Writing

"A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people." ~ Thomas Mann

When Your Work Gets Stolen

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I have been following the plagiarism case that has turned author Rachel Ann Nunes’ life upside down. In a most angering and frustrating set of developments, a third grade schoolteacher, Tiffanie Rushton, stole a book of Rachel’s, copy and pasted it, changed the names and a couple words in each paragraph, added porn, and self-published it. At least one other plagiarism incident of Rushton’s is known wherein she stole the true and painfully written essay of an injured soldier and put it in an erotica book, horrifically upsetting the soldier and his family. She then used the names of several of her own students to create sock puppets to cyberbully Rachel Ann Nunes and others who supported her.

Rachel is fighting this case in the courts, but it is costing her her life savings, which she expects to never recover. She is doing it to stand up for all of us authors who could become victims of such a crime. But here’s what you may not know and WE ALL NEED TO KNOW. Many of us believe that, as long as we own a copyright and it’s registered with the Library of Congress, we’re all set. We could easily win any case of plagiarism against us. While that is true, in most cases, that justice would not come without a very heavy price, monetarily and, as a result, mentally. Rachel explains it succinctly, from her own personal experience, here. 

Please learn about her case if you haven’t, and consider donating WHATEVER YOU CAN to this very important cause. Taking a stand for Rachel is taking a stand for all writers.

 

“The Rule of Thoughts” Book Launch With James Dashner


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The Rule of Thoughts, sequel to The Eye of Minds by James Dashner, launched on August 26, and the author chose to spend his launch day at OUR Barnes & Noble. I have a son who loves his books and was so excited to see him in person, and Dashner did not disappoint. He spoke to the full house audience about the major motion picture The Maze Runner opening September 19, which is based on his New York Times bestselling book. It’s highly unusual for an author to be pleased with a movie adaptation of his book. According to Dashner’s agent, the best he can hope for is that the author “won’t hate it”. But Dashner’s overwhelming excitement and endorsement for The Maze Runner movie came through so loud and clear that we can’t wait for it. He spoke of his involvement with the project from consulting on the script to visiting the set to being present for the recording of the soundtrack. He is pleased with how well the movie sticks to the book, while also being impressed with how some parts of the book had to be made more visual for a movie audience.

Question-and-answer time followed, which spurred him to talk a lot about the writing process. He nailed it when he said we writers are “insane in the brain”. For me, it was intense fun to hear him say all the same things I feel as a writer: that we develop our characters based on parts of every person we see and meet, every conversation we hear, every mannerism we notice in others; that we can sit in front of the keyboard for an hour trying to come up with the next words, then put our fingers on the keyboard and suddenly something just pours out that was totally unplanned but spectacular; that we love all of our characters, even the bad ones, and we feel all the emotions our characters feel. He even said that he visualizes his books as movies as he’s writing them and so writes in a cinematic way, just as I do. Writing can be a very lonely endeavor, so to hear that James Dashner experiences all the same things I do created such a unifying, feel-good moment for me.

Check out his latest book, The Rule of Thoughts.

 

Suspend Their Disbelief

The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo

Back in the mid-‘90s, I really enjoyed The Bridges of Madison County, a bestselling book at the time that resulted in a good movie as well. What’s surprising is that everything about it was stuff I normally wouldn’t like. It was a romance, and those are always cheesy to me because it’s always women authors writing about how they would like romance to be, not how it is. Interestingly, this one was written by a man, Robert James Waller. It concerned adultery, a detestable subject. And the premise was completely unrealistic—the idea that a couple could meet and only spend four days together and never see or hear of each other again and it would have such a profound effect on them every day for the rest of their lives. The fact that Waller could, in spite of those three elements, suspend my disbelief and make me like it and even remember it twenty years later, THAT’S writing. And that’s the standard to which we should rise in our own writing. If your goal is to become a bestselling author, you must strive to suspend the disbelief of not only your target audience, or your “ideal reader”, but also those who don’t think they would like your book to begin with. Sure, it’s a challenge, but if you’re like me, it’s a challenge that totally excites you. Happy writing!

The Difference Five Minutes Can Make

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It’s quite an enviable accomplishment to write a book, right? I mean, for all the millions of people who say they could write a book, or who intend to write a book, very few actually carry out the thing to its end. So those few who do complete such a noble task must care a lot about the quality of their work…you would think.

I recently used the Look Inside feature on Amazon to check out someone’s first book, a self-published work, which they had proudly announced. The punctuation in the dialogue was all wrong, blatant errors, all the way through the pages displayed. What so bothered me about that was, how easy would it have been to pick up a book within arm’s reach (we all have one that close, or almost I hope) and just flip through the pages to see how dialogue is punctuated in professionally made books? Five minutes–that’s all it would have taken, if that. We’re not talking about researching Middle Ages battle strategy in Russia here. And if the author was writing about such, I might question the validity of their claims based on the care she did not take in learning about punctuation, or having it checked by someone.

