Monday, January 31, 2011

Do You Like Me?

Maybe you've heard it already, maybe you haven't, but someday someone is going to tell you that what you're doing is all wrong. That your writing is slow, lacking something, and you need to change what you write in order to appeal to more people. It could be a fellow writer, a beta reader, your mother, an agent or publisher...but somewhere along the line you're going to get (perhaps well intended) advice from them. Pre and post publishing.

Before you're published, the advice might come from people that you allow to read your work for the critique. A beta reader or someone from a writing community you're a part of. While criticism is all well and good, you do need to be wary sometimes. Both about how much you take into consideration and how much you let pass by. One person may tell you they love it. Nothing is wrong with your work. Another may say it's good, but this or that needs work. Then you'll get another that will like what the other didn't, and then point out something different that 'needs fixing.'

This can cause a whole lot of confusion from your end and kill your motivation. I know this from experience. After posting my first novel up on my writing community, there was such a great response from people I thought: "Hey, I'm not that bad, eh?"

And then came the more serious readers, the ones who--bless them--really want to see other writers improve their skill. Unfortunately, their lengthy and well meaning critique wound up contradicting each other and left me seriously questioning my writing ability. I mean, I really liked what I had written, and now there were all these people telling me that this was wrong, or that needed to be cut out. So I would change it, try to improve on their suggestions, but it seemed like nothing was working because there would be more critique with new areas for me to focus on.

Now, nobody's writing is perfect the first time around and even after you've edited or revised half a dozen times...There will always be something you could improve on. The point of critique is to get your mind thinking. To catch things we often miss in our own writing but can easily spot in someone elses. And yes, to fix the things that really need improving. So take the advice from those who take the time to read your work, sift through it, and apply it to your writing. But one thing you should always listen to, and that's your gut instinct. After the obvious grammar, spelling, punctuation...If you truly love what you've written--then stick with what you've got. It doesn't matter if you really love that person's writing and they always give you such excellent advice...At some point you are going to have to realize that pleasing everyone just isn't possible. It's never going to happen. And sometimes, pleasing that one person you really trust to be honest with you won't happen either. At some point you are going to need to really ask yourself: "Do I like it?" You're the one writing it, after all.

Now once you're published, or trying to find a publisher/agent...Things might be different. That's when you might start to hear something like this: "You need to change your writing to appeal to a broader audience."

Oh...and you're going to want to do it. Especially if you're new in the publishing world. You're going to want to do everything your agent/publisher says because you want to sell. You want more fans. And that's not a bad thing. Still, you need to ask yourself a few things before doing anything drastic.

Do you already have fans? Whether they are from your pre-published days, when you were barely starting to learn the ropes, or new ones acquired after your book(s) hit shelves--if you have fans, that means you've done it. You've made a connection with people who enjoy your writing because they like what you like. They like your stories and believe in them. That's not something to thumb your nose at. Especially the ones who stuck by you from the beginning. When you're writing what you love, having fans means you've found people who see the world as you do. Which leads to the next question...Do you like what you write? Is it something that you really, really, absolutely, positively, LOVE? If not--if you don't like the genre at all and it's something you did only because you thought it would sell more books--then maybe it is something you should consider changing.

Chances are that if you change your writing to appeal to those who don't already read your books, the fans that you do have--the ones who do enjoy your work--might not anymore. This is something worth serious consideration. Is it worth it?

There is no easy answer to this and I can't lead you in any direction. When this day comes along, it will be up to you to decide where you want to go from there. All I can do is give you something to think about.

Think about it though. Every author has fans and haters. What would happen if Stephen King decided to appeal to those who don't read his novels? Would he lose the readers he already has? Or take Stephenie many fans of hers would be dissappointed if she did kill one of her precious vampires?

Happy Writing!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Advertise Yourself

You've seen it everywhere. Blogs, websites, comminity profiles where aspiring authors put up short bios of themselves and describe things like what they write, read, think, etc... Perhaps even you have one or all of these things. Thanks to this fantastic thing we call the internet, and all those nifty gadgets that we use to browse through it, there are thousands of ways an author--published or not--can let the world know who they are. It's so easy to tell everyone: "Hey! Look at me! I'm a writer!"

Hmm...unfortunately it's also only too easy not to be noticed.

