Category Archives: Writers Unite!

Pre-Order for WU! First Anthology: Realm of Magic Available Now!

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Realm of Magic

Writers Unite! Anthologies Book 1

Here in the realm of magic, there are dragons, nymphs, assassins, elementals, witches, fairies. A myriad of stories . . . of love, adventure, mischief, vengeance, and war—each one as unique as the author; each one with the power to transport you to a foreign realm of wonder and chaos, of legend and myth . . . of magic. This volume is your ticket to enter this fantastical realm through these portals, but be warned—there will be fire.

Click here to Pre-Order Realm of Magic

Pre-order only $0.99 on Kindle! Release date August 1, 2018!

. Real

 

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Guest Blog: Write What You Know — David Reiss

Once upon a time–when dinosaurs roamed the earth, and I was still in high school–I had a wonderful English teacher who treated his students as peers and insisted that we all call him by his first name; his enthusiasm for literature and drama was outright contagious. He convinced me to read outside my preferred genres, and he pushed me to write, write and write some more. A tremendously harsh critic, he somehow managed to be supportive even while delivering the most ruthless dissections of my prose. I was a bitter and catastrophically depressed teenager who approached each school day with apprehensive dread, but for his classes, I held a genuine anticipation.

Until one lecture when he insisted that creating compelling fiction required that we ‘write what we know,’ and all my enthusiasm burned away into ash.

At the time, I thought that he meant that our prose should be limited to our experiences and our areas of expertise. I couldn’t imagine any subject less interesting or worthy of consideration. How could the experiences of a morose, sheltered and awkward kid be relevant to the life of an inhuman denizen of a fantasy dungeon? I wanted to write about dragons and laser pistols, camaraderie and adventure!

I occasionally wish for a time machine so that I could leap across the years and smack my younger self on the back of the head. Because the truth is every experience is something you can learn from. I may not have ever soared above a battlefield then folded my wings to drop into combat like the gryphon protagonist from one of my short stories…but I knew the feel of wind against my face and could add that sensation to describe my gryphon’s flight. I knew what it looked like when a hawk stooped towards its prey. I knew what anger felt like, and fear, and hope, and sadness.

To ‘write what you know’ doesn’t mean to write about yourself. It means to use your personal experiences to lend the power of authenticity to your prose.

There is a secondary meaning as well, and it is one that I try to take to heart more as an adult author: Research, knowledge and the acquisition of new sensory memories can make your writing more compelling. It’s tempting to feel content that having swung a baseball bat is sufficient experience to write a scene in which an armored knight wields a mace, and it is true that being able to evoke the memory of how your grip strained or how your shoulder shook at the moment of impact is important. But spending time researching how maces were used historically can help create a more powerful scene. Look up how much real maces weighed. Research the kinds of wounds that a mace caused. If you can, make a mace and create new sensory memories by beating up an old tire. Interview experts and NEVER rely on anything you saw in a Hollywood blockbuster movie because Hollywood is a lying liar who lies.

Try new things! Get your hands dirty in the garden, take a lesson in welding, bungee jump, hang-glide. Eat exotic foods and learn to mix cocktails. Live.

So, my advice to an aspiring author is this: Write what you know because you know much more than you think. And never, ever stop learning because who knows what you’re going to want to write about tomorrow?

About the Author:

While growing up, David Reiss was that weird kid with his nose in a book and his head in the clouds. He was the table-top role-playing game geek, the comic-book nerd, the story-teller, and dreamer.
Fortunately, he hasn’t changed much.

David is a software engineer by trade and a long-time sci-fi and fantasy devotee by passion, and he lives in Silicon Valley with his partner of twenty-six years. Until recently, he also shared his life with a disturbingly spoiled cat named Freya.

(Farewell, little huntress. You were loved. You are missed.)

David’s first book, Fid’s Crusade, has just recently been published; this was his first novel-length project, but it certainly won’t be his last—he’s having far too much fun!

Mr. Price’s Dinner Table – Deborah Ratliff

 

Location, location, location.

How many time have you heard that a business’s location is essential to its success? It is. The same is true for the site of your story. Choosing a small town, an urban environment, or an alien world instantly sets the mood, the culture, and the anticipation for your story. Choose wisely, and the location becomes another character in your writing, adding depth and complexity to your plot.

