Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Words of Writerly Wisdom: The Search for Inspiration Continues

I love reading blogs about writing.

(Reading food blogs is also a favorite activity. Which explains the crumbs on my kkkeyboard that occasionally cause the "kk" kkkkey to stickkkk. But I digress.)

I enjoy the blogs that offer tips and suggestions for writing better. Or cleaner. Or clearer. Or faster. They help me add to my writer's toolbox and improve my craft.

I adore blogs that cheerlead and encourage other writers. They form a vital, global support system that shines through our laptops and illuminates the recesses of our solitary writing dens. These blogs celebrate successes. They applaud milestones. They w00t and hoot-n-holler over things like achieving word count, solving plot problems, and landing publishing contracts. They reach out to other writers. They enable us to realize that we are not alone.

Photo by Lisa Solonynko.
I am grateful for the blogs of agents, editors, and publishers. These act as spotlights and spyglasses into the weird, wonderful world of publishing. Because of them, I can readily discover my agent of choice's query letter preferences. I can stay up-to-date on the vagaries of Penguin, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and British tabloid law. I can sympathize with the overqualified, underpaid intern wading through the slush pile. I can (and do) lurkk, listen, and learn.

Photo by Mark Miller.
Finally, I appreciate the blogs that use humor to illustrate the strange subculture we writers inhabit. Because, really, who in their right mind chooses a career that is so difficult to wriggle one's way into and that carries so little clout?
Q: How does a manuscript get published?
A: Someone forgets to say "No."
Writing blogs inspire me. They provide hours of entertainment, allowing me to rationalize that I'm not really procrastinating. Honest! I'm... uh... doing research. Yeah. 

Write to Done is currently hosting their 6th Annual Top 10 Blogs for Writers Contest. Do you have a favorite writing blog -- one that consistently enriches your writing life? Mention it below. Linkkkk to it, if you wish. I'd love to checkkk it out. Then, once you've finished your practice run, go to Write to Done's contest and make your nomination. (Only 1 nomination per person counts at Write to Done. I, however, don't care how many writing blogs you wish to name.) It's easy:

1.) Go to Write to Done's Writer's Blog Contest and tell them your favorite writer's blog in the comments.

2.) Include the web address of the blog you nominate. ( for example. Just sayin'.)

3.) Tell them why your chosen blog is so fabulous. (Hint: "She promised me Heath Bars if she wins" is probably *not* going to help your favorite place well in the polls...)

4.) Do it now. Or at least before December 10, 2011. That's when contest entries close.

A poem to commemorate the occasion (ahem):

Go spread the wisdom 
And the holiday cheer. 
What's your favorite writing blog? 
Tell the world here.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Discover a New Author & Everyone Wins!

Regular readers know that I do not shill for stuff on my blog. I'm not into hard sales and I don't shout "BUY THIS!" - even for my own books. However, I am all about encouraging writers. And I know how difficult it can be for new writers to find readers. So when I heard about the blog tour & contest Shannon Mayer was organizing for four newly published authors, I signed on. Here's a great opportunity to get acquainted with the work of some new writers. And you never know: you might win big!

(NOTE: I'm not receiving any remuneration for being part of the blog tour. However, the blog with the most comments on it receives a little sumpthin'-sumpthin. So... you know... Chime in below. Tell me your thoughts on such blog tour / book launches. Or better yet: tell me what book you want Santa to stuff in your Christmas stocking!)

Support Four Debut Authors and Snag $125!
Four books
Two Days

Great Prizes

With this contest, there is something for everyone and it’s SO simple to be in on the winning!

On November 28 and/or 29, purchase 1 or all 4 of the debut author’s books listed here. Then forward proof of purchase (the receipt Amazon sends you will do just fine) to : motionsrider @ yahoo . ca and get up to 4 entries into a drawing for a $100 Amazon gift card!

It’s that easy, no reviews, no hoops to jump through. Just a great .99 book or two. Or three or four. AND, if the person who wins the $100 Amazon Gift Card has purchased all 4 books, an additional $25 Amazon Gift Card will be awarded to the winner!

On top of that, 2 random commenters picked from 2 of our participating blogs will receive $5 gift Amazon gift cards . So, be sure to leave a comment and let us know what you think of the promo, the books, or the authors.

