Category Archives: Writing Resources

Writers & Depression: Battling the Holiday Blues

With the holidays here also arrives an increase in depression for many people. Writers? Depressed?

Sylvia Plath

We’ve all heard about it.  Creative genius and depression seem to go hand in hand with many. I know. I suffered depression for many years. And the holidays come with their own heavy, gray veil to be pushed aside.

We know them. Writers who committed suicide.

Sylvia Plath. Virginia Woolf. Anne Sexton. Hunter S. Thompson. Ernest Hemingway.

Why? In the case of Hemingway 4 other immediate family members also committed suicide. Was it then a hereditary disease? Read a fascinating interview with Hemingway in the Paris Review by George Plimpton to peek inside his mind as a writer.

When asked what kind of training a writer needed Hemingway responded with… “Let’s say that he should go out and hang himself because he finds that writing well is impossibly difficult. Then he should be cut down without mercy and forced by his own self to write as well as he can for the rest of his life. At least he will have the story of the hanging to commence with.”

Harsh words. We don’t need the hanging though. We lash ourselves enough as writers. Genes aren’t everything though.

Look at the day in the life of a writer….
Alone. With your own thoughts. Inside. Sitting for long periods. Writing drivel one day, genius the next. On a roller coaster of doubts about self worth tied to your work. It is personal, this business of writing. Waiting for validation you are any good. For years. And years. And years.

I’m adopted and recently found out my natural father killed himself. He didn’t die by car accident as I had been told. The “car accident” included plugging up the tail pipe to suffocate by carbon monoxide parked outside a church. This scares me. Is there such a thing as a suicide gene? Did Hemingway have it? Will my son have it?

I don’t know. But I have to believe we can overcome it. I hope.

Health magazine lists writers as one of the top 10 professions to have depression. This may be true, but I also think we are living in a time where we  have the best chance of not being depressed as writers.

Why do I think this?

Because we are in a time now where we are connected to one another more. As authors today we hear that it’s critical to have an author platform. We need to blog, be on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, attend writer conferences. We are now not so alone in our writer world. We are connected. And I have found even online interactions lead to in-person meet-ups, and that’s where we can find the camaraderie that can keep the blues away. Some times. Not always.

Maybe with our connecting more the writer depression rate will go down. Maybe we’ll be replaced on the top 10 jobs to be depressed with plumbers? They work alone in dark places too, right?

I fed into the belief for years that if I let go of my depression I would be letting go of my creativity. In discovering the opposite my writing has flourished. I am the most content in years and the most productive in my writing. I finished my first book and a second and a third and starting a fourth. All sorrow-sober.  That’s in a two year span, while working part time as a freelancer and managing a family.

My mom, was not the creative type nor could she understand my sadness. She was tough Depression-era farm girl stock. She would say “Just get up and go do something!” That was her fix. Simple but it works for me now. When I find sorrow weighing me down for no reason I do just that. I get up and leave it behind me. It usually works. I know I have too much at stake to lose.

If depressions reigns its ugly head I push it away with positive things. I don’t want that dragon to come back. Its fire only destroys now, it doesn’t breathe life as I once thought.

My Depression Ward Off List
Get outside every day.
Exercise every other day at least.
Connect with people. Even if you don’t feel like it. A 5 minute chat with an old friend can do amazing things to the brain.
Do something. Anything. Go to a new store. Drive to a park and walk. Cook!
Write a list of all the good things in your life and re-visit it regularly.
Get off the computer and do something physical with a friend or family member – play a board game, go biking.
Wait. It will pass, hopefully.
Do NOT feed the dragon.  Dragons hurt us.

I know sometimes these actions need to be forced. I know some people need medication to help them through. Having a battle plan helps.

As a writer, do you battle depression or just get the holiday blues? How do you fight it off?


Filed under Inspirational, Writing Resources

Those acronyms for writers. WTH do they mean?

Think about it. Acronyms are nothing more than ways to get you to remember stuff.

I see them everywhere in the writing world. At conferences. meet ups,  and workshops. It’s a new lingo to pick up on. The world of acronyms writer’s need to know. I’m still learning. Here are some I’ve gathered that may help you out. Some are just useful any time, and ones you made need as a writer acquiring a thick skin.

