Deborah Ratliff: Radio Interview “Dr. Paul’s Family Talk”

Host Dr. Paul Reeves asked me back on the “Dr. Paul Family Talk” radio show this morning to discuss the phenomenal growth of the Facebook writing group, Writers Unite! and discuss our new blog, “Writers Unite!”  We also discussed the upcoming Writers Unite! Short Story Contest which will launch in January 2017.

When I first appeared on Paul’s show in July 2016, our Facebook page membership was just over 6,000. Today, November 28, 2016, we reached over 20,000 members.  An amazing accomplishment for a writing group barely a year old.

Here is a link to my interview. Hope you enjoy!

(https://www.podomatic.com/podcasts/pwr/episodes/2016-11-28T13_43_14-08_00)

“Dr. Paul’s Family Talk” airs live each week on WNZK, 690AM, in the Detroit area from 11:00 a.m. – Noon Eastern Time. The show is also live streamed on Tunein.

 http://tunein.com/radio/WNZK-690-s21615/

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Karl Taylor: Writer’s Block

It was fourth and goal at the opponent’s three-yard line. They trailed by four points. The game was on the line. The season was on the line. How this young man would be remembered in this small west Texas town would be determined on this play.

He called the play and they broke the huddle. The crowd on both sides of the field was losing their minds. The noise was deafening and he could actually feel the ground shake beneath his feet. He approached the line and had a look around. The game clock was running, 23, 22, 21. He looked over  the defensive formation. He liked the play they had called. He checked behind him to see that the tailback was in the right place. He looked to either side at the receivers. Everything looked good.  He checked the play clock, 12, 11, 10. The defense was yelling, barking and growling. They were doing anything they could to distract him. It was now or never. He barked out the signals and the ball was snapped. And? And? And?

Oh my! My brain froze up. Do I have him toss the ball to the tailback and watch helplessly as he runs for the corner of the end zone? Do I have the quarterback roll out and look for an opening to the end zone? Do I have him drop back and throw it to the frightened little freshman who was a water boy just two weeks ago? Does he fall back to pass and trip over his untied shoelace and fall flat on his face? Do I have him unleash a missile that sails high and hits the team mascot right between the eyes? Does he succeed? Does he fail?

So many choices and I can’t make up my mind. It’s a turning point in the book and my mind has gone blank. Do I make him a hero? Do I make him the butt of everyone’s jokes? Do I make him just a spectator? I’m stuck. I have no idea what to do next. Oh no! I have writer’s block and I have no idea how to break through. Three hours later, I’m still staring at the screen. My eyes can’t focus. I can’t read anything on my keyboard. My heart is racing and I want to scream at the top of my lungs. Writer’s block? Really? I thought it was just a myth.

Everyone on this planet has their own ways of doing things and if it works for them, then that is the right way, for them. I’m not Stephen King or Tom Clancy or even Dr. Seuss,  but I know what works for me and I wanted to share that with you, because for me, it’s my right way and might help you in some small way.

My first go to is to head straight for my bookshelf. I grab my favorite book by my favorite author.  I need him/her to take me away from this frustrating world I live and write in and make me forget it all for a while.

A lot of times, while I am reading, a little bell will go ding, ding, ding. My subconscious had been working on my problems while I was distracting myself and has come up with the answer. I just keep reading until that little bell goes off letting me know the answer has been found. If reading doesn’t inspire me then it’s on to stage two.

The second phase of my writer’s block strategy is pretty simple… writing prompts. If it is a picture prompt, I stare at it imagining I am in the photo. I can feel the breeze or the cold or the heat beating down, whatever is going on in the picture. I can hear the sounds surrounding me. I can smell the scents that surround me and I ask myself… what happens next? Then I will write a story from 100-1000 words.

If it is a written prompt, I’ll read it several times and close my eyes. I use my imagination to project myself into the setting that the written prompt describes. I take a look around and examine my surrounding and ask the same question… what happens next? Then I will write a story from 100-100o words.

It works best for me if the prompts are for genres that I don’t normally write. Horror and romance are two of my favorites. The idea is to kick start my imagination and creativity and a prompt that is out of my usual comfort zone is usually the best way to do that.

These two simple steps have never failed me. I hope they can work for you. If they don’t, the key is to find what does work for you. I wish you well and keep on writing.

