Writing Contests

Why enter a writing contest one may ask.  Well, it’s simple, sort of.  First, there’s the hopeful feeling that just maybe the piece you entered will win and you’ll have all of those wonderful prizes.

Okay, that said, let’s look at some other reasons.

Writing contests will challenge you in a couple of ways.  Do you have a certain number of words that must be completed in a relatively short period of time?  That will help you concentrate on discipline.  You will have to stay focused; not get side tracked by social media and procrastination (something all of us are guilty of at one time or another).

The awareness you are up against other outstanding writers will or should cause you to strive to write the very best piece you can.  After all, you do want your work to be noticed, do you not?

Contests will force you to become more organized.  You will use your time a little more wisely and if one is in the habit of editing as you go…you’ll need to re-think that.  Not that editing as you go is a bad thing…but sometimes it’s counter-productive and we’ll get into that another time.

So….if you decide to accept the challenge, then go for it.  Win or not, you’ll come away with some positive enforcement and improvement and that’s a very good thing..So, you win anyway.

Happy writing; Happy reading.

A LESSON LEARNED

Today, I had a rude awakening and it sort of hurts.

As we know, our name is our brand.  Anything negative about us will come back to haunt us, sooner or later.

What’s my point?  Well, a friend asked me to help a young writer get started on his first novel.  His name isn’t important.  What is important is what happened.

I contacted the man and introduced myself.  After finding out what he needed to begin, I gave him all the information I could to get him started.  The information was valuable as is my time, but I spent over an hour with him so he could get started writing.

Today, my friend informed me he had blocked her, so in checking, I found out he also blocked me.  This after he took all the information from me that I had given him.  I had given him the tools to organize, gave him pointers, etc.

So, this is what I’ve decided to do.  Will I help anyone asking for help?  Sure!  Will I invest that much time in the beginning?  No.  I’ll give them enough information to get started…then wait and see what they do with it and if they come back and ask for more help.

One bad experience will not define me.  However, his utter lack of respect to the publisher who signed him will define him.  Perhaps he’s finished before he even began and that’s just sad.  Sad for him and maybe for us.  Who knows?  He could have been a great author and I do wish him success, but he now has a black mark against the brand he has yet to develop.  Those are hard to get rid of.

WRITING PROGRAMS

Good morning all!

I decided to take a moment and chat about writing programs.

We all have our favorites.  Mine happens to be yWriter5.  Why?  Well, I’ll tell you.  First, once you become accustomed to it, it’s a snap.  This program has eliminated almost all of those pesky sticky notes I used to keep track of character names, interviews with the characters, locations, items used, and yes, at one time I did use a story board.  Now thanks to yWriter5 I have all of that at my fingertips.

Another great thing is that in using yWriter5 you are able to break down your work into chapters and then break down the chapters into scenes.

Why is that great?  Well, if you’re at all like me, once the work is finished and editing begins, maybe that scene in chapter six would work better in chapter three, for example.  It’s a simple matter of moving that scene where you want it.

Another great feature is this…once you have the scene where you want it, all you have to do is highlight is and copy and paste to say a Word program.

Does it add more work?  Yeah, maybe in the beginning, but it sure helps bring your work together faster in the long run and makes editing so much easier.

Now, I’ve tried just writing my books in Word and going from there and it was a disaster for me…and then add in all those pesky notes lying around…well, it was a real mess.

Now, I’m not saying this is going to work for everybody just because it works for me.  Find your own way, but for Heaven’s sake write!

One last thing.  yWriter5 is a free program and let’s face it…free is always good!

Happy Writing!

Karen

NOT BASHING…HONEST!

It’s been a few days since I blogged.  I don’t like blogging unless I have something helpful to say.  That being said, I’d like to put out a warning.

I have a friend…her name is Tammy and she’s a fabulous writer.  Her book, Whispering Promises is a great read.

So, what’s my point?  Hang on, I’m getting there.  See, Tammy got roped in and published her book with Publish America.  Here’s the rub.  She has sold thousands copies of the books, has great reviews and in the four years since her book came out has not received one…that’s right folks…she has not received ONE royalty check.

The powers that be claim she has not sold even one copy.  We know this to be false.

Take heed, folks.  Obviously this is not a reputable company…and I thank the fates that I did not go with them when Redemption was ready to be published.

Oh, and just so we’re clear…another author who I am proud to call friend as well published with them, too.  He wasn’t thrilled with them, either.

