Category Archives: Guest Articles

Stephen Oliver: Sharing Knowledge

Sharing Knowledge

Stephen Oliver

Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay

Despite the horrors of Covid-19 and lockdowns, I hope this year brings you joy, experience, and new knowledge.

Apropos knowledge, I remember coming across a “law” of life some time ago, similar to Murphy’s Law:

Roger Lincoln’s 2 Rules for Success:

1. Never tell everything you know.

It’s a good joke, but nowadays, hoarding knowledge is greedy, arrogant, and, ultimately, insane.

It’s greedy because knowledge doesn’t belong to anybody. Oh, I know that there is proprietary information, like the exact form and contents of a company’s databases or their communications protocols. Even their contracts and internal documentation belong in this category. This is all well and good and is useful for holding your own in the competitive world of business.

However, there is a second area of knowledge that cannot be contractually limited: know-how. Knowing how to design and construct databases, how to communicate between subsystems, and so on cannot be limited to a particular company. God knows that enough employers and clients of mine have tried. I even had one client who tried this after becoming involved in his project, designing an interface between mobile phones and other equipment (this was in the early 80s when such interfaces didn’t exist). He tried to force a contract on me where I could never design any kind of communications or control program again, nor could I build any embedded projects using the same microprocessor or communications protocols. I laughed in his face and told him that no court would uphold his claim, and it would only cost him a lot of money to try. The very attempt to limit knowledge transfer and use in this way smacks of scarcity thinking.

Hoarding knowledge is also arrogant; you’re acting as if you were the only one who has any right to have and to use the knowledge. This is a symptom of weakness because you think you will be seen as feebler if you let others have access to knowledge. Allowing others to use knowledge is a sign of strength in my eyes because the more knowledge there is out there, the more knowledge will be created as people make new connections between otherwise disparate topics. This leads to the beginning of extelligence, where the relationships between different pieces of information become divorced from the need of a human mind to make said connections. Google and other search engines may very well be the beginnings of extelligence.

Finally, hoarding knowledge is insane. No matter how you try to hide knowledge, Nature is a blabbermouth. Somebody else will discover what you are hiding. Alfred Russel Wallace paralleled Darwin’s work; he deferred publication to Darwin because Darwin’s work was further developed than his own. Even works by a single person, such as Einstein’s Special and General Theories of Relativity, would eventually have been developed by someone else. However, it might not have occurred until years later. When the time has come for information and knowledge to become known, they will, no matter what anyone does to prevent it.

This relates to the Hundredth Monkey Phenomenon. On an island off Japan, scientists studied the behaviour of troupes of monkeys. They were given food regularly, but it simply lay on the ground and became dirty. One old female monkey discovered that washing the fruit in seawater not only removed the dirt from the surface, but the salt in the water added something extra to the flavour. With difficulty, she taught another monkey the same trick. They then taught other monkeys, which in turn taught others until, suddenly, after around one hundred monkeys, every monkey could do it, even without being explicitly shown how. Even more interestingly, monkeys in other troupes and on other islands suddenly learned the trick. It was as if a threshold had been penetrated, and the knowledge became common to all the monkeys.

This confutes social Darwinism and the “survival of the fittest” thinking so prevalent today. The common position is that everyone and everything is, and has to be, in conflict and competition. Phenomena like this are proof that Nature is ultimately cooperative.

Cooperation in the spreading, use, and learning of knowledge is the way to go. People keep talking about this being the Information Age; let’s work together to make this the Knowledge Age, where people work together to increase the level of knowledge in the world. This all links back to the book The Go-Giver I mentioned in a post in my other blog, in which the characters talk about adding value to whatever you give others. If enough people are prepared to add valuable knowledge to others, there will be a breakthrough, a threshold will be breached, and that knowledge will belong to everybody. This is a personal dream of mine, and I have it for the most selfish of reasons: I want to be part of that breakthrough and have access to all that knowledge.

We do need to keep the difference between information and knowledge in mind. Information is simply data with a meaning; knowledge is knowing how to use that information, as well as the information itself.