I've seen firsthand just how many amazing writers slip by while others get tons of attention. As aspiring authors, we do have our work cut out for us. Published authors who are big usually have their publicists do all the work for us. They don't have to worry about how many people visit their website, leave comments, or how much of their writing gets viewed. They simply respond to their fans and write their books.

Ah...someday we WILL get there.

Until then, however, if we want to make some kind of name for ourselves--not matter how small--there is work required.

I don't claim to know all the rules or tricks of doing this. There are other writers who have far greater numbers than me fanwise, but I do have some idea of how to get started.

First off...I encourage everyone to join some sort of writing community. Not just to get feedback for your work (that is important too but we'll get to that later) but because no writer ever made it alone. I don't care what you might hear from authors about how writing is a lonely job--while that may be true, every writer needs some sort of support. Some kind of encouragment to keep us going. This usually comes from family and friends who root us on as we struggle and advance, but if you don't have this, a writing community is something you should definitely look into.

It's also a great way to start getting feedback on your writing. After all, how else will you improve your skills if you don't know what needs work? There are some harsh critics out there and I'm warning you now that if you can't handle critique, you will have to learn. Getting people's feedback on your work is also another way to gain exposure for yourself. If they like it, chances they will follow your blog, or page, or website.

Giving feedback is also important. You can't expect to get and not have to give. It just doesn't work that way. If that's the mentality you have then be prepared to lose favor with lots of fellow writers who take the time to read your work.

Now I do want to give a warning for when you give critique. There is a difference between honest and cruel. Don't ever put someone down.

Secondly, as a writer, you should have some sort of site that people can go to keep updated. This could be a personal website or blog. Or both.

Did I say blog?

Yes. Yes I did.

Now, I know what you're thinking. "Oh no! She's going to tell me I need to blog!"

Nope. I'm not going to tell you that. You don't have to blog to get a good fan base going. There are countless of other ways to do this. With social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, Hi5, do not have to blog to get in touch with people (fans) and keep them updated.

This is great news for those of you who do not have steady access to the internet.

But if you do blog, make sure you blog regularly. It lets fans know that you're still around AND keeps you on their minds. It doesn't need to be anything huge or totally brilliant but it should pertain to writing. A friend of mine will be doing a blog that elaborates on this and when she does, I will post a link to it.

A writer should always be available to his/her fans at all times, whether it's a site they can go to, a FB page that they can get updates from, or a blog they can follow...etc.

Just something to think about.

Happy Writing!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Unleash Your Beast

I'll bet most or all of you have heard that tired old advice more than you'd like. The one that goes: Just write! Don't think! But unfortunately, that is often easier said than done. Even I have spouted those two sentences a time or two. And yet, even I struggle to swallow my own advice sometimes.
That's why I'm writing about this and something else. Something we all still fear at times.

Another saying that we as writers have heard is: Write what you know.

It's easier that way, no? If you are a nurse, or have experience in the nursing field, then perhaps your characters or storylines reflect a bit of that in your books. If you are one of those who crave the affections of another, then your characters might act the same way. It's always simpler to write what you know.

If you write romance, you stick to romance. If you write horror, you stick to horror.

Yes, you may add a few elements of other genres in your writing but only a bit here and there.

Someone asked me the other day...what happens if you get stuck in a rut? What happens if you always ONLY stick to what you know and never explore writing about anything else?

Mind you, this friend is not a writer, and was asking more out of curiousity than anything else, but it got me thinking.

How would we know if our skill extended beyond that of which we know if we never tried? How can we master the art of writing when we haven't explored everything the craft has to offer? So off I went on a writing experiment. Grabbing my handy pen and notebook, I began to write. No plot, no character ideas, no clue as to where or what I was going for. I simply picked a setting, got it in my head that this would NOT be about romance (which is my forte) and wrote.

Two hours later I had about twenty, handwritten pages of something resembling closely to paranormal horror. It was sloppy, wordy, overexagerated, and oh so many more bad things.

And yet, I was giddy with excitement at what I'd accomplished.

No it wasn't good. Not awesome. But it was DIFFERENT.

I took a chance at something that was way out of my league (or so I thought) and after jumping in, resurfaced feeling rejuvenated. I let go and let the words take me away.

Can you imagine what would have happened if I'd been writing romance? Phew!

When was the last time you wrote without thinking? Without worrying about what people will think when they read what you have on the page (or screen) in front of you?

Don't lie.

