need to add more setting details. Sometimes, they say my settings are too much of the same and need variety.

Have you ever thought about your writing strengths and weaknesses? It's useful sometimes. If you're aware of your weaknesses, you'll have a great starting point for what to tackle when it comes to revision. And it shows where you can do more reading or exercises to develop your writing skill.

Andrea Mack is currently working on a middle grade novel. She likes to dream up cool activities for my kindergarten students, invent imaginative recipes, and explore places she's never been to before.

What strengths and weaknesses does your first draft reveal?

Musing About Writing, a Guest Post by S.M. Carriere

 Today's guest post is from S.M. Carriere, an incredibly prolific Canadian writer, who usually pens 3000 words a day. Anyone with that kind of drive ought to have some advice on the writing process. Her blog is called An Author's Journey. Read on to find out more.
 Musing About Writing, by S.M. Carriere
Certain friends of mine throw their hands up in the air at my writing process. To be fair, if I had been formally trained as they had, I might get a bit annoyed as well. Actually, I probably wouldn't. I'd be interested in the different process, but reserve judgement. Let's face it. There's not one correct way to draw, or paint, or sculpt. Why would there be to write? I digress.

I've explained the process before, but in case you did not read that post, I'll cover it again.

I plan virtually nothing. The main character/protagonist jumps into my mind almost fully formed, along with a scene or two about what it is they are up to. The next thing that comes into my head is the ending of the story.

It's as if a ghost appeared before me and said, 'I am [insert name]. This is how I died/won/lost/insert other appropriate ending. Now let me tell you about how this came to be.'

That's all I have before I start writing. The character, a couple of scenes, and the ending. I write one of the scenes, and the entire story flows through until it ends. That means when I begin any one story, I have no idea how long it's going to be. I don't know what exactly happens to my characters. The story is as much an adventure to me writing it as it is to those reading it for the first time.

The Seraphimé Saga began this way. It ended up being two books.

The Great Man series began this way. It ended up being five books.

Every single short story I have ever written had started out this way.

My afore mentioned nosey friends laugh about how mixed up my stories must be. Surely there are major plot inconsistencies? There must be gaping holes everywhere one looks. Then they go on about how poorly everything must flow, how badly fleshed out my characters must be, how terrible my imagery, place-setting, etc.

All without reading a single word.

Sure, I didn't go to school to to be formally instructed on how to plan every step of a story. Sure, I do it differently than they teach at those institutions. That doesn't make it wrong, or inferior. In fact, other than a mix up with seasons/time in The Seraphimé Saga, most everything turned out as if I'd painstakingly plotted every single point.

Here's the thing, nay-sayers. I trust my characters. When that ghost of a person floats around in my head and says, 'Let me tell you how it came to be.' I trust that they will tell me how it came to be. They've yet to let me down.

In fact, my characters, or rather, these characters (they are far too free-willed for me to make any claims of possession), are so insistent on telling me, that if I try telling them (i.e. - plotting the story before I write it), I run into serious, serious trouble. The example that most sticks out in my mind, and it's the same example I use each time because it turned me into a complete wreck, is during the writing of the final part of The Great Man series.

A character I was extremely fond of died. It was a very brave, very noble death, mind. But he still died. I didn't want him to die. I fought that death tooth and nail. Fighting with the story had me stuck in limbo for fully six months. The story refused to budge until that character died. It took everything out of me to write that death. I wrote with tears streaming down my face. When it was all said and done, I was in such distress, I had to call my mother. Even thinking about it now, I get all bleary-eyed.

Once that death was written, however, the rest of the story gushed out of me like a dam had burst. Three weeks later, the entire series was more or less written.

The weird thing is, I had plotted out The Great Man series at the very earliest stages of writing. Once I had the ending, the protagonist and a couple of scenes, I set about marking every single plot point I possibly could. The story, however, had other ideas. Once I started writing, I found that the flow of words was inescapable, and that flow was taking me places I hadn't planned. When I tried to swim against the current, as it were, I found myself drowning. Things became a lot easier when I went with the flow. The story I have now is vastly different from the story I had plotted. I'm not sorry about it either. Julian's version is much, much better than my own.

My writing process is very much intuitive. It isn't as structured as some people's writing processes. Both have their merits. I have found that the structured approach just doesn't work for me, though not for lack of trying.

As far as editing afterwards goes, I have found that I'm editing for much the same things as someone with a more structured approach would. I'm editing out passive voice (or trying very hard to), spelling and grammar issues, and so forth. These are all things people who write from a pre-prepared plot edit as well. I've very rarely had issues with continuity. The characters know their stuff.