So let’s all go out and spread knowledge as far as we can, because only in that way will we be given new knowledge in return.

~~~

Fiction

Of course, I have been writing from the point of view of a non-fiction author since I also published a self-help book. These days, I’ve switched to fiction, but the truths are still the same if you replace the word ‘knowledge’ with ‘story.’

I’ve heard from other writers, time and again, that they think their stories “aren’t as good as others.”

Who’s to say if it is or isn’t. Many declare that Fifty Shades of Gray is great, while others decry the many flaws they see in the book. The same is true of the Twilight series of books; I’ve read more than one review that moans about one-dimensional characters and the sizes of plot holes. Nevertheless, these stories are popular.

Why? That is a question only the readers can answer. However, publishers have made fortunes from books like these.

But, getting back to the theme of ‘knowledge,’ or in this case ‘stories,’ the more available, the better the readers’ entertainment. It may be that someone needs to read your particular stories, written in your specific manner, for them to get the most out of those tales.

So, stop comparing yourself to others. It would be best if you only were comparing yourself to your past self, i.e., striving every day to become better than you have ever been before. Believe in yourself, and you will reach your goal of being published. As I’ve mentioned before, I have recently had two short stories published in anthologies. Plus, I have had requests for information and even complete manuscripts from agents and publishers in the past few weeks. I’m still waiting to hear back from them, but I am hopeful.

“Don’t talk yourself out of an idea just because it’s been done before. Put your own spin on it. Bring in your own personal experiences. You will have your own stories to tell, which will make it unique.”
–Dr. Joe Vitale

So, what I’m really getting at is, if you’re serious about being a published author, you have to write the way you write, then put yourself, your stories, and your knowledge out there.

As I said in a Facebook post recently, “You gotta keep submitting. Otherwise, nobody out there knows that you exist.”

Please visit Stephen’s website for more great articles: http://stephenoliver-author.com/

About Stephen Oliver

I’m a ‘Pantser’ (aka ‘Discovery Writer’), meaning that I write ‘by the seat of my pants’.

In other words, I have no idea what I’m writing until I’ve written it. Give me a picture or a writing prompt (a sentence, a phrase… heck, even a word will do) and let me loose. I can come up with something in twenty minutes, 400-500 words to create a new story. I don’t stop there, of course. Those few words can turn into four or five thousand, or more. The next day or week, the Muse will strike again, and I’ll finish it off, creating something weird, wonderful or just plain odd.

Once I’m done, then comes the hard part: turning it into something good. I’ve had to learn that what I wrote initially is only the beginning. Read, revise, edit, wash, rinse, repeat. And repeat. And repeat… There are some stories I’ve gone over dozens of times, and I’ll still find something to improve, on occasion.

So it is that I’ve self-published a self-help book, written dozens of short stories, completed a novel, and am still working on two more. My genres cover science fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy, horror, humour (very dark), noir, detective fiction, fairytales and fairy stories. Often more than one in a single tale… Oh, and there’s a second self-help book in the works, too.

I came to writing fairly late in life, but that ain’t going to stop me now. As Harlan Ellison once said, “A writer is some poor schmuck who can’t help putting words on paper.” That’s me, because I’ve already written over a million words since I began. I’ll be done when they peel my cold, dead fingers off my keyboard.

Mind you, given the kinds of stories I write, that will probably be because one of the monsters I created finally finished me off…!

D. A. Ratliff: For the Want of a Crystal Ball

For the Want of a Crystal Ball

D. A. Ratliff

Images used are free-use images and do not require attribution. Image by GimpWorkshop from Pixabay.

Writing. Can’t live with it. Can’t live without it.

Ask anyone who has the urge—no, the need—to write, and they will tell you that once that creative need possesses you, you have to write. I feel a compulsion to write and immense satisfaction that regardless of whether anyone else reads my words, that I wrote them.

A while back, a fellow author asked me to write an article about my writing journey for her blog. Like all writers, I had the usual reasons—a love of reading and influences in the form of my father and my favorite elementary school teacher to spur me to write. But what keeps me writing?

As a fan of mystery novels and action thrillers, my reading, when I can find time for it, centers on works from authors like Michael Connelly, Clive Cussler, or John D. MacDonald. Throw in a good sci-fi or fantasy, and I am a happy reader. When the urge to write began to creep into my soul early in my life, I envisioned being a famous mystery author someday. Of course, I was twelve at the time, so I suppose that daydream wasn’t too embarrassing then. Now, that same desire to publish a mystery novel remains, but hopefully without the delusions of grandeur my twelve-year-old self expected.

I have the good fortune (or, on most days, good fortune) to be an administrator for a large writing group on Facebook. There are many reasons that it is an enjoyable opportunity. Engaging with members at all levels of writing is cathartic. Most writers can identify with the confusion and timidity of novice writers as we have all been there. The experienced and published authors offer guidance and encouragement to those of us who strive to publish our first novel.

All right… let’s get personal—my first novel.

That’s where a crystal ball to tell the future would come in handy.

When I first had the urge to write again after many years, and more importantly, the time, I decided to hone my rusty writing skills by writing fanfiction. While working, I wrote many personal and training manuals, newsletters, marketing material, advertising copy, and the like but zero fiction. As there is a distinct difference in writing fiction and non-fiction (although there is a movement toward creative non-fiction, which is another discussion entirely), I felt writing fanfiction about my favorite canceled science-fiction series would be just the exercise I needed.

I jumped in, and by the time I finished, I had written eighty stories (from short stories to novellas). I believed that by not needing to create the characters or world build, I could concentrate on story development. Once I felt confident in my storytelling ability, I began to create original characters to interact with the canon characters and soon moved on to world building. When I decided my skills were strong enough, I embarked on writing a science fiction/murder mystery/romance.

Okay, pretty ambitious combination of genres and only possible because Amazon/KDP provides a platform for mixed genres that traditional publishers and their narrow marketing programs don’t allow. I finished that novel, all 116,000 words of it. I haven’t published it.

Then I began writing a murder mystery with the main character a photographer. A cozy mystery of sorts with romance thrown in the mix. I finished it. I haven’t published it.

Next, another novel, another murder mystery/thriller with the main character a lawyer but the secondary character a police chief. I finished it. I haven’t published it.

And then—a detective murder mystery intended to be a series. I haven’t quite finished it, but… you get the picture.

So why haven’t I published?

Good question.

Why the heck haven’t I?

That’s where a crystal ball would have come in handy. Seeing what my future was going to be might have facilitated planning things a bit better.

I am not alone. Many of us have finished manuscripts we have yet to query to an agent or find a publisher or self-publish. There are some inherent issues with finding agents and traditional publishers, time being one of them. The process of querying an agent, securing one, and having them find a publisher is tedious and anything but fast. Going directly to a publisher is no guarantee that the process will be any faster.

The time and effort to publish the traditional route is a difficult one that requires patience. Besides, writing a query letter and a book synopsis is more challenging than writing a book. I have drafted a lot of query letters and hated each one of them.

That takes us to self-publishing. A more straightforward path but still wrought with problems. I don’t know about you, but I choose my writing to be grammatically and structurally correct. However, when publishing on one’s own, hiring a professional editor can be expensive but necessary. That issue alone can keep us from hiring an editor.

Don’t forget that pesky cover. What do all the “experts” tell us? The cover of our book needs to be catchy, tasteful, and reflect the book’s plot. Well, no pressure there.

This costs money. Money we may never recoup after publication. So what do those who decide I want to publish, and I want to publish now, do? We do the best we can. First, determine a budget and decide if you can live with the fact you may never realize enough royalties from your work to cover the cost of preparing the book for publication. If you can do that, then search for editors who offer a discount or charge little to start with, but don’t forget the adage that you get what you pay for, because it’s true.

Inexpensive book cover designers advertise on several websites, but please be wary of the “cover for Five dollars” mantra. Again, you get what you… well, you know, so always get references.

But that’s not the only reason that many of us drag our heels before we commit to publishing.

In my case, I am fortunate to have friends who deal with the English language and writing every day who are willing to read my work for grammar mistakes. I also embarked upon educating myself on writing cleaner with fewer grammar mistakes and writing proper structure. Do I use a grammar program? Yes, I do, and I realize grammar programs are not perfect, so I rely on the kindness of my friends to tell me to stop writing comma slices. I hear that a lot.

I am also lucky to have some skill with Photoshop and a decent eye, so I create my covers. I still have them critiqued but so far, so good. That saves me money, but the angst of doing a decent job on a cover is always present.

It would appear my procrastination at publishing is moot. Yet, I haven’t published.

What is my problem?

I think my problem is a lot like all authors who are on the verge of publishing. Life gets in the way. Or at least, we allow it to.

I finished the science-fiction novel just as a family issue arose, and I became a caregiver. Then one personal issue and another, and I’ll stop here. There isn’t anyone who cannot identify with this scenario. I like to tell myself that the time I spend dealing with the large writing group, which takes a great deal of my time, is another reason. After all, we have published five anthologies, and the sixth one is going to press. That takes time.

Okay… that’s an excuse.

And now I have run out of them.