Further, if this author has a desire to attract attention of a professional nature, she may have just killed it, and that’s too bad. Your book is your baby. You can afford five minutes–most would argue far more than that–to make sure you get the basics right. Honestly, it’s that easy.

 

What Every Editor Wants to Tell You

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Be forewarned—I’m on one today. But I bet anyone who works with Joe Q. Public will silently nod in agreement at this. I get lots of queries on a daily basis about editing. I answer every one as briefly and quickly as possible because, as they say, time is money. 🙂 That’s what they say anyway. So I thought maybe I could answer some queries ahead of time with this post.

And now, for your reading enjoyment, here are my pet peeves:
1) Authors who don’t read my Eagle Eye page and ask for services I said I didn’t provide.
2) Students who ask me to do their assignment for them (refer to #1). Stop wasting Daddy’s money and get yourself educated so in the future you don’t have to deal with…people like yourself.
3) Students (and some business people) who had the assignment for weeks but waited too long and expect me to put them ahead of others in the queue and edit their project in the next six hours. (Refer to #2 part B).

And if you’ve read this far, rest assured, I love you all!

Where Do I Start My Story?

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Recently I watched the film “The Pursuit of Happyness” again with my son. It’s based on the true rags-to-riches story of entrepreneur Chris Gardner. I had remembered the story as nothing but inspirational, but on a repeat viewing, I was starkly reminded that it’s quite depressing…until the very end. But the end is spectacular enough to make watching two hours of his misery VERY worthwhile. In fact, it’s the unabashed portrayal of his year of tribulation that makes the ending as satisfying as it is. My son made the comment, “I’m glad they ended it where they did, right when his troubles ended and he got the great job” the one that set him on the path to multi-millionaire status. I had to agree. It was best to stop right when he reached his goal (to give the viewers hope that things like that could happen for them) rather than go beyond into that wealthy sphere that would’ve disconnected Chris Gardner from the lives of most viewers. The viewer didn’t want a fantasy; they wanted to see something that would inspire them to seek their own goals and the ability to achieve them.

And that put me in mind of an important concept in story writing. Where you begin and end your story is every bit as important as the story itself. Look at your main characters’ lives with all their “big moments”. By sliding your timeline even slightly forward or backward, you can significantly change the feel of your story. What message do you want to get across with your story? Where in your characters’ lives are their greatest trials and triumphs? Where does their story really begin? And, as tempting as it is to keep a good thing going, know where you need to stop, so that your readers are left with satisfaction and great memories of a well-told story.

Write With Feeling!

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Fact: Writers are feeling people. We’re the HSPs of society, the Highly Sensitive People. We feel emotions strongly and must express them. But sadly, for some writers, something gets lost between the brain and the keyboard. All those great thoughts get diluted so that the resulting words become empty and devoid of feeling. And that usually translates to boring.

I don’t get a huge kick out of reading horror, but when I recently edited a client’s book, I was completely unmoved by his bland wording, (“blood gushed out” about every three lines) such that I forgot I was even reading horror. In short, I was not appalled. And I should’ve been.

If you want to gross people out with your writing, write directions to the nearest landfill. But if you want to horrify and frighten people to their innermost core, you need to do more than colorfully describe what a situation looks like. You need to drill into their soul with words loaded with feeling. Same with romance (well, minus the fright), or any other genre.

I defer to a film for a prime example. In 1954’s Alfred Hitchcock thriller Rear Window, the suspense is thick enough to cut with a knife. The finale is bone-chilling tense; the film is burned into my memory. But not a drop of blood is ever seen throughout the story.

Your writing should not be a laundry list of sentences strung together; it should grab readers by the gut and touch the deepest parts of their soul. The best way to improve this skill is to learn from the masters. As a writer, you have surely been greatly affected by some powerful stories. Reread them and note the subtle tools the author used to patch into your mind and heart.

Tea Time Poetry for Valentines

Rosebud

By David Kimball Davis

Butterfly wings gently flutter, filling spring with softness

Sweet lips of lovers lustre in the shining sun

The taste of honey sweetens a savored kiss that’s left

A pounding in my heart and a joy that’s never done

Gentle breezes brush my face, filling my chest with freshness.

The wisp of clouds hush the hues of a brilliant sky.

Beneath the waving tips of trees I watch them passing.

Everlasting, as with love for her lying there nearby.

A smile that brightens cloud-filled skies

That lightens hearts and fills me with hope and gladdened eyes

Enabling me to see beyond eternity

To a place we will share all of our joy and all of our time and all of our love

A gentle voice that shares golden words falling from lips speaking

Only choice thoughts, and reaching

with tender kindness that I am glad to be familiar with

I hear them echoing far into my heart

I hear them coming from her sweet smile

The gift so freely given I have willingly returned all the while

And as the sun sets this day

It will ever and always be this way

Warm winds caress my heart and remind

me of holding you beneath the Eiffel Tower

A gentle breeze wafts through and fixes my

memory of Paris, an Autumn love.

