Category Archives: guest blogger

Ray Taylor: How to Write a Drabble 

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How to Write a Drabble 

Ray Taylor 

Urban myth has it that Ernest Hemmingway wrote a complete story in six words for a bet: “For sale, baby shoes, never worn.” Maybe he did, maybe not, but certainly, those six words tell a powerful and tragic story, albeit with no structure.

Drabbles allow you, not just six words, but a full 100 words to write a powerful and captivating start, an engaging middle, and a big pay-off at the end. Writing a drabble is a great way to hone your skills as an author. It helps you to choose words that convey meaning with economy, accuracy, and authenticity. It also helps practice the art of creating a story, characters, dialogue, and dramatic action out of nothing. Not least, it helps you with that all-important, uncompromising, ruthless edit. 

If you need any help getting started, here are some suggestions. 

We all find it hard, sometimes, to come up with a story idea. So why not start with some research? A quick Google search will bring up alternative definitions of the word and other references can produce great story ideas. Another source of ideas for me is music. For the prompt word “storm” I thought of a line from a Leonard Cohen song that talks about a woman’s hair on Cohen’s pillow-like “a sleepy golden storm.” 

For the drabble “Coffee” I wanted to write about Arab merchants. I spent a few minutes looking at Google and Wikipedia for more detail about the historical origins of coffee drinking, which also helped me choose names. One of them, Sheikh Omar, had been exiled from Mocha and lived in a cave for a while, which led me to the location and dramatic encounter of the story. 

Having thought up some ideas for your drabble, how to start? Try writing a brief story just as it comes to mind without worrying about the word count. You might end up with 200 or 400 words, but don’t worry. The job of cutting it down to 100 is easier than you might think.

If you are having trouble getting started, I would suggest forgetting the narrative for a minute and think about what you want to say. To me, a drabble is all about the punchline. Why not try writing the end first and see what you come up with? 

I wanted my “Coffee” drabble to end with the guest spitting out the hot drink he’d been given to try, because I can’t imagine anyone enjoying their first taste of coffee. That was the whole point of the story, but it had to be written in a way that had impact. I chose a closing scene in which the MC “sniffed the strange, dark liquid…” which he then “spat into the fire, which hissed in protest.”

When I wrote “Coffee” I was intending to make the ending a surprise, but my preferred ending is the unexpected twist, which is where the ending is the opposite of what the story leads you to expect. Other types of ending are: the happy ending, sad, ironic, funny ending, or whatever you like. So long as it has impact, which usually means the reader doesn’t guess the ending. There has to be an element of mystery. It can also help with impact if you tie the ending closely to the beginning, with a set-up and pay off. 

Beginning: “David loved ribbons…” Ending: “Today, he wrapped a blue and gold satin ribbon around his and his bride’s wrist, as he said ‘I do.’” 

The opening three words begs questions like: what did David love about ribbons? When I was a boy, interest from a boy in colored ribbons could lead to him being bullied. Was he? How did he respond? These questions create hooks for the reader. Your narrative will reel them in. Your ending will be their reward.

The process of joining the beginning to the end is, of course, to write the middle. You may find the job of keeping the middle brief and to the point is much easier if you already have the boundaries created by the start and the finish. All you need to do then, is take two or three steps from one to the other. Those steps must reveal stages in the story and develop the dramatic action. Tell your story with dialogue if you can. Stories are so much more engaging when told by their characters. Don’t worry about the word count too much at this stage. Cutting the story back to 100 words is surely half the fun.

Start your edit by cutting out anything that does not add to the story. Rewrite some of the lengthy descriptions and dialogue into shorter, sharper prose. Most descriptions will have more impact if you select fewer, choicer words to convey meaning. Try substituting different words and see which ones work the best. If you can’t think of great substitutes, go to any dictionary or thesaurus, online or in print. 

For instance, you might have written the following scene for my story “Coffee” like this: “Just then, a man called Sheikh Omar appeared from the cave he had been hiding in since he was exiled from his home-town of Mocha. Omar was a bit of a shady character.” From this, cut the reference to Mocha, as it adds nothing to the story. “The outcast Skeikh Omar,” tells you his name and suggests the questionable reputation in just four words. “Concealed in a cave,” tells you where he was and what he was doing. Your scene “the outcast Sheikh Omar, concealed in a cave,” has been trimmed down from 34 words to just eight. 

That’s really all there is to it. Writing a drabble is a great way to have fun and practice tools and techniques for writing anything from a short story, or flash fiction, to a full-length novel. 

Why not check out this week’s prompt word and give it a go?

