Monday, December 18, 2017

How to Maintain Your Writing Sanity During the Holidays

With the holidays coming up, many writers begin to stress. Here are a few tips for surviving without losing your sanity:

Pay attention to details and people. You’ll probably be around a lot of people and maybe in some new locations. Take advantage of it. Jot down notes about what you see and what people say.

Let family know you need a small block of time to write. If you let everyone know you need thirty minutes first thing in the morning or a little time before dinner, you’re more likely to get that slot of time to actually write. You can call it a little personal time or treat it as a business and say you have to do a little work.

Use down time and travel time well. Maybe you’re visiting the West Coast from the East Coast - and your body still wants to wake up early. Use that time to write. Or perhaps you are traveling in a car or by plane. Don some headphones and tune out the world around you to write.

Set a routine but be flexible. A designated time to write will prompt you to do so. But maybe one evening during your scheduled writing time, the family wants to go out and look at Christmas lights. It’s okay - write later or the next day.

Don’t expect too much of yourself. Yes, we just came off a productive NaNoWriMo month. But the holidays are about spending time with people and celebrations. Don’t expect a NaNo pace unless you’re having a really tiny Christmas and a lot of time off. Ease back and relax a little.

Know you don’t have to do it all. There will be parties and gatherings and family - you don’t have to attend everything. Also know there will be days that you might not get to write. Again, that’s okay. Maybe the holidays should be a break from writing.

The holidays should be joyous. Don’t let your family or a lack of writing keep you from enjoying it.

We'd like to welcome our newest member to the IWSG Admin Team - Tyrean Martinson.
Tyrean will be running our IWSG Instagram account.

The IWSG Admins would like to wish you happy holidays. We will see you again on January 3rd for IWSG post day when we announce the winners of the 2017 IWSG Anthology Contest.

In the meantime, we invite you to visit some of our most popular posts this week and thank you for helping us become a Writer’s Digest 101 Best Website for Writers.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Writing About Emotional Trauma Without Triggering Readers

Trigger warnings are often debated in the writing world. Some opine that readers should be warned if something potentially harmful is included in a book, and others feel the audience shouldn’t be bubble-wrapped and need to chin up if they want to read fiction. Like most things, the answer probably lies somewhere in the middle. 

It can be easy to scoff away the idea of “being triggered” if one has never experienced damaging trauma, or if they have, they were able to process it in a healthy way.  The reality is that dealing with emotional trauma is 100% personal. Even people experiencing the exact same event will cope with it differently based on their personality, age, support system, past experiences, education, and a host of other factors. So, assuming everyone should react the same way is ill-informed. 

Where does this leave us, the authors? Ironically, in the same place had the trigger debate never occurred: we do our best to respect our readers, and use good judgement as we write. 

No matter how dark and gritty our fiction is, we should never be gratuitous, meaning we should only show what we need to, not more. Genres will vary, but even if writing a torture scene, there’s no need to slap every scream, sensation, and sweat drop onto the page. Overdone description will kill the pace and the impact will be lost under a wall of sensory words. Just like any other scene, our description should be balanced, pulling readers in without overwhelming them. 

Here are a few ideas on how to handle potentially triggering content. 

Use Symbolism and Mood to Seed Hints

The back jacket copy should indicate some of what will unfold in the story and perhaps even allude to trauma your character experienced in the past. But, you will still need to show a scene (or several), that portray these wounding experiences. If you are worried about triggering, then don’t have this event slam into the reader out of nowhere. Lay a few clues so they can put emotional safeguards up if they need to. 

Mood, for example, is an excellent way to steer reader emotion. Weather, light and shadow, and universal symbolism can all help you nudge the reader toward the dark content about to be shown.  Personal symbolism tied to the POV character can also lay the groundwork that something hurtful may be about to unfold: a sound, a smell, an object, a texture, a place that has specific meaning for the character. Including something that triggers their memory can help foreshadow something uncomfortable may be coming.

