Thank You From WHW: an Emotion Amplifiers eBook Gift

Hi everyone! With it being the Season of Giving and all, Becca and I thought we would wrangle together a small gift for you: Emotion Amplifiers, the popular PDF companion to The Emotion Thesaurus, is now an ebook. Even better, it’s free.

Emotion Amplifiers High ResAs writers, we all understand just how important emotion is. Commanding it well means creating authentic characters who share their raw, powerful stories with readers, pulling them in deep and making them care.

But how do we push characters to the edge of an emotion? How do we draw out every last drop of tension that’s possible? The answer is to amplify their emotions through whatever means we can, applying pressure that tests limits, causes instability or even leads a character toward rash behavior, bad decisions, and ultimately, mistakes.

Emotion Amplifiers profiles fifteen different conditions (such as Pain, Exhaustion, Attraction and Addiction) that can help complicate a situation, causing emotional volatility and stress. Like The Emotion Thesaurus, each entry lists the Physical Signals, Mental Responses and Internal Sensations a character might experience while in the throes of an Emotional Amplifier.

We hope this ebook makes a strong addition to your virtual bookshelf, and helps you find creative and compelling ways to add complication to your hero’s rocky path toward his goal. Snag your copy (or gift it to another writer!) here:

KOBO

Barnes & Noble

Smashwords

Kindle*

*A small note regarding the Kindle version…unfortunately despite many reports of free, Amazon has not yet lowered the price to zero, and so it is currently listed at .99 cents. So, if you want to wait for it to go free, help us by scrolling down on the Amazon listing to “report a lower price” and provide Amazon with one of the other links above!

However, if you MUST HAVE THE PRECIOUS NOW, then feel better knowing that every year, Becca & I choose a charity to donate to on behalf of Writers Helping Writers. This year, we are giving $1000 to The Polaris Project. We can do this because you guys support us by buying books, so thank you! This worthy charity helps victims of human trafficking, and we couldn’t be happier to list it as our WHW 2014 Charity of the Year. To find out more about what they do, please click HERE.

Polaris ProjectBut wait, there’s more!

We have one more early Christmas gift to hand out: a shot to WIN OUR FEEDBACK!

Yes, it’s Critiques For U time, Christmas Edition. This means you could win one of two 25 page critiques! If you would like to enter, just leave us your contact information by filling out this form. We will contact winners in the coming weeks and critique in January, so polish up your first 25 pages!

Happy writing, and thank you so much for all your kind support of us over the years.

~  Angela & Becca

(PSSST! Shares are always appreciated, and holy bananas, if you already have Emotion Amplifiers, we would absolutely love it if you could take the time to review it!)

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 49 Comments

Four Logic Problems that Will Ruin Your Day (and Your Manuscript)

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, there are a number of reasons why I may toss a book aside and never pick it up again. Clichéd characters, dragging first chapters, too much going on…the list, sadly, is long. (For my own personal list of what NOT to do in the opening pages of your story, check out the What Killed It For Me series.)

One of the things that most certainly WOULD kill it for me is when there are problems with the logic. If the author contradicts himself or something happens that totally doesn’t make sense…I don’t have much patience for that, and I don’t think most other readers do, either. Luckily, you don’t see much of this in published books because editors catch those mistakes. But it’s an issue I see quite a bit in manuscripts, and these little problems can slide your baby right out of an editor or agent’s inbox and directly into the circular file. None of us want that.

So I’m excited to welcome Harrison Demchick today to talk about something we’ve never discussed before at Writers Helping Writers: logic problems in manuscripts and how to avoid them.

Have you ever read a scene in a novel, or seen one in a film, that flat-out did not make sense?

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Giacomo Spazio @ CC

I’m not talking about flying humans or talking animals or time machines. In their own contexts, there’s nothing illogical about any of these things, or for that matter anything else you can imagine. What I’m talking about are those moments where the protagonist says something he would never say or does something he would never do. Or those revelations that directly contradict already established fact. Or Halloween taking place two weeks after the Fourth of July.

These are logic issues, and if you remember how they made you feel when you spotted them, you know how your readers feel when such problems emerge in your own work. Logic problems remove readers from the world you’ve created. They take from you your narrative authority. They undercut conflict and tension. And if not identified and fixed, they will ruin your manuscript.

So let’s take a look at four different kinds of logic issues, where they come from, why they’re a problem, and how they can be resolved.

Type #1: Rule Violation

What it is: An apparent contradiction or inconsistency relative to the established rules of your world. 

Some might suggest that there are no rules in fiction, but that, of course, isn’t true at all. When it comes to establishing the world of your novel, there are two sets of rules: the rules readers bring to the story and the rules you bring to the story.

What readers bring to the story is common sense. That’s why you don’t have to explain concepts like restaurants, Sundays, and love and hate, and also why you don’t need to tell readers that someone who falls into the Grand Canyon is probably going to die. You, on the other hand, provide basic context—the particular rules and concepts that differentiate (or don’t) your world from the real one. If, in fact, it is not lethal in your world to fall into the Grand Canyon, or if the bottom of the Grand Canyon is an enormous trampoline, then you need to establish this.