Backstory. It is B.S. to start your novel with it.


Advanced Reader Copy or Advanced Review Copy. What the author sends out for reviews before it goes to print.

Flash fiction. Some ask what’s the difference between this and a short story? Not much. Flash fiction is generally under 1,000 words.

Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender. Yes, it’s a genre. Or some spell it LBGT. Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, Transgender.

Goals, Motivation, Conflict. Definitely something you need in your story.

Happily Ever After (for romance writers but not for me)

In my humble opinion. You may get this a lot when others read your work.

International Standard Book Number. You’ll need one when you get published.

International Thriller Writers

What you really hope readers don’t do when reading your work unless you’re Dave Barry.

What you try to do to yourself when your writing isn’t going well. This is before anyone else reads it.

Main Character. Try to have only one of these. Good to know who it is too.

Middle Grade fiction for 8 to 12 year olds.

National November Writing Month. Where writers with hair on fire set out to write a novel in 1 month of 50K words.

Pay on Acceptance. For us short story writers or freelance writers.

No, it’s not what Donald Sutherland was trying to escape from in Invasion of The Body Snatchers. It’s Print On Demand. Everyone’s doing it these days. Non-traditional printing. Books are only produced to fulfill an order.

Pay on Publication. Again, For us short story writers or freelance writers.

No, that’s not one to use here but wasn’t it fun to slip in? Only if you’re Sponge Bob would you need this. (People Order Our Patties).  If you’re a real geek here are 58 definitions for the acronym POOP.

Rolling On The Floor Laughing. What you really hope no one does after reading your work, unless it’s a comedy. Also seen as ROFL.

Romance Writers of America

Science Fiction

Science Fiction / Fantasy

To be read or to be released

Too Stupid To Live. Can be your characters if you’re not careful or that annoying person at work who clips his nails in the office.

Work in progress. A manuscript, not a finished book.

Young Adult. Younger YA –  for 12-15 year olds. Older YA – for 15 -17 year olds.

Young adults writing for young adults. Generally authors are ages 12-19.

And if you want to take it further, check out some of the proper ways to include acronyms in your writing.

And for when English is a second language

When you are totally stuck on how to use acronyms and so much more, check out Dr. Grammar for help.

Need an acronym finder? Go here.

Feeling Oo la la? Mess people up with French acronyms

And that’s all I have to say about that. Let’s not even get started with the Twitter acronyms.

Can you come up with any new fun ones like these?



Filed under Writing Resources

Thriller Author Allan Leverone: Why Plagiarize?

Welcome author Allan Leverone on today! 

He is a three-time Derringer Award finalist and a 2011 Pushcart Prize nominee for his short fiction. He is the author of the thrillers, FINAL VECTOR (Medallion Press, 2011) and THE LONELY MILE (StoneHouse Ink, 2011), and the horror novella DARKNESS FALLS (Delirium Books, 2011).

His third thriller, a paranormal suspense novel titled PASKAGANKEE is coming soon from StoneGate Ink, and a second Delirium Books horror novella, titled HEARTLESS, will be released in January, 2012. Allan lives in Londonderry, NH with his wife of nearly thirty years, three children, one beautiful granddaughter and a cat who has used up eight lives. Learn more at, on Facebook or on Twitter (@AllanLeverone).

Allan delves into the world of plagiarism in his article, a timely topic and more common than we think.

Steal This Post
By Allan Leverone

I’m an author. I’m also a writer, which might seem self-evident at first glance, although it really isn’t. If you’ve published work you’re hoping to convince people to read, you’re an author. If you’ve put words down on paper, you’re a writer.

It’s possible to be one without being the other; lots of people are. In most of those cases, people are writers without being authors, either by choice or because they haven’t found the right outlet for their work.

Unfortunately, though, a case recently in the news illustrates the opposite possibility—being an author without being a writer—perfectly. Maybe you read about it. Q.R. Markham, the pen name of debut author Quentin Rowan, was busted for plagiarizing entire passages, some of them several paragraphs in length, and inserting them into his novel, ASSASSIN OF SECRETS.

I’ve written about the subject once already, in my blog, A Thrill a Minute, where I made my feelings about plagiarism pretty clear, I think. It’s despicable, it’s wrong, it’s lazy. And it’s stealing. Plagiarizing someone else’s content is no different than reaching into their wallet and taking cash out of it, then sliding it into your own pocket with your own sticky fingers.