Why we choose a location varies from our own experiences to the genres that we write.  I set my stories in the world that I know best, the Southern United States and often in New Orleans. To explain how I decide, I need to take you on a journey to my childhood.

I am a Southerner and quite proud of my roots. Growing up in South Carolina I was fortunate to have parents who saw no color differences in their fellow man. People from all walks of life and cultures visited our home.

Memories of my childhood remain clear today. The mimosa tree that I played under in our yard. Houses where all doorways, windows, and chimneys were trimmed in blue to ward off evil spirits. The dime bags of boiled peanuts sold on the street. The ‘air-conditioned tree’ at the Herlong Orchard peach stand where the temperature was twenty degrees cooler in the shade and the water stored in a metal canteen was ice cold. While there was a horrible undercurrent of division and anger in this place I love so much, there was also a goodness of soul. Family, friends, food, and good times existed as well.

My father worked at the Savannah River Plant in Aiken, South Carolina where at the time hydrogen bombs were being made. With workers from all over the world employed there, as a child I met a variety of people. One of my father’s best friends was a bear of a man, a Navaho by the name of Jess Brown. His wife Athea, a small, plump woman who might have been a better cook than my grandmothers, was like an aunt to me. I am about one-sixteenth Cherokee and Jess, and Athea gave me a sense of what being Native American meant. Proud, hard-working, gentle people.

Another friend of my parents impacted my life more than I realized. Mr. Price. Honestly, I am not sure what his first name was, my parents never called him anything but Mr. Price. He was older, a slight man, regal in bearing, with snow-white hair and a thick Southern accent that held a lilt of his mother’s heritage. She was a Cajun from southwest Louisiana, and it was his reminisces about his mother’s upbringing that fueled my love of the Cajun culture.

Mr. Price was called a ‘bachelor.’ In the South in those days, an unmarried man of means, a patron of the arts was referred to in that manner. Anyone who has read Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt will recognize who Mr. Price was. Polite society did not mention the word homosexual as that wouldn’t be gracious and respectful.

We often had Sunday dinner at Mr. Price’s home, a large two-story house near downtown Aiken. I remember the opulent crimson flocked wallpaper in the parlor, the glittering crystal chandelier in the dining room, and fresh flowers everywhere. While I loved to have dinner in the dining room,  if the weather cooperated, we would often eat on the back terrace surrounded by a formal garden.

Dinner? Not what you might expect for a South Carolina gentleman. While on occasion we might have shrimp and grits or barbecued chicken, we often feasted on shrimp etouffee or jambalaya, dishes Mr. Price’s mother made when he was small. At age ten, I had my first taste of that Cajun chicory coffee at his dinner table.

I was mesmerized as he would tell us of his parent’s home in Lake Charles, and his grandparents’ house in the country nearby. He would spin tales of fun in the bayou, and I was hooked for life. While I loved South Carolina, my heart drifted toward Cajun Louisiana. His memories stirred emotions in me that I have kept to this day.

When I began to write fiction again a few years ago, I knew I would set my stories in the South. While I have never sugar-coated the problems the area has, which are no different from any other part of the United States, there is an ambiance and tone about the South, the southern coast especially, that is alluring. When I began to write it was Louisiana that I set my first novel in, New Orleans specifically.

Having visited New Orleans a few times as an adult, I discovered that my writing muse was a resident of the French Quarter. New Orleans, the bayou, the jazz, the beignets, the sultry weather, all characters in themselves and ones I find creeping into my writing.

On a recent Sunday, I watched one of Anthony Bourdain’s final “Parts Unknown” episodes. We lost a unique individual with Bourdain’s death. A talented essayist on life and culture and how food is intrinsic to our existence, not only for sustenance but for our soula. This show centered on Cajun Mardi Gras as celebrated in Southwest Louisiana.

We know of Mardi Gras as a glitzy party of drunken revelry, resplendent with cheap shiny beads, gaudy costumes, and over the top parades, as well as – well – fun. Bourdain showed us a Mardi Gras few outsiders know,  celebrated away from the French Quarter. Equally as gaudy and drunken but steeped in tradition and meaning.

Despite the commercial decadence of the more popular party in the French Quarter or the more traditional decadence of Cajun Mardi Gras, the spirit of the Cajun people, their passion for life, food, and even voodoo fuel my imagination and my soul.