Common sense and basic context comprise the rules of your novel, and when those rules are ignored or changed without explanation—for example, a human having an intellectual debate on Tolstoy with a box turtle in a world previously depicted as ordinary Victorian-era England—then we have problems.

Why it’s a problem: In a world without rules, nothing has meaning. Imagine your protagonist dangling off the edge of the aforementioned Grand Canyon. The tension in such a scene emerges from readers’ understanding that an ordinary man who falls into the Grand Canyon will die. But if there are no rules—if rules are added or changed or removed on a whim—there can be no tension. Maybe the character will die, or maybe he’ll bounce, or maybe he’ll fly away. Readers don’t know. And most problematically, very soon, they won’t care.

How to resolve it: Establish the rules early in your manuscript, ideally before the inciting incident. This is more difficult in some genres than others—it’s hardest for fantasy and science-fiction, which require a lot of basic context—but generally speaking, you want to establish the status quo before you change it. And ideally, this is done through showing rather than telling. Convey from the beginning a world in which turtles can talk with humans and that Tolstoy debate will read just fine.

Type #2: Continuity Violation

What it is: A contradiction or inconsistency relative to anything that has happened in your manuscript up to any given point.

This one is pretty simple. Everything that happens in your manuscript—not just every event, but every detail established in every sentence—is part of your continuity, and when you contradict that, you violate continuity. A character established as twenty-two can’t be twenty-five the next day. She can’t live in a trailer park on page 12 and a studio apartment in Greenwich Village on page 60. She can’t be lactose intolerant, then eat a giant bowl of ice cream without consequence.

Why it’s a problem: When readers invest their time and energy in your manuscript, you essentially promise them that you’re the world’s leading authority on the story you’re telling. Continuity violations break that promise. For readers, this is intensely frustrating, because if you seem not to know what you’re talking about, their time becomes a wasted investment. When you lose your authority, you lose your readers.

How to resolve it: First of all, be vigilant. Most continuity errors are simply mistakes. You forget what you wrote before, and thus accidentally contradict it. We all do it, and it’s not a big deal—just read carefully, and have someone else do the same if you know continuity to be a problem.

But you might also consider foregrounding. Foregrounding is addressing the continuity violation head-on, in the process making it part of the story. If something doesn’t make sense, but you or your characters acknowledge that it doesn’t make sense, readers will stick with you and accept it as either an intentional detail or something that will be explained later.

Type #3: Inconsistent Chronology

What it is: Inconsistency in the established passage of time in your manuscript, or lack of clarity and logic in when events occur relative to other events.

We know, as part of common sense, that night follows day and that there are five days in a typical school week, but this doesn’t mean that time passes automatically and logically in your manuscript. I’ve edited three different young adult novels in which school weeks lasted seven days or more, all because the authors referred to “the next day” and “the next day” without keeping track of how many next days had passed. I edited another novel in which, due to overuse of “several months later,” winter lasted for more than a year.

Why it’s a problem: Continuity will frustrate you, but chronology will kill you. You can’t make your climax the Thanksgiving Social if only two weeks have passed from the start of the school year. You can’t have two characters start and end a journey at the same place and same time when one’s adventure lasted three days and the other’s a week. Inconsistent chronology can result in impossible plot points, and these issues are very difficult to unravel.

How to resolve it: If chronology is a concern, timelines can make a huge difference. Create a separate document keeping track of the passage of time in your manuscript. Know for yourself exactly when anything happens relative to anything else. If you write it down and make it a point of focus, you should be able to keep such problems under control.

(Note from Becca: For cool possibilities in timeline software, check out Aeon Timeline, or download Timeline for Microsoft Office or TikiToki for Macs.)

Type #4: Rationalization

What it is: Pushing your characters or plot in the direction you want them to go even when other logic issues make this unlikely or impossible.

The killer strikes in broad daylight even though she’s previously only worked at night, and the only reason is that we’re nearing the end of the novel and the author wants her to be caught. A caring uncle abandons his niece and her friends because the author wants the protagonists to face the villain alone. These important moments are guided not by the needs of the story, but rather the needs of the author, who will spend paragraph after paragraph trying to rationalize her decision.

Why it’s a problem: I sometimes call this 2 + 2 = 5. It doesn’t matter how much explanation an author provides: two plus two will always come out to four, not five. Readers know that, and at heart, authors know that too—that’s why they’re working so hard to convince readers otherwise. Problems with rationalization make fundamental plot points impossible to believe.

How to resolve it: You can’t fix this one with foregrounding, because the explanation is often the problem. Instead, remember that you control both sides of the equation. If you can’t get two and two to equal five, change one of the twos to a three. Find another way to get where you want to go. Instead of forcing something that will never make sense, create something that will.

While logic alone will never create a great manuscript, you can’t create a great manuscript without it. Don’t give your readers a reason to put your book away. Mind your logic.