There is always that little voice in the back of our minds that keeps our minds from wandering too far. That keeps our words limited to what we just outlined. The one that says: "What will publishers think? Will they buy that? Will they ask to read more? Too many mistakes! Don't use that word!"

Do you remember the first time you ever picked up a pen/pencil? The first stroke of the keyboard when you wrote the beginning sentence of your very first story?

You weren't worrying about the query letter that you would send out. Or the comments you would get from readers, the critique. Hell, you weren't even worried about what was going to happen next. All you knew is that there was a story brewing in your mind that you absolutely had to get down!

It was a wonderful feeling, wasn't it?

Sometimes we get so caught up in our novels, our writing, and what people will think about it that we lose the joy that comes from the pure act of writing.

So I challenge you not one, but two things.

Forget the story you are writing, just for a moment. As important as it is, as much as you need to write the next chapter...put it on hold for just one hour. Get out that old fashioned pen and pencil--because you will be so tempted to hit delete if you use a computer--and go somewhere you won't be distracted.

And write. Don't think about characters, names, places, storyline...just go with what comes.

They may not be full sentences and you might wind up calling one of your characters John Doe but do it.

The second challenge? Unleash the beast inside you. The one just itching to come out and wreak havoc on all that you think you know by taking you to a place you've never been in your writing career. Write in a different direction. If you tend to lean toward horror--write romance. Fantasy? Try urban fairy tale. Etc...

What's the worst that could happen?

You'll get the same giddyness you once felt?

Yeah...that would suck so much. Ha ha.

Until next time.

Happy Writing!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Dialogue Impaired

What makes a good story? Is it the plot? The story itself and how it moves forward? Is it the tension you feel; the thrill of the climax or the relief of the outcome? Maybe it's the characters. From the main character to that guy in the fifth chapter who only has three lines and is never seen again. Maybe that's it.

Actually, it's all the above. And then some.

What's the some, you ask? Well, one of them is dialogue.

Oh yes. That seemingly simple art of characters talking. Sometimes it can feel like a burden on our shoulders, can't it? Whether you like it or not, dialogue is a big part of your story. The way a character speaks can say a lot about their upbringing, their background, age, etc...

The only problem is that sometimes dialogue can come out sounding stuffy or dry. Have you ever read a book where all the characters seem to speak like robots? So...perfectly?

"Hello, how are you?"

"Very well. How have you been?"

"Did you happen to see the news last night?"

"Yes, I did. There was an interesting report on what has been happening."

See how stuffy that is? Sure, there may be some people that talk like that in real life, but most likely your reader won't come across many. And if they do, what makes you think they want to read about characters like them? I'm going to give three different examples of the same dialogue above. See if you can picture the type of characters that would be saying them.

"Hey, what's up?"
"Nothin. You?"
"Eh, fine."
"See the news yesterday?"
"Oh yeah. Crazy stuff, huh?"


"Hey, you. How's it going?"
"It's going. What's been happening with you?"
"Nothing much really."
"Did you catch the news last night?"
"Sure did. I can't believe all the stuff going on."

The first example here is obviously two younger people conversing, where as the next example could be viewed as people in their mid-twenties. Maybe a little older. But do you see how much more easily those lines roll off the tongue? How much smoother one transitions into the next? It's easy to picture people having this conversation in a grocery store, a restaurant, or on the phone.

The trick is to take what you encounter in your every day life and incorporate the language into your writing. Everyone has a different way of speaking, of enunciating. Even your characters. A good way to know if you're heading in the right direction with dialogue is to test out your lines with someone. If that's not possible, then just saying them aloud helps. If it sounds awkward to you, chances are it will read awkward.

So here's the challenge:

Write the following lines of dialogue 3 different ways. (come on, that's not too hard)

"I do not understand the meaning of this class. It is so difficult to pay attention."
"I too, at times, find my mind wandering."
"Shall we converse with the counselor about switching courses?"
"I believe you need a valid excuse for such a thing. They will never allow it."
"I see. Well, then we shall just have to endure."

Ready? Fix it!

And as always...Happy Writing!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Book Review: Mama Might be Better off Dead

Non Fiction
Author: Laurie Kaye Abraham
Back Cover Summary:  This critically acclaimed book is an unsetlling, profound look at the human side of health care. Both disturbing and illuminating, it is the story of four generations of a poor African American family coping with the devastating illnesses that are too common in America's inner cities. From visits to emergency rooms to dialasys units, to trials with home care, to struggles with Medicaid elegibility, Abraham chronicles the Banes family and their access (or lack of access) to medical care. Embedded in the family narrative is a lucid analysis of the gaps, inconcistencies and inequalities the poor face when seeking health care.

