Hi Mike. Thank you for allowing me to visit with you and your readers. I have exciting news!—my latest novel, HEALER, is now available on Amazon, or at my publisher’s website: Oak Tree Press. HEALER is the heartwarming story about … Read More
Category Archives: Author Blogs
Elevator Pitch or Logline
These are some tips for narrowing down your story plots points in order to come up with both your Logline and your Elevator Pitch. I suggest you begin by finding your Logline.
A Logline is usually 25 words that describe the overall plot. Many publishers will accepted up to 50 words. You must distill your story down to those few words because you will be asked time and again for them.
An elevator pitch is one simple sentence that grabs attention. Literally, if you’re on an elevator and have a few seconds to interest the curious about your book, what would you say? It must grab interest. It must make the others on the elevator jot down or make a mental note to look for your book. Have some business cards with you.
Think about that scenario. You get on the elevator and someone asks “What’s your next book about.?” You need that pitch here. It makes or breaks interest in the little slip of time before they or you step off.
Or maybe they ask, “Do you work in this building?” Your answer would be, “No, I’m a writer. My latest thriller is about a woman who finds her abducted daughter facing lethal injection for a crime she didn’t commit.”
Narrow down your story line to make it as simple as you can but still have a powerful punch.
Here are some exercises for narrowing down to both your logline and your elevator pitch. Ask yourself these questions:
1. Why is your story interesting to anyone?
2. How does my book differ from other titles in this genre?
3. Will people remember the story I’ve told?
4. How do people respond when I tell them what the story is about.
5. Make a list of benefits that readers will receive from your book?
This much will help you choose the most exciting phrases, or a particular scene, that will trigger one or two lines that describes the overall work. Distill it down till you are able to say the sentence(s) in fifteen to twenty seconds.
When you feel you have the proper pitch and may have time left to say more, consider adding what the story is about and what the reader will receive from reading it. Keep the attention on the book and story and never make a statement that draws attention to yourself as the author.
Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre. Read More
Last summer I read a book, rather, started to read a book, and ended up donating it to a used book store. The problem was in the way the story was written.
The title of the book here or character names will change for the sake of this article. I do not like to specifically point out negativities toward a certain author. Who knows? Maybe that author was a great writer but had a terrible editor. In any case, certain errors should be noted to bring attention to a bad habit many writers must overcome.
The problem I found in this book right away was that several paragraphs in a row started something like:
Rory got in his car and sped away.
Rory found her in the second row.
Rory was about to make it clear….
Rory was angry that….
Four paragraphs in a row started off with the man’s name. It’s not very descriptive and certainly boring, disrupts the flow of the story and makes it seem juvenile. Not good for an adult plot.
These same errors repeated in several more chapters, some using other character’s names. I flipped through the pages and saw many instances.
This type writing is not developed nor descriptive and doesn’t show action. It’s the narrator telling what a viewer might see moment by moment and that’s not what makes for excitement to keep the story flowing smoothly and quickly.
Rory got into his car and sped away could better be written as: The car’s interior was hot from sitting in the heat of the glaring afternoon sun. Rory climbed in but never felt the hot seat and searing steering wheel. He was angry.
Rory found her in the second row could better be written as: The theatre was full to capacity. She always sat down front. Rory found her in the second row.
Rory was about to make it clear… could be built up like this: Karen was going to be surprised when she saw him. He motioned sharply to her from the aisle and she bolted upright in her seat. She’d have to come with him. He was going to make it clear….
Rory was angry that…. does not need to be stated in the story because we see his anger in his actions and how he approaches Karen.
Paragraph redundancy happens when straight forward telling by the story narrator occurs. This narrator had not felt anything that was going on in the story; had not been able to “be” the characters, and couldn’t let the characters write the story themselves because the narrator couldn’t get into the minds of the characters.
When re-reading your prose to see how it sounds, also look to see how it appears on the page. Some redundancies also occur with the use of “I” when writing in first person. Any word or name can be repeated too many times, but lacks polish when used to start more than two paragraphs in succession.
Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre. Read More
Exaggeration With No Redundancy
When speaking and you wish to get your point across, or call attention to something in the telling, you add emphasis to your enunciation. This can’t be done in writing.
Many writers add a plethora of verbs and adverbs to try to instill the idea of importance to what they write about.
In the three group examples below, which sentence is better, keeping in mind that in writing, word count is all important?
The whole group knew.
The whole group all went together.
Everyone in the group attended.
Lots of people believed what we didn’t.
Others believed it.