For example, if your character is about to be assaulted behind the restaurant where she works, take a moment to show her reluctance to take the garbage out. Maybe it’s because of the lack of alley lighting, or a memory surfaces of being surprised by a ranting homeless man who was digging in the trash another time she performed this chore.  You could have her ease the door open and try and listen for hidden noises before venturing out to the bin. Or have an unpleasant odor hit her as she enters the dark. Symbolism and mood not only increase tension, they can give a subtle heads up that something significant is about to happen. 

Vary Your Narrative Distance

Deep POV is all the rage these days, but there are times when we shouldn’t use it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that emotionally difficult scenes should be reported rather than experienced from within the character’s shoes. I’m suggesting that you can pull readers in using deep POV to feel the intimate sensations and horror of the moment for a while and then zoom out to give them a break. A bit of filtering language (she thought, she smelled, he reached, he felt, it seemed, etc.) can achieve this as it adds distance. Or you could occasionally choose to name an emotion rather than show it in depth (NOTE: be careful with these techniques—always have a reason for using them or it will come across as lazy writing).

Weave In Facts (Telling) To Give a Break From Showing

Show, Don’t Tell implies “all or nothing,” but really this rule is meant to convey that writers should knowing WHAT to show (and when), and WHAT to tell. Deeply emotional scenes work best when there’s a good mix of show AND tell. Breaking up painful emotion and sensory detail with a few factual statements creates a balance, and if you need it to, will slide in a touch of distance so readers aren’t overwhelmed. 

A good example of this is the Hunger Games, when Peeta and Katniss are on the Cornucopia as a fellow tribute is being torn apart by genetically engineered dogs. Susanne Collins doesn’t describe every gore spray and tear although she could have (the book states this goes on for over an hour, because of course the game makers are all about putting on a show). Describing such a horrific scene in full would be gratuitous and most would stop reading. As someone attacked by a dog as a child and dragged around in the snow, helpless, I know I would have. But Collins handled it well, using narrative distance, selective show and tell, and information to get the horror across without overdoing it. 

Only you can decide how close and personal you want to get with emotionally traumatic situations. It’s your story, your art. If you can justify to yourself what you need to show and why, you are respecting readers. It will feel authentic, not gratuitous, and they should respect your storytelling style in turn. 

How do you handle difficult scenes? Let me know in the comments!

Angela Ackerman is a writing coach, international speaker, and co-author of the bestselling book, The Emotion Thesaurus, as well as five others (including The Emotional Wound Thesaurus). Her books are available in six languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. Angela is also the co-founder of the popular site Writers Helping Writers, as well as One Stop for Writers, an powerful online library built to help writers elevate their storytelling. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

#IWSG 5 Year-End Questions for Writers

It's hard to believe this is the last IWSG post for the year. Today is the day when we share our insecurities, as well as encouragement with other writers. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month and encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

Captain Alex will be ably assisted today on his rounds by 
 Julie Flanders, Shannon Lawrence, Fundy Blue, and Heather Gardner!

The optional question for December is - As you look back on 2017, with all its successes/failures, if you could backtrack, what would you do differently?

5 Year-End Questions for Writers

It's that time of year when many of us scribes are thinking about what's ahead for the New Year. If you're super organized, you would already have that in the bag, but some of us stragglers will still be working out what's critical and what's not for 2018.

Analyzing what has gone and what is to come is important for planning. It not only helps us to determine how much ground we've covered, but it's also helpful in trying to come up with a practical approach to what we want to achieve.  Here are some questions you may want to ask yourself as you plan for the coming year.

1.      What didn't you complete this year? Is there a chance you will finish before year end? If you don't, this task will likely be at the top of the following year's list.
2.      What things worked and didn't work for you this year? If you have one, did you get your newsletter out on time? How did you do on the social media platforms you frequent? Is it time to think about dropping any and focusing your efforts in one or two places?
3.      What do you hope to achieve in terms of writing and publishing? This is the fun part where you get to document in black and white what you will be writing and decide on deadlines.
4.      Is there any area or special skill set you're interested in that you could take the time to learn to enhance your personal development? This could be learning a new programme or researching a genre you may be interested in learning to write.
5.      In all of the figuring you do, don't forget your personal life. Do leave yourself some wiggle room to try some fun activity that's new to you or simply time to work on being a better you!