 

Can Acting Help You Create Memorable Characters

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Whether I’m writing a comic, a blog post or a screenplay, the cornerstone of my writing remains the character.

From the very first moment you welcome your reader, and he reads your first paragraph, you want to make sure he knows:

  1. Whose story is it?
  2. What’s happening around the character?
  3. What’s at stake for the character?

This is because, from Shakespeare to Ibsen, the whole idea of dramatic writing revolves around the character: The one we root for, and the one who moves the story along with its actions.

But building character for fiction requires a deep understanding of human motives. A knowledge I had no access to until I shifted my perspective to a more experiential approach: That of embodying characters myself.

That of Acting.

And it changed me, it made me more aware of human dynamics. From the very first moment I started reading Lee Strasberg, Stanislavski and Grotowski, I noticed the similarities between my career as a psychologist, dramatic writing and those stories I wanted to create. 

But the real question is: Can acting work for you and your fictional characters as it worked for me?

Even without knowing you, and whether you suffer from stage fright or no. I do believe a short acting workshop can help you breathe life into your characters.

Here’s why.

Acting is a space for practice and creativity

Think of acting as a playground for discovery. Your own.

Acting will help you find your voice and it will give you a thorough understanding of your body language. All of this, on a playful and safe environment.

In this controlled space, you’ll have the opportunity to test, propose and create with others. It’s human interaction at its best.  

When you get back to your writing space, you will find how the relationships and interactions between your fictional characters become more natural and innovative.

Acting can teach you how to show, don’t tell

Regular conversations might sound like this:

“I’m sad;” “I don’t want to be here;” “I’m about to cry.”

I know, it sounds dramatic, but it has nothing to with dramatic writing. These are real life examples, yet you’re writing fiction. And since there’s no emotional value behind those phrases, we’re taught as writers to show and never tell.

Acting is no different. That means dialogue remains an extension of action. For example, a good actor on a good play wouldn’t tell the audience he’s about to commit suicide; no, we would see the signs: the gloomy tone of his voice, his gaunt appearance, his vacant stare and saggy posture. The way he thinks of life and the places he visits on a regular basis.

He’s hinting us. He’s suggesting and planting an idea. And we follow him along because we want to know if he’s going to survive or not. He’s in control.

That’s the power of character.

Acting teaches you to put yourself out there

Ok, all of this whole acting thing might sound promising. But what if you have stage fright? Or, you are self-conscious about your body, or your voice, or the way others look at you…

Just… don’t freak out. I feel you.

See, I’m an introvert. I like to read, spend time on my own, and sometimes too much social interaction can leave me heavily drained. Yet I’m so comfortable with myself that I can give a speech, act or sing in front of an audience –without fainting.

I had to learn that from scratch though. And acting helped me a lot.

Before acting I was afraid of looking at people in the eye. I was insecure. I didn’t know what to do with my body, how to move or whether to smile or not. I felt people would just laugh or criticize everything I did. But even when I forgot my lines, or made a mistake, I would just try again.

I didn’t die.

And that’s a huge lesson for us writers and aspiring authors. Acting teaches you to put yourself out there. It will help you with your pitching and that arrogant publisher. You will become more in control of yourself. And that confidence will translate into your writing. You will suddenly become less self-conscious about what you produce and you won’t feel afraid of being vulnerable.

Should you take acting classes?

I don’t think acting is for everyone, and I’m not encouraging you to pursue an acting career. But I do believe that it can critically improve your writing.

It worked for me, and my screenwriting feels more natural ever since.

Even if it doesn’t improve your writing you will have some fun, you will find an alternative way to express yourself creatively, and you will exercise too. Besides you can meet some interesting people in your classes –they could even end up as potential characters for your fiction book.

If you liked the article feel free to share it. Or, if you have any questions about acting and writing you can leave a comment below and I’ll be happy to help.

Happy writing –and acting.

Dan

Find me on my blog Fourth Walled

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Dan de Abreu is dedicated to helping  others aspiring authors while studying the relationship between psychology and writing.
He holds a BA in psychology and  works as a copywriter, screenwriter, and comics writer.
His longtime goal is writing scripts for his own animated short films.

Writers Unite! Bookshop is now on the “WU!” Blog

In addition to the Bookstore post available Friday through Sunday on our Facebook page for you to post links to your published works, we are adding the Bookstore to our Blog.