Now this is not your usual fiction book. It's not fiction at all. But I read this as a sociology 'paper' and thought it might be nice to change it up a bit. For all you taking pre-requisites or majoring in Sociology--this is something you might want to read.

As for the book, Abraham portrays the health system of the late 1980's and early 1990's in a disturbing light by following the every day occurences of the Banes, a poor African American family living in the Chicago area. By doing so--we get to see firsthand how many families just like them across America have to sometimes choose between health and survival. The grandaughter, Jackie, is basically head of the household even though her husband lives with them. Robert has diabetes, something that gets so that he ends up with kidney failure and in need of a transplant. Help always seems to come too late for this family, who often don't get the treatment needed until their symptoms desperately require it. Their lack of funds don't help the situation either. Along with running the household, taking care of her three children, and husband...The added stress of figuring out how to get her Grandmother Cora to and from doctor appointments and hospital stays. (Grandma Cora has to have both legs amputated.) The author shows us how unbalanced the health system really is and how where we are financially often has more to do with the amount of resources available to us than we think.

Reading this book really got my mind thinking about how much and yet how little things have changed since that time. The way the author uses story telling makes it ideal for a quick and easy read. You don't need to know anything about the health care system or its structure to understand this book. Still, I found that though Abraham did her best to show both sides (health professionals and the poor), she did come off as a bit biast on the subject.

Would I read it again?:  Probably not. It's more of a one time thing for me.
My rating:  * *  (2stars)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Publishers and Agents

So let's say you've finished your novel. Yes. This 80K+ word baby of yours, the one you've labored over for months--perhaps years--and constantly edited is finally finished. You've written your query and it's perfect. Now comes the question almost every new writer asks: Who do I send it to?

Repeat after me:

I do not pay to write.
I do not pay to be read.
I do not pay to get published.
They pay me.

You don't pay to work, do you? If you're a nurse, you don't pay to stick people with needles or fill out charts or stand all day on your feet. As a lawyer, you don't pay to spend all your time in courthouses. And if you're a construction worker, you don't pay to bust through the concrete with a jackhammer on a ridiculously hot day.

So as a writer, you shouldn't have to pay to publish your work.

Unfortunately, there are hundreds of scam artists out there who would just love to get their hands on your money. They are always on the lookout for aspiring authors who don't yet know what they're doing...and then just like a shark, they sink their teeth into them and don't let go. Don't become one of these.

(for more info on this please take a look at Raven Clark's blog on Vanity Presses)

As someone who has recently finished a novel, I know what it's like to wonder where to start the search for legitimate publishers and agents. It's a bit overwhelming if you don't know what you're doing and even more if there is nobody to go to for help. This isn't something I want anyone to go through so after a bit of research and grabbing from my own personal experience, I've decided to share a few tips.

One way (and there are many, I'm sure) to go about finding publishers who might be interested in your book is actually pretty simple. Go to your local bookstore and browse through the shelves.

Look for books that are of the same genre as yours. If you know the names of authors whose style is similar to yours, look for them. Once you find them, go to the Copyright page and write down the name and address of the publishing company listed there.

Then go to the library--and I say library because I know from experience that some bookstores frown upon people who take enormous amounts of time scribbling things down from books--and look for the latest copy of Writer's Digest Writer's Market.

Yes...I said it too.

I can't tell you how many times I've heard those four words since I began writing. It always bugged me how often people kept nagging at me to get a copy of this book, but now I realize they were right. It's definitely worth owning your own (current) copy of this. Especially if you are planning on writing more than one book. Still, if you aren't swimming in cash, as most of us aren't, the you can always find one at your local library. Good thing for that!
What you do next is take those names and addresses you jotted down and look them up in this glorious book. Read through the submission guidelines carefully.

While there are publishers who accept un-agented submissions from writers, there are some that don't. If you're not sure where to look for an agent, you can always take a look at Association of Author's Representatives.

No. Not every agent is listed here and not all of them are going to be the best. But they've all promised to conduct themselves ethically when dealing with clients. This is VERY important because there are some agents (unfortunately) who are just looking for new writers to give/make them a lot of money.

