Monthly Archives: May 2014

How do I love thee? For writers here are ten tips on process to show we love our work of writing

In March Brunonia Barry posted these tips on writers unboxed.com. The precise URL for this wonderful website appears below:

(You) »

10 Tips about Process

to do list

So recently, when guest speaking at a college creative writing class, I was asked for ten writing tips I’d like to pass along to students. My first impulse was to run screaming from the building, but, when I thought more about it, I realized that the one sure thing I’ve gained in knowledge is an understanding of my own writing process, something I didn’t have a clue about while working on my first two novels.

Today, I thought I’d pass those tips along. I’m not suggesting you adopt them, just telling you what works for me.  After you read, I hope you’ll share some tips of your own.

1. Ask the question, but don’t necessarily answer it: “What if?” is almost always the question that inspires my stories. As I work, I usually find that this initial, situational question leads to a deeper, more philosophical one, which becomes the theme of the novel. I don’t try to answer that deeper question. I don’t presume that I could. I hate to see the ego of the writer in a story, and I’m not fond of stories that tie things up too neatly.  Certainly plot must be resolved and characters must arc, but I believe that writing and reading are collaborative, and I leave the larger question for my readers to answer for themselves.

2. Write a mess of a first draft and never show it to anyone:  The initial pages I write are almost always discarded, but somewhere among them, I discover the beginning of my story. The first draft is where I begin to hear the voice of the main character and allow myself to follow her for a while, never knowing where she might lead. If I thought I had to show those pages to anyone, I’d probably stop writing. I think first drafts should be messy, like finger painting. When I finally finish the book, I burn them.

3. Write detailed biographies for every character: For me, character creates story, so I always do this first. If I get stuck, I generally find the answer by going back to the biography. As I write each character’s backstory, I sometimes try to become that character, as an actor might do to prepare for a role, venturing out and behaving as the character would. Warning: This kind of behavior can cause a number of problems, depending on who your character is and where you live, so, if you try it, be careful. In my town (Salem, MA), just about anything goes. People barely notice, or, if they do, they’re not mentioning it to me.

4. Listen to the Characters: What does each character want? What’s keeping her from getting it? If I put the right characters in a situation and understand what motivates them, the plot seems to develop naturally. If I’m trying to control the outcome instead of listening, the story always falls flat.

5. Treat place as Character: I create biographies for location, asking and answering the same questions I would ask my human characters.

6. Is the action of the book in the right order?  This is a weak point for me. Sometimes I find myself writing very fast, following an idea in order to capture it. When I look back, the progression of paragraphs almost always needs reordering. Or, I might have a character skipping steps by taking an action early on that shouldn’t happen until later in the story, a sure way to leave the character with no options going forward.

7. Study psychology: I always say that if I hadn’t been a writer, I would have wanted to be a psychologist.A great deal of my leisure reading is about human psychology. For me, this has been an invaluable tool for character development.

8. Outline, but not too early. Then follow the outline:  I don’t outline until I’m well into the first draft and certain I know my characters well enough to understand their motivations. If I outline too early, I become blocked.

9. Rewrite, Rewrite, Rewrite: I’m never happier than when I’m revising. There may be bits of good writing that come earlier, even ones that inspire the story in the first place, but the poetry, if there is any, comes at this stage for me. There is something about having the initial story down on paper and knowing that it holds together that frees up my creativity.

10. Read aloud: I do this at least three times with different groups of trusted readers. First: to see if the story works. Does it flow? Do the characters ring true? The second time I read for rhythm: Is the dialogue of each character unique? Does the rhythm vary? The third time I read for continuity: Have the changes I’ve made necessitated other changes that I’ve neglected? This is something I have to watch carefully.  I once changed a character’s birthday, which resulted in a pregnancy that lasted 15 months. Hopefully, this third reading is where I catch and correct that very embarrassing kind of error.

That’s what works for me (Brunonia). What about your process? Do you have any tips to share?http://writerunboxed.com/2014/03/31/10-tips-about-process/        Brunonia is asking that , but I would hope you would share your tips with my readers in the comments section here as well.

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Heading for Winston Salem!

So, exciting news! MyShort Story “The World Turned Upside Down” has won 2nd Place in the Winston-Salem Writers 2014 Anthology Contest.
I am going to Winston to read it at their meeting on June 14. Also exciting! This is a story that my critique group really helped with–thank you , all of you!

Merriment for May

CottonGrovelimoII

We writers get many rejections, so no wonder we become giddy with joy when success smiles on us.

My poem, “Falling Shells” was just accepted by Poetry Quarterly/Prolific Press.
My short story “Cottonwood Grove” is going to be included in a Cane Hollow Press anthology of Westerns. That short story is also available as a single story on Amazon
http://www.amazon.com/Cottonwood-Grove-Joan-Leotta-ebook/dp/B00JETLR1O/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1400443655&sr=8-1&keywords=Joan+Leotta+Cottonwood

 

Cottonwood Grove teaser

A century and a half ago, three Shoshone youths were killed in a cottonwood grove… a grove that, generations later, still seems to be imbued with their spirits. Now the new foreman of the Shoshone-owned Triple Dagger Ranch, Will Johnston, has found a dead body in the grove… killed with an antique Shoshone knife. Will’s boss, Jim Many Elks, has been framed for the killing -can Will solve the mystery and clear his friend?CottonGrovelimoII

Click to open expanded view

Take a Tour with C. Hope Clark

One of the best ways to sell your books, or perform is to go where people love books and story performance–libraries.

As a writer, I have given talks on my books and on writing in various libraries but have never gone about planning a tour of libraries around a state. One of the best bloggers, and a superb author of three mysteries has taken her brand on tour in a big way. C. Hope Clark.

