All posts by Michele

Writer by day, Uber driver by night. Single mom to two fur-kids (a dog and a cat).

Doug Blackford – Storm Front

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms. Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support!

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“Storm Front”

By Doug Blackford

The storm sounded like a train over the house. It was just like sixteen years ago except that I was experiencing memories and feelings that I hadn’t had then. Well, not just like it. Micah wasn’t with me this time. The storm made it difficult to remember what was past and what was present and keep them separate. All of the pain, anger, grief, guilt, and everything else that made me feel like shit made it harder still.

I could hear his voice. I could almost smell his cologne — that slightly musky spice of Lagerfeld blended with undertones of the sandalwood incense he was so fond of having in the house. I was just as guilty as Micah. Living on the southeastern coast of the U.S., we had both been through hurricanes before. A Cat 1 or 2 weren’t really big deals. A Cat 3 deserved some serious consideration, and if it was stronger than that it meant getting the hell out and hoping you had something to come back to when it was done. His reassurance was all I had needed to decide to ride it out. After all, it was just a Cat 1.

This one had started as a Cat 1, too. It was well past that now, but not yet where it needed to be. Not long now. I just needed to stay focused. Keep the memories foremost in my mind, but be mindful of the present. It wasn’t nearly as easy as it sounded. Master Fetch’s words passed through my mind.

“You can observe your past, but you cannot physically travel there. Memory is a window, but only for the mind. You must always keep in your mind that you are not physically there or you risk becoming unstuck and adrift. Your body is your anchor. Let its weight keep you in the present.”

I reaffirmed my resolve and determination and settled into a more comfortable position on the bare floor. The cold hardness of the tiles helped ground me. The only other things on the floor were the mattress I had bought for the house’s sole furnishing, and an obelisk of crystal in the room’s center. I couldn’t afford distractions, and I didn’t expect to be needing anything else. I climbed back inside my memories and worked toward getting the storm in my mind synced to the one outside.

We had gone to bed, not worried about the storm that was due about two in the morning. We heard the wind and rain when it came onshore, but we just rolled over and went back to sleep. No big deal. We knew it was going to be a stormy Saturday, so we slept in till almost eight. When we got up, the storm was raging. It should have mostly passed by then, but no, it was raining so hard that I could barely see the car in the driveway.

“What the hell?”

I turned from the window at Micah’s voice, then looked at the TV as he took it off mute. “All we can tell you right now is that the storm has stalled just offshore and is increasing in strength. At this time, meteorologists are investigating what is feeding it and what has caused the stall. The latest satellite imagery indicates there is a massive well of heat rising through the storm’s center, but we are unable to determine its source. A hurricane hunter is in the air and en route to acquire more data.”

I looked from the TV back toward Micah and asked, “That’s not normal, is it?” I had seen a couple of storms stall and get stronger before, but this one seemed … different. A well of hot air they couldn’t determine? What was that about? Micah did not get upset easily, but I could tell he was now.

“Damn.”

Just the one word, then Micah looked at me with tears in his eyes. I stood there stunned. I was getting worried now and unsure what to think. “

Current measurements estimate the storm’s strength at 147 mph sustained winds and increasing. The stall has most of the damaging winds located offshore, but this is a solid Cat 4 storm, folks. The storm is still pushing a powerful surge, so please take immediate action and evacuate. We will have continuing coverage and will let you know the moment we have new or updated information.”

Click.

The turning off of the TV was like breaking a spell and I sat down next to Micah on the couch.

“What’s wrong, baby? We can just grab some things and leave. The worst is still offshore, so the causeways should still be open.”

Micah let out a long sigh and looked down as he took hold of my hands. “It doesn’t matter. If we tried to run, they would follow us inland and countless lives would be lost.”

Now I was confused. “They? They who?”

Micah leaned back on the couch and closed his eyes for a moment, a frown creasing his face. I wasn’t sure if the frown was because he was trying to think of an answer or if he was worried about the situation. “

I should have told you, but I never thought they would find me. I really didn’t.”