There are other places where you can search for agents and publishers but I recommend Writer's Digest hands down, as the best place to start your quest. They offer advice, tips, examples, and even have a wonderful writer's community where feedback is not a requirement for fellow aspiring authors to answer what questions you might have.

I wish all of you luck with your writing and future careers as best sellers.

Happy Writing.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Tired of Salads? Try Cannibalism!

You're probably thinking: "This girl is seriously off her bonkers!"

And maybe I am. Still, I believe it's what keeps me interesting ;) Admit it--you love me!

I am like that cherry atop your sundae...the cream in your cream soup...the slightly damaged can of of mystery meat you get half off at the supermarket...the nose hairs that come out painlessly. Ah yes. Sweet bliss!

But back to the title of this blog. (Having just re-read that, I now realize that nobody is going to want to have dinner at my house ever again!) I'm really speaking figuratively. I don't endorse cannibalism unless you happen to be born into one of those tribes in the Amazon.

The meat I'm talking about is the stuff that your book is made of. The filling, so to speak. Details, details, details. The part where your characters are fleshed out, back story is presented, and the world in your mind comes to life on paper. There is nothing that bothers me more than reading a book where the author fails to incorporate these things. Or they try, and it still comes out dry. Sometimes it feels as though they simply took their outline and added a few things here and there, named the characters, picked a cover and then called it a novel.

The thing is, you can't just do an outline of a story and then think that's all the work you have to do. I received an email from someone that went like this:

--After getting some nasty critique from someone on ****, about my writing having too much detail, I started writing my book all over again. I took out the parts I thought were too much and a lot of the back story. But by the time I got to the third chapter, it didn't look anything at all like my book! It was missing so much. I'm so mad right now. How much detail is too much? Maybe I shouldn't have listened to that person.

This really bothered me. First of all, said critic should have known better than to leave rude comments about someone's writing. I really hate when that happens because the result is usually that writer feeling inadequate. Unworthy. As for the part about details, when is it too much? When is it that things get too wordy?

Since this is not my strong suit, I will be asking a friend to post a blog about it on her site. So please keep an eye out for it. Until then, all I can offer is this...

As far as details go, you never want to overpower the story you're trying to get across with the little things. Like the color of the walls or the little crack at the bottom of the door. Unless they are important to the story...Unless they drive the plot forward in some way. It's just fine to describe the characters, their mannerisms, and their past. Of course! Your readers need to know those things in order to understand what drives them. That's what makes the story. But there is a line between just enough and too much.

For example. If I were telling you a story about something I realized the other day and somewhere in the middle I stop and say:
My daughter told me the gym smells like someone's butt after they pass gas. (Not that eloquently LOL)
I really don't like it when she announces in the middle of a department store that she needs to use the bathroom to poop.

What will you think? It would confuse the hell out of you, of course. Plus, it has nothing to do with the original subject. It's just...random. You don't want stuff like that in your book.

Happy Writing!

Monday, January 3, 2011


Hello Everyone!

January’s FEATURED AUTHOR is Nancy J. Rich and she is an aspiring Christian author.

Ree Vera: “Please tell us about yourself.”

Nancy: “I am a born-again Christian with a dark-side succeeding from my past failures. Let me explain: Because of my past failures, writing has turned from a therapeutic means of survival to a passion growing inside me and given me lots of material.
I first began writing in 1992 as a young Christian writing short poems, short personal stories, and a few skits. Although my pastor and his wife encouraged me to write and to one day publish, I did not consider myself or my writings as worthy.

After my husband retired from the Marine Corps, we moved to his hometown of Rich Hill, fostered and soon adopted two young brothers, and became a family. It was through foster parenting that we discovered the dark-side of our sons' past upraising. Their wounds, especially our oldest son's, ran deep as we heard of the many atrocities they lived with. We tried very hard to raise them the best we could. During this time, I fell in love with the medical field and the knowledge it afforded me.

As much as I loved learning in and working in nursing and in the emergency medical services, I craved more at every turn. I tried LPN, but that didn't work out. I tried paramedic studies, but that too did not work out. (Not because of grades, but because of growing older, family, and financial problems.) This is where my life took a big plunge and I found myself and my family deep in debt, myself unemployed, and deeply depressed feeling like I had lost everything.