I realized how ingrained the Cajun world was to my writing when I recently started writing a short story for a romance anthology. I struggled with setting and story until my muse left the jazz bar in the Quarter and reminded me, I was a mystery writer. I knew where I belonged. My story is now a romance between a TV reporter and a detective brought together over a dead body.  The location you ask? The French Quarter.

There is something about the tenor and vibe New Orleans that touches me.  A city steeped in tradition and like Anthony Bourdain, unique.

After writing my first novel, Crescent City Lies, a mystery set in New Orleans, I realize that the Cajun culture remains embedded within me, sparked so many years ago at Mr. Price’s dinner table.

Location, location, location.

(photo from https://www.visitaikensc.com/groups)

Advice for New and Aspiring Authors — Lynn Miclea

I can easily remember what it was like before I published my first book. It was not that long ago, and I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t think I was capable of writing or publishing a book. If someone had told me back then that I would have twelve books published by this time, I would have told them they were crazy.

And now, looking back over the past few years, after writing and publishing twelve books, I realize that I have learned quite a lot along the way. Of course, I am still learning, and I hope that I will always learn more and improve. But now feels like the right time to reach out and help other new and aspiring authors.

When we are beginning our journey as writers, we tend to have so many of the same questions, confusion, fears, and doubts. I would like to help make things a little easier and share with you some of what I have learned.

So here are seven of the best ideas I have found to help new and aspiring authors.

  1. Read a lot

Reading is important. Reading helps develop your writing skills as you learn what you like and don’t like about how things are written. Reading helps you learn how to phrase things, present situations, and describe action or settings. It helps you learn how to introduce characters and how to write realistic dialogue. It helps you improve your writing in so many ways – I learn every time I read. The more you read, the better you learn to write.

  1. Write a lot

Write as much as you can. As you write, you improve your skills. Each book, blog, article, or journal entry you write helps and improves your writing. I look back at my earlier writing, and I can see how far I’ve come – my writing is now more clear, concise, and powerful. So keep writing – the more you write, the better you get.

  1. Be you, find your own voice

Don’t compare yourself to others or try to imitate someone else’s style. Find your own voice, your own passion, and your own style. Discover the things you want to write about. Don’t try to be anyone else – it doesn’t work anyway, and it comes across as forced. Be you. There will never be another person just like you, so be proud of who you are and develop your own unique style.

  1. Get rid of self-doubts and self-criticism

Know that everyone has self-doubts and is self-critical. It is human nature. It is especially prevalent in creative types – writers, authors, artists, and musicians. We put our heart and soul into what we do. We feel vulnerable and exposed. We worry about whether or not we’re good enough or if people will like what we do. But those thoughts can undermine you and your creativity. Don’t allow any of that to get in your way or stop you. Write despite your insecurities – if we let insecurities stop us, nothing would ever get written. Write for you, not for anyone else, and trust that you will keep getting better as you go. If you love to write and feel passionate about writing, then do it. Set aside all judgment, worry, and criticism. Write as much as you can – and allow yourself to grow and blossom.

  1. The first draft is always crap

As Ernest Hemingway said, “The first draft of anything is shit.” Everyone’s first draft is always crap, and that’s okay. Expect it, it’s part of the territory, and don’t worry about it. Write your story down as it is, as though no one will ever see it. Write your heart out, and get it all down on paper. You can always edit it later and improve what you’ve written. So don’t worry about the first draft – it’s simply the first step and puts you on your way to creating an amazing finished manuscript.

  1. Always backup your work

Too many people have learned this the hard way – always back up your work. Use a backup drive, an internet storage site such as drop-box, another file, a second computer, the cloud, etc. It doesn’t matter what you use, just make sure you backup your work somewhere. It is too easy to accidentally delete something, lose a file, have your computer crash, have a file become corrupted, etc. Don’t risk losing what you’ve spent so many hours creating. And don’t wait until it’s too late – be smart and always back up your work.

  1. Get professional editing

After you have finished your manuscript, read it through multiple times to make it as clean and error-free as possible. Then always use the services of a professional editor so that your work will be professional quality and the best it can possibly be. A professional editor helps with more than simply finding typos. They help with grammar, spelling, punctuation, sentence structure, word usage, consistency, repetitions, proper and consistent tense, plot development, subplots that don’t belong or that slow down the story, characters, appropriate POV (point of view), tension build-up, anything that doesn’t move the story forward, story structure, plot holes, pacing, plus many other things.

