Friday, November 11, 2016

A Bible?

by Marsha Ward @MarshaWard

I recently took time away from writing to put together a big project, a collection of the five books of The Owen Family Saga as a box set. It was a huge job of work.

"What work?" you may ask. "Just slap all the books into one file and you're done!"

Not so.

I had to tinker with scenes that don't exactly play well with each other over the scope of the saga. Gotta be consistent.

"Is that kid named Ezra or Harry?" I picked Harry.

"Did Rod Owen meet Julia Helm's brother before they got married?" I thought they had in The Man from Shenandoah. As I write my current writing project, it appears that I was wrong, so I had to fix that in the existing work to jibe with the upcoming story.

Now that I've written Gone for a Soldier, that passage about Rulon and Mary's relationship in The Man from Shenandoah seems off. (Rewrite passage.)

Did he or didn't he during the Mexican War? Hmm. That question may remain forever unanswered.

How to explain the bit about the wedding ring? (Rewrite passage.)

Such fun!

I wish I had started a series "bible" when I wrote The Man from Shenandoah, to keep all the facts and characters straight, but I didn't know then that the tale about the Owen Family was going to expand into a series. Creating the "bible" now is going to be quite a task, but it's one I really need to do. When I'm done, perhaps it can become something new, maybe something called The Owen Family Companion.

After all, it's been done before: "Little did Louis L'Amour realize back in 1960 when he published The Daybreakers, a novel about two brothers who came west after the Civil War, that he had begun creating what would become perhaps North America's most widely followed literary family: the Sacketts." From The Sackett Companion: The Facts Behind the Fiction.

Every author should keep handy a notebook for facts (was the dog black or brown), characters (am I reusing too many names, or do all names begin with a single letter?), items (was that letter written in pen or pencil?), and the like, whether or not he or she is writing a series. Every little thing will come in handy for checking consistency within that story.

Can oxen run?  No, but they can perambulate pretty quickly if motivated. (I asked a large animal vet.)

Did people ride in wagons when on extended journeys? Not if they had a lot of belongings and/or foodstuffs to carry.

How many stories tall is the house? What does the general store look like inside? How far away from the house should the stable/barn/pigsty be? Is the bar/saloon/pub well lit, smoky, smelly, just a "belly-up-to-the" bar, or does it have gaming tables and sit-down tables, too?

You're the author. Make it easier on yourself with a "Book Bible."

Friday, November 4, 2016

It's Not About Luck (Part 3)

by Kimberly Loth @kimberlyloth
Indie Author Hub Member

This is the final part of this series, but I really think it’s the most important. It’s about faith and passion. I know those are two different things, but they go hand in hand.

Do me a favor and watch this video before you keep reading. It’s short, just two minutes, but the rest of the story will make more sense if you watch it first.


https://www.lds.org/media-library/video/2009-02-06-create?category=mormon-messages/mormon-messages-2009&lang=eng

This video is a small part of a talk that was given at a church conference several years ago. Before that day I’d never really considered writing. I’d dabbled, but nothing serious. I had no idea that day that a talk would be given that would change my life. But it did. A fire was lit inside of me. I wanted to create something incredible. I wanted to create worlds. I understand that that may make me sound arrogant, but please understand that at that moment in my life, I was at a low. I was depressed, bankrupt, and frustrated by the direction I was heading. Even my faith in God was wavering. Suddenly I had a passion and faith that I could do something with it.

The very next week, I signed up for a writing class and during that class I discovered Obsidian. The scene where Aspen meets him as a dragon on the mountain and he smashes her camera was the first thing I wrote.

Over the last several years, that passion has only grown and I rarely lost faith in what I was doing. (I think there was a time, right after my dad died, that I decided to quit. It didn’t last very long.)

I’m not saying the path was easy. But it’s been so worth it.

Find a way to create and find a passion for it. Don’t limit yourself to normal modes of creativity like writing, art, or music. Those are traditional (and awesome if you can pull them off). But I see people passionately creating all around me in many endeavors. My husband creates these amazing lessons for his students without even thinking about it half the time. I’ve always been in awe of his ability to teach. Virginia (you all know Virginia, by now, right? She’s the one who keeps me on track and does a lot so that I can focus on writing.) She somehow manages to create this system that makes it look like I’m in a thousand places at once. She’s amazing and endlessly passionate about EVERYTHING she does. (Sadly, I’m passionate about only three things—writing, my family, and travel.) There’s a woman I go to church with that I swear creates sunshine. Whenever I’m with her I can’t help but be happy. I admire her people skills. All of these things have one thing in common. Passion and faith.

