Category Archives: How to be an Author

Self Editing

Most of us think of editing as a job for someone else - and dread it! This week's guest poster, Milissa R Bailey, makes a persuasive argument in favour of self editing. Enjoy!
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She Devil She Is – Self Editing

by Milissa R. Bailey

Milissa R Bailey self editing guest post graphicInvading my nostrils with bitter, acrid stench I knew without a moment’s hesitation the bane of my literary existence was within reach. Her penchant for deftly reaching into my work, ripping from it the very heartbeat of the message and snipping it into little pieces of pabulum was an art known only to the most wretched of life’s ambassadors of doom, better known to most authors as self editing.

I write for the passion of telling a story. And when I write, like so many of my fellow authors, we want to paint that picture as accurately as possible. We want the reader to see, breath, taste, yes even chew the story. But in this birthing process, where words flood, gush, sometimes rush to the surface, we find ourselves overloading the reader, sinking our own proverbial ship of synonyms. Then it comes to pass, you glance back upon your handy work and it is time to take scalpel in hand and edit.

“Does this scene contribute to the story?”

I will be the first to admit when I gaze upon my handy work I think, “How can I remove such a wonderful scene?” The work that went into the intricately woven fabric of character banter, posturing and laying of groundwork promising to build to a fabulous crescendo... But alas.
[h3]Making the Story Better[/h3]
However, the secret many of us discover after our first significant purge… almost without fail, the story becomes, well, better. I know, I know, hard to admit as it is the question you need to ask yourself, “Does this scene contribute to the story?” Or is it just a beautifully written sideline only sustaining your desire to be eloquent?

Self editing, she devil that she is, has actually become a “freeing” experience for this writer. No, I have not been seduced into the dark side. But rather gleaning your work also frees the reader to take in what you truly want them to in your written world. You’ve heard it before, you don’t need to “spoon feed” your readers. Giving a reader “just enough” is the key.

Granted some will say hitting the reader over the head with the obvious story line, beating them into the ending has made for some very successful authors. That I cannot argue. But as an avid reader and one who loves trying to solve the mystery ahead of the words on the page, the tease, hint, promise of what I’m reading between the lines is much more enticing.

“when slicing and dicing a scene, I tuck it away, both mentally and physically”

Okay, I will admit, when slicing and dicing a scene, I tuck it away, both mentally and physically (what do you think copy and paste was meant for?) Justification for said act? I may use it in another venture, or glean from it later. Plus is makes things a little less painful.

One of the biggest traps I find myself in, falling in love with secondary characters. And with that comes the nagging desire to tell the reader about them. I’ve overcome this addiction by allowing myself to write said detail and then moving the excess baggage to another book. Cheating perhaps, but whatever it takes to get the flow going, I’m all for it!

Yes, there have been times where it has been a near death experience to strip the flaws and foibles of a beloved character from the pages. “How could anyone reading this book not want to know this?” Come on, you know what I’m talking about.

Thankfully the “no pain no gain” has worked well. The cast offs have spurred storylines never thought of before, causing this author to take pause. True believer in the mantra “everything happens for a reason,” I take solace in someday the she devil’s handiwork will be for the greater good. Dramatic, yes. But as many a writer will tell you, this casting off of sorts can be physically and emotionally draining.

Take the leap; embrace your inner editor

Step one: The sentence reads fine without all the “extras” DELETE
Step two: The scene is fluff, not that it isn’t beautifully written, but, you’re not making a quilt here. You’re weaving a story!
Step three: Breathe, you’re doing great!

Self editing - Necessary Nemesis.

Milissa's latest book, Gracier, can be found at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

What are your thoughts about editing - self or otherwise? Please share your thoughts in the comments below - and with your friends, using the handy buttons!

Danielle Kelly why I write post graphic

Why I Write | Being a Writer

Why do you write? In today's guest post, Danielle Kelly answers this perennial question, partly in the way we would all do so - we have to.

Want to know why I write? Read to the end for the answer!
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Why I write

by Danielle Kelly

Danielle Kelly why I write post graphicIn essence, I write because I can’t not write. I was that quintessential nerdy loner kid as long back as I can remember, always reading. I had absolutely no problem with my preferences, and there were plenty of other weird kids in the library with me. The reading to writing path happened to me the same as all the other kids who sucked at organized sports. The choice was attempting to catch a ball, or sit and read, and to me that was insanely easy. To give you an idea of my early devotion to reading, I have always read Crime and Punishment every time I am sick. No illness can take priority when I am trying to remember all those crazy Russian names.

