Hey Writers, What Happens If You Quit Writing?

  • August 03, 2020
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writing photo

Let’s say you write a book and get it published. And sales aren’t good and no one really seems to care. And while you know that you write to keep your soul alive, writing to give other people enjoyment is also important (as are sales—let’s be honest). There’s a symbiotic energy that flows between writers and readers and when it works it’s the best thing in the world.

Fiction Writers: Will You Include the Pandemic or Not?

  • May 17, 2020
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notebook and pen photo

It’s a dilemma, one I faced when writing Magical Ties. The book takes place on Long Island but at one point, the main character, Emily, travels to Manhattan. In a post-9/11 world, I struggled with whether to mention the changes that horrific event created. Ultimately, Emily traveled only to a train station on East 14th Street, so it was unnecessary. And yes, that was deliberate on my part.

In these uncertain times, I’m left with a struggle that’s similar but much wider in scope. I’ve already started book two of Emily’s adventures (but early enough that I can change things). The question is, should I?

Placing characters inside the pandemic or its aftermath can either draw readers in (“Yes, I can relate”) or alienate them (“I’m reading to escape, dammit!”). And the weirdness of time factors in as well. Which will date the story faster? If we can get past this as a painful and difficult period in the world’s history, putting the pandemic into our stories will eventually date them. But if our lifestyles are permanently changed, not mentioning it will also date the stories. (Anyone else feel mildly uncomfortable watching old TV ads that feature large groups of people with no social distancing?)

I don’t have an answer. But I welcome comments.

 

Two Middle-Aged Demons and a Same-Sex Couple—How I Add Diversity to Fiction

  • February 24, 2020
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inclusion photo

I’m sure most people have seen the image that went viral recently, that of a toddler in a wheelchair staring at an ad in a Target store—the model for the boys’ clothing ad was also in a wheelchair.

It’s a powerful image. That little boy saw the message: I’m not alone. There are people out there like me.

It’s a connection that feels so good when it happens.

My short stories feature a pair of demons living in middle-aged bodies. They even have sex (off stage, but still). They could have swapped bodies for younger, thinner ones but for some reason I don’t yet know, they choose to remain where they are. And even though they’re demons, I like them because they seem like middle-aged people. They’re not all-knowing creatures simply because they’re older. They have quirks and wrinkles.

My novel Magical Ties includes a minor character named Ro, a smart, beautiful woman, and her girlfriend, Alicia, who’s a mechanic—among other things. Including a lesbian couple into my story wasn’t a “thing” to me because frankly I see no difference between them and a heterosexual couple. They date and go grocery shopping, and I’m sure there will be arguing in future books. But I also remember the time I went into a bookstore with a friend who checked out the LGBTQ+ shelf and sighed. In the entire store, the fiction and nonfiction for that category were lumped together and barely covered one shelf.

Being invisible can be a terrible thing.

So, while Ro and Alicia didn’t have to be a same-sex couple (they could just as easily been Robert and Alicia), I made the decision to include them as they are.

But it’s tricky to add characters simply because they’re underrepresented in books. It can feel forced, and who wants to read something artificial? Not me. Which is why there’s no hard-of-hearing or deaf character in my stories. I’m hard-of-hearing, and every time I’ve considered it, the character refused to form. Maybe I’m too close to get a handle on one. Will I ever? I don’t know.

So, writers, what do you do?

 

Why I Hesitate Reading New Authors

  • February 03, 2020
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suspicion book photo

You might think I hesitate because the story (whether traditionally published or indie) could be filled with spelling or grammatical errors and without a track record there’s no way to know. While those are huge factors, that’s not the problem for me.

Deadlines: Taking Yourself Seriously

  • September 23, 2019
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One of the hardest things about being an indie author is the fact that there’s no external force demanding a due date. You can write when you want and publish when you want. Though the freedom is exhilarating, it’s also hard to remember that writing is a real job—not a hobby (as many like to think), or something we do effortlessly as the mood strikes us.

Why is Writing Evil So Much Fun?

  • August 04, 2019
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evil photo

I’m editing a friend’s novella in the horror genre and what strikes me most is the passiveness of good. (I haven’t finished it yet so that might change but overall, in horror stories, evil has the most gleeful power.)

