Category Archives: Guest Articles

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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is divider-2.png
Image result for Reedsy logo

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.

Continue Reading Article Here

About Reedsy

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.

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

Please note all images and logos referring to Reedsy.com are the sole property of Reedsy.com. The images used as prompts or illustrations are free-use images and do not require attribution.

Enzo Stephens: Planning Vs. Pantsing, Part Dalawa

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!

Part “Isa” and Part “Dalawa” are Tagalog for 1 & 2 respectively.

Planning Vs. Pantsing, Part Isa

Planning Vs. Pantsing, Part Dalawa

By Enzo Stephens

When we go on vacation to some warm locale with swaying palm trees and soft, gentle ocean breezes and sand that likes to mysteriously work its way into surprising anatomical crevices, one of the first things I say — usually with a huge sigh, is “Ahhhh, how wonderful it is to not have to wear pants.”

Kind of crazy for a dude to say, but there it is.

The fact is that for a guy (and maybe for the ladies too), pants are binding.  We have to loosen our belts (that hold our pants up) after chowing down that four chili-cheese dogs (topped with fresh onions and cayenne pepper — do it right!), because those damned pants are like a noose around the waist.

So, do you feel me when I breathe that sigh of relief upon arrival at some tropical locale?

As my well-traveled friend would say, “You and your first-world problems.”

So all that said, in the writing community, the inverse of that diatribe is the truth; pantsing is liberating.

“Pantsing” is a term used to describe unplanned writing.  In short, the writer gets an idea or a scene in their mind and then they just… let it fly.

At one time this method used to bug the bejeebers out of me.  Why? Because every time I’d sit down with a fabulous idea and crank it out, it would pretty much just die on the vine.  Ten, fifteen pages of outstanding prose that just peters out.

To me, that was a fail in my quest to write the Great American Novel and supplant Mr. King as the Great American Novelist.  It slew my dream.

It’s a tenuous connection, but then my writing technique was pretty immature back then.  To me, it was all about causality, and if I was going to succeed in my writing career, I needed a different approach.

Ergo the planning method, and I totally embraced that method, and it was a huge success for me.  Again, causality. The more I crafted full-scale novels, the more I embraced planning.

But here’s the thing…

Writing stopped being fun.  It became a job.

And that just took the wind out of my sails, big-time.  I didn’t talk about these fantastic stories at parties anymore; I wasn’t driven by inspiration anymore.  

Over 60 books later and I was feeling pretty burnt out, although the process I’d developed for myself was a significant success, I was — dare I say, bored.  

For a fiction author to get bored?  Well, that just sucks.

Well, then the host of this blog site flashed a picture on Facebook that I saw for the first time last February, along with the words ‘Write The Story,’ and I thought, ‘well, that’s a cool idea.’  Three thousand words? I can do that in my sleep (which was truer than I care to admit).

So what’s the first thing I did?  I pulled out my planning tools.

UGH.

I wrote some ridiculous drivel about the wonders of paint or some such nonsense; read it and promptly threw it in the crapper.  Now, all of a sudden, this little exercise became difficult.

I kvetched about it to my closet confidant, and after she let me blather on for gawd-knows-how-long (and several gin & tonics), she kicked back in her chair and laughed at me.  That kind of got my dander up a bit, but then she ’splained…

“Remember all those times when I’d ask you to tell me a story to help me fall asleep?”

“Yeah, but they put you to sleep, so they must have sucked.”

“No, doofus!  You came up with that stuff on the fly!”

DING

My goodness, that is One.  Wise. Woman.

In other words, I was pantsing, even when I didn’t know the term.  And I dare say that all of us writers do it. It’s inspiration!

That said, I tackled that Write The Story exercise again with gusto and cranked out a strange, rambling dissertation on the possible sinister history of the room in the picture prompt, and I never looked back.

I have re-discovered the JOY in writing, and have since put together some really weird and fun short stories that have helped me to truly express myself; to build a level of depth and humanity in my characters that seemed to have disappeared over the years, and so on and so on.

Pantsing has helped my writing skills evolve to the Next Level (well, in my mind anyway).  I have no idea if I’ll ever supplant Mr. King as the next Great American Novelist, and frankly, I really don’t care.

Because writing is fun again!

Now I am able to combine the best of both and that’s where my path to creation of inspired novels lie, and I’m thrilled to share here that I’ve got a series well underway.  Yes, it’s well planned and meticulous using the tools I described in Part Isa, but the specific scenes, now that’s a different story.

Those scenes are ‘pantsed,’ and by Slocum, they have been an absolute blast to write!

Planning AND Pantsing.  Try them together, and watch your writing take off!

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

Next: Ghostwriting.

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

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.

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

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.)  

D. A. Ratliff: Confessions of an Obsessed Writer

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!