Find your passion.
Then have the faith to put it out there.

~~~ 

This is Part 3 of a three-part series first posted at kimberlyloth.com.
Kimberly Loth can’t decide where she wants to settle down. She’s lived in Michigan, Illinois, Missouri, Utah, California, Oregon, and South Carolina.She finally decided to make the leap and leave the U.S. behind for a few years. After living in Cairo, Egypt for 2 years, she’s decided to go to the Far East and currently calls Shenzhen, China home. She loves romantic movies, chocolate, roses, and crazy adventures.

You can find Kimberly on her website, her Author Page on Facebook, and on Twitter at @kimberlyloth

Friday, October 28, 2016

How Do You Describe a Place?

by Anna del C. Dye @AnnaDelC
Indie Author Hub Member

In the same way you describe people and feelings,  you want the place to be seen in the reader’s mind as vividly as if they were there. It also has to do with the “show don’t tell” technique that is so desirable for a good author. You want your readers to feel it, touch it, see it, taste it and smell it. Every time you can use a combination of the senses or all of them in your book, you have the best descriptions ever.

Here are some ideas that can help inspire your own descriptions:

The sea of golden waves spread before my eyes while the breeze caressed it back and forth. I knew we had been blessed with a great crop this year. (wheat)

The rumble threatened to split the earth under our feet, and the dust settled on my eyelashes. (earthquake, mine accident)

The tormented waves sent their salt-water hands to slap my ship as if that would calm her pain. (stormy sea)

The furious rain fell like wet knives over my cold body.

The cracked soil thirsted for water and relief from the sun. (desert)

The heat was magnified with fury over the massive white rocks, bright enough to blind us.

The majestic green trees spotted the forest with their beautiful leaves.

The velvety darkness seemed the perfect bed for the diamonds that lay in many intricate forms while they glistened in the night. (night sky)

Now go, and happy writings to you

~~~


Shared with us from Anna's blog.

Anna was born in the extreme South. She loves reading, but had few opportunities to do so while growing up. As a young woman, she moved North to marry Rodney Dye and has resided in Utah since then. They are the parents of three princes and a princess. With her husband and his family she has had the opportunity of traveling to many of the United States, (most of them camping!) and to four other countries. She would like to visit castles in European countries. She is fluent in both English and Spanish and understands Portuguese.

After she married, Anna was introduced to the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books that she admits to having collected. A number of years ago she was introduced to Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and to J. K.Rowling's writings, which she loves. She also loves romantic music (she listens to it every day), theatrical plays that she attends at least six times a year, and cats (when they are not shedding).

Anna wears her dresses down to her ankles and likes them to be very feminine, with lace being one of her favorite trimmings. "I am afraid that I do not follow fashions," she has said. "I wear what I like."

You can find Anna on her website, her profile on FaceBook, and on Twitter at @AnnaDelC.



Friday, October 21, 2016

Finding Ideas

by Rebecca Talley  @rebeccatalley
Indie Author Hub Executive Committee Chair

I’m often asked where I find my ideas. My picture book, Grasshopper Pie, was based on an experience I had when my children tried to feed me a live grasshopper. I tweaked the experience enough to make it an interesting story and sold it to a publisher.

After I wrote Grasshopper Pie, I worried that I’d never have another idea. Wrong. Writing ideas are everywhere and now I have so many ideas I have to write them in a notebook to keep track.

Many of the stories or articles I’ve written have been based on my own experiences. A story that was recently published in the Friend magazine was based on an experience with my German neighbor when I learned to sing a song in German and shared it with her at Christmas one year.

Finding writing ideas is easy if you take the time to notice the world around you. Newspaper headlines, bits and pieces of a conversation on the subway, stories your kids share, fables, or television shows can form the basis of a writing idea.

With the invention of the internet, you can easily mine idea nuggets while you surf the web. Look for personal interest stories, new discoveries, or science articles to prick your imagination. Visit forums, check out blogs, or research certain topics to find even more ideas.

You might find ideas by reading books. Sometimes you can read a book and think about how you might change the story. Would you have a different antagonist? A different goal for the character? A different setting? Would the ending be different if you wrote it? Of course, you should never copy someone else's work, but using a previously written book can be a beginning point to creating your own unique story.

