Monday, June 28, 2021

Delivering on the Writing Promise

This week as I started to work on this week’s blog, I came to a startling revelation. While I am always worried about what I  can write about to help writers as I also introduce other writers, I realized I have fallen victim to something I am always telling other writers not to do – over commit! As a result I find myself editing one contracted book while editing another and teaching a writing class with another coming up soon. But that brought me to the realization that as writers we need to keep in mind what goes into writing a book and how we might be able to keep from overcommitting or losing sight of what the ultimate goal is – to write a good book.

We all want to  deliver our best work to editors, the public or readers, and overcommitting can become a real problem. As a writer it would be fun if all you had to do was sit down at the keyboard or with a paper and pen and compose great fiction or nonfiction, but the finished product is never that simple. There are always other things that go into the mix of writing a good book. 

Research

2.     Planning the Plot

3.      Developing Characters

4.      Writing Scenes

5.      Editing

6.      Marketing

7.      Planning the Next Book

And all of that is only the beginning. Each one of those elements can contain a series of steps of their own.

Gathering research can be time consuming and how much is too much? I always tell beginning writers in classes that I teach that when in doubt, go with what feels right to you. Yes, you can over-research but as time goes on you will find what works for you and what doesn’t and what you actually need and will use.  The danger of research is that too often I have found writers who get so caught up in getting every single little detail right that they spend all their time researching instead of writing. Get the information you need for this story and save the rest for later.

Planning the plot can be one of the most fun elements of writing a story, but what if you decide to simply write off the top of your head? I admit that is what I often do. My book, Desert Blossom began with a simple premise from the popularity of online chatrooms where people were meeting online before ever seeing each other. 

Like so many other books, the idea for it just came to me and I started making up characters and situations from a simple what if? Can two people who have never met physically think they are falling for someone they have never seen but communicate with daily? The story was off and running on a simple question.

I can make all the plotting charts in the world, but I’m guaranteed to have one of my characters go off in another direction as the story moves along and suddenly everything falls into chaos. For me it is easier to write the story and let it flow along naturally. So, yes I am one of those intuitive writers who basically writes by the seat of my pants or what is also known as a “pantser” as opposed to a plotter. 

The book I am currently editing, Deadman’s Treasure, has a heroine who completely stole my heart as a minor player in my book Dead Man’s Rules and made me want to write about her story. Freeda Ferguson was fully developed before I started writing the current book, but only because she had come to life in the first book and I wanted to know more about her and what made her who she was. Freeda's story has been contracted by The Wild Rose Press, so it should be released in the near future.

Many writers who plan carefully will make up all their character charts ahead of time.  When I write organically, I will start writing and then go back and fill out the character chart after my character has taken form on the written page. Either way can work.  Charts are great to have and keep so that you can easily check your character’s eye color or preferences and not end up with a brown eyed heroine on one page and a green-eyed heroine on the next.

That’s where that necessity of editing really comes in.  Making up a quick character chart, even after you’ve written her/him into the story is a good idea so that the characters don’t change in mid-stream. You can check back as you edit.

Don’t scrimp on the editing either. It can make all the difference in the world. Just one quick read through after writing the first draft is not enough. This is where critique partners or Beta readers can come in handy. They can point out some of the little things that you might have mixed or question elements of your story that might need clarification.

While writing a book can seem overwhelming, simply sitting down and getting started can make all the difference in the world.

1.      Get those characters on paper with a character sketch.

2.      Write a scene that shows your characters or defines the problems

3.      Write a scene of dialogue that illustrates who your characters are

4.      Write a description of a room or setting or place so that you can get the idea in your head

5.      Write the beginning scene

6.      Write the ending scene

You don’t need to do all of these things in this order, but often just doing that can get you started on your story. I’ve been known to write that ending scene first (just as I used to sometimes read the last page of a book after the first chapter)

The better you know your story and characters, the better.

Happy writing!

Any comments or questions?

