I’ve joined up the Book in Year challenge. Wish me potatoes. Luck has nothing to do with it.

Plot 101

Book in a Year
Kate Hardy’s 10-Step Plan for Writing a Book

1. Write your synopsis. Maximum one page, main events only, with no adverbs, adjectives, dialogue or description. (Action, action, action. Keep it really spare.)

2. Check it for holes (i.e., what’s missing?). Are there enough plot twists? Is there enough emotional punch?

3. Write your character biographies, then take another look at your synopsis. Now that your characters are developing, does that affect any events in your book? Can you add more emotional punch? Can you fill in the holes?

4. Break your revised synopsis down into chapters, determining what action will take place at each point in the book.

5. For each chapter, write a more detailed chapter plan. If your characters suddenly start having a conversation while you’re writing the chapter plan, fine — add it in. The chapter plan is for you to work from, so it can be as long or short as you like.

6. Set yourself a target — if you write two double-spaced pages a day (500 words), that’s a 50,000-word book in a little over three months.

7. Keep to your schedule — it’s all too easy to watch a film/call a friend/write a few emails and promise yourself you’ll catch up tomorrow. Do that for a week and you’re setting yourself up to fail — 500 words is manageable but 4,000 need a bigger chunk of time!

8. But be flexible, too. As you’re writing, you may find the book changes — as your characters develop, you might have a better idea for a twist in the plot or decide that something else will work better. (In my case, I get two or three more chapters than planned….)

9. Read it through, then write yourself another single-page synopsis based on the actual book.

10. Check the new synopsis for holes. Do any sections look weak? Is there enough emotional tension? Make notes on what you want to change, make your revisions, then read the whole thing through and ensure the book still works. (If it doesn’t, repeat points 9 and 10 until it does.)

Congratulations! You’ve just written your book!

The Writing Route to Success Everlasting

I’ve been looking at some sites for writers today. Some of them have writing exercises, some have just a lot of links, some try to be a support group with message boards and chat. It made me think about what I have as my own support group here. In my life, outside of the blogworld, I have a pressure group.

My family think writing is a waste of time, nothing will ever come of it, etc. The pressure me to move on and forget it all. They remind me of every bill I need to pay, everything I don’t have, and all the time I’m wasting. That’s all just pressure. I think some people try to be supportive, when they have time or think about it. But, it just feels like more pressure that way. I remember any sincere compliments but most of the time people just ask how the writing is going, am I done that book yet…? It’s not going all that well.

I feel so pressured to pop out something and I can’t find even a starting point to write it all. I think that’s why I am okay writing short articles and short stories. They only need a momentary focus and a burst of inspiration and then in an hour or so they emerge, complete. Writing a book isn’t like that. Still, I have to find my way. It is something I want to do. For the money, yes but also for myself. I want to have something big I took on and won. It would be nice. It’s so easy to get sidetracked though.

I don’t think a support group is going to help much now. I can’t hear that and take it as support any more. I just feel more pressure, as if there are more people waiting, expecting me to perform. I need to find my own way in this. I don’t know how anyone else can help. Not at this point. It all has to come out of my own brain anyway. There is certainly enough packed up in there. You’d think it would be simple to squirt some out onto a blank page. I don’t have writer’s block in the traditional sense. I just have no idea how to begin, where to start.

I think I will take a break from trying for the rest of the daylight hours. I’ve been hearing about how cold it is outside but I will brave the weather anyway. I checked the bus route schedule so I can time it and not be stuck waiting out in -14C for long. Unless I miss the bus of course. Ug.

Mistaken Words

What are your words? The ones you always have to look up and check spelling or meanings? Looking at a book with “the most common mistakes in English usage” I found a couple of my own.

  • Accept and except.

These even sound about the same. Do you know which is which? When do you accept and when do you except?

  • Lay and lie.

For me it’s really the word lay. A chicken lays eggs. Do people lay down or lie down?

Then, there are common mistakes I see myself. Not my own mistakes but those of others.

  • They’re and there.

They’re going to the park on the way there.

  • Your and you’re.

You’re going too fast your speed is too high.

  • Where and were.

Where were you?

  • A lot and alot.

Alot is not a word. It should always be a lot.