So, steer clear of these cretins.  We work too hard on our books to be ripped off like Tammy and Harry were.

That’s all I’ve got to say.

Happy Reading!  Happy Writing!

It’s a great life!

K

Three NEVERS of Social Media for Writers

This was just too damn good not to reblog!

Kristen Lamb's Blog

Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 9.01.42 AM

These three professional blunders can hang on like the smell of dead fish and stink up our author career, so avoid them at all cost. I understand that many of you who follow this blog are new, so if you’ve made one of these mistakes, you’re learning. We all oops (especially in the beginning), so don’t sweat it. Yet, I see these three behaviors far more often than I’d like.

You’ve been warned ;).

NEVER Be Nasty in a Blog Comment

I am fully aware that my blog can’t make everyone happy. I work my tail off to entertain and enlighten but I know I can’t be all things to all people. If I’m not your cup of tea? Just click the unsubscribe button at the bottom of the e-mail WordPress sends you or e-mail me and I will happily assist you leaving (and cry later *sniffles*).

There is no need for…

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Writing a Great Mystery

I found this on Create Space and thought I would add it to my blog.

This piece is full of excellent tips.  That’s all I’m gonna say about it right now.  Read it, learn from it…and Happy Writing.

Mystery author Agatha Christie is the best-selling writer in the history of writing, having sold over 4 billion copies to date. Her play The Mousetrap opened in London in 1952 and is still running after 25,000 performances.

You too can be a part of this rich genre. Mystery is central to human thinking. What happened and why? This is the core idea to most great novels.

But let’s start small. Hone your skill with short mystery stories less than ten pages in length. Then consider tackling your own novel.

  • #1 – Start with the Ending

Initially, spend all of your time crafting the finish. Your story will be no good if it doesn’t end with a wham. Every word and paragraph leading up to the finale will be for nothing if you don’t leave the reader wowed.

Your conclusion must be surprising. Like a good roller coaster, it should make your readers lean in one direction and then whip them around. So think about the unexpected. Ask essential questions about your crime and criminal.

  • What is creative and devious about the crime?
  • Who did it?
  • What is the motive?
  • What is the method?
  • Why is it surprising that your criminal did it?
  • Who is the obvious (and false) guilty party?

Envision your final scene. Your sleuth discovers and reveals the last clues in a dramatic and entertaining fashion. Your criminal is exposed. The metaphorical curtain drops and the crowd applauds. Hearts should be pumping.

If you can’t feel this concluding moment and aren’t excited to get there, get back to work on until you have a finish line worth crossing.

Once you have your finale, build your fictional machinery to carry your readers there.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had Sherlock Holmes. Agatha Christie had Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot. You need a lead character to build around. Craft one right and readers will want to read the next adventure.

Free-write on every aspect of your character. The sleuth will flavor the entire story, so know the person well.

  • Are they a professional investigator or an amateur in the right (or wrong) place and time?
  • How do they dress? How do they move? How does this reveal the person underneath? Give them a signature style.
  • What is their method of investigation? Do they interview and ask lots of questions? Are they a quiet observer with sharp intuition?
  • Are they like you? Imagining yourself as the hero of your story can be great fun, but so can channeling a very different character.
  • How do they talk? Write a conversation for them and develop a unique form. Write an inner dialogue and understand how they think.
  • Do you want to use first or third person narration?

You may want a super-intelligent, physically gifted wonder-detective, but be sure to have a character with balance. A perfect person with no flaws is tough for readers to relate to. A human with weaknesses and foibles will gain more empathy. A signature wrinkle, like being distracted by sweets or overly trustful of children, will give you a lovable and entertaining lead character.

  • #3 – The Clues

Looking again at the conclusion of your story, compose a list of clues for you sleuth and reader to discover. Consider the order of discovery. What is the final clue that ties it all together? What clues are meaningless alone, but together with the other items becomes important? Show the readers something early that they won’t take note of. Then, when another element of your mystery is revealed, that something becomes a big thing and it was right there all along.

If you have an imperfect sleuth, he or she might have overlooked something the reader did see. Then your reader watches the sleuth proceed in the wrong direction. You can also do the opposite: have the sleuth two steps ahead of the reader. Your audience is wondering what your investigator is up to before realizing the truth.

Be sure to lay out some false clues. This will help you draw your reader and sleuth in the wrong direction so you can surprise them in the end. Make them feel foolish for following a false lead. Make a trail that leads to the wrong culprit, the obvious choice, and then drop a clue showing why the person is innocent or even framed.