It is time to do this. I have always been a proactive person in most situations but a tad lax when it comes to my own needs.

Please don’t do what I have done. Remember, your needs are essential, and for whatever reason you wish to publish, for money, for possible fame, or the satisfaction of accomplishing your goal, just do it. There is a reader out there who will enjoy your story.

Me? I gazed into that crystal ball. I see a published book with my name on it soon.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is divider-2.png

D. A. Ratliff

Deborah Ratliff is a Southerner with saltwater in her veins and a love of writing. A career in science and human resources provided the opportunity to write policies/procedures and training manuals, articles, and newsletters, but her lifelong love of mystery novels beckoned. Deborah began writing mysteries and her first novel, Crescent City Lies, will be published in 2021 with a second novel, One of Those Days, to follow. Deborah regularly contributes articles on writing to the blog, Writers Unite! and serves as an administrator on the Facebook writing site, Writers Unite! which has 78,000+ members from around the globe.

www.thecoastalquill.wordpress.com
www.writersuniteweb.wordpress.comwww.facebook.com/groups/145324212487752

Michele Sayre: Writing Through Walls

 Image by chitsu san from Pixabay

Writing Through Walls

Michele Sayre

A while back I wrote an essay about how I feel ‘writer’s block’ is a real thing. I told my stories of what has stopped me from writing over the years and I would love to say this article forever-cured my writer’s block. But it didn’t. And I honestly don’t know if I will ever be cured from writer’s block but I’m not going to worry about that or justify times when I can’t get it together to write.

First, I have never really had ‘ideal’ conditions to write in. Oh, I’ve had rooms of my own but my time hasn’t always been all my own. I’ve lived on my own for close to eighteen years but in those years I’ve worked demanding jobs with long hours, was a caregiver to my father until he passed away, and I have dealt with physical issues that have kept me from writing. I have freely admitted I can’t always write under stress or when I’m exhausted. That’s not whining or complaining to me but just a fact of my life.

But over the last few years, I’ve realized a wall can come up and stop me from writing. And over the years, I’ve had to figure out what those walls were and how to work through them.

In the Fall of 2016, I conceived two writing projects, both of them book-length non-fiction that I had never attempted before. The first was simply labeled, ‘Untitled Self-Help/Memoire Hybrid’ and the other ‘Untitled Political Book’. The premise for both was that I would use writing to figure out why I thought and felt like I did about myself and the world around me. What I didn’t know then, and what no one could have known, was this would involve a dive in the deepest, and most painful parts of my psyche. It would involve working through emotions and thoughts about things I had boxed up and not dealt with until these past few years. This is by the far the hardest thing I’ve ever done but I’m glad I did it. Writing about it though… well, that’s been the hard part.

Talking about this is hard, too because I have heard this could be seen as whining or complaining. I’m not blaming anyone or anything for my problems and difficulties and therefore I don’t see how talking about not being able to write is a form of whining or complaining. I don’t need ‘ideal conditions’ or anything else. I need to work through the walls that still come up for me, and probably will continue to come up for me for the rest of my life.

These walls can feel like huge blocks of brick or cement or some other hard and impenetrable material. And you may think you can blast your way through them or walk away from them and do something else instead. I’m not going to fault anyone who does that but that’s not how I write.

This past week a wall came up that stopped me from writing until this piece. I was trying to write a blog-series about past and present events and I just felt like my writing was not where I wanted it to be. So I took a step back and stared at the wall in front of me until I could see the words there. Those words were: we weren’t having the conversations back then like we are now. Because my non-fiction involves my past, I didn’t want to just write it as a contrast of past to present. I needed some sort of context, or framework to explain what I’m writing and why I’m writing this. I don’t feel like this was wasted time either as I’m not on any deadline nor do I feel like I have to justify the way I do things.

I’m writing this piece to any writer who has felt any kind of pressure to write despite facing a wall. I want to tell those writers it’s okay to stop and stare at that wall until you see the words you’re looking for. This isn’t about perfection. It’s about finding the words that you need to write the way you want to. I’ve always writing is mostly instinct and I think the time spent staring at the walls is one way of honing that instinct.

For me, it’s not about writing under less-than-ideal conditions, or just pushing through no matter what. I think for some writers walls do come up because I feel writing is a journey. And when you come to a wall you don’t need to blast through it or find a way over it or around it. Instead, you can look at until you see the words you may not even know you’ve been looking for. But once you find them, the wall will go away and you’ll be able to move forward and write again… even if you keep coming to walls.

Image by Greg Reese from Pixabay

Michele Sayre is a writer, blogger, and observer of like as well as an admin for Writers Unite!

Read More of Michele’s Observations on Writing and Life Here

Please Note: Images used are free use and require no attribution.

Stephen Oliver: Conditions – A Writer’s Perspective

Please note: the images used are free-use images and do not require attribution. Image by Janeb13 from Pixabay

CONDITIONS – A WRITER’S PERSPECTIVE

Stephen Oliver

Here are some thoughts I had during a writers’ retreat in May 2019, but it’s still as true now.

“I can’t write because…”

Name your problem: space, time, people, inspiration, whatever.

I have heard this, seen this, read this, more times than I care to remember, especially in the last year, since I became active in several Facebook writing groups.

Sorry, people, but that isn’t a reason for not writing. It’s an excuse. And a lame one at that.

Yesterday, I stood in the cottage where Samuel Taylor Coleridge lived for three years with his wife and family. It was by far the worst house in the village. The rooms were small, and the only heating came from a small fire in one room. When the family moved in, the thatched roof was leaking, mice were running riot, and he had no money. Moreover, there were often other people visiting: the Wordsworths, Poole, and so on.

And yet…

While there, he penned some of the greatest lyrical ballad poems of the age: “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and “Kublai Kahn” (sadly incomplete due to that idiot from Porlock, down the coast), to mention but two.

He did this despite the frankly appalling conditions in his home. Cold so bad, for instance, that his son Hartley would cry at night, forcing Coleridge to bring him downstairs to his writing room because it had a fire. The mice I have already mentioned. And how they accommodated their visitors, I shudder to think.

And yet…

“In Xanadu did Kublai Khan / A stately pleasure dome decree…”

If he could write that in these terrible conditions, then you, sitting in front of your computer in a warm, comfortable home or an air-conditioned office, have no excuse at all.

So, get off your backsides, or on them, as the case may be, and start writing. Even if you can’t create something as wonderful and ethereal as Coleridge did, it will still be far better than the nothing you are producing right now while whining at me.

Please visit Stephen’s website for more great articles: http://stephenoliver-author.com/

About Stephen Oliver

I’m a ‘Pantser’ (aka ‘Discovery Writer’), meaning that I write ‘by the seat of my pants’.

In other words, I have no idea what I’m writing until I’ve written it. Give me a picture or a writing prompt (a sentence, a phrase… heck, even a word will do) and let me loose. I can come up with something in twenty minutes, 400-500 words to create a new story. I don’t stop there, of course. Those few words can turn into four or five thousand, or more. The next day or week, the Muse will strike again, and I’ll finish it off, creating something weird, wonderful or just plain odd.

Once I’m done, then comes the hard part: turning it into something good. I’ve had to learn that what I wrote initially is only the beginning. Read, revise, edit, wash, rinse, repeat. And repeat. And repeat… There are some stories I’ve gone over dozens of times, and I’ll still find something to improve, on occasion.

So it is that I’ve self-published a self-help book, written dozens of short stories, completed a novel, and am still working on two more. My genres cover science fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy, horror, humour (very dark), noir, detective fiction, fairytales and fairy stories. Often more than one in a single tale… Oh, and there’s a second self-help book in the works, too.

I came to writing fairly late in life, but that ain’t going to stop me now. As Harlan Ellison once said, “A writer is some poor schmuck who can’t help putting words on paper.” That’s me, because I’ve already written over a million words since I began. I’ll be done when they peel my cold, dead fingers off my keyboard.

Mind you, given the kinds of stories I write, that will probably be because one of the monsters I created finally finished me off…!

Elaine Marie Carnegie: OUR THANKS TO WRITERS SUPPORTING WRITERS

Admin Note: Writing may be a lonely task, but writers are not alone, as this wonderful article that Elaine Marie Carnegie has written shows. The words of these authors and those from Elaine prove that mentoring, support, and friendship are what binds us together.

Enjoy this article and please visit the links and learn more about the people and organizations that support us all.

OUR THANKS TO WRITERS SUPPORTING WRITERS

Elaine Marie Carnegie

WOW! I have been so grateful for my friends in the Writing Communities during the moments of being housebound, separated from my family and kiddos… amid the loneliness and uncertainty there has always been someone to turn to. (For me…you know who you are, and I love you. Shout out to Jesu @Barrio Blues for publishing my first ever short story this year!) I was trying to think of a way to say thank you to the #WritingCommunity as a whole and I queried fellow authors for some ideas and the response was just overwhelming!

I am going to feature Grant Hudson, Clarendon House Publications, Spillwords Press and Writers Unite! Facebook Community. There are so many more, and though I couldn’t feature all of you, that does not make your contribution less significant. Every Author, publisher, editor and friend who takes the time to encourage and support those who bring light into the world… Thank you, we are grateful. Below the feature are tributes from Authors to those who support and encourage them, teach and publish them. Kudos to you all for that friendship. For taking the time to help and support. For caring about us and what we do and for helping us feel and experience that care. We love you! We say thank you! And… we write!