 

portraitcolor smallHarrison Demchick came up in the world of small press publishing, working along the way on more than fifty published novels and memoirs, several of which have been optioned for film. An expert in manuscripts as diverse as young adult, science-fiction, fantasy, mystery, literary fiction, women’s fiction, memoir, and everything in-between, Harrison is known for quite possibly the most detailed and informative editorial letters in the industry—if not the entire universe.

Harrison is also an award-winning, twice-optioned screenwriter, and the author of literary horror novel The Listeners (Bancroft Press, 2012). He’s currently accepting new clients in fiction and memoir at Ambitious Enterprises.

HEADS UP:

Angela is over at Writers In The Storm, talking about Gifts That Matter: The Most Important Thing A Writer Can Give Themselves This Christmas, so please stop in and say hello!

 

 

Posted in Guest Post, Revision and Editing | 18 Comments

10 Reasons Why Your Hero Needs Flaws

Hi everyone! Because it is crazy town in Angela’s house as she tries to keep up with deadlines and prep for Christmas, she’s giving a past Seekerville post some new love. Please read on to better understand why compelling Heroes (and Heroines!) MUST have flaws!

hulk fistsWhen we see the word Hero, we think heroic, which is ironic because our protagonists are usually anything but at the start of a story. Instead they are often jaded, lost or incomplete in some way, toting along a collection of flaws and false beliefs about the world and themselves. But that’s okay, because characters that fascinate readers most are layered, complex, and most of all, human. Brainstorming flaws can be difficult—which faults to choose, how many to give them and why, but here are ten reasons why all heroes need them.

1) TO CREATE REALISM AND EMPATHY:

In real life, people have faults-no one is perfect. It stands to reason that for a character to be believable, he also must be flawed. Readers are people too, ones who are as prone to poor choices, mistakes, and overreactions due to their shortcomings as our hero is. When they see the fallout created by a character’s faults,  they empathize, knowing just how it feels to screw up. And as the character learns more about himself and works toward overcoming his flaws to reach his goals, the reader will cheer him on because the desire to achieve self-growth is universal.

2) TO UNDERSTAND BACKSTORY:

To write a compelling character, it isn’t enough to slap a few attributes and flaws into their personality and then throw them at the story. Fascinating characters come about by understanding who they are at their core. If you know a character’s flaws, you can brainstorm their past to better understand what experiences made these negative traits form. Backstory is valuable to know (for you as the author, not to dump into the story) because it helps you plot out what motivates them, how they will behave (their choices, mannerisms, pet peeves, etc.), and what they avoid to keep from being emotionally hurt. Knowing these details means you’ll be able to write them authentically, making them real to readers. (If you would like help brainstorming your character’s past, I recommend trying the Reverse Backstory Tool.)

3) TO CAUSE RELATIONSHIP FRICTION:

When everyone gets along, a story flat lines. Flaws act as sandpaper in a relationship, rubbing characters against one another to create delicious friction. A flaw vs. flaw (sloppiness pitted against a perfectionist) or a flaw vs. an attribute (inflexibility vs. free-spiritedness) both build tension and conflict which draws readers in, quickens the pace and raises personal & relationship stakes. For more detail, here’s an article on How to Create Friction In Relationships.

4) TO CREATE CONFLICT:

Flaws mean blind spots, biases, pet peeves and irrational emotional reactions to name a few. All of these things cause the hero to mess up along the way, creating conflict. A story road paved with mistakes, misjudgements and poor choices amp up tension at all levels, and make it even harder for the character to succeed. The antagonist can turn the hero’s mistakes to his own advantage, becoming an even greater threat.

5) TO PROVIDE A BALANCE:

If a hero has too many strengths (positive attributes), not only will he come across as unrealistic, it will be too easy for him to succeed. This makes the story predictable because as conflict pops up, there are no flaws to hamper the hero’s efforts or create setbacks, and he will always win. Readers want to see a hero struggle, because it makes the victories so much sweeter. Failure is also important to a character’s  arc: he must hit bottom before he can succeed.

6) TO REVEAL EMOTIONAL WOUNDS:

Flaws bloom into being as a false protective measure when a person suffers an emotional wound. Why false? Because while they appear to “protect” a person from bad experiences (emotional pain), they actually hold back growth and damage relationships. Take a girl who grows up with parents who have high standards. They only bestow affection when she proves herself to be the best and so later in life, she equates anything less than perfection as failure. She may become a workaholic, inflexible, and overachieve, all to protect herself from feeling low self-worth at not measuring up (thanks for that, Mom and Dad!). Flaws are guideposts to these deep emotional wounds, something every author should know about their characters as it ties directly into Character Arc (see below).

7) TO GENERATE INNER CONFLICT:

Inner conflict is the place where the characters faults (flaws) and negative thoughts (I’ll never be good enough, I’ll never find love, I’m not worthy, etc.) reside. Good story structure dictates that a protagonist’s flaws should be counterproductive to achieving his goal and that his negative thoughts should sabotage his self-worth. These things are what the hero must face about himself and change. Only through subduing his flaws will he have a chance at achieving his goal.