Be sure to write down all of your writing ideas no matter how ridiculous they seem. You never know when one of those ideas will be perfect for writing a story.
~~~


Rebecca grew up next to the ocean in Santa Barbara, California. She spent her youth at the beach collecting sea shells and building sandcastles. She graduated from high school and left for college, where she met and married her sweetheart, Del.

Del and Rebecca are the sometimes frazzled, but always grateful, parents of ten wildly-creative and multi-talented children and the grandparents of the most adorable little girls in the universe.

After spending nineteen years in rural Colorado with horses, cows, sheep, goats, rabbits, and donkeys, Rebecca and her family moved to a suburb of Houston, Texas, where she spends most of her time in the pool trying to avoid the heat and humidity. When she isn't in the pool, she loves to date her husband, play with her kids, swim in the ocean, redecorate her house, and dance to disco music while she cleans the house.

Rebecca has always loved to write and has authored novels, stories for print and online magazines, and children's books. She now focuses on writing romance because she believes everyone deserves their happily-ever-after.

You can find Rebecca on her website, her author page on FaceBook, and on Twitter at @rebeccatalley.

Friday, October 14, 2016

It's Not About Luck (Part 2)

by Kimberly Loth @kimberlyloth
Indie Author Hub Member

So maybe this is the part where I admit that there is a little bit of luck involved. I have been very fortunate to have been able to develop an incredible support team. It’s rare for an author to become successful without a good support system. It’s why acknowledgements are usually so long.

I have four different support systems I want to talk about.

  1. My family—more specifically my husband. He gives me the support I need so I can write. When I first started out, he encouraged me to write. When I started publishing, he told everyone who would listen that I published a book. He gave me the freedom to write and didn’t give me a bad time about ignoring the family. When I decided that I wanted to write full time. He didn’t hesitate. Without a supportive husband and family, I wouldn’t be able to do this.
  2. My slave driver cheerleader, Virginia. No clue where I would be without this girl. She’s read everything I’ve ever written and loved every word. When I was writing Kissed, I would get desperate emails from her wanting the next chapter. I don’t know how I landed a Virginia or how anyone else can get one, but she’s the reason I’m where I am. Her role has changed significantly in the last couple of years and now she manages most of my marketing efforts and keeps me on track. The only reason I’m writing this blog right now is because she sent me an email that said, “I need a blog post from you.”
  3. My writing team. This has also evolved over the last few years as I transitioned from just a writer to an author. It started with critique partners. Fabulous ones, that I now count among the best of friends. Then as I started publishing, I knew I needed to expand my team. I now have editors, cover designers, formatters, narrators, and others who help make my books what they are. Without them, this wouldn’t be possible.
  4. My fans—I’m not gonna lie, this one surprised the heck out of me. I remember the first email I got from someone I didn’t know raving about the book. I cried. I just couldn’t quite believe people actually liked it. Art of any kind is deeply personal, even if it’s complete fiction. Putting it out in the world is scary. Almost without warning, I had fans. That became a catalyst for me to continue. I write, not for myself, but for my readers. I love being able to create worlds that allow people to escape from reality for a few hours. I thrive on the words of my fans. They are an enormous support system. Without them, I wouldn’t be able to write like I do.
Support is important. If you don’t have supportive people in your life, go find them. You’ll be happier and enjoy the journey a lot more.
~~~

This is Part 2 of a three-part series first posted at kimberlyloth.com.

Kimberly Loth can’t decide where she wants to settle down. She’s lived in Michigan, Illinois, Missouri, Utah, California, Oregon, and South Carolina.She finally decided to make the leap and leave the U.S. behind for a few years. After living in Cairo, Egypt for 2 years, she’s decided to go to the Far East and currently calls Shenzhen, China home. She loves romantic movies, chocolate, roses, and crazy adventures.

You can find Kimberly on her website, her Author Page on Facebook, and on Twitter at @kimberlyloth

Friday, October 7, 2016

How to Write a Book Review

by Anna del C. Dye @AnnaDelC
Indie Author Hub Member

A review is a personal view of the story you have just read. Authors love reviews; they sell books. So consider writing a review every time you read a book.

Always start with something good about the story. Things like: “It is an interesting story” or “Quite fascinating reading,” even, “I couldn’t put it down,” will work well.

Always respect the creativity and the time the author took to write the book. Never say that you would have done the book this or that way. If that is how you feel, then write your own book.

You are welcome to compare books, but only in a positive way, as in: “If you read such and such a book you will love this one.” Or “It felt a bit like the book [Title] by so and so.” Never compared them as in “so and so writes better than this author.”

Remember that every author should be their own person and not a clone of another.


If two books are too similar, it could be a case of either a fan fiction book or plagiarism. Fan fiction is all right as long as the author is OK with it AND you or another person are NOT making money with the book. On the other hand, plagiarism is ILLEGAL and punishable by law. If you find that a book has been plagiarized, please get in contact with the author immediately.

Now back to reviews:

Do tell us if the story is fantasy, non-fiction, memoir or whatever genre it is. Tell us a little about the plot, though NEVER give a synopsis or tell the ending. Also tell us what age the book appeals to: if it is a children’s book or if it is young adult.

Do write what the story is about. Start with what the characters are trying to accomplish. Why? Who helps them? And who hinders them?