I was a professional proofreader for many years, and I studied editing. When I look over my own work, I carefully and slowly read word-for-word, and I still miss things. It is difficult to catch your own errors, as you tend to skim your own story since you know it so well. Your mind automatically fills in and corrects any errors or missing words. So it really helps to have another pair of eyes on your work. You don’t want to turn off readers with errors throughout your story, or have prospective readers not buy your book because of errors in the sample they see. A professional editor helps your work be the best it can be, and that is important. If you want a well-written, professional story that will have readers wanting to read more of your work, always have your work professionally edited.

Congratulations – I applaud you for being a writer!

Writing is a creative process where our hearts and imagination merge and pour out onto paper, and it is a thrilling and rewarding journey.

It gives me great pleasure to share these seven tips with you, and I hope these help you on your way to becoming an outstanding and successful author.

The path is not always easy, but always do your best, and never stop learning and improving. One day I hope to see your books on the best-seller list.

And no matter how far you go as a writer, enjoy the entire journey and be proud of who you are and what you accomplish.

 

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About The Author

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LYNN MICLEA grew up in New York and moved to California while in her twenties. A certified hypnotherapist and Reiki master practitioner with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, she spent many years working in the medical field and in various offices in an administrative capacity.

After retiring, Lynn discovered and developed a passion for writing, and she is now a successful author with many books published and more on the way. Her two memoirs, one of her family’s experience with ALS, and one of her own journey through open-heart surgery have received numerous five-star reviews. 

She also has published ten sweet, exciting, and fun children’s books, which are uplifting, loving, feel-good animal stories, filled with warm humor, and which are about kindness, compassion, helping others, seeing the best in others, and believing in yourself. 

She hopes that through her writing, she can help empower others and add more joy and love to the world. She asks everyone to be kind to each other as we all share this journey through life together.

Lynn currently lives in the Los Angeles area with her husband and two dogs.

Learn more about Lynn at her Amazon author page here.

And please visit her website at www.lynnmiclea.com for more information on her books.
Copyright © 2018 Lynn Miclea. All Rights Reserved.

 

An Anniversary

 
As you know, over the last three years Writers Unite! has grown into one of the largest closed writing groups on Facebook. What many of you may not know since you haven’t been with us the entire three years is that we had a pivotal moment that spurred our growth.
 
When now admin Paul Reeves joined Writers Unite!, he reached out to us about appearing on his radio program out of Detroit. I was chosen to be the voice of WU! for the interview, and on July 11, 2016, I had my first interview on Dr. Paul’s Family Talk.
 
Membership was at 6,600 that day. We began to see an uptick in member requests immediately and had added a thousand or more new members by the time I appeared the second time on the show in August 2016. Again, we saw the numbers begin to rise. Shortly after that, Facebook started to advertise us aggressively. As a fast-growing group, their algorithms picked up the increases and began to market us.
 
Our growth is indicative of what marketing can do. We did nothing different to promote WU! at that time other than appearing on Paul’s show. While not all our growth is attributed to his show directly, some has been by word of mouth, our appearance there was the catalyst that allowed us to grow.
 
Learn a lesson from this. Marketing matters. Do not shy away from doing interviews, go on the radio, do print interviews, do a book signing anywhere you can, send those emails blasts. It can work if you keep trying.
 
Over the last two years, Paul, through his radio program and his desire to contribute to Writers Unite! as an admin has helped us sustain this growth by providing a platform for authors to tell their story. WU! continues to appear on the show to offer writing information and many of the authors Paul has interviewed have become active members of the group.
 
We are grateful to Paul for his contributions to the group. Together, the WU! admin team is striving to offer media exposure, through Dr. Paul’s Family Talk and the anthology series for our members.
 
Without question, thanks above all to the members for being with us. You are what makes WU! successful!
 
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Below is a link to the first interview, WU! did on Dr. Paul’s Family Talk. Then on terrestrial radio in Detroit. The show is now broadcast live on Impact Radio USA. http://www.impactradiousa.com/
 
Writers Unite! on Dr. Paul’s Family Talk July 11, 2016
 

Guest Blog: Kelli Gavin — I Don’t Mean to Brag

 
 I DON’T MEAN TO BRAG, BUT MY POSTS ARE ENJOYED BY WELL OVER TWENTY PEOPLE WORLDWIDE 

A friend asked me the other day if I minded that my writing posts on social media don’t get very many likes.  I kid you not. Even I didn’t have a response to this question. I sat there dumbfounded. Not sure how to respond. If I should make a joke out of it or respond honestly.