So, people who tell me, or anyone else, that their writing process is 'wrong' or 'inferior,' go jump! It works for me, just as yours works for you. There is no one 'correct' way to write.

I really should have titled today's post 'Ranting About Writing.'
Born in 1983 in Quito, Ecuador, S.M. Carrière has lived in five countries around the world including Ecuador, Gabon and The Philippines.  The family moved to Australia from The Philippines shortly after the commencement of hostilities there in 1989.

  After graduating High School, S.M. Carrière worked full time as an Office Junior at a law firm in Brisbane, Queensland before moving to Canada in 2001.  In 2002 she began her academic career beginning in Criminology, but switching to Directed Interdisciplinary Studies (focusing on Perhistoric Anthropology and Archaeology) after her first year.  She graduated with a B.A. Hon from Carleton University in 2007 with honours.

  It wasn't until well after graduation that she decided she wanted to be an author.

  S.M. Carrière now resides in Canada with her two cats and a growing collection of books. 

What about you? What is your writing process?

The Journey to Writing: What's Yours?

Today's guest blogger is Pamela Mason, who blogs from Atlanta, Georgia (I used to live 'next door' in South Carolina!).  Pamela's post today centers on her journey to becoming a writer. Lovely words. Read on.

I named my blog writermason because it is my name. A name that has a meaning that, unlike so many things that have changed in this space age century, has not changed. 

 From Dictionary.com: 


(noun) --a person whose trade is building with units of various natural or artificial mineral products, as stones, bricks, cinder blocks, or tiles, usually with the use of mortar or cement as a bonding agent.

Though it is my married name, 'Mason' perfectly describes me.

Growing up in a lumber company family, we knew how to build and then rebuild. People want a new porch, new deck, new pier, they buy lumber. Hurricanes and floods destroy and wash homes away, but people want to rebuild in their original neighborhood. It's home.

I can still call up the screech of the rotary saw, the clop of a falling 2x4 onto cement , the green pungent scent in the unraveled threads of sawdust. Mr.Joe would pick us up from school in a rattletrap pickup truck and take us to the 'store', where we got a beauty parlor coke from the machine and punched the lighted buttons on the ultra modern and efficient office phone. 

Then I went to LSU's School of Architecture, College of Design, and got my degree in Interior Design. I knew it all... or so I thought. 

I never imagined back then that design would be drafted digitally, much less in 3D on a portable laptop.Or that I would blog my time away-- writing and reading blogs from around the world.

So, as drafting and designing reinvented themselves digitally, so now is the publishing industry.

Now I type with a laptop instead of inking in vellum, and my digital drafts don't make me high the way fresh blue print fumes did. The t-squares and parallel bar and the nifty electric eraser that I went hungry for now gather dust in a basement closet; the ever evolving technology of laptops and smart phones now drain my bank account. And even those withdrawals are out of my hands. (Working for the day when that changes to deposits.) 

I build now with words, but they're so much more than just words.

They're emotion and drama and plot and characterization. They frame a story that I've snatched from my dreams and experiences and construct a version that makes sense, so that the reader enters and dwells inside the walls of my imagination. The exits seal off to keep away reality and sleep, and the heroes and heroines are all smart people who make stupid choices for the right reasons, all ending up in a happy ever after. 

I'm WriterMason. Welcome to my World. 

Pamela Mason is a Jane Jetson for the Digital Age; writer of Paranormal Romance, with fairy tale worlds and happy ever afters; lover of fun kitschy finds, watching her own tech toys go vintage before her very eyes. Follow her blog at WriterMason.

 Not all of us started out writing and the various journeys we take inspire others.  

What started you on the path of writing?

Four Ways to Breathe Life Into Your Characters

Six brave souls answered the call for writing posts last week. It was difficult to choose just one, so I decided each author ought to be rewarded. First up is Terri Forehand, who writes for kids with cancer and other challenges. If you're looking to bring characters to life, Terri has the tips you need.

Where do you find your characters? by Terri Forehand

Dreaming up a new character may be one of the easy parts of the writing process because we writers have great imaginations. Most of us day dream for a better part of any given day.

To bring a character to the three dimensional person or animal the reader can care about is another story and for some of us, a little more difficult to do.

What you picture in your mind about the character you are writing about must come out on paper in words for the reader. Those words must affect the reader in some way, and you help to decide how you want the reader to feel by your choice of description with words.

Those words may be specific descriptions of hair, eyes, body type, or clothing but those words need to do more to bring your character to life.