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

Confessions of an Obsessed Writer

By D. A. Ratliff

Every so often, in a writing group that I am a member of, someone will ask this question. What is your favorite writing spot? I invariably and blithely answer: Have laptop, will travel. Then it dawned on me that my laptop does indeed travel where I do. 

I am an obsessed writer.

I began reading at an early age, and in elementary school, I discovered writing. My efforts were admittedly short stories about my Chihuahua, Henry, but I was writing. I was that rare student who loved having essays and term paper assignments, relishing in the research as well as the composing. My lust for writing had begun. 

Then I graduated college and well, had to act like an adult. I continued to read, but my writing efforts were work related and, while important, certainly not imaginative. Difficult to make a policy-and-procedures or a training manual fun, but I did love writing newsletters where I could be a bit more creative.

During these years, a gnawing urge began to develop. I wanted to write fiction. As a child, I had a vivid imagination that followed me to adulthood. However, I had doubts as to whether I could write a story good enough to attract readers. I had taken creative writing courses, but college was behind me, and I was unsure I had the skills. I needed practice, but how?

I started writing fanfiction.

I know – it’s fanfiction, but I deduced that with developed characters and show canon already in place, I could concentrate on how to construct a story and write dialog. It was fanfiction, easy, and all the fans of the show would love all the stories. Wrong. Critique in the world of fanfic can be brutal. Fortunately, most were kind to me.

But it worked, I gained confidence and discovered the weaknesses I needed to address by writing over eighty stories about a canceled science fiction show. Yes, eighty. You see, I couldn’t stop writing. The more I wrote, the more I wanted to write. And once I began to believe I could write, I left fanfic behind and started writing my first novel, a science fiction story. I haven’t stopped since.

Writers understand the call of the keyboard. I do take my laptop with me practically everywhere. No, not to the grocery store but the doctor’s office, or on a plane, any place where I have downtime with nothing else to do. Okay, maybe when I did have other things to do as well.  I only know that I need to create.

Writing every day is not a challenge for me. I hesitate to think of how many words I do write per day as an administrator for a large writing group, or on Facebook Messenger and email, and when I can, my fiction works in progress. (Yes, works. Okay, I have a few going at the same time.) I have worn out a few keyboards in the last few years. It’s when I’m not writing that the need to write manifests itself. I have a sense that I forgot something, that nagging urgency that I should be doing something. It is as if a part of me is incomplete.

If you write, you know that feeling. You have a new idea, the plot, the title, and the characters start to develop in your head. How it begins and ends. I am a pantser style writer, meaning that I don’t plan my stories before writing them. I start writing, and then the fun begins.

One of my favorite quotes about writing is from British author, Terry Pratchett:

“The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.”

If that opening line falls into place, then so does everything else. There is such a feeling of satisfaction to watch letters appear on the screen as fingers move about the keys. Hours pass like minutes as the story unfolds and, when I finally stop, there is a sense of accomplishment that today I created something. That feeling is what makes writing so obsessive for me.

Not all days are so satisfying. All writers have those days when the words won’t come, or the plot stalls or transition between scenes is elusive. When this happens, doubt begins to creep in. Is this story good enough, will anyone like it? Why am I writing? I have learned never to force the words, for those are never the right words. Taking a step back, working on another project, taking a walk, or cleaning the house (the last resort) always helps me to find my muse again, because I have to write.

I write to tell myself the story.

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

D. A. (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 and science fiction novels beckoned. Deborah began writing mysteries and her first novel, Crescent City Lies, will be published in late spring 2020 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 57,000+ members from around the globe.
www.thecoastalquill.wordpress.com
www.writersuniteweb.wordpress.com
www.facebook.com/groups/145324212487752

Resources:
https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/644139-the-first-draft-is-just-you-telling-yourself-the-story

Enzo Stephens: Writer’s Block

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!

Writer’s Block

By Enzo Stephens

The Great Plague of all writers throughout the course of history. Writer’s Block. It’s such a big deal that both words get capital letters!

Just had a comical image pop into my head of an ancient writer encountering writer’s block as he’s trying to etch scribblings on a stone tablet. Doesn’t make a lick of historical sense, but there it is.

For as many writers as there have been throughout history — and I venture to say each and every one of them has hit the proverbial wall called Writer’s Block, well, just as many have the solution to the problem and are more than eager to share their wisdom.

Add me to the ranks of the eager.

Writer’s Block is a problem (for writers).

Understanding the root cause of the problem is typically one of the first and foremost steps in resolving the problem. Makes perfect sense to me.

But I’m more of a Doer instead of a Thinker; I’m not cerebral by any stretch — even though my pappy used to kvetch at me about being stuck inside my own head all the time; so my solutions tend to be pretty basic, though they’re effective for me. 

For me, as with many prolific scribblers, my brain is a non-stop hamster wheel of stories; and not ‘stories’ per se, but scenes and snippets, dialogues, action shots, what-if scenarios, and Great Ideas for a Story. 