8) TO BE A FORCE FOR CHANGE:

Flaws get in the way at the worst times, pressuring the character to act. Let’s say our hero is determined to take control of his family’s struggling company, but he’s notoriously irresponsible. To keep the business afloat, he must apply himself. His desire to not disappoint the people counting on him force him to take a hard look inward at his own irresponsibility, which he must change to succeed.

9) TO ENCOURAGE SELF-GROWTH:

As I mentioned before, one of the core needs of all people is to grow as a person. Growth is tied to happiness and fulfillment, so if your characters has flaws, small ones or big ones, showing him overcome them allows him to feel satisfied and happier, and will resonate with readers who are on their own journey of self-improvement.

10) TO COMPLETE THE CHARACTER’S ARC:

Flaws shouldn’t be random—each flaw forms from a negative past experience. In Character Arc, there should be at least one core flaw that stands in the character’s way (see inner conflict) of achieving his goal. For the character to win (his outer motivation) he must face his fears, deal with the emotional wounds of his past, and see that achieving his goal is more important that the risk of suffering another emotional wound. Only by subduing his core flaw and banishing his negative thoughts can he be free of fear. This necessary self-growth will help him find the strength needed to achieve his goal.

What types of flaws do you burden your character with? Is it a challenge for you to find a way for him to overcome these flaws?

 

Image: PublicDomainPictures @ Pixabay

Posted in Character Flaws, Character Wound, Characters, Experiments, Show Don't Tell, Tension, Uncategorized, Writing Craft, Writing Lessons | 10 Comments

Overcome Your Book Doubts By Asking WHY

Today we’re taking a field trip to touch on something all writers struggle with at some point: story doubts. It might come about because of a less-than-enthusiastic reaction from a beta reader, or after requests for fulls go nowhere. Maybe you have rewritten your opening 9,000 times or have three drafts of your novel, all told from different points of view, and still feel uncertain which version is the right one.

Doubt – soul crushing worry that we are not capturing our story well enough – can not only snuff out a novel, but the writer’s spirit as well.

Jennie Nash has some excellent insight into this pool of doubt, and how to swim through it to write deeply from passion, telling the story as only the author can.

FleuronI’m a book coach, and all day long I have writers coming to me who want to work out the Where and What and How of their story. Many of them are in the midst of some kind of writerly anguish: they have a pile of agent rejections, or they are 2/3 of the way through their 23rd draft and they’re still not sure the book is working, or they got to the last scene and suddenly realize that nothing has happened in the last 150 pages so there’s nothing to resolve. They are not sure how to move forward or even if they should move forward. They are, in other words, full of doubt, and somewhere along the line, they have come to believe that the way out of that doubt and that anguish is to focus like a laser beam on these Where, What, How questions:

Where should my story really start? What needs to happen in the middle? How is the best way for it to end?

Agony and DefeatNine times out of ten, they are asking the wrong questions. Instead of Where, What, and How they should be asking Why? – and not even about the story itself, though that is an extremely powerful exercise, too*, but about themselves as writers.

If you’re anything like me and almost all the writers I work with, your story has been haunting you for quite some time. It keeps you up at night. It nags at you when you are reading other people’s stories. It pops into your head at times when it is least welcome. It wants to be told. 

It can be extremely useful to know why you think it’s haunting you. I actually believe that not knowing the answer to why is one of things that holds a lot of writers back. They know they like to write, they know they’re good at it, they know they have a story to tell, but they don’t know why it matters to them, or what, exactly, it means to them.

As a result, they write a book that doesn’t ever really get down to anything real and raw and authentic. They write pages that skate along the surface of things. And if there’s one thing readers don’t need, it’s to skate along the surface. That’s what the Internet is for. And cocktail parties. And the line at Costco.

Listen to Simon Sinek’s TED talk on how great leaders inspire action. It’s 18 minutes long, but even if you listen to the first 6 minutes you’ll get it. The main point of the talk is this: “People buy things because of WHY you do them, not because of WHAT you do.”

Writers want someone to buy something from us as much as the folks over at Apple and Nike. We do! Even before we talk about dollars and cents, we want readers to buy that we have something important or entertaining or illuminating to say. We want agents to buy that our idea is generous and alive.

So all this work you’re going to do on WHAT your book will be? It often all hinges on WHY you want to write it — on why it is haunting you, on what captivated you from the start, on what the spark was, on why you care so much. If you can articulate that, it will probably unlock the story in very powerful ways.

In 2002, literary agent Ann Rittenberg gave a speech at Bennington College that sums this up beautifully.

            What kind of writer can make characters [you care about]? I think the kind of writer who is not afraid to access the deepest places in himself, and is not afraid to share what he comes up with… I see plenty of writing that has kernels of good in it, but it’s hedged around with so much tentativeness, or uncertainty, or excess, or stinginess, that it doesn’t allow the outsider — the reader — in… Yet when I read something that speaks to me, that absorbs me, that remains vividly in my head even when I’m not reading it, I’ve been intimate with the person who wrote it before I’ve even met him. This isn’t to say I know anything about him. I only know he or she’s the kind of writer who’s willing to explore the deep essence of character….