“if it isn’t terrifying you to write something it isn’t worth reading”

As we got older, the world widened for most of my book reading friends. They chose other pursuits, but I stuck with my books. I tried many other things in my day, but I always came back to writing. I write because I have things that I want to say to people, or situations I need to work out, but I don’t want to hurt others’ feelings. I write because I hurt and feel and cry, and writing is the only way I know to make it feel better. I read a quote, and if anyone remembers who said it let me know, but they said if it isn’t terrifying you to write something it isn’t worth reading.

I read things that make me see the world differently, like Chuck Palahniuk and Matt Ruff. The first time I read Sewer, Gas, and Electric I was beyond furious. Partly because it was brilliant, and the epitome of the story I have always wanted to write. At the same time, I was terrified I might not ever get there. My favorite is getting a new edition of The Paris Review, because their interviews either redeem my faith in the literary world, or spitting mad.

“It is totally okay to be way too excited over homonyms”

I write because in doing so it is okay that I really care about the words I use. I care that although two words may be synonyms their meanings can be technically different, and I want to use the right one. It is totally okay to be way too excited over homonyms. I was going to be a grammar drill sergeant anyway, and when I write that is just fine.

When I read I see the bones that make up the story and if I really like it I want to mimic it in some way, feel what it is like to write. I read Fahrenheit 451 and think of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. Then that makes me think of Brave New World, because I read those two simultaneously once and it became a whole new experience. Ray Bradbury’s Zen and the Art of Writing took me a year because I would read a page, and then spend the next week thinking about the implications.

I write because I have things I need to say even if I know no one will read it. I write because there is nothing better in this world than someone reading it. Without my writing I wouldn’t know how to navigate a world completely out of my control. As I am writing, the characters control the flow, but I am a happy and welcome participant. It always stunned me when my characters make choices completely unlike me. It took me so long to get past forcing my characters into a sensible existence, which I can tell you from experience is a boring read.

“I am a conduit for a story just dying to be told”

In my nonfiction I try my best to literally give a voice to those who feel they don’t have one. Whether real or imagined I am a conduit for a story just dying to be told. I have answered this question in a very personal way, and I don’t intend for it to be taken as my belief of requirements. Instead I hope that you enjoyed my story, and maybe even see something in common. Something that resonates, or makes you so angry you have to tell the world just how wrong it is. Either way, I hope it helps you write, or makes how you feel seem right.

A most heartfelt piece from Danielle - thank you so much for sharing it!

Why I write? My hero, Mrs Takata, taught with stories from her life. I make up stories for similar reasons.

Please share your own writing story in the comments below - and share with your friends, using the handy buttons!

Matthew Riffe creator within headshot

The Creator Within

Every child manifests the creator within - they play their imaginary games with their imaginary friends almost from the moment they are born - and yet, by the time we are adults we have lost that urge to create through criticism, trauma, practicality or some other form of socialisation.

Today's guest post author, Matthew Riffe, outlines his journey back to his creator within. Enjoy!
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Artist, Magician, Scientist - The Creator Within

by Matthew Riffe

Matthew Riffe creator within headshotEvery person is born with an artist, a magician and a scientist within, but as we grow older, we lose pieces of each because of fear and conformity. The ones who are able to overcome the fear and conformity often are the writers, painters, and scientist whom history has been written about or was written by.

“I did not choose to write, rather was found by writing”

I did not choose to write, rather was found by writing. My first experience being found by writing happened in the 2nd grade when I wrote a poem so skilled I was accused of plagiarism by my parents. I did not plagiarism, the idea of the poem started with the words, “Amid the sunlit grass clips, the katydid hid.” I don’t remember much more of the poem but do remember a feeling of accomplishment for the accusations and felt that I had a natural talent.

Maybe this is the reason I never really have considered myself a writer but a wordsmith. Most the piece I have composed start out as a few words which I find the combination awe-inspiring and joyful to say and here. I typically will spend the next few hours, days, or weeks, trying to find the right combination of words until my idea is realized. None of my pieces are ever finished works, instead works in progress put away so other ideas I may play with before they are lost.

