Category Archives: writing process

What got me started

Robin

Sat, Aug 11, 10:16 AM
This month’s topic is what started us writing:

I’ve written poetry as far back as I can remember. I kept it in a series of spiral notebooks that accumulated in my attic, wrote cards for holidays birthdays, co-workers leaving the office, and the occasional small newsletter. Along about 2005 I wrote a poem I wanted to keep, so I scrounged around online and ended up putting them in online in what would now be called a cloud.

That December I was reading an ezine I liked and discovered they had a poetry contest. I believe the theme was ‘sleep’, and  I had a poem to fit it. Since it was handy (read online), I sent it in, and the poem was one of four runners-up., I didn’t win.

But they published all four of the finalists, and I was psyched. I joined a couple of online communities and started working on my poetry. In one of them, I ran across someone who was starting a small print poetry mag (since died, I believe). He liked and published a couple of my poems. That was early 2006. I found out about “The Muse Online Writers Conference,” (free, online virtual conference) and “attended” that October.

There I “met” Linda Barnett Johnson. Linda runs writers forum, and she insisted that her students join both fiction and poetry forums. Poetry alone was not an option.

At  that point, I’d never written a word of fiction (at least, not since elementary school ), and I would have sworn I never would. However, I liked Linda, and I wanted to join the poetry forum, so I signed up. I started writing for children, as that felt less intimidating – and shorter. As a poet, I was a terse writer, and generating sufficient word count worried me. My first story ended up published online. It was a *long* time until I placed another, but thus encouraged, I continued to write both fiction and poetry.

Many years ago, a family friend lost his wife and all four of his children in a house fire. This incident had haunted me ever since, and one weekend I wrote a 5000 word book in which the main character, a nine-year-old boy, lost his mother in a house fire. I couldn’t change my friend’s outcome, but in my fictional world, I could.

I spent the next year and a half or two years whipping it into shape. Although I have (and had) a good ear for language and a solid knowledge of grammar, I knew little about structuring a story. I set out to learn about plotting, characterization, dialogue, setting, points-of-view, and, yes, more grammar. I joined a critique group and took the ICL basic course. I hung out on Writers Village University and took their free fiction course and a couple of others that proved extremely helpful. The story was accepted for publication but has not yet been published.

Fast forward to September, 2010. I am a huge science fiction fan, but I’d never written a sci fi story — I had kind of a phobia about it — so I decided I’d do Nano (National Novel Writing Month) that November, and began to plan my story.

I devoted most of my time and energy to world building, a bit to thinking about the characters, and devoted about  a page to the plot. Then I started writing.

Of course, there was still editing, polishing, submitting …

And that’s how I got started writing.

Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/
Victoria Chatham http://www.victoriachatham.com
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Dr. Bob Rich https://wp.me/p3Xihq-1ke
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
A.J. Maguire  http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/
Margaret Fieland https://margaretfieland.wordpress.com
Rhobin L Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.

Advertisements

Beginning, ending, and what’s in between

 

How do you ensure a story has a good beginning, a satisfying ending, and good continuity in between?

Honey, if I could answer that one, I’d be on the New York Times Best Seller list, or at least my novels would be top sellers in their category onAmazon.

Ah, well.

But of course, I do take care to try to ensure a good beginning, ending, and continuity.

I am not one of those writers who outlines their novel in detail, but I do need to know the beginning, the ending, and the high points of what’s in between when I start out. Or at least, I think I do.  So far I have been fairly on target about the ending, even when I don’t know how I’m going to get there. For example, in my novel Broken Bonds, (WARNING: Spoiler) the main character, Major Brad Reynolds, is accused of treason. I knew which way I wanted the case

One of my drawings of Aleyne, mountains wiith the multi-colored desert sands in the foreground

against him to go, but I had no idea, until I wrote it, how I was going to manage to do it. Fortunately, my subconscious is a better plotter than I {wry grin}.