That’s the kind of writer I am guessing you want to be. So how do you get there? Ask yourself the following:

  • Try to recall the moment your story came into your head. What took root in that moment?
  • Why does it matter to you? What does it mean to you? It wouldn’t have stuck in your head if it didn’t mean something and matter to you – a lot.
  • Have you been shying away from the truth of that moment – out of fear of how raw it is, or how powerful it is? Let yourself to get closer to it.
  • Let that truth inform your story from beginning to end. Let it be the engine that drives your narrative forward. A story that has a single driving force tends to be a story that has a solid beginning, a gut-wrenching middle and a satisfying end.
  • *Ask why of your characters, as well. Why do they care about what they care about? Why will it hurt them not to get it? Why are the afraid? Why can’t they do what they know they should? Why did they do what they just did? Why did they cry? Why, why, why. It can be the key to great writing.

Jennie NashJennie Nash is a book coach, the author of eight books, and the creator of the Author Accelerator, a program to help writers break through procrastination and doubt and write books that actually get read. Check out her free resources: a free 5-Day Book Startup course, a free weeky trial of the Author Accelerator and weekly lessons on writing in the real world at jennienash.com. Also check out The Writers’ Guide to Agony and Defeat, and sign up to win a free coaching session.

Do you struggle with story doubt? How do you move past it? Let us know in the comments!

Posted in Editing Tips, Experiments, Guest Post, Rejection, Uncategorized, Writer's Attitude, Writer's Block, Writing Lessons | 27 Comments

Happy Birthday Becca Puglisi!

happy B dayWell folks, it’s the big one: Becca’s 29th-plus-or-minus-a few birthday. Feel like passing on some cheer to one of the kindest and most supportive writers on the web? Say hello to her on Twitter, Facebook or right here in the comments!

Becca and I have enjoyed many odd twists of fate (like both planning vacations at the Grand Canyon at the same time and discovering this fact only days before) and I feel ever so lucky to count her as a friend and mentor.

We met online through a critique group, but I thought it fitting to link to the story of how we met in person for the first time, so you can get a better feel for how the universe has so awesomely pushed us together.  :)

happy birthday PD

Wishing you a huge and squishy fun HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Becca!

Posted in Uncategorized | 26 Comments

Talents and Skills Thesaurus Entry: Knowledge of Explosives

As writers, we want to make our characters as unique and interesting as possible. One way to do this is to give your character a special skill or talent that sets him apart from other people. This might be something small, like having a green thumb or being good with animals, to a larger and more competitive talent like stock car racing or being an award-winning film producer. 

When choosing a talent or skill, think about the personality of your character, his range of experiences and who his role models might have been. Some talents might be genetically imparted while others are created through exposure (such as a character talented at fixing watches from growing up in his father’s watch shop) or grow out of interest (archery, wakeboarding, or magic). Don’t be afraid to be creative and make sure the skill or talent is something that works with the scope of the story. 

Knowledge of Explosives

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Alexandre Dulaunoy @ Creative Commons

Description: Having knowledge of and experience with creating and detonating explosive devices

Beneficial Strengths or Abilities: knowledge of chemistry, steady hands, dexterity

Character Traits Suited for this Skill or Talent: cautious, patient, alert, calm, focused, meticulous, sensible, passionate

Required Resources and Training: Many amateurs in the field of explosives are self-taught, garnering information from the internet and from books on the subject. Others gain experience through an apprenticeship of sorts, learning about explosives in a hands-on fashion by watching and working with an expert. For those seeking a more credible education, courses are offered by government agencies, mining corporations, and other professional organizations.

Associated Stereotypes and Perceptions: terrorists, anarchists, paranoid types, SWAT team members, military and ex-military personnel

Scenarios Where this Skill Might be Useful

  • when a building needs to be demolished
  • when one needs to cut off access to an area (by destroying a street, establishing an immediate roadblock, etc.)
  • when one wants to kill large numbers of people
  • when one needs to disarm or disable an explosive device
  • when a diversionary tactic is needed
  • for a career in mining
  • for blasting rock in a quarry
  • for building roads (blasting through hills and mountains)
  • in combat

Related Talents and Skills: hot-wiring a car, mechanically minded, survival skills

You can brainstorm other possible Skills and Talents your characters might have by checking out our FULL LIST of this Thesaurus Collection. And for more descriptive help for Setting, Symbolism, Character Traits, Physical Attributes, Emotions, Weather and more, check out our Thesaurus Collections page.

Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Gifts Galore: What to Get Writers this Christmas

Christmas is approaching, and with it, a flurry of internet searches and flyer flipping to find loved ones some thoughtful gifts. But what of writers? What might be on their wish list? NEVER FEAR! Becca and I have scoured the interwebs for you, and compiled an ULTIMATE Gift List For Writers just for this occasion. Do check it out!

Below are some of our favorite finds from our pinterest board. Feel free to bookmark, add to your wish lists, or share with other writers!

Coffee Mug for Introverting…er, Reading:

introvertingI have seen some neat mugs for writers, but this one is just so perfect I had to put it up on the blog. A great gift for your favorite introvert!