Visit my Website at RebeccaGrace.com or Write That Novel.net

Sunday, June 20, 2021

A Writing Combination

 Twenty years ago I met a Colorado author who has made quite a difference in my life and in my writing career. I was introduced to Sue Viders at a meeting of a Denver romance writers’ group and that meeting has made a big difference in my life and in my writing.  I knew Sue’s name before I met her. Her early book, Heroes and Heroines on  archetypes was a book many would-be romance writers considered a “must” read if one wanted to write a successful romance, and I had also taken several of her writing classes. ,

After meeting in person, Sue and I soon became critique partners and then as our friendship progressed we discussed how much we both enjoyed learning the writing process as well as teaching it. 

. Before long we were not only helping each other with our individual fiction works, but we were also teaching classes together and then while we were both  pursuing our own fiction careers together, we decided to write non-fiction and fiction together. 

We are the exact opposite in so many ways, but that combination worked wonderfully when we began writing together. She is very focused on details and structured writing while I go off into the ozone all the time., The combination works well, because so many writers don’t fall into just one category. As frequent teachers, we also realized we could help writers of all different types – the structured, by-the-book writer and the writer who flies off into the ozone to create a story organically by instinct.

From the first, we also both agreed there are certain things every writer needs to know  Years of both of us teaching and working with fiction writers has demonstrated to us how differently writers approach the creative process, but the final goal is to provide a book that is readable and interesting to the reader. The result of what we’ve learned over the years about the different types of writers is available in our new co-authored non-fiction book, Writing Tips for All Types of Writers

What are the differences? Some writers choose to plan every detail, while others write instinctively. Another group uses a combination of both techniques.

The result of that knowledge made us want to write a book of writing tips that could speak to both types of writers as well as those who used both techniques.

1 - Plotting/planner writers

2 - Intuitive/instinctive writers

3 - Hybrid/combination writers

If you’re not certain about which type of writer you are, we suggest you can try all the different tips we offer until you find the one that best suits you.

Not certain of what each means? Here is a breakdown:

The planning and plotting writers are like Sue. They want the characters defined and determined in advance. She also makes up character charts and writes down a defined plot all the way down to what is contained in each chapter before she starts the writing process.

The non-plotter is like Becky. That sort of writers like to let the character show themselves on the written page. Becky writes the book but keeps a list of those descriptions and vital information as she is writing. Then ,as she is editing she makes certain those elements stay true to the book itself.

The hybrid writer does both. They start out with a vague idea of what they want in a character and write that down, but leaves room for the character to develop or change.

Both know that some writers also use a combination of both methods. Fiction writers must choose for themselves how they want to write their book, but the process usually falls into one of these three categories.

The key element in all of these methods is to keep track of what you’re putting into the book. The character who starts one way at the beginning may grow and change, but that change doesn’t happen overnight. The development occurs inside the pages of the book.

At one point, after teaching  writing classes separately and together for years, Sue and Becky decided to sit down and share their learning with other beginning and developing writers. The result was a new book of writing tips.

Whether you are a seat of the pants author, a carefully planning author or the type who uses a combination of approaches, the tips can be of help.

As one of their students recently told them, “I wish I’d had that book when I was starting out.”

For anyone looking for help, the book is now available on Amazon.

Oh, and we have also made it through writing a new fiction book which should be published soon. Yes, we used the planning approach together, as well as the “seat of your pants” approach to get it written. The book is in the editing phase, and it’s only the first fiction work in this collaboration between a planner and a non-plotter. The two can work together -- even for two very different writers.

For more on Sue and Becky's books:



To get our new Tips book on Amazon:


Any questions or comments

Sunday, June 13, 2021

The Challenge of Writing

We're reaching those warm days of summer when it's fun to sit outside with a great book. I spent many a summer afternoon and early evening sitting in the shade or on the patio  reading when I was young, and it's a habit that has stayed with me ever since. Of course, to do that, you always have to be in search of the next great read, and that's why I'm always looking for new authors and new books to enjoy. Today's guest in My Writing Corner, Terry Korth Fischer sounds like she is writing just the sort of books I enjoy that would be perfect for those long summer evenings of reading.

 Terry writes mystery and memoir. Her memoir, Omaha to Ogallala, was released in 2019 and her  short stories have appeared in The Write Place at the Write Time, Spies & Heroes, and numerous anthologies. While she is from the Midwest, Terry now lives in Houston with her husband and their two guard cats. She tells us she enjoys a good mystery, the heat and humidity, and long summer days.  I wanted to know more about her thoughts on writing.