  • #4 – The Setting

Every element of your story should contribute to your theme. Begin with the place. City or country? A mystery in a crowded metropolis must deal with a multitude of potential witnesses and suspects. One taking place in a less populated area has fewer possibilities, but greater interaction among the people. Everyone knows everyone in a small town.

Ten people in the same mansion is a classic setting. So is a locked-room mystery, where it seems obvious no one could have done it. Think about how the place, large or small, and the people affect the conclusion of your story.

You choose the elements on which to focus. Do you write about the gargoyles to create an eerie mood? If you describe in detail the types of door-knobs in the house, be sure it is important to the story. Do the hinges squeak or the floors creak? Only note this to illustrate how difficult it is to sneak around in your house.

Is the weather essential? Flashes of lightning and booming thunder may be dramatic, but be sure not to be cliché. Nasty weather can keep your characters isolated, ensuring muddy footprints will follow anyone back inside. You could contrast the perfect weather of a tropical setting with devious, evil actions.

When you rewrite, notice if you wander onto an unimportant tangent. No one cares about the bowl of fruit on the table if it isn’t poisoned. Keep your writing tight and focused on your finish.

  • #5 – Be Yourself

Mystery is a very dense genre, with many famous authors, sleuths, side-kicks and styles. But this is your story. Don’t try to follow another’s footsteps too closely.

Write a mystery the way no one else has. Use bright, imaginative language and your unique rhythm. If you don’t have fun writing, no one will have fun reading. Be excited to move toward your conclusion. Enjoy hanging out with your characters, especially your main one. Love reading your drafts aloud and savor the taste of the language.

Create a signature style for yourself. Do you want choppy, terse sentences? Lots of snappy dialogue or more internal monologue? Do you want the sleuth to take the reader on a journey, revealing his or her thought process? Or is your detective also a mystery, always moving ahead with your reader chasing?

Know that this can become a series. Develop a method and be organized so you can make another. For the next adventure of Detective X, have a different crime and criminal, but use the same rhythm and style. Build a following of loving readers.

Thank you Create Space!  You always have great content!

WHEN IT HITS

Hi everyone and Happy Holidays to you all.

That said…time to get down to the nitty gritty.

The title says, “When it hits”  and you’re wondering what I’m talking about.  Well, wait no longer.

When it hits you that you are indeed a writer.  Suddenly, you’re looking at a piece you wrote or a book you labored on and it hits you, “Oh my God!!!  I’m a writer.”

Who can deny that cold feeling in the pit of your stomach as the realization sinks in?  The realization that your work is out there for folks to read can be a little daunting, to say the least and with that comes the uncertainty.  Will they like it?  Do I have more to offer?  Where do I go with this?

Well, first things first.  Breathe.  Then step back and take stock.  Take a moment to congratulate yourself.  Now, get back to work.

A writer is many things.  Articulate?  Yes.  Imaginative?  Of course.  We’re also only as good as our last work.  So, climb back into the saddle and get back to work.

Self-published or traditionally published makes no difference, and with the changing times, self-published is as good as those traditionally published.  So, again, congratulate yourself, then get back to work.  Don’t let the uncertainty gnaw at you.

Do the best work you can…give your readers something to rave about and keep on telling yourself, “Wow, I’m a writer.”

That’s an awesome thing to admit.  You’re a writer.  You’ve followed your dream.  Good for you.  Forge your own path and keep on going.

You’re a writer!  Awesome!!!

Sample Chapter

Four

Jake rolled into his drive and climbed wearily from his car.  Even though it was his day off, it had been a long one.  Parts of it, though, had been entertaining.  He was especially fond of the times he lit Jill’s fire.  No shrinking violet there, he thought.  He didn’t know why that pleased him.  It just did, and he was too tired to think about it.

What he wanted now was a little ESPN and a little peace and quiet, although seeing his mother move about in the kitchen he doubted he’d get much of that.

“Did you eat?”

“Yeah.  Mary Lee made her famous barbeque and took it over to the new neighbor’s.”  He wished he could have bit his tongue off.

“Is that where you’ve been?  What’s she like?  Is she married?  C’mon.  Give up the details.”

Jake sighed.  Better to answer her, he thought, than have her hound him hairless.

“That’s where I’ve been.  She’s divorced, has two kids who are appealing as hell in spite of their ornery mother and she’s planning on turning the place into a riding camp among other things.”