Writers, Use Real Place Names or Not? Need Opinions!

  • July 14, 2019
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question marks photo

I live in New York City. Many of the street names are well-known, and placing a character walking along Madison Avenue won’t create sudden visitors in real life tracking the route the characters have taken.

But my next novel is taking place in an area where the towns are miles apart and the population is small. I’m currently writing it with the real names of towns and streets and stores so that I know where everyone is. But in the end, should I fictionalize that part?

What do you do, and why? (And if you’re not a writer, I’d like your opinion too.)

 

Writing for the Seasons

  • June 10, 2019
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I hate to break it to you, but unless you’ve got a photographic memory, you won’t remember the details of winter if you’re writing about it in the summer. So here’s what you do.

As I said in an earlier post, take lots of pictures. But that’s not enough. Create folders for each season and begin gathering details as you live through them.

What kind of details? Everything and anything. For example:

  • What kind of clothes do your characters wear? Winter coats or shorts and tee shirts?
  • Are the trees blooming with pale green buds or full, darker leaves, or displaying a riot of color? Are they bare?
  • What kind of food is common during those times? In the summer, most people I know try to avoid cooking with their oven because it heats up the house. Street vendors carry ices, but in the fall, roasted chestnuts are sold instead.

I once read a book where a woman walked into a diner and ordered an iced tea in the middle of a snowstorm. In fact, I had to struggle to remember that it was winter in the story because the overall atmosphere made me think of the sultry hot days of the Deep South. Get your head on straight! If that perfect scene gets written but is out of place, either change the season or put the descriptions aside for a different story.

Look out your window. Open the door and breathe in the air. Listen to the sounds on the streets, near schools, and anywhere you think your story will live. Write it down, take photos or video, and keep those impressions to enrich your stories.

 

Archery and Writing

  • May 20, 2019
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I got clipped by an arrow.

To be fair, I hadn’t been back to archery in over six months, had only taken two lessons, and was wearing a short arm guard.

Long arm guard in place, I resumed shooting. The instructor corrected my stance. Hips too far forward, shoulders needed to be down, chest open. I was tensing when it was time to release the arrow.

But there was that one time when I let myself breathe, focused on the target, and the arrow struck close to the center.

It made me think about writing. Are my shoulders down? Is my stance relaxed? Am I focused on the target? (Which would be the next sentence in a story.)

It takes repetition to get it right. And to walk away tired, with muscles pinging in areas I never considered, noting the hits and misses and determined to do better next time?

Yep. That’s writing.

 

I’m Proud to Be an Indie Author

  • April 14, 2019
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typewriter photo

First off, let me say that if you want to be traditionally published, that’s fine. This is my opinion for myself only.

It drives me nuts that indie authors aren’t as respected as traditionally published authors. To be clear, self-publishing is not the same as a vanity press. Vanity presses take your money in order to publish your book. You should be paid for your writing, not the other way around.

It’s been said that indie authors publish garbage. Yes, there are people who write their stories and—without any real effort to edit or, better yet, hire an editor—toss their works online and proudly proclaim they’re a published author.

Ugh. On the other hand, we’ve all read traditionally published books that should never have seen the light of day, so I’m unsure why indie books get so much flack.

When I finally decided to take the step, I knew I had the background to deal with it. I was an in-house production editor, editor, copy editor, and proofreader for years, and my writers’ group consists of four other editors. My work gets scrutinized and I’m a better writer because of it.

What I don’t know, I hire out. I have no background in cover art, so I paid an artist who also knew digital publishing to create a cover for me.

And since I decided that I wanted my novel to be available in paperback as well as e-book, the formatting for the paperback was done by a fellow writer and editor. The trick is knowing my limitations. I do know how to format for e-book and though my marketing efforts need to be stepped up (really, whose don’t?), I’m happy to be publishing on my own timeline.

And yet, I’ve run into situations where people take a step back when they discover I’m an indie author, as if I’m not a real published author.

The only solution I can see is to keep writing, keep editing, and keep putting the best work I’m capable of in front of an audience when it’s ready.

Which should be the criteria for every writer, don’t you think?

 

*Photo by lil_foot_ (Pixabay)

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