Tag Archives: writing advice

Michele Sayer: MY TOP TEN WRITING GUIDELINES

I don’t believe in writing ‘rules’ because there aren’t any. There are NO laws governing writing because even ‘rules’ on grammar and usage keep changing over time. What doesn’t change is the infinite variations on the writing process based on individual writers and their need to communicate with the written word.

But if I have to impart any advice to writers it would be the following:

1) Don’t write to perfection. There will be a few but very rare times when something comes out the first time and doesn’t require any significant editing. Most of the time, your writing will require multiple rounds of editing to make it work well.

2) Remember, you can always revise later. As one of my all-time favorite authors Nora Roberts once said, “You can’t revise a blank page.” Get it down first so you can revise and edit. Because revisions and edits are a fact-of-life with writing.

3) Edit and revise but don’t beat the crap out of yourself in the process. I know so many writers who write and edit while beating themselves up at the same time. Yes, there are times when you’ll read something and not have any idea what you were trying to say. But unless you were writing drunk, high, or seriously messed-up, cut yourself some slack.

4) Try to understand that writing is purely subjective. What one person likes someone else won’t. Accept that as a fact of life and try to figure out what it is that works, or doesn’t work for you.

5) Writing days can be up and down. Some days the words will flow out of you like a water tap turned on full. And sometimes it will be a trickle. And some days the tap will be dry. Yes, you can push yourself but if the writing isn’t flowing, you might need to take a step back to try and figure out why.

6) Don’t adhere to absolutes with writing. For some writers, adverbs don’t work at all and for some writers they’re good friends that can be very useful. Personally, I don’t have a problem with adverbs though I do make sure they serve a purpose and aren’t just marshmallow fluff.

7) Don’t compare yourself to other writers. You’ll always fall short sooner or later and then you’ll feel bad and probably not be able to write. I believe every writer has to figure things out for themselves and you have to do what’s best for you.

8) Read your work out loud to yourself. I believe in this because when you read something out loud not only do you hear the rhythm of your words, you’ll also catch a lot of mistakes, too.

9) Know that with writing, like anything else you do in life, you will get better over time if you keep at it. Because if you keep learning, you’ll push yourself to go further and deeper and your writing will get better because of that.

10) Don’t let Fear stop you from writing. This is advice I really need to take myself but knowing that I’ve retreated from my writing because of Fear is the first step in moving away from it. Don’t let the bullies and jerks of this world ruin writing for you, and don’t give them any power over you.

Good luck with your writing.

Advertisements

Writers Unite! Tips on Writing: Grammar

WT- Improve Grammar

Words Of Ernest Hemingway

Writing-Quotes-eh2-1024x499

Nobel Prize winner Ernest Hemingway is seen as one of the great American 20th century novelists, and is known for works like ‘A Farewell to Arms’ and ‘The Old Man and the Sea.’
Born on July 21, 1899, in Cicero (now in Oak Park), Illinois, Ernest Hemingway served in World War I and worked in journalism before publishing his story collection In Our Time. He was renowned for novels like The Sun Also RisesA Farewell to ArmsFor Whom the Bell Tolls, and The Old Man and the Sea, which won the 1953 Pulitzer. In 1954, Hemingway won the Nobel Prize. He committed suicide on July 2, 1961, in Ketchum, Idaho.

Hemingway left behind an impressive body of work and an iconic style that still influences writers today. His personality and constant pursuit of adventure loomed almost as large as his creative talent.

When asked by George Plimpton about the function of his art, Hemingway proved once again to be a master of the “one true sentence”: “From things that have happened and from things as they exist and from all things that you know and all those you cannot know, you make something through your invention that is not a representation but a whole new thing truer than anything true and alive, and you make it alive, and if you make it well enough, you give it immortality.”

In August 2018, a 62-year-old short story by Hemingway, “A Room on the Garden Side,” was published for the first time in The Strand Magazine. Set in Paris shortly after the liberation of the city from Nazi forces in 1944, the story was one of five composed by the writer in 1956 about his World War II experiences. It became the second story from the series to earn posthumous publication, following “Black Ass at the Crossroads.”