You will find the Bookstore on the menu bar. Click on the drop down menu to locate your favorite genre and find a new book to enjoy!

If you would like to have your book info posted on our blog, please email us at writersunite16@gmail.com using WU Bookstore in the subject line.

Please include the following:

  • Book title, author’s name, and links to sites where your book can be purchased.
  • A very brief blurb about your book. (150 words or less)
  • Thumbnail copy of book cover
  • Books Rating: G, PG, R, X (this category must include a warning,)
  • The general genre of your novel. The books will be sorted by the main genre categories.

Those genres are as follows:

  • Action / Adventure
  • Contemporary/ YA
  • Fantasy
  • Historical
  • Horror
  • Literary / Other
  • Mystery
  • Nonfiction
  • Romance
  • Poetry
  • Sci-Fi
  • Westerns

Please follow these guidelines to ensure your book sales link will be included.

The Bookstore is now open!!!

Writers Unite! on Facebook

Deborah Ratliff: The Writer’s Voice and Other Elements of Style

As I write this, the manuscript for my first novel and I exist apart. The words I’ve written now in the capable hands of my editor. It was a conversation with him regarding my writing idiosyncrasies that provided me with a clearer insight into my writing style and the voice I choose.

Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of writing to comprehend is the concept of style. Like fingerprints, one author’s style of writing is unique from another’s and can vary depending on several factors, including the intended audience. Sentence structure, word choice, and the more elusive writer’s voice constitute the elements of style.

Before I returned to writing fiction, a passion from my youth, I wrote professional articles, policy and procedure and training manuals, newsletters, and advertising copy. At times, I might work on policy in the morning, a newsletter in the afternoon. What I failed to realize was I was changing my writing style to fit my readers.

Let’s look at how the description of a thunderstorm varies from one audience to another.

A scientific journal article on the elements of a thunderstorm would present a technically correct explanation of how warm moist air rapidly updrafts into cooler layers of air forming cumulonimbus clouds. Precipitation follows, and cold air sinks creating downdrafts and winds. Electrical charges build up in the water and ice cloud particles and release as lightning, which heats the air with such intensity producing a sound wave we know as thunder.

A storyteller would write of the darkening clouds, the rising winds, a prickly feeling on the skin as the storm intensifies, the driving rain, brilliant lightning flashes, the roar of thunder. Thus, setting a mood or a backdrop for the characters to interact.

The same author can write in an impersonal, technical style or in descriptive prose. It is the choice of words, sentence structure, and the author’s voice that creates style.

Word choice:

Writing experts teach authors to eliminate unnecessary words. To be concise, to choose the best word, an action verb demonstrating a physical or mental act or a concrete noun conveying sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch to convey meaning. We limit our use of adjectives and adverbs and the overuse of certain words such as ‘as,’ ‘that,’ and ‘it.’ Polysyllabic words, alliteration, and consonance create flowing sentences, while onomatopoeia and monosyllabic words can break up the flow.

Sentence Structure:

Good writers carefully structure sentences to extract the most meaning and to facilitate flow. When constructing a sentence, vary the length of the sentence to achieve different rhythms. Also, consider the word and phrase placement within a sentence which can emphasize the sentence meaning. Removing unneeded, vague or repetitive words, and including subordinate phrases and clauses will tighten up a sentence and make it more readable.

Voice:

The most subjective of the three elements of style is voice. Voice is unique to each writer and impacted by the author’s personality and one element of style, word choice.  Whether detached, passionate, objective, humorous, serious, it is yours.

This discussion of style brings me back to my conversation with my editor. I had two repetitive issues in my writing. The underuse of the word ‘that’ and my love of run-on sentences.

Somewhere, while reading what all the writing ‘experts’ suggest, I took the suggestion to eliminate the word ‘that’ where I could. Apparently, there are times when that makes a sentence clearer. My editor decided to replace those I had eliminated in my own edit. Then he read the story again and took them out, deciding the inclusion interfered with my writing style.

The run-on sentences are another issue and result from my desire to write with a smooth flow. I wrote a short story for a challenge a few years ago and received this critique, “Great story, well-done, but use an ‘and’ every now and then.” Apparently, I didn’t heed that message.

My editor offered the following advice. That the choice to construct sentences in this manner was mine. It was my style of writing and my decision to change them. It was at that moment I realized I had the final say on how my book would read.