Do tell us about the pace of the story. Is it fast reading? Is it slow, and seems to never get where it is going? Did you get lost? Does it start slow but gets much better as it goes on? Does it have dialogue or is it written solely in a narrator’s voice? Will you pick up another book by this author?

Finish with something like, “I recommend this book to… [fantasy, crime, romance, etc. readers]” or “It will be loved by… [fantasy, crime, romance, etc. readers]” or “lovers of… [fantasy, crime, romance, etc.] will love this book”

If you didn’t like the book at all, please consider not writing a review. Readers have varied book preferences, and a book that you didn’t like may be loved by others. Hurtful or personal insults have no place in a review. If you promised a review and didn’t like the book, consider saying that the book was not your cup of tea and leave it there.

See, it is not that hard to write a book review. Overall, make sure that you are courteous to others when you give your opinion, and remember the review is just your opinion, not the world’s. Authors spend a lot of hours developing a book; if you don’t believe me, try writing one yourself.

And to all of you who are professional and courteous, we thank you for spending your time to write an informative review about our work. We love you.
~~~


Shared with us from Anna's blog.

Anna was born in the extreme South. She loves reading, but had few opportunities to do so while growing up. As a young woman, she moved North to marry Rodney Dye and has resided in Utah since then. They are the parents of three princes and a princess. With her husband and his family she has had the opportunity of traveling to many of the United States, (most of them camping!) and to four other countries. She would like to visit castles in European countries. She is fluent in both English and Spanish and understands Portuguese.

After she married, Anna was introduced to the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books that she admits to having collected. A number of years ago she was introduced to Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and to J. K.Rowling's writings, which she loves. She also loves romantic music (she listens to it every day), theatrical plays that she attends at least six times a year, and cats (when they are not shedding).

Anna wears her dresses down to her ankles and likes them to be very feminine, with lace being one of her favorite trimmings. "I am afraid that I do not follow fashions," she has said. "I wear what I like."

You can find Anna on her website, her profile on FaceBook, and on Twitter at @AnnaDelC.



Friday, September 30, 2016

It's Not About Luck (Part 1)

by Kimberly Loth @kimberlyloth
Indie Author Hub Member

With several new novels out in the world, I feel like I’ve finally arrived as an author. I have a good start on three series and people in my circle are starting to take notice. A phrase I hear all the time is—“Wow, you’re so lucky that you get to follow your dreams.” That phrase is almost always followed with—“How do you do it?”

Most people ask that question because in addition to writing and publishing books, I’m also a full time middle school math teacher. I can attribute this to three things. Hard work, support, and faith. I’m going to write about them in three separate posts.

Here’s what my day typically looks like:
  •   4:30 am: Alarm goes off and I hit snooze.
  •   4:45 am: I get up, check my email and facebook notifications (most of which are book related). I take care of anything urgent and grab a cup of hot chocolate.
  •   5:00 am: Head back to my room where I don’t have any Internet reception and write for two hours.
  •   7:00 am: Get ready for work
  •   7:45 am: Eat breakfast with my husband at this cute French cafĂ© close to my work. It’s a rare time for us to sit and talk without any other distractions.
  •   8:15 am: Arrive at work, answer other emails and things that I couldn’t do in the wee hours of the morning.
  •   8:30 am: School starts. I teach math. And answer a lot of questions.
  •   Morning break/Lunch: Deal with more emails. If I have time, I work on marketing.
  •   4:00: Schools out—Time to start my marketing work. (This is complex and there’s a lot of it.)
  •   6:00: Arrive home. Make dinner and hang with my family.
  •   7:00: Watch crime dramas with my husband and teenagers. It’s my favorite part of the day because really it’s the only time I’m not working.
  •   8:30: Head to bed and read until I can’t keep my eyes open anymore, usually around 9:30
  •   And it starts all over again the next day.
I will often work on book stuff all day on Saturdays as well. About once a month my husband will force me to go do something fun on a Saturday. And I love him for it.

Sundays are my no work day. I’ll still check my emails and facebook, but that’s my day to go to church and spend time with my family. It’s my favorite day of the week.

I know some people might wonder why I bother if it’s so much work. But I wouldn’t trade this work for anything. I love every second of it. I’m passionate about my books and publishing. I do it because I love sharing my stories with the world. For so many years they were stuck only in my head and now they are out there and people are reading them and to my great surprise, people like them.  I’m curious, what is something you are willing to work your tail off for? What’s your passion?
~~~

This is Part 1 of a three-part series first posted at kimberlyloth.com.

Kimberly Loth can’t decide where she wants to settle down. She’s lived in Michigan, Illinois, Missouri, Utah, California, Oregon, and South Carolina.She finally decided to make the leap and leave the U.S. behind for a few years. After living in Cairo, Egypt for 2 years, she’s decided to go to the Far East and currently calls Shenzhen, China home. She loves romantic movies, chocolate, roses, and crazy adventures.

