Endless Possibilities!

You’re halfway through your first book and you come up for air. You read an article on self-promotion: getting your name out there and becoming recognizable in the world of the written word. The fact that you actually have to turn to the social media machine that you have been avoiding (because it potentially could suck up all of your writing time) hits you like a ton of bricks. Panic wells up inside you.

You read a few articles, hoping against hope that you have misunderstood. But, nope. The message is loud and clear. What to do, now?

Should you run, bury your head in the sand, pack it up, give up the dream? Could you even do that? 

Of course not. That world that offers you solace and a creative outlet. It challenges you to look deep within and inspires you to become more than you ever thought possible.

So, you begin building a platform. Putting your ego aside. Inviting criticism through your door. Fighting your insecurities. Finding a voice. Calming those fears of rejection and perhaps being misunderstood at times.

But I promise, you’ll wake up one day in the not-too-distant future and put your name into your computer’s search bar and it will pop up. You’ll get a few emails from followers—some, even, in other countries! You’ll read positive comments to your posts. You’ll get encouragement from friends and family.

You are suddenly on the brink of a whole new life, filled with endless possibilities.

All because you dare to write. To challenge yourself. To share all of who you are about. What you’ve got going. What you bring to the table that no one else does in quite the same way.

We’re writers—and life doesn’t get any better than that!

A Trip Down Memory Lane

I recently took a trip down memory lane. I reread some of my blogs from five and six years ago.

I have learned some things since then. One of which is to shorten my writing to a few paragraphs instead of several pages.

In the age of texting and Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, we have all become accustomed to short snippets of information. So, for the next few weeks, I am going to take my early blogs (which you may not have read because they were sooooooo long) and shorten them into concise bits of knowledge.

Rewritten, I hope they will be more useful, with the ultimate goal of encouraging you to keep on writing.

Even in isolation, amid Covid and natural disasters, writers can still write and take solace in the fact that your words can mean all the difference to readers worldwide.

Make Your Writing Relatable

Will readers like your book?

What is the deciding factor?

I often ask avid readers to fill in the blank:   “I like books that are _________.”

Some common answers are:

Funny

Have lots of action.

Have zany characters.

Romantic.

Easy to read.

Are “clean.”

Are about animals and their masters.

It all boils down to this:  Readers like books that are relatable.

There has to be a connection between the character and story for the reader.

In-Laws and All: A Survival Guide may appeal to those adjusting to the initial years of marriage.

A few years ago, third and fourth Graders couldn’t wait to get their hands on Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing.

Fifty Shades of Grey readers might share with you what they were hoping for while they were in the check-out line at Barnes and Noble…

Those going through painful divorces may be compelled to read An American Marriage.

Christians snapped up copies of the Left Behind series a decade ago.

Would-be soccer stars may find Soccer Shootout inspiring.

When you use your style, your unique twist, your distinctive point-of-view to make your writing relatable for your readers, they will be able to say, “Yes. That’s the kind of book I like.”

Do Prologues Require Epilogues?

No. Books with prologues don’t require epilogues. And vice versa. 

In fact, neither is required. It’s up to you to decide once you’ve written your story. 

Ask yourself if they improve your story.

Don’t write either one if you are just using them to dump a bunch of information on the reader. You might as well begin or end the actual story in a chapter instead. 

The only time I would really encourage the use of prologues and epilogues is when writing a series. They are especially helpful to readers as they move forward from one book to another or for readers who may jump in to read in the middle of a series, not aware of what has gone on in past books.

One last thing to consider. Research says only about 40 percent of readers actually read them. So, are they wasted effort?

Personally, I like writing them because they seem to “ground” me to my writing and get me psychologically “into” my story.

The good thing is that it seems there is no “write” or “wrong” answer to this question of whether or not to use prologues or epilogues.

TRELLO

If you are anything like me, I have all kinds of writing-related information in all forms, from organized files to scribbles on scraps of paper. I often begin writing and find I’ve forgotten a character’s description, or the geography of the setting, and so I end up searching around in my “files” or scrolling back in my written copy.

All of this wastes time. So, I was absolutely thrilled to learn from my friend, Ruth Douthitt, about Trello.

It is a free application available on your computer to help you organize and communicate with fellow authors.

Simply put, it is a series of color-coded cards that can be used in endless ways to help you keep your writing ideas/facts/information organized and conveniently stored. You can color-code them, name them, and/or shuffle them into your preferred order. The possibilities seem endless.

For example, writers can make cards for each of their characters to keep eye color, hair color, and other identifying information. Or, they can be used to keep track of each chapter, scenes within, and so on. You can move the chapters around in different orders, delete them entirely, or save them for another book.

The cards are easy to make, move, or delete.

If you have ever used Google Docs to critique another writer’s work—and they, yours—then you’ll love the fact that you can put the email addresses of your entire critique or Beta Reader teams into Trello. Once done, you can share your cards with them and see what they think about your character descriptions, plot points, etc. This may be of help to you in the PLANNING stages. (Although I have begun to understand what their value might be during the writing process, also.)

Now, I have just begun to use Trello (easy to get and free, did I mention that?) so I don’t know all of the ins and outs. However, I just learned to download pictures onto the cards. If you are a visual person, consider storing pictures of people that your characters resemble, maps, topography, etc. 

Familiarize yourself with Trello to see if it would be useful for you.

Warning: Trello IS FUN and somewhat addictive.

Finally, there IS a paid upgrade you can choose. I don’t know what its advantages would be because I thought it would be best to familiarize myself with the FREE app first.