 

As to the beginning, that’s trickier. I wrote a children’s chapter book (that has yet to appear) about a little boy who loses his mother in a fire.  I initially started with the fire, but finally realized that the story really started in what was at the time Chapter Three where my main character’s mother is dead, his father still in the hospital, and he is going home with his grandmother. I discarded part of the first chapter of the earlier versions of Broken Bonds, too.

As for filling in the middle, since I don’t outline in detail, I have notes for the chapters I ‘know’ about and fill in the ‘blanks’ as I write. I tend to have more detailed notes a couple of chapters ahead of where I’m writing.

And when I reach the end of the first draft, I go back and revise. At that point I have an overview of the whole novel. I revise more, I believe, than someone who has a detailed outline. That’s the trade off. However, I don’t know enough about the novel to do that before I’ve written the first draft.

 

Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Marci Baun  http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Margaret Fieland https://margaretfieland.wordpress.com
A.J. Maguire  http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Rhobin L Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com

Anne de Gruchy  https://annedegruchy.co.uk/category/blog/

 

For Oct 22: A Book by Any Other Title

RoundRobinBlogTour

One of the first things any reader knows about a book is the title — and the author and the cover image, but for now let’s stick to the title. We all want a catchy title for our books, one that will stop a potential reader in their tracks and make them open it up (or click on it) to discover what it’s really about. And we all want a title that’s going to pop up when readers are searching on Amazon for books in our genre.

So, when I go to my local library or bookstore and search for something to read, I start by browsing through the shelf of new books, checking out the titles and, if it looks interesting, plucking it off the shelf, opening it up, and reading the blurb. Then maybe I’ll check out the first couple of pages.

I’m staring at my latest collection of library books, one of which is “Little Beach Street Bakery,” a book I chose in just such a manner. It sounds satisfying — not disturbing, not likely to give me nightmares, which is what I was in the mood for at the time.

So, hmm — what attracts me to a title depends on my mood, and therefore what I want in a book at the time: romance, mystery, adventure, horror, or whatever.

I wish I could say that I have a wonderful method for choosing titles for my books, but I don’t. Sometimes they just come to me, and sometimes I have to work at it.

The title of  Relocated,   just came to me. It’s about a teenage boy who ends up on an alien planet when his father is sent there to help root out some terrorists.  The title of Geek Games   and Broken Bonds took more work, as did my latest novel, Rob’s Rebellion. Its working title was “Rob’s Book,” after the main character, Colonel Robert Walker, a colonel in the Terran Federation Guard who is posted to the alien planet Aleyne with orders to arrest the current, very popular, commander of the military base there on charges of treason. I eventually ended up soliciting suggestions from my reading group.

What attracts you to a particular title? Leave a comment and let us know, and do check out the thoughts of my fellow posters:

“Marci Baun  http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/
A.J. Maguire  http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Victoria Chatham http://victoriachatham.blogspot.ca
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com
Heather Haven http://heatherhavenstories.com/blog/
Dr. Bob Rich  http://wp.me/p3Xihq-MI
Connie Vines http://connievines.blogspot.com/
Margaret Fieland https://margaretfieland.wordpress.com
Rachael Kosinski http://rachaelkosinski.weebly.com/
Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com

Poetic Forms: Sestina

colors8

The sestina is a poetic form consisting of six six-line stanzas and a three-line envoy. It is attributed to twelfth century French troubadour Arnaut Daniel.The six end words of the first stanza cycle in a pattern thusly:

B  E/ D C/ F A
or
F  A/D  C/B  E

There are several online “Sestina Generators” that will spit out the correct pattern given the six end words of the first stanza, for example:

http://www.renajmosteirin.com/sestina.html

Here is a link to another sestina generator

dilute.net/sestinas

How to choose your end words

There are many ways to choose end words. One is to write the first stanza and then lay out the pattern for the rest. The other, the one I often use, is to pick six words, generate the skeleton, and start writing. I try to choose words with more than one meaning and that can be used as more than one part of speech.

Before writing your own, check out some of these:

Here is a link to  sestina by Elizabeth Bishop:

http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/sestina/

Here are the first two stanzas:

Autoplay next video
September rain falls on the house.
In the failing light, the old grandmother
sits in the kitchen with the child
beside the Little Marvel Stove,
reading the jokes from the almanac,
laughing and talking to hide her tears.