Have you decided on your writing and publication list for 2018? Do you know what shiny new thing you are going to attempt next year?

Monday, November 27, 2017

Writers Learn from Reading / IWSG Book Club

Hi, everyone! Chrys Fey here, stopping in for a guest post about the IWSG Goodreads Book Club!

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group Book Club on Goodreads was created for writers to read and learn about the writing craft. We read one book every two months, alternating between writing-related books and fiction books that can teach us about a specific aspect of storytelling.

Reading is the best way to learn. And when we put the things we learn into practice, we grow as writers That is the goal of our book club. Every book selected, no matter the genre, has something to offer our members. By reading, we are expanding out storytelling knowledge, examining how authors use specific aspects of storytelling, and we also discover what he like/dislike as readers, which will influence our writing.

In the group, we posted a poll asking what our members want to learn more about in regards to writing a story. The options were the group’s fictional book categories, and our members’ answers now dictate what categories we tackle and when.

Poll Results:
1. Characterization
2. Structure
3. Symbolism
4. Description
5. Voice
6. Dialogue
7. Setting

So, the first fiction book we read was The Secret Garden for characterization. And the book we read for Oct/Nov was The Time Traveler’s Wife for structure. That means the third fiction book for Feb/March 2018 will be for symbolism, which out members will get to vote on.

Another poll told us what our members’ biggest insecurities are, which helps to determine the writing-related books we read. Marketing and not selling books were the insecurities at the top of the pyramid, so the last writing book we read was Marketing for Writers who Hate Marketing: The No-Stress Way to Sell Books Without Losing Your Mind by James Scott Bell.

Our book discussions include questions about topics of interest from the books we read, so members can share their opinions and also offer advice and insight.

In the discussion for Marketing for Writers who Hate Marketing, we asked 12 questions that got many great responses.

One question we asked was this: Do you have a website? Why or why not? Here are two thought-provoking answers from club members:

Leah: I do have a website. It's the one piece of virtual real estate I can control while all the social media channels change rules/algorithms (whatever), and there's nothing the author can do about it….

Samantha: Yes-ish. I have a blog to which I've added pages so it serves as a website, too. It's important to have a web presence. A lot of events won't even consider a writer who doesn't. And if someone hears about me or my work, I want to be search-able so they can find me!

For The Secret Garden, the questions were all about characterization and Frances Hodgson Burnett’s characters. For The Time Traveler’s Wife, the discussion was tailored toward the story’s structure, plot, and scenes.

We also conduct author interviews in which our members get to ask the author of the book we’re reading questions about the book or topic in general. We then pick 10 of the best questions and send them to the author to answer.

One member’s question for James Scott Bell was: What is one good marketing strategy that you see authors doing wrong or falling short with, and how can they make it work better for them?

Bell’s Answer: Cover design is a marketing element. Giving books mediocre covers, or ones that are not genre specific, will hurt sales despite how good the book might be. Don’t short shrift on the cost here.

Everything we do in the book club is meant to create dialogue between writers, shine light on things many writers struggle with, and offer advice. Not only will you learn from the books but from the discussions and interviews as well.

So, join us!

Our December/January book is The Weekend Novelist by Robert J. Ray, which could be of interest to members who worry they write too slow, the second biggest insecurity voted on by our members.

Chrys Fey is the author of the Disaster Crimes Series, a unique concept blending romance, crimes, and disasters. She’s an administrator for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, running their newsletter and book club. She’s also an editor for Dancing Lemur Press.
Facebook - Twitter - Blog - Webiste - Amazon

So jump in and join the IWSG Goodreads Book Club!

Monday, November 20, 2017

Readsy Takes the Dread Out of Writing Queries

You've just written The End on your WIP.  The synopsis is perfect. 