Granted, I am at liberty to make these choices because I am self-publishing. I doubt the editor of a traditional publishing house would allow me the leeway of making these decisions for myself. The fact is I respect my editor and will likely take his advice, but his words made me realize that the style I choose to write in, my writer’s voice is mine.

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Deborah Ratliff is an administrator for the Writers Unite! Blog and Facebook page. Her first novel, Crescent City Lies, a murder mystery will be published in the Fall of 2016.

Personal Blog: the coastal quill

Author Page: D.A. Ratliff

Facebook: Writers Unite!

Michele Sayre: How to Use Deep POV to Avoid Info-Dumping

Writers do a lot of research and work to create the world in which their story is set. But a reader does NOT need to know all these details. They only need to know what’s important to the scene itself. And the key to that is asking why does the POV character notice this or that, or think about this or that? The single question of ‘why’ is very effective in editing down the most essential information in a scene.

Here’s an example from a work-in-progress of mine called ‘Not Enough Time’. In the very first scene I wanted to show the setting as I didn’t just want to put at the top of the page, Northeastern Colombia because readers wouldn’t know why I set the scene there. Instead, I wove in the details of that particular setting through my POV character Jake.

Jake continued to scan their surroundings without moving a muscle. The jungle threatened to overtake the dirt clearing and the only sounds cutting through the tense silence were the small birds flitting through the trees. But the oil fields of northeastern Colombia were hit on a regular basis and the two execs they’d been guarding were highly-lucrative targets. Yet… no sign of trouble at all the entire two weeks they’d been here.

What I wanted to create was an image of an oil field hacked out of a jungle, and the dangers surrounding it. It explained why my hero was there (guarding two oil company executives) and the conflict behind the setting (no sign of trouble despite the area getting ‘hit’ on a regular basis).

Another way to avoid info-dumping is not only weaving in the necessary details, but making sure those details advance the story. It’s all well and good to read description that looks great, but if it doesn’t advance the story then it’s pointless.

Here’s an example from a short story of mine. In this scene (the first one in the story), Emma meets Miguel, the man she’s come to write about. Except that she doesn’t recognize him when she sees him this way.

But as she raised her camera a man rose up out of the water in a huge rush like a god of the sea.

Slowly, she lowered her camera and felt her mouth fall open at the sight of the man now walking out of the water.

He was like a god- tall, broad-shouldered with washboard abs and dark curls of chest hair. He slicked back his thick black hair and smiled up at the sun, his black swim trunks clinging to his mid-section, outlining an impressive package.

Blushing hotly, she looked away from that part of him but it was too late. He was coming right towards her, towards the towel she stood right behind.

“Hello.” He called out with an accent.

And as he got closer, she realized with a huge blush of embarrassment this was the man she had come to write about.

Miguel Salvador, bad-boy chef and all-around hunk.

There’s a lovely shock to Emma upon seeing Miguel like this even as that shock turns to embarrassment when she realizes who he is. So not only do we have Emma’s observations and emotions in the scene, we also have the beginning of the story’s conflict.

Deep POV is about letting your characters tell the story and not about putting every little detail on the page because you want to show off your research and world-building. Remember, you have a story to tell and those details are just a part of the story.

Jessica V. Fisette: How to Write a Review So Good That Authors Will Thank You

Reviews are important, and every serious author knows that. We beg and pester—and would even bribe readers if it were allowed—to leave reviews describing their experience reading our book.

When that review finally does go up, a moment of panic hits us as we start reading. When we’re finished, we are usually either left with a sense of gratitude or disappointment, a stroked ego or a bruised one. The reader simply either did or did not like our work.

Most times, the one thing we don’t take away from the review is why the reader felt a certain way. Sure, we hear them. They hated it—in all caps, I might add. Or, they absolutely loved it and it was the best book ever written. (Who doesn’t like reading those kinds of reviews?)

To grow as an author, we need more. More importantly, potential readers need more. When you post a review, people read it in hopes that they can learn something from it. Sure, you thought the book was great or that it was terrible. But, why?

Did you think Detective Sanchez falling in love with his arch-rival was clichéd or the perfect plot twist? Give a vague, spoiler-free explanation about how the main plot twist felt like a cliché. Did a specific character annoy you because they were unlikable? Or, did they make choices that seemed out of character? There’s nothing wrong with saying so.