(View more clever mug ideas on our pinterest board here)

 

pen2LED Night Pen:

Why do the best ideas come in the middle of the night, when we have nothing to write with, and getting up from the warmth of blankets is a Herculean task? Perhaps it is karma for all the bad things we do to our protagonists.

Well, in your face, karma! This LED pen will let you jot down your ideas before they slip away!

key fobCustomizable Book Cover Gift:

One year for Chrismas, Becca gave me a Christmas tree ornament with our Emotion Thesaurus book cover on it–what a thoughtful way to celebrate our first book!

Why not get a special trinket made out of your book cover, or that of another author friend, like this key chain or purse fob?

JouliesSet of 5 Joulies Beans:

What are Joulies? Oh, just a remarkable bean invention that keeps your coffee HOT FOR HOURS. Let’s face it, writers would IV drip coffee if they could and but there’s nothing worse than getting caught up in the story and having one’s coffee or tea go cold. Sign me up for Joulies!

toastCustom Edgar Allen Poe Toaster:

Toast your way to greatness! Gaze upon the face of a literary icon, then slather him with marmalade and consume his genius, bite by delicious bite. Be sure to say “Klaatu Verata Necto” a few times, and we’re pretty sure MAGIC will ensue.

(Besides, don’t pretend you don’t want this toaster, especially when it comes with many different designs including Clowns, Skulls and the Death Star!)

eye massagerEye Care Massager (to alleviate Eye Fatigue):

Will it let you see the future? Protect you from mind control? Sadly no. But it will help you recover from strained vision when you spend far too much time playing candy crush, hanging out on Twitter, or writing your opus novel, which is pretty cool.

Web Hosting & Author Services:

techSurgeonsThese days, everyone needs a place to call home online, especially writers and authors. Finding a reliable service for the care and feeding of a website is super important, and there is no one better to help with that than Jay Donovan, Internet Jedi Master at Tech Surgeons. Jay is not only our WHW Guru, he provides a plethora of services just for writers. Contact Jay and find out how he can help you find your internet home, or to set up a gift certificate for a writer you know.

Fotor0205151952Writing Resource Books:

Specifically, ours! We hope you’ll forgive our shameless self promotion, but if you find value from our Writers Helping Writers site, we encourage you to check out our books as they are packed with SO MUCH MORE writerly advice and tools than is available here.

But please, spend your dollars wisely. Ask around and see what your writer friends think, if they have test driven our resources. Check out our reviews on Amazon for the Emotion, Positive Trait & Negative Trait books. (And a big thank you to our readers who recommend and review our books–we greatly appreciate it!)

So, what’s on your writerly wish list? Let us know in the comments!

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 24 Comments

The Power of The Short Story

I have a confession. *whispers* I’ve never been interested in writing short stories. I put so much planning and research into my writing that it always seemed like kind of a waste of time to write something so…short. But after hearing Ian Martyn’s arguments in favor of short story writing, I can absolutely see his point. As a matter of fact, I think I’m going to recommend his Inspiration Word exercise to my writing group…

In one of my blogs, I advocate blog writing as a tool for improving your writing, whatever your genre or subject. However, today I want to champion short story writing, and also the reading of short stories. I think too often these pieces are dismissed as less important than full-length novels—somehow frivolous or not worthy of our attention.

I’m a member of a writing group, and at the end of every session we are given a word. We can write whatever we want, and occasionally I have experimented with poetry, which for a fiction writer is always an interesting exercise. However, most of my efforts result in short stories. Some of the stories on my site come from those inspiration words: Weather Vane, Dancing, Pickpocket, Watching. I have numerous others, some of which I am trying to edit and submit to competitions and others that I will try to publish.

So as an author, why should you spend your precious time on short stories?

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April Killingsworth @ Creative Commons

1) They’re fun. I mean it, they are. In my writing group, we’re given a word and one week to produce the goods. (OK sometimes I get behind, but never mind). For me, the result turns out to be about 1500 words long; I think the reason for this is because with a piece of this length, there is enough room to explore a topic without distracting me too much from my other work. Anyway, after some wracking of brain cells I get the first inkling of an idea and then run with it. For a writer, that’s great. Enthusiasm for writing any story is usually greatest at the beginning. When writing shorter works, you get to feel that energy more often—energy that will often transfer to your other writing projects.

2) They provide the opportunity for quicker feedback. Because short stories don’t take as long to write, you’re able to share more often with writing groups or critiquers. This means you get feedback faster and can more quickly apply what you’ve learned during the process. If you’re not a member of a writing group, pass your short story around to friends and family and ask them for feedback. It’s a little easier than having them review something you’ve worked on for months. Also, non-writers will find a shorter piece less daunting to critique, and they’re more likely to be honest, especially if you tell them you’re ‘experimenting’.

3) They provide the chance to experiment. Short stories provide the opportunity for you to try out new ideas, writing styles, even different genres, to see if they work. It’s hard to do this with a novel, because you’re often too invested to feel comfortable experimenting. I’ve read science fiction short stories by a number of authors including Asimov and Alistair Reynolds, and I’m sure this was their goal (in part) when writing these successful pieces.