Hurray for you, and now you're ready to send it off to the agent who's waiting to read it. (We must have a bit of humor in all of this.) There's just one more teensy hurdle to publication. 

Yep. The Query Letter. 

But do not fear. Readsy's here for you with a fantastic post titled How to Write a Query Letter in 7 Steps. 

You'll find those steps outlined and easy to follow. Here's the outline, so be sure to check it out. NOW!

1. Writing an Effective Query Letter

  • Capture the agent’s attention with your greeting
  • Craft an irresistible hook
  • Write a tantalizing synopsis
  • Reveal your credentials and your publishing savvy
  • Personalize the letter for each agent
  • Proofread everything you’ve written
  • Thank the agent and sign off

2. Infographic: How to Write a Query Letter
3. Get a Professional Query Letter Review

Do you have query letter phobia? Or are you getting results from your queries? Did you check out the Readsy post? What's your take? 

Monday, November 13, 2017

How to Beat Back Writer Insecurity

Ken Rahmoeller joins us today! The winner of the IWSG Show Us Your Writer Insecurity contest and IWSG blogging member (number eighteen on the list and still rising!), Ken agreed to tackle that very subject – insecurity. We all feel it – now, how do we deal with it?

Where do you hail from? How long have you been writing? What genre(s) do you write? Published work? What are your goals?

I’ve lived in the Midwest all my life, bouncing between Illinois and Missouri until I finally moved to Michigan after finishing my Ph.D. in chemistry. I’ve been writing fiction for about ten years, although the first couple of years were rather sporadic. My preferred genre is Fantasy, although I like to think of it as Science Fantasy. My pattern is to create a few fantastical elements for my story world and then let science fill out the resulting ramifications. It makes my worlds seem more real to me. I’m not published, probably because I haven’t finished a story yet. My goal is to finish a story, publish it, then start the process all over again (hopefully not taking ten years the next time around).

When you first began writing, was insecurity a problem?

No. My writing journey started when I began writing Harry Potter fan fiction, and back then I had no insecurities. I hadn’t heard of fan fiction sites and I don’t think Wattpad existed yet, so I never expected anyone to see my words. And even after I discovered I could upload my words to the internet, I didn’t know enough about writing to feel insecure. Who said ignorance can’t be a blessing? Fortunately, by the time I learned enough to be insecure, I was already hooked on this writing stuff, so I had no choice but to slog through it as best I could.

When did you really begin to question what you wrote? What happened to initiate that?

I was quite happy with my words for a while… until I compared them to the ones in my favorite author’s books. Especially Rowling’s books. It was clear my writing wasn’t anywhere near the level of those books, but I didn’t know enough yet to understand why. All I knew was my writing sounded amateurish next to them. So I pushed myself to understand what I was missing. I studied Rowling’s words. I read writing blogs and bought books on craft. The more I learned, the more I realized how much I didn’t know. Talk about insecurity! To be honest, if I hadn’t been hooked on writing by that point, I probably would have abandoned this whole writing business right then and there.

Before we knew the rules, we wrote uninhibited. But without those writing rules, our work sucks. What’s the balance between the two?

I’m a big proponent of “the rules are only guidelines” mindset. After studying the books of authors I respected, it was clear they didn’t always follow the rules either. Especially Rowling. I eventually concluded that much of an author’s voice depends on which writing rules they followed and which they chose to ignore. The hard part for us newer writers is deciding which rules your readers expect you to follow. Every book, every genre, every reader age group has a different expectation. Your job as an author is to figure out what that expectation is.

Back before I came to this conclusion, my mind was often paralyzed with indecision. I’d write a simple, straightforward sentence, then obsess for hours over whether it was telling or showing. I avoided finding a critique partner for years simply because I was afraid my chapters were so full of hidden telling that any critique partner worth their salt would drop me immediately. Turns out that most crit partners (and readers) aren’t nearly as worried about telling as some of the experts would have us believe. As authors, it’s our job to tell our story in a way that maximizes the entertainment value for the reader. And if that means more showing (or more telling), then so be it.