You can find Kimberly on her website, her Author Page on Facebook, and on Twitter at @kimberlyloth

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Writing Fiction: Story Goal

by Rebecca Talley  @rebeccatalley
Indie Author Hub Executive Committee Chair

The main character in a novel must have a goal. He must have something he works toward, something he desperately wants, and if he does not obtain that something his life will not be the same.

Every novel should have a story goal and that goal should be clearly stated for the reader. In my novel, Heaven Scent, Liza is the main character. Her father has become obsessed with his career and has seemingly abandoned his family. Liza desperately wants her father back in her life. She wants her family to be as it once was. Throughout the book, she works toward the goal of trying to restore her family to its once happy state. In the first chapter, Liza clearly states this goal and she continues to restate it throughout the book.

Readers need to know what the goal is and what’s at stake if the goal is not obtained. Without a clear story goal, the reader gets lost and never fully engages with the story.

To determine the story goal you need to know what it is that your character wants. A new job? A husband? A child? A new house? Fame? Riches?

Once you know what your character wants, you need to know why. Why is this goal so important? What’s the underlying reason the character wants this goal? In Recovering Charles by Jason Wright, the main character, Luke Millward, wants to reconcile with his father. His search to do so leads him to New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina. Throughout the book, the reader wonders if Luke will be able to move beyond the past and repair his relationship with his father.

The story goal, or the desire to achieve it, propels the story forward. Without one, the story will flounder and finally fizzle. As a writer, you must be aware of the story goal and design smaller, scene goals that work toward the overall story goal.

