Tag Archives: Writer’s Digest

Writers Group: Dummies and Publication

24 Jun

I’m always glad to share my writers’ group experiences and I’m even more excited because I shared this time. I had just finished reading Writing Fiction for Dummies and I’m excited to share it with you all (different from the review, I promise) as well as what I learned from some other books.

I knew Randy Ingermanson from the Snowflake Method, the guide he has for writing novels. I never liked that idea too much and I felt it was too rigid to help me create the first draft. But what he was able to convey in Writing Fiction for Dummies was how to use the Snowflake Method to turn the first draft into a second draft. The two biggest things for me were giving weak characters conflicting morals. I have a weak character that I’m struggling to add depth to and I’ve been brainstorming morals for her that could come into conflict through the story. The other piece of advice I loved was about creating a scene list. It’s a great exercise to take your existing work and make a list of the scenes. I’m looking at it now and trying to figure out where my ‘three disasters’ are and how I can pace them for the two leads to keep the tension going. I liked his wording of the ‘three disaster structure’ rather than a ‘three act structure.’ It helped me see how the novel was paced. Disaster 1 ends Act 1, Disaster 2 is the middle of Act 2, and Disaster 3 ends Act 2 and sets the stage for Act 3.

The other thing I shared was my adventures with the Writers’ Digest publications. I recently checked out Writer’s Market, Guide to Literary Agents, and Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market. It was a bit of overkill and I wanted to help my fellow writers avoid the repetition in the future. Novel & Short Story (N&SS) had literary agents, publishers, and magazines and I think this would have been enough for me. Literary Agents had agents and conferences, which is the one thing N&SS lacked. Writer’s Market had everything. It had more than I needed if I’m being honest. I didn’t really look at it because it came in last at the library. Which one you want is going to depend on what kind of writing you have, but I think N&SS is the best resource for anyone with fiction writing.

We had a very exciting announcement at our meeting. One of our writers, Jason Alpert, has self-published his first book! He brought a copy for us all to see and we are so excited for him. It’s called Liam & Heidi and there’s a Goodreads giveaway going on right now so rush on over! He used the Amazon platform for publishing and is excited to engage with Goodreads for marketing purposes. He told us about using UpWork and Fiverr for his formatting and cover design.

It’s always a pleasure to meet with this group and we’re so excited to celebrate each other’s successes. Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!


Professional v. Amateur Writers

3 Feb

Nicole was good enough to pass on a Writers’ Digest article she knew I’d be interested in reading. The article is called The 5 Differences Between Professional and Amateur Novelists and it’s written by Charles Finch, the same Charles Finch who wrote The Last Enchantments that I reviewed in January. If you have the time to stop over and read the article, I highly recommend it. I’ll include some thoughts on each criteria and where I feel I fall within it.

Tools- Finch says you need to know what you use to write. For me, it’s very simple: Laptop laying in bed using Word with no one around and only orchestral music to distract me. It’s best if I give myself a time crunch but that’s not always necessary. I think I’ve got a handle on this one at least.

Patience- Here I feel somewhere in the middle. I’m in no rush to get my novel out to the world. It’s been sitting idly for nine years, I think it can take two or three more before an agent hears about it. On the other hand, I feel a need to get something published, to see my writing somewhere where the rest of the world can look at it and pass their judgments. I do believe in sitting on something to edit it instead of doing a quick spell-check and pushing it into the world. Editing is a necessary and lengthy process. If an agent doesn’t think my writing is worthwhile, that doesn’t mean it’s useless but it could probably use some more editing. Though there are some self-published books that are picked up by publishing houses, that’s the Cinderella story. I hope to see my novel in traditional print and I’m willing to wait for it (but dang is that hard!).

Focus- Again, 50/50 here. I like having a few projects going so if I’m stuck on one, I can switch to another and be inspired. If I run into a dead-end with something and I’ll have to abandon it, I don’t feel like I’m starting from ‘Go’ because there’s already something else in the works. I’ve finished two manuscripts and I’m working on one other and a few short stories. Not the best focus in the world, but it’s gotten me to the end of two stories, so I won’t cry about it.

Habit- Meh. I posted last week about how I haven’t done any non-blog writing since the end of NaNoWriMo. I think lack of habit might be the reason why. I pounded out 52K when I had a schedule of write-ins and personal time, but without that I’m a bit more lost. I’ll look at adding a schedule soon.

Practice- I don’t think this one can be mastered. Even those who are masters of their domain must practice. Michael Phelps practices. Dwayne Wade practices. Stephen King practices. Everyone has to work on their craft or they will never get any better. I write here every day to help me develop a voice, one that I hope you feel is consistent at the least. This one is being considered on-going indefinitely.

How do you all feel? Do you think you qualify as a Professional or Amateur writer? What could you do to become a more professional writer?

I love hearing from you all, please do leave a message. Consider clicking over to my Facebook Fan Page for a like if you haven’t yet.