What did you like about the book? Were you drawn in by the setting, the mystery? Was the narration funny or insightful? Did the characters feel authentic and the situations they encountered keep you engaged in the story?

This is the kind of feedback authors and potential readers need to know. Authors need constructive criticism to grow and write better books in the future, while readers need to choose a book that is right for them. They’ll look over the review section to learn about the quality of the book and if it’s something they would like to invest their time in. So when you go to write your review, consider what you did or didn’t like about it and why. Remember, you’re helping an author whose works you’ve already invested time in to write better books, and to help readers find books they would actually enjoy, so be encouraging as well as honest.

Overall, any review is better than no review at all (except in the case of outright trolls) so if you don’t want to include this sort of information, I’m certain your review is still greatly appreciated. However, if reviewing books has become a habit of yours—maybe you’re starting a blog and want to make a reputation for yourself—this would be the best way to leave professional, thoughtful reviews from which authors and readers alike will benefit.

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Have a book or WIP in need of peer feedback? Join our sister group

Writers Unite! Critiques and Review to learn more about the review process and connect with other writers willing to critique swap WIP’s or read/review your published works!

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Jessica Fisette is the author of The Vanquished, the first book in The Soul Reaper series, and Fragments, a short story. Her hobbies include discovering the benefits of natural medicine, wine tasting, and trying new recipes in the kitchen. She likes to unwind by typing out a scene or two in her latest obsession or indulging in a good book. Having been passionate about writing since she was a little girl, she is constantly coming up with new ideas for future stories and creating unique, strong willed- albeit flawed- characters to overcome the difficult obstacles she places before them.

Follow my blog at: www.jessicavictoriafisette.com Link to The Vanquished: http://amzn.to/2eq2Vzn Link to Fragments: http://amzn.to/2ftFdSS

Karl Taylor: My Thoughts on Dialogue

For me, the number one rule for writing dialogue is to keep it interesting. You don’t want your readers just skipping the dialogue hoping to find something more interesting. So you should leave out things like:

Char 1 “Hi.”

Char 2 “Hi.”

Char 1 “How are you?”

Char 2 “I’m fine. How are you?”

        Your reader’s mind will immediately shut this ordinary noise out and move on to find the next interesting action. Maybe you could liven things up a bit?

Char 1 “Hi.”

Char 2 “Oh, it’s you.”

Char 1 “I see you haven’t changed much.”

Char 2 “Unfortunately, neither have you.”

        You see immediately that these two have a history and it’s a stormy one. Immediately you wonder why they don’t like each other and it pulls you into the dialogue, hoping to discover what caused these feelings.

        Secondly, but just as important, the dialogue must sound realistic for that character, the mood he’s in and fit the situation. Someone who is ordinarily prim and proper and well-spoken won’t walk into an office for an interview with someone they don’t know and say, “Hey there jackass! How they hanging? I’m here ‘bout that job I saw posted.” The dialogue must fit the character and you must keep it consistent throughout the story.

        Situations will change dialogue. Formal situations like black tie parties or funerals tend to keep the language more formal too. Hanging out with close friends, drinking on a Saturday night will change the dialogue as well. The character’s mood also has a profound effect. If they just came from the funeral for the main character’s mother the dialogue will be much different than if it’s a bachelor party the night before his wedding.

        Thirdly, the dialogue should serve a purpose. It should move the story forward or provide some important information for the reader. You don’t want your character walking through a busy office and write the whole, hi, how are you, I’m fine, how are you, business with everyone in the office. Unless one of these meetings is important to the story, you’d be better off just saying, He greeted all his fellow workers on the way to his cubicle.

Dialogue can serve to show conflict as well:

Char 1 “Hey Samantha.”

Char 2 “What the hell do you want?

Char 1 “Is that any way to talk to an old friend?”

Char 2 “You’re not a friend Johnny.”

There’s no doubt that Samantha doesn’t like Johnny. You can also slip in some exposition:

Johnny “We grew up as neighbors Samantha. We’ve known each other all our lives.”

Samantha “You ruined all that when you screwed my sister and then left her alone to raise the baby.”

        Another thing I want to leave you with is that you should never have long strings of uninterrupted dialogue. It can become dull or confusing as to whom is speaking unless you have Johnny said or Samantha said after every quote. So you should interject little moments of silence now and then.