I couldn’t feel one of my feet and remembered when and where I was. It was so easy to get lost in the memory. I ran Master Fetch’s words over in my mind while getting up to stretch. “

Nature cannot abide a paradox. That is why you cannot travel into your own past, or the past of your past. Your own timeline cannot be accessed in the past except through memory. That is not to say you cannot travel into the past at all, but when you travel into the past, no matter how far back you go, it is to a different timeline than the one that produced the unique you sitting here now.”

I think I understand, but that isn’t much help.” “

But it is, child. You simply fail to see it from the right perspective. You have but one true past, thus it is inaccessible because your past cannot alter your present self. On the other hand of time, your future has not yet been experienced by your present self, thus all possible futures are available to you.”

I had thought long and hard on that one, weeks and months. I had already been studying The Ways for three years by that point, but I didn’t get it and I finally told him so. “

Master, you have taught me much, but I still don’t understand how not being able to travel into my past, yet being able to access any future is helpful toward my goal.”

“That is because you think of time only from your now. You wish to find the love from your past, but you only think of how to get to then from now. You fail to realize that then is now. All time exists in a single moment and that moment is unique to every living and nonliving thing. The now of now is a future of then, which means the then can connect to the now.”

As confusing as it had sounded, it made perfect sense.

The Ways taught about matter and energy — how they were different and how they were the same. It provided instruction about leylines and the paths of power. It included lessons regarding movement in space and time. It honed one’s mind into a tool and weapon of focus and will. It had taken me fifteen years to graduate, but it had been worth it. At least, I hoped it had been worth it. I would know soon enough.

The storm felt right. I took a stance over the focus crystal and called forth my memories once more. Summoning a storm of this size wasn’t the easiest thing, but it was essentially just elemental magic and like called to like. What I was about to do was magnitudes more difficult and I would only get the one chance. “

I have to go, Maggie.”

“Go? What do you mean, go?! Go where? And who the hell are you talking about with they?”

I didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t know what he was talking about. I was confused and getting scared and my natural reaction to that was to get pissed. I could see that Micah recognized the signs. He had gotten up from the couch, but he reached down and took my hands, then knelt in front of me.

“There’s no easy way to say this, which is partly why I never said anything.

That, and there was no need and you wouldn’t have believed me anyway.” That had me more worried than confused, but the shift was just enough to calm my rising temper. “

Just tell me, Micah. I’m a big girl.”

“I’m not from here. I mean, I’m not from this world.”

How does a person deal with something like that? Laughter at the absurdity of it? Worry for the other person’s sanity? Fear for your own safety? I didn’t know how to respond, so I just sat there.

Micah continued. “This is no ordinary storm. That’s pretty self-evident, I suppose. At its center lies what you could call a gateway. On the other side of that gateway is where I am from. Some might call that place Hell. Others might call it Heaven. Depends on your perspective, but either way, escaping it is not supposed to be possible. I did and now the gatekeepers have found me and are here to take me back.”

This was what going into shock felt like. No, that’s not right. Insane, that’s it. I was losing my mind. He couldn’t be serious, which meant he had lost his mind. But he seemed serious, which meant I must be losing mine and I was scrabbling for the edges to hold on with my fingernails.

“No.”

Micah screwed up his face in puzzlement. “No?”

“I didn’t stutter. No. You’re not some alien or whatever from another world. You’re my husband. Why are you saying these things?”

I was ready to cry now. The most solid part of my life was crumbling and I didn’t know what to do. What was I supposed to do? To say?

Micah stood back up and began glowing. I watched in stunned silence and disbelief as he seemed to grow horns, then have them disappear. Monstrous feathered wings stretched out to his sides from behind him, then they took on a leathery bat-like appearance before also disappearing. What was most disconcerting, though not the weirdest, were his eyes. They were his, then completely silver, then completely black, then his again. It felt like reality was slipping away.