I have been actively writing for less than two years.  Blogging for only 9 months. When I started writing, I discovered the long forgotten joy that writing brought me.  When I was a kid, my dad and I enjoyed writing short stories together. I took my first stab at writing a book when I was in junior high. Made it about 80 handwritten pages in and abandoned the project altogether.  When I was in high school, I discovered my love of poetry and storytelling through short statement sentences.

I had a few great teachers who influenced me and encouraged me to keep writing.  I completed a poetry assignment of 20 poems and handed it in two days after it was assigned. I had two more weeks before it was due, the teacher took it from me and said, “Are you sure you don’t want to spend a little more time on it?”  I told her no, I worked hard and was ready to hand it in. She started to page through the packet and asked, “How did you come up with 20 poems in 2 days?” I told her I had a free period the last two days and wrote them out on the computer in the library.  She stared at me. “You wrote 20 poems in 2 days? You didn’t write any of these poems beforehand?” I confirmed, 20 poems in 2 days. She was silent for such an uncomfortable amount of time, I had to say something. “Great. I will see you Friday in class.”

Poetry flowed out of me. I could hardly contain it.  Even if I wanted to. I wasn’t sleeping well at the time, I was working through a lot of emotions and feelings and all those teenage woes made great food for fodder. I wrote about relationships with my parents, with friends, with boys. I wrote about a relationship that needed to cease.

I was asked by the same teacher to stay after class on Friday. I completely panicked. She must have hated my poetry packet. I was going to fail this class as it was 50% of my grade. I approached her desk as all of my classmates exited the classroom and felt tears poking at the corners of my eyes. “Kelli. Your poetry packet is amazing. You have a clear voice. A distinct way of communicating what you want using a very limited amount of words. I could tell the two required rhyming poems were challenging for you. But I found them whimsical, humorous and delightful.  I doubted your ability to complete this project in such a short amount of time. I should have never doubted you. I am giving you a perfect score. You exceeded my expectations on both content and effort. Well done. I will be using two of your poems in class as encouragement to the other students.”

Encouragement to the other students? Wait. What?  I asked her not to use my name. She said no problem. She wanted to use one of the fun rhyming poems as an example that sometimes the best things come out of not trying too hard. I wasn’t sure if that was actually a compliment or not. But I wasn’t going to ask any further questions.

I quickly exited the classroom and headed to my locker so I could race to my next class.  I smiled the rest of the day.

I was inspired. My teachers’ compliments were all that it took to inspire me. Words of affirmation from an adult other than my parents.  I continued to write poetry for the remaining portion of the two weeks and knew that I was improving each time I hit the save button on the library computer.  When my poems were shared in class the next week, silence followed after the first one. I wrote about that relationship that needed to cease. I tried to be as inconspicuous as possible, but I knew I was fidgeting in my seat and probably was the most unnatural shade of red all down through my neck.  

“Okay.  Was this poem written by a girl? Because that was beautiful.  A boy wouldn’t be able to talk that way about something he wants but knows he shouldn’t have. It makes me want to know what happens next.”  Nodding and agreement. Our teacher proclaimed a mighty, “YES! That is what good poetry should do. It should make you want more. You should be intrigued by the first line and it should make you desire more. It should make you feel something deep inside. It should change you. It should make you think differently.”

Our teachers’ words spurred me on to write even more. All those hours I was awake at night made me burn through notebook after notebook. I wanted people that read my work, to want more. I wanted them to be hooked from the first line. I wanted them to desire more. And I wanted them to think differently and to be changed.

I continued writing and felt so fulfilled. I was proud of myself.  I felt better about who I was and felt that I had a purpose. To write. Even if only for a short time. Writing gave me a purpose.  Life happened and I wasn’t then writing as much. I worked hard the summer before college and then felt utterly consumed by moving away and overwhelmed by college and the workload that was expected. I sat down to write one night at school, and nothing. Nothing. I had nothing to write about. I didn’t feel inspired to write. I felt I should do it because I hadn’t. It felt like a task. It no longer brought me joy. It started to stress me out.

