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Monthly Archives: October 2012

Once Upon A Time….WAIT…Read the Prologue…Before Once Upon A Time….


The dreaded prologue….should you or shouldn’t you? Do you owe your readers a heads up or can you dive headlong into your story explanations be damned? Well…it really depends on your story’s needs. More times than I want to count I have picked up a book, read the prologue and then immediately thought, “what the heck was the point of that”? Prologues can be cool but only if used as directed. (and not before bedtime)

What can a prologue do for your book that can’t be done in the first chapter? It can set the mood or it can be that dangling piece of chocolate cake to draw the reader in. I have one novel where I used a prologue to set the mood of the entire story and to be honest…(shhh, don’t tell anyone…) the prologue actually was the end of the story….cleaver huh? In this instance the prologue worked but there are other times when a writer will just throw a prologue in there to make the book seem snobbier and that doesn’t work at all.

Let’s look at some examples of when NOT to use a prologue…

  • If your back story is boring- A lot of writers use the prologue to set up the story by providing some history…many readers don’t care about before so if you are going this route make sure the back story is worth it.If you really don’t have anything to say – Using a prologue for the sake of doing so is always a bad idea. It doesn’t really impress the reader at all.
  • If you really don’t have anything to say – Using a prologue for the sake of doing so is always a bad idea. It doesn’t really impress the reader at all.
  • If what you said could have been in the first chapter – Don’t waste your space. If not having a prologue means that your story is jumping off quicker…then do it. Scrub the prologue and jump from page one.
  • If you have no idea what a prologue is – Have you have had a meal someone has made where they have used a new spice. (well, new to them) only they really didn’t get what types of foods to use the spice with? Leaves a bad taste in your mouth huh….so does using a prologue when you have no idea how.

I’m not saying don’t every use a prologue, as I mentioned earlier, I have used one and it worked…just make sure you understand the concept and you use it correctly. It is tempting to try and squeeze those extra words in there but if it’s not necessary, it’s not necessary and it won’t work.

 

 

© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

 
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Posted by on October 30, 2012 in Writing, Writing Tools

 

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Special Note – Get out Those Snorkels but be Safe


Good Afternoon folks. I wanted to take a moment and note that we realize that many of our readers on the east coast are now digging through that crap in the garage for their diving equipment. I wanted to wish you a safe night and make a point to say that, if you have been told to evacuate…do so. I understand the temptation to stay home and protect things but your life, and the lives of those who would have the task of rescuing you, are at stake here. Sandy looks like a very angry little lady so let’s make sure that we are all safe and warm while she throws her fit. Sending good, positive energy out to all my friends and readers!

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Creating an Information Collective – Be Smart and Visit those who know


I love advice and I love information….so much so that I am a bit of a junkie. As a journalist it was my job to explore the unknown and I thoroughly enjoyed doing so. Today, as a freelance writer and novelist, I still explore the unknown and am almost compulsive about it. I am, as my spouse would tell you, the perfect trivial pursuit partner and when a family member needs research done they now, I’m their person.

Not everyone needs to be an information hound but it is important, as a writer, to put together what I like to call an “information collective”. (sounds kind of space agey huh?) The purpose of this collective is so that you have a series of resources where you can gleam information about the things that affect you as a writer. (or even as a person) I have been writing for over 30 years but I know that there are a lot of very experienced, very intelligent folks out there who know more about the world of writing than I do. It’s not that they are older or smarter; it’s that their experience has been different so they have come across a different pocket of information than I have, just as I have a different pocket of information than they have.

I believe, (and this is just my opinion) that the thing that kills a writer the fastest is arrogance. When we think we have “arrived” and no longer need any help…we are stepping towards our doom. Gaining knowledge is an ongoing, take-a-part- in-it activity. Just like if you stop gathering food you will starve as a person, if you stop gathering knowledge you will starve as a writer. Taking this into consideration…that information collective is essential to you as a writer.