There, he thought, hopefully that would keep his mother off his back for a while.

He was wrong.

“I think I’ll bake a pie and take it over first thing in the morning.”

“Ma. . . .”  Jake said and then snapped his mouth shut.  It would do him very little good to try to discourage his mother.

“Never mind.  You’re gonna do what you’re gonna do.”  He stalked into the living room and flipped on ESPN.  He hoped his mother would leave him alone.

His hopes died as she followed him into the room.

“You know Jake, you are always comparing the women you meet with your ex-wife.  Not all women are like Rhonda.  She was a real piece of work.  Greed, lazy and a natural born liar are her trademarks.  Now you’ve got another one, just like her after your hide.  I would hate to see you alone, but I’d hate it more if you teamed up with that nasty Steffi Brandt.”

“Ma, Rhonda is part of my past.  I’d like to leave her there.  As far as seeing Steffi.  . .  we’ve gone out a few times, but there’s nothing there, so don’t worry.  We’re friends.’

Helen Logan snorted at her son.  “If you believe that, you’re just stupid.  I’m gonna go make that pie and check out our new neighbor.”

“Ma!  What on earth would I do with another woman in my life,” he walked over and kissed the top of her head.  “I have you to drive me nuts.  Now, I’m going to sit here, watch some sports, and then head off to bed.  Zach elected me to give him a hand over at the new neighbor’s.”

Helen patted his cheek and headed for the kitchen.  As she rolled out her pie dough, a small smile played around her lips.

She thought tomorrow would be rather interesting.

The storm woke Jill.  She reached for her phone and flipped it on, checking the time.  Great!  Three in the damn morning!

Thunder rolled and lightening sizzled outside her window.  She decided it would be wise to check the house, make sure all is secure.

Climbing out of bed, she snagged her robe from the back of a chair and securing the belt, made her way into her sitting room.

Her cell phone buzzed and she checked the display, a grimace of distaste flashing across her face.

“What do you want and how did you get this number?” she barked into the phone.

“Heard you got yourself a real nice house and some big plans,” Noah slurred.  “You owe me, Jillian.  You owe me big.  You give me twenty grand and I’ll forget your number and the fact you have my daughters.”

Jill laughed into the phone.  “Threats, Noah?  I don’t owe you a blessed thing and if you actually believe I’m going to give you money on the hope you forget about us, then you are delusional.”

“Your pal the judge made damn sure I didn’t get a dime, Jillian.  I went through a lot to get that money.  Earned every penny and you’re gonna give it to me.”  Jill caught the danger in his voice.

“You earned it?”  Her own voice became deadly quiet.  Had Noah started that fire?  Was he responsible?

Noah said nothing for several seconds and she thought she lost the call until his laughter rang harshly in her ear.

“I earned it putting up with you and those two squalling brats.  You sucked as a wife, Jillian.  Always whining about money.  You hoarded it.  Never wanted me to have any fun.  Oh yeah, Jillian.  You owe me and I’ll be around to collect.  Don’t disappoint me.”

“Sure, you do that, Noah and I’ll have your ass tossed in the slammer so fast your head will spin!  Get this and remember it!  I don’t owe you anything!  I’m not afraid of you!  Don’t call here again!  Don’t contact the girls!  Just stay away or you will greatly wish you had!”

He was still sputtering as she terminated the call.

She realized that her words were true.  She didn’t fear him.

Sighing, she got to her feet, intending to check on her daughters.

The storm raging outside was nothing compared to the storm raging within her.

Worrying her thumbnail, she walked into her daughters’ room, wanting to be sure the storm didn’t disturb them.

Charlie raised his head, gave a half-hearted thump with his tail, and snuggled back on his paws.

Jill was relieved to see the girls sound asleep, Bree snuggled into her blankets in her usual curled up position and Megan sprawled all over her bed.

Jill tucked the blankets around Megan and wandered back to her room in search of some aspirin.  That call from Noah upset her more than she cared to admit.

She would, of course tell Marcus about the phone call, but it worried her.  How did he know these things?

She found some aspirin and dry swallowed them, and then snuggled into her bed.

The storm thrilled her.  It was cozy in her nest of pillows with the plump quilt cradling her.  The knowledge that her own walls surrounded her thrilled her even more than the storm.

The rain beat tiny fists against the windows while thunder rolled and lightening sizzled.  The wind, tore at the doors with such ferocity, Jill raised her head and looked, expecting to see them blow open.