  • Do you know which is the principle and which is the Principal?
  • When is it better to further your efforts to go farther?

No doubt those aren’t glowing examples of grammar but sometimes knowing how words fit in helps you remember which one you need at the time.

  • Other confused words are anything with double “0’s”. Choose chose, too to, loose lose and so on.
  • But my personal worst mistake is its and it’s. I still can not keep them straight. Sometimes I get lazy and just type ‘its’ regardless of correctness.

I can stick up for my laziness by saying that’s how language is built, it evolves from laziness and a need for better understanding in communication. But, I know in the case of ‘its’ I’m just being lazy when I should, or at least could, be checking my handy dandy dictionary.

Time to Buy a New Dictionary

When did you last buy/ get a new dictionary? How about a thesaurus? Maybe you splurged and got a rhyming dictionary too?

I especially like playing around with my thesaurus. But, tonight, I discovered how out of touch my trusty dictionary is. In fact, good old trusty is down right rusty. There is no ergonomics in my dictionary. Sure, I can spell check it with Lotus Word but it’s just not the same. If you can’t rely on your hand held print dictionary what is life coming to?

It’s coming to the point where I will sacrifice a few (few dozen likely) bucks and buy myself a shining new, updated dictionary. Now, the question is which company to choose from. The current oldie is a Funk and Wagnalls I bought for college English classes. At the time it was the best choice between wordiness and thriftiness.

However, I’m not a college student any more. Now, I’m actually making real cash money every other week. I’ll stick with paperback. It’s easier to transport around and find space for. I can’t imagine hauling out some hard, huge book every time I get the urge to look up something.

Another credential for my dictionary will be Canadian spellings. I’m Canadian and I intend to go on spelling like one. If anyone can’t understand it they can just pull out a dictionary of their own.

While I’m dictionary shopping this weekend I’ll peek at the thesaurus too. It’s more fun than the stuffy old dictionary anyway.

So, how old is your dictionary? Can you find ergonomics?

Handling Fanmail

I started reading “Guerrilla Marketing for Writers”. One thing that struck me as was this:

“You can show your involvement with your fans by being cordial when you contact them, by being helpful to them, and by asking about them.”

Almost no one does that any more in the great big, fast, condensed world of email. Yet, I think most people have felt short changed by some one sentence, abbreviated email reply. Why don’t we show an interest in the people we email with? Especially if you are writing to someone who has shown an interest in you, or whatever you are selling. Is it so greatly time consuming? Is it too hard to write over the one sentence quota? Or do you really just not care?

The advice from the Guerrilla Marketers is good advice. You really can win people over if you show some interest in them. Maybe they have just read your book or something you wrote on a website. First of all, it’s pretty amazing that you got feedback at all. Not may people bother to send a note. When you have the chance to reply to feedback, take it.

Make the most of the chance to connect with someone. Send them your promotional spiel, your upcoming books, articles and where you are writing online but also send them answers to their questions and some questions of your own. Give them a reason to write back, or at least remember you.

/There is a lot of email flying around out there. Adding HTML and graphics isn’t the best way to make yours stand out. Ordinary, old fashioned chit chat is free, takes up a lot less bandwidth and is far more impressive.

Character in Victory and Defeat

Do you agree with the idea that a character can be shown better in defeat than in victory? Think about the last character you wrote about. What was happening to him or her? Were they being defeated or conquering? Would it be easier to show their defeat or victory through dialogue or description? Or would you just narrate that and not leave it up to speculation?

I’d like to think people’s characters can thrive in either situation. You know, that idea about good winners and poor losers. It should work both ways. Maybe it’s more about the writer’s own character than the character created for the page.

It’s worth thinking about. How would you describe the setting differently if the character was happy, doing well and having a great victory compared to the setting of a character who was having a bad day, etc.? There would be small details like how they carry themselves, body language and tone of voice if they speak. Larger things like their reactions to other people and things that interact with them. Aggression and violence could develop for the defeated character. Whereas someone who has won would be aggressive but not in a violent or threatening way, over exuberant perhaps. Both can be intimidating for different reasons.

How much does the mood of a character influence their surroundings. You know when you are feeling angry you see things differently than when you are sad, happy, or laid back. Do you consider that aspect as you write the scene? Back to that is the glass half full or half empty.