* * * * * 

Ray Taylor LL.M. is an author and part-time UK government security policy official. Please visit Ray on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Raymond.G.Taylor.author

Stephen Oliver: Anthologies & Genres

Images are free use and require no attribution. Image by Comfreak from Pixabay

Anthologies & Genres

Stephen Oliver

I’ve decided to talk about two different subjects this time, although they are connected.

Anthologies

Here’s a strange situation.

I’ve written, revised, and edited an episodic novel and three anthologies of dark urban fantasy, science fiction, and horror, with more than one genre and sub-genres often blended into a single story. I have another five collections I’m still working on.

The thing is, publishers and agents, keep telling me that anthologies and story collections are on the way out; no one is interested in either publishing them or reading them, they say. In fact, I ended up writing a space opera novel in an attempt to break into the publishing market. I’m still trying to find an agent or a publisher for that, too.

And yet, I have had eight short stories accepted for seven different anthologies (plus one for a podcast) in the past nine months. Six of them have been accepted in the past four months.

As I see it, there are several advantages of anthologies:

  1. They allow multiple writers to present their work to the public. Getting your name out there can be very difficult for people starting in their writing careers. Anthologies from publishers can be a great way of getting yourself noticed. Writing and publishing credits are extremely useful for showing agents and publishers that you are serious and that you can write.
  2. Even if the anthology has a single author, each story can be an experiment in changing style, viewpoint, structure, etc., allowing the writer to entertain in various ways. From drabbles (100-word stories) to novellas, each story is complete, even though they can also be part of an overarching tale. Think of A Game of Thrones, the first volume of the all-embracing storyline of A Song of Ice and Fire.
  3. They can be specific, where the subject matter of all the stories has a common thread: Cthulhu, Mermaids, Lesbian Ninja Cats, whatever. This “limitation” can be a source of great creativity, I’ve found.
  4. For the writer, it means that you can narrate a story without having to expend huge amounts of thought, time, and effort on plot and character development. You can concentrate on a single event or series of connected events, telling a simpler story. The characters might never appear again, or they could make cameo appearances in other stories, or even be the Main Characters in most or all of the stories.
  5. For the reader, a shorter read can be a great experience. When you’re commuting (remember doing that?), a quick 10-15-minute read is exactly what you want. You don’t have to remember where you are in a novel, and you needn’t go back to the previous paragraph or page to get back into the flow of the story. And you have the satisfaction of reaching the end of the story and experiencing its resolution.

So please don’t tell me that anthologies are on the decline.

Genres

The second theme is what I consider to be the limitations of genres.

Many agents and publishers insist that stories stick within the framework of a specific genre and even a specific sub-genre. And this is where I have a problem.

I write self-help, science fiction, space opera, fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal, magical realism, horror, fairy tales, fairy stories, slipstream, interstitial, noir, detective fiction, action, thriller, humour, YA, and children’s stories. I sometimes blend more than one into a single story.

For instance, I have a story with a police detective (detective fiction) who is both a psychic and magician (paranormal/urban fantasy) and a cyborg (science fiction). In which genre should it be pigeonholed? Especially since the preceding story is a noir/magical realism blend and the following one an urban fantasy/action blend.

And all of them are part of an urban fantasy/horror/science fiction episodic novel (again, think A Song of Ice and Fire), which also has flashes of horror, humour, and straight fantasy.

How am I supposed to define the novel-length book? Urban fantasy? Science fiction? Speculative fiction? Something else?

A humorous children’s science fiction story? Done it. Lovecraftian humour? Written that, too. A twisted fairytale with a Carollian quirkiness? Yep! These are all from anthologies based in the same narrative universe as the novel.

And, as all of us know, life isn’t neatly sliced into categories. It’s messy and overlaps, blending and merging, splitting apart and diversifying. There are no blacks or whites, merely uncounted shades of colour and grey.

And then there are the crossovers and mixes; Twilight has vampires and shifters (werewolves), for example, which I’ve been told repeatedly are two genres to be kept distinct from one another. People love stories that blend and blur, no matter what the agents and publishers try to sell us.

And that is how I write.

To get around this, I focused on a single sub-genre and wrote the YA space opera science fiction novel I mentioned earlier. Even there, the genre-loving agents and publishers bite me in the backside. One said that my language was too adult for the proposed audience, while another told me that it was too young and infantile a few days later. Go figure.

And remember, these genre divisions are artificial, devised to allow agents and publishers to pigeonhole things so that they can determine whether they will make any money from them.