So I’m not going to rehash the subject here; what I really wanted to talk about today was the question that’s been bothering me since I read the Q.R. Markham story: Why plagiarize? Why take the risk of being exposed, as Quentin Rowan did, by stealing not just from one source, but from as many as thirteen separate sources?

Undoubtedly you can recall a kid in school who plagiarized material for a report or a research paper; hell, maybe you were that kid. But there’s a world of difference between a teenager trying to scrape out a passing grade in Civics class and a supposedly professional novelist having so little regard for his readers and the writer he’s stealing from that he’s willing to roll the dice and hope no one notices his thievery.

So, again, why? Is it laziness?

That doesn’t seem likely, especially for a fiction writer. True, almost every novelist has to do research on almost every book, but the amount of effort it would require to read through dozens of novels to find passages appropriate to the story, as Quentin Rowan seems to have done, must be far greater in total than the effort it would take to simply write the story.

Is it an inability to write well?

That seems the most likely possibility to me. Not everyone is gifted with the ability to construct a well-told tale, just as not everyone can run the hundred yard dash in ten seconds and not everyone can perform brain surgery. The aptitude is simply not there.

But how does someone with the inability to write at a high level get to the point where they’ve jumped through all the necessary hoops to acquire a literary agent, sell their book and work with an editor, all without being discovered? And more to the point, why? If you can’t write well, most of the time the interest in writing will not be there, don’t you think?

Is it for the name-recognition? To become famous?

That’s hard to imagine, because the percentage of fiction writers who rise above the odds to become household names is abysmally low. Even after the book is published, the chances of any single author becoming well-known because of his or her work are so slim as to be laughable. And besides, there are other methods of becoming famous that are much more likely to be successful than to write a novel. Marry a Kardashian, star in a stupid TV reality series, or some combination of the two; you get the idea.

Seriously, though, why? Maybe you have some ideas on the subject, because I quite simply cannot fathom it.

The worst part? The Q.R. Markham/Quentin Rowan case doesn’t seem to be an isolated incident. Allegations were made months ago about another case of plagiarism involving a novelist too lazy or too uninvolved or too untalented to write her own work. THE RAVEN’S BRIDE, written by Lenore Hart and published in 2011 by St. Martin’s Press, bears more than a passing resemblance—okay, is practically an exact copy in dozens of passages—to a 1956 novel titled THE VERY YOUNG MRS. POE, by Cothburn O’Neal, as related by novelist Jeremy Duns in his blog, The Debrief.

Ms Hart’s thievery seems to have been a little better disguised than Quentin Markham’s, and her material was stolen from a relatively obscure book published almost a half-century ago, but it seems patently obvious to me she stole work that didn’t belong to her. You can decide for yourself in the post and subsequent comments at The Debrief, if you’re so inclined.

Lenore Hart is no rookie, either, she’s “a well-established and well-respected novelist,” according to Duns. An Amazon search of her name reveals a half-dozen separate novels attributed to her, not including any she may have written under a pseudonym.

So why would she do it? Any ideas? Because I’m baffled.

And here’s the other question: How many other supposedly original books floating around out there are in fact nothing more than blatantly plagiarized rip-offs of other people’s work, perpetrated by lazy or talentless or just plain arrogant hacks?


Filed under Authors, Writing Resources

Write-On Wednesdays: Lucas Mangum Gives Authors a Forum

I am excited to have my writer friend on, Lucas Mangum.

He is the author of “Abhorrent” (Death Head Grin, February, 2011) and “Welcome to Video Babylon (Splatterpunk is Not Dead, forthcoming). Read his blog, The Dark Dimensions, at or find him on Facebook or Twitter @LMangumFiction. He lives in Bucks County and holds the bi-monthly Awesome Reading Fest in Doylestown. You can read about his most recent successful event here at the Author Chronicles blog. He is also newly married – congrats Lucas and nice to have you on!

Lucas Mangum

Today Lucas talks about building a writing community.

On Community
by Lucas Mangum

While at the last Awesome Reading Fest, I was asked by one of the attendees why I put these things together, because they are a