So how do we determine the appropriate amount of rule breaking? Get critique partners. Lots of them. Listen to what they have to say. Remember, the rules have reasons for existing, and you need to understand them before you break them.

How do critique partners or writer’s groups sometimes add to the insecurity? How do they take it away?

At the beginning, attending critique group meetings made my stomach hurt, because the other writers found so many problems in my submissions. I walked into these meetings thinking my words sucked, and they confirmed it. They tried to be encouraging, but I realized I had so much more to learn, it was hard not to be depressed. But somehow, despite all this negativity, I always came away from these meetings supercharged for more writing. I wanted to dive right in and fix the problems. I kept working on my craft, and as time passed my critique partners found less and less to complain about. So now my critique groups help banish my insecurities. The moral of the story? Don’t give up.

Why do we struggle with it? Why does fear and doubt mess with our creativity?

Because we have no standards against which to judge ourselves. There’s no metric that can tell us if our writing is book-worthy or not. Writing is too subjective. Our only option is to compare our words with those of other authors, and that usually just makes us feel worse. At least it does for me. The only way we’ll ever know if our stories are good is if people like the book when it’s finished. Unfortunately, that doesn’t do us any good when we’re in the middle of writing the darn thing, and that’s when our insecurities are at their highest.

What can we do to battle insecurity? Rituals, thought processes, activities, etc.?

I may not be the best person to answer this. I have loads of insecurities about my writing, but I have one superpower that helps protect me against them. An almost child-like ability to ignore reality. I’m serious. No matter how depressed I might become after a night of crappy writing, all I need is a good night’s sleep, and when I wake, the insecurities are gone. Like magic. I don’t know how it works, but it always does. If I could bottle it, I would.

My one suggestion for battling insecurity is to create a writing space that draws you so deeply into your story that insecurity can’t follow. Much of what I write involves magic and alchemy, so my office is decorated in the style of a potion’s master lab. When I’m surrounded by flasks and beakers and tomes on alchemy, I can’t help but feel excited about my stories.

Despite the insecurities, can you see your growth as a writer?

OMG, yes. Every once in a while, when I’m stuck on a particular scene, I look back at my early writing and am staggered by how much better my writing is now. I used to be so clueless about writing. Of course, this knowledge can be a double edged sword. If I could be so clueless about being clueless back then, how do I know I’m not still clueless now? I don’t know what I don’t know, and that scares me.

Any other advice for all the insecure writers out there?

1. Find critique partners you trust, as many as you can. Join online critique groups. Get your work in front of as many eyes as possible. Listen to their feedback, even if you don’t always agree with their comments. Not only will your writing improve, but their value as a support group cannot be overstated.

2. Accept that insecurity is an occupational hazard of being a writer, and that you will always suffer from it, no matter how many books you write. That’s just how it is. In fact, I believe that being insecure is a prerequisite for being a good writer. Insecurity forces you to push yourself into becoming a better writer. Insecurity keeps you from pushing out unpolished dreck. Yeah, having to deal with the negative consequences stinks, but your insecurity is one of the best tools you have in your writer’s toolbox. Embrace it. Nurture it. Because the instant your insecurity goes away, your writing will suffer.

Thanks, Ken!

Ken Rahmoeller:
I'm a chemist living in Michigan who wondered how J.K. Rowling might go about writing another series based on the Harry Potter universe - and then decided to find out for himself.
Find Ken at his blog, on Twitter, and on Facebook.

Monday, November 6, 2017

The Top Newbie Mistakes Made by Writers Adapting their Book into a Screenplay

By B. O'Malley from Screenplay Readers.

For an author, adapting their novel into a screenplay can be extremely rewarding, both creatively and financially.

Creatively, because the author is opening themselves up to a whole new discipline and form of telling stories.