So, from the very outset, sitting down to belt out a story requires an immediate discipline to corral my thoughts and stop that hamster wheel. And the bigger the story, the greater discipline required, and for me, that’s a huge Writer’s Block. Hell, half the time I just don’t feel like containing the chaos!

I don’t struggle for words or to figure out how to say things that are impactful; I have too much to say! Reining all that in is a JOB!

(You should see how much of a battle I go through to do a novel! Yeesh! Hello, brain… you suck!)

Ergo (I really like that word!), seems to me that my solution works whether I’ve got too much to say and I need to nail stuff down, or if I have nothing to say and I have to break the logjam. I have two proven, tried-and-true solutions to share with y’all.

Conversation

I really like this technique. Dialogue is — in my opinion, some of the easiest stuff to write. It’s just two people talking. Happens all the time, everywhere across the world, and it happens for everyone.

“But Enzo, an imaginary conversation?”

Nah, screw that. Look, all of us have conversations that just don’t go the way we want them to go. Maybe we left things unsaid that should have been said.

So say them!

Write it out.

Don’t punctuate, don’t dialogue-tag, just write it. What was said, and then you make it fiction by finishing off what you WANTED to say, or what SHOULD have been said.

After you write it, go grab an adult beverage, come back and read it. You’ll love it! Why? Because it’s what you wanted to say; the conversation went the way you wanted it to go, even if it’s only fiction.

BOOM! 

Stream It

Aka, Stream-of-Consciousness writing.

I absolutely love this technique. Here’s what to do:

1. Put yourself in a place with no distractions.

2. Set your alarm for five minutes in the future.

3. Open a blank document, wordpad, whatever.

4. Write!

Sounds a little ridiculous, doesn’t it? But really, this is hugely effective when stuck for verbiage.

Here’s what to write about…

Whatever. 

One other rule for this exercise: don’t punctuate or paragraph.

So the end result ends up being a big fat blob of nonsense. I did this once and wrote nothing but profanity, and then I spent the next several days laughing hysterically at it. It was good sh^t; funny as all get out and outrageously graphic.

Here’s the hidden beauty of doing this; somewhere in that mess you’ll discover the kernel, word, verbiage, thought, whatever that kick-starts your Muse right in her tukas.

Remember. 

This isn’t to get you over your particular block; it’s to encourage you to remember what you really love about telling stories, even if it’s only just to tell stories. 

Re-Discover your JOY.

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

Next from Enzo Stephens: Planning vs. Pantsing

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

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.)  

Paula Shablo: Getting to “The End” (Writing Conundrums)

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!

Getting to “The End” (Writing Conundrums)

By Paula Shablo

I don’t know that my recent lack of motivation to finish my book could accurately be termed “writer’s block,” since I have, in the meantime, written several other things.

I have the ending plotted out in my head, and I’ve made copious notes in my notebook working out the “how to get there from here” logistics.

I am at that point in writing where I always seem to land as a project nears the end—I don’t want to be done with the story, so I stall.

Logically, I know I won’t be finished. Far from it. I will be reading and re-reading, looking for spelling errors, plot holes, continuity.

In my process, a lot of the above editing will get addressed before I actually write the finale. It all has to knit together, and sometimes beginning to end doesn’t mesh on the first try.

I dislike re-writing endings. Since I don’t always know the ending when I begin—I am a “seat of the pants” writer, for the most part, especially with stories that exceed 50,000 words—I often have to address the beginning and middle of my story before I can complete it.

So, I am reading. Brushing things up. Changing whole scenes. Adding and subtracting. Re-doing research, just to make sure I have any historical references correct.

This is important—I once published a work with a very tiny scene referencing a baseball game between the Yankees and the Braves, who don’t even play in the same league! Embarrassing! Of course, I corrected it, but oh! My credibility!

Sure, I could claim alternate universe, but…lie, lie, lie. I goofed! I learned a valuable lesson. Check, re-check and check again.

This doesn’t ensure I will never goof again—undoubtedly, I will. I am not perfect, or even close.

Having confessed my Achilles heel—reluctance to reach “The End”—I’m curious: Do any of you writers here have the same writing issue? I’d love to read your comments!

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

For more of Paula’s stories and articles please visit her blog:

Penz -o- Paula

Tineke Peeters: Pantser

Pantser

By Tineke Peeters

What is ‘a pantser’? Well, we are the writers that ‘go with the flow’ of our ideas without a set process.

Quite a few authors have a set of rules in writing out their plot and characters from start to finish in bullet points or another form before writing the actual book.

What we do is, in general, get an idea, but don’t work it out into detail before the writing process. I call it, as I have said before, go with the flow.

Some might say the characters tell the story and guide them throughout the story.