Make sure your story has a clearly defined goal and you’ll not only have an easier time writing toward it, you’ll have readers anxious to read to the end to see if the character accomplished his goal.
~~~

Rebecca grew up next to the ocean in Santa Barbara, California. She spent her youth at the beach collecting sea shells and building sandcastles. She graduated from high school and left for college, where she met and married her sweetheart, Del.

Del and Rebecca are the sometimes frazzled, but always grateful, parents of ten wildly-creative and multi-talented children and the grandparents of the most adorable little girls in the universe.

After spending nineteen years in rural Colorado with horses, cows, sheep, goats, rabbits, and donkeys, Rebecca and her family moved to a suburb of Houston, Texas, where she spends most of her time in the pool trying to avoid the heat and humidity. When she isn't in the pool, she loves to date her husband, play with her kids, swim in the ocean, redecorate her house, and dance to disco music while she cleans the house.

Rebecca has always loved to write and has authored novels, stories for print and online magazines, and children's books. She now focuses on writing romance because she believes everyone deserves their happily-ever-after.

You can find Rebecca on her website, her author page on FaceBook, and on Twitter at @rebeccatalley.


Thursday, September 1, 2016

Keeping Track of Word Counts

by Marsha Ward @MarshaWard
[Most of this post was previously published on The Ink Ladies Blog on August 21, 2010. It has been mildly edited for updates.]

I've been busy, believe it or not. As I drown in slip-sliding paper falling toward me and my fingers on the keyboard (most of which I could shred, once I extract the odd computer disk, wedding announcement, and hardback book from the pile), it occurs to me that I could share how I keep track of my word count as I write.

Now understand, this can be as complex or as simple as I want to make it. I can use the Excel chart my friend J. Scott Savage sent me several years ago that nags me incessantly, or I can add and subtract words as I write and edit, or I can keep a simple running tally at the beginning and the end of my writing day. I kind of like the simple style nowadays, so I'll tell you how that last thing works.

I love the 9.5 inch by 6 inch one-subject notebooks for this task. They're not so big as to be in the way, and not so small as to disappear amidst the rubble on my desk. I open it up and draw three equally-spaced lines down the page. This gives me two sections of columns to fill up.

In the left-most column, at the top, I put the date. I can put anything else in the nature of notes in that column, like the times I start and end, the scene or chapter I'm working on, and how many hours I work. I see I have a notation saying slippery elm bark and chamomile tea. Ha! I know what scene that one was!

The second column is where I put the beginning word count opposite the date. If I'm starting fresh, this is zero. If I want to, I can add the word count when I do a save, when I get up for lunch, or what-not (I usually only put down the last three digits, or hundreds). The last figure I put in that column is the final word count of the day, unless I want to do a total of words written underneath it. I finish the day with a horizontal line drawn under all the notes for the day, in both columns.

The other section of two columns is for when I get to the bottom of the page. You knew that, right?

How do you find your word count at the beginning and end of the writing period?

If you're writing your novel or other kind of piece in Word, click on the menu item called Review, then highlight all your text (Ctrl+A). In the far left section, look for Word Count. Click it, and you'll have a rough estimate of your words. I say "rough," because it will count every asterisk (*) and Chapter Heading, but it's good enough for starters. Do this again when you quit for the day, and you have the second count.

Actually, if you want an even simpler method, just look at the bottom of your Word document, on the left. If you have Word 2010 or newer, the word count is already there for you.

Or, you can use the software program I use. I bet some of you chimed in with "Scrivener," but no, what I use is similar but FREE! It's called yWriter5. It, too, gives me the total word count of the project at the bottom of the main window (as well as words written that day when I'm finished), so I check the word count when I begin and when I end, and put those numbers in my notebook at start and end of day. Actually, since I belong to a couple of accountability groups, I also note the total words written that day in my notebook so I can report.

yWriter5 and its antecedents were written by novelist and computer programmer Simon Haynes of Australia. He couldn't find a writing software that suited his needs, so he wrote it. He updates it quite often, sometimes to meet suggestions of users, but it's a lean program written to use few resources of your machine. It even runs off a flash drive, so it's highly portable.

You can find yWriter5 at http://www.spacejock.com (Hal Spacejock is the hero of Simon's futuristic sci-fi series). There are several other useful programs to be found there, as well as a link to the  how-to wiki created by the folks in the next paragraph.

This software is free, not only no-cost, but free of nasty surprises like virii, Trojan horses, and other malware. There's an active community of users in a Google group who support each other. The old hands answer the questions of the newbies, and Simon occasionally pops in, too.

I really like yWriter5, not only to keep track of my word count, but for ease of writing a scene at a time (which is about all my brain can fathom at one time).

How do you keep track of your word counts?

Monday, August 1, 2016

Are You Afraid to Write?

by Marsha Ward @MarshaWard

It's amazing how much fear can paralyze a writer right from the start. Let's take a look at some of the fearful reasons people don't write, even when they long to do so.
  • I'm afraid to write because I'll have to cut back on spending time with my friends, and they won't like me anymore.
  • I'm afraid to let anyone read my work because they might steal it.
  • I'm afraid to share in a writer's group because people might criticize my work.
  • I'm afraid to submit my work because it might be rejected.
  • I'm afraid to revise because I might get my work published.
  • I'm afraid to get published because I might be successful and have to change my life.
How interesting it is that a writer's fears begin and end with making life changes.

Frequently self-doubt, a scurrilous fear, attacks a writer--even a published one--and causes him or her great anxiety, even to the extent of threatening a promising career. I know of a writer who was so convinced that he/she could not write his/her way out of a paper bag that he/she got rid of every vestige of the writing life, including the latest manuscript from the computer. Fortunately, calmer heads overruled the faulty self-assessment, and he/she has gone on to much success.

How does a writer overcome these fears?

