Monthly Archives: March 2010

Mar 31

Mary Deal Talks about “Writing in the Dark”

Many people have asked for a way to catch that spark of creativity as they wake from sleep.

History is full of writers and people of science and other fields, who have said they receive inspiration in the wee hours of the morning. Some of my most creative moments were when I woke in the middle of the night, so I decided to emulate these great people.

In the past, I lost a lot of sudden inspiration by allowing myself to toss and turn with an idea before returning to sleep, thinking I’d remember it in the morning. History teaches us that we should write down insights and creative flashes on the spot. So I placed a pen and pad on the nightstand. Still, turning on the lights felt like robbing me of sleep.

After a while, I gave up the idea of writing on a pad and decided to go directly to my computer since keying is faster than handwriting. That required waking even more and I found that fully waking sent my muse fleeing. Too, walking to another room, half asleep, and waiting for the computer to boot, I’d forget why I was there!

Handwriting in the dark proved the best way. I got used to the idea of not turning on the lamp or waking fully, and to sitting in bed under the warm covers. The best ideas came and were easily captured when I was only partially awake. Once the notes were jotted, I went back to sleep or lie back to wait for more inspiration.

When writing, the shape of the white paper shown by moonlight, or by the dim light of the street lamps filtering in through the window. Never mind trying to follow those barely discernable blue lines on the paper. I never saw them. All I saw was the shape of my hand moving across the area of white, and my pen, depending on its color. I just wrote.

In the beginning, it helped to imagine each letter of each word. It kept me focused just enough to keep from falling asleep while sitting up. It also helped me write legibly. The tendency—and I’ve heard this from other night writers—is to write hurriedly and the letters and words end up being only partially formed. The writing is difficult to decipher when re-reading later. I soon learned how to write readable letters and words without having to concentrate on each. I didn’t write small. In fact, it was best that I wrote large and got the idea on paper legibly enough to read in the morning.

And forget about hand printing notes. The following morning all you may see will look like chicken scratching! Not only were my printed separate letters haphazard on the paper, but the individual parts of each letter were disjointed and scattered. So, deciding to write only in script, the problem left was how not to write on top of what was already written.

It’s easy to add more notes, not knowing where on the page you left off. You’ll most likely end up writing over what was already there. In the morning, if you wish to keep the valuable information you took the time to jot, you’ll had no choice but to try to decipher the over-writing. So at the moment you’ve finished writing one thought, even if you used only a portion of the paper, turn the page. If more notes are added later, they won’t be written over earlier inspiration.

Another way of avoiding over-writing when finished writing one line across the page: Place the opposite hand over what was just written. Cover each line as they are added and that takes care of that problem.

When stopping writing for a while, attach the pen to the edge of the next blank page. When fumbling for the notepad in the dark, the pen allows a fresh start on a clean page.

Always use a bound notebook. I tried loose pages once but that was short-lived when, in the dark, everything fell to the floor and I didn’t know what was written on and what was not. What a mess! Not to mention being totally distracted and losing my brainstorm!

Any bound notebook will do. You can also punch holes in computer paper used only on one side and put it in a binder. It’s a very thrifty idea. When I run proof copies of my stories and edit, then go back into the computer to make changes, I am left with pages of paper used on one side. Nocturnal note taking can make fullest use of that paper before it’s finally discarded.

Writing on both sides of the page is difficult to do, depending on how each sheet folds backwards. If you use a pre-made notebook, once you reach the last page, and certainly if you need to keep writing, close the book and turn it over. Begin again from the back of the book by writing on the backsides of the pages you have already used.

Sitting up in the dark to write seemed arduous at first. Inspiration can be easily discouraged by the need to sleep. To accomplish what you wish in your writing career, accept creativity whenever your muse presents it. It’s a matter of dedication.

Most practiced writers I know who wake during the night say these techniques have proven invaluable. But the one quality that everyone must have in order to make these techniques work is incentive. It is one thing to wake with glorious information and marvel at the wonders of our minds, then return to sleep. It’s another to want to record some of the best ideas our own brilliance has produced. We must have the incentive to sit up and write in the dark and persevere till we’ve developed the easy habit of doing so.