I began creative writing again while trying to work as a part-time dispatcher. Working as the night shift dispatcher for a small town does not keep one very busy. Writing became a source of killing time. Unfortunately, dispatching was not a good fit so I was unemployed again. I soon, reluctantly, returned to the work I wanted to leave behind me—working in a nursing home. Caring for the elderly is where I shine the most. I kept writing to work out my frustrations and the remnants of my insecurities.

Today, I grow more and more in submission to God's call on my life to write. I have many friends, family, co-workers, residents, and a network of other writers determined to keep me accountable to continuously grow in my writing and finishing projects. They inspire me. They pray for me. They urge and cheer me on. It would not surprise me if angels were rooting for me in heaven.

What I write always stems on the dark-side, even in some of the children's stories. Many project dark crevasses revealing what people try to mask and to hide about themselves while some of my lighthearted works take on little shavings of darkness, but all reveal the wonderful hope of finding that light at the end of the tunnel that dispels the darkness that tries to devour our souls.

I am a recent graduate of the Institute for Children's Literature home course and they have invited me to apply to their advanced course. My first novel is in the capable hands of a professional copy editor.

By the way, both sons are grown and are living on their own. We miss them, however, Greg and I are enjoying being a couple again—along with the two four-legged dog-children. We definitely have plenty to stay busy!

Ree Vera: “Why should people read your work?”

Nancy: “I have been given a perspective of where hurt comes from and what people will do to rid their lives of its pain. During my studies in the medical field, I became fascinated with the human body. Anatomy and Physiology was and still is my favorite subject. I am a very visual reader and learner which intensifies this perspective in my mind and I try hard to describe what I see in my writing.

Every person lives with a past history they are very much ashamed of and desire to hide, whether it is their own wrongs or the wrongs inflicted upon them. I want to encourage people and let them know they have hope; they don't have to be enslaved to their dark side.”

Ree Vera: “What are you currently working on?”

Nancy: “I have finished typing out my first novel and it is in the capable hands of a professional copy editor. YAY!

When you read this interview, I will be sacrificing television, supper breaks at work, and sleep time to bang out a 50,000 word novel for a novel writing contest called JANO. NaNo is in November, but JANO is in January through a writer's group in Springfield, Missouri, Sleuth's Ink. I also plan to take some vacation time during January from work. Needless to say, if I'm not writing, I will be deep cleaning the house for a change.”

Ree Vera: “Is there a place people can view your writing?”

Nancy: “I feature writings on my website and facebook page under the Notes section. I have a few poems and short stories, and I have to admit, some characters are frozen in time in a blog book I haven't been able to get back to. Sigh! The title is STRUGGLING IN THE DARKNESS.”

Ree Vera: “Is there anything else you would like to add about yourself or your prospective on writing?”

Nancy: “There is a great future in Christian fiction and I want to get on this train with authors who have inspired me through their works: Ted Dekker, Frank E. Peretti, Terri Blackstock, Brandyln Collins, and Jerry B. Jenkins. Their works has helped me to further my understanding of the importance of expanding a perspective of what God can do in people's lives if they will place their trust in Him through a relationship with Jesus Christ.

By the way, I don't just read Christian fiction. I am a great fan of John Grissom, Robert Ludlum, Edgar Allen Poe, and Lewis Carroll. I have read every Donna Parker book written when I was still in my innocence, however, my innocence took a bad turn when I discovered Rosemary Rogers as a teen. She is a very visual writer, but she takes the imagination to a depth of fantasy that can defile the purity of God-intended sex and romance. Some fiction should be rated like movies and television programs.

I conclude by saying to any who are thinking about/realizing that writing may be their calling, just their hobby, or are feel unsure/unworthy…my advice to them is just do it. Journals of all sorts help us all release our failures, chronicle our victories, and sort out our tangled lives. When we write stories, we can distance ourselves a little so the emotional effects are less harsh because characters are experiencing the emotions involved in the situation. And think about this, if you have survived a traumatic situation, don't you think others could benefit from your experience while battling in the same or similar situation?

Thank you for taking the time to read about this wonderful aspiring author. If you would like to contact Nancy J. Rich, here is how:

Facebook page: Nancy J. Rich
Twitter: NJR50

Ree Vera: “Would you like to leave us with a sample of your writing?”

Nancy: “I wrote this humorous story after reading an article in Writer's Digest on writer's journals. When I read they resemble a spider web, my imagination went a little crazy.”