Winners will be chosen randomly, one entry per person, per book.
All winners will be announced on December 7th on Wringing Out Words (

Between” by Cyndi Tefft (@cynditefft)

It just figures that the love of Lindsey Water's life isn't alive at all, but the grim reaper, complete with a dimpled smile, and Scottish accent. 

After transporting souls to heaven for the last 300 years, Aiden MacRae has all but given up on finding the one whose love will redeem him and allow him entry through the pearly gates. 

Torn between her growing attraction to Aiden and heaven's siren song, Lindsey must learn the hard way whether love really can transcend all boundaries.

Until Dawn: Last Light” by Jennifer Simas

When darkness falls, whose side will you be on?

For the past six years, Zoë has been anything but “normal.” Struggling to accept her immortality and thrown into a war that’s been waging in the shadows for over a thousand years, Zoë must now become who she was meant to be, joining the other Chosen to save what’s left of humanity. When the endless night falls over the Earth, will she be able to save the one man who reminds her of what it is to be human, or will it be too late?

Until Dawn: Last Light is a story of death and despair, love and longing, hope and hopelessness, and the ability to survive and keep going even when it seems impossible – when you want nothing more than to give up.

The Kayson Cycle” by Jonathan D. Allen (@crimnos)

A stranger enters a dying town and makes a desperate plea…

The Kayson Cycle introduces the Kayson Brothers, a pair of faith healers who once wowed crowds in a traveling show but went their separate ways after a night in which a healing took a dark turn. Jeffrey Kayson disappeared into the wilderness and William Kayson, wracked by guilt, moved to the failing mining town of Calico Hills to build a nice, quiet life – one that has lasted for over ten years. 

His quiet, predictable life crumbles when a mysterious stranger walks into his tavern bearing a proposal to find his long-lost brother and do the one thing that William has sworn to never do again - have his brother heal a woman. William soon learns that he can’t escape his family – or his destiny.

Includes an exclusive sample chapter of The Corridors of the Dead. Please note that this is a Kindle Single, and around 6,000 words in length.

Sundered” by Shannon Mayer (@queryaddict)

A miracle drug, Nevermore, spreads like wildfire throughout the world allowing people to eat what they want, and still lose weight. It is everything the human population has ever dreamed of and Mara is no different. Only a simple twist of fate stops her from taking Nevermore.

As the weeks roll by, it becomes apparent that Nevermore is not the miracle it claimed. A true to life nightmare, the drug steals the very essence that makes up humanity and unleashes a new and deadly species on the world that is bent on filling its belly. Locked down within their small farm home, Mara and her husband Sebastian struggle against increasingly bad odds, fighting off marauders and monsters alike.

 But Sebastian carries a dark secret, one that more than threatens to tear them apart, it threatens to destroy them both and the love they have for each other. 

Now Mara must make the ultimate choice. Will she live for love, or will she live to survive?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Structured Life: Thoughts On Adapting Reality for Entertainment

The past two weeks have been a sleep-deprived blur of script rewrites with my fabulous co-writer (and soon-to-be-famous director) Paul. We've been hard at work tearing apart our script and building a brighter, better story from the rubble.

Are you not entertained?
This entire project has been a learning experience. You see: it's a biopic. Which means it is based on a real someone's Real Life. And in Real Life, this someone experienced some Real Crap. Loads of it. Years of it. What makes the story so compelling is how one man was able to rise above the crap, overcome its stranglehold on him, and go on to lead a full, productive life.

Both Paul and I are fans of "Save the Cat." Our original script followed STC structure. But  in it, too much Real Life grabbed the reader by the throat. It was just too dang depressing.

"The problem," we kept reminding ourselves, "is that people don't live their lives by Save the Cat story beats."

On the surface, our task was simple. Just make the movie more uplifting. Less of a downer. You know: something people can eat popcorn to.

However, our subject was a man who went from a world-famous athlete to seriously injured drug addict. His battle with addiction had originally been the crux of our story. But there's precious little one can do to make Real Life addiction and recovery fun.

False high? False low? Regardless,
the Midpoint is a Point of No Return.
Photo by mxruben
Our original midpoint of the film was the accident that sent our hero down the whirling vortex of injury and addiction. From a structure standpoint, it worked and it worked well. From an entertainment perspective, however, it became the tentpole for gloom, doom, and misery.