 

divider-2

Resources:

Image: https://medium.com/@Reedsy/30-inspiring-writing-quotes-from-famous-authors-ca601bfa5915

https://www.biography.com/people/ernest-hemingway-9334498

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

 

WRITING WRITING A NOVEL

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

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

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

Just Tell The Story

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

The First Draft is For you

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

Let’s Do The Math

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

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

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

50k divided by 20 is 2500

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

Remember Your ‘Why’

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

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

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

Plotting Tools

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

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

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

Amazon US | Amazon UK

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

NaNoWriMo Survival Kit

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

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

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

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

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

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

divider-2

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

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

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

Good luck with NaNo!!!

Me? Market My Book? Part Two:  Prepare for Launch

twitter-292994_1920

Part Two:  Prepare for Launch

 It is never too early to prepare to publish your book. When your muse taps you on the shoulder and suggests that it is time to write, you should begin to create the tools that you need to market yourself and your writing.

Publishers and agents prefer to deal with an author who has a strong presence on the web or other marketing venues. If you are planning on self-publishing, those marketing outlets will be crucial to connecting with buyers for your book.

In this era of social media, there are numerous avenues open to make vital connections to potential readers. Novice writers are often unknown entities within the literary world. Unless you have acquired a public persona in a career field or some other endeavor, your social media reach may only be your family and immediate friends. You need more.

In this article we will discuss those pathways in general, addressing each of these social media platforms in greater detail in later articles.

text_divider_pz

Blog/Website

Having a blog or website is akin to having a home address on the internet. This is where you, your thoughts, your work, and links to your sales platform and media appearances reside. Blogs at one time were highly necessary in the competitive world of traditional publishing. Agents and publishers only took blogs with a high number of followers seriously. Years ago I read a statement by an agent who declared unless an author had a minimum of 10,000 followers, she didn’t bother with reading their submission. The opening of self-publishing has reduced that need, and while a following is still essential for all authors to be successful, a huge following is not as critical.

This is the internet presence you should start as soon as you consider writing. It takes quite a while to build followers as well as establish your presence on the web.

Facebook

Well, it is Facebook. Love it or hate it, this social platform is imperative to establishing yourself as a writer. Not necessarily for your credibility, and it can help there, but for name recognition.

The largest social media group in the world, Facebook gives you a global presence. You should as an author establish an author page, join not only writing groups but in some cases, depending on the genre you write in, there are pages/groups for the readers of that genre, and post—often.

While not every post is going to be read by everyone, Facebook can be a valuable tool for a writer. The key is to be active.

Twitter

Twitter is unique.  You can follow anyone or any group you choose at will, and they may or may not follow you back. With the incredible number of accounts on Twitter, finding like-minded Tweeters is not difficult. Twitter recommends accounts with similar interest.

The key here is Tweet, Tweet, Tweet. It is how you gain followers and retweets, which increases your exposure. Not sure what to tweet about, tweet about everything related to your writing or interest in writing and reading. Tweet out links to your blog posts, short excerpts from your work, where your next book signing is, something about your favorite author.

Instagram

This social networking app (owned by Facebook) allows you to post images and videos from a smartphone. Gaining in popularity by the second, many ‘experts’ think Instagram is overtaking Twitter. It is indeed quicker to send a photo or video, but it can also be used to post quotes from your writing. If you have access to programs such as Gimp or Photoshop or can add simple text to an image, you can display an image and promote your work.  The key to Instagram is to be repetitive and, as with Twitter, post, post, post.

Tumblr

Tumblr remains a bit of an enigma. There are conflicting opinions of this site, but those who love it, love it a lot. The site is a bit like Facebook and a personal blog in that you can post links to articles, images, videos, gifs, and quotes, etc. It offers you a simpler version of a blog site.

YouTube

That YouTube is popular is a given. I doubt a day goes by without any of us viewing at least one video on YouTube. There is a growing sense that the video medium will soon be the most valuable outlet for promotion.  Having your own YouTube channel allows you to post book trailers, which are now becoming a favorite promotional tool, read quotes from your novels either using video or audio only and, as we discussed, drive traffic to your main platform, your website/blog.