What should your collective include? Well, that’s up to you…mine includes writing advice I both enjoy and need, writers that inspire me, and information that I feel is essential to my being the best writer (and person) I can be. A lot of my resources are about writing, but some are also about being Zen and calm, or being a better person in general. Some of my resources (blogs and such) are just plan enjoyable or they make me laugh. The most important thing about my resources are that they speak, in some way, to me personally.

Here are a few of mine….(folks don’t be surprised if you are included in this small list…this is just a sampling by the way…)

  • Make a Living Writing – This is both amusing and practical. It is well written and doesn’t bore me. (not boring me is important when getting into my collective) http://www.makealivingwriting.com/
  • The Healthy Warrior – Carol, the writer of this blog, really does her research and offers some interesting tidbits about taking the healthy road. I enjoy the blog and I often use some of the information. (Helpful is good in a blog that is a part of your collective) http://thehealthywarrior.wordpress.com/
  • Journey of Jordanna East – When I first started blogging there were a handful of writers who were encouraging, Ava, the writer of this blog, was one of them. Her blog has been fun to follow. I enjoy her no nonsense view of writing. She’s honest and I like that. http://jordannaeast.com/
  • Yuvi Zalkow – Yuvi is a Portland, Oregon writer who just plain cracks me up. He has a video blog and a regular blog where he showcases what he is learning about the writing world as he trips through it. Yuvi is funny but he is also informative. http://yuvizalkow.com/
  • Om Times – I’m constantly seeking answers for a lot of things and one of them is how do I live my best life? This little magazine was suggested to me by a friend and it is full of interesting articles on a number of things. I really enjoy it. http://omtimes.com/
  • The Renegade Writer – I admit it, the name intrigued me at first but then I started following the content of this blog and I enjoy it. It has a lot of information and it doesn’t bore the socks off me. http://www.therenegadewriter.com/

These are just a few of the links within my collective; you of course, will build your own based on your needs as a writer. I would encourage you to do so and not only create the collective but once you have, continue to go back and visit each of the links at least once a month if not more. We all need to be connected to sources of information that will help us be better writers so why not custom build your source list. Mine continues to grow, sometimes daily, and that makes the collective even more interesting. So take a moment today and begin your information collective….I guarantee you will find it useful and it just might make you an even better writer.

Special Note: Thank you to all the writers listed here and who populate my collective. You have no idea how much you help on a regular basis. You have become my information collective family…. (no that doesn’t mean I’m getting you all Christmas gifts…)

 

© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2012 in Inspiration, Writing, Writing Tools

 

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Reset Sunday – Prepare for the Holidays OR How to Ensure a Quiet One Next Year


I know, it’s not even November yet but if the television, the department stores and the neighbors across the street can push the holiday season ahead of schedule then I have a duty to point out a few obvious holiday preparations that all writers must undertake.

There are some accepted ideas about the holidays that seem to say one thing but to us writers mean something entirely different. I’m going to take this week’s Reset Sunday column to examine some of those “accepted ideas”, define what they really mean and suggest a solution….here we go….

  • Holidays are for family – What this really means is that we are about to be invaded, and because the invaders are “family members” we have to accept it. My writer’s suggestion…start a large writing project this Monday, that way you will be knee deep in it right about the time everyone arrives….repeat after me…”but honey, I’m on deadline”….
  • Holidays are all about the food – What this really means is that you have to feed everyone who comes through the door. My writer’s suggestion…now’s the time to try out being a vegetarian. (for just a month or so) Nothing sends people screaming from your home faster than offering them tofu.
  • Holidays are all about the kids – What this really means is that you have to deal with your siblings screaming little monsters. My writer’s suggestion…the first night they are there tell them an incredibly scary story about how Santa is really a serial killer who just can’t decide which kid to kill off so he leaves toys for the ones he’s looked over to remind himself who to come back for. Guarantee the next morning they will be begging their parents to take them home.

These are just a few of the “accepted ideas” for the holidays and the solutions that will ensure that next Christmas everyone heads for your sister’s house in Topeka. The holidays are great as long as the television works and there is no one standing between the fridge, your beer and the leftovers WHILE the football game is on, so get those scary stories ready…..