What are some of the challenges of being a writer?

There are always challenges: phone, Internet, family, bathing. But seriously, writing isn’t the obstacle. It's self-doubt. I don’t know a writer who doesn’t wonder if their current manuscript will measure up. Does it need one more beta reader? One more edit? Many times, I mentally revise a scene after submission—pesky night thoughts.

Tell us about your road to publication.

I spent six years writing Gone Astray. For the first four years, I had a full-time job. My focused writing began after retirement. That said, I knew I wanted a traditional publisher. The process of finding an agent and publisher through query and achieving publication can take years to accomplish. I gave it a whirl but didn’t feel I had that kind of time. Luckily, I met my publisher at a writers conference. The Wild Rose Press, a small press with a stellar reputation, can take a writer from submission to print in months. I queried them, received a contract, and voila! Gone Astray was released in February 2021.

 How do you come up with your characters?

Developing characters is one of the fun elements in writing. There is so much freedom. A character can be anything, do anything, and get away with actions a real-life person wouldn’t dream of attempting. But it can also be daunting if you want a multi-faceted, believable, relatable character for your readers. I like to use the personality of someone I know well and tweak it to fit the profession and temperament of a character that will enhance the story I’m telling. In Gone Astray, Rory Naysmith has many traits I saw in my dad, and the rookie, Thacker, was modeled after my adopted brother.

 Tell us about your latest book, Gone Astray.  What made you write it?

Detective Rory Naysmith, the protagonist in Gone Astray, takes a job with a small-town police department after a life-altering medical event. He sets out to prove his career isn’t over. Unfortunately, he’s a crusty, curmudgeonly sort; technology and a series of escalating crimes will get the best of him unless he learns to alter his perspective. Sorry, no spoilers.

A heart attack sends detective Rory Naysmith reeling. Too young to retire, he accepts a position in small-town Winterset, Nebraska. Handed an unsolved truck hijacking case, with the assistance of a rookie, Rory sets out to prove he is still able to go toe-to toe with younger men. When the body of a Vietnam veteran turns up, he dons his fedora and spit-shines his shoes. But before he can solve the murder, an older woman disappears, followed closely by a second hijacking. He doggedly works the cases, following a thread that ties the two crimes together.  But can Rory find the mental and physical strength to up his game and bring the criminals to justice before disaster strikes and he loses his job?

The novel received an excellent review that said, “This is probably the first coming of age book for a character who is fifty.” I didn’t set out to write a coming-of-age novel, but I had watched my husband and a work colleague struggle with their identities after undergoing heart surgery. So, I feel like the advice to write what you know worked for me.

 I’ve read a kazillion mysteries over the years. Then one day, I thought, I can do this. What I like is a puzzle, not too much sex, or violence, or foul language. And characters that are engaging and who I want to see win. So that is the kind of book I set out to write, and as I said earlier, voila!

What advice do you have for beginning writers?

Don’t give up; it’s the only difference between a published author and an unpublished one.

What’s your next project?  

A second Rory Naysmith mystery is in the final draft, and a third is percolating. I love these characters; they have become my best friends. But, of course, that could be the new stay-close-to-home mentality speaking. But honestly, if I have to spend months, or years, with a story, this is the crew for me.

 If you would like to get a copy of Gone Astray, here are the buy links:

Gone Astray Buy Links: (jpg attached)

Amazon Buy Link: https://amzn.to/2LHnlYI

B&N Buy Link:  https://bit.ly/3q5h4Wh

If you would like to know more about Terry and her books, here is the contact information. 

Visit her website at https://terrykorthfischer.com


Thank you, Terry for being my guest this week. Any comments or questions for Terry?



Sunday, June 6, 2021

A Visit to A Faraway World

Writing one book can be challenging, but think about those authors who write a series! It means not simply one commitment, but several -- to characters to plot to coming up with distinctive stories that all work together. Today's guest in My Writing Corner is Lyndi Alexander who has written several series. She says she always dreamed of faraway worlds and she has made them come alive in her stories.. 