When you examine these simple sentences, be aware that in your own writing, exaggeration and redundancy may be hiding in the guise of thoroughly explaining. Once you have developed your scene – who’s in it and what they’re doing – repeating certain information is not necessary.
For example, in the second set of sentences, we know we’re dealing with a bunch of people. Not only do we need to use the words “the whole group,” we can also eliminate the redundancy by omitting the word “all.” “The whole Group” and the word “all” have the same meaning, creating a glaring redundancy.
These little nuances hide in our writing and one of the best ways to root them out is to read our prose out loud. If the sentences don’t roll off the tongue smoothly, if you feel you’re repeating yourself, rewrite the sentences. If something in the reading irritates you, it will certainly irritate your avid, educated reader.
Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre. Read More
The Psychology of Peer Envy
How many times have you read a book and wished you could write like that author?
How many times have you heard about an author’s success and thought it could never happen to you?
How many times have you wondered why the spectacular success that happened to J.K. Rowling hasn’t happened to you?
Truth is, the more you see other people having success and the more you wonder why it isn’t happening to you is what’s making it NOT happen. Your thoughts of it not happening to you is driving the point home that it will not happen for you.
This whole process is known as peer envy. Actually the general process of peer envy applies to all in life. However, we will concentrate on writers and authors in this article.
When you envy someone, you’re simply tell yourself you don’t have what they have. You are driving the point home in your psych that they have and you have not.
For writers who wish to always improve their craft, they should read the authors that appeal to them. They should not read with the attitude that those authors are so much better, or some much more accomplished. Read and enjoy, but at the same time, pick out the strong points in their prose.
Why do their stories sound more exciting?
How do they find such remote settings for their plots?
How did they learn to use such sophisticated words and still have them understood to the average reader?
And on and on. Pick apart your favorite author’s work to learn from them.
When you read your favorite authors to learn their secrets, that is not peer envy. It is peer education.
One of my favorites is Mary Higgins Clark. I can pinpoint exactly where I made the switch from envy to learning. I was reading her novel, Two Little Girls in Blue. She has so much vivid detail in her stories, without being overbearing. I was thinking how good she was at putting in just the right amount of detail. I was also able to glean what she was leaving out. When I realized I was placing her so high above my own writing ability, it was a jolt to my nervous system. At that point was when I decided not to envy but to learn from her writing style. My thrillers do not fall into the same genre as her stories, but I did learn a lot about her descriptive techniques, scene changes, style, and so forth.
How many of you have envied J.K. Rowling for her incredibly unique stories? Truth is, it takes a certain mind and mental set to create her stories. She has an ability not commonly found. We envy her because we do not have her success. Not too many people are able to emulate her prose and come close to her capabilities. She, especially should never be your focus of envy because her abilities are uncommon. To even try to emulate her is to falsely think ourselves belonging in the same category as Rowling or J.R.R. Tolkien and like others. We are not there till we develop our own abilities to have that kind of success.
We get there by developing our own skills.
We can admire these people for their writing ability; maybe even their marketing ability to attract people important in the industry to take their stories and run straight to the silver screen. But peer envy is simply a no-no.
When you read your favorite authors with the intention to learn from them, peer envy disappears.
When you learn from your peers and then improve your own writing ability, the more you read and study, the better your own abilities; the better chance you have of creating your own signature in the world of books, and it will be influenced by those you read.
Yes, read J.K. Rowling. Read J. R.R. Tolkien. Read Isaac Asimov. Focus on any authors and genres that interest you. Read with the intention to learn their secrets. You will develop your own stories and style. You will build your own reputation according to your own talents. Drop the peer envy because it reminds you that you are not there yet and stunts your progress.
Slowing Yourself Down
Do you slow yourself down by having to have everything in your world in perfect order before you begin to write?
Do you have to have the beds made, your first or second cup of coffee. Do you have to hear your favorite song to get you motivated? Do you have to clean house while you think about your next chapter? Did you forget to buy something for dinner at the grocers?
All of these pesky everyday chores are nothing more than writer’s block. If it’s your heart’s desire to write, why would you be slowing yourself down?
Some say there is no such thing as writer’s block. I’ve never had it, but I believe anything that keeps you from writing is writer’s block.
One of the ways you can avoid this type of writer’s block is to set aside a time during your day to write. Yet, it’s not that simple. You may know that at 9:00 a.m. you will begin to write and will do so until noon. However, by 9:00 the phone has rung four times with people needing your assistance. You think you have time to run to the grocery and end up doing a week’s shopping and making yourself late again, so you put off writing till the next day. Either you really don’t want to write, or you need some restraint.
