So, You Want to Write A Book…

Keri De Deo

 

 

This post by Keri De Deo

 

When I meet people and mention that I’m an author and editor, they often launch into their book writing aspirations. They end the discussion with the statement, “But I don’t know where to start.”

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Yes, Lewis Carroll said, “Begin at the beginning,” but it’s not as simple as that.

Editors and agents want the beginning of a book to capture its audience from the first sentence and to entice the reader to continue to the end.

That’s a daunting task. So, of course, if thinking about this beginning, you’ll never begin. Rather than “begin at the beginning,” begin writing where your idea starts. You can figure out the beginning later.

Diana Gabaldon, a favorite author of mine, speaks about “kernels.” These are small snapshots of characters, descriptions, images…short sentences that start an idea. From there, she develops these ideas into larger and longer texts. Sometimes, these ideas make it into the book, but sometimes, they hit the editing floor. That’s OK.

I repeat: THAT’S OK. Every thought you have for a book or a character or an idea does not have to end up in the book. It doesn’t mean it’s not valuable. It simply means that it’s not meant for the reader. Hold on to those pieces, though, because they could be useful in developing your character.

It’s also important to develop the habit of writing. Write daily–whether it’s in the morning, afternoon, or the middle of the night. Many famous authors write best in the morning, but morning writing isn’t necessarily the best time for all writers. I tend to write best late at night when it’s quiet except for the occasional owl or coyote. That’s my best time, but it may not be your best time. Explore your writing time–see when it flows the best, and then stick to that time and write, write, write.

Don’t worry if it’s good or not–just write. You can figure out if it’s good later, and if it’s not good, you can fix it. Writing is an art, but it’s also a skill that we must practice if we want to improve.

So, good luck with that book! Keep at it, and you just might find yourself among the published authors!

{A previous version of this was posted at keridedeo.com}


Keri De Deo, owner of Witty Owl Consulting, lives in northern Arizona and works as a writer, editor, researcher, and instructional designer. She is author of the young adult novel Nothing but a Song, released in December 2017. She loves technology and finding innovative tools for a happy, healthy life. Keri spends her free time with her husband kayaking, hiking, and walking her two beautiful dogs, Maiya and Lilla. To learn more about Keri, visit her website keridedeo.com or follow her on Facebook (@authorkeridedeo) and Twitter (@thewittyowl).

 

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What Editors Want

Keri De DeoPosted by Keri De Deo

In his book, On Writing, Stephen King talks about two different kinds of writing: writing with the door closed and writing with the door open. First, you write with the door closed. That means you write for yourself. After you’ve done that, you open the door and revise your writing with the audience in mind. This is the step you must make before turning your writing over to an editor (or anyone else).

When you turn your work over to an editor, you want to put your best foot forward. As a freelance editor, I work daily with writers, and I’ve compiled a list of what I look for in good writing. Of course, every editor harps on his or her own pet peeves, but for the most part, we look for the following components:

  • Exciting Content

Before you start worrying about word usage, syntax, grammar, etc., your writing must contain a good story. Give us drama, plot, and a rise and fall in action. Make sure to complete your research. Has the story already been written? If not, go for it! If it has, can you do it better or in a more interesting way? Writer’s Digest provides an excellent list of cliché stories to avoid.

  • Accurate Content

A good editor checks your content for accuracy. If they find inaccuracies, they’ll send it back to you for changes. You might think this only applies to non-fiction or historical fiction. But it applies for all writing. Even if you write fantasy novels, physics and scientific facts matter for readers to believe your story. Before writing my book, Nothing but a Song, I played with several phone apps to make sure the apps I described actually existed. I also did research about the Deaf culture and using sign language. It helped make the story more believable. (At least I hope so.)

  • Active Voice

We all have heard that saying “Show. Don’t tell.” This is where it comes to play. Rather than saying “she was smart.” Show me by using active voice. “She rattled off equations in a few seconds.” You also accomplish this by avoiding helping verbs (i.e. “to be” verbs). Don’t know what those are? See this list. You can’t avoid them every time because sometimes you need to mark a change in tense somehow, and helping verbs do this. However, if you can replace them, replace them. If they’re irreplaceable, leave them. For help in writing more active sentences, visit this link. (Yes, count how many helping verbs I used in this post. I tried to avoid them!)

  • Polished Writing

Nothing makes me put down a book faster than silly mistakes. Typos happen, but they can be avoided by having several people read your draft. Don’t pick a person who won’t be honest. Pick someone you know will give you constructive feedback. Embrace criticism! Avoiding it encourages bad writing. You need feedback if you want to improve. Also, if you read your writing out loud, many errors will show up. Then have someone else read it out loud to you. If they stumble, make that sentence smoother. If no one else has seen your manuscript, don’t send it to an editor. You might just get it back quicker than you think.