Others would say they have a muse telling them what to write without giving you a clue about the ending.

Don’t get me wrong, there needs to be a general idea obviously. There are no set ‘rules’ for how each and every author writes. All writers have their own process; no two are alike.

My personal process:

I write the first chapter without any idea of plot. My MC (main character) is only a vague character at this point. In my mind the characters get clearer as I write the next chapter. Then I start procrastinating for a few days about where this first chapter could go.

More than one scenario, with some research each, get written down on paper. If another one comes to mind one or half of another one gets scratched. When I think I have a plot, very vague still mind you, I start writing the next few chapters and then the muse comes into play. He or she, mostly she as my main character is a she as well, comes up with an idea, which I don’t have much time to work out. Bullet points are quickly noted. Problem here is that the new plot, yes, a totally new plot, doesn’t always work with what I have written yet.

I have to go back, not to edit, but to change some settings or another character. I will get the need to slap my muse around, but most of the time the new idea is better.

While writing I suddenly get stuck. Not necessarily writer’s block, but more like my vague plot needs some more detail. That is when the proverbial light bulb lights up.

Now, obviously, I get too many ideas and need to eliminate. Again, this process needs to happen fast, as my memory doesn’t work very well.

If I am still stuck, because my muse has a problem with my final idea, I chat with other writers or family or friends. They come up with ideas that my muse changes into something else, because suddenly she is happy with a certain idea that got triggered by chatting with everyone.

A perfect example was when my main character got stuck in the head of a unicorn and I didn’t know how to get her back out. What I did was talk to my teenage stepdaughter and her friend. They came up with one idea after the other, which led to another idea from my muse. This was my published book.

My recent book got some ideas from them as well, as I needed help with writing the diary of a twelve-year-old, which they are. Throughout all the ideas I got the light bulb thing again. Another idea about the plot suddenly became clear.

Basics of a pantser: no set plot, working with the characters, being open for changes throughout your story, and allowing the story to guide you.

There is always the editing process to work out the details which you missed while changing from one plot to the other.

Tineke Peeters is a 36-year-old pantser from Belgium and the author of ‘Book of Panacea,’ which can be found on Amazon.  You can find Tineke on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tineke.peeters.1

Tom Zumwalt: How to Write a Novel in Thirteen Plus Years

How to Write a Novel in Thirteen Plus Years

By Tom Zumwalt

As I wrestle with my inner critic and half a dozen other voices in my head (sure is crowded here—where did all of you come from?), approaching the close of my latest round of edits on my novel, I’ve decided to let my writer readers (reading writers?) in on my secrets. I know you’re all wondering, “How’d he finish it so fast?” and “Gosh, I wish I could write something that easily,” and “Why are there cat toys on his desk?”

Well, here it is, for the first time ever, Tom’s Guide to Writing a Novel in a Mere Ten Plus Years.”

Step One: Get idea. Mull it over a while. Forget to write it down.

Step Two: Get idea back. Write it down. Plink down a few ideas. Go play World of Warcraft.

Step Three: Write in journal, full of excitement about starting a novel. Don’t actually work on the novel, just talk about how excited you are in your journal. Play World of Warcraft.

Step Four: Tell friends and family and all the people at your coffee shops how excited you are to be working on a novel.

Step Five: Play World of Warcraft.

Step Six: Tell wife, husband, life partner, significant other, benign alien, or therapist about your novel.

Step Seven: Play World of Warcraft.

Step Eight: Weekend getaway to work on book. Write a few short, short scenes at the beginning, then perhaps something near the end, then a battle sequence because battle sequences are cool. Write non-sequentially because you have the attention span of a…oh, look, there goes the kitty…

Step Nine: Begin keeping backup files of your work. Make backups of your backups. Count this as writing time because it had to do with your novel.

Step Ten: Fired up, you’re ready to dive in. Unable to remember which copy is the correct copy, spend your writing-session time comparing, copying, and pasting from one file to another. Save on a floppy.

Step Eleven: Find correct copy, reword battle sequence because battle sequences are cool.

Step Twelve: Join critique group. Get positive feedback, but battle sequence needs work. Charged up, you go home, make another copy, save it on another floppy. Play World of Warcraft.

Step Thirteen: Work, work, work on the battle sequence. Reorganize files. Play World of Warcraft.

Step Fourteen: Return to critique group. Have them critique battle sequence again because battle sequences are cool.

Step Fifteen: Wife/husband/life partner, etc., says it’s time to write other parts. Try to write other parts. They all suck. Play World of Warcraft.

Step Sixteen: Try to write other parts again. Writing sucks. Swear you’ll never write another word again, ever.

Step Seventeen: Tell friends, family, etc., you’re never writing again.

Step Eighteen: Take a day, week, month, year, or several years off from writing, but the idea won’t leave you. Keep playing World of Warcraft.