Filled notebooks and blank notebooks sat on my shelf above my desk in my dorm room. And they continued to sit there. By the end of my freshman year, I had completely abandoned my love for writing.

I have filled all of these past 25 years with some pretty amazing things. I got married, worked in a profession I loved and succeeded in. I was blessed by having two children. I started two companies and enjoyed the work. I began to write articles for the local newspaper when artists or writers came to town.  I would write about their life, their career, and my impressions of their speaking engagement. Sometimes, I would have a prearranged interview set up with them and others times would just make a point of asking questions and recording the answers.

I believe myself to be pretty savvy on social media. (That is a lie. I am a stalker at best. I would track those coming to town down on social media and assault them with numerous private messages until they answered me and agreed to an in-person interview or to respond to my questions. My shenanigans worked more often than not. ) Each of my articles was accepted at the paper. I was so excited.  Was I a writer? I sure was. I was writing more, and writing well. I thought I would take another stab at writing.

Once I began, I found that only about a dozen or so poems were ready to be written.  But I sat down and found I had a story to tell about my mom. My mom died about 5 years ago now.  She was so young, only 67. She was a ridiculously quirky woman who never met a person she didn’t love. I wanted to write about her. I wanted to write about my childhood with her as my mom. I wanted to honor her.  I started writing short, one or even two-page stories, every week or so. Then the stories about being a special needs parent came to mind. And about organizing your home and life, which is my line of work. Mostly, I wrote about my daily life. About conversations that I had with my kids and my friends. And sometimes I even wrote about the conversations I had with complete strangers.  

When I wrote a story, it was about something important. A lesson I had learned. Something that brought me joy.  Something that maybe still made me ache today. They were stories about memories I held dear. But when I told my stories, they were stories I thought others would also like to hear.  I felt they were stories that others needed to hear. Subject matters that would touch hearts and maybe even heal them. Stories that others could have written themselves. I wanted other people to know they were not alone.

I began submitting stories to dozens upon dozens of companies that specialized in storytelling.  I was quickly discouraged as I received 29 declines in my first 6 weeks. 29. But then yes. Another yes, we would be happy to publish this piece.  And even, what else can you send us? Editors started emailing me and actually asking for more samples of my work.

Absolutely, it feels great when a contract for printing is received. I have published with 20+ different companies and organizations and continue to submit weekly. 9 months ago when I started blogging, I didn’t just blog about my daily life, I added in all of the poems that I wrote, some of the newspaper articles and the books reviews.  I also started including all of my life stories in my blog.

And to the original question. Does it bother me that so few people like my writing posts on social media? No. The honest answer is no. How many people read my blog on a consistent basis? I don’t know.  But you know what matters to me? The messages that people send me or write on posts. The times when people ask me for help in solving a similar situation. The times when people tell me they are ready to call their mom and ask for forgiveness. But most of all, I enjoy the thank you’s. Thank for being honest. Thank you for writing about something that hurts. Thank you for helping me figure out this whole special needs parenting thing.  Thank you for making me cry, I needed that.

“Kelli,  I don’t know you.  We have never met. But we have friends in common.  I wanted to tell you I found your blog. I can’t stop reading.  Were we twins and separated at birth? You and I are the awkward honest girls. The ones that cry watching the news and retelling stories. Thank you for not making me feel so weird.”  Those are the messages that make me want to write more.

“Oh, sweet Zach. I read your article in the paper.  I had the joy of helping him at school a couple times last year.  I miss him so much. He was always smiling and so funny. I liked reading about your daily lives.  Thank you for the insight into special needs parenting.” Special needs teachers. I want to hug you. Thank you for all that you do for my son every day. Thank you for your patience, your ability to teach and your love for my son.

I have started writing a book. For real this time. A real book.  With chapters and page numbers and everything. This book will be more of the same. More of what makes me laugh. What makes me cry.  More stories I think others will want to hear. Stories others need to hear. No, I won’t ever sell a million copies, and make a bunch of cash.  But I will have told my story, filled my life with even more joy, and connected with people I have never even met. Hopefully inspired someone along the way.  And that sounds like a mighty fine endeavor to me.