Sorry if I sound as if I’m ranting, but I’ve just received my 189th rejection since the beginning of this year, from a total of 287 submissions sent during the same period. That’s a rejection rate of 65.9%. It’s only that low because 92 submissions are too recent to have been rejected.

Mind you, as I said at the beginning, I’ve also had two short stories published last year, and another six have been accepted in the past four months. I’m getting noticed, just not as quickly or extensively as I would like.

Images are free use and require no attribution. Image by Mateusz Omelan from Pixabay

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

About Stephen Oliver

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

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

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

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

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

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

D. A. Ratliff: Listen to Me! No! Listen to Me!

Listen to Me! No! Listen to Me!

The Talking Heads of Writing

D. A. Ratliff

I am one of those nerdy types constantly looking for new information. When I decided to start writing fiction again after many years of writing business and marketing-related materials, I scoured the Internet for every morsel of writing advice I could find. The amount of material I found was overwhelming, but I dove in without taking a breath. I wanted to learn.

What I found fulfilled my needs, but I also found that, apparently, everyone who has ever written considers themselves an expert. The myriad of articles, blogs, podcasts, and YouTube videos are mind-bogglingly confusing, with almost all of these ‘experts’ saying the identical thing. The difference is how they offer their “expertise.”

My background is in science, so I took a rudimentary approach. I had taken creative writing in high school and college, but I decided to start with general information. I researched topics such as writing fiction for beginners, components of a good fiction novel, and how to write mysteries or science fiction. After looking at overviews of the craft, I pared my searches down to the basics.

Among my first questions were these:

  • How to write an opening sentence
  • How to write a hook
  • How to write an opening paragraph, a first chapter

Well, you get the idea—totally back to basics.

I wasn’t a novice, but years of writing nonfiction suck the soul out of writing fiction. I needed to relearn how to put the reader into the story for more than information. I needed them to feel the emotion of what they were reading. I searched for information on developing characters, plots, world-building, voice, structure, and grammar, among other topics.

Whether a beginning writer or one who believes in continuing education, the resources available to us are amazing. We can have information from the Internet in seconds that could take hours to find the conventional way open to us—libraries.

Libraries had librarians. Those individuals who spoke softly and always found the answers you sought. If you needed information on any subject, there would be stacks of books or periodicals in front of you, ready for exploration within a blink of an eye.

Today, while my love of libraries will never wane, my librarians are more often Internet search engines. The process is not as personal, but the information is instantaneous. It is also confusing.

There are basic steps to writing. While all of us like to be creative individuals, the art of storytelling is an ancient one and varies little from the beginning of the spoken and written word. Stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end. That pattern does not change. Our creativity is in how we construct our story.

With the Internet’s assistance, we can learn the basics and the nuances of storytelling by asking questions. For example, I typed in this search request. How to write an opening line for a novel.

The result? “About 373,000,000 results (0.67 seconds)” was the response from the search engine for all results.

For videos? The results were—“About 3,720,000 results (0.46 seconds).” That is a lot of videos for a very narrow topic.

I admit to a love-hate relationship with writers and videos. There is one author who I came across a few years ago whose advice I found to be excellent and delivered in a fun and irreverent manner. I followed this author and her advice for a long time, until recently. Her videos have become solely marketing tools for her books and merchandise. There is nothing wrong with promotion, and she has built her following and has every right to market her work to them or anyone.

However, when I am going to her for advice on a topic, having her book discussed before she addresses the subject is annoying, and she lost me as a follower. Not like there aren’t more writing advisors out there. Unfortunately, there are.

For example, one author is bright and cheery but distracted during her rushed delivery. Her camera fell during a taping and, instead of starting over, she frantically grabbed the camera, placed it where she had it, and kept talking. It was annoying and distracting, and she should have stopped and started over, but she did not. Another time, she yelled at her dog for barking. If you want me to respect you as an expert, conduct yourself like one. Her advice was nothing we haven’t heard before, so delivery and connection to the audience are imperative.

There is another famous video writing guru who has produced many YouTube videos. This is more of a personal quirk of mine, but please don’t talk down to the listener and don’t declare how proficient you are on a topic, prove it. In one video, she discussed outdated genres and tropes and noted that some genres are dead in traditional publishing but do well in self-publishing. As her focus and her professed expertise concern traditional publishing, her bias is there as well. If a genre is not selling one place but selling in another, it is not dead but subject to other markets and readers. As a writer, never forget, your success in traditional publishing is at the whim of agents, publishing house editors, and marketing staff. Your novel may be exceptional, but if it does not fit their cubbyholes, the odds of receiving a publishing contract are slim. When reaching out to find qualified advice, read the author’s bio and listen to their intent, as not all advice applies to your situation.