Step Nineteen: Return to writing.

Step Nineteen, part A: Write blog posts instead of novel…oops…

Step Twenty: Repeat steps eight through eighteen numerous times until wife/husband/life partner says, “Just start writing.” “Oh. Okay,” you respond.

Step Twenty-One: Write, write, write as though your hands are on fire.

Step Twenty-Two: Look at the mess of files you have on multiple floppies, CDs, flash drives, emails, scattered papers. Swear you’ll give up writing.

Step Twenty-Three: Wife/husband/life partner dons the muse/editor/hero costume and wades in to all the mess you’ve created, as said wife/husband/life partner is capable of following a sequence of thoughts sequentially in—and here’s the amazing part, because you are not a sequential thinker—chronological fashion, and actually organizes your seemingly random randomness. “What?” you exclaim. “You mean this stuff actually connects together?”

Step Twenty-Four: Renewed, you charge in, astounded that, somehow, there just might be a story here.

Step Twenty-Five: Exhausted after your first dash in, swear you’re going to give up writing forever and ever. Play Angry Birds.

Step Twenty-Six: Wife/husband/life partner says, “Stop playing Angry Birds. Set a timer for half an hour and write. When the timer goes Ding! you can play Angry Birds.” “Oh. Okay,” you say.

Step Twenty-Seven: Using the timer/Angry Birds technique you, somehow, exhausted, neuron-fried, and limping, cross the finish line, walk upstairs and announce that the first draft is complete.

Step Twenty-Eight: Celebrate with a Guinness. A very large Guinness. Draft. Nothing canned or bottled. This is a proper celebration. Guinness is writer fuel.

And that, my friends, is how to complete a rough draft in a mere ten-plus years. Easy, right?

Y’know what, though? Once this first one’s out the door I’m gonna do it again. And maybe this next time I can shave it down to just five years….

Tom Zumwalt Bio:

Tom Zumwalt is a writer from Lexington, Kentucky. He lives a writerly life with his wife and two cats, and has completed his first novel, DragonFox. Tom writes a blog (http://writefromthegitgo.blogspot.com/), and has written articles for Kentucky Monthly magazine, Collecting Toys magazine, and movie reviews for the Georgetown News-Graphic. Also, he was a finalist in the Licking River Writers Writing Competition. He loves reading the Arthurian legends, anything by Poe, and comic books. He likes dragons as long as they don’t pursue him.

NaNoWriMo Survival Guide- How To Write a Novel in a Month

 

WRITING WRITING A NOVEL

NaNoWriMo Survival Guide- How To Write a Novel in a Month

If you have any doubts about signing up for NaNoWriMo, let’s squash them today, with my NaNoWriMo survival guide. Here a few tips and tricks for how to write a novel in a month.

It’s November! And for us writers that means it’s time to draft an entire novel at breakneck speed. Is the end result always great? Hell nah, it’s about as draft as a draft can be. But is it fun, productive, and an epic way to tell yourself the story that’s brewing in your mind? You can bet your arse it is! If you have any doubts about signing up for NaNoWriMo, let’s squash them today, with my NaNoWriMo survival guide. Here a few tips and tricks for how to write a novel in a month.

Just Tell The Story

Encouraging NaNoWriMo survival guide badge, to help readers learn how to write a novel in a monthNaNoWriMo is all about challenging yourself to get your story down on paper (or screen) as fast as possible. Unburden those epic characters from your mind, and bring them to life through words. It’s about breaking the barrier of the dreaded novel, getting the hardest part (finishing) out of the way, so it has no power left over you. 50000 words sounds intimidating, but its not a hell of a lot when you think about it. You’ve got a main character, a couple of side characters, an antagonist, a plot to unfold, multiple character arcs, all drawing to a final showdown. You’ve got this. You’ll hit 50k in no time.

The First Draft is For you

In Stephen King’s ‘On Writing,’ he talks about how you write the first draft with the door closed. It’s for you, and only you. The first draft is like a foundation, upon which you build your novel. You’re effectively telling yourself the story, with the intention to polish it up, catch plot holes, weave in a theme or moral, and all that other pretty stuff, throughout your second draft. So don’t sweat the small stuff. Start writing your story, and let the characters pull you through to the end. The hardest part of this novel writing mumbo-jumbo is telling the damn story, so rush it down! There’s time for making it cohesive, polished, and epic after.

Let’s Do The Math

NaNoWriMo Survival Guide- Keep Calm and Write OnIt’s time to pull out the calculator folks, let’s dissect this baby and crunch some numbers. There are thirty days in November, that means, if we want to set ourselves a daily word count to achieve the goal, all we have to do is divide 50k by 30.

Run it through your calculator and you get 1,666.666 words per day. (Here we can see how the devil created this challenge and put his unique stamp on it.) So if you intend on writing every day of November, shoot for 1700 words per day. Simple.