“I’m sorry, Maggie. I love you.”

Reality was slipping away! I jerked back to my present and broke the focus crystal on the floor as Micah closed the door in my memory. I went to the door after Micah in my memory, but the wind and rain forced me back inside. In my present, I stepped out into the storm.

The Ways had taught me how to speak to the elements. The wind and rain flowed over and around me, but did not grab hold. The storm of my past was now intertwined with the one in my present. My now was a future of my past. I could not go to then, but I could bring part of it to now. My memory ended at that door, but the storm’s memory was here now. I followed the Micah of then as quickly as I could. With the breaking of the focus crystal, the storm would soon die.

I had not believed Micah then, and I was not sure I believed him now, but I had learned many things that I would have thought were fantasy sixteen years ago. I needed to find him, so this is where I had to start. The storm’s memory was taking me to the heart of the storm, just as Micah had told me. When I reached it, my doubts left me. At least this part had been true. Spinning in front of me was a swirling vortex of darkness and light fighting for dominance. It was like one of those wormholes you see in science fiction shows, or a powerful whirlpool, but made of some kind of energy instead of water.

“Okay then. If I have to go to Hell to get you back, then that’s where I’m going. Maybe you’re a demon or a devil or an angel or whatever. I don’t know, but you’re still my demon.”

I stepped through. Copyright © 2019 DJ Blackford. All Rights Reserved.

Please visit the author at: https://smithandscribe.wordpress.com/

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Michele Sayre: Coming Together in Revisions

I love it when a plan comes together.” –

Hannibal Smith, ‘The A-Team’

(television show originally created by Stephen J. Cannell)

Over the last three days I’ve begun to get a handle on the ‘Breaking Radio Silence’ project and damn it feels good. Granted, I’m only into the first chapter but I can see where it’s going. The writing is rough and there will be a lot of editing down the road but since I’ve never written book-length non-fiction before, it’s a good start. I’m not feeling the twinge-thought of ‘Oh, I’m not too sure about this’ and here’s why:

It’s not just the fact that I’ve got some structure points to use as writing prompts, but also because I’ve told myself length doesn’t matter. I know I shouldn’t have thought about length at all in this early stage of writing but sadly, the dumb thought crept into my mind and stayed until I kicked it out again.

The writer Annie Lamont wrote that you have to give yourself permission to write crap sometimes. I take exception to the word ‘crap’ because I don’t feel the need to label rough and unedited writing as crap. Because as my favorite romance writer Nora Roberts said, ‘You can’t revise a blank page.’ And because you have to have words to revise, I don’t believe all words written are crap. They just need to be revised and edited so my saying here is this: ‘You can always revise later.’

I also feel like I don’t know if a particular direction in my writing will work until I write it out. Because last night I was looking at my first chapter on my novel and realizing the way I’d worked the first scene wasn’t the way to go. I saw that when I thought about what I needed in the next scene. So needless to say I deleted lots of words and now need to write it back to what I’d done before. This happened because I’d let doubt creep into my mind and thought I had to do something a certain way. But in the end, I know my initial instinct on this was right.

So why do writers get doubts like these in our minds?

We’re human, and prone to messing up like everyone else would be the first line of defense-answer here. Which is why I know of writers who try to isolate themselves as much as possible from any outside influences when they’re writing. We sometimes refer to this as retreating into the writing cave and with good reason. But retreating there won’t get you away from the thoughts pinging around inside your mind. Hence the reason for thought-cleansing mantras that are more than just good advice.

I’ve said this before but I won’t apologize or call myself ten grades of idiot for saying it yet again. I honestly don’t think I was mistaken in writing stuff I’ve later deleted, because I wouldn’t have known if it was good or not until I wrote it. You can’t judge whether or not something will work if there isn’t something there in front of you to begin with.

For something to come together, you’ve got to do the work, make mistakes, and go off in directions that don’t always work for you. And if anyone, even if it is the doubt-demon in your mind says otherwise, don’t listen to them because they’re not the ones doing the writing and revising.