Johnny “Do you agree with me or not Samantha?”

Samantha “I have a few more questions.”

Johnny “Questions? I’ve talked to you about this until I’m blue in the face!”

Samantha “I don’t know.”

Samantha threw down the box she was holding and walked away.

Johnny “What is it Samantha?”

Samantha “I hate you.”

You can have long conversations but you need to take a breath now and then.

        Lastly, you need to go back and read it out loud to yourself or have someone else read the lines out loud with you. If it doesn’t sound natural when you read it out, then it probably won’t sound natural to the reader either. Polish it up until it feels right. The details make the difference.

        Everyone has their own way of doing things and I don’t presume to be the “dialogue master” but hopefully something I said might prove helpful to you. Good luck with your writing.

Welcome to “Digital Arts Gathering”

From time to time, we, the admins come across articles or information that we feel is important to pass on to you. Today, we’d like to introduce you to the web page and Facebook group, Digital Arts Gathering. Jon Brumbaugh reached out to Karl Taylor about forming a partnership with Writers Unite! and we are excited to do so.

As Jon explains in his greeting below, digital publishing and digital arts are a natural combination as we strive to self-publish. Those of you who are artists, we hope you will join DAG and writers, a great resource for you as well. We are inviting DAG members to join us and share their works.

Let’s welcome, Jon and Digital Arts Gathering!

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Greetings, Writers Unite! My name is Jonathan Brumbaugh and I run a Facebook group called Digital Arts Gathering. The admins of your group and I have planned something to help both of our groups enrich our forums. We’re crossing streams, today!

 
Come join Digital Arts Gathering and check out what some of our artists are posting. If you are looking for an artist for your novel, short story or even want to write for cartoons, indie games, or other forms of media, it may be possible to find such projects at DAG. We’re drawing near the 1,200 mark and hoping to attract even more artists. I will also include pinned posts where members can share their written works from time to time.

 
In this exchange, I will sending any DAG members interested in reading or writing to Writers Unite as well! I am hoping some cooperative projects are born as the end result of this promotion and it helps inspire the creative fires in us all!

 
Digital Arts Gathering is intended to be a place for digital artists of all kinds to come share their works. Whether it be 3D design, game design, 8-bit creations, Photoshop works, digital music composition, coding projects, indie films, or anything else relative to digital expression. Writers are important to me. They’re the organizers; the ones that lay the tracks, visionaries who give the biggest projects the essence of life they need to become something big. So come on in and lets see what kind of magic happens, shall we?

 
It’s also intended that DAG be a helpful place. Perhaps some of you are interested in learning how to create digital art or maybe you already are creative in that field. Post your work or come ask questions about how to start! On the blog, from time to time I feature artists, game developers, and coders who are working on interesting projects so be sure to check them out as well!

 
Join the group: https://www.facebook.com/DigitalArtsGathering/
Read the Blog: https://digitalartsgathering.com/
Like our page: https://www.facebook.com/DigitalArtsGathering/

Thank you Writer’s Unite admins and members!

 

Rylee Black: So, Here I Am, a Writer

 

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So here I am, a writer, and soon (hopefully) to be a published author. The thoughts I want to share with you here are two-fold. But first I’ll share a bit of my journey so far as a writer.

Growing up in a generation before electronics, we spent a lot of time playing outside. I tell you this to give you insight into what led, in part, to my love of writing. (Though I thoroughly believe that I was born a writer – but that’s a post for another day). When we gathered outside to play my friends usually turned to me. Why you might ask? Because it was my job much of the time to come up with what we would do. I took that job joyously and we would plunge into tales of cowboys and Indians, cops and robbers, or dragons, knights, and damsels in distress. Our Schwinn bicycles, complete with banana seats and tall sissy bars, became trusty steeds. Sticks morphed into six-shooters, bows-and-arrows, or swords. Thus armed we acted out the stories in my head.

Time passed and playing outside gave way to hours squirreled away in my room (ah the years of teenaged angst). It was during those hours alone (when my nose wasn’t buried in a book) that the stories we’d once acted out made their way to paper. I never shared them, I was much too shy for that, but I lived for the times when I could lose myself in either a world created by my hand or the hand of another author.