But let’s be real here, are you really going to write every day? It’s unlikely. Whether you have work commitments, kids, blogs and social media to keep up with, or murders to go cover up, you’re gonna need some breathing room to deal with your personal shit. So let’s assume we can stick to a target of writing for twenty days out of the month.

50k divided by 20 is 2500

Now, 2500 words per day may seem a lot to some of you, but remember, that’s only twenty dedicated days to your NaNoWriMo challenge. While you’re pushing to write a novel in a month, it is only a draft. 2500 words of draft isn’t all that hard to get down once you get flowing, especially if you are following some kind of plot or structure. The trick is to write write write. Don’t keep checking your word count. Set an hour of dedicated, uninterrupted time, then check. If you’re done, then you’re done. If not, shoot for another hour, and go over if you can! You may save yourself another day of writing, or end up with an epic!

Remember Your ‘Why’

It’s easy to get caught up in the pressure and the challenge aspect of it all. Such demands can be stilling for writers and creatives. But try to remember your ‘why’ for taking up with NaNoWriMo. It’s not to win, It’s not to show off, and it’s not to write the most amazing novel that’s ever been written. It’s to tell yourself a full, complete story, and to break through that ‘novel completion’ boundary before it ever gets ahold of us. It’s a creative exercise to show us what is capable, with a little determination and consistency.

Exercises like this are great for an individual’s psyche. To have a positive end result at the end of a periodical commitment, reminds us that gratification and success takes time and effort. We are often disappointed and sunk into ‘lows’ due to our minds being wired to instant gratification in the modern world. Getting fifty thousand (or even twenty thousand) words down throughout a set period of time, where you are pouring in your heart and soul, rewires the part of the brain that expects everything in the now.

Look, we all have different reasons for doing things, but storytelling is an art in and of itself. It’s a beautiful element of human nature that we could scarcely live without. It’s been here from the beginning of time, and it’ll be here ‘til the end. Let’s not get lost in the intricacies of it all. Just tell the story, build the characters and setting, and enjoy the process. You’re a story teller by nature. Bravo! Now go do your ‘thang. Come back to this NaNoWriMo survival guide whenever you need a little nudge in the right direction.

Plotting Tools

Save The Cat Writes a Novel- Click to purchaseClick to purchase from amazon.com

I’m personally not a plotter. My work is pretty much exclusively character driven, and a plot tends to still me and crush my creative flow. That said, for a challenge like this, it helps to have at least a timeline of events you’d like to happen, so that you can easily work from one to the next without too much difficulty. You can always go off track and your characters can still surprise you, but the briefest of brief outlines offer a little guidance when you may be lost. Equally, if you don’t fancy writing at the point you’re at, you can jump ahead and write a scene that strikes your fancy. Win/win. It’s all words!

If you’d like a real structured plot to guide you, I personally recommend looking up the snowflake method. For everyone else, it’s worth checking out Save The Cat Writes a Novel. Even for us non-plotters, this book is novel-writing gold. It provides a guide filled with beats and moments for within your story, without tacking a rigid structure around everything. Do yourself a favour writers, and pick up your copy today. It really will help turn your novels from good, to great.

Amazon US | Amazon UK

(This is an affiliate link. I only provide links to products that I have personally used, bought, and love. I will never endorse a product I have no experience with purely for monetary gain.)

NaNoWriMo Survival Kit

All this aside, there are a few things we’re gonna need throughout November to keep us sane and on track. Us writers are a picky bunch, and we need a variety of items in order to complete our work. Below I’ve compiled a list of handy items to have on or around your desk at all times, and cues on how to use them.

  • A pad of Paper- for doodling on and scratching out notes.
  • A variety of pens- for even more epic doodles.
  • Tea & Coffee- because caffeine.
  • Coloured pencils or markers- to colour our doodles and highlight stuff.
  • A cat or other stroke-worthy cutie- because we’re writers. We’re lonely.
  • Alcohol (if of drinking age)- this helps…
  • Slippers and a Dressing Gown- comfort is key.
  • A chair cushion- once again, comfort is key.
  • A cuddly blanket- to hide from the screen when we’re stuck.
  • A teddy bear- to cuddle when times get hard. And to talk to…
  • An altar to the creative Gods- complete with candles, incense, frog eyes and snake skin, and blood for ritual sacrifice.

That should just about cover everything. Of course, bring yourself, your laptop, and your charger, and be sure to disconnect all your devices from the internet. We don’t need any distractions!

Well, that just about brings us to the conclusion of our NaNoWriMo survival guide! Doesn’t sound that hard, right? Seriously, as long as you set yourself a daily goal, and commit yourself to completing the challenge, you will succeed. It starts and ends with you. You can implement the above advice to streamline your experience, but ultimately it comes down to your dedication to getting your novel down on paper. You know you can do it, I know you can do it, so go do it! And if anyone asks you how to write a novel in a month, send them this way!