Until next time, write on.

Tips on Writing for a YA Audience (Article)

24 Jan

I was running through my head about what I should post today and I realized I haven’t done an article in a while. I popped over to Writer’s Digest and instantly found a great article.

The manuscript I’m in the process of editing is for a Young Adult audience. I started the book when I was a young adult (14) and now that I’m no longer in this age group (23), it’s sometimes hard to think like one. This article, titled Writing for the Young Adult Audience, had some really good advice for how to jump back into my 14-year-old head.

  1. Everything is big and important when you’re a teenager. That boyfriend who just dumped you? First break-up. That fight you had with a friend you’ve known since Kindergarten? First real loss of a friend. First test you failed? Your chance at college is ruined forever. Chose to play the cello over the piano? It’s a stigma you will carry the rest of your life. I remember what this felt like and looking back it seems silly. But in that moment, it was a life or death situation.
  2. Romantic Relationships are huge. They define some people socially and can make and break friendships. Do you remember how mad you were when that girl you were friends with liked the same boy you did and he picked her? I do. It’s something that’s on the mind of a lot of teen readers (especially the girls I’m writing for) so including it is a must for popular fiction (check!).
  3. They’ve realized the dark side of life. It’s about freshman year of high school that someone in school will start using drugs or start cutting or have a bad sexual experience. Around this time, teens stop seeing the world through rose-colored glasses and the darkness of reality will start to set in. The article’s author implies that the popularity of dystopian future books is due to teens wanting to relate to a world as packed with war and economic crisis as our own.
  4. Bring theme to the forefront. Give the readers a theme the interact with and let them see the characters play with it, too. Bring it forward in dialogue and the resolution of the story.

The article’s really great and helped me think about what a reader will want from my book. I recommend it.

Reader, let me know what you think. How do you get into the head of your target audience? What are some things you incorporate to engage your reader?

Until next time, write on.

Tips for Writing Historical Fiction

25 Nov

Before NaNoWriMo began, Nicole recommended this article to me, knowing that I couldn’t help but blog about it.

Author Susanna Calkins was a historian before she was an author. When she began writing, she quickly realized that 100% historical accuracy was not plausible in her novel set in 17th Century England. She shares some guidelines for other historical fiction writers. I’ll summarize and give my opinions below.

  1. Understand the period and everyday life in it.
    I think this is rule #1 and I discussed in a post about my own research process how I did this. It’s a good background and first step.
  2. Show history through character interaction.
    Calkins relates this to the ‘show don’t tell’ rule. A character marveling over the new electric streetlamps is more ‘showing’ than explaining that electric power is new in some cities and that many were still amazed by the new technology (telling).
  3. Have your characters question their place in society.
    I don’t know if I agree that this is a steadfast rule, but I definitely used this technique in WIP1, my YA Historical Fiction. It’s a good way to talk about societal change that will come and to ‘show’ why the society is the way it is during the given time period.
  4. The Internet can be good
    Agree here. Need to know what the interior of a 1927 Lincoln looks like? Need to see demographic information from the 1939 Census? The Internet is your friend. But be warned, this goes along with our next fact…
  5. The Internet can be bad.
    Want to know if Al Capone had a secret lover? Are you thinking that the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre was a conspiracy? These are topics best discussed in books where fact checking is required and hearsay on the Internet isn’t published. Go to the library.
  6. Don’t get caught up in the details.There will be times that the details seem so important that the story gets lost. Don’t let this happen to you! When you feel overwhelmed by details, stop your researching and write! Get that first draft out and then go back and research if Cokes were served in bottles or cups at pharmacies. It’s not essential to your plot.
  7. Admit that you are going to mess up.
    There are trolls out there who like nothing better than to find an error in your well researched book. Did you mention electricity when it’s not likely it would have existed? Do the ages of your characters imply their father came home early from fighting in Europe? Your readers will catch it so don’t worry.  Just say thank you and move on.

Do any of you write Historical Fiction? What have you found are some good tips for writing in another time period? Please share in the comments section.

Until next time, write on.

6 Secrets to Pantsing (Article)

21 Oct

This will be a shorter post, but I wanted to address Pantsing (writing by the seat of your pants) again as we’re leading up to NaNo.  Nicole sent me this article that I wanted to share with you all.  It’s called 6 Secrets to Writing a Novel Without an Outline.  It’s well worth the read!

I think that even as an ourliner, there are some good things to learn from this article.

  1. Don’t be formulaic- there doesn’t have to be a standard story-line progression to your plot, keep it interesting.
  2. Make sure the things in your outline that you will introduce/foreshadow deliver upon the expectations you set for them.
  3. Re-Evaluate if you’re going in the right direction.  It was suggested to me that as an outliner, it’s good to stop half-way through and see if the plot is still heading in the right direction based on the first half.  Re-outlining might be in order.

I hope you enjoy the article and that if you are an outliner, you can still learn from it.