One carefully placed kiss in a quaint room

on the Auteuil was passion-filled and

enriched my thoughts of forever with you.

Oh, we anxiously await another day, a day

that is yet to come, where our hands will

swing as we stroll along the Seine.

Paris is only Paris, if it is Paris with you.

16 Vital Things I Learned About Writing and the Book Industry

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The Roman god Janus, for whom January is named, has two faces, one which looks ahead to the future and one which looks backwards to reflect. It is at this juncture that writing blogs usually post something about writing goals for the year ahead, and I was going to do that, till I remembered that every time I make a specific New Year’s resolution, that is the one thing that gets actively attacked by the Opposition. Oh, I still have all my goals and I continually work towards them, but singling out the One Big Thing I’m going to do in a given year and announcing it just attracts bad mojo. So instead, I’m going to reflect on all the great things I’ve learned in the recent past which are making my writing better.

How this list came to be is, I decided a while back that, after many years of homeschooling my kids, and having them moving on soon, I was ready to look towards a full-time career as an author. I made the decision and the commitment. Then nothing happened. Or so I thought. Months later when I still had not written a word on a book, I felt defeated and discouraged. But slowly, like lights going down and a great curtain being lifted on a much-anticipated play, I began to see what had really been happening right under my nose. I had read and studied and learned more about the craft of writing and about the book industry than I had ever learned in such a short time before. All vitally necessary stuff to know before I could proceed with writing top-notch stuff.

Here is the list of what I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Know…But Now I Do. Any one of these could make a blog post by itself, and maybe sometime will.

Regarding writing:

1) developed an interest in the mind and behavior, which helps with characterization

2) an in-depth point-of-view study

3) avoiding back story dump

4) how to rough draft quickly

5) how to separate content editing and copy editing to be more effective

6) how to “hack the flab” (make wording more concise) when editing

7) the need for beta readers and to not be stubborn but to listen to them and others I can learn from

8) discipline myself to focus and write through all circumstances of life

Regarding the book industry:

9) how rights work with traditional publishers

10) the need to direct my work towards a target market – word-of-mouth can carry a great book outside that market.

11) organizing the daily work of a writing career (all the stuff authors do which isn’t writing)

12) learning tips for writing media materials

13) When dealing with agents, editors, publishers, and media, don’t take anything personally. It’s all business.

14) the necessity of learning about social media and picking up tips for that

15) given several public speaking opportunities (they’re not so scary now)

16) contacts – networking and business opportunities have acquainted me with several industry pros.

Look out, 2014! I’m tackling you, and I have skills and resources with me.

When Are You Ready For an Editor?

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As an editor, I am sometimes torn. I love using my talent to help writers polish their work, and I am honored that they trust me to edit their projects. But I also see a lot of work that really isn’t ready yet for an editor, and I think maybe they have spent money they shouldn’t have to have their project cleaned up.

So when are you ready for an editor? First, let’s understand what the editor’s job is not. The editor is not the author. The editor is not supposed to capture the author’s vision and take over his voice. If you basically want to give your vaguely written ideas to someone and have them do most of the writing/rewriting, then you want a ghostwriter, and you’ll pay a pretty penny for that service. I actually had a client who said he’d come to a barrier in his book and actually wanted me to come up with an ending and finish it for him. Perhaps he enjoys storytelling but not actually writing, in which case I would not want to edit the part he had done as he probably does not have a passion for the art itself and it would show in the work. If you truly love writing, it will naturally follow that you will want to study your craft and get good at it.

Writers must learn the difference between rough drafting and revisions, and that both steps are vital, no matter how talented or famous you are. There is no such thing as a writer who only needs to rough draft and it is as good as it needs to be. That’s because rough drafting, what I like to think of as vomiting words onto the page uninhibited, uses a different side of the brain than the analytical side which rearranges those words and polishes them into good reading material. There is no shame whatsoever in rewriting, even several times. It doesn’t indicate that you aren’t as talented as the best writers. It’s just the way the brain works. Get all thoughts onto the paper first, without regard for form, then go back and take out and rearrange words. It’s better to have extra words and not need them than to need them and not have them.

Here’s where many writers steer wrong. NEVER, ever send a rough draft to an editor. You are wasting your money. It is YOUR vision; you polish it as much as possible. If you haven’t captured your vision succinctly, an editor is most certainly not going to be able to see it. An editor can only raise the quality of your work about, say, ten percent (not scientific, just a general figure). So if you send a ninety percent-good job, an editor can get it to 100 percent. But if you send something only fifty percent decent, the editor will probably only be able to get you to sixty percent decent. It is not the editor’s book; they can only work with what’s given to them.

If writing and storytelling are your passions, you will find that both rough drafting and revising can be equally fulfilling tasks as you see your cherished masterpiece take shape before your eyes.