Your effort becomes the pebble in the pond that sends out ripples into time. For those you touch, touch others and that touch even more and so it goes without end and we are aware of it, cherish it and thank you for it. So…

Grant Hudson is “The man” behind the Inner Circle Writer’s Group and Inner Circle Writer’s Magazine, The Beacon Fellowship FB Page and The Beacon Fellowship Magazine, and Clarendon House Publications. (Click here for anthologies) While pondering what to write here about Grant I thought his own words say it better than mine ever could because they give you a sense of his personality from his own point of view and since we are seriously limited for space, I give you Grant Hudson in his own words from the Clarendon House website:

“Author, Poet, Artist, Mentor, Editor, Educator, Humorist, Entrepreneur. Hello, my name is Grant Hudson and what you will see on these pages is a reflection of who I am, my interests, and what I can do for you. I am a published author and poet, have over 5,000 items of merchandise available featuring my artwork, have edited and published many books, taught many people, made many more laugh (education and laughter go well together) and have delved into business on many levels. Some of you will see yourselves or part of yourselves here.” I love the last sentence because it is so true!

Next up Spillwords Press the online source for good literature! In their own words: “At Spillwords Press, we espouse the philosophy that words matter, and imagination is the seed of accomplishment. When you join Spillwords, you will gain a door to the world not only through our website but also via social media. Once you submit your original content, our team of editors will ensure your work is presented responsibly in addition to crafting a visually compelling presentation of each work. Our mission is to give both, published and independent writers, a place where their works can have the proper exposure to readers, writers, other literary communities as well as publication firms around the world. Our passion and commitment to writers and readers began in 2015 with the promise to be the true free press of the people. With each passing day we reaffirm our vision of being the voice from New York City to the world.

Writers Unite! is the very first writing group I ever joined. This group gave me the courage to apply for a job at a Newspaper that changed my life! With a whopping 77,931 total members, they are a haven to support and encourage writers at all levels of knowledge and experience. WU! encourages writers to share their writing, receive and provide constructive feedback, and answer questions posted by members related to their writing. They have a website and are intensively active in promoting and educating their members.Writers Unite! On the Web: Writers Unite! Worldwide: Twitter: They have a variety of submission avenues and daily, weekly and monthly exercises for their community. They sponsor a Book Club and Workshops as well as Contests and Anthologies. Their Guest Blog publishesMember submitted articles about writing and WU! promotes the articles across all of their platforms. They are a cornucopia of information for perfecting our craft!

Before we start on the tributes there were two others frequently mentioned as friend and mentor. I would like to recognize them now. Steven Carr, Author of so many books and stories I just linked his Amazon Page. He developed Sweetycat Press which is closing this month and has just successfully launched Short Story Town, an online Magazine.

The second is Dennis Doty, mentioned as mentor, editor and friend. I don’t know Mr. Doty as I do Steve Carr but I feel certain I will like him. His website, About Dennis Doty, has a distinctly western sort of feel and I’m, of course, from Texas. He is publisher of Saddle Bag Dispatches.

AND HERE ARE THE AUTHORS IN THEIR OWN WORDS:

I asked them to name the 3 persons/entities most helpful in their career/publication and why?

P.C. Darkcliff Author of theDeathless Chronicles/Celts and the Mad Goddess:

First, I should mention Umair Mirxa from Dastaan World who was the first to publish a story of mine, about three years ago. Then there is Steve Carr, of course, who has helped me promote my writing. Also, there’s Douglas Brown, who has been my critique partner since I got into self-publishing and who helped me with my book descriptions and short stories.

David Bowmore, Author of the Magic of Deben Market:

First, Inner Circle Writers’ Group -a fabulous community with great leadership, which led to my first published short story and two collections, both published by Clarendon House.That’s two. For the third, I would sayZombie Pirate Publishing, a great supportive team who also encouraged me to try writing out of my comfort zone.

Patt O’Neil Author of Witness Testimony and Other Tales:

D. K. Lukman is an author of Cozy Mysteries for Children. She challenged me to “publish or perish”. She explained, if I was going through the effort to improve my writing skills, and learn about the business, I should be of the mindset to seek publication of my stories. Dennis Doty He befriended me when I first started sending submissions. When they did not get accepted, he reviewed my work and explained that even though the story was good, it needed polishing (editing) because the publisher wasn’t going to do it. This was one of the lessons no one tells you about when you start out trying to become a professional, even though looking back it seems so obvious. He later set up shop as a professional editor, I became one of his clients and have never looked back. I would also like to recognize, Grant Hudson, because even though he wasn’t the first to ever publish my work, he was the first to believe in me enough to publish many of my stories, and also tell me, “No,” meaning the submitted stories weren’t always going to be a slam dunk.

Mike Turner Author, Poet, and Songwriter. Spillwords Press:

Spillwords ran my very first published poem, and they’ve been very supportive of my writing, running an author’s interview and my ongoing musical poetry series, “Backbeat Poetry.” They do excellent work curating their submissions, pairing images to their published works, and using social media, including Facebook and Twitter, to promote their authors and works. Red Planet Magazine: A speculative fiction magazine that’s run one of my poems in all but one of their issues thus far over the past 18 months. Excellent short stories, poems, and graphic art; with a skilled editor offering just the right level of advice to hone pieces. Steven Lester Carr: A prolific short story writer in his own right, Steve has really gone the distance to help promote and advance upcoming writers while his latest venture, Short Story Town, is rapidly shaping up as a premier habitat for quality short stories and narrative poems. Academy of the Heart and Mind: Emphasis on works dealing with beauty and intellect – an opportunity for poets to spread their wings and soar the currents with uplifting work. Write Away Magazine based in England and focusing on song lyrics, Write Away places emphasis on the words, meaning, and message of its contributors’ lyrics – pieces need not be set to music, although the magazine provides links to any on-line demos or performances of the lyrics it publishes. Monthly, now entering its third year of publication, over 10,000 readers world-wide. Clarendon House Books/Grant Hudson: Publishes short story and poetry anthologies. Grant is a well-experienced and respected publisher who looks for the craft in the pieces he chooses to publish. Always ready with insightful feedback on submissions, even those he chooses not to publish. Books are available through major online retailers. The Writers Club at GreyThoughts: Another highly supportive, curated site giving writers a platform to display their works; does considerable social media promotion of its authors and works.

Deborah Ratliff Creator of Writers Unite!: My fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Jewel Maxwell, was the initial spark that led me to write. She told tales of her childhood in Alabama with such rich detail that her life played out in my imagination and spurred me to create words for the imaginations of others. When I was sixteen, my father handed me the first book in John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee series and told me that I would learn all I needed to know about life from this author. Not only was he right about life’s lessons, but MacDonald’s realistic character development greatly impacted my writing. However, the strongest influence in my journey to become a writer was my father, who gifted me with the joy of reading. We spent hours discussing books, and each moment was a treasure.

Dawn Debraal Short Story Author:

Wow there are so many!!! Hard to narrow them down! Black Hare Press is so prolific with opportunities to publish. Black Ink Press and Raven and Drake are fast coming up the ranks of Indie Publishers with wonderful Ideas for Anthologies.Spillwords, CafeLit, and Potato Soup Journal are wonderful literary online magazines. Terror House Magazine has been so supportive of stories, as well as Impspired. Jolly Horror Press. Though I have never had a story accepted by the Publisher, Jonathan Lambert took the time to edit the first three pages of my manuscript. He loved the story, but I was still very new at writing. That he took the time and explained why he didn’t accept the manuscript and did that work, stuck with me as well as what he taught me.

Sharon Frame Gay Author of Song of the Highway:

Three publishers who have been very helpful right off the top of my head would be Grant Hudson at Clarendon House, Dennis Doty with Saddlebag Dispatches out of Oghma Creative Media, and Tiffany Schofield from 5-Star Publishing.

Eva Marie CagleyAuthor of Dancing in Heaven:

It has been my privilege to have my work published in The Beacon Fellowship Online Magazine by Editor Grant Hudson has kick-started my submission efforts. His group The Inner Circle Writers Group has taught me so much and has a lot of good information about publishing. I would also like to mention the Writers for Life group on Facebook. The Poets Narrative group is my home group on Facebook and Alan Johnson the Admin. has produced all my YouTube narrations. I also belong to a private group, Catwoman, The Pen, and the Sword Admin: Kelly JeanneandWriters Unite! They’ve had a huge impact on motivating me to schedule writing time and receive criticism in my work.

Adam Joseph Stump Author of The Endless Summer:

First was Author Greg Krojacreally helped me learn how to design covers for free and format a book on Amazon. He’s brilliant and a wealth of knowledge! SciFi Roundtable is probably the best group out there for encouraging SciFi/Fantasy authors. Writers’ Co-Op is a great place to bat around ideas and get feedback on the message board.

Joshua D. Taylor Author of As Above So Beneath and Blogger:

Okay, well let’s start with the Writing Bad FB group. It’s a supportive community of writers and where I first found out about the indie publishing community and came across my first Call for Submissions. That brings me to Stormy Island Publishing, the first company I ever published with. They are one of the only publishers to pay for a story and send you a free physical copy. Even though they are on hiatus now, the people I met there still support and encourage me as a writer. I should give a shout-out toBlack Hare Press,I think they have published more of my stories than anyone else and my only solo publication. They’re going through a bit of a transition period right now but hopefully, everything will settle down eventually.

Melissa Sell, Author, and Owner United Faedom Publishing:

Although I belong to many writing groups Writing Bad was my stepping stone. It’s also the first group I recommend. It has many helpful people and can also thicken your skin when it comes to critiquing. Pixie Forest Publishing is a wonderful publisher and realizes the struggles of all indie authors. They are always encouraging and a pleasure to work with. United Faedom Publishing works with its authors and offers discounted editing services to struggling indie authors on a budget. Writing Bad Promotions is a great group to advertise your work, just be sure to follow the posting guidelines. Clean and Speculative Friction is a wonderful FB group. I’ve heard good things about Dragon Soul Press and know many authors who have published with them. Jensen Reed is an amazing author with the ability to give an honest critique. She is one of my trusted beta readers. She and Olivia London (Stormy Island Publishing) are as close to me as sisters, and I seriously couldn’t live without them. They helped me tremendously through my career and even in personal dark times. Help is out there, and if you are lost, find me I’ll point you in the right direction. 😉

Nancy Blakely Henderson Author ofThe Love Story of Nancy and Frank:

I was fortunate to become friends with Chuck Bartok, who noticed my work on my Memoir that I shared on Facebook. He got in touch with me through private messenger about setting up a website and publishing my Memoir. Chuck had connections with a publisher named Anthony R. Michalski of Kallisti Publishing Co. Anthony did my book covers and set up my files for paperback and ebooks, then taught me how to upload files and book covers and I self-published my books, which became a four-book Memoir. I was invited by Carmen Baca, an author and amazing friend, to join two groups on Facebook, Inner Circles Writer’s Group created by Grant Hudson and SweetyCat Press (Closing) created by Steven Lester Carr. These two groups offered opportunities to submit to Anthologies and I was fortunate to have my short stories be accepted and published into several books.

Carmen Baca Author of El Hermano:

My first response is Grant Hudson of The Inner Circle Writers Group. He published my last 3 books & is ready to publish more if I ask. He also publishes several anthologies and two magazines annually. We members get the first chance at publishing in those. Second is a tie between Writers Unite!, run by Deborah Ratliff, andThe Dark Void, run by Aditya Deshmukh, one of the best editors I’ve worked with. They also publish annual anthologies and have accepted my works for several publishing this year. My last is the publisher of Somo En Escrito Magazine and Press, Armando Rendón. He and his assistant editor, Scott Duncan, promote and publish my works. All I mentioned are professional, qualified, and talented at what they do. They make publishing and marketing rewarding.

Mark Scheel, Author of Star Chaser:

The late acclaimed author Edna Bell-Pearson. We met through the Kansas Authors Club and were close friends for years, beta-read our manuscripts, and critiqued and edited each other’s work. She was 100 years of age when she passed. I miss her and her input terribly.

The poet Ronda Miller, state president of The Kansas Authors Club. A close friend and supporter of my writing. She’s reviewed my books for me and taken photos of me to post on the internet during readings, etc., and promoted my work on Facebook and other social media outlets. A super connection to the literary scene regionally. Finally, the writer and the publisher of Anamcara Press, Maureen Carroll. We’re friends through the Kansas Authors Club. Last year she published my poetry collection Star Chaserand did a superb job with the whole project and the promotion. I owe her big time for getting my work out there after years of manuscript rejections.

Christine Tabaka Author of And Still I Had These Dreams:

I am very grateful to everyone who has helped me along the way in my literary journey.

I would be amiss if I did not start with Michael Lee Johnson an experienced poet from Illinois. He was the one who first encouraged me to start to submit my work to publications, and has been a great friend ever since. He has multiple Facebook Group Pages dedicated to helping promote writers of all genres. The next great influence that came along for me was Raja Williams. She was the creator of CTU [Creative Talents Unleased] Publishing,(Closed) and published my book “Words Spill Out, and my next two books by my hiring her privately to do the hard stuff for me.Grant Hudson (from the UK) the editor of Clarendon House Publishing, the Inner Circle Writers’ Magazineand Facebook Page published my works in several anthologies, and published my book “And Still I Had These Dreams.” He also made me the featured writer on the cover of the Inner Circle Writers’ Magazine complete with an interview. And lastly (but far from least), is Steve Cawte (from the UK), the editor of Impspired Magazine, who not only published many of my poems in his e-mag, but also contacted me to publish my most recent poetry book. I was honored to be among some of his first writers for that press. He also has a radio interview show “Word Perfect” on Siren Radio in the UK. I was honored to have my first ever recorded interview with him (where everyone could hear my raspy old lady’s voice for the first time)!

Kerri Jesmer Short Story Author and Editor:

I must give credit to a few people who have helped me in my quest to become a published writer. First and foremost, Steve Carr, I consider him to be my mentor and friend. If he had not encouraged me to send my first story in and given me the location to do so, I’m not sure I would have managed yet. I also used his book, Getting Your Short Stories Published: A Guidebook. Next would be Umair Mirxa. He was the managing editor at the magazine I sent that story to for publication. Umair accepted it and that gave me the confidence to continue to pursue writing. I will never forget that first acceptance email. Many tears of joy were shed by me. And last but not least, I would have to credit two people: Grant Hudson with his immense knowledge of the industry, writing, English, editing, and more. And Dennis W. Doty, my editor. He worked hard to teach me where my issues were in my writing, what I was missing, what to never do, and how to make things right. It was because of his experience and knowledge that I am an editor myself now. But my passion remains writing and always will.

Lynn Miclea Author of The Sticky Note Murders:

Although writing and publishing is mostly a solitary endeavor, others do help to make the journey easier, and those connections are very valuable. I have self-published twenty-five books through KDP/Amazon, and they have been very easy to use. They walk you through each step as you publish, and you retain complete control over every step. I have been very happy with them and recommend them. The two groups other than Writers Unite! that have helped me the most are Cops and Writers, and Trauma Fiction. Cops and Writers has many police and law-enforcement personnel to help answer questions related to cops, law enforcement, crime, and police procedures. Trauma Fiction has many medical personnel to help answer questions related to health, illness, hospitals, trauma, and injuries. Both groups are incredibly helpful in answering questions which helps to keep my writing realistic. The connections we make in helping each other are highly valuable, in both helping with writing and in making strong, supportive, author and friend connections. I truly believe the more we help each other, the more we all succeed.

Jim Bates Author of Resilence:

Gill James is wonderful and easy to work with and has a great team. Steve Cawte and Impspired is super. Very accessible and supportive. And of course Steve Carr with his unfailing support of emerging writers.

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All Green Characters are linked so you can see more from that Author or Publisher by clicking on the Green text.

About Elaine Marie Carnegie


Elaine Marie Carnegie, a Paralegal, and PI worked as a Newspaper Journalist for many years, then a part-time history and foodie columnist for a decade before accepting a publishing partnership; then opening her own SPPublishing and Author Services. She worked with both the FBI and Texas Rangers, has written for Discovery ID, and works for the PI in a consultant capacity today. Her articles have been used in the Texas Legislature, utilized in regional Texas school systems, published in both print and online venues, magazines and anthologies as well as in charity and collaborative projects. She is a published short story author and poet. Her first novel is in the works, “The Path of Totality.” Elaine makes her home in the idyllic East Texas Piney Woods… on a private lake, doing what she loves and living her best life! 

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Please visit Elaine on her blog and check out her great blog series A Writer’s Journey-Write Everyday where authors reveal their path to this creative journey called writing!

https://www.authorelainemarie.com/

Stephen Oliver: Submissions

Please note: the images used are free-use images and do not require attribution.

Submissions

Stephen Oliver

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about submissions to agents, publishers, and magazines (APM’s), given that I’m sending out three different books and a whole bunch of short stories to them. I have come to several conclusions about how much work is involved, what information you need to know, and how much preparation you need to undertake.

I now have around a dozen different versions of my manuscripts on the computer. Some APM’s want double-spaced, others 1.5 lines spacing. Some want Times New Roman, others Courier New. Some want indented paragraphs. Others require no indentation but want extra 6-point space at the end of the paragraph. And so it goes.

Then comes the file formats: .txt, .doc, .docx, .rtf., .pdf., attached to email, embedded within it, or uploaded via the submissions page. There are frequently length limits on the number of words or characters in the upload space, often not stated in the latter case.

How much do the APM’s want? Five pages? Ten pages? Thirty pages? Three chapters? Fifty pages or three chapters, whichever is the shorter? The whole manuscript? (Hurrah, but don’t count your chickens yet; I’ve been rejected at this point, too.)

The bios: short, long, one-liners? How much do they want to know? How detailed?

Publishing histories: what have you published? Short stories or books? Self-published or traditional?

Social media links. Are you on Facebook? Pinterest? Twitter? Instagram? Are there any interviews available? If so, where? What are the links?

Blogs. How often do you post? Any guest posts elsewhere? Links to them, too, please.