Lightening flashed and she bolted upright in bed.  Her stomach clenched and fear raced up her spine with clammy hoofs.

Standing at her doors was the figure of a man.  A slightly built man.  Every inch of the man threw out rage.

In the glare of lightening, she could see his hands clenched at his sides, his legs spread wide, and his feet planted as if to do battle.

“Not Noah,” she whispered.  “Too short, to slight to be Noah.”  She didn’t know why that calmed her, but it did.

She bolted from her bed, racing toward the door wanting to check the bolt, but in the next lightening flash, she could see the man was gone.

Terrified now, she ran into her daughters’ room and checked the doors.  She did the same, checking on her guests.

Marcus and Devin, alerted by her running feet emerged from their rooms.  Jill, almost colliding into them let out a small scream.

“My God!  You two scared the life out of me!”

Marcus looked bemused.  “May we ask why you’re tearing from room to room like a crazy woman?”

Jill took their hands and led them further down the hall, not wanting to risk the children hearing her.

“I was almost asleep,” she whispered.  “It sounded like the wind was going to tear the doors off leading from the verandah into my room.  I raised my head and in the lightening, I could see a man standing at the door.”  Jill took a deep breath.  ”It wasn’t Noah.  He called.  Noah called earlier.  I was going to tell you in the morning.  This wasn’t Noah.  He was too short, too slight.”

Marcus and Devin exchanged glances.  Jill wasn’t exactly a fanciful woman.

“I didn’t imagine this.  He was standing out there!  I know what I saw!”

Marcus patted her shoulder.  “I believe you, sweetie.  Calm down.  We’ll discuss this in the morning.  Vinia and I will be staying over until Monday.  I mean to get to the courthouse and file the necessary papers.  I am curious about one thing.  How did Noah get this number?  Would one of the girls have given it to him?”

Jill shook her head.  “They won’t speak to him.  I’d know.  Bree may not tell me, but Megan would spill the beans.”           Marcus sighed.  “I’ll get his number from you tomorrow.  I’ll have someone run his number and find out who he’s been talking to.”  He hugged Jill tight.  “We’ll get to the bottom of this, but for tonight, let’s try to get a little more sleep.”

Devin patted her cheek on his way back to his room.  “Try not to worry, kiddo.  Dad will get to the bottom of this, but I think you should consider getting an alarm system in here.  Just to be on the safe side.  Ya know?”

Jill waited until the two men returned to their rooms and then did a last sweep through the house.

Knowing everything was secure; Jill returned to her room and fell into a fitful sleep dreaming of Noah chasing her and the girls, a large blade flashing.

HOW HARD IS IT?

How hard can it be?  You just sit and make stuff up and write it down, right?

How many times have we heard that…or variations of the same?

They just don’t get it.  They don’t understand the hours of research that can and often times will go into a project.  They don’t understand the search for the right word or phrase.  They have no understanding how difficult it can be to paint pictures with words AND they don’t understand the re-writing and editing process.

Non-writers don’t get it.  Should we be angry about their lack of understanding?  Well, no.  It’s not their fault.  Maybe the most they have ever written was that theme in grade school…so they, the non-writers, forget how difficult it was to write a theme of perhaps, 100 words or so.

So, when a non-writer asks, “How hard is it?”  Grit your teeth…take a deep breath and pray for patience so you won’t choke the ever lovin’ snot out of the questioner.  Smile and say…”Harder than you think.”

Don’t elaborate.  They won’t get it.

Stay Calm…Happy Writing and Happy Reading!

K

BLOGS

Okay..I admit it.  I’m still new to this blogging stuff, but I’m beginning to see how important it is.

Writers love to share our ideas.  It’s the reason we became writers.  Blogging, on the other hand is a whole different animal.

So, this is what I think about blogging.

First…don’t blog just to blog.  You’ll lose any credibility you may have.

Second…try to keep them short.  Folks don’t have a whole lot of time to spare to read long blogs…BUT the exception would be interviews.  If you have an interview or choose to re-blog an interview…that’s wonderful and a great way to get your own ideas across.

Third…slow and steady is best.  All of us would love to have tons of folks follow our blogs…and I believe it will come a little at a time.  So, be patient.  All good things comes to those who wait.

Fourth…and maybe this is the most important…have fun with it.  If it gets to be a drag and is no longer fun it’s going to reflect on your content.

These are my thoughts, anyway.

Sooooo….Happy Blogging, Happy Writing and Happy Reading.