Category Archives: guest blogger

Stephen Oliver: Submissions

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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.

~~~~

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.

~~~~~

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! 

~~~~~

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/

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.

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
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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!

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Next: Ghostwriting.

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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.)  

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!

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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.

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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: Planning Vs. Pantsing, Part Isa

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

By Enzo Stephens

Those in the writing community know what these two topics are/mean, but for those of you who are not or who are considering dipping your toes in the water, these two topics — Planning and ‘Pantsing’ refer to a writer’s approach to their craft.

For the sake of brevity, I’m going to refrain from using the single-quotes on Pantsing. We all get it.

I think the way to approach this is to break each method of approach down; discuss pros and cons. By no means are my lists or dissertation intended to be comprehensive. I’m just not smart enough to be able to include everything, so if you can think of anything I miss, by all means, feel free to comment away.

It’s interesting to me how surprisingly adamant some writers are about which method they prefer. The reason why is because it seems situational to me. 

When I work on a full-length novel or even a series of novellas, I absolutely have to use the planning method.

But I’ve recently discovered that there is joy in the pantsing approach. 

Okay, permit me to share-eth my (somewhat colorful) thoughts on the planning approach and why it works for me.

Sucky Memory

I’m sure there are more eloquent ways to say that my memory sometimes feels like a black hole that originates from my frontal cortex, but that’s the truth of the matter, and I’m positive that I’m not the only one with this problem.

A plan is one way to compensate. Let me ’splain…

We’ve all read a GOOD novel, and I’m sure most of us can clearly state why the novel was good. Excellent plot, strong character development, great subplots, dialogue, and character interaction was outstanding, tremendous scene-setting, and so on.

I venture to say that what makes it GOOD is simply… pause for dramatic effect… continuity.

Plots and subplots need to make sense and they need to drive through to a reasonable conclusion. Same with characters. And, the entire work takes on its own pace, building to a crescendo that — if it’s really good, makes for a page-turner.

You know what I’m talking about. That’s what The Shining was for me. I could not get enough of that beast, and it’s the most re-read book in my entire collection.

Now, for as many GOOD novels read, I dare say we’ve read at least twice as many BAD novels.

What makes it a BAD novel?

Well, it’s the inverse of all the stuff I said that makes for a GOOD novel. A bad novel just crushes continuity and pace because it’s just so damned distracting.

Plot holes, total character missteps, aspects that just seem unreasonable / not thought out or not researched; you get the idea. 

My first works — way back when an IBM Selectric was my go-to, utterly sucked. Sure, I’d knock out a scene or two, but good Lord, what a mess they were.

Didn’t take me long to figure out that I ended up spending all my time going back and correcting/revising earlier work just to maintain continuity, and not enough time allowing my creativity freedom (my Muse is still swift-kicking me in the nuts over this I believe — demanding wench!).

Okay, time for a quickie backstory. Not only am I a crazed ex-Marine with over 50 years of hand-to-hand combat experience, but I also have over 30 years’ experience in Information Technology. Ergo, the tools that would help me to elevate my writing hove into view.

In short, planning tools.

All because my memory sucks and I can’t keep details straight. But only when I’m writing them, not reading them. Makes me feel hypocritical in some odd way. Like, what right do I have to criticize someone else’s writing when mine’s just as bad (if not worse)?

Data Flow Diagram

This is a good one for laying out the overreaching plot outline, and then subplot constructs and directions. There’s a definitive beginning and end, and critical milestones to get from one end to the other. 

This is typically one of my first tools that comes into play when creating a novel or a series (shorts, novellas or full-blown works).

There’s a lot of freebie versions of Data Flow Diagrams that can be found via standard Google search. 

Character Matrix

This is one of the most underrated and underused tools I’ve ever seen, but man-oh-man has it been a lifesaver in my writing. 

Mine is home-grown and it’s 9-10 pages of 8-point font extensive. It covers everything about a person that can be imagined — personal stats, usual likes and dislikes, background, jobs, churches, organizational affiliations, relationships past and present and desired. Religion, politics, positions of social issues; personality disorders; strengths and talents; special abilities… the list goes on and on. 

I use this when I’m creating my Main Character, and I use scaled-down versions for other characters; the less impact to the story, the less of a CM I use.

Again, there are variations of this via standard Google search if you’re so inclined to be tightly wound when applying your creative process. That’s a joke.

Decision Tree

So, what happens if Uncle Bob decides to hack his weenie off with a linoleum knife in a fit of pique over his recalcitrant kiddies because they’re such jerks? How does that crazy act impact the subplot, the overall plot, sub-finishes, and so on?

Out comes the Decision Tree

I love this because it really gives me the chance to explore actions and reactions of a character given a specific situation, and then really build on that. From some of the steps involved, I’m able to impart serious suspense when it’s time to write the scene, story, whatever. And when I’ve got a novel done — say 100k words, I’ve probably got 100 pages of decision trees. 

All that is cool, but here’s the neat side benefit of using decision trees: no longer fretting over word count. I have knocked out tens of thousands of words just rolling through one branch of a decision tree. This device is outstanding for me.

You won’t really need to go chase down some Decision Tree template; you can make your own quite well.

The Bottom Line

Okay, so it goes without saying (but I’m gonna say it anyway) that writing a book is a pretty significant undertaking. 