Query letters: do you have a standard template with all the relevant information? Do you personalise them or not? If so, how much do you need to change? Can you establish a connection with the agent? What is the required length, format, and attachment?

Finally, a synopsis: yes, no, partial, overview, extensive? Again, how is it supposed to be formatted?

And I haven’t even mentioned the problems of deadlines and rejections yet.

Some agencies and publishers have deadlines that are months in the future (the record, so far, is over six months). I could live with that were it not for the fact that they demand exclusivity during that very long period. No simultaneous submissions elsewhere are allowed. Some want that exclusivity for shorter periods, while others are more flexible, asking only to be informed if another agency takes the manuscript. Then there are the ones that have a submission period of just a few days.

Many agencies have a policy of not answering when they reject. They tell you that you should consider the work rejected if you don’t hear within a specific timeframe. IOW, you are effectively being ghosted.

Others send rejections that are cookie-cutter cut-and-paste replies. I have received the same rejection email from an agency for two very different manuscripts, and a friend tells me she got the same rejection for her book, too. For the record, my books were Space Opera and Urban Fantasy, while hers was contemporary fiction. I’ve spoken with an agent who confirmed that software is available to automate the rejection process with standardised replies.

Worse are the rejections where there is feedback that makes no sense at all. One publisher has told me to go on a course to learn the basics of English. I want to state that I’ve been writing good English for the greater part of my 64 years of life. Another rejection made me wonder whether they bothered to read the manuscript at all, given that their “critique” appeared to be for another genre entirely.

Not to mention is the research necessary to find out all of the above. If you’re personalising the query letters, how much do you need to know to build a connection with them? Where can you find their formatting requirements? Are they industry standard or something special?

Every single agent or publisher has different requirements. If I weren’t already grey-haired, I would be by now.

All in all, a single query can take between two and six hours to craft. It’s frustrating when your hard work gets ignored or thrown back at you, apparently for some arbitrary reason.

It all means that you have to be passionate and believe in your work. Which, fortunately, I am, and I do.

But it does make me sometimes wonder why I have such a masochistic streak for keeping going. Ah, the joys of being a submitting author.

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I’ll discuss things you will need to keep in mind once you are accepted, like working with others, vetting the contract, editing, revising, creating a media kit, etc., in a future article.

Please visit Stephen’s website for more great articles: http://stephenoliver-author.com/

About Stephen Oliver

I’m a ‘Pantser’ (aka ‘Discovery Writer’), meaning that I write ‘by the seat of my pants’.

In other words, I have no idea what I’m writing until I’ve written it. Give me a picture or a writing prompt (a sentence, a phrase… heck, even a word will do) and let me loose. I can come up with something in twenty minutes, 400-500 words to create a new story. I don’t stop there, of course. Those few words can turn into four or five thousand, or more. The next day or week, the Muse will strike again, and I’ll finish it off, creating something weird, wonderful or just plain odd.

Once I’m done, then comes the hard part: turning it into something good. I’ve had to learn that what I wrote initially is only the beginning. Read, revise, edit, wash, rinse, repeat. And repeat. And repeat… There are some stories I’ve gone over dozens of times, and I’ll still find something to improve, on occasion.

So it is that I’ve self-published a self-help book, written dozens of short stories, completed a novel, and am still working on two more. My genres cover science fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy, horror, humour (very dark), noir, detective fiction, fairytales and fairy stories. Often more than one in a single tale… Oh, and there’s a second self-help book in the works, too.

I came to writing fairly late in life, but that ain’t going to stop me now. As Harlan Ellison once said, “A writer is some poor schmuck who can’t help putting words on paper.” That’s me, because I’ve already written over a million words since I began. I’ll be done when they peel my cold, dead fingers off my keyboard.

Mind you, given the kinds of stories I write, that will probably be because one of the monsters I created finally finished me off…!

Elaine Marie Carnegie: The Creatives

“The Creatives”

Elaine Marie Carnegie

This is for all those creative souls who wander around in their own universe bringing light into the darkness.

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One of my Twitter friends started a storm in my brain yesterday. I just kept wondering how many people out there are like me. Unconventional and a little different… (Shout out to the #writingcommunity)

I am a lover of moonlight, magnolia blossoms, and soft southern rain on the roof. Spring days that smell like sunshine and the vague scent of honeysuckle floating on the air.

I love the roll and flow of city traffic. The noisy chaos and smell of the city and the night skylines.

I love history. The plight and resolution of all that came before. I am a daydreamer, a believer… A person who will tell you “Half empty or half full doesn’t matter… Just fill the damn thing up again. It works that way.”

I am a mother, well pleased with the result of her hard work and sacrifice. I am a grandmother. I am a writer, a journalist, a seeker of knowledge.

I am a writer. I allow myself to absorb these things and enjoy the aura they leave behind in my spirit.

I am also obsessive. I want to finish the whole book tonight! Breakfast is highly overrated, coffee will do. Boiled eggs and cheese for lunch and making dinner is an unnecessary interruption. I wait so long, it is a race to the restroom. Crazy? Perhaps, but I have found there are a lot of us out there…

The science is in and all agree that creative people think differently than the accepted mainstream of society. Some of the traits we share are awesome and some… not so awesome and there’s the rub.

We are always redefining what is possible. We question everything. While it satisfies most people to take things at face value, creative people are always questioning those accepted norms and are not at all afraid to place their own perceived value on what is important and what is not.

Creative people are sometimes introverted, preferring the authentic company of the few over the chaotic normal social gatherings and atmosphere. Especially today when the world is at our fingertips and we can quench the thirst for knowledge with a stroke of the mouse, and the tap of a keyboard.

There are periods of productivity. I call my personal times, “on a roll.” When I am on a roll, I want isolation. I don’t answer my phone. I am alone in a world of my creation and it is always the most magnificent place to be. A place I am reluctant to leave, even for a moment. A place I must struggle to return to, once I have been interrupted. I love these days, they are what gives me a passion for the craft or maybe my passion for the craft gives me these days. Either way, the result is the same. Wonder.

Then there are downtimes, procrastination… Days where the magic won’t come and no matter how hard you reach for it… it is elusive. I believe both states are probably essential to the creative mind. It is almost like an inevitable cycle that winds itself again into the thralls of the creative flow. I read that ‘creative flow’ is the most addictive state. I don’t know about that, but I know these moments cannot be explained to someone who does not experience them. These moments must be lived.

Creative people are intuitive, focus intensely and feel deeply. They are sensitive souls and experience the world through a different lens. Like the eyes of a child, many hold onto that sense of wonder, always learning, always questioning the world around them. In a way it sustains creativity. Refills the well when it threatens to run dry in a world in which they don’t function as others think they should.

Yet, some writers are very pragmatic. Approach everything in a concise and structured way… and that works for them. Some excellent storytellers are of this guild. We are individuals with different echelons of creativity, different tastes and different ways to manage. There is magic though, and we see it. We chase it and we bring it to the world.

Sometimes relationships are hard. It takes a special person to love and support someone who lives much of the time in their own minds. Creative people are often struggling on the edges of joy and sorrow. They have a hard time believing in themselves and the same people are at times super confident in their abilities and opinions. In the long run, it doesn’t matter, they’ll risk it anyway.

Life is about experience, mystery, and adventure for them. Creative people perch high on that ledge, work in bursts, live in a world of their own and they are in love with it!

“Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things.” – Ray Bradbury

My personal favorite because I love Albert Einstein…

“Creativity is intelligence having fun.” – Albert Einstein

Write Every Day!

About Elaine Marie Carnegie


Elaine Marie Carnegie, a Paralegal, and PI worked as a Newspaper Journalist for many years, then a part-time history and foodie columnist for a decade before accepting a publishing partnership; then opening her own SPPublishing and Author Services. She worked with both the FBI and Texas Rangers, has written for Discovery ID, and works for the PI in a consultant capacity today. Her articles have been used in the Texas Legislature, utilized in regional Texas school systems, published in both print and online venues, magazines and anthologies as well as in charity and collaborative projects. She is a published short story author and poet. Her first novel is in the works, “The Path of Totality.” Elaine makes her home in the idyllic East Texas Piney Woods… on a private lake, doing what she loves and living her best life! 

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Please visit Elaine on her blog and check out her great blog series A Writer’s Journey-Write Everyday where authors reveal their path to this creative journey called writing!

https://www.authorelainemarie.com/

Stephen Oliver: Becoming a Writer

Becoming a Writer

Stephen Oliver

Some time ago, I received an email connected with a post I made on the TUT Writer’s Group on Facebook. The writer asked me about how to become a writer. I wrote them the following reply.

When it comes to writing, I would like to know where your writer’s block lies so that I can give you more targeted advice. However, I can give you the following points, to begin with.

What sort of writing do you want to do?

Do you intend to write fiction or non-fiction? I do both, and each needs its way of looking at things.

Fiction