Financially, because if you know how to adapt your own novel into a screenplay, and know how to do it well, you can cut out a lot of the "middle men" and "middle women" between you and that screen credit, and that sale, and those fine, fine residuals from the WGA.

But turning a novel into a screenplay isn't exactly easy.

I own and run Screenplay Readers, a script coverage service. Our job is to read screenplays and provide feedback to their authors or representatives, or producers who have rights to the material. Our clientele ranges from amateurs and new writers to A-list screenwriters and producers.

So, as you can imagine, we read a lot of screenplays -- many of which are adaptations of novels by the writers of those novels. One great benefit from having read so many books-turned-screenplays over our almost two decades in business is that my team and I now have an acute sense of what most writers get wrong when they're trying to translate their book into a screenplay.

Here's the top 3 things we see writers doing wrong when adapating their books to scripts:

#1 Not editing themselves

A novel, to quote Andrew Marvell, has "but world enough and time" to "seduce" its reader. That is, the page and word count of a novel can be as long as required, with only arbitrary, industry standards of word count placed on it for reasons of financial and technical viability.

The imagination of the writer is practically unbridled when it comes to rendering "scenes" in a novel.

Not so in a screenplay.

Yet many first-time screenwriters adapting their novel fall into the trap of simply not being able to edit themselves, when it comes to paring down what makes it into the screenplay, and what doesn't.

One of the most common critiques our readers offer our novelists-turned-screenwriters is that many scenes or sequences that end up in the screenplays are completely unnecessary.

Another common critique is that the nonlinearity that an author may have rendered to near perfection on the pages of her novel may be too hard to understand when compacted into the limited space of the motion picture screenplay.

Writers of novels can take as much time as they need to make a non-linear storyline "gel" in the mind of their readers. In a screenplay, where the space is limited, as are the "dimensions" available to the writer (see below), it's much more difficult to jump around in space and time while being 100% clear at all times.

The failure to squeeze things down, to merge key plot and character points and to see some elements of their stories as redundant or even obtrusive on a screenplay page, is the biggest failing we see in adaptations.v
We suggest to our clients who fall into this sandtrap that they take a step back and do more "logic" work. Compress more. Merge more. Think visually, rather than literally. Remember that a film is limited to, generally, 90 - 120 minutes, and a TV show episode is limited to usually 40-65.

We emphasize that significant time compression, plot point compression, exposition overhauling, and the elimination of large chunks of the novel's sequences or chapters are the key things a writer must do first when adapting their novel as a screenplay.

"Kill your darlings" is one of those sayings that come closest to what the philosophy is here, but an even better term would be "genocide." Be ready to scorch the earth of your novel, and shoot everything that moves, until you're able to distill it down to the completely different beast you're asking it to become.

#2 Overdescription and prose

Knowing what's important and what's not is good on a macro level, as mentioned above, but it's also vital to know how to stick to what's important on a micro level as well.

When a Hollywood agent or her assistant picks up a script, they look at one thing first: the page count.

Not the title. Not the author name. Not the words on page 54. Page count.

Why? Because they need to know how much time this read is going to take out of their day.

White space on a page is key to keeping a reader turning pages. By white space, I mean: blank, white space.

The fewer words you have on your script page, the easier the read, and the faster and more easily the reader will be able to visualize your script as a film. With relatively few exceptions (scripts by Coppola or Tarantino, for example.)

With that in mind, a novel writer must be prepared to take all of her pretty, evocative description out of the prose format of 20 words on a line words and be ready to say everything she's trying to say in 4. Or 6.

Keep in mind, a novel has ample space and unlimited dimensions for description, dialogue, action, inner monologues, and all sorts of florid details to squeeze into that can add to the reader's experience.

But when it comes to number of dimensions in a screenplay, we're limited to exactly two:

What we can see and what we can hear.

A film has the image and the sound, and that's it.

All of your characters' thoughts? You can't just write them in a screenplay. You have to be able to transmit those thoughts to us via image and sound only. So either the character has to say what they're thinking out loud, or say it as a voiceover, or they have to be projected onto the film screen as words, or conveyed in any number of creative ways you can think of, as long as they're either visual, sonic, or a combination of those two dimensions only.