Or to reply to Colonel Hannibal Smith above: they’re not a part of your plan and they’re not going to make it come together.

You are.

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For more by Michele Sayre, please visit www.michelesayre.com

Comfort Reads: All of the Comfort with None of the Calories

For long periods of time when I’m not feeling well or I’m stressed out, I read books I’ve read many times before. These are what have been referred to as ‘comfort reads’. A comfort read is like comfort food but without the calories. Both I think are a good way of coping sometimes that we all need but thank goodness a book doesn’t add inches to a waistline. I know for me a comfort read is a way of holding on to my sanity amid the storms of life sometimes.

But what makes a good comfort read?

First, I think the book has to be very well-written. It’s a book where you’re not pulled out of the story at any time by issues with editing and such. It’s a book that flows well and that you can pop in and out of and immediately pick up where you left off without having to think back to what happened before.

Second, in the books that I call my comfort reads it’s the characters that keep bringing me back. I know the story and the plot twists so well that I barely notice them. But what I do notice are the characters and how they make me feel. I care about these people and yes, I would love to know how their lives turned out after the end of the book (that’s why I love books with recurring characters from previous books: it’s like visiting with old and dear friends).

I think I get my re-reading from my late father who like me read the same books over and over so many times he could practically recite them. Personally, I think if someone re-reads your books many times it means it’s a really good book. Because if something is mediocre or un-memorable then I honestly don’t think people would go back for a so-so experience.

So I won’t rag on anyone who re-reads the same books over and over again because either they’re going through some difficult time in their life, or they just need to give their brain a break. Eventually, something new and shiny will come along and hopefully, it will become a comfort read.

In addition to writing a good book that someone wants to read the first time, I hope to write a book that people will read again and again. Because to me, a comfort read not only will build a relationship with a reader and hopefully get them to buy my other books, it will give them a respite from their daily lives. I want to write good stories, but I would also love for my stories to be so good people come back to them like they come back to their favorite comfort foods.

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Michele Sayre is a writer who consumes her favorite books like comfort foods and hopes that her books will become someone’s comfort read someday. And my comfort foods are: donuts, pizza, tacos, saltine crackers, Cheetos, and ice cream or chocolate without nuts.

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How to Avoid Info-Dumping By Asking Why

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A common problem among writers is info-dumping, which is putting a ton of information on the page that slows your story down. Two common forms of info-dumping are in descriptions and dialogue that doesn’t advance the plot or character development of the story.

Here’s an example of info-dumping that does nothing to advance the story or show the reader anything meaningful about the character:

The house was set back a ways from the road, two-stories of stone with cream-white walls and black trim. The lawns were expansive, lush, and green. In the driveway were two very expensive cars, a Lexus and a Mercedes. He stepped inside the house with its’ high ceilinged foyer and richly-patterned rug underneath him. To his right was a huge living room that was bigger than his entire apartment, and there was the man who had called him to come here in the first place with a job offer.

Why is this considered info-dumping?

It’s a very basic description that doesn’t have any real emotion behind it. The sentence structures are written saying this-and-that with no reason as to why the character notices these details. If the purpose is to set the scene, it needs to be done in order to give the reader an insight into the character.

So how can we rewrite that previous paragraph to keep it from sounding like an info-dump?

Let’s get into our character’s head and see and feel things from his point of view.

He couldn’t believe a house could be set so far back from the road in the heart of San Antonio as he got out of his car and stepped onto the grass, sinking a little into the lush green as he made his way up to the house. He stepped inside and looked up at two-stories of open space then saw off to his right was a single room that was larger than his entire apartment. And in that room was the man who said he had the job of a lifetime to offer him, and by the looks of the house around him, the job could come with more money than he’d ever made before.

But at what price?

He stepped into the room to find out.

As you can see with the rewrite I started off the first two sentences with ‘He’ so we’re in our character’s POV. So instead of saying ‘The house was set back’ we hear the character’s thought about that (‘He couldn’t believe a house could be set so far back…’).