What finally helped us was approaching our story armed with only general structure and story beats. According to STC, the midpoint should either be a "false high" or a "false low." We decided that the accident would happen much later in the second act. Then we made a list of every major high or low in our hero's life and tried each one out as a midpoint.

It was amazing how quickly we realized that by moving the Terrible Accident much later in the story, we freed ourselves up to focus more on the ups and downs, the highs and lows of being a professional athlete. Suddenly, what had been a "one man overcomes drug addiction" story became a powerful sports biopic, complete with a "will he win or won't he?" duel in the second half.

We didn't eliminate the Terrible Accident. Far from it. It's a critical part of the story. But it's no longer THE story. Now the story is more about willingly throwing oneself at life, regardless of the odds of winning. It's much more engaging and entertaining. It gives the audience something to root for. And though the script doesn't gloss over the dark stuff, it doesn't wallow in darkness either.

If you're writing fiction, the story beats are largely up to you. You can massage the plot and make it your minion. That's easier said than done, however, if you're in the process of adapting non-fiction. Still, there is no reason to abandon solid structure. Knowing your beats and your reasons for them will only make the story stronger.

Some Suggestions for Adapting Reality for Entertainment
[An overly simplified look at structure]:

1.) Know your hero's everyday reality. (Set-Up).
2.) Know what makes your hero exceptional. Know what your hero wants (Catalyst & Theme).
3.) Show your hero dealing with the naysayers who try to hold him back (Debate).
4.) Know what bumps your hero out of his normal world (Break into Two).
5.) Show your hero learning the ropes of his new life (Fun and Games).
6.) Know the Moment at which everything changes & life is never again the same (Midpoint).
7.) Show your hero struggling to regain his earlier momentum. Increase the odds against him (Bad Guys Close In).
8.) Show your hero's darkest hour: where even the hero thinks he's failed (All is Lost).
9.) Show your hero discovering hidden reserves. Armed with this new strength, he charges back into action (Break into Three).
10.) Explore all the ways your hero draws upon his new-found skills to overcome his problems (Finale).

When working with Real Life, the overall "what happened" is a given. If the story has merit, you shouldn't have to take liberties with it to make it compelling. But sometimes the extras of Real Life -- the C and D and Y and Z story lines -- can obscure the core story. That's when overlaying an overly simplified view of structure atop what really happened can help you chart a course for a story that's as interesting and engaging to your audience as it is true to your subject.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Write What You (Used To) Know: Reclaiming Your Inner Child

I'm happy to welcome back guest blogger Melissa Boone. Melissa wrote the "Don't Give Up!" guest post earlier this month. She owns her own business but her true passion is writing.  Her children's ebook, Goat Cheese Grilled Cheese, is available for Kindle.  Her second book, Paranormal Encounters was recently released via  

Melissa loves still photography; her pictures can be purchased at  She has been "married to the same wonderful man for the past 24 years and have 5 children and will soon be a grandmother." Melissa and I have been discussing the things that motivate us and keep us writing. I like her simple approach to inspiration. Thanks, Melissa, for letting me share this with my readers! 

It doesn't get any more simple than this:

Write about what you know.

I've always loved writing children's books but too many times I found myself trying to use my much damaged imagination.  Really, I think once we get to a certain age the ability (at least for most of us) to conjure up our imaginary friends or just making up a good story lessens.  The ability to think like a child is lost.

Even when I try to play dolls with my daughters or trucks with my boys I just can't do it.  It's not because I think it's silly (or is it?); I just don't know how to "play" anymore.

It's sad in a way because I remember as a child how much fun it was to do those sort of things but as I get older things become more practical and realistic.  I don't think the boys would appreciate me playing cars and showing my "road rage" skills, or playing dolls with the girls and letting my not-so-nice adult social abilities slip out.  No, I'm not an angry person; really.  It's just part of growing up, dealing with people not only on the roads but everyday life is not always easy.

So, you ask, how can I write children's books?

Well, I learn from my children, that's how.  The two books I've written so far have been about my eight- year old daughter.  What better example to use for a children's book than a child?

Our children are more of an inspiration to us than we give them credit for most of the time (ok: all the time).  We as parents think it's our full time job to always teach our children but when you stop and think about it, they are also teaching us each day.