Anyway, it’s something I read in a book about fiction writing, an old book but still some interesting ideas. Yet another way to show without telling.

A Writer’s Website

Here are my ideas about making a writer’s site an asset to you and a resource for others to come to. It’s a bit scattered as I am leaving for Ottawa tomorrow and have some family stuff ongoing. But, I wanted to share the ideas while they were brewing around in my brain.

I think blogs are a great way to go. They take over a lot of the grunt work and are still fresh and creative. Avoid going the LiveJournal route though. Your blog should look like something you have done, not a clone from another site. Getting your own domain is a huge asset, if you can afford the cost. This will also give you an email address which does not include the words Yahoo, Hotmail or AOL.

The best thing about a blog on your website is keeping your site freshly updated and making it interactive without too much fuss on your part. You can update daily, or a few times a week. Just add an inspirational quote, a writing tip you’ve found that works, jot down a new publisher/ market you’ve found, scan a sketch or photograph you’ve come across and add it to your blog.

However, a blog doesn’t have to be the focus of your site. Make it a sidebar on your main site, a secondary page or a secondary site. It really does help to keep traffic to your site if they can expect to have something to read when they get there. Avoid link rot, stagnating pages and a bland site in general by adding a blog. Be creative, that’s what we do!

Also, blogs run on text mainly. If you are not a great graphic artist a few simple text graphics are really all you need. Look for a font you like and make a banner to head your blog. Keep the colours simple and easy to read. Add some smaller text graphics as navigation links if you have more than one page. Include a text graphic with your email address. This will foil spam bots as well as they can’t read graphics, only HTML. br /br /Check out other writer’s sites and see what they come up with. Avoid copying anything, instead make your own unique version of the idea. Turn it around to suit you and your own site.

Monitor your traffic cause it does give you a nice ego boost to see people actually coming to your site. Keep a guest book or some form of message boards available. People are more likely to leave a quickie note than send an email. Especially if they can leave a link to their own site behind, self promotion. When you get feedback, answer it as soon as possible.

You can boost your ratings/ rankings with Google by getting your site linked to on bigger sites. So email the webmasters and ask for a linkback. Explain who you are, what your site offers and always offer to link to them too.

If you go with the blog plan and turn your site into a resource of some kind (for writers, for hobbyists, or for the topic you write about) you will find it easier to get linkbacks as you are offering original content. Webmasters and directory editors want original content with simple navigation. If you create it, they will come.

Consider ways of going out to your readers, catching them at home. Send out an email to subscribers each time you update your site. Give a preview of what you ar updating with. Start a newsletter with your best content of the month/ week, depending on how much work you can put into it.

Work on the webring idea. Make yourself part of a chain of sites. When you submit your site to web directories suck as Dmoz send the listed editor an email. Be polite and courteous. Add your URL to your email signature and make a point of joining relevant email lists, forums and newsgroups. Post when you have something to add to the chat, not just to self promote. If you seem interesting people will click on your signature links. Leave comments in guestbooks too. Even if only the site owner sees your link he/ she could be a contact to cultivate. After all, you came to visit them.

Offer free content to ezines relevant to your genre. Set yourself up as an expert on your topic/ genre. Always include your byline with linkage (also known as a resource box) at the end of each article. Stage chats on your site and make sure you are there on time for however long you set the chat. Or moderate your message boards, don’t leave questions unanswered. Set up surveys, quizzes and personality test type things. People seem to be addicted to clicking those. It doesn’t have to be rocket science.

Give freebies of some sort. If you are graphically inclined offer desktop wallpaper. If you write books offer desktop wallpaper of the cover art from your latest book. Link to sites you have found useful. Either handy web gadgets for writers or something useful for people interested in your topic/ genre. Keep these links checked and eliminate/ fix link rot right away.

If you can, offer a coupon or discount on the purchase of your book. Better still, give them out to those who come to your webcasts (web chats) or subscribers of your newsletter.

If you make appearances or attend events keep a schedule available on your site too. Of course, keep it updated. You can also keep readers up to date with what you are working on. Let them know you are writing a fresh chapter, proofreading copy, mailing out an article, hearing back from that promising editor, etc. Also, write about professional organizations you are a part of, as they relate to your work. Let your site become a news portal for them. This is especially nice for hobbyists, crafty types and such. You can become their guide to what’s going on. Not so tough for you since you will already be keeping track for your writing.