 

© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

 

 

 
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Posted by on October 28, 2012 in Reset Sundays

 

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Character Studies – He’s a Killer who Loves Puppies…..


Writer’s Note: This is Saturday’s Column….

I have a writer friend (who shall remain nameless) who loves to attempt to write murder mysteries. Keep in mind that she is a successful writer, she’s sold hundreds of romance novels but more than anything she would love to write a murder mystery that sells….but she can’t. What she does end up with when she tries is a hilarious comedic attempt usually involving a murderer who wears plaid or loves puppies or can’t stand the sight of blood…

My friend, we’ll call her Meg, doesn’t have the writer’s killing gene. What does that mean? Well, I think, (and this is my opinion) that certain writers have certain genes that allow them to be good at certain genres. If you are a mystery-thriller writer, like me, you have …the killing gene, the mystery gene, and the I-love-to –torture-people -in-my-sleep gene….all genes that help you create mysteries. Meg has the romance genes…the sweet gene, the love gene and the I-can-write-great-sex-scenes gene. Now some for these are cross overs but for the most part each gene pool is different and each writer has their own pool to swim in.

So what happens when a writer crosses gene pools….say from romance to spy novels? Well I think that they simply open up the drain and drain several pools into the same giant pool. (I wish I could do that) So should a writer feel bad that they are oriented to a certain genre? No….having different writing talents allow us writers to meet the needs of all types of readers and that is a good thing.

My point is, don’t feel bad because your killers all like puppies or cooking (unless your killer likes cooking puppies and then you may be on to something…) it’s okay…you just might be better skewed towards something else…something nicer…something less violent. Every writer marches to the scribbling of their own pen and we should all be proud of that no matter what we write. I will never discourage Meg from trying to kill something….maybe someday she will and who knows where she will go as a writer from there…but in the mean time I will continue to enjoy that her attempts at killing end up looking like something out of Monty Python…at least she makes me laugh….

 

© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

 
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Posted by on October 28, 2012 in Character Studies, Writing

 

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One…..More…..Twinkie…….


Writer’s Note: The last few days have been occupied with some health issues. I will catch up the blog today….This is Friday’s Column.

Okay, I admit it…when it comes to being healthy, I suck. I have a Twinkie habit, I enjoy coke cola way too much…and I tend to be a meat and potatoes kind of person. Veggies? Please….corn maybe….

I know that I am not alone out there. Writers are notoriously bad eaters and they tend to spend so much time at their desks they hardly move let alone exercise. You know who you are…. Recently I have had a bit of a health scare. It began with a headache that I could not get rid of and it built into a health problem that had me sitting in front of a doctor who was saying lose weight, eat better or we will be attending your funeral. Needless to say I have opted for the doctors’ orders rather than another Twinkie.

It is very easy to become an unhealthy writer. I sit for the better part of the day. I often eat at my desk, which wouldn’t be a bad thing except that once you get use to eating breakfast at your desk it is much easier to start storing stuff in the drawer and then before you know it you have a bag of chips, a six pack of soda, a box of Twinkie cakes, Cheez-it’s, a bag of fun sized candy bars (it’s Halloween time) and a lowly granola bar that has been min the since 1994. (Yes this was all in my desk when I cleaned it out last week) to make matters worse I often justified not going anywhere because I had writing to do so then I was not only overweight but I had convinced myself that it was okay to become a bit of a recluse too. It was the perfect storm for a heart attack, stroke or some other nasty health scare.