This first sentence shows that this house won’t be like anything our POV character has seen before. And why would that be? The answer to that needs to be a part of your story and that’s why you need to have not only the physical descriptions, but also your character’s thoughts and feelings about what they’re seeing. And most of all, there needs to be a hook after the initial setup to show WHY the character is in this setting but without stating every detail of that, too.

Another type of info-dumping can happen is when there is a lot of dialogue that has very little to break it up like the example here:

“What’s your name?”

“Mark.” He replied without looking up at her.

“So, what were you doing here?”

“Guarding a group of executives visiting the oil fields down here.”

“Oh, so where are they?”

“They’re safe.”

Here’s a rewrite of the previous set of dialogue to break it up a little and put a little internal reaction to it.

“What’s your name?” Jillian asked as she studied her rescuer.

“Mark.” He didn’t look up at her as he rummaged through the backpack he’d been carrying.

“So, uh, what were you doing here?”

“Guarding a group of executives visiting the oil fields.” Mark sat back a little but still didn’t look up at her.

“Oh, so where are they?”

“They’re safe.”

Well, that was good, Jillian thought to herself. And even though she felt like Mark was being honest with her, she wasn’t sure how much he might be holding back, either .

In my rewrite, I wanted to show was that Jillian was trying to learn more about the situation and Mark was barely cooperating. And though she felt like Mark was being honest with her, she also has a suspicion he might not be telling her everything either. And that suspicion creates a question of WHY that would be, which in turn will keep the story going for the reader.

And that single question, WHY, is the most crucial to ask with anything you write. Because in order to get a reader interested in your story, you want them to be asking WHY things are happening in the story. You want to show them through the character’s actions, thoughts, and feelings what’s going on in the story so if you put something on the page, it has to be the character’s POV, not yours (the author).

In conclusion, here are some points to remember to avoid info-dumping:

Keep things in your character’s POV at all times. Read your sentences back and if they are basic declarative sentences with no POV insight from your character then rewrite.

You can ‘show’ and not ‘tell’ by letting dialogue and your POV character’s reaction set the scene and not inject yourself (the author) into the scene as a third-person narrator.

Make sure your scenes will get your readers asking WHY. This will make them want to know what happens next, which is how you hold your reader’s interest all the way to the end.

 

A Good Beginning

A Good Beginning picOne question that comes up a lot among writers, especially those new to the process, is where do I start my story? This is a very good question as the beginning is the writer’s only opportunity to get a reader’s attention and keep it until the end. It’s also where a lot of problems with a story begin, but there are some things a writer can keep in mind when working on a beginning.

Now, I write romance and a key element of that genre is the hero and heroine usually meet if not in the very first scene, by the end of the first chapter. This is because in a romance the story of the hero and heroine’s relationship is the key element, not backstory, or description of the world they live in, or a plot element happening to other characters. Personally, I think having lead characters introduced right away would work with any genre of fiction so a good beginning should start with them first.

A common way some writers like to start a story is with a flashback scene (or chapter) For me, a flashback scene (or chapter) at the beginning of a story can work if doesn’t feel like a character is narrating it from the present, future, or from the great-beyond, and if it also connects to the present story. I’ve read flashback sequences that I couldn’t figure out how they connected to the present and if a reader has to ask that question, then they’re going to be pulled out of the story.

Another way a reader can be pulled out of a story at the beginning is what I refer to as info-dumping. You don’t need to walk up to the first pages of your story and dump out all the backstory of your characters and research you have done. Communicate ONLY the key information you need your readers to know through your character’s actions and dialogue. And when it comes to dialogue, don’t do a marathon back-and-forth session trying to get all that information on the page. You’ve got plenty of time to reveal what you need to and if you need to know when to do that, let your characters guide you.