She tells us she lives as a post-modern hippie in Asheville, North Carolina and is a single mother of her last child of seven, a daughter on the autism spectrum. She says she finds that every day feels like first contact with a new species. Since she has written a number of series, and I am currently teaching a writing class on how to write a series, I asked her to answer a few questions on this difficult endeavor as she tells us about her latest book.

What is the most challenging thing about writing a series? 

I find that the hardest thing for me is to begin the second book or third book with enough information for a new reader to get into the story, without over dumping info. An author can never know whether the person who picks up the book knows anything about the rest of the series. I’ve managed it so far by switching to a more objective third party as first-chapter narrator. That narrator can put their own spin on what’s happened so it’s not just regurgitation. 

How do you keep track of all your plotlines and your characters?

While the overarching stories of a series may continue through consecutive books, I try to have each book wrap up some part of the situation. For example, in the Horizon Crossover series, HORIZON SHIFT is the story of Captain Rogers’ arrival into a new universe via wormhole, and what he needs to do to refurbish his ship and rebuild his crew. HORIZON STRIFE goes on with his struggle to fit in the new place he’s found and his run-ins with the government Agency and the mysteries of the Ancients. HORIZON DYNASTY allows both stories to wrap up as well as various triumphs of minor characters in furtherance of their own destinies. This keeps me from having to remember everything about everyone and keep the drama active throughout multiple books.

I then had an idea using a few of the tangential characters in the trilogy, and thus we have SIXSHOOTER, which is part of the series by virtue of having a similar setting of the star system in which all these characters operate. The action happens somewhat simultaneously.

What is most rewarding about writing a series?

Definitely I think that readers enjoy a series—continuing to discover more about the characters and their adventures. It is a self-fulfilling way for your audience to stick with you. When I first got into reading science fiction, I picked up one of Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonflight books. She created so many of these (followed up by her son) that I had steady reading material for years. Plus, as an author, it grants your wish to keep on with people you’ve loved to create. It’s hard for me to let go of my favorites!

Let's hear more about  Sixshooter:

Valeni Pascual wants to be free to make a living hauling cargo with her spaceship and to understand the shapeshifting alien who presents sometimes as the steamy male Nik and other times as the blonde bombshell Nikki.

As a rebel insurgence builds against the oppressive government known as the Agency, Valeni and Nik/Nikki encounter a sexy Terran cowboy named Garrett Rawls. Since being pulled into this region of space by another mysterious wormhole, Garrett has looked for a way to return to Earth. After meeting Valeni and Nikki, he might have found something worth staying for.

 However, dark forces may have a much bigger picture in mind for all of them. Valeni, Nik/Nikki, and Garrett are pulled into a life and death fight that lays bare all of their secrets and their desires. Will they lose everything as the battle against the Agency rages around them or can love pull them through?

SIXSHOOTER [©2021] A Horizon Crossover series novel by Lyndi Alexander | Cover Art by Kat Hardy | Science Fiction Romance (R) 280 pages / 100,000 words | Available in ebook and print from the DFP Books label of Dragonfly Publishing

Print editions are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and more. Find ebooks at retailers, lending libraries, and subscription services, including: Amazon Kindle, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, Blio, Kobo Books, Open Library, Overdrive, Scribd, Smashwords, and more.

 If  you would like to know more about Lyndi and her books, here is her contact information and where you can buy her books: 

Author Links

Website  and Blog            https://lyndialexander.wordpress.com/

Facebook                            https://www.facebook.com/lyndialexander13/

Goodreads                          https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4185290.Lyndi_Alexander

Amazon Author Page

https://www.amazon.com/Lyndi-Alexander/e/B005GDYPU2/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Bookbub:                             https://www.bookbub.com/profile/lyndi-alexander

Smashwords | Lyndi Alexander    https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/lyndialexander

 Thank you, Lyndi, for being my guest today. Our cats send their best to all your cats!  Any questions or comments for Lyndi?

An Autumn Treat

It may be the end of summer, but ice cream treats never go out of season--nor do books featuring a backdrop of ice cream goodies. My guest t...