Share this post with your friends and writing groups, to help them achieve success in this amazing challenge right alongside you! And if you’d like to stay up to date with my NaNo activities and connect with me personally, head over to my Facebook. I’ll be posting daily NaNo tips and inspiration.

NaNoWriMo Survival Guide- How To Write a Novel in a Month

divider-2

Gary D. Holdaway from the Facebook group Fiction Writers Global has graciously shared this great article on how to survive NaNoWriMo! Read now for how to be successful as you write a novel in a month!

NaNoWriMo Survival Guide- How To Write a Novel in a Month

Also, check out Gary’s FB site: https://www.facebook.com/groups/490323944710900/

Good luck with NaNo!!!

Patt O’Neil: The Submission Process For a Short Story or What I Wish Someone Had Taught Me (Part Four)

email-us-1805514_1280

Part Four:

Okay, am I ready to send this story to the publisher?

Almost. Trust me, it will be worth it. Go back over the submission guidelines to see if the publisher has mentioned how they want the actual story to be presented. If it does not give any direction, then your story should be submitted using the Shuun format. The Shuun format is a directive about margins, fonts, font sizes, spacing, headers, and title page layout. If you have written your story using this method, you have no problems. If you haven’t, check online for some direction (either Google or YouTube) and re-format you story. If they do give directions, follow them as closely as possible. Sometimes publishers request that your document not have paragraph indents, or be presented in single spacing. Some may even ask that all reference to the author be removed from the story. This is usually done when the story goes before a panel for blind judging. The anonymity allows for the work to stand for itself, which is why it is important to put so much other information in the submission letter–it may be your only way to influence the editor/publisher.

This really seems like work; the story didn’t take this long to write.

You’re right, it is a lot of work, but you must remember the publisher has the advantage over the writer. Unless they are looking for the work of a specific contributor, they really do not care who you are when your story comes in. It sounds heartless, but this is a business and time is money, so you had better give them something worth their time.

You have a story (universally formatted), a head shot, an author’s bio, and a submission letter, so let’s do this. WAIT, it is worth one more look, almost like a checklist. Go back to the submission guidelines, and yes, yes, yes… you’re ready. But this publisher wants you to submit on their website, now what do you do? You fill out their information boxes, cut and paste your letter into the appropriate space and either do the same for your story, or attach the file. Remember, when you cut and paste any document, go back over it to make sure your paragraph breaks are there. If not, re-install them to make the best presentation, showing emphasis to detail.

Okay, that’s it, there’s nothing more you can add, so you take a deep breath and hit the Send button. Be proud, you are one step closer than before to becoming a published author.

 

Now what?

You wait, but not for long. If the publisher is of note, you will probably get an automated email stating receipt of your story and giving direction to contact them if you do not hear their decision about your story. If this email doesn’t come within 48 hours, send them an email and ask if they received your story or if you should send it again.

You should have four objects in your possession when this process is over: your story, your picture, your biography, and your original copy of your submission letter. Good, you want to keep all of them available for the next time you submit a story for consideration. If it’s the same story, use can use the same letter MAKING SURE to change the date, name of publication, etc., to save yourself unnecessary embarrassment. If you are submitting a different story, you already have the components, just retool the letter for the new story. If you get poor results after several submissions, try retooling your letter. If you still have nothing, try retooling your story.

If you get a rejection letter, don’t feel bad. There are only a certain number of spots in any roster, just try another team. I like to think of these as not being rejected, but this publisher has declined to use my story now, which is a roundabout way of saying “thanks, but no thanks.” In fact, I have never received a letter with the word reject in it. If you do, that is not a publisher of worth. Sometimes, they will take the time to make positive comments or suggestions about how to improve your story. When you receive this type of letter, my advice is to send a polite response acknowledging their decision. Remember this is a business and you are a professional–leave them with a good opinion of you as someone positive to work with. It may help the next time you send them a story.

If you get a letter of acceptance, congratulations! Look forward to them sending you a contract and working with their editor to make your story fit their mold… but that is another topic for another day. Have fun, and welcome to this wonderful world as a professional writer. I hope this hasn’t been too confusing, nor disheartening. It really does get easier as you go.

mailbox-55464_1920

divider-clipart-divider_line_med

(November 2017 All rights reserved)

Patt O’Neil: The Submission Process For a Short Story or What I Wish Someone Had Taught Me (Part Three)

 

contact-2860030_1920

Part Three:

How do you get your story to the publisher and impress them to read it?

Yes, the question said, impress them. Shouldn’t your story alone be the deciding factor? Well, yes, that is the deciding factor for whether it should be included in their publication, but, they are receiving so many submissions, you must impress them to take their time to read yours over someone else’s. That can be done several ways with the submission letter, an author bio (biography), or just by properly jumping through all the submission hoops established by the publisher. This last could possibly include a restriction of who may submit: first-time, female authors from Canada with red hair. Yeah, that last part is an exaggeration, but you get the idea.