I was somewhat lost as a child. I am my father’s only kid and mother’s third. Both my brother and sister were raised by their father because my mother had a few screws loose. My first and last memory of my mother was suicide, the first attempt happen when I was two maybe three, and the last being a successful attempt a day before my birthday. I think the circumstances in which I grew up in may have caused a desire for solitude and isolation.
In the seclusion, I was able to grab a control of my emotions and attach certain sentiments to the sensations. I had been made numb by parent’s alcoholism, drug addiction, and general chaos but through my writing I was able to convey the sadness and lack of affection. I imagine many writers tend to be individuals who enjoy solitude, escaping to their own thoughts and not being consumed by others' drama.

“the less I write, the more tragedy seems to come about in my life”

I have found that the less I write, the more tragedy seems to come about in my life and is more difficult to escape. Writing has always been my escape and way to getaway from life’s problems and be not concerned with finding a solution to the dilemmas. I have always written but took a short two year hiatus while I was I was in the Army. The conformity and inability to articulate and express myself had taken a toll. I was drinking a bunch until I enrolled in college to break up the monotony and repetition. In college I began to rediscover my love for words.

College also helped rediscover my love for poetry. I was in a research methods class and the rigors and exactness of scientific writing had taken my love of words away. I turn to poetry as an escape to the rigidity and inflexibility of American Psychology Association standard. If I had to write in a style that every aspect was dictated, then I would write in a style where the only thing that matter was the words, which help to create my degenerate form of poetry.

“I was found by writing to escape confusion, commotion, and conformity”

My background is important to understand my motives as a writer because it gives the reasoning in which I began to create. If I had not been down the road I have traveled, I do not know if I would have been found by writing. Something had to create the spark, and I believe I was found by writing to escape confusion, commotion, and conformity. The reason others have found my writing is I was able to abandon the fear of rejection. If I was more fearful maybe my words would never be seen or heard but I was able to overcome the biggest fear, which is fear itself. Once I was able to sweep away fear, I began to see more confidence in my writing and more willing to share my enter most thoughts and ideas.

How did you find your way back to the creator within? Share your thoughts in the comments below - and if you liked this post, please share with your friends, using the handy buttons!

Diane Robinson Plotting for Children post headshot

Plotting for Children | Fiction for Children

Diane Robinson is clearly a plotter rather than a pantzer. In today's guest post, Diane outlines her approach to story plotting for children.
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Plotting The Plot In Children's Books

by Diane Mae Robinson

Diane Robinson Plotting for Children post headshotPlotting--the fuel of great storytelling. In a story, just about anything can happen, as long as it comes about logically, makes sense, and follows a few rules. Plotting is also the most fun part of writing a story.
Diane Robinson plotting for children in post graphic

Here are some suggestion for great plotting for children:

  • A plot proceeds logically from beginning to end. Anything can happen in the story, but it must make sense and not just be introduced into the story haphazardly. There must be a reason for everything that happens, regardless of how bizarre that reason may be.

  • The main character needs a strong motive for what they want to achieve. Their motive may be honor, vengeance, or love. Whatever the motive, it must spur the main character to act.

  • Adding conflict is vital to making the story interesting. Conflict can be whatever or whoever is giving the main character a hard time. In writing children's books, the conflict can be a villain, a situation, or even a storm that forces the main character to fight to attain their goal.

  • “Every single word of dialogue should move the story forward in some way”

    Dialogue that is exciting. Every single word of dialogue should move the story forward in some way. If it doesn't, then it's babbling. Moving the story forward with dialogue can:

    • make the character's intentions or motives become clear.
    • explain the emotions of the character.
    • describe something or someone of importance, and at the same time show the reader how that character feels about it or what they intend to do about it.
  • Characters that are credible and real (no matter who or what they are) will move the story forward naturally. Know your characters inside out and those characters will always say and do things that are credible. Characters that are credible makes the reader care about and connect with those characters.

  • Logical surprise is the groundwork for humorous situations. But the surprise must come from some credible mannerism of that character or unfold naturally from the scene. Humor makes a character endearing. Even in a bad situation, a character can do or say something funny, and that can make the scene that much more memorable.

  • Write simply and well. Simple writing does not mean dull--it means writing with clarity and writing artfully, with grace. Simple writing is hard work, but the more times you edit your manuscript, the more simplicity and clarity will come forward.

  • In picture books and story picture books, think of the plot as an upside-down “U”. The story begins with something interesting, the story arcs in the middle with action, the story ends tying up loose ends. The main point of the plot is that, somehow, your protagonist has changed intellectually and/or emotionally, and in the process discovered some important truth about his/her own life.