The Mask

Batman and Robin, Darth Vader, Zorro, Spiderman, Hannibal Lecter, The Joker, The Lone Ranger, Jason, The Man in the Iron Mask, the Phantom of the Opera, Iron Man, Captain America, Wolverine, Jason Voohees, Stanley Ipkiss, Flash, Daredevil, Doctor Doom, Green Arrow, Yautja, Ghost face, Cyclops, Green Lantern, Batwoman, and many others have one thing in common.

THE MASK.

What is behind it? What kind of person wears it? Why does he/she choose to keep their identity a secret?

It all makes for an interesting read and/or a blockbuster movie.

In the world of Covid, I have been doing some thinking about masks—their function, the need for them, their effectiveness…

In the writing world, masks have played important parts in Suspense/Mystery and all types of Fiction, too.

Struggling with an idea for your next great novel? 

How about reviving the mask idea? 

Perhaps a new character is ready to emerge from the recesses of your creative mind…

Making Comparisons

Last week, we talked about Hyperboles. This week, we’ll focus on The Simile and The Metaphor.

These are also descriptions using figurative (non-literal) language, but they are not necessarily exaggerations.

They are both used to compare two things, actions, or ideas that are not alike. They make writing more descriptive, persuasive, and poetic. Writers of fiction, poetry, and song lyrics often use either or both similes and metaphors. 

An easy way to tell them apart is that metaphors do not use the words “as” or “like,” whereas similes do.

Example of a famous metaphor: Eyes are windows to the soul.

Here, the meaning is implied through comparison—that a person’s eyes can reveal a lot of information to the observer.

Example of a well-know simile: Without glasses, my father is as blind as a bat.

Here, the meaning is that someone’s vision is poor. He is not blind; he just needs to wear glasses.

I see the use of similes and metaphors more and more today, especially in historical fiction, suspense, and YA.

Can You Say It? Write It?

Hyperbole is a statement of exaggeration used for effect, to make a point, or show emphasis. 

It’s saying (or writing) things like: “I’m so hungry, I could eat a horse” or “Your luggage weighs a ton.” 

Hyperboles are used in stand-up routines, sitcoms, advertising, and all types of creative writing, including fiction.

Writers need to remember, however, that a little goes a long way when using this tool. In other words, the less often you use it, the more effective it will be. 

Stay away from hyperboles that are tired and overused. Instead, they should surprise and delight your readers.

The trick is to give them an original twist. It’s fun.

Try changing on of the examples (above) into one that is original and fresh. 

From Ideas to Stories

Some writers have so many ideas that they keep them in journals or files.

So, where do most authors get their fantastic ideas? Some, from their great imaginations. Others are simply excellent observers.

Stephen King gives credit to using dreams as inspirations for some of his books. His advice? Record your dreams in a journal upon awakening. This keeps those ideas fresh, to be used at a later date.

Strange, wondrous, and horrifying dreams can all form the basis of a captivating story.

You can also get ideas from daydreaming. Whether you are observing, daydreaming, or recording your nighttime dreams, keep a pad of paper with you at all times. I have one in a kitchen drawer, on my bedside table, in my purse, and in the glove compartment of my car.

So, if you are thinking about using dream sequences in your fiction, the question becomes how to write them well.

From what I have read, observed, and written, here are several suggestions:

  • Keep them short.
  • Insert the dream on a night in which things seem to be on the cusp of happening.
  • Ease into the dream. No big announcement, such as “And his dream began.”
  • Make the dream feel like a dream.
  • Make the subject matter of the dream reflective of what is going on in the character’s real life. (For example, let’s say the character is afraid of fire. A big camping trip is coming up. He dreams about sitting around the campfire and suddenly it flares and…)
  • The character having the dream should be someone whom you have already introduced in the story.
  • Let images trickle through, unfiltered and unedited. Keep them moving through fairly quickly because dreams are snippets–not complete thoughts, and certainly not detailed enough to actually “solve” the underlying issues in the character’s life.

   

Five Things Writers MUST Do

I would say there are about twenty-five things writers need to do, but these top five are ESSENTIAL:

1- Know your audience and write for them.  I don’t write YA, but if I did, I would have to learn my readers’ interests… their unique vocabulary… popular phrases… wardrobe and hairstyle preferences… everything there is to know about them. No one—no matter how much they love to read—will invest the time in reading what doesn’t interest them or reflect their dreams and aspirations.

2 – Read. First and foremost, a good writer reads. Get to know what’s out there and how other authors approach their craft. All the while, read for fun and pleasure, too. After all, fiction writers must be able to offer their readers an enjoyable reading experience.

3 – Learn the writing “rules.”  Read books on plot, style, character, etc. Go to conferences. Talk to other writers. Ask someone to mentor you. (Don’t worry, after you learn the rules, you can grant yourself permission to break them!!! I’ll clarify. Don’t break all of them all of the time. Be careful. Pick and choose as you find your unique “voice.”)

4 – Make every word count. Be precise. I use a an average vocabulary because I want my readers to enjoy my stories and not have to look up unfamiliar words. I think this is good advice for most fiction. However, I can see that Sci-fi and some other genres may want to use a different standard. By reading other books in your genre, you will learn what to use for your specific story.

5 – Edit, Edit, Edit.  Mistakes in spelling, grammar, and punctuation stand out like a sore thumb and draw attention away from your story. Even though no book is perfect, you don’t want to be embarrassed by mistakes. Take your time. Use an editor, but also read through your own work several times before sending it off to them.genre