I have followed her newsletter for almost the entire time she has been writing it! She is definitely one of my writing heroines. Recently she offered to provide a blog entry for those of her fans who asked. I requested a blog on touring libraries , hoping it would help all of you, who like me, struggle with marketing. Graciously, C. Hope Clark responded affirmatively and send the wonderful how-to article below.

Thank you! And for those of you out there looking for something to read, do sample her Carolina Slade mysteries!

Authors Touring Libraries

C. Hope Clark

Authors have a deep respect for librarians. As a child, I saw librarians as gatekeepers; guardians to all the knowledge in the world. Today many think of the Internet as the gatekeeper to reading material, but the Internet cannot think, advise, or open doors to new worlds like a librarian. So when I’m asked to speak at a library, I jump at the chance, as should most authors.

But how does one land a library gig?

Library opportunities come about through a myriad of ways. No two libraries are alike, just as no two librarians think the same. As a result, there is no one way to acquire a library opportunity, but we can discuss several.

Know somebody. Believe it or not, this is the easiest method to receive an invitation to speak. The majority of my library invitations come about via regular library members who ask the library to feature me. Librarians know their customers and pay attention to their needs, and those familiar faces can break the ice easier than your cold call.

Librarians as Readers. Two library events of mine originated because the librarian was a mystery fan. Upon hearing about one of my new releases, they contacted me. Yes, your librarians are avid readers, so pay attention to their likes, too. Chat with them. They don’t bite.

Friends of the Library. Libraries usually have a Friends of the Library (FOL) group to assist the library in meeting the needs of readers. They are a nonprofit organization and love to assist with library events. Not only can they ease your entrance into a library’s inner sanctum, but they may also invite you to events of their own. One of the best presentation experiences in my writing career involved my role as keynote speaker for the Newberry County Friends of the Library in South Carolina. Consider joining all the Friends of the Library groups in your town or county.

The Library Family. Libraries belong to a county, city or regional system. In my state, the libraries are usually categorized in a county system. For instance, I recently spoke at the Surfside Beach Library in Horry County which contains ten libraries in its system. A library assistant at Surfside made contact with the other libraries, recommending me for their programs. Libraries will trust each other’s judgment, so ask a librarian you trust to put in a good word for you at other locations.

Send a Packet. Go to http://www.publiclibraries.com to find all the libraries in your state, then send them an introductory packet, requesting to be placed on their agenda. Make sure you give them great ideas on what you can talk about.

Why speak at libraries?
The reasons are many, even though a library may not purchase a large volume of your books. Let’s explore a few of them.

Librarians are trusted, and their recommendations carry weight to many readers.

Libraries can purchase your books, and requests for your book dictates how m any copies they buy.

Libraries can introduce a new author to the world. To prime that pump, donate one book and offer to give an appearance.

Libraries feature special programs. Ask to play a part, whether it’s a program that involves several authors or just you. Make suggestions. Let them know you care and want their programs to be popular and successful. Ask them what they need and see if you can fill that want.

How do libraries impact book sales?

Book sales may be difficult to measure, because sales don’t consist of how many books you sell at a speaking invitation. Sure, you may sell a handful at your face-to-face event, but there’s a residual effect that continues after you leave.

Avid readers talk to each other, and these readers congregate at libraries, at Friends of the Library events, at programs, and in reading groups. Ten people may attend your speaking event, but each of them may tell five others. And if the library doesn’t carry enough copies of your book, then those readers may purchase instead.

When someone reads one of your books available at the library, and falls in love with your story, they may then decide to purchase your other books in support of you or simply to have a book the library doesn’t carry. And they may then suggest the library stock the book.

How to afford a library tour.

Libraries are not wealthy. Some will compensate an author and others won’t. Here are a few ideas on how to set up and afford a library tour.

Connect via the Friends of the Library (FOL). They often have the deeper pockets, and if they sponsor your event, you might walk away with an honorarium or travel expense.

Start close to home. Connect with all the libraries in your region first, keeping expenses down. Gather great testimonials from those librarians to help you reach further.

Charge a per person fee. If the event you propose is strong enough, maybe including a meal, workshop, or other performance, you might suggest the library, or FOL, feature a more widely advertised special event and charge admission.

Sell books at the event. Clarify well in advance if you wish to sell books. Many libraries have restrictions in this regard, and knowing ahead of time can avoid miscommunication.

Libraries remember authors, and librarians recommend them to readers. Stand near the checkout desk of most library long enough and you’ll hear the person behind the counter suggest a book or author. As a matter of fact, at the last library event I attended, the librarian had read my books, and immediately gave me two authors’ names who wrote along the same vein that I did. Their minds are like the libraries themselves, with mental shelves of titles and topics at the ready, to best direct a reader to the best stories.

BIO: C. Hope Clark is author of the Carolina Slade Mystery Series, covering rural crime the average urban dweller could never comprehend. http://www.chopeclark.com She is also editor of an award-winning website for writers – http://www.fundsforwriters.com – chosen by Writer’s Digest for its 101 Best Websites for Writers for the past 14 years.

Anthology!

My short story, egidio decides to fish, has been accepted by the sisters in crime anthology, fish or cut bait!
Excitement!

So, sick on Friday–late post

some promo and some fresh thoughts

Promo–an editor and I were chatting and she sent me the url for a story of mine she published (that had been previously published by Crimestalker Casebook…The Dead Lady’s Coat

Kings River Life–I may go ahead and promo it again http://kingsriverlife.com/05/08/the-dead-ladys-coat/

Am reading an interesting book on the art of listening. Will report more on this one later!