Editors care about your writing, but they also care about their reputation. They won’t put their name on something that fails to meet their standards. Some editors might return your manuscript if the writing falls flat. So, make sure to send your best work to an editor and prepare for changes. As my writing teacher always said, “It’s never done; it’s just due.”


Keri De Deo - nbs book coverKeri De Deo, owner of Witty Owl Consulting, lives in northern Arizona and works as a writer, editor, researcher, and instructional designer. She is author of the young adult novel NOTHING BUT A SONG, released December 5, 2017. She loves technology and finding innovative tools for a happy, healthy life. Keri spends her free time with her husband kayaking, hiking, and walking her two beautiful dogs: Maiya and Lilla. To learn more about Keri, visit her website keridedeo.com! You can follow her on Twitter @thewittyowl and on Facebook @authorkeridedeo.

 

False or Healthy Pride?

IMG_1659aby Neva Bodin

When my precocious daughter was four, she decided she could ride my old bike which was designed for a seven or eight year old. Tall for her age, people meeting her for the first time thought she was six, so while it was certainly unwieldy for her, she could steer and pedal by standing, if she could figure out how to balance it. She fell, she hurt, she cried, over and over.

“Stop!” I commanded, seeing and feeling her anguish.

“No, I have to ride it!” she cried as sobs hoarsened her voice and Wyoming dust outlined tears on her cheeks. Eventually she triumphed, in spite of my begging her to stop trying as I couldn’t stand the tears I saw, and pain I knew she felt.

Recently I watched a small beetle attempt to cross over a large twig in its path. It fell, tried again, fell, tried again and….you get the picture. Eventually it made the trip. It didn’t stop to look embarrassed (can bugs look embarrassed?), or appear discouraged, it just kept trying. And I think if it had not made it over the obstacle, it would have eventually tried to go around it.

A story has been written and irritatingly begging me to edit it. I believe there are women out there (somewhere, everywhere) who could strengthen their faith and understanding of some of their struggles by reading my story. It is an inspirational, historical romance in which the hero and heroine must work through misconceptions, emotional and physical pain, and get to know themselves in order to find love and rediscover their faith in God. If I can write it well enough. There is the rub. Fear and pride are making me tremble.

Unlike my beautifully determined daughter, and the tenacious beetle, I must also deal with lack of perseverance and the habit of procrastination. I now realize I have learned important concepts from my daughter and the shiny insect—false pride and healthy pride.

Tears and pain sometimes accompany our learning something that will eventually give us a healthy pride in ourselves, thereby increasing our self-esteem. That is if we don’t listen to our fearful self-talk and nay-sayers who tell us those are reasons to stop working toward a worthwhile goal.

False pride doesn’t allow for failure and embarrassment when pursuing our goals. However, no one cares as much as me whether I embarrass myself or fail at something, unless of course, it concerns them in some personal way. I am not under anyone’s microscope on earth. Who do I think I am?

Many successful and now famous authors have been rejected multiple times. Among them are George Orwell, J K Rowling, Dr. Seuss, and Stephen King. The stories rejected went on to become best sellers. While I am no one special, I am in good company if my manuscript is rejected! Rejection is part of becoming a published writer or author. It can strengthen our skill, our determination, and encourage me to examine that false pride. And maybe eventually acquire some healthy pride!
Part of my procrastination, I believe, is me feeding the wrong kind of pride. This has given me new insight and inspiration to finish, polish and begin submitting my novel.

No, my tendency to procrastinate and delay work on my novel with the excuse that the flowers need watering, the dishes need washing, etc. has not gone away. But, I now face the real reason I fight myself on this issue, and remember the lessons a little girl and a beetle have taught me. We are meant to try, and keep on trying, any worthwhile passion until we get it right. Not only might we accomplish it, but we will be an inspiration to others on the journey.

Montana Free by Neva Bodin (Start of Prologue) 

Prologue

July, 1878 Montana Territory

Morgan’s heart pounded so loudly against her rib cage, she wondered the birds didn’t take flight at the sound. She moved silently in spite of shaking legs, her feet automatically seeking soft earth without twigs that snap. I have to hide. They can’t find me…

Outside the Comfort Zone

Post (c) Doris McCraw

Doris

When I began this journey of writing there were moments of trepidation. Not strong mind you, for if anything I do tend to live outside the comfort zone from within my own comfort zone.  Confused yet? 