I am not saying that any of the abovementioned writers’ videos don’t have good advice. Advice is subjective and how we learn varies from one person to another. However, I want to offer a word of caution as many authors imparting their ‘knowledge’ do not provide sound advice.

To appear unique, people want to take the basics of writing and spin the ideas into a new way of thinking or processing the information. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but when two plus two equals four, there is little room for stating that fact any other way. Overembellishing a process often leads to confusion, especially for a novice writer.

There are hundreds of processes offered as the way to write the best novel ever. The list is endless. There are numerous character development or world-building forms, specialty writing programs, name or plot generators, and different ways to plot—all ways to accomplish the same goal we all have, to write a novel.

When researching the writing process, you should read all the information you can but be wary of who you are listening to when you take lessons away from your reading. The first Internet search results will be the most popular ones, and often you will see the same writing websites or blogs listed. Popularity does not always mean quality, but if writers use the same sites for advice, there is a reason. You should read all the articles, watch all the videos, take a writing class, and read books with one thought in mind. Take the information that you gather and apply it to your writing process to fit your style. You should be unique, not the person providing writing tips.

The US Navy came up with an acronym, KISS, which stands for Keep It Simple, Stupid. It applies to writers. Learn all that you can about your craft but remember the basics of writing. There is a beginning, a middle, and an end, and only you can write your story.

Listen to yourself.

Please visit D. A. Ratliff on her blog: https://thecoastalquill.wordpress.com

Please note: Images are free use and require no attribution. Images used by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay.

D. A. Ratliff: LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

D. A. Ratliff

Photo from Pinterest. Image source unknown, credit to the orginal creator.

Location is vital in all facets of our lives. Comfort, convenience, commute, and community are essential considerations when selecting where we wish to reside. When writing, it makes sense to consider the impact of where we have our characters live.

Location can be more than the physical terrain in which we set a story, although some places can take a back seat to the plot. However, the setting is another tool in the author’s arsenal to add depth to the story. The choice of locale sets the period of the story, when and where it takes place. It affects how the characters behave, speak, and reflect on the society where they live. More importantly, when needed, the setting can become another character creating a mood and emotional tone.

A few inquiring minds have asked me what is so appealing to me about New Orleans and why I set so many of my stories either there or in Louisiana, where my upcoming novel, Crescent City Lies, is set. After all, I’m from South Carolina, a beautiful state with its own vibrant culture and uniqueness. It also has faults, as do all places, and those faults in a community can also add depth to your story.

When deciding on a setting for a story, the flavor of Louisiana draws me into its spell. Nothing like the sultry summer heat in the south, when life slows down, and the humidity rises. The spicy aromas and comforting palate of Cajun food and the smooth sounds of New Orleans jazz are alluring and set a mood that seems to touch my writer’s passion. Wicked antagonists, flawed heroes, and enticing strong women seem to belong in the bayou or the French Quarter.

In reality, I love the beach. Ribbons of sand lapped by waves, air tangy with salt, majestic pelicans soaring against a cornflower blue sky. My heart lies on the shore, rejuvenated by the sun’s heat. My soul rests in the bayou.

Image by D. A Ratliff

I am fortunate to live in an area that some people call paradise—if you consider heat, humidity, sun, and ocean paradise. I do! As the photo above shows, expansive sky, lush vegetation, a body of water, and a bench to enjoy the quiet beauty sets a mood just outside my door. Not to mention, there are ducks, sea birds, and two resident alligators to add to the ambiance.

I suppose we choose where we want our stories to unfold for a myriad of reasons. Genre certainly plays a role and can dictate the amount of world-building necessary to create the foundation you need. A cozy mystery often occurs in a small town, a detective murder mystery in a city setting, but let your creativity decide what works for your story. How descriptive you should be depends on how important the location is to your storyline. For instance, a city with the ambiance of a New Orleans, New York City, San Francisco, or San Antonio becomes a character within the story, adding depth and mood by using the uniqueness of the environment to enhance the plot. The same for small towns that can provide coziness and character to the story.

My thoughts always seem to be on Bourbon Street in New Orleans, the Battery in Charleston, or an Atlantic beach in Florida, all locations which spur my muse. Let those places you love inspire your muse and your stories.

Image by Oliver Weidmann from Pixabay

Please visit D. A. Ratliff on her blog: https://thecoastalquill.wordpress.com/

Stephen Oliver: Submissions

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

Submissions

Stephen Oliver

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~~~~

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