“You don’t write because you want to say something. You write because you have something to say.”  — F. Scott Fitzgerald

About the Author

Kelli Gavin lives in Carver, Minnesota with Josh, her husband of an obscene amount of years and they have two crazy kids. She is a Writer, Professional Organizer and owns Home & Life Organization and a small Jewelry Company. She enjoys writing, reading, swimming, and spending time with family and friends. She abhors walks on the beach (sand in places no one wishes sand to be), candlelit dinners, (can’t see) and the idea of cooking two nights in a row (no thank you).

Find Kelli on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @KelliJGavin Blog found at kellijgavin@blogspot.com

 

 

First trailer for Writer’s Unite! Anthology: Realm of Magic!!

Writers Unite!’s Fantasy Anthology: Realm of Magic will be published on August 1, 2018.

Pre-order info coming soon!

Check Out the Trailer for Writers Unite! Anthology Realm of Magic Here



How to Avoid Info-Dumping By Asking Why

Get Your Reader Asking Why png

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

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

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

Why is this considered info-dumping?

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

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

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

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

But at what price?

He stepped into the room to find out.

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

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

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

“What’s your name?”

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

“So, what were you doing here?”

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

“Oh, so where are they?”

“They’re safe.”

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

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

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

“So, uh, what were you doing here?”

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

“Oh, so where are they?”

“They’re safe.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

We Write. Are We Professional?

 

Writers lead exciting lives. We can sit in the safety of our homes or cafes or wherever we choose to write and have amazing adventures through our words. As George R. R. Martin wrote in one of his novels,

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies…. The man who never reads lives only one.”

A writer lives those thousand lives as well.

Who are we who call ourselves writers?

We are ethnically diverse, from all socioeconomic backgrounds, but share a passion for writing. We publish, some of us are highly successful, some not. Many published authors would refer to themselves as professional writers. The question is, are we?

 

What is a Professional?

 

Merriam-Webster defines professionalism as the conduct, aims, or qualities that characterize or mark a profession or a professional person.

The attributes of a professional:

  • Appearance
  • Demeanor
  • Reliability
  • Competence
  • Ethics
  • Maintaining Poise
  • Phone Etiquette
  • Written correspondence
  • Organizational Skills
  • Accountability

These attributes should be self-explanatory. We should in all circumstances be neat in appearance, calm and respectful, reliable in completing tasks or arriving for meetings, and all the other skills listed. All are important, but competence requires considerable study and experience in our chosen profession. Whether accountant, nurse, musician, or writer, this behavior should be our norm.

 

The Pathway to Writing.

Words are an author’s musical notes, brush strokes, or accounting formulas, surgical techniques, grammar rules, or any other skill required to become successful in a profession. If, as writers, we consider ourselves artists, then we need to gain competency in our art and develop the attributes that represent professionalism.

Perhaps as a child, you exhibited a talent for playing an instrument, for singing, or for drawing. While not all children with demonstrated talent will become professional musicians, singers, or artists, the training for those who do invariably begins at an early age.

The path for artists is an arduous one. Countless hours of instruction and practice, learning not only the instrument, steps, or shapes but how to perform with others. Years of preparation, mentoring, and often formal study at a university is required for a career in music or art. Higher education is not required for either a career in music or the arts, but the additional training only increases expertise. Also, artists often have another hurdle before they can perform. They may be required to audition to join an orchestra or dance company.

But what about writers? In truth, writers also begin training at an early age. Primary and secondary education provides the basics of grammar, vocabulary, and creative writing. Some may continue on to college where they can major in creative writing or journalism.

Those who choose not to pursue an academic path to writing can find a myriad of articles and lessons on the Internet. Enter ‘how to write dialogue’ into a search engine, and the number of articles offered is staggering. The issue becomes which of those articles are credible and which ones are not. With the voluminous amount of material available, sorting through it to find what works for you can be daunting and confusing but necessary.

 

The Impact of Self-Publishing on Professionalism

 

With the advent of self-publishing, the number of authors choosing that route has reached an all-time high. An article by Dan Balow, from The Steve Laube Agency website, states, “Traditional and self-publishing generate over one million new books every year in the U.S. alone, according to RR Bowker. Two-thirds are self-published.”