And by characters guiding your story I mean reveal what you need to as they learn of it. This eliminates any distance between the reader and the story itself because for characters to truly engage the reader, the writer needs to take themselves out the story. Your characters are the best guide for where to take your story and listening to them at the beginning will give you a solid foundation to start your story, and finish it.

Finally, you don’t have to have a flash-bang beginning, just something that engages the reader by getting the story into motion. Make that beginning come alive and get that reader wanting to know what happens next. Because if the reader is engaged from the very beginning, they’ll stay to the end. And that is the ultimate goal of every storyteller and to reach that goal, you have to start at the beginning.

 

Memorable Characters

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The one thing that makes any story for me stand out is a memorable character. They don’t have be heroic, or even that good. But they have to be compelling and as an audience member, you have to want to know what happens to them. So as a writer, how can you make your characters memorable?

First, I think you should be able to say things about them. Like for example, they’re kind, smart, sensitive, or tough, impulsive, and moody. You can identify traits about them right away based on what you’re seeing with them in the story. They make you care about them not because you might like them, but because you want to see how they will handle whatever the story throws at them.

Second, you learn things about them. You learn about their past, their likes and dislikes, their problems, their demons, and how they feel about other characters. Because when you learn things about them you get a picture of who they are, where they’ve been, and where they’re going.

Recently, I started watching the television series ‘Grantchester’, a mystery series set in the 1950’s in a small village in Cambridge, England. The main character is Sidney Chambers, a young handsome vicar who is a bit shy yet sweet. But we learn that he’s haunted by his war-time service, and an unrequited love for a woman. What makes Sidney compelling and memorable is that he’s not perfect. He doesn’t utter empty platitudes but is cautious with his words. He’s also cautious with his feelings, perhaps too much. So we have a character who could be made out to be a paragon of virtue and perfect in every way but instead, we have a real character with good and not-so-good qualities who has a lot of potential to grow.

On the other end of this spectrum would be Tony Soprano, from the HBO television series ‘The Sopranos’. Tony is a mobster running a strip club in New Jersey and head of a crime family. So he’s not what you would refer to as a good person. He breaks the law and has people murdered. He lies and cheats and is brutal in how he deals with things. Yet in the first episode we see him having a panic attack and subsequently seeing a therapist. So this shows he’s vulnerable, and able to feel things though not deal with them very well. It’s this dichotomy that makes him memorable and compelling because we know things about him, see how he interacts with the world around him, and see his conflicts.

So to make a memorable character you want to show the good, the bad, and in some cases, the ugly. You want your audience to learn about them and because of that, your audience will want to know what happens to your characters in the story. And that’s what not only makes a character memorable, but what makes a story memorable after it’s over.

Changing POV

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Changing POV is not head-hopping. The term ‘head-hopping’ means that a POV is changed so much in a scene that the reader is being forced to hop around so much they’re dizzy with it. And because of that they’re confused as to who is doing what, which is something you never want to have in your story.

So, how do you avoid that if you want to change POV in a scene?

First, make your character’s voice distinctive enough so that when you change POV it’s a seamless transition. This means that when you’re in a particular character’s POV you’re using a very distinctive voice for them, and I’m not just talking about the way they speak in dialogue. Each character should have a distinctive way of thinking and acting in addition to speaking. And you don’t need to make the differences super-obvious or extremely-different unless your story calls for that.

Two, understand what you want to do in a particular scene in terms of action and what information you want to reveal about the plot and characters. Sometimes it may be best to stay in one character’s POV because if you go into another character’s POV you’ll reveal a plot detail before you need to. I did this in the very first scene of my novel-in-progress because if I had gone into my other character’s POV I would have spoiled the key surprise plot element, so to speak.

Three, think of the development of the scene in a cinematic way. When you watch a movie for example, most of the time there are cuts within a scene to show the reactions of other characters to what’s happening. So if you feel that need to cut to another character in your scene, then you’re looking to change POV.