Google+

Google+ is a Facebook-style social community. There are pros and cons to this site due to the forced interaction it requires for all of the Google platforms. However, there are some excellent writing groups there, but while it has many users, it is not utilized as much by the members. That said, Google is trying to improve the site and if you have a blog, posting your blog posts, etc. into a Google+ community can be accomplished with a click of the mouse.

text_divider_pz

These social media sites can be used to promote your brand from the moment you begin to write. After publication, the work you have done to put these tools into place will be invaluable to you. The consensus is that it is never too early to begin to present yourself to your reader.

We will be addressing these platforms in greater depth and other avenues available to you to promote your writing in future articles. In the meantime, start setting up those profiles and keep writing!

 

arms-3556673_1920

 

text_divider_pz

Words of Hunter S. Thompson

 

Writing-Quotes-hst-1024x499

 

Hunter S. Thompson was born in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1937. He showed a knack for writing at a young age, and after high school began his career in journalism while serving in the United States Air Force. Following his military service, Thompson traveled the country to cover a wide array of topics for numerous magazines and developed an immersive, highly personal style of reporting that would become known as “Gonzo journalism.” He would employ the style in the 1972 book for which he is best known, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which was an instant and lasting success. For the remainder of his life, Thompson’s hard-driving lifestyle—which included the steady use of illicit drugs and an ongoing love affair with firearms—and his relentlessly antiauthoritarian work made him a perpetual counterculture icon. However, his fondness for substances also contributed to several bouts of poor health, and in 2005 Thompson committed suicide at the age of 67.

divider-2

https://www.biography.com/people/hunter-s-thompson-9506260

Writers Unite! Tips on Writing: How to Open Your Novel

WT - Opening

Me? Market My Book? Part One:  The First Steps

Part One:  The First Steps

You know the moment. That second when the realization hits you—the book you have sweated over, lost sleep over, and spent hours on—is published. Euphoria is likely your first reaction. Then another thought creeps into your mind. Oh no, now I must market this book.

Yes, you must.

Unless you are a bestselling author, the burden of marketing your book will fall on you. Traditional publishers, who once supported an author in their stable, rarely do more than obligatory publicity for any author other than those with a proven revenue stream. Vanity presses charge for any marketing they do, which is usually very little.

A word of caution—any publisher that charges you for their services to publish your book is not a writer’s friend. As writers become aware of the pitfalls of using them, some vanity presses are spinning their services as “partnerships.” They are not. A traditional publisher will take a calculated and measured risk to do the work and share in the profits. Do not pay a “publisher” for the honor of publishing your book.

This brings us to the subject of self-publishing your book. There are pros and cons to this publishing option, but those issues are not the focus of this discussion—marketing your book is. Self-publishing will tax the limits of your marketing knowledge and probably your patience.

Let’s first explore the two services a self-published author should invest in before publishing. I say “should” because these two items are imperative to the success of your novel. Alone they might not make you a bestselling author, but without them, your chances significantly reduce.

mistakes-1756958_1920

Editing

An essential but considerable expense you can incur is hiring an editor. Yes, you can publish without one, but you are doing yourself a disservice. If you are lucky enough to have a close friend who is an excellent editor and they take pity on you, they might edit for free. Not everyone is that lucky.

I know what you are saying to yourself. But—but—I’m great at grammar, I don’t need an editor.  Yes, you do. Everyone misses a comma or in my case, adds too many, but grammar is not the only reason you need an unbiased editor. You have written words. As you read what you have written, your mind knows what you meant. The question is whether your mind filled in the blanks and you did not convey the intended message to your readers. While we can edit and edit and edit our work, we will miss incomplete thoughts, leave out words, have inconsistencies in the continuity, and perhaps, plot holes. You need an editor who knows to look beyond the words.