That’s a lot of authors, and the question is how many of them have taken the time and effort to hone their craft and learn how to write. Unfortunately, not as many as should have. The areas of greatest impact on the level of quality for published books according to Barlow are:

 

  • Collegial control. A give and take relationship between publisher and author where negotiation is required to produce a satisfactory agreement for both.
  • Traditional publishing can take as long as eighteen months. Self-publishing can happen soon after “The End” is typed onto the manuscript.
  • Quality of the manuscript. Editing a manuscript is never completed, but all efforts should be made to create a flawless Often, self-published authors do little editing.
  • Length of manuscript. There are industry standards based on what readers expect that the self-publishing world often ignores. This alone can create dissatisfied readers.
  • Book cover. One of the most important components of a novel, the cover attracts the reader to pick up the book, read the blurb, and be interested enough to purchase. Too many self-published authors do not take proper care with the creation of their cover and shortchange themselves.

 

These are all important issues that all authors need to be cognizant of even with the assistance of a traditional publishing house. To be a professional as a writer, these are all issues that you must address as part of the competency attribute.

There is one aspect of publishing that many authors, traditionally published or not, have to deal with and it can be the most important task they undertake. Marketing their book.

We welcome others buying our novels for enjoyment. To accomplish that goal, marketing is a requirement. If we are fortunate enough to have an agent or a traditional publishing house represent us, we might have help in offering our product to our readers.

The cold facts are that total marketing support is rare for today’s authors unless they are already proven revenue generators. Many writers turn to self-publishing or small independent publishers where marketing more than likely falls to the author, and few are qualified to promote their books. How we accomplish that task can define us a professional and establish how we are perceived in the marketplace.

 

The Interview

 

There are numerous avenues open to marketing books, but the most personal is the interview. From local papers and magazines to a written interview on the internet, podcasts, radio and television appearances, and book signings, the interview reveals the author behind the book. Being able to make the connection with the journalist or host is imperative.

The hosts of these media platforms offer their services, their expertise, and the most important commodity, their time. While some media organizations charge, the services are usually free for authors.

This provides tremendous opportunity to communicate with potential readers and one that can lead to repeat interviews, not only keeping the author in front of the public but also keeping their book and future books in the spotlight. An important tool for any author to utilize.

A common lament among these hosts is that authors do not respond to emails or messages, are not available at the time of the interview, or cancel at the last moment without a valid reason. Some answer the written interviews, returning the questions without bothering to edit. Some do not follow through on promoting the interview across social media. Not only a must for the author but also for the host who has provided the service.

However, the behavior that was the most disturbing to these hosts was how many authors they interviewed who never said thank you.

We discussed the attributes of professionals. Here are how those attributes relate to writers.

 

  • Appearance – Dress appropriately for a face to face interview or a book signing/reading.
  • Demeanor – Be respectful, considerate, pleasant, and have a good sense of humor.
  • Reliability – Be on time, provide materials requested
  • Competence – Learn your craft.
  • Ethics – Your reputation is at stake, always maintain integrity.
  • Maintaining Poise – Be prepared for uncomfortable questions by hosts or readers, stay calm.
  • Phone Etiquette – Interviewing by phone requires you to answer clearly and concisely, then pause, and wait for the host to speak so that you do not talk over them.
  • Written correspondence – Bios should be as short as possible and written in third Interview questions should be answered thoroughly and edited for good sentence structure and grammar.
  • Organizational Skills – Be prepared, have whatever notes you need with you and practice answers to questions that could arise about your book, your writing style, etc.
  • Accountability – You have agreed to submit answers to written questions or be available at a specified time for an interview or book signing and should honor those commitments.

And one last thing: A simple thank you to your host is respectful and will build a bond between you and a person who can be valuable to your future as a writer.

 

Are Writers Professional? We Can Be.

In this era of self-publishing, anyone can publish a book. Have a laptop and you, too, can be a published author. You don’t need a college degree, or an editor, or a book cover designer. You can do it all. But if you want to approach your writing as a professional, study your craft through an educational facility or study information available on the internet. Use an editor so your manuscript will be as error-free as possible, focus on a quality book cover, and be prepared to market your work. Most of all, be kind and say thank you to those who are helping to make you a success.

Article written by Deborah Ratliff

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Resources:

www.goodreads.com/quotes/georgerrmartin

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/professionalism

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/10-characteristics-professionalism-greg

https://stevelaube.com/self-publishing-changed-authors/

A Good Beginning

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

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

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

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

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

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