Life is an adventure, a journey. My comfort zone is keeping myself happy by doing things that bring me joy. Sometimes those things are outside of what I’ve been doing, hence, I’m doing things outside my comfort zone from within the constructs of what is a comfort zone for me. I will say, it has kept life from being boring.

Am I great at everything I’ve tried? Absolutely not. Have I enjoyed everything I’ve tried? Of course not. Am I glad I tried? A resounding YES! That is why I can say I’ve sung and played music professionally. I can say I’ve scored a children’s show and a short film. I can say I acted professionally and now I can add writing to the list. Please, I am not bragging. The point I’m making is, by saying YES and moving into an area that others might shy away from, life can be full of fun, so many exciting new things to try. It’s moving out of the comfort zone and giving it a try. If you fail, and I have, who cares. It’s the journey, the lessons, and the great people you meet along the way that make it all worth while.

home for his heart angela raines
My first story, published 2014

I’ve just signed a contract for my third Medieval story to appear in an upcoming anthology for my publisher. This would never have happened had I not said yes to the challenge. Believe me I’m having a great journey as I know many of you are also. So next time something is outside the ‘box’ but interest you, go for it. 

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. Neale Donald Walsch

and of course the classic quote attributed to many authors:

If you always do what you’ve always done, you always get what you’ve always gotten.

Doris Gardner-McCraw -also writing as Angela Raines
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women’s History

For a list of Angela Raines Books: Here 
Photo and Poem: Click Here 
Angela Raines FaceBook: Click Here

THAT DARN PESKY CREATIVE HUMP

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by Stephen Buehler

On a typical day I sit down to write. Well, I intend to write but I don’t. I ask myself, why not? Ahhhh. It’s because of the creative hump. Something we all experience.

For me the creative hump is fear of the unknown. Fear of not being able to write the next scene. Fear that I don’t know where it’s going. Fear my writers group won’t like it so it has to be excellent. Fear of what I’m writing is no good. Fear created by comparing myself to other  published authors.

Hump sign

Camel
(double hump day)

You all see what’s wrong with that kind of thinking. It’s quite obvious.

Smart Stephen should say…

  • Just write the next scene, you’ve been able to finish every scene so far. Why should the next scene be any different?
  • A first draft is just that, a first draft. There will be multiple drafts in your near future. Don’t worry you will be addressing that passage again.
  • The writers group is a forgiving bunch. They’ll tell you what they like and don’t like about the scene. Then you get to rewrite it again. And again.
  • It doesn’t have to be perfect until you actually send it out to agents or publishers.
  • You’ve received positive feedback in your writing life so far, you must be doing something right.
  • Accept that you’re at the level where you are right now. Published authors didn’t start out writing brilliantly.

It’s the kind of advice you’d give to someone else but it’s the kind of advice that’s hard to give yourself and even harder for you to believe in. Some times it’s easier to listen to Smart Stephen than other days.

The creative hump can vary. The hump is huge when beginning a new project and continues through the first draft. The second draft is easier, I already have my words to play with. If I’m inspired for a flash fiction piece or a short story I can sit down and the piece pours out of me.

brain - what is the word

One trick I discovered to help battle that creative hump applies to when I’m rewriting a scene or sometimes even a new scene. When I begin to work on the existing chapter I tend to make small changes leaving a lot the same. I end up tinkering with it, not rebuilding it. I think to myself, if I delete it, what if the new scene doesn’t work? Yes, I have it saved from a previous draft but it’s hard for to get past the feeling that a really bad chapter will wreck the present draft.

What I’ve learned to do is copy the part I want to work on and place it in a new file. Just that scene. I give myself permission to start over and create it as it organically pertains to the story. The new scene might work. I may only like part of what I’ve just written. Maybe it ends up being a lead into what’s already there. Whatever happens, I feel the freedom of it not being part of the big draft I’m working on so I can really turn on the creative juices.

diving man

This I know, the creative hump is not going away. What counts is how I learn to handle it.

BTW, I had no creative hump writing this blog. It was one of my inspired moments.

Do you encounter the creative hump? How do you overcome it?

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Stephen Buehler’s short fiction has been published in numerous on-line publications including, Akashic Books. His story, Not My Day appeared in the Last Exit to Murder anthology and was a Derringer Finalist. He is currently seeking a home for his novella, The Mindreading Murders. He is completing a rewrite of his mystery/comedy P.I. novel, Detective Rules. By day he is also a script/story consultant, magician and a nice guy.  www.stephenbuehler.com