That said, if you have someone you trust to be unbiased, then use them. Trust is our most valuable attribute, and you need to trust the editor you choose. If you don’t have a close resource, then you need to search for the best editor that you can afford. Editing is a skill set, and not everyone who claims to be an editor is one. An experienced editor can be costly, and you should expect to pay for their level of expertise. Before you commit, do your research, ask for recommendations, and make sure the editor you choose has a website with testimonials. Contact the editors you are interested in and ask detailed questions about their process. It’s your money—choose as wisely as you can. Your book is at stake.

book-1024645_1920

Book Cover Design

The other vital component to consider before the publication of your book is the cover design. It must catch your reader’s eye and draw them into your story. It can be stark or elegant, bold or subtle, but the cover must attract your reader to the content within.

Unless you are a graphic artist or even a Photoshop amateur enthusiast, designing your cover is risky. If you consider creating a DIY cover, Photoshop and YouTube offer tutorials. Do your due diligence and learn as much as you can about the process before you begin. Also, review the cover dimensions and guidelines on the publishing platform you decide to use. If you choose not to start from scratch, numerous websites offer stock book cover formats for you to use to create your own.

Just a few issues to consider if you design the cover:

  • Your cover needs to reflect the content of your book. Use images that correspond to a scene or theme of the story.
  • Stand out—make your cover unique and easily visible.
  • Study covers from novels within your genre, especially those by successful authors. Determine what drew your eye to their covers.
  • Use only free-use images and fonts on your covers. Yes, fonts. Some common book fonts are under copyright, and you need permission to use them. There are many sites to find free-use images—among them are pixabay.com and morguefile.com.
  • Reference your publishing platform for exact dimensions for the cover. Many components go into a cover—book size, number of pages, the font, paper weight, soft or hardcover, etc., and affect the design.
  • It is essential that the thumbnail of your cover is easily read. That thumbnail is the first thing that your reader will see on the internet—make it clear and highly visible. Only a front cover is usually required when e-publishing.

If you choose a cover artist to create your book cover, all the above are important considerations, in addition to these:

  • Selection of a designer should mimic the choice of an editor. Find covers you like and, if possible, contact the author and ask who the designer was. Ask for recommendations, check out the artist’s work, and then contact them. Question how they work, if they accept suggestions and if not, can you step back and allow the artist to create their image of your work.
  • Have an idea in mind. It might or might not work, but it gives the designer a starting point.

divider-2

When using an editor or book cover artist, don’t be afraid to ask questions or to challenge decisions politely. Be smart. However, you should always be considerate. They are professionals and so are you—behave like one. This is your book, and the quality of the job your editor and cover designer do will reflect on you, long after they have spent your money.

Remember that the title of your book and the blurb that you write to entice readers need as much care and attention as your narrative. We will discuss the blurb and how to write one in another article.

In this first article in our series, we have discussed two aspects of marketing that create a foundation for promoting your book. A well-written, coherent story and an eye-catching cover are the beginning of giving yourself a marketable commodity to sell. Yes, you have an item to sell, just like a piece of clothing or phone. In subsequent articles, we will be discussing marketing in more depth. We will look at the myriad ways available to reach the consumer, hopefully resulting in higher sales.

divider-2

Deborah Ratliff: A Storm is Coming

sunset-3087790_1920

The news was full in recent days with updates regarding an impending hurricane headed for the Gulf shore of the United States. A severe storm in an area still smarting from the horrors of hurricanes past deserves our attention.

I will admit, however, that there is a little part of me that becomes excited when a hurricane is forecast. The writing muse that lurks in my head hears “hurricane” and immediately conjures up scenes of roiling dark seas, ragged gray clouds, and howling wind driving heavy rain sideways, stinging all it touches.

A storm is coming.

I love storms. I love the growl of thunder. The boom reverberating off my chest sometimes takes my breath away. A purple streak of lightning both startles and excites me. Along the shore I love so much, the rough waves slamming into the soft sand display the power of the weather. Those emotions are strong, and I find that I often use weather to establish a mood.

For example, this is the opening passage of my upcoming novel One of Those Days:

“It was another one of those days, like every day in southern Louisiana. The sun was a golden glare in a washed-out sky, the air thick with moisture, its weight heavy and clinging to her skin. Adie Morgan winced against the bright light despite the dark sunglasses hiding her eyes.”