  • In beginning chapter books, think of the plot as a “M” —the story begins interestingly, the main character faces conflict, some conflict could be resolved only to lead to more conflict, then the protagonist finally solving the conflict and tying up loose ends.

  • “Edit, edit, edit”

    Edit, edit, edit. Re-word sentences to read more gracefully. Take out all those words/sentences that don't do anything to move the plot/characterization forward. Make everything your characters do and say have meaning.

This is the art of good plotting, and all the writer's hard work will be worth it in the final story.
Diane Robinson is the author of several children's books, the latest of which is Sir Princess Petra’s Talent

I think these tips apply equally to writing for adults, too. What do you think?

Aron Joice Passion and Writing post graphic

Passion and Writing

Do you communicate your passion in your writing? Passion in writing is the hook that draws the reader into the web of story. Here, Aron Joice, outlines how she accesses her passion and articulates it as part of her story. Enjoy!
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Passion and Writing

by Aron Joice

Aron Joice Passion and Writing post graphicWhere does passion come from and how does it affect a writer? Passion is a gripping emotion that can allow us to discover secrets about others and ourselves. I am passionate about so many things, art, our environment, animals, children, and the elderly. Each category moves me differently, but the feelings are powerful nonetheless. Writers are solitary people facing a screen for hours on end requiring self-discipline. That discipline must come from the passion, and the necessity to write. So how do we use this as a tool to enhance our prose?

“Everyone is motivated by passion in some way”

I write fantasy. When I deal with my characters personalities and flaws I think about what motivates them. Why do they behave in a certain way? They can’t be linear, or unbelievable. Even the quietest of people have some deep-seated issues. The bottom line in my trilogy “The Lost Children of Managrail” is that love can heal, but it can also destroy. Think about the power of love. People have sacrificed their lives to save a loved one; others, in uncontrolled passion have taken the lives of those they profess to love. Everyone is motivated by passion in some way.

If I have a death scene, I’ll reach into my dark recesses recalling the death of a family member, or a friend. Perhaps even someone I loathed. I give myself over to that moment in time digesting what I had felt. Does anger come to the forefront evoking emotions that I can’t control? If so I am experiencing passion. Maybe I want my readers to hate a character. I can search my mental library recalling some hideous act that I read about in the media. The anger and disgust start to churn, I might think how I want that person to suffer, or die. These are passionate feelings not always controlled. Are they right? Can I justify them? Do I need to?

A writer must be passionate, or otherwise they will be incapable of moving the reader to simply immerse themselves in the authors’s work. When it is forceful, we turn a page and then another. The passion that motivated the writer has touched your heart and possibly your soul.
I think it is safe to say that most people relate passion to some art form whether it is writing, music, art, or dance. Let’s focus on art for the moment. Take a Monet and place it along side of a Picasso. Now stand back and tell me what you see. Do you think one artist is more passionate about his work than the other? Not at all, yet they are total 180’s. Monet evokes soft visuals that calm, while Picasso’s audacious strokes make one want to run with the bulls. Each brush stroke brought to canvas came from passion.

“Passion is personal, but can be shared with the world”

I was a trained dancer and spent many years performing. Speaking from a personal perspective the selected music was instrumental in how passionate I danced a particular number. If I didn’t feel the music to the depth of my soul, passion escaped me. I felt blah! The passion that the musician put into his work motivated me in mine. What about opera? Although this isn’t my cuppa, aficionados can’t get enough. Rappers, Metal heads, and Country fans will stand toe to toe with you regarding their passionate choice in music. Are there right or wrongs? Never. Passion is personal, but can be shared with the world, and that in turn brings about more passion.

Why is any of this important? Without the P word, life would be gray, and each day would be humdrum. The human race becomes less human walking around in a languid state. What a horrible and dull world it would be. Politics would fly out of the window (not such a bad idea), charitable actions, caring for our fellowman, starting the day with a powerful sunrise, loving our earth, feeding the hungry, educating the poor, honoring our fallen, standing for freedom, fighting for victims rights, all gone and forgotten without passion.

We are passion in its full form. It can’t be taken away from us; we can’t trade it in on something new and better. Passion is the best and the worst of us.

How do you convey passion through your writing? Share your thoughts below and this post through the handy buttons!