#3 Getting hung up on script format

The third biggest mistake novel writers make when adapting their novel to a screenplay format is worrying too much about the screenplay format itself.

Yes, it's a different format than prose -- wildly different -- and there's an entire industry that worries about that and services writers with a variety of script formatting software and templates and other helpful sundries.

And yes, you should learn it, or find a screenwriting app that makes it easy for you.

And yes, you should worry about your screenplay looking like an actual screenplay so that that aforementioned agent or her assistant looks at it and sees that it's legit, and that it looks like every other screenplay she's read.

But don't worry about the format or the details of how it looks until you've made sure you've worried about the previous big areas: paring down your novel's story and character points until its lean and can fit elegantly into a screenplay, and getting your description and dialogue down to a size that serves that compact format as well.

After those biggies are taken care of, format can and should be addressed and even worried about. At least a little. (Some great film screenplays have come in some pretty atrocious packaging (i.e. formats), but those are those rare exceptions you might not want to count on your script being among.)

Before you sit down to start paring down your novel, read good screenplays. Feel the pacing with which the story unfolds. Note how little exposition we're given and yet the story still manages to work. Hear the voices of the characters. Read the description and action and see how sparse it is.

The goal is to get into the mindset of "pictures and sound only." Limit yourself to those two dimensions. Re-read your novel from the perspective of an audience member being limited to those two dimensions only: sight and sound. How much of your novel still works? I'll bet a lot works, but a lot ends up on the cutting room floor.

Visit B. O'Malley at Screenplay Readers and on Twitter - @scriptcoverages.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Insecure Writer's Support Group

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month and encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

The awesome co-hosts today are:
Tonja Drecker, Diane Burton, MJ Fifield, and Rebecca Douglass!

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say. 

Remember, the question is optional!

November Question - Win or not, do you usually finish your NaNo project? Have any of them gone on to be published?
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  A reminder that there are loads of opportunities for you to take advantage of, such as our Facebook Group (to build connections and get advice) and our monthly newsletter which features a member article in each issue.

On IWSG Day, we pin a badge to the group where members can share links to their IWSG posts and get more visits. Who wouldn't want to benefit from that?
 Need advice? Have a question? Seeking a critique partner? Feel free to use our Facebook group!

We only ask that you DO NOT post PROMO to the main wall. We have a Friday News & Promo badge for members to share a promo from the week. 

 Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG
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The IWSG Book Club will be reading The Time Traveler's Wife for October to December...
Why we're reading this?
This book received the most votes for a book that demonstrates a good use of structure.

The Insecure Writer's Support Group (Book Club) is for writers to read/learn about the writing craft. We will swap back and forth between writing books and fiction books that demonstrate how to do certain aspects of storytelling.You can join any book discussion, even if you don’t read the book.
Join us and participate when you can. 
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Monday, October 23, 2017

Mary Buckham: Pantsers, Hooks, and Websites

Today, #IWSG is very excited to welcome Mary Buckham, USA Today bestselling author. Here's what this successful writer has to say on some key issues for all of us who want to make our books the best and create a fan base of readers.
Visit her website.

Welcome, Mary!

You did a great webinar on plotting. There are a lot of pantsers out here, what tips do you have for them?

I always recommend that writers play to their strengths rather than fight against them. However, since many of us start writing as pantsters that we don’t know if writing by the seat of our pants is a strength or a liability. Since the term ‘plot’ makes a lot of writers break out in hives, it can be easier to change to thinking in terms of story structure and forget the term ‘plot.’ Once we do that, whether we pin down every thread of that structure before we start writing, or use our understanding in the revision process as a tool to help us determine where to tighten, to cut, or to shore up a story’s structure, we can move forward. Some writers want all the details pinned down, while others need to pin things down because they are juggling a new-to-them genre, or a multi-level story structure. Others are writing the same type of story they’ve always written and feel comfortable jumping in and flying into the mist because they know their type of story so well, they trust their process. Both approaches work. Knowing the primary structure of a story can only strengthen it. When you use that structure, before or after a first draft, plotting becomes an important tool, not a straightjacket.