Yes, I opened a novel by describing the weather despite Elmore Leonard’s first writing tip, “Never open a book with the weather.” In this instance, the main character has returned to Louisiana due to a near family tragedy. I needed to show it was an ordinary day and weather is a good measure of how ordinary a day can be.

Concerning Leonard’s epitaph regarding weather, many writers stop with that statement, considering it gospel. However, Leonard went on to offer a justification. “If it’s only to create atmosphere, and not a character’s reaction to the weather, you don’t want to go on too long.” Leonard also added an exception—“If you happen to be Barry Lopez, who has more ways than an Eskimo to describe ice and snow in his book Arctic Dreams, you can do all the weather reporting you want.”

Hemingway didn’t adhere to Leonard’s pronouncement either. He wrote to John Dos Passos: “Remember to include the weather in your god damned book—weather is very important.” Going so far as to include a mention of the weather in the opening and in the body of such works as A Very Short Story, In Another Country, and Cross-Country.

Bullet-pointed rules rarely tell the entire story. The nuances of a subject are far better to use as guidance. In Leonard’s case, his apparent state of “never” is in truth a more thoughtful description of when using weather is appropriate.

I admit to employing weather as a tool whenever I can in my writing. I love the emotion invoked by weather. A gentle rain may be soothing or melancholy to a thoughtful character. A blizzard can be cozy and warm in front of a fire or bitter cold and frightening when stranded. Toss in a hurricane, a tornado, an earthquake, or volcano eruption, and you have chaos, fear, and often, heroism. You don’t need a significant weather event to invoke a mood, and that is precisely what the inclusion of weather can do to a story.

Foreshadowing is an invaluable tool in a writer’s arsenal and assists in building suspense. I wrote a character—a photographer—who ventured outside in a light rainstorm to take photographs, not realizing she was being followed. The rain provided a way for me to slow her down and become more aware of her surroundings, consequently becoming suspicious of the situation. Later in the day she went for a run, ominous clouds of a much stronger storm rolled in, and she increased her pace to hurry home. The storm broke before she reached safety and the bad guys following her caught up. As the subsequent scenes played out, the heavy rains remained as a constant, adding to the dark mood of the plot. The rain and later raging storm served to foreshadow the confrontation with the villains.

More than anything, weather can help set the mood of a story. The website Literary Devices defines mood “as a literary element that evokes certain feelings or vibes in readers through words and descriptions.” Mood is attained through setting, theme, word choice, and pacing. 

Setting:

Weather is a component of setting. Its impact is in the extremes of weather—blizzards, tornadoes, monsoons, heat waves—which have a wide-sweeping effect. Remember that even a calm, balmy evening can be integral to your story, but when the weather becomes too commonplace, better to keep the topic in the background as it is in real life.

Theme:

Theme is the message that you want to convey to your readers. The theme can be love, good vs. evil, overcoming odds, survival, heroism, or other emotional experiences. Weather can affect the mood of your theme. The pain of unrequited or lost love could be represented by thunder, lightning, high wind, or rain. Joy could be represented by a sunny, warm day with a gentle breeze.

Word Choice:

The selection of the proper word to use is crucial when writing and when setting a mood. When writing weather, referring to sunlight as bright or brilliant or blinding can convey different meanings.  Referring to the air as hot and dry provides a different environment than calling the air hot and humid. Be cognizant of the impact of the words you use on your reader. One word can make a huge difference in your message.

Pace:

Weather can augment the pacing of your story. Remember that alternating action with quieter narrative is essential. By providing “rest” sections in your story, the reader has a moment to take a breath before you ramp up the action again. Calm weather, even a soft rain or a cool breeze is restful. A powerful storm, an impending tornado, or the occurrence and aftermath of any significant weather event steps up the pace and suspense in your story.

A lesson learned is that all writing tips are not set in stone. There are exceptions to any opinion regardless of the experienced writers’ dictates. Use common sense and know when it is appropriate to follow your instincts. Break the “rule” when necessary but make sure it is for a reason and that it moves your story forward. Begin your story the way it needs to be begun.