So I am changing…I cleaned out all the crap and I have developed a plan to combat all of the unhealthy habits I began so very long ago. It isn’t going to be easy but it I want to be around to annoy the hell out of my kids as they are adults, I have to make some changes. If you are in the same situation I am you can make those changes too, it is never too late until you are worm food so why not just do it…. Here are some of the thing I began with….there will be others but everyone needs a jumping off point…

  • I cleaned out my desk of food stuff – it is too easy to eat when the food is right there within your reach.
  • I now eat in the kitchen, not at my desk – this is a nasty habit. If you eat away from your desk, it makes it easier to not eat AT your desk.
  • I set an alarm to get up- I now set a stop alarm to get up and move around once an hour. It seems extreme but I needed it. I get to working to hard and forget to get up.
  • I move- that alarm is to remind me to move but it isn’t going to do me any good if I don’t so I make an effort to use the alarm to get up and move away from the desk. I dishes, I work in the yard for 15 min…anything to get away from the desk.
  • I no longer work on the weekends- being a workaholic is not a good thing. I now do other things on the weekend with my family….it gets me moving too.
  • I cut back on television time- the t.v. Is another health stealer and I was going from my desk to the couch…not good. Tape you fav shows and then choose a time to watch them, when they are over, get up. I would spend hours watching crap I wasn’t even interested in just because I didn’t want to get up.

These are just a few of the changes I have made and I hope that you will make them too. It also doesn’t matter of you are skinny or overweight…these are still bad habits and your health is affected in a very bad way. So be a healthier writer and make some good changes. I have already noticed a change in my writing, it’s fresher, a change in my budget, I have more money and a change in my spouse who is much happier that I have more energy. So I challenge all of you to come along with me and be healthier….come on….put that Twinkie down….your writing and your family will thank you.

© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

 
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Posted by on October 28, 2012 in Healthy Writers, Writing

 

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The Writer’s Sabbatical – Just Go Already


Every year I try and take a writer’s sabbatical. First and foremost I take one because…well…let’s be honest…it sounds really cool that I take one. Second, I take one because it is the only way I can ensure that I have spent at least three days straight doing nothing that involved electricity and third, it allows me to reconnect with my inner writer. (deep huh?)

For those of you who have no idea what a writer’s sabbatical is, here’s the skinny…For 3-5 days each year I take to the road with my writing stuff (iPad, laptop, notebooks, pens) and I find a secluded place to do nothing but write. Here in the Pacific Northwest we have a couple of communities who welcome people like us (writer types) and even offer a place to lounge while on sabbatical. The concept is to write. No television, no radio, no phone, no outside contact…just you and your writing.

Sabbaticals don’t have to cost a lot, in fact, if you have a friend with a vacation home, it costs nothing but gas and food for the time you are away but there are places that specialize in this type of activity. We have a place on Whidbey Island that offers a small cabin with everything you need for your sabbatical. I think it runs about $65 a day. But you don’t have to find places like that, just a hotel room on the beach or in the mountains will do. There are some rules to follow if you are going to make a sabbatical work…

  1. Take your writing – The whole point is to write, unencumbered, for several days. Can’t do that if you don’t take your writing with.
  2. No outside contact – I know, you’ll miss the kids and the spouse but this time is designed as “you” time so take it. I arrange to call home once in the evening to ensure that the house hasn’t burned down and that’s it. It’s a sabbatical…alone time…helloooooo….
  3. Prepare – You need to have the things that you need so that there is no excuse to break the sabbatical. You’ll need your writing, food, drink and the will to write…that’s all but if you forget the food, you will have to go get some and that defeats the purpose.
  4. The right mindset – A sabbatical is just that…a sabbatical, alone time with your non-electrical persona. If you check your e-mail and the news and your messages, you are no longer alone OR non-electrical. Stick to it, no matter what, the world will be there when you are done.
  5. You have to actually work – No it is not a writing sabbatical if you go away for three days and sleep the whole time. If you are bored, you are doing it wrong. Your writing should keep you busy. Ignoring your writing would be like texting while on a date…it’s just rude.

A writer’s sabbatical may be just what you need to get your writing back on track, to finish that piece you’ve been working on or to set the tone for the coming year. I like to take mine near the ocean but you can do a sabbatical anywhere at all just so long as you use it as intended. So what are you waiting for….make the plans to do one now and don’t feel bad when the family is grumpy because they have fend for themselves for a week…it’ll be good for them too.

 

 

© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

 
 

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