When I get those great bits of information now, I seem to sit up even before I begin to awaken. I jot my ideas till I think I’ve said what I needed to. Sometimes I merely write the skimpiest of notes and sometimes complete sentences because we all know how fickle the muse is. Recapturing an idea is never the same if we are forced to try to remember details hours later. After writing everything I need to, I lay down knowing I’ve not lost anything and I can sleep in peace.

Only to wake again.

And again.

And….

Sidebar

A common practice to remembering information that fades upon awakening is to do what dream therapists suggest for those wishing to remember dreams.

Assume the same position you lay in when you woke. Place your arms, legs and head where they were. If you were laying on your side, back or stomach, stay in or turn to that same exact position. The dream or that brilliant idea will usually reappear as you relax.

Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre.
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Mar 26

Steampunk Author Emilie P. Bush Drops In To The Child Finder Trilogy

MA: My very special guest today is the former host of Georgia Public Radio’s “Georgia Gazette,” Emilie P. Bush. Emilie has traded in writing the news for writing Steampunk. For those not familiar with this type of writing, it is a sub-genre of science fiction that typically takes place in the 19th Century, but features anachronistic technologies (like digital electronics during the industrial revolution).

Emilie’s debut novel, Chenda and the Airship Brofman, sends Chenda and her companions up in the air, across a desert, through a mountain and under the sea in a thrilling adventure. Emilie P. Bush lives and writes in Atlanta. Welcome to the Child Finder Trilogy! Read More

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Mar 24

Mary Deal Pens Great Writing Advice: “When I’m Stuck”

Let it be known that I never have the dreaded writer’s block. But sometimes I do get stuck. It may be from working on too many projects at once.

I usually work on more projects than I can complete, though my main focus is on one or two at a time. When I’m stuck I play a trick on my mind. I begin working on a different project. Seems my mind can’t help throwing out random bits and pieces of information for lots of different stories. So all I have to do is work on something else and what I need for the story I prefer to work on then comes to mind.

When I’m stuck writing anything to do with a character – maybe dialogue – I stand in front of a mirror—have one right beside my desk— and practice the gestalt of the character’s situation. That is, I speak the dialogue to myself in the mirror until I sound like the character. It also helps to gesture like the character when I speak. Then I include those words and gestures verbatim in the story. Including those mannerisms, too, enhances the character’s personality because I can actually see my character in the scene as I act out his or her part.

If anyone were to watch me and not understand, they would think me nuts!

Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre. Read More

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Mar 19

Alaskan Author Anna L. Walls “Chills Out” On The Child Finder Trilogy

KING BY RIGHT OF BLOOD AND MIGHT, my one published book, is about a young prince who must discover his birthright as well as the world around him. Raised in seclusion, he had scarcely been beyond the palace walls before he was whisked away to learn about the greater world as well as his own country. There his fate was joined with that of legends and fairytales, and together they were able to cleanse the evil that seeped through the land like a cancer.

On my website, I have the reviews for this book and the synopses for several other of my stories, and on my blog I have samples from nearly all of my stories, and just recently, I’ve started to post up another of my books a chapter at a time.

I really like the genre involving kings and princes and such, so that’s what I chose, but that is by no means the only way I make my choices. Several of my ideas came from particularly vivid dreams. That translates into more than one of my stories taking place in space or in another dimension. Read More

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Mar 17

“Follow Those Guidelines” an Article by Mary Deal

A writer’s willingness to work with an agent or editor will show in how a manuscript is submitted.

When submission guidelines are established, how well the writer follows those rules and how well they are carried out, tell a potential editor or publisher how well they will be able to work with that writer. More than that, it tells them how much a writer is willing to cooperate and work with them.

For example, if the guidelines say not to use paperclips or staples and a submission arrives with a huge paperclip, this is a red flag to an editor. Chances are, after rough handling in the mails, the paper clip has bent the paper so badly that the sheets jam the editor’s photocopier. Many editors may not make copies, but what if the story is so exciting that a group of judges want to sit around and discuss it? They certainly aren’t going to do that over one single copy.

If an editor says he or she likes your story but says changes are required, your willingness to improve the story will show way before you’ve gotten your submission past the point of being read. It shows in how well you follow guidelines.

When an editor calls for the first chapter and the guidelines say not to fold your submission and you send a dozen pages folded in thirds and crammed into a number #10 envelope, your submission will either be returned unread or tossed.