That's a big question, because every writer faces it. Writers are notorious for mood swings from the heights of arrogance to the depths of despair. How can he or she keep on a more even keel?

Here's a list of things that help other writers:
  • Listening to inspiring music
  • Reading affirmations each day
  • Hanging quotes above the computer monitor or in the writing space
  • Praying before writing
  • Lighting scented candles in the room
Another frequent suggestion for overcoming writer's fear is to face it head on and WRITE EVERY DAY, even if it's only 100 words. This method has the added plus of helping a writer overcome writer's block.

I used to think writing every day was a wonderful idea., but I've discovered over the years that I need breaks from writing constantly on a project. I don't mean taking breaks in the midst of writing on a project, but taking breaks between projects. Writing every day may be a great idea for you. For me, not so much. So in my writing life, I've amended the suggestion above to "write every day" to include the phrase "when you are in writing mode."

What do you do to conquer your writer's fear?

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Author Earnings Report, Sneaky Money Grabs

by Marsha Ward @MarshaWard

March was going so good, with two posts, but April and May went by so quickly that it's now June. Sheesh.

Indie Authors have so much to watch out for: Money. It is coming in from sales of our products? Contracts: Are we aware of how things can go wrong, even in the Indie world of publishing?

Of course there are tons of other things to concern us, but since I have two blog posts from others that I want to spotlight, I'll go no farther on worries and concerns. Maybe later.

Some two years ago, an author named Hugh Howey and a number cruncher known only as "The Data Guy," teamed up "to gather and share information so that writers can make informed decisions. Our secondary mission is to call for change within the publishing community for better pay and fairer terms in all contracts." Their website is called Author Earnings, and shines quite a light on money matters for not only Indie Authors, but the entire publishing industry.

The team has steadily produced quarterly reports of data they've gathered ever since. The May 2016 Report has just been released.

While it's true that I sometimes drown in all the numbers and graphs, I've learned that if I take it slow, digesting the information bit by bit, I understand it much better. I recommend the reports for your enlightenment.

What about contracts? Do we Indie Authors go, "Contracts? We don't need no stickin' contracts!" Huh? Do we? Probably.

We may not need contracts with agents or publishers, but do we sign audiobook contracts, contracts with cover designers or image vendors, contracts with editors, or contracts for box sets?

For several weeks, I've been following a series of blogs that Kristine Kathryn Rusch has been writing each Thursday about contracts, and why Indie Authors need to think about them and avoid certain pitfalls that should always be deal-breakers. She's not writing to Indie Authors alone. She's doing a stellar service for all writers, including new writers, who so often don't think much about the contents and clauses in a contract before they happily sign on the dotted line.

Here's a link to the entire series from the get-go. Scroll down to begin at the beginning. Put on protective clothing, as you may find yourself scared enough to ________ (you fill in the blank).

If you like Kris's advice, consider dropping some coins into the hat on your way out.

Thanks for reading!

Marsha Ward is the author of the acclaimed historical series "The Owen Family Saga" and other novels set in the 19th Century. See her website at marshaward.com


Friday, March 18, 2016

Do You Want to Be a Writer?

by Marsha Ward @MarshaWard
I came across a great blog by Indie Author sensation Hugh Howey a couple of days ago. In it, he gives the secrets to success as a writer, which a lot of people won't follow because, yeah, they're hard.

Here's how he starts out:

Sitting in your underwear, hearing voices, talking to people who are not there, mumbling to yourself, Googling how to dispose of bodies and the firing rate of an uzi submachine gun. Assuming this sounds like the ideal life for you—and you don’t want to be certifiably crazy but only a little crazy—then the life of the professional writer is what you’re after. And I’m going to tell you how to make it happen.
Then he gives "the #1 secret to success and a career of working in your underwear: You have to work harder than anyone else. Period."

I'll list a few of his bullet points, but you'll have to go over and read the complete article to get the full flavor of the meal. And yes, he says a couple of words I don't use, but nowhere near as many as Chuck Wendig does. They both give great advice.
  • Make a long-term plan.
  • Reading.
  • Practice
  • Daydream.
  • Learn to fail.
And those are just the first five points. If you want to be a writer, go read these and the other five, with their explanations of how to implement them.

Then get to work!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, said the King of Siam

or so I'm told. Someday I'll get around to watching *that movie.

by Marsha Ward

From time to time, I'll see words misspelled in blog posts, or emails, or articles, or on Facebook, and every time, they make me cringe. Yes, I'm that much of a perfectionist. Lucky me.

One I'm seeing consistently is "ect." [sic].

I think the word, or rather, the abbreviation, is so often misspelled because very few people know anymore what the abbreviation stands for, and maybe folks don't have a clue how it is pronounced. They kind of know what it means, but not the rest of it. So much for teaching to the test.

Instinctive teacher that I am, I'm here to offer enlightenment.

First, the proper way to spell that word is "etc." Please note that there is always a period after it, even if it occurs in the middle of a sentence. **Yanno, like Dr. or Mrs.

Second, etc. is an abbreviation of the Latin words "et cetera." Please look closely. The first word is spelled e t. The second word begins with a c. That's where the abbreviation comes from: the first word plus the first letter of the second word.


etc.
et cetera

My handy Webster's New World Dictionary (always kept by my desk) gives this information: et cet-er-a [and says the accent is on "cet."] and others; and the like: abbrev. etc.

Now you will never forget how to correctly spell that abbreviation, because you will hear et cetera in your head every time you go to write it.

Have a wonderful day. And don't misspell etc. ever again. Thank you.


* The King and I
** (Miss Snark's way of saying "you know." Miss Snark is the blog pen name of the much-missed, albeit potty-mouthed agent who is no longer entertaining the masses.)

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Elmore Leonard's Ten Rules for Writers

We lost the brilliant American writer Elmore Leonard in August of 2013. I'm posting a bit of writing advice he gave us that has become almost as famous as he is.
~Marsha Ward @MarshaWard

Ten Rules for Writers