If you want to write fiction, do you know what sort of story you want to write? Is it romance, general fiction, speculative fiction (for instance, science fiction, fantasy, dark fantasy or horror, sword and sorcery, urban fantasy, to name but a few). Or even erotica? Is it a novel or a short story? Whatever type you want to write, you need to do some reading in that genre to get a feel for what is acceptable to the reading public. I, for instance, have read all of the speculative fiction genres mentioned above for years. You don’t want to copy them, of course, but you need to know the kind of stories available.

Sometimes, a story you read will trigger an idea of your own. You might like the story and want to know what happened next. Why don’t you write about that? If the story took place years ago, why not rewrite it into modern times? West Side Story is Romeo and Juliet set in 20th century New York, for instance. The Lion King is a modern take on Macbeth. One of the short stories I’m about to publish is my take on Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid. And so on.

At other times, you might think to yourself, “I don’t like the way that story turned out.” So why not write your version, giving it the ending you would have liked? Or you read a story and imagine something completely different that’s still somehow connected with the original, like my story about a modern Frankenstein.

Television and movies are other good sources of ideas. Just as I mentioned above, they can trigger thoughts and ideas that lead to a story. I’ve also had ideas that have come from dreams and daydreams. You have to be open to your thoughts. There are stories that I have started writing with nothing more than a single phrase or concept.

To throw a couple of ideas out to you:

  • What would it feel like to be immortal? You know that everyone you love will one day be gone, while you have to carry on without them forevermore. How will you live? What will you do? Is there a problem with boredom because you’ve done it all before?
  • How about someone whose job is to protect a city, like a superhero, except he can’t remember who he is until the city is about to be destroyed? How does he react until he realises that he’s the one to save the day? How do the inhabitants treat him because he’s always so late coming to the rescue?
  • Or how about a woman who can’t find her car keys until she remembers that she never learned to drive? Why does she think that she has keys for a car she doesn’t own? Is she suffering from amnesia? Does she have a split personality? Is she channelling someone from a parallel world? Or is a ghost trying to contact her? The possibilities are endless.
  • What is the exact meaning of a company name, like Blue Dog? Does someone have an unusual name? Why do they have it?

These are a few ideas that just popped into my head while I was writing this. Be prepared to think strange things and follow them up. (BTW, I have since written a story about an immortal, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t).

If you decide to write, I suggest you keep some sort of notebook to jot your ideas down. I use a program called Evernote, which you can get for free. It runs on the PC, Mac, iPhone and iPad, any Android device, etc. What you do is download it on any device you use and then set up an account with them or Dropbox or iCloud, or some other cloud service. Once all devices and their versions of Evernote are synchronised to the same account, if you write something down on one of them, it will be available on all of them within seconds. You need never lose an idea again except in the shower. I still have no idea how I can do it there.

If electronic devices are not your thing, and I know people who still prefer old-fashioned methods, buy yourself a small reporter’s notebook with an attached pen or pencil. Keep it with you at all times and jot down any ideas you get. Every so often, say once a week, write them up in a bigger notebook or schoolbook. Give it a title like “My Great Ideas Book.” Cherish the ideas as they come, accept them as gifts from whoever or whatever you think of as a higher power, and they will keep coming. They will increase, and you will soon wonder why you thought that you never had any ideas.

Non-Fiction

Although all that I’ve written about above is true for non-fiction as it is for fiction, non-fiction has a few extra points you need to keep in mind.

First of all, how much do you know about the subject? If it’s something you work with every day, and you know all about it, then you’re set. You need to work out how to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.

If you only know a bit or even nothing at all, then you are going to have to research. There are books available on just about every subject under the sun, many of them cheap or even free if you know where to look. Try Amazon’s free books, for example, or check out Project Gutenberg for books that are out of copyright. Google the subject and follow any leads you find. Just be aware that there is a lot of useless or even false information out there

90% of everything is crud.
Theodore Sturgeon, science fiction writer

As you’re doing your research, keep making notes of ideas and concepts that you want to include in your book. As I noted earlier, a notebook, or some electronic aid such as Evernote, is an excellent way of having everything together. It doesn’t matter whether everything is neat and tidy or just a bunch of scribbles and phrases, as long as they make sense to you when you come back to them later.

Once you start writing, you will have to find your personal style. When I’m working on a non-fiction book, I always write as if I’m actually talking to the person. If I’m teaching someone how to use a computer program (and I have written user manuals), it’s as if we’re sitting down together in front of the machine, and I’m telling them what to type and where to click. This is my style, and I know that there are people who prefer other styles, such as an impersonal teacher dishing out commands.

No matter what you found during your research, don’t write it exactly as you noted it down in the first place because you may find that you are plagiarising someone else’s words. Instead, write it down in your own words, as if you are trying to explain to someone else what it is that you’ve read. Don’t worry if you think you have nothing new to say. It may be that someone else needs to hear it put the way that you can uniquely do. Say it your own way, and it will be new to someone.

Don’t talk yourself out of an idea just because it’s been done before. Put your own spin on it. Bring in your own personal experiences. You will have your own stories to tell, which will make it unique.
Dr Joe Vitale

Now, let’s look at one or two problems more carefully.

Ideas are blocked

If you think that your problem lies with writer’s block, try this little trick. If you prefer to work by hand, get a blank piece of paper and a pen or pencil, and write the subject you want to write about at the top of the page. Underline it or draw a box around it, whatever makes you feel that it’s important.

Now, let’s establish a couple of simple rules. First of all, when you start writing, don’t stop! Secondly, you are only allowed to write from left to right and top to bottom. You can’t go back and correct something at the moment; that comes later.

Now, just keep writing whatever goes through your head on the subject. If you find that nothing relevant to the subject comes out, just write whatever you are thinking about, even if it’s about the problem you’re having writing anything down. The idea is to disconnect your creative process from the critical process of editing. Once you’ve been writing for five or ten minutes, or whatever feels comfortable, take a break or stop completely.

Now is the time to go back and look at what you’ve written. Don’t change anything yet. Just read it from beginning to end to see what exactly you have created. If you find something you would like to alter or even delete, make a mental note to come back to it later. Make a mark or underline if it will help you find your place again.

Once you’ve reread it, you can go back and make the changes you thought about earlier. When you’ve finished, use that as a basis for your writing. You can repeat this as many times as you like until you’re satisfied.

If you’re a computer user and can type fast enough, create a new blank document and start with that. I’ve even used dictation software to get ideas down as quickly as possible. I use Dragon for Mac, which is flexible and can be trained to understand your style of writing.

This is a combination of two different methods that I personally use. The first is Free Writing, where you just allow words to come out of you without censoring them in any way. The second method includes the first as its first stage. The method is called the Disney Method and is named after Walt Disney. It’s the way that he and his team of creators brainstormed new ideas for films and features.

If you want to find out more about this and other methods of achieving your goals, I suggest you look at my book Unleash Your Dreams: Going Beyond Goal Setting. You can find it on Amazon as both a Kindle ebook and paperback, as well as on iBooks and at Smashwords.

Another suggestion I can make is to have multiple projects going on at the same time. For instance, right now, I am doing the final cleanup on my collection of short stories. I’m working on a second collection of stories on the same theme, I have a fantasy novel I’m working on, and I’m also working on a follow-up book to the one that I just mentioned. If I run out of ideas or find myself blocked on one of these projects, I simply switch to another one and continue working there. I do this because I’ve come to realise that it’s not really a block, as such. It means that what I’m working on now isn’t quite ready to be written down yet.

No ideas at all

You said that you have no idea where to start? Is this because you have no ideas? Or is it because you have no idea what tools to use?

If the first one is your problem, please look earlier in this email, where I’ve given you a few pointers on how to start. If the second one is where you’re stuck, any word processor, such as Microsoft Word or Apple’s Pages, will do perfectly well. I wrote my first book using Word, and it did the job fairly well.

These days, I use a product called Scrivener, which is specially designed with the writer in mind, allowing you to structure your work any way you like, moving stuff around if it makes more sense that way. You can download a free trial at http://www.literatureandlatte.com, which will run for 30 days of use; if you use it only once a week, it will work for months. If you decide you like it, it only costs about $45 to buy the full licence. There are versions for the PC, Mac, and iPhone, iPad, and Android devices.

Other problems

If your problems lie more in the realm of the actual publication of your writing, we can talk about this on another occasion.

I hope this helps you in your quest to become a writer.

I hope you don’t mind, but I’m going to put this up as a next blog post because I think other people might profit from it.

I wish you lots of luck in the future and look forward to hearing from you soon and reading your writing.

Please visit Stephen’s website for more great articles: http://stephenoliver-author.com/

About Stephen Oliver

I’m a ‘Pantser’ (aka ‘Discovery Writer’), meaning that I write ‘by the seat of my pants’.