I consider it a project, much like the development and delivery of a suite of software to a client. There is a definitive start and end point. There is up-front work; development work; testing; then implementation. There are milestones and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Behind all of it is a Plan, and what drives the plan is its flexibility and the tools that make planning easier and more effective.

Pantsers, there’s a lot to be said for planning!

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Planning vs. Pantsing, Part Dalawa.
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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.)  

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.

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Next from Enzo Stephens: Planning vs. Pantsing

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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.)  

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!

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

Penz -o- Paula

Caroline Giammanco: Book Signing Basics

Caroline Giammanco at a recent Barnes and Noble book signing. Photo courtesy of the author.

Book Signing Basics

By Caroline Giammanco

We spend months or years struggling to complete our manuscripts, and the thrill of signing a publishing contract blinds us to the cold truth: our work isn’t over. Four years ago I hadn’t realized how difficult it would be to market and promote my first book. Few publishers, even large ones, promote authors, so we writers have to do what it takes to be successful. Book signings are a critical part of landing your book in the hands of readers. 

Not everyone is a born salesperson. I know I wasn’t, but I’ve picked up some strategies along the way that have helped me transition from determined writer to successful salesperson. Arranging an event and making it a success may seem difficult and overwhelming. Now that I’m on tour with my third book, with over forty Barnes and Noble signings under my belt, I’m offering tips to make your book signing a win for you, the store, and the readers.

First, let’s start at the beginning.

When you contact a bookstore, whether by phone, in person, or by email, have a game plan.  At Barnes and Noble stores, ask to speak to the CRM (Community Relations Manager). If contacting an independent store, ask to speak to the owner. Once you are connected to the right person, have confidence. Pitch your book and who you are. Be enthusiastic. Explain what your book is about, why it appeals to readers, and what you will do to promote an event. Include press releases, the use of social media, and any print or radio and tv interviews you may do around the time of the event.

Be persistent. Not every store will immediately agree to a book signing. Don’t take that as a definite no. Follow up on the conversation. Send an email including your book trailer, photos of you and your book cover, and a blurb about your book. If you have high ratings on Amazon, let them know. Your job is to convince the management it won’t be a wasted effort to have you in their store. While most bookstores are supportive of authors, sales are their bottom line. Let them know you will be able to bring buyers into their store. 

Be seen as good for business for that bookstore, and be proactive once an event is scheduled. Advertise and discuss the signing on social media. Facebook events are a great way to target people in the area. Use the resources you have available. If you can afford a Facebook or print ad, place one. Ask the local newspaper if they’d write an article. Ask radio stations about interviews they may be willing to have with you. Use Twitter and any other networking sites you belong to in order to spread the word. Word of mouth works.

Even with a full-fledged effort to get your friends and relatives into the store on the day of the signing, the truth is that most of the readers you encounter will be general foot traffic—people who just happened to come to the store on that day. In truth, you don’t want your target customers to be your friends and family. The only way you will be successful is to have complete strangers buy your book. We all hope our circle of friends and family will support us, but that will never get us to the bestseller category. It won’t even produce lukewarm royalties. You have to be willing to expand your comfort zone and reach out to total strangers for sales.

Many writers enjoy being introverts. There’s comfort found in being alone with our laptop and the stack of research we’ve compiled, but once a book signing is at hand, it’s time to come out of your shell. Be prepared to engage customers as soon as they walk near your table. There’s no need to be the heavy-handed used car salesman, but you must initiate the conversation.

At my first Barnes and Noble signing, I had an epiphany. I realized after the first hour that when I smiled and said hello most customers assumed I was a store employee. Yes, I had a big sign sitting next to me announcing my appearance as an author, but few paid attention to it. I adjusted and overcame. I adopted an approach that has worked well for me in stores across the country. As people enter my area I cheerfully say, “Hi, I’m having a book signing today. If you have a moment, I’d love to talk with you about my book.” Bingo! Now I have their attention and they are aware that I am an author with a book they may be interested in. Book sales only happen if readers are attracted to your product. It is your job to get their attention.

I’ve had multiple sold-out signings, and I’ve also seen authors who are doing all the wrong things. They placidly sit at their tables waiting for customers to come to them. Others only schedule an hour or two at a signing. Don’t do that! Devote time to meet as many readers as possible. If the store has been kind enough to give you space in their business, don’t make their efforts to order books, develop signs, etc. be wasted by a half-hearted effort on your part.

Be passionate about your book. If it was important enough to write, it should be important enough for you to promote. This is difficult for introverts. You must put on your performance mask, however, and engage, engage, engage! Keep in mind that many readers are also introverts and may not feel comfortable walking up to you unless you make yourself a welcoming presence. A book signing is no time to be shy. Also, don’t be discouraged. Not everyone you talk to will buy your book. That’s okay. 

Remember to have fun! Book signings aren’t an obligation or work. You are getting to talk about something you love. What better topic do you have to talk about than the book you created and are incredibly proud of? 

Marketing and personal appearances are important. Your fan base grows when you put yourself out into the public. Personal encounters with readers fuel sales and are a rewarding part of an otherwise private journey as a writer. Now get going!

All images are from free use sites unless otherwise noted.
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Caroline Giammanco’s latest book, Inside the Death Fences: Memoirs of a Whistleblower can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/Caroline-Giammanco/e/B017KQZRU4/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100009880805237

Website: http://www.booniehatbandit.com

Inside the Death Fences: Memoir of a Whistleblower by [Giammanco, Caroline]