She thinks that her equinoctial tears
and the rain that beats on the roof of the house
were both foretold by the almanac,
but only known to a grandmother.
The iron kettle sings on the stove.
She cuts some bread and says to the child

Here is a  link to sestina by Ezra Pound:

http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15423

Here is one of mine, one that rhymes:

Gone Shopping

Now, sit and listen to my tale
of a beautiful flyer that came in the mail
with pictures of roses and posies on sale.
It looked so alluring, I ran to catch the rail.
The train was pulling out, and I turned rather pale,
but spotted a taxi I was able to hail.

My heart was pounding. I had to inhale
many deep breaths, then told the driver my tale
I started a list: flowers, rake, shovel, pail
but became distracted by a handsome male
beside the road, leaning on a rail,
holding a small boat with a red sail.

Despite my eagerness to get to the sale,
I stopped the taxi in order to hail
the handsome stranger leaning on the rail.
I wondered if he would turn tail,
but I decided he was such a stunning male,
to take a chance. He glared at me, casting a pall

over my joy in the day. I turned quite pale
when he told me he intended to sail
his small boat on the pond, and only a female
would be so stupid as to hale
a stranger with such a sorry tale.
He went on and on, continued to rail

at me. I was completely unable to derail
his ranting. I told him to stick his head in a pail
then stick the hole thing up his tail
and exactly what he could do with his sail.
Then it started to hail.
I shook loose from the demented male.

jumped back in the taxi to ponder my mail,
told the driver to take to the trail.
I let out my breath with a big exhale.
The whole incident left me shaky and pale,
but I was determined to get to that sale,
even though it meant turning tail.

I left the handsome male. I did buy the flowers, rake, and pail.
But I took the rail when I returned from the sale,
still whole, hearty and hale. I hope you enjoyed my tale.

Go ahead, give it a try for yourself, and, if you like, post yours in the comments.

September Round Robin: Strange writing practices

rndrbnlogo

This month’s theme ism what writing practices do you have that you think are eccentric or at least never mentioned but you find helpful?

Of course, I firmly believe that all my writing practices are entirely normal, natural, and average {grin}.

Hmmm

Well, maybe there are one or two things.

I never listen to music when I write, which I gather is somewhat unusual. I’m a fairly serious amateur musician — I play the flute and the piccolo — and in addition,  I’m very auditory. When I turn on the music, I listen to it to the exclusion of anything else. I do, however, find myself whistling (no particular song) when I’m concentrating. I also talk to myself. This morning my spouse asked me if I found my responses enlightening. I answered yes.

I’m a native New Yorker, born and raised in Manhattan. My mother was very fond of classical music. She and her friends had subscriptions to the New York Philharmonic, and when one of the group couldn’t make it, she would sometimes take me.  I would try to pick out the voices of the individual instruments from the sound of the orchestra as I listened to the music. I got pretty good at it, too. But it did leave me unable to ignore most music when it’s playing.

Another habit of mine that may be unusual is that I put *** FIXME **  with a comment into the text of whatever I’m working on whenever there’s something that I need to come back to. This makes it easy to search for whatever it was that I wanted to deal with later.

** NERD ALERT ** I earn my living as a computer software engineer, and I picked up this particular habit from some open source software that I was porting to a proprietary operating system. The debugging information involved a then-new scheme, and the code (not all of which would work with our software in any case) was peppered with the original coder’s comments, prefaced with — you guessed it — FIXME.

The other thing I’d like to mention is something *everyone* should be doing: backing up your work. I keep copies  of my work in a cloud — I use Google drive — which not only backs it up, but also makes it accessible on any computer. This has saved my ass more than once, most especially the time where my now happily former computer suffered a head crash. The computer wouldn’t boot up, and I was forced to restore the original copy of the OS, minus all the software I’d installed and, most importantly, any documents I’d saved on my computer.