Submission letters are probably the most important part of the process; remember, you only get one chance to make a first impression. Publishing, on any level, is first and foremost a business, and the personnel involved in content selection should be respected as professional business men/women. Your letter (email) should be business like, date at the top, name, business, address, and who it is being sent to above the Dear XXX. Yes, I know we are doing this electronically, so this information will already be on the email heading, BUT making the extra effort will catch the eye of the reader and give you a better chance of moving on in the process. If you don’t know who will be reading this in order to put their name or exactly where this internet site originates, no problem. Using our example you want:

Date

 

Editor

A1 Publication

Dear Madam/Sir:

 

Notice it says “Madam/Sir”; this is politically correct as well as professional and when in doubt, alphabetize.

The first sentence of your first paragraph should NOT be a question; no What if or Did you ever… Your first sentence must be a strong statement about your story that will entice the reader to continue reading to see if you validate your point. Example:

The relationships we have when we are children are meaningful and help to shape the adults we will become. None of these is more meaningful than the relationship we have with our beloved pets.

The reader cannot argue with this statement and in fact, if he/she wants to find out why you feel this way, he/she needs to keep reading your letter. This is a good place to practice your elevator pitch. The elevator pitch is a synopsis of your story that you have prepared to present just in case you ever find yourself on an elevator with the person who can make the decision about your story. You can either ride up in silence or you can make conversation with a captive audience. Your pitch must be short and to the point, while remaining interesting, because you only have the time between the doors closing and opening to speak.

Continue your letter by telling how your original story, (insert name), goes on to explain/explore/entertain (whatever) your first statement. Be sure to include the word count, rounded up to the next fiftieth; this is usually a requirement of the publisher that it be mentioned in the body of the letter, and/or maybe in the subject line of the email itself. If your work has been published before, be sure to mention it here and cite the publication. Notice in the example below that I have also included a comment about a pen name. This is not necessary if you submit it under your regular name, but should be mentioned if you don’t.

Attached is Conversations with Bingo, an original short story written under my pen name, Somebody Else. It is about 2,100 words long. The story tells of the ten-year relationship between a boy and his beloved dog. Throughout good times and bad, his faithful companion was always there as his sounding wall to hear comments about his hopes and dreams, fears and delights, and disappointments and joys.

If the publisher has requested any special requirements for submission, like the ones mentioned above, now would be a good time to list them.

I am currently an unpublished author, but I believe my story would fit well with your publication. I have resided in Toronto for six years, and am a member of the Women of Fire Hair Club (yeah, cheesy, but you get the idea).

If you have received writing awards of note, or have had work published elsewhere, make note of that, being sure to cite where your work can be found so they can look you up for comparison if need be. If in their submission guidelines they ask for a head shot, it should be mentioned here that it has been attached to the email. If they ask for an author’s bio, you can mention that it is either attached as well or may be found below the signature line on this email.

Author head shots are used by the publisher for identification and promotion purposes. You do not have to run to a professional photographer for just one photograph—yet. This picture should be clear, sharp, and a good representation of your personality. It should be submitted in JPEG format for ease of duplication. Eventually you may want to get that studio shot for the back cover of your novel, but that is way down the road. If the publisher does not require a head shot in their submission guide, you can always just mention that one is available upon request in the body of the letter.

Your author’s bio should be written in third-person narrative. It can be difficult to speak of yourself as someone else, but think of what you would want a trusted friend to write. It should be no more than 100 words as a courtesy to the publisher. It can speak about your background, your family, your interest in writing, and maybe address something about your personality. If you are an established author, here is where you mention that and any awards you might have received. This blurb, like the head shots, will be used by the publisher as well, and should constantly be refined as your career advances and you evolve as a writer. Your first version may seem awkward when compared to your tenth, but eventually you will find the words to best represent your professional persona.

Finally, your letter should thank them for this opportunity and close with a comment about how you look forward to hearing from them and a positive comment about how they will enjoy your story. Sign it “Sincerely” (or something similar), with the name you want to be on your contract, along with all your contact information (address, phone, email, website, etc.). Let me state that again–the name you want to be on your contract! If you have a pen-name, then that should be mentioned in the body of the letter, the author’s bio, the title of the head shot JPEG file, and under your real name as:

Sincerely,

 

My Real Name

(writing as Somebody Else)

If you want the contract to be issued to you under your pen-name, then that is how you should sign the letter and skip mentioning it in the body.

I am a writer

divider-clipart-divider_line_medTomorrow:

Part Four:  Okay, am I ready to send this story to the publisher?

divider-clipart-divider_line_med

(November 2017 All rights reserved)