 "Spider Web Writer's Journal"

I am sitting on my couch just finishing up my prayer journal when I remember I had committed myself to starting a Writer's Journal for the sake of not loosing inspiration for any future writings.
Going to my closet, still stacked to the hilt with notebooks containing unfinished projects collecting dust, I grab my last ringed notebook. How is it I can start so much and just cram it in the closet? With a sigh and an overwhelming wave of overload crashing on top of my head like all the trees in the world falling down to make the paper for this journal, I return to the couch to begin the first day.

At first I did not know what to write. "What do one of these journals look like? I need an example." I turned to my Writer's Digest magazine returning to the article that gave the inspiration. The author described her journal as a spider web of ideas and notes. "Okay," I said to myself, "let's see if I can duplicate it."

Although the parallel lines made the drawing difficult, I began to draw a spider web spiraling from the middle of the page and around till I had nowhere else to go. I drew lines from the middle circle to the edge of the page to make the web look reinforced, then began to place short snippets in various places or short info about notes. I was having a great time with this new, wonderful invention, until.....

I did not see where it came from. It did not jump suddenly on the page, but gently glided down onto it. Naturally, I shrieked, my arms flying in the air and my legs jumping almost dumping all the contents on my lap to the floor. What sat on the spider web I had drawn was a good size black widow spider!

I froze in terror as it walked around the page looking at each one of lines and the snippets written on them. It seemed unconcerned of its safety or of my presence, to that matter. It would stop at a snippet, read it, then move on to the next. With each passing moment, I waited in amazement. I fumbled slowly with my hands for something nearby in order to strike the spider, if needed, but my eyes remained on the spider and its unusual actions.
Finally, the spider looked up at me and with its little head cocked and a foot under its chin, it says to me, "What are you doing to my spider web?"

"Your spider web?" I asked in total shock, "What do you mean your spider web? It is my writer's journal so I can organize my thoughts onto a page. Now would you mind telling me what you mean, your spider web."

All the sudden, it occurred to me I was having a conversation with a black widow spider! Am I dreaming? Have I become delusional or am I hallucinating? My head began to spin, but I force myself to maintain control—I do have a black widow spider on my lap, after all.

The spider rubbed its chin as though considering what it should say next. It looked back up to me and said still unconcerned, "I think we have a little dilemma here. One we should walk out before one of us gets hurt."

Delusion or hallucination, I did not care at this point. This spider sounded as though it were warning me of some harm if I did not relinquish this of this spider web drawing. But, being the good-natured Christian I was, I decided to reason with the little varmint.

"I wonder if you would be able to capture anything with this spider web. It was drawn onto a piece of paper with an ink pen. Absolutely nothing will stick within the lines so you can cocoon it and eat it. Did this ever cross your mind?" I said leaning comfortably back and crossing my arms.

"Tie that one on, Missy!" I said to myself.

The spider pointed a leg at my nose and demanded, "You have two seconds to rid my web of this garbage!"

My eyes widened in madness (literally)!

"It’s ink, you furry, eight-legged bug! A little red ink on your belly and a little venom is suppose to scare me into giving you a web that won't even work for you? I drew it! What part of this don't you understand?"

I can't believe I am yelling at a bug!

The black widow gives out a long sigh, rears up on its front legs showing off its red spot, and makes a kind of a low, hissing sound.

My hand finds a book lay on the table next to me. Picking up the book, I send it crashing down upon the creature with the intent to kill. When the book landed on its target, I ensured the spider's destruction by pounding the book with my fists.

"Try to scare me into giving you my journal!" I cried, "You're a dead spider, widow!"

Feeling confident the black widow was now a splatter on the page and a guew on the back of the book, I slowly lift the book off the paper. But the spider was gone! I look all around for the blasted thing not finding it anywhere.

Now I was getting scared!

I jump up from the couch tossing cushions and lifting furniture. I caused quite the disarray in my neatly cleaned living room. Still not finding the little furry spider, I fall back onto the couch panting from the exertion and relieved in the thought I must have scared it away forever.

"A-hem!" Came a voice from above my head.

Looking up, I see that bug doing something completely inconceivable; It was laughing!
"I have scared humans and I have bitten humans, but I have never made a human go insane. This is fun! I think I will have to do this again! Bye!"

And that infuriating spider glides up to a crack in the ceiling laughing all the way.