If a writer cannot follow directions, it simply says that the person is not serious about his or her work. The writer probably places little value on instructions and thinks the submission will be read anyway because it’s so darned good, not realizing that the #10 won’t even be opened. This also shows a person who is too lackadaisical about keeping supplied with the proper materials of the trade.

A similar theory about following directions holds true in certain therapeutic practices. In administering therapy, the therapist may unexpectedly ask a client to do something, like move their chair a little to the side. This is a test of how well the client is willing follow directions. Whether or not they cooperate is a measure of how much they will submit to therapeutic techniques.

Like the patient that repeatedly arrives for therapy but refuses to cooperate, you choose whether or not to follow submission instructions. In order to receive more acceptances than rejections, or to have an agent or editor ask for your entire book manuscript, writers must be willing to play by the rules. So, follow directions and guidelines to the letter.

Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre. Read More

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Mar 12

Former Air Force OSI Special Agent And Current Author John T. Miller Sleuths In To The Child Finder Trilogy

I am very honored to have as my guest today, a fellow former Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI) Special Agent John (“Jack”) T. Miller. Jack is not only a former OSI agent, but he’s also an accomplished writer.

He served in the US Army (three years) and the USAF (eighteen years), before retiring in 1975 as an E-8, Senior Master Sergeant. So let me do the math…this means Jack entered the military before I was even born, but I won’t tease him too much!

Jack has had a long career serving the law enforcement community. He worked for the Clark County, Nevada, District Attorney’s office surveilling Organized Crime figures. He also went undercover with the FBI and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Dept conducting long term stings against street thieves and burglars. He served with the Nevada State Gaming Control Board (GCB) as an enforcement agent and retired from there in 1988 as a Senior Agent. During those years he was an expert witness in state and federal courts in cheating cases. Not to be outdone, he worked part-time in casino surveillance (Eye in the Sky) at three different casinos and part-time as a contractor to the US Army conducting surveillance on civilian trucking companies hauling sensitive military equipment and ammunition. Jack fully retired in 2002. Let me personally thank you for your service to our country, to the Air Force OSI, and to the law enforcement community. Read More

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Mar 10

“Building a Story” By Mary Deal On The Child Finder Trilogy

A friend of mine—I’ll call her Judy—had written a novel and was in the process of sending it out to literary agents seeking representation. She and I knew that first-time authors typically needed to have two or more completed manuscripts in hand. Publishers do not make large profits on an unknown writer’s first book but on subsequent publications. Money is spent on publicity for the first book, to establish a reputation for an author and build readership. With these aspects already established, on subsequent books, larger profits are realized. Too, publishers were more apt to believe that a writer was capable of turning out numbers of books if they did so of their own volition. Read More

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Mar 09

Vampire Detective Novelist Mario Acevedo Swoops Down To Visit The Child Finder Trilogy

I write about Felix Gomez who went to Iraq as a soldier and came back a vampire. My stories are macho hard-boiled noir with a supernatural twist. In the latest adventure, WEREWOLF SMACKDOWN, Felix gets trapped between rival lycanthrope clans in Charleston, SC, and the impending rumble could doom the supernatural world. Read More

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Mar 05

Michael Berish — A Real Miami Vice Detective — Makes An “Arresting” Visit With Mike Angley

I am honored today to have as my guest, a real Miami Vice detective, Michael Berish. Mike was born and raised on the banks of the Hudson River in Poughkeepsie, New York. He received an A.A. degree in Criminal Justice, graduated from the University of Pittsburgh on an academic scholarship—with a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology, and later earned his Master of Arts degree in Communications from Miami’s Barry University, where he took courses in Production, Directing, Screenplay Writing. Read More

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Mar 03

Mary Deal Writes About “Words & Sounds” On The Child Finder Trilogy

Count me as one of the people who manage to confuse words in a most curious way. I have always had trouble with when to use “loose” or “lose” until I hit upon the fact that it wasn’t the definition of each word that caused me difficulty. It was the way I pronounced them.

Another difficulty I have is with names. When trying to remember anything, one of the simplest ways for me is to associate it with something else. In try to remember a person’s name, I usually have to say it several times, and associate it with the person’s face, in order to remember. Remembering faces is easier, but names elude me unless I work hard at remembering. Say the person’s name to myself as often as possible while in that person’s presence and while looking at his or her face sometimes works. Still, that’s kind of difficult to do when trying to hold a spontaneous conversation. Read More

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