Sadly, I let life take me away from writing for years. It took a tragedy I will never recover from to lead me back into my calling. You see, one day in late January/early February 2009, two thing happened. The first was bad, but not terrible – I lost my job of five years. I firmly believe that the universe let that happen so that I would have the time to come to some kind of terms with what happened a little over a week later – my three-year-old grandson Bret died in a tragic automobile accident. That was one of those defining occurrences that give a distinct split to who I was before and who I became after.

It took a couple months to pull myself out of my haze of grief. But then with a job search during one of the worst economic downturns in history yielding no employment, I found myself with too much time on my hands. It was then my old love resurfaced. Within seconds of my idea to take up writing again, my mind was flooded with characters clambering to be included and a little fictitious town laid out before me. So in I plunged. In the almost ten months it took me to find another job, I wrote three novels.

Now I’ll get to what I originally began this post to say.

First point: Writing and the Rules

When I hit the keyboard all those years ago to begin what would become The Candice McGregor Mysteries series, I had a basic (though somewhat well-defined) understanding of the rules of writing based on a good education and hundreds, if not thousands, of books read (another topic for another post). It was only about five years later – after a couple relatives asked to read my books, and after prying the book from my terrified fingers, asked why the heck I wasn’t published – that I joined several writing groups and learned that there are A LOT of rules about writing I was completely oblivious to.

Here you might expect me to get on my soap box and preach the gospel of proper writing. But that is NOT what’s going to happen. You see, I found that the more I learned, the less I loved what I was doing. I spent hours agonizing about whether or not I was showing and not telling. If I should use said or something else in dialogue. If my characters had depth or my story arced in the right place.

I’m not going to say you don’t need to know the rules of writing, because you do, if for no other reason than to understand how you can break them well. But after you learn them, put them away on a shelf in the farthest back alcove of your mind you can, slam the door shut, and put a heavy lock on the door and then write. Let it flow. Love your character, immerse yourself in your settings, and tell your story. Don’t worry if it should be a comma, a semicolon, or a period. Don’t fret about ‘oh my gosh – is that telling or showing???’ – just write. Then when you type those two amazing words – The End (disclaimer >>> Don’t really put them at the end because like, nobody really does that) – THEN you go back to that alcove, take off that darn heavy lock, pull out all those pesky rules, and polish up your amazing story.

All that leads me to my second point.

Do NOT publish your book right away. (I hear your collective gasps and beg you to consider what I say next)

With the advent of self-publishing, you can polish your story (or think you have), create, or have someone else create, a cover that will draw people in – because yes, some people do judge a book by its cover – and press a few buttons, and bless the world with the amazing piece of art you’ve created. But I have a caution. Because I didn’t start writing to publish, it was several years before I revisited my original three books armed with my newfound understanding of the rules and regulations for fiction writing. And while I will stress here that I DO NOT believe in following all the rules religiously, there are some that simply cannot be pooh-poohed. Those three novels are proof of that. When I compare the now polished – and edited by an outside editor – books, the differences blow me away. And even if you go into a book full of knowledge, please, please, let your book sit for a few months before you push that button to launch your baby out into the world. So much perspective can be gained by simply stowing it away long enough to be able to revisit it without the rose colored glasses of new love.

So there you have it, a glimpse into my journey so far as well as a glimpse into my crazy mind. Light and love and well wishes to all you wonderful writers who have heeded the call of your heart to embark on a task that few will ever understand.

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About Rylee Black:

I’m a wife, mother of four – two (a girl and a boy) I gave birth to two (amazing girls) I was blessed with through marriage- and sixteen grandkids – I think…at last count anyway. By day I’m a staff accountant at a major aggregate/asphalt paving/ cement company. By night and weekend, I live my dream of writing. When I’m not writing, reading, or working, I enjoy spending time with family or playing outdoors (this part doesn’t happen as often as it should sadly enough), and pursuing a newfound dedication to fitness and eating well.

I’m originally an Air Force brat whose dad’s final stop in his military journey was Lompoc, CA – the place I call ‘home’. Lompoc is neighbor to Vandenberg Air Force Base, and a federal prison, and has the distinction of once being billed as a flower capital. Marriage took me from sunny CA to Grand Junction, CO in 1991. Divorce and remarriage kept me there. Grand Junction. is a beautiful high desert town at the junction of the Colorado and Gunnison Rivers surrounded by the Colorado National Monument, the Grand Mesa, and the Bookcliff mountains. Both these states I call home provide unlimited inspiration to my writing.