Here are some other ways to bring pep and zing to your character and to make the reader love them or not.
·      Use action to show who your character is and what he or she cares about. If your character is walking a little elderly lady across the street it may endear him to the reader. On the other hand, if your character pushes the same lady in his haste to get through the crowd with no regard to who he bumps, the reader may not like it. Either way they will want to read on to find out what happens with this character if you choose your words well.
·      Dialog is another great way to make your characters realistic and to show who and what the character stands for. Dialog can hint at culture, setting, date/time of a scene, and any number of other things like the age of the character or the type of education, home life, or financial situation a character lives with.
·      Character names will bring realism and detail to a story. Readers will imagine their own ideas about a character just by associating the name of the character to who or what they know related to a similar name. The carefully chosen name can make or break the relationship between the story and the reader.
·      Emotions show much about your story and your characters. The reader must feel something while reading about your characters or they will not turn the page. The writer must use words that elicit raw emotion so the reader will care about what happens to the character. Emotion is weaved into the plot of the story by using words to create conflict and tension for your character. 

New writers will learn how to use all of these tips to create the kind of story that grabs the reader, makes the reader care, and gives the reader no other choice but to buy the book and to keep reading. In the end, the goal is not only for the characters to grow and change throughout your story, but to move the reader into taking some kind of action for personal growth and change as well. The reader should always feel something for the effort of reading your words.

Now go create a character or two. And check back soon to meet one of my new characters. Can you guess her name?

Happy writing. 

What do you do to bring your characters to life?

Guest Post: Finding Your Writing Allies, by Randy Ingermanson

Don't forget to link your favorite writing article to this post. I'll be choosing some to put up as guest posts next week.
 Allies, by Randy Ingermanson
From Randy Ingermanson's fabulous newsletter. (if you haven't signed up yet, the info is at the bottom of the article)

There's an old saying, "Friends come and go, but enemies accumulate."

That may be true in some worlds, but in the world of writing, I'd replace it with this: "Books come and go, but Allies accumulate."

What are "Allies?"

Allies are your writing buddies. They are a combination of friend, colleague, mentor, encourager, and butt-kicker.

My opinion is that you won't get very far in the publishing world without Allies. The reason is simple.

Publishing is a tough industry, and the writer is the engine that drives the machine. If you don't have a support system, the machine is going to break you eventually. Your Allies are a crucial part of your support system.

Of course your support system also includes other people -- your editor, your agent, your family, and your non-writing friends.

But your editor and agent are business partners, and it's generally not their job to be your friend.

Whereas your family and non-writing friends can love you to pieces, but they generally don't really understand the wacko world of publishing.

If you don't have Allies, that's a problem, or it will be a problem eventually.

I should emphasize that Allies are not tools that you use or rungs on the ladder. They are, first of all, friends. Friends who'll be around for a long time.

But Allies are more than that. You will have plenty of writing friends who will never be Allies. Allies are also your equals or nearly your equals. They're usually at roughly the same level of success you are – at least when they become your Ally.

It may happen that your career takes off and your Ally's doesn't, or vice versa. It's quite possible to maintain your alliance for a very long time when that happens, as long as you're both good with it. Of course, jealousy or snobbery can kill an alliance
pretty quickly, but that's true of any friendship.

An Ally can also start out as your mentor, or vice versa, but if it's a real alliance, then that relationship will grow into something more symmetric, in which each of you mentors the other in some way.

The main reason you need Allies and the main reason they need you is that you both need encouragement from time to time, and you both need to be confronted from
time to time. Encouragement is for when you know you have a problem. Confrontation is for when you don't.

Who are your Allies? Do you even have Allies yet? If you haven't been writing long, then you may not have any. Or you may have only a few. Don't panic. You'll find your natural Allies as you progress in your career.

Allies start out as writing friends, but friendship is not enough to form an alliance. Some friends may grow into Allies. Others may always remain just friends.
That's normal. You will always have more friends than Allies.

When a friendship turns into a professional mutual dependence, then you have an alliance. Not until.

How many Allies do you need to get along in life? I don't know. I'm pretty certain that you need at least one. I doubt that you could possibly keep up with more than a couple of dozen. So I'd guess that somewhere between three and ten are the normal number of Allies.

You can, of course, have hundreds of friends. Friends are good. The more, the better. There's no need to be picky about friends.

I think it makes good sense to be picky about your Allies. You'll be joined at the hip with your Allies for a long time. Ten years or twenty or thirty.

Choose them well. It really helps if they get along with each other, but that's probably not an absolute necessity.