Now, I know there are what I call POV-purists who believe in one POV per scene and will only change POV with a line or scene break clearly showing that on the page. And that’s perfectly fine as I’ve read plenty of books written like that I enjoyed. But please don’t feel like you have to do that. Maybe the thought of changing POV in a scene is daunting or you’re not sure of how or when to do it. Don’t be afraid to give a try and in the meantime, study other writers and see how they do things.

Most of all, don’t feel like there is a set of rules governing POV that you can’t break unless you want to go to jail. Trust me, you will not be jailed for changing POV in a scene. If you do it and someone says you’re head-hopping, then you’ll need to look at your work more closely to make sure your changes in POV are seamless. But trust me, it can be done if you want to do it.

 

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Writer’s Resolutions and How to Stick to Them

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With the New Year, many people, including writers, make resolutions. They resolve to do more or to do better. But then life gets in the way, sometimes in a big way, and things go off-track.

So as a writer, how can you make resolutions then stick to them through thick and thin?

First, be realistic. If you’ve never completed a novel before, your chances of completing more than one in the year are a bit a slim. And I’m not saying that to be a downer but in this case, the first goal should be to complete the first novel before moving on to the second one. But, if you have completed a novel then you’ve proven to yourself you can do that again and again. And if you accomplish something during the year then you can add on to it.

Second, don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get something done. The world is not going to end if you fail to meet a goal you set for yourself. Life happens more often than not but even if that’s not the case and you just get bogged down in fear, doubt, or boredom, kicking yourself while you’re down won’t accomplish anything. So be kind to yourself no matter what happens.

And third, celebrate your achievements no matter how big or small. Writing is a physical act and every part of the process is an accomplishment in itself. Don’t put yourself down by saying you could have done more, or that it’s not good enough, or that it needs a lot of editing, or anything negative. Of course your writing is going to need editing and revising as nothing comes out completely perfect in first-draft form. But celebrate the fact that you have words to revise and edit.

So if you have set any writing resolutions for yourself remember these three things:

  • Be realistic in what you can do though don’t be afraid to push yourself.
  • Be kind to yourself if you don’t achieve a particular goal.
  • Celebrate your achievements both big and small.

Best wishes on your writing for 2017!

The Message of Writer’s Block

Writer’s Block is when a writer sits down to write but nothing comes out. Now some people claim that it doesn’t exist and or that you just have to plow through it no matter what. I don’t agree with those arguments as I believe writer’s block is a message.

For me, when I’m having trouble writing I know that I’m butting up against something I don’t want to deal with. That ‘something’ can be a place I fear, a place that hurts to go to, or just a problem I’m having with the story or writing project I’m currently working on.

So let’s take a look at these three possible sources of writer’s block.

Years ago, I read a biography of the writer Anne Rice in which she said that sometimes you have to go to the places that you fear the most. For a writer, these aren’t literal places but places in the mind. But they can generate fear, and fear is a powerful instinct that most people react to by retreating from instead of going forward. For a writer, I believe a moment of retreat is allowed to examine the root of that fear. For example, is it a fear of rejection or a fear that someone will hate your work that keeps you from writing? If so, you’ll have to figure out a way to counter that. With these fearful places, you have to figure out what’s behind your fear of them before you can move forward.

Sometimes writing can be a form of therapy, which can be both good and bad. The bad part can bring on that blocked feeling because the first reaction to pain is to retreat from it. Personally when I hit on this, which for me manifests itself as a nasty combination of anger and sadness, I know I have to let it run its’ course before I can get back to my writing. And one way I let it run its’ course is to write about it with no intention of anyone ever seeing it. To me, this type of block has to be vented out in order to move past it.

Now the last type of writer’s block, the problem with my story or project, is the most common for me. This is something I can deal with by just taking some time to let my mind work through the problem, or going back and reading what I’ve written and editing as I read along. For me, going back through what I’ve read is one of the best ways I can combat being blocked.

So I believe writer’s block is real, but also something that can be worked through. Sometimes it won’t be easy to decode the message behind the block, but once you do break the code and figure it out, then you’ll know what to do.

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.