What do you advise writers who want to remain creative in their story development, but crave efficiency?

I think the real issue here is separating efficiency from capability. To be truly creative and able to channel that creativity into a finished manuscript you must be the master of certain tools. It is not enough to simply be able to understand and write competent sentences. The deeper your understanding of the elements of a story, the more able you are to bend those elements to your creative intent. Writing does require discipline and I don’t mean that applied only to writing a certain amount every day or in a set process. I mean you can use the discipline of knowing your craft to further your creative intent. It only becomes a trap or impediment when you have not truly mastered it.

Here is an example from the field of visual art. Picasso could not have created his masterpieces without having first understood the discipline of drawing. But once he had mastered that key element he put it to work furthering a unique and individual creative vision.

You have a book called Writing Active Hooks. First, what makes an active hook, and second, where do we need them? 

The term hooks is used to mean a variety of things for writers and that can confuse us. We’re told to constantly hook a reader, but not how or where, which is why I wrote the series on Writing Active Hooks. An active hook raises questions in a reader’s mind. It does a specific job for the author by intentionally engaging the reader. A hook is passive when it does not raise an immediate question for the reader and thus does not compel them to continue reading.
Hooks can be used on every page, but there are several places in your manuscript where you’ll want to pay particular attention. Why? Because these key locations are logical places where a reader can set your book down. At a minimum, hooks should be applied several times on the first page and at the beginnings and ends of chapters.

Should hooks be used at the beginning of our stories? Our queries? Our blurbs? Our ads? Do each of these have to be different or should they be somewhat the same? 

Yes to all of the above. In each of those situations, you as the author want your reader, whether they are an agent, editor or customer in a bookstore to be motivated to keep reading or to click through to learn more. You have the power to motivate any reader, and hooks are your best tool. Knowing the ten most universal hooks gives you the tools to layer your hooks. Readers do see patterns, so using the same hook repeatedly is a sure way to lose them. 

I’m still hooked on the topic of hooks, so can you tell us what authors do wrong most frequently when writing them? Is it starting in the wrong spot or too much backstory or something else?

The biggest problem that I see is writers not actually using hooks period, followed by using hooks that are ineffective and improperly placed. It can be a challenge to think about including hooks in your first draft, until you are experienced at employing them. Then, they become second nature.

I usually recommend that writers new to hooks simply write a first draft and get their story down. Then in the rewrites find the opportunities to add in the hooks that will compel readers to keep reading. This why in the hooks writing craft books that I’ve written I use many examples of key locations without hooks and then with the hooks added, showing this process in a number of different genres.

Your website is so fascinating because it’s lively and active. What elements would you suggest a writer include on his website to make it fun to visit? 

Make your website about meeting the needs of your visitor. Why did they come to your site? What are they looking for? Ask them. If you have an email list or group of key people find out what they see as something only you can provide. Pay attention when you go to other websites. What are you looking for? Be aware that your website is there 24 hours a day representing you, connecting with potential readers. It is an investment in your career and future so don’t neglect it or ignore it.

USA Today bestselling author Mary Buckham learned to get into and out of trouble at a very early age. Time has added to her opportunities—detained by Israeli intelligence; strip-searched by a Greek border patrol while traveling with a priest, sneaking into Laos. When not personally avoiding nuisances caused by her insatiable curiosity she creates lots of disorder in her two Urban Fantasy series—Alex Noziak and Kelly McAllister. In her spare time, Mary writes Writing Craft books including, A Writer’s Guide to Active Setting, Writing Active Hooks and Break Into Fiction® co-authored with Dianna Love. Coming in September 2017, Mary begins a monthly series of webinars for writers. Want to learn more about writing hooks, body language or branding? Find more info here:

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