Make sure you also include all your essentials for self promotion. Contact information, clips, the services you offer, and so on.

Writing is a business, not just an art. Happy webbing.

Honour Yourself as a Writer

Last night I went on a spending spree at Chapters, the mega bookstore in this area. I went in for The Writers magazine and came out many dollars lighter. (Debit cards are a blessing and a curse). I bought a new thesaurus which I already love and A Writer’s Book of Days which I’m building up into love for. Judy Reeves wrote it and I’ll look her up online later.

Anyway, there is so much encouragement, inspiration and creativity in this book for writers. I highly recommend you find it at your local bookstore.

I’ve paraphrased and added my thoughts to one of her articles. This is one of her essays which caused me to buy the book.

Honour Yourself as a Writer

Name yourself a writer. Give your writing preference over your day job, affirm the place it holds in your life. Tell them you’re a freelance writer when someone asks what you do. Let yourself be proud to be a writer, whether you’re raking in the bucks from writing or not. Don’t put your writing in second place, like a hobby you might mention if someone asks. Honour yourself as a writer, just like Judy Reeves says!

Make a place for your writing, furnish it with materials that support you and your writing. Keep the space sacred and go there joyfully. I especially like this idea from her book. Make yourself a writing alter, take notes from the Pagans on making an alter. But, whatever you do make the space where you write special, meaningful, uniquely you.

Get the equipment and accoutrements you need. Do you really let yourself spend a enough on what you need to write? Don’t over spend but let yourself have what you need to write well. Don’t give it hobby status if you don’t want to keep writing as a hobby.

Make time for studying and practicing your craft: attend writing groups, workshops, writer’s conferences, classes and lectures. If you’re too busy to go far try a few writing email lists. See which one works for you and then become a regular (don’t just lurk).

Schedule time with other writers. Find someone else who writes and plan time together to talk about writing and have some fun. Don’t let yourself become too isolated from others who write and think about writing.

Read your writing to others. Say it aloud to those who can appreciate it. Read it at writing meetings, family gatherings and no occasion at all.

Transfer your writing from your notebook to the computer and print it out. Everything looks more professional in print. Save your writing in printed format and keep it all organized in files. There is no reason you can’t even make up a zine yourself. Just add a little desktop publishing and you can create your own literary publication, starring you.

Submit material for publication. In spite of yourself and your fears respect your work in producing the writing and the writing itself and submit it for publications. Give yourself a chance, it only costs a stamp, some paper and the time to research your markets.

Celebrate when you’ve completed a work or hit a significant marker. Take a road trip, make a fancy coffee, get a manicure, soak in the tub, call a friend, buy that new thesaurus you wanted, whatever makes a celebration to you. You deserve it.

Accept compliments gracefully. Don’t become your own worst critic when someone says your writing touched them, was a great read or made them think. Instead say thanks and give them more to read, point them to your website, the latest publication to buy your work, whatever you have to offer. Instead of denying your work, promote it.

Take Action

Doing something makes you feel better. Think about the times you accomplished something and how much better that felt than leaving it for someone else, deciding it was beyond you or some other version of not doing. Even if the task is more than you are capable of, take a chunk out of it, or just try anyway. Find something you can do.

If you want to be a professional (paid) writer don’t think about it, don’t make elaborate plans and stop there. Do something. Take action. Start by cleaning all the junk files out of your computer, maybe a whole reformat if you don’t feel too nervous about trying that. (It isn’t really that complicated, it just looks intimidating). Don’t get too deep into cleaning or organizing or planning anything though. Those are pools of stagnation and procrastination too. Start there but move on.

If you’ve made a list of possible clients to write for, begin contacting them. Write your query letters and send them. Write a book proposal and deliver on it. You will feel so much better: accomplished, capable and far ahead of where you were when everything was just plans and stuff you’d like to be doing.

Also, you can find time for the things you really want to do. If you get stuck in the planning then you need to push yourself into the action. If you think you don’t have enough time take a look at what you are doing, where your time is being spent. Is all that really necessary or are there times when you’re just spinning your wheels?