4) They provide more outlets for getting your work out there. Earlier, I mentioned my intent to enter some of my short stories in competitions. I also intend to submit more to magazines. If you are inspired to write short stories or you have a few already gathering dust, why not do the same? What have you got to lose? If you’re successful, you’ve gotten your name out there. Even if you don’t succeed, you’ve gotten valuable experience polishing a piece for publication, and that’s good practice for when you’re revising your novels.

5) Reading short stories gets the wheels turning. Take time out from reading novels to try short stories. It’s a great way to sample different ideas and styles, learn, and get inspiration. In the ‘Inspiration’ section of my site I list Robert Silverberg’s ‘Science fiction 101’, in which he reviews some classic sci-fi short stories, explaining why he thinks they’re so good. For anyone writing short stories in this or any genre, I would recommend taking a look at these. Then pick out other writers’ shorts to check out. And don’t forget all the short story magazines; there are many out there in all genres

So that’s five reasons why I think writing (and reading) the humble, often overlooked short story is such a good idea. Which makes me realise that I now need to go away and work on a few more for my site. Perhaps you’ll read then and make a comment.   If you have short stories on your site, let me know. I’ll try to have a look and comment in return.

ianIan Martyn lives in Surrey in the United Kingdom. Following a degree in Zoology he spent thirty years working in the pharmaceutical industry. On leaving to become a consultant he was determined to complete and publish those science fiction stories that he had started and were rattling around in his head. He has now published two of those stories, Project Noah and Ancestral Dreams on Kindle, available through Amazon. You can find more about Ian Martyn, his books, and blogs on his website.

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Character Skills and Talents: Organization

As writers, we want to make our characters as unique and interesting as possible. One way to do this is to give your character a special skill or talent that sets him apart from other people. This might be something small, like having a green thumb or being good with animals, to a larger and more competitive talent like stock car racing or being an award-winning film producer. 

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When choosing a talent or skill, think about the personality of your character, his range of experiences and who his role models might have been. Some talents might be genetically imparted while others are created through exposure (such as a character talented at fixing watches from growing up in his father’s watch shop) or grow out of interest (archery, wakeboarding, or magic). Don’t be afraid to be creative and make sure the skill or talent is something that works with the scope of the story. 

ORGANIZATION

Description: The ability to discern what is needed for a particular project or event, and then to prepare and collect any people, resources or information into a state of readiness so that everything moves forward efficiently.

Beneficial Strengths or Abilities: A good organizer can look at what must be done and immediately formulate a plan of action that is effective and insightful, taking into consideration any factors that might create challenges so that they can be prevented or minimized. Having foresight of what the path ahead may look like, being educated and familiar with common practices and factors that may cause friction regarding the project needing organization are both important. Punctuality, thoughtfulness, and being able to articulate oneself well will help one obtain resources, support and help as needed. A good organizer has strong time management skills, can split their attention to complete different action items, and is able to set aside their ego and be a team player. Projects might be small, day-to-day items requiring navigation, or larger events that involve many people, resources and high stakes.

Character Traits Suited for this Skill or Talent: efficient, orderly, articulate, friendly, inspiring, tenacious, analytical, hard working, clever, imaginative, visionary, trustworthy

Required Resources and Training: A strong organizer usually has checklists and time management tools to keep both herself and others on task, ensuring all pieces of the project are in place each step of the way. Experience can also be gained by volunteering under the leadership of a mentor will expose them to the many different factors that goes into organizing a project or event. Understanding a particular subject, industry or set of circumstances will require investigation and/or experience. For example, a planner for a climbing expedition must understand mountaineering and the particulars of a specific climb to ensure the right gear is obtained. They also need to understand potential hazards such as weather, terrain, and local animal dangers in order to plan what might be needed in an emergency (first aid medicines and supplies, a mode of communication such as a satellite phone, etc.). They would have also need to investigate guides to find the right match for the climb, plan and buy supplies for hydration and nutrition that are tailored for climbers, stay within a pack weight ratio and manage a budget. Without first understanding what climbing is like and what factors into a climbing expedition, planning properly would be difficult and mistakes could put participants at risk.

Scenarios Where this Skill Might be Useful:

  • Tactical organization, when one must plan a single attack, prepare for war or defend one’s home and resources
  • Planning an escape, when success depends on minimizing as much danger as possible
  • Preparing one’s resources for survival (understanding how many pounds of meat is needed to survive the winter, or being prepared to take advantage of opportunities such as collecting rainfall, harvesting grain or vegetables at an optimal time) and then storing it effectively
  • Managing money or resources
  • Climbing the ladder at one’s workplace and being a go-getter
  • Delegating jobs to people who one is in part responsible for, in order to give them hope when it is lost, make them feel valued or needed, or to collectively achieve a goal for the betterment of all
  • In a leadership role, or any position that one has authority and responsibility

Resources for Further Information:

10 Ways to Be and Effective Organizer

10 Habits of Highly Organized People

You can brainstorm other possible Skills and Talents your characters might have by checking out our FULL LIST of this Thesaurus Collection. And for more descriptive help for Setting, Symbolism, Character Traits, Physical Attributes, Emotions, Weather and more, check out our Thesaurus Collections page.