 

Check out the posts of my fellow bloggers:
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
A.J. Maguire  http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Dr. Bob Rich https://bobrich18.wordpress.com/2016/09/24/is-my-writing-right-for-you
Rachael Kosinski http://rachaelkosinski.weebly.com/
Anne Stenhouse  http://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
Connie Vines http://connievines.blogspot.com/
Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com
Victoria Chatham http://victoriachatham.blogspot.ca
Margaret Fieland https://margaretfieland.wordpress.com
Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com

 

Meet P J MacLayne

pjmaclayneTell us something about your yourself? I’m a computer geek by day and a writer by night. I never expected to write a shifter book, let alone a series, but here I am. I guess it’s okay to listen to the voices in my head.

Tell us something about your new book? I fell in love with my main character, Tasha Roeper, as I was writing this book. She’s a strong woman, and willing to set aside her needs and desires to help others. She’s devoted to her friends and loyal to her packmates. I was so glad I was able to write her a happy ending.

You have a new book out, the second in The Free Wolve’s series. How did you come to write the series? I didn’t plan for it to be a series. I thought the first book, Wolves’ Pawn, would be a stand-alone. But one of the characters from that book, Tasha, kept bugging me to tell her story and Wolves’ Knight is the result. I’ve already got ideas for a novelette and a third book as soon as I have time to write them!

Shape shifters appear to be very popular right now. What makes yours different from everyone else’s? The Fairwood pack, a pack of wolf shifters, runs a software company, based out of a business office in the middle of a privately owned Victorian-era village. And the Free Wolves, a loose collective of a variety of shifters, despite the name, are run more like a commune. Yet somehow they manage to get along with each other.

What is your writing process? I usually have a beginning of a story and the end. Everything that happens in between I discover along the way. My characters frequently surprise me as I tell their stories.

What do you find most difficult as a writer? Finding my mistakes when I’m editing. It’s so hard to see what I’ve messed up since I’m so close to the story. Thank heavens for good beta readers who identify plot holes inconsistencies.

How would you describe your writing style? I say I write action with a touch of romance, rather than pure romance. My books are story-driven vs character driven. Although the characters are telling me their stories, sometimes it feels as if they are just along for the ride.

What and who are your greatest influences as a writer? Since I started writing, I’ve run into so many talented authors I almost hate to call any of them out. But I would like to mention Jesse V. Coffey. Before I made the switch from poetry to novels, I read some old stories of hers on-line, and it sparked a creative bug in me that hasn’t gone away yet.

Who are some of your favorite authors in your genre? Melissa Snark is doing some great writing in the shifter genre. And I’m a big fan of L.J. Charles with her “Touch ” series and of Jenna Bennett and her Savannah Martin mystery series.

What do you want readers to take away from your book? There’s always hope. No matter how bad a situation seems, don’t give up and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Even when things are going badly, there are people who are willing to work to make it better.

What are you working on now? I’m working on the third book in another series, The Oak Grove Mysteries. My main character, Harmony Duprie, can’t seem to stay out of trouble. I have fun getting her out of the situations she gets herself into. There are no shifters in those books, although I write subtle references to the shifter books in them. (Unnoticed by most readers, I suspect.)

Any last words? Thanks for hosting me today. I appreciate the opportunity to introduce myself to your readers.

Book Blurb for Wolves’ KnightCover_Wolves_knight

Tasha Roeper knows what it means to protect your own. So when her friend, Dot Lapahie, CEO of Lapahie Enterprises, suspects that the Free Wolves are under attack, Tasha immediately signs on to lead the investigation and guard Dot.

But Tasha’s not convinced it’s the Free Wolves that are the target. She fears that her own pack—the Fairwood Pack—are the actual quarry and Dot is only a decoy.

The deeper Tasha digs, the more puzzles she uncovers.

Torn between tradition and a changing world, will Tasha risk everything to save a friend—including her own life—when old enemies arise?

Excerpt

She lay on the ground, wiggled her belly a few times to work away the pebbles under it, and put her nose between her forepaws. Even close up, with her eyes open only a crack, an unwary observer might think she slept. From the distance, she might look like a large rock.