In other words, I have no idea what I’m writing until I’ve written it. Give me a picture or a writing prompt (a sentence, a phrase… heck, even a word will do) and let me loose. I can come up with something in twenty minutes, 400-500 words to create a new story. I don’t stop there, of course. Those few words can turn into four or five thousand, or more. The next day or week, the Muse will strike again, and I’ll finish it off, creating something weird, wonderful or just plain odd.

Once I’m done, then comes the hard part: turning it into something good. I’ve had to learn that what I wrote initially is only the beginning. Read, revise, edit, wash, rinse, repeat. And repeat. And repeat… There are some stories I’ve gone over dozens of times, and I’ll still find something to improve, on occasion.

So it is that I’ve self-published a self-help book, written dozens of short stories, completed a novel, and am still working on two more. My genres cover science fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy, horror, humour (very dark), noir, detective fiction, fairytales and fairy stories. Often more than one in a single tale… Oh, and there’s a second self-help book in the works, too.

I came to writing fairly late in life, but that ain’t going to stop me now. As Harlan Ellison once said, “A writer is some poor schmuck who can’t help putting words on paper.” That’s me, because I’ve already written over a million words since I began. I’ll be done when they peel my cold, dead fingers off my keyboard.

Mind you, given the kinds of stories I write, that will probably be because one of the monsters I created finally finished me off…!

Enzo Stephens: Ghostwriting

Writers Unite!’s Featured Blog Series!

Writers Unite! is fortunate to have among its members, many bloggers, and essayists who write content about the writing process or their author’s journey or both. We will be posting their articles for your information and enjoyment. Please read and comment, visit the author’s website, blog, or Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram and share!

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Ghostwriting

By Enzo Stephens

“Hey, so what do you do to put bread on the table, Enzo?”

“Well Jake, I’m a professional writer.”

“Really?  I’ve always wanted to be a writer.”

Jake’s wife, Emily provides this further illumination to Jake’s aspiration.  “He has such good ideas…”

Now it’s my turn to act interested.  “Well, that’s tremendous, you guys. So what’s stopping you?  You guys could go in on it together; like a little family project.”

At this point, there comes an onslaught of excuses that, quite literally, feel like an overdose of Novocain being jammed in my carotid with the barrel of a recently-vacated ballpoint pen.

As in, OUCH.  Please stop and don’t say another word.  But of course, the good Jake and Emily continue their diatribe, and again, for the sake Being a Nice Guy, the Interested Face gets plastered on again while they blather on.

“Good question Enzo.  Writing is a huge time investment—”

“—And there’s all the stuff with the kids.”

“Right!  Lots going on, Enzo.”

“Do you think I’ve got ‘lots going on’, guys?”

“Uh, well…”

“I just bet you do!”  Emily can be inappropriately chipper.  Then, “So Enzo, are you published?”  

Nice uncomfortable-subject shuffle there, Emily.  “You mean, is my work published?”

“Hah!  Now THAT’s a writer for ya!”

“Yes, I’ve got some work out there.”

“Really?  In your name?”

“No.  I use a pen name.”

“Anyone we’d recognize?”

Now there’s just a whole array of snarky answers I could throw in here, but I walk a deeper strategy of snark when this topic comes up in party banter.  Here we go…

“Oh yeah, you would.”

“Clearly, Jake, Enzo isn’t comfortable sharing his pen name, are you Enzo?”

“Not really, Emily.  I mean, why use a pen name if you’re just gonna dole it out like Halloween candy?”

“Hah!  Good point, Enzo.  Maybe a better question is, can you recommend any titles for us.”

“Despite my reticence to share my pen name, Jake, I’ll contradict that stance, but only here and now with you fine folk, and that’s under the promise from you guys that you will keep it under your hat.  Hmmm, maybe I can get you to sign a Non-Disclosure—”

“Enzo, you’re too much.”

“Right Enzo, our word is gold.  You can bank on it.”

“Cool, Emily.  Okay, have you ever read ‘Cujo’?”

And now comes the obligatory moment of stunned silence as the realization rolls over their non-poker playing faces.  Then, “Jeez, that’s you?”

“You’re…” voice lowered to a whisper, “Stephen King?”

A quick wink in response, and then, “So let’s talk about your desire to write…”

“Well, Mister King, like I said, there’s just no time.”

“First, Jakey-poo, I am NOT Stephen King, so please drop that right away or this conversation is el-don-no.  Capisce?”

Sheepish looks.  “Sorry, mister K—”

“—Uh uh!”

“Oh right.  Enzo.”

“So really, guys, telling me you don’t have enough time to actually sit down to write is, well you know, an excuse.”  I held my forefinger up in front of their faces to halt their silly defensive protests while I pressed on.

“The truth of the matter is deeper than what you just told me.  For instance, everyone has kids. I know of a single mom with three little ones that can crank out a one-hundred-thousand word masterpiece in three months.  What do you think her time-suck is like?”

So now they’re looking away a bit and they look a little uncomfortable like they’ve just been scolded.  I sucked in a deep breath and climbed right up on my soapbox. “Writing can be a hobby, sure, and I suspect that’s where you’re at when you said that you always wanted to be a writer, Jake.  

“But if you want to put out really great material, well, like anything else, it requires a butt-load of work.  And even more practice! Do you feel me?”

Honestly, after all that I’m pretty surprised that the court that I’m holding is still populated with these two. They nod in unison, giving me license to press on.

“So let’s get real here, guys and explore this a bit.  Is it the work that’s stopping you from chasing this dream you have of being a writer?”

Jake hemmed and hawed a bit, glancing at his oddly small feet.  “Honestly, Enzo, it’s getting started that’s the problem for me, I think.”

“Okay, that’s good, Jake.  You’ve drilled down a bit.  Let’s go further. What’s stopping you from getting started?”

‘Uh… I suppose it’s just sitting down and, you know, actually doing it.”

I nodded, and I totally GOT Jakey.  We were on to something here. My nodding encouraged Jake to press on.  “It’s like I know what I want to write. But I don’t know how to start.”

“And he really does tell wonderful stories.”  Yeah, thanks for that, Emily.

“I’m sure Jake does.  But I’d like to share something with you guys to help you move forward with your dream.  Good?”

“Absolutely!”

“Try taking on some small side gigs that will actually pay you for your writing.  When you know that you’re going to get paid BEFORE you begin writing, well, that’s all the motivation you’ll need to hot-wire your head.”

My Old Fashioned suddenly became bone dry and that sucked, so it was time to move on, but before finding the nearest watering hole, I had one more tidbit to drop on these hopeful folk.  “Nothing teaches the craft of Writing like getting paid for your Writing. Each gig you take on teaches you… just phenomenal amounts of improvement! So if you want to get going here, go build an account on a side-hustle platform and start bidding on small jobs.

“I’ll tell you now, the pay will suck.  But you’re not doing it to earn a living; not yet anyway.  Think of it as On the Job Training; you’re getting paid to learn.

“One more thing; I have a pretty significant volume of published novels doing the Exact.  Same. Thing. It’s called ‘Ghost Writing’, and I cannot emphasize the benefits of doing this to new and younger writers enough!”

Mic Drop.  Time for a refill!

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Soon:  More Ghostwriting

Author Bio:

Enzo Stephens has a serious case of professional ADHD.  He’s a professional writer with over 60 novels ghosted and several under his own name.  He’s an active blogger and has fallen in love with knocking out short stories.

Enzo is a retired Marine and a martial arts instructor for longer than most people have been alive, and his cats, wife, and kids merely tolerate his nonsense.

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For more of Enzo’s writing visit him on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Enzo.stephens.5011 or check out the monthly archives here on the WU! blog.

( Please note: the images used as prompts are free-use images and do not require attribution.)  

Reedsy Blog: How to Become an Editor: A Guide for Beginners

Writers Unite!’s Featured Blog Series!

Writers Unite! is fortunate to have among its members, many bloggers, and essayists who write content about the writing process or their author’s journey or both. We will be posting their articles for your information and enjoyment. Please read and comment, visit the author’s website, blog, or Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram and share!

We are pleased to offer this blog article submitted to us by the freelance writers on the Reedsy Blog: They felt this would be a good piece to share with the Writers Unite! members. Thanks to them and hope they share more terrific and informative articles about writing.

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How to Become an Editor: A Guide for Beginners

Are you the kind of person who can glance over a block of text and spot all the typos immediately? Do you get a special kind of satisfaction from feeding back on friends’ essays? Have you always loved literature and dreamt of working with words, words, words (as Hamlet once said)?

If you answered “yes” to any or all of these questions, then you might be the perfect candidate to learn how to become an editor — and maybe even build a business out of it.

Of course, editing for a living is no picnic, and it takes quite a bit of work just to get started. But if you’re passionate, determined, and truly care about improving the written word, editing could be the career of a lifetime for you! Read on to find out what an editor does, which factors determine editing success, and how to become an editor in six simple steps.

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Reedsy was founded in the summer of 2014 by Emmanuel Nataf, Ricardo Fayet, Vincent Durand and Matt Cobb. Since then, we’re proud to have built a network of world-class publishing professionals and helped produce over 10,000 books.

As you immerse yourself into our ecosystem, you will discover that Reedsy can help at every stage of your publishing journey. Whether you start writing with the Reedsy Book Editor, or polish your prose with assistance from the marketplace, we can provide the support you need to publish your story.

For all writers, our blog offers insights into publishing and the writing craft. If you prefer video, you can watch a different publishing professional answer your questions via our Reedsy Live events, which we present every two weeks. And our Reedsy Learning courses are here to help any author through the learning curves in the publishing industry.

We provide all these tools for free so that authors can learn and then concentrate on what they do best: writing.

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