Remember, opening with the weather is just fine. After all, “It was a dark and stormy night.”

flash-1043778_640

divider-2

Deborah Ratliff is a Southerner with saltwater in her veins and a love of writing. A career in science and human resources provided the opportunity to write policies/procedures and training manuals, articles, and newsletters but her lifelong love of mystery novels beckoned. Deborah began writing mysteries and her first novel, Crescent City Lies will be published shortly 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 43,600 + members from around the globe.

divider-2

Resources:

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/11/23/writers-in-the-storm

http://j-nelson.net/2015/03/never-open-a-book-with-weather/

https://www.shmoop.com/quotes/it-was-a-dark-and-stormy-night.html

https://literarydevices.net/mood/

 

Lynn Miclea: Comparisons? Stop Comparing!

christmas-2411764_1920

 

Comparisons. We all do it—we compare ourselves to others. Does he write better than me? Is she more successful than I am? And we find that we’re not as good as some, and we are better than others. Or so it seems.

However, this is misleading at best, and dangerous at worst. What we perceive is not always what is really there. And what we compare ourselves to might be an incorrect image built up in our minds, supported by fear and self-doubt.

First, it’s important to understand that each of us is on a different path, our own unique journey. Someone else is on a different path. We have different skills and abilities, we write in different genres, and we aim for a different audience. We have different writing styles, different stories, different characters, and a different voice. So a comparison is not helpful at all.

Second, what we usually end up comparing is our inner insecure selves—our fears and self-doubts, with the perceived outer performance of someone else. However, what we see is the mask they show the world—the accomplishments that they share. That is not a fair comparison. We do not see their inner fears and doubts, which we all have. And we do not often acknowledge or appreciate our own accomplishments, which others may look up to. It’s not an equal comparison, and it never can be. You can’t compare the hidden inner world of one with the visible outer world of another. It just doesn’t work.

And even if someone else is more accomplished than we are, or has published or sold more books, remember that you don’t see how they started. We all start at the beginning—and they most likely started exactly where you are now, and it took many years, struggles, difficulties, and hardships for them to get where they are. No one is an accomplished, successful author at the beginning. So it’s not an equal comparison there, either. You can’t compare a beginner to an experienced person—we all start as beginners. And we all can work our way up to being experienced and successful.

Third, the only person we should compare ourselves to is who we used to be. We are not here to be better than anyone else, but to be better than who we were before. We should strive to improve—and to take pride in that when we do. Have you written a short story or poem? Wonderful! Have you outlined a story in a fantasy world? Excellent! Appreciate and love that! Take pride in it—in every step and accomplishment.

So as for comparisons—they are either inaccurate, inappropriate, or unhelpful. Or all three. My best advice is to let all comparisons go, and simply work on being the best that you can be. And support everyone else in being the best that they can be. There is room for all of us to succeed and do well.

And the best way to get there is to learn as much as you can, keep improving, and take pride in where you are. Enjoy the entire path of writing and publishing, every step along the way, and appreciate each moment. You deserve to be happy, no matter where you are on the journey.

You have unique abilities, unique stories, and a unique voice. No one can tell your story or do it the way you can. You fill a niche no one else can.

So let go of comparisons. Believe in yourself—because you truly are amazing.

Comparisons? They can bring you down. Forget them.

Know that you are awesome!

compare-643305_1920

divider-clipart-divider_line_med

About The Author:

LYNN MICLEA grew up in New York and moved to California while in her twenties. A certified hypnotherapist, Reiki master practitioner, and musician, with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, she has held many jobs but has always loved reading and writing stories.

After retiring, Lynn further pursued her passion for writing, and she is now a successful author with many books published and more on the way.

She has published numerous books of nonfiction (memoirs and self-help guided imagery), and children’s stories (animal stories about kindness and helping others), and is currently publishing several books of fiction (thrillers, paranormal, and romance).

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.

Please visit her website at www.lynnmiclea.com and her blog at www.lynnpuff.wordpress.com.

 

Copyright © 2018 Lynn Miclea. All Rights Reserved.