Setting a time when your writing routine will not be affected is best. Do you write best in the wee hours before sunrise? Okay, then go to bed a little earlier so you can wake earlier. Get in the habit of it. If that doesn’t work for you because you have family you have to get out of the house to start their days, then begin to look at various time intervals in your day and pick the best.
Once you’ve decided on a certain time span devoted just to you and your prose, do not take your gift for granted. Do not cheat on time. You are only cheating yourself.
All of this writer’s block business comes down to how much you really wish to write and how committed you are to practicing your craft and making inroads into the writing world. Is that really what you want?
I’ve included a poem here that I wrote some years ago. It’s called, what else?
strong in my mind
too cold, can’t think
fingers won’t move
rise from my chair
rummage through closet, find a sweater
something warm to drink
still cold, climb on treadmill, move circulation.
Already skipped breakfast
another cup of tea, a cookie or two.
Go to the bathroom, wash hands
stare out the window
conjure my story
and the grocery list
sort the laundry
pick up kids
Tea is cold
flick on TV while microwave heats
finish watching show, learn about plots
write a screenplay some day.
Actor wasn’t good, story not credible
very upsetting, destroyed my mood.
I can write better than that!
Get to work
create mind boggling twists.
Answered the phone, talked too long
Voicemail gets the next one
turn the volume down.
Stare at the monitor
tap a key
a few more keys
no more delays
no more tea
don’t hold your bladder.
Daydreaming my story’s finished
Close the drapes, sit down
words pour out
catch up, work faster, more diligently
never mind typos, edit later
say it succinctly first time through
catch up, don’t fall behind
deadlines to meet.
sentence after sentence
Oh, that’s good!
the end’s now in sight
my best story yet
Surely I work better under pressure.
Wonder why other people have writer’s block….
Your Characters Speak Your Language
One of the most difficult accomplishments in writing is to get a certain character’s dialect and accent correct.
When you include foreign characters in your story, it’s imperative that your reader know they have an accent relative to the country from which they hail.
If you are not attentive to these nuances, all your characters will sound like you. If you as the author are not a linguist or grammarian, you may have a certain limited capability at using the English language. Without expanding your knowledge or simply using a Thesaurus, you will find yourself repeating the same words and phrases over and over.
Let’s take the example of a foreign accent. Your character’s manner of speech will be greatly affected by the way you describe that person and from where they came. Say you’ve set up your character as being from France. Maybe he dresses in fine French clothes, is real dapper and has European table manners. Beyond that, have him use French phrases like mon cherie in the course of his dialogue.
Any foreign phrases you attach to your character should be fairly well known to the general public. These phrases both immediately give the reader the character’s flavor of speech; it also lets the reader skim smoothly over the foreign phrase, imagine an accent, and stay in the story. Including a phrase that not too many people have heard makes the reader pause to try to understand. That is something you do not want to happen.
When writing in English, the author must still assure that all characters have their own manner of speaking. Maybe a cowboy has a laid-back southern drawl, as in “I ain’t into office work, ma’am. I ride horses.” Can you hear him speak? The African man who made it to the Olympics has an Nigerian accent and sings songs from his country that no one understands. The Latino from south of the border speaks broken English interspersed with his home areas colloquialisms and calls women Senora or Senorita.
These are but a few examples of unique characters who must sound different. Each would be enhanced by the way the author introduces them into the story. The cowboy always wears boots, even with a tuxedo. The African man plays his drums because he misses home, but doesn’t want to miss a chance at the Olympics either. The Latino does his own cooking because you can’t get real authentic south-of-the-border cooking at any restaurant.
When you develop your characters well, many times even their simplest conversations will appear to the reader as being spoken with some sort of accent or brogue.
But don’t overlook that once you set up the special characters that people your story, their dialogue must follow suit. You must set your characters apart, not only in mannerisms and such, but in their dialogues. Otherwise all your characters will all sound like you, the author, and will speak the same language as you.
Include It or Forget It
For those of you just starting out in the writing profession, you may be having doubts as to your ability. You may have the makings of a great story. You may know how to write well. But how much do you include in your story to make it appealing to readers of your genre?
When I first began to write, I thought I would never include the obligatory bedroom scene. Me? Write about sex? My heart thumped and it wasn’t from excitement. It was from fear of making myself look stupid. That soon changed. As I read more and more published books, I learned I didn’t have to write graphic scenes. I wasn’t writing porn or anything for shock value. I found a way to know exactly how much to include.