If you are struggling with what to write about, look around you.  Even if you don't have children, just take a look.  If you have nieces, nephews, or grandchildren let them inspire you.  It's only takes one small thing to create a novel. My daughter's love for grilled cheese is what inspired my first book and her love for puppies has inspired my next book soon to be released.  Let your imagination flow as best it can and let the kids do the rest.  Before you know it, you will be typing the last few words of one book and will already have ideas for the next.

Happy hunting and keep an open mind.....

Friday, November 11, 2011

You Might Be a Writer If...

... you consider a trip to the ER a great opportunity for taking notes on proper medical procedure.

... you have at least one friend who is convinced that everything you write is autobiographical.

... some of your best friends are fictitious.

... you never get bored in church or committee meetings because you're too busy people-watching.

... you've been known to transcribe the conversations of total strangers because you liked the authenticity of their voices.

... you can spend 5 hours on your work in progress with only a single paragraph to show for it.

... you feel guilty for taking a break for lunch if your characters are in danger.

... your entire plot hinges upon notes scribbled on the back of an envelope.

Photo by Jane M. Sawyer, courtesy of
... you've ever called your own phone number so you could dictate plot points to your voice mail.

... every room in the house, including the basement and the bathroom, has a supply of note paper and pens.

... you plan Thanksgiving dinner so it doesn't interfere with your NaNoWriMo word count.

... you do not fear the blank page; you embrace it for it holds endless possibilities.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Don't Give Up!

Today, I welcome author Melissa Boone. Melissa owns her own business but her true passion is writing.  Her children's ebook, Goat Cheese Grilled Cheese, is available for Kindle.  Her second book, Paranormal Encounters will soon be released via  

Melissa loves still photography; her pictures can be purchased at  She had been "married to the same wonderful man for the past 24 years and have 5 children and will soon be a grandmother." Thanks, Melissa, for this inspiring post! 

If there is any advice you are willing to accept, I hope this is it: don’t give up.

Anything worth doing and doing right is not going to happen over night or in a moment's notice.  Okay, you may write the novel of the year over night or in a moment's notice but is it going to be a best seller or movie of the year that same day or the next?  Highly unlikely.  Would we like it to?  You bet.  But in all reality, for this to happen you would have to be related to Stephen King or Steven Spielberg. 

Now let’s be honest with ourselves.  You put together the best book you think that’s out there and then what?

That, my friend, is the question.

Where do you even begin?  Maybe send out a query or two, make a couple of phone calls and tell your friends but where is that going to get you?  Not far enough.

Be ready when opportunity knocks!
I have been trying to get published (other than the local newspaper) for fifteen years.  Yes, at first I would mail out queries by the dozen and if I didn’t hear anything for a couple of weeks I gave up.  I would do this on and off for years.  I even changed my writing style (big mistake) and strayed off of what I enjoyed writing because I thought what I was writing was not good enough.  But I was wrong and impatient.

Again, don’t give up.  Keep pushing your idea; don’t stop spreading the word of what you’ve accomplished.  Yes, writing the book is an accomplishment. It’s the first step, and you just need to keep pressing forward.  I never thought in my wildest dreams I would become published but in the end I followed my own advice and never gave up.

You don’t know what opportunity will come knocking on your door and be The One.  This is why you can not stop pursuing your dream.

Everyone’s open door is different but mine was stepping out of my unsocial shell and attending a seminar led by Ami Hendrickson. Because of her telling me (and the rest of the class) that if I put my book information as a signature in my email, found another outlet via the internet (like a blog) and would just be more vocal about who I am and what I’m doing, I would find myself farther than the day before.

I did.

And by doing the three things I just mentioned, I was offered a book signing and a radio interview as soon as my book is available.  Now I can’t say this happens this quickly for everyone but I will say the more you are willing to promote yourself and be willing to talk about what you are trying to accomplish, whether it’s a book, an article or some other type of writing project, the sooner you will see results.

I am now an author (yay!) of one ebook as well as a  soon-to-be-released paperback, with another in the works.  Now I have the know how and the confidence to know I’m able to accomplish what I so desire.

If you can only do one thing today do this; find a mirror, look at it, look at yourself and say, "Don’t Give Up!"