Image: PublicDomainPictures @ Pixabay

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3 Tricks to Surviving a Public Speaking Event

You know what I find interesting? That statistic claiming that more people are afraid of public speaking than of anything else in the world. I mean, the everyday person would rather be trapped in a cave, touch a spider, or be chased by clowns than address a crowd.

But in today’s market, visibility is huge. Somewhere between 600,000 and 1 million books were self-published last year IN THE US ALONE. For readers to know about our books, we’ve got to get out there and be seen. And that means book signings, school visits, library engagements, speaking at conferences, etc. If the mere thought makes you break out in hives, take a deep breath, because Rachel Amphlett is here to share 3 simple tips for surviving any public speaking event. IT CAN BE DONE, PEOPLE!

Creative Company Conference 2011

Sebastiaan ter Burg @ Creative Commons

Most writers I know, myself included, are quite happy in their own little worlds. We might venture out to go to work, socialize with friends, or do the shopping but we’re never happier than when we’re tucked away daydreaming or scribbling down frantic notes for our current works in progress.

The problem is, when we are required to do public speaking, we’re simply not equipped for it. In fact, we’re terrified. So, how do you go from happy introvert to confident extrovert, even if it’s just for a few minutes?

Prepare Yourself

You’re probably going to be asked to read an excerpt from your latest work. The trick here is to read it out aloud on your own a couple of times during the week leading up to the event.

Talking out loud is a lot different to talking in your head. You’ll spot the words you’re likely to trip over, you’ll discover a whole new meaning to ‘pacing’ and, more importantly, you’ll find the places where you can come up for air.

Yes, remember to breathe – please. We don’t want you passing out from lack of air.

Know Your Audience

The first public talk I ever did with regard to my writing was in a library, on a Saturday morning, to two people. Yes, two.

I was still scared. These lovely ladies had read about my first novel in the local paper and had decided that they’d better come along to see what I had to say for myself.

I quickly realised it would be ridiculous if I insisted on standing and pacing about in front of them, so instead we pulled up a little circle of chairs and I started off by explaining how I decided to write a book. Before I knew it, a whole hour had gone by, two of the library employees had joined us, and they’d all grabbed details of how to download my book (it was only available as an eBook at the time, and the library still supported me, thank goodness), and we’ve exchanged emails since that time.

Sitting down and being at the same level as my audience meant we were a lot more approachable to each other – the gesture broke down any ‘us and them’ barriers that might have otherwise been in place, and led to a much better engagement. And I realized that they weren’t so scary after all.

The key here is to size up your audience and adjust your presentation, if necessary. Are the guests talkative and chatty? Engage them with questions. Are people taking lots of notes? Slow down the tiniest bit to allow them time to write. Reading your audience is hugely helpful in allowing you to tailor your presentation to their needs, which can make for a more successful event.

Take Your Time

For the life of me, I can’t remember where I learnt this trick, but trust me – it works. Whatever the occasion, when it’s your turn to stand up in front of an audience, make them wait.

Not too long, though. By taking your time, I mean walk up to the podium, stage or whatever speaking platform has been set up, and either open the book and run your gaze over the first few sentences, or adjust the microphone. Adjusting the microphone is my favorite trick. Personally, I haven’t got an excuse, because at six foot tall I usually tower over my host anyway, but it’s a fantastic way to prepare for public speaking.

When I was asked to read an excerpt from my first book at an international thriller author’s book launch, I adjusted the microphone, looked up at the audience, and asked if they could hear me okay. A few people at the back called out that they could, and off I went. Those precious few seconds allowed me to:

• Get my breathing under control
• Eyeball my audience
• Engage with my audience, and prepare them (and me!) for the sound of my voice

Hopefully the above tips will help ease your nerves leading up to your moment in the spotlight. If public speaking is something you’d like to develop, there are several groups you can join, Toastmasters being the obvious choice, and one I’ve participated in a couple of times. I found them to be incredibly supportive and attentive listeners and the feedback is invaluable. Often, the hurdle is getting used to your own voice, but once you’ve done that, you’ll be well on your way to being a confident public speaker, even if it’s just for a few minutes.

Rachel Amphlett_web_4322Rachel Amphlett previously worked in the UK publishing industry, played lead guitar in rock bands, and worked with BBC radio before relocating from England to Australia in 2005. After returning to writing, Rachel enjoyed publication success both in Australia and the United Kingdom with her short stories, before her first thriller White Gold was released in 2011. Her Dan Taylor thrillers (White Gold and Under Fire) and her latest standalone thriller, Before Nightfall, are all Amazon bestsellers. Currently, two further independent projects are in draft stage, while a third Dan Taylor thriller is being researched. You can keep in touch with Rachel via her mailing listFacebook, and Twitter.

Posted in Guest Post, Promotion, Publishing and Self Publishing, School Visits | 22 Comments