No wonder people don't get along with spiders!!!!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Gather Your Tools

You can't build a house without the proper tools and the same goes for writing a novel. You need to make sure that you know the tools of the trade, just like every other profession. Not only will it help you tell the story you want to tell, but it will keep you from looking unprofessional when that time finally comes to query agents/publishers.

Spelling. Punctuation. Grammar.

I've had a few people ask if it's important to know all that stuff. My response is always yes. It most definitely is. You don't need to know it so well that you have a degree on the subject, but you at least need to know the basics. The rest comes with time, experience, and if necessary--schooling.

Because really...what would you want to do if you came across something like this?

Josie was a pretty gril.She hda lung dark hiar and bg blue eeyes One day she; wondred wht it wuld be like too flie. 'Sum day i will" she says. and then wen't home.

Don't laugh. That was incredibly painful for me to type.

Do you see my point though? I don't care about Josie or what pretty blue eyes she has. I don't care why she was wondering about flying. All I saw was an author who has no clue what they're doing. And that doesn't make me want to keep reading...It makes me want to pull my hair out. If something like that ever made it onto an editor's desk, he/she wouldn't even look past the first sentence, let alone the first page. There is no room in the publishing world for writers who don't bother learning their craft.

There is no excuse for bad spelling. There are a number of programs with that wonderful little Spell Check button. Of course, I'm not talking about a few misspelled words here and there that escape your notice. It happens. I'm talking about completely ignoring the obvious and thinking it's okay to do so.

It's not!

Learn where to put your commas, your apostrophes. Click that little button if need be! There is no shame in it.

Happy Writing!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Know Your Characters

As writers, knowing our characters is a must. It's not a: "Eh, I think I got an idea." or "Well, I'm pretty sure that's what he/she would say."

That's a half assed effort that will only produce the same response from your readers, which will in turn, cost you them.

I don't know how many books I've picked up, where I've started to read and haven't gone beyond the first couple chapters--sometimes not even that far--because I didn't believe the characters. There wasn't any depth to them. No personality. It was like the writer didn't even know who they were, and yet they wrote the story anyway.

So. How do you get to know your characters?

Answer: Become them.
I know that sounds like some cheesy line from a bad movie but it is so true!

You can't just imagine what your characters would be like if they lived and breathed. You have to become them. Act the way they would, hear their voice in your ears--their accent or tone. React to things the way they would, move in the same manner. It is this way that you will discover things about your character you never knew. Or wouldn't have been able to think of just jotting things down in your 'character outline' at your desk.

It's a little like acting. True, your family may think you're a tad insane if/when you do this. Mine do. But sometimes it takes a little action to bring your writing to life.

Here's an exercise.

Let's say you're writing about a man who has just lost his family.

This is where you must bring your character to life. Perhaps in private. You don't want to scare the hell out of your family or friends. ;)

Think of yourself as this man. (ladies, pretend) This happy man. You have everything you ever wanted. A beautiful wife and two beautiful kids. Maybe even a dog named Rufus, and you all live in a nice little house in a subdivided neighborhood. You have a great job, great friends.

Now imagine that being taken away from you. Your wife is driving your kids home from school one day when another driver runs a red light--not seeing it because they were distracted momentarily--sending your family minivan spinning out of control upon impact...Straight into a telephone pole. With not enough time to stop, another car hits the side, killing them instantly.

Feel the tears stream down your cheeks as your hand clutches the phone at your ear. Dead. All of them...Gone. You'll no longer see the smiles on your children's faces. Hear their steady, peaceful breathing when you check on them at night. Never again feel the warmth of your wife's body beneath your arms, or hear your name on her lips.

Can you feel the grief? The slow anger building inside you at the injustice of it all? It isn't fair, is it? You're a good person. Why did this happen to you? To them?

Did you do it? Were you able to hear the anguish in your cries as you fell to your knees in despair? Now...How much better do you think your description of this character's life will be after having gone through (in a way) what he's gone through?

Poetry, while the character can often become objects, can also have this applied to it. In this case, however, you may have to become the object. Say you're writing a poem about a....Log. A lonely log that after many years, has become embedded in the soil beside a peaceful lake. Perhaps there's a willow over it? What things could this log have seen to make it so lonely? Or maybe it's not the log that is lonely, but the place itself, and this log is simply a testament to that fact. Lovers maybe? Lovers who carved their initials in its side and used to meet under this willow but have long since been absent? The concept is the same, only the subject is different.

I hope this has helped in some way or at the very least, given you something to think about.

Happy Writing!


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