My way was to write out everything about the first bedroom scene I needed to include in my story. I wrote everything, including all the sighing and grunts and groans, conversation, even emotion, color of the bed sheets, the sound of fingernails scratching against skin, everything I thought the characters might experience.
Wrote it all.
Wrote it all from a vivid imagination and felt my own eyes pop out of my head as I stared at the page reading and beginning to laugh at myself.
Then I deleted the whole thing after reading it, knowing I could write a great bedroom scene to fit whatever my story required. If I could write everything about sex once, just once, I could write only what I needed for my story.
What a lesson that was!
I encourage you to write out the thoughts you have on a difficult area you need to develop or perfect. Once you have written all you think you know, you will have no difficulty knowing how much to include and what you will thankfully omit.
Many people say they “could have written a better story.” They “should be a writer.” These people talk about the negatives of writing or the supposed flaws of stories they’ve read.
It’s okay to critique. Perhaps these people would make great critics or book reviewers, providing they can temper their egos.
Many people complain about others’ prose because they feel they can write a better plot, better characters and so forth. My wish is that they would begin to write. Put their thoughts into solid form and stop wasting their own stories.
Often times, when those who complain will take the time to write out their gripes, they either learn they are correct, or they find they are way off beat. Many of these people could easily become writers because writing out thoughts and ideas often form stories of their own accord.
One such friend began to write out her frustrations and learned from others who read her scribbles that she has a dry wit, at other times a raucous sense of humor.
We stand to learn a lot about ourselves as writers if we will simply examine our thoughts, motivations and frustrations.
This is a great way for a writer to improve. When you read another author’s prose and feel you can write better, at that moment is when you should delve deeply into your thoughts and come up with a better story. Your muse is trying to tell you that you have it in you to write and write well. Otherwise you wouldn’t be seeing the flaws in others’ work. Your muse is ready to help you write a better story. Why waste opportunities to create your own great prose?
Afraid to Publish
Two people I know have written books. One is a fiction, one a nonfiction. Both of these authors are afraid to publish.
People afraid to publish need to analyze their motivations for writing in the first place and then take a good look at what motivates them not to publish.
The reasons for hesitation could be many. Let’s look at some of these:
Unsure of the information you’ve included
If you’ve written nonfiction, all your facts must be accurate. Your publisher will verify the facts. If they cannot be verified, your book may not be published. If you’ve offended, your publisher may hesitate. However, without a publisher to gauge the accuracy of your work, it’s up to you. If you feel unsure for this reason, then you must do the verification yourself. Be sure your facts are correct. Be sure you are writing about something people need to know. Be sure you are not writing out of hate or anger, or simply to ease your own conscience. And most of all, once you have these assurances, publish that book before your news becomes outdated.
Unsure if you’ve told a unique tale
It is said only 20 real plots exist in fiction. All stories are derivatives of these twenty. What makes all stories difference are the story settings, the scenes that you create, your characters and so forth. Most of all, it’s your unique spin – your style, your voice. No one can write your story like you can. Simple.
Worry about errors
If you are afraid of having errors in your work, what type of errors? Whether fiction or nonfiction, if you feel you’ve said something wrong, change it. Write it a different way. If you’re worried about typos and grammar, follow sage advice and get your manuscript edited. This is the best way to know that you are truly ready to publish. A good editor could also tell you if your story truly hangs together. This is the best way to assure yourself. It puts your mind at ease.
Afraid of offending someone
In nonfiction, it’s easy to offend someone or anyone. If you’re written something offensive, all the more reason to be accurate in your facts. You might also consider if your information is something people want to read. Are you bashing someone simply to ease your own frustration? Are you writing about true experiences, exposing another person and playing like one of the powers-that-be? What is your motivation for doing this?
Nonfiction information tends to be timely and can get old quickly. Do what you must to help you feel rewarded that you’ve spent all those hours gathering facts and writing out your opinions. When you began your project, you had a reason for doing so.
Fiction requires a good tale told in an exciting way that doesn’t sound to the reader like they have already read something similar. Develop your voice and style.
These are but a few reasons why writers hesitate to publish or seek publication. Above all, for writers of any prose, if you’ve followed a certain set of rules that lead to good writing and editing, no reason exists not to publish. If after you’ve come this far and you still cannot bring yourself to present your work to the world, then I would suggest you begin to examine your psychological motivation as to why you delay your rewards.