It was a technique she’d learned to snag game. Find a spot along a trail, settle in and slow her breathing, wait, pounce when an unsuspecting animal happened by. She could stay in the same position for hours if need be. But the game she hunted tonight wasn’t meant to end up as her supper, and she didn’t have hours to wait.

The wind picked up and a gust almost covered the sound. Tasha’s ears pricked forward at the shuffle of footsteps. A figure inched along the side of the building, stopping at a window. Tasha tightened her muscles, but didn’t move.

Then he went on. Tasha was positive it was a male although the wind blew the wrong direction for her to catch his scent. Not even her tail twitched as he stopped at another window. Her ears caught the sound of him tapping on the glass. He moved again.

The third window sat in a pool of darkness. But Tasha’s eyes watched as he raised the window. He grasped the window frame and started to lift himself inside.

And Tasha exploded into a snarling mass of muscle and fangs.

Buy links

http://www.amazon.com/Wolves-Knight-Free-Book-ebook/dp/B0199BC6YI/

https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/wolves-knight

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/wolves-knight-pj-maclayne/1123127673

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id1066865102

Five Ways to Cut the Distractions and Start Writing Now.

Five Ways to Cut the Distractions and Start Writing Now, guest post by Alexis MacDonald

Anyone who has ever written anything significant, whether a term paper, a blog or the Great American Novel, has had to deal, now and again, with some of the usual writers’ bugaboos, like having one’s brain turn from a rich pasture of literary abundance to a whiteboard without a second’s notice. Right up there with the empty brain issue would be the wandering mind; one minute racing along on a shiny, well-organized train of thought and then floating aimlessly like a leaf on the wind the very next, or, suddenly mesmerized by one of the gadgets on your tool bar that you had somehow never noticed until this very second.

These things happen to just about everyone, and usually aren’t totally disastrous, unless you’re on deadline, in which case they can definitely throw a huge monkey wrench into the wheels of progress. So taking the distraction issue as a start, and beginning with the assumption that there is no such thing as a totally distraction-free working environment, how can a writer control and at least minimize distractions when work is where your wandering mind needs to be at that very moment?

Some would definitely argue that it is not only possible, but mandatory to create a distraction-free writing environment. Look, if you have the kind of creative mind we’re discussing here, and there are no distractions in the environment, your brain will create some for you, so whether they’re external or internal, distractions will happen, but they can be dealt with. Here are a few things that may be helpful in keeping some measure of focus when you need to get something coherent down on paper.

1. Try to pick topics that really interest you. If the material is interesting to you, then there is a greater likelihood that you will be able to maintain your attention span on point and organize your material in a sufficiently logical progression to make it interesting to your reader.

2. Do your homework and work from notes, especially if it’s a topic on which you aren’t naturally well-informed. You can get a lot of the mind-wandering out of your system while you’re putting together your notes and doing your research, so when it’s time to put the actual piece together, the material is familiar to you and you’re not as likely to be tempted to Google yourself off a cliff.

3. Closely related to this is organization. Do not write notes on scraps of paper, folded up dinner napkins or post-its strewn across your monitor and wall. When you’re doing research for an article create a folder in your computer and put everything there. If you absolutely must write something on the back of your day-timer while you’re thinking of it, then transfer it to your computer immediately when you get home, otherwise, distractions will be the least of your worries as you’re digging for critical pieces of information that have fallen into a black hole of post-it hell.

4. If you find yourself starting to wander, stop right there and take a break. Walk around, get a cold drink, stretch a little and then come back to the issue at hand with a refreshed perspective. Sometimes the best way to save time is to take a couple of minutes away from what you’re doing. This puts up a roadblock on that winding little path your mind was about to start heading down and brings you back to the place you need to be.

5. Finally, while there are applications out there that offer a variety of ways to get you to focus on the writing task at hand, if you really need to get an app to do this you may be beyond hope. You’re a writer. You are creative. You can do this.

Alexis is a freelance writer who specializes in pregnancy topics. She is currently writing on pregnancy symptoms and putting together a period calculator that she hopes will be useful to moms-to-be!