1 Never open a book with weather. If it's only to create atmosphere, and not a character's reaction to the weather, you don't want to go on too long. The reader is apt to leaf ahead look­ing for people. There are exceptions. If you happen to be Barry Lopez, who has more ways than an Eskimo to describe ice and snow in his book Arctic Dreams, you can do all the weather reporting you want.

2 Avoid prologues: they can be ­annoying, especially a prologue ­following an introduction that comes after a foreword. But these are ordinarily found in non-fiction. A prologue in a novel is back story, and you can drop it in anywhere you want. There is a prologue in John Steinbeck's Sweet Thursday, but it's OK because a character in the book makes the point of what my rules are all about. He says: "I like a lot of talk in a book and I don't like to have nobody tell me what the guy that's talking looks like. I want to figure out what he looks like from the way he talks."

3 Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue. The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in. But "said" is far less intrusive than "grumbled", "gasped", "cautioned", "lied". I once noticed Mary McCarthy ending a line of dialogue with "she asseverated" and had to stop reading and go to the dictionary.

4 Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said" ... he admonished gravely. To use an adverb this way (or almost any way) is a mortal sin. The writer is now exposing himself in earnest, using a word that distracts and can interrupt the rhythm of the exchange. I have a character in one of my books tell how she used to write historical romances "full of rape and adverbs".

5 Keep your exclamation points ­under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. If you have the knack of playing with exclaimers the way Tom Wolfe does, you can throw them in by the handful.

6 Never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose". This rule doesn't require an explanation. I have noticed that writers who use "suddenly" tend to exercise less control in the application of exclamation points.

7 Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly. Once you start spelling words in dialogue phonetically and loading the page with apos­trophes, you won't be able to stop. Notice the way Annie Proulx captures the flavour of Wyoming voices in her book of short stories Close Range.

8 Avoid detailed descriptions of characters, which Steinbeck covered. In Ernest Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants", what do the "American and the girl with him" look like? "She had taken off her hat and put it on the table." That's the only reference to a physical description in the story.

9 Don't go into great detail describing places and things, unless you're ­Margaret Atwood and can paint scenes with language. You don't want descriptions that bring the action, the flow of the story, to a standstill.

10 Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip. Think of what you skip reading a novel: thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them.


Great advice, Mr. Leonard. I'll keep it in mind as I tackle the beginning of another novel.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Research, Writing, and Visual Cues

by Marsha Ward @MarshaWard

Let me state up front that I have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). This affects the way I write, and tosses a few hurdles in my path that many other writers don't deal with. But other writers also have ADD or ADHD, so I feel a kinship with them. We do the best we can, and sometimes, we do brilliantly.

When it comes to writing novels, I don't always follow a strict progression of tasks. You know, like do research, write, edit, send the work off. These are very broad categories for the many and varied tasks writers do to get from the beginning to the end of a project. Let me explain a bit further.
  • Some writers do all their research before they write the first creative word.
  • Some writers do quite a bit of research to get a solid overview before they begin writing, then continue to research while they write, as they discover they need specific details.
  • Some writers make it all up, without any need for research.
Because I write historical novels, I need to do research, so I don't fall into the third group of writers.

I don't always know what I need to know when I begin a project, so I can't research everything before I write. Therefore, I don't belong in the first category, either.


I'm among those in the middle category above: I get the background covered, start writing, then fill in the gaps when they come along. I think of this as first, using the shotgun approach, then using a rifle to target the specifics.

 Once I've identified certain facts, I find that I need constant reminders of them. I'm afflicted with ADHD, remember?

Because I am a visual-learner, I depended on visual cues to remember these key items as I wrote the prequel novel in The Owen Family Saga, Gone for a Soldier. I made several charts or graphs, which are actually poster-board sheets I hung on my walls or attached to the front door with magnets. These sheets have various types of information on them.

One sheet showed a column with a rough timeline of the major battles of the eastern theater of the Civil War. My characters were not much concerned with the war's battles west of Virginia. A column on the rest of the page noted how my characters were impacted by these events. I should have used more space on the timeline side, as the second column needed more room. Oh well.


Another sheet reminded me of which military units are aggregated to make up larger units, that is: company > regiment > brigade > division > corps > army. I hope I got that right, as I'm not looking at the sheet.

A third sheet showed the configuration and changes there-to of the eastern fighting forces of the Confederacy. The death of major commanders often meant the entire army got reorganized. As units received casualties, they often were combined. New regiments were raised and places found for them in the army.

My intent wasn't to document these changes, but to show where they impact my characters. You see, I assigned most of my characters to actual historical Civil War units. In only one case did I choose to create a bogus cavalry company.

Civil War Units from Virginia
If Character A started out in actual Company Z of Regiment 1 of the infantry, and his unit was wiped out and combined with another after Battle 100, he might write home about it. If his Company didn't actually participate in a certain battle, I couldn't write a scene showing him in the heat of the fray.


Alas, I discovered I needed to dump a scene I wrote before I learned that a character's historical unit wasn't at the Battle of First Manassas (called Bull Run by the Yankees). Part of the problem came about because I hadn't isolated the company he would join before I wrote the scene. I knew his regiment was in the battle, so I assumed his company would be. Only after I picked the company in which he would enlist did I learn that, for whatever reason, it hadn't been on the field of battle. Erk!


I know all this sounds like an awful lot of work. To be truthful, it is! However, my method makes it possible for me to function at least halfway like a human being, and to let loose the stories rolling around in my head. That's worth the extra work!