There's no action item here. I don't recommend that you go out and start choosing Allies willy-nilly. But it makes sense for you to think about who your Allies are
(if you have them) and which of your friends might eventually become an Ally.

This is not something you can push. An alliance has to be good for both parties, or it's not an alliance. It'll happen or it won't happen, and the best you can
do is to be aware of it and guide it gently as it matures.

I think there's really only rule to live by with your Allies: Do the right thing by them and they'll do the right thing by you.

Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the Snowflake Guy," publishes the Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 26,000 readers, every month. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit http://www.AdvancedFictionWriting.com.

Download your free Special Report on Tiger Marketing and get a free 5-Day Course in How To Publish a Novel.

Do you have writing allies? Leave a comment and tell us where you found them.

Traditional vs. Self-Publishing: An Agent's Point of View

Is there a future for traditional publishing? Or is the behemoth dying a slow death? Literary Agent Steve Laube tackles the question. As a long-time agent and a founder of a press for self-published authors, he is in a unique position to speak on the topic.

I highlighted Steve Laube in an Agent Friday post not too long ago. He's got a great blog.

Recently, Laube has posted a "Defense of Traditional Publishing" in five parts. I've been waiting for the entire series to be complete before I linked to it here.

So here are the five parts:

Take a few minutes to read Laube's thoughtful analysis. You'll be better able to offer your own opinions on the subject. It will be a hot topic for a long time to come.

Do you think traditional publishing has a future?

Book Review: The 11 Secrets of Getting Published, by Mary DeMuth

When I met Mary DeMuth at a writer's conference in 2008, the first thing I told her was, "You need to write a book for writers." I'd been an avid reader of her blog Wanna Be Published, and the information she shared there took me from a newbie to a writer who had a clue.

Well, she's done it. DeMuth recently published a Kindle-only book, The 11 Secrets of Getting Published. The content is the best of the Wanna Be Published blog, organized for writers to find what they need. The blog is still on the web for anyone to read, but the $2.99 book will save writers lots of time.

Early on, DeMuth was frustrated when an author she was friends with was unwilling to share the knowledge she'd gained on her own journey. DeMuth was determined to share what she learned with others, helping writers along, instead of viewing them as competition.

DeMuth's ebook is rising quickly in the Amazon rankings. This is likely due to the short, easy-to-digest sections. It's a great book to read in the small gaps of time in a writer's day. If you have a Kindle, you can carry it anywhere. Those without Kindles don't need to feel left out. Just download the free Kindle software to smartphones and computers.

The book is broken down into the promised 11 secrets:
·      Learn the craft
·      Develop discipline
·      Know the publishing industry
·      Welcome critique
·      Write great queries and proposals
·      Embrace marketing
·      Overcome fear and rejection
·      Understand the key players
·      Navigate writers conferences
·      Excel in your genre
·      Thrive in your career

Each section is chock full of tips, with examples and explanations. Things like:
·      Why published writers are ‘allowed’ to break the rules
·      A hilarious essay on avoiding clichés
·      What is ‘negation’ and why authors should avoid it
·      How to improve your writing by ‘writing nekkid’

The ebook also comes with three bonus sections. The first examines the excuses writers give for why they're not published yet. Bonus section two lists quick writing advice, and section three tells DeMuth's own fascinating story of the road to publication.

If you browse the Wanna Be Published site, you'll see the benefit of an organized book drawn from years of faithful blogging. DeMuth, a big supporter of writers helping writers, also has a resource page on her website with all kinds of free downloads, including a query tutorial. She also sells to excellent tutorials for writers: one is a fiction proposal tutorial, and the other is a nonfiction proposal tutorial. And for writers interested in publishing their own ebook, DeMuth shares a free article: Publish Your Ebook in 7 Simple Steps.

I'm thankful for DeMuth's journey and how willing she is to share it with the rest of us.  
Do you want to be that kind of writer?

Summer Writing Goals: Do You Have Any?

Summer always sneaks in. Unlike New Year's Day, which happens at the same time for everyone, depending on your state or school district or college, the "start" of summer can vary by more than a month. So it's not easy to feel the pressure of the beginning of a new season.

Combine that ambiguity with warm days, beaches calling, and a completely different schedule, and it's hard to buckle down and work on that waiting WIP.

I browsed around to find what others have posted about summer goals. Read on for a little inspiration.

If joining a group is motivational, there are several to choose from. Sometimes having accountability forces us to maintain the goals we've set.

Margo Berendson shares about a "Summer in the City" group that ought to do the trick. And Karen Mahoney has started Kaz's Summer Camp.

Limiting online activity can boost available hours for writing. I find it helps me to set a daily writing goal that must be met before I go online. Mary Ann Loesch lists 7 Summer Writing Goals for the Neurotic. Professor Beej recommends treating writing like a job--even in the summer.

Make sure to keep reading. Too many writers get so busy between writing, editing, and networking, that they fail to set aside time to be inspired by well-written words. Alex J. Kane lists not only his summer writing goals, but his reading goals, too. Sarah Allen advises taking a book with you everywhere you go.

Listing goals might be the best way to make sure they happen. My main goal is to write at least 1K per day before I go online. I'm planning to read at least one book a week. And blogging, of course, but the writing will come first.

What are your summer goals?

It's Your Turn: Share Your Best Post on Writing

It's been more than a month since I put up a post about your blogs (here and here, if you missed them). This week, I'd like to do something different. If you have a blog, scroll through your posts and pick one you'd like to share.

The topic can be anything related to writing: craft, finding time to write, querying, motivation--whatever might be helpful to the rest of us writers.

Post the link to your specific post in the Mr. Linky below. It's my first time using Mr. Linky, so I hope it works. If it doesn't just leave a comment with the post address.

I'll leave the linky up all week. Depending on the response, I'll select three posts to use as guest posts next week. I can't wait to read what you share!

Here's the linky:

Book Review: The Writer's Compass, by Nancy Ellen Dodd

I recently came across yet another writing book to add to my collection. It's called The Writer's Compass, by writer, editor, and teacher Nancy Ellen Dodd.

This is a comprehensive book on the craft of writing, that breaks the story down into seven stages. Dodd takes writers through the process of creating a story map to guide them from the beginning, through the middle, and to a satisfying end.

With a mountain of writing books available, it's difficult for writers to weed through the piles of potential instruction. Thankfully, Dodd offers information on her blog and website that can help make the decision easier.

First off, what will The Writer's Compass give you? Dodd's post lists the seven stages the book will bring writers through. And check out How to Write the Story You Want In Seven Stages.

Is Dodd's idea of a story map something that will be valuable? Find out in her post: What Can a Story Map Add To My Writing? For a more detailed explanation, check out Turning the Story Map Into a Picture Map.

And if you're working though your plot, don't miss Mapping the Elements of Good Storytelling.

Read an excerpt of the book where Dodd explains the use of foreshadowing. She shares both bad examples and good ones.

And here's an interview with Dodd on the Writers Digest site.

And so my library grows. How about yours?

The Ins and Outs of Internal Dialogue

There's what we do, and what we think about what we do. One is active and the other is passive. Someone can guess our intentions by our actions, but it's only if they were to read our mind, that they would really know our motivations, our insecurities, and our secrets.

I've been thinking a lot about internal dialogue, since my current novel has quite a bit of it. Granted, it's told in first person, but I've been wondering: How much is too much?

So I decided to see what other, more experienced writers had to say. Here is a sampling of what I found:

Author Gail Gaymer Martin shares eight significant reasons to use internal dialogue.

Author C. Patrick Schulze gives some do's and don'ts when using internal dialogue.

Novelist and writing teacher Marilynn Byerly explains how to format a character's inner thoughts.

And author Margot Finke gives a nice explanation, with some good examples.

Do you have your own ideas about how much to use internal dialogue? Or an article you've found that made a lot of sense? Leave a comment below.

Free Resources from Writer's Digest: 5 Free Ebooks Every Writer Needs

I love Writer's Digest magazine. I learn a huge amount of information with each issue. But did you know that even if you don't subscribe, you can get the weekly Writer's Digest Newsletter for free? 

If you sign up, you'll get a free .pdf file of their fabulous annual list of the 101 Best Websites for Writers. Normally, only subscribers receive it, but you could have it today.

The free newsletter links to solid articles on the craft of writing, marketing, and even a weekly writing prompt. If you haven't sign up yet, I'd zip over there now.

This week's newsletter links to no less than five free books for writers, a couple of which I've highlighted on the blog in the past. The books include:

70 Solutions to Common Writing Mistakes by Bob Mayer

279 Days to Overnight Success by Chris Guillebeau

How to Write a Great Query Letter by Noah Lukeman

What Publishers Want: An Author's Guide by Greenleaf Book Group

Smashwords Book Marketing Guide: How to Market Any Book for Free (this one is brand new)

You can find the links for all five books on this Writer's Digest page. The last two are the only ones I didn't have so far. I'll be transferring them to my Kindle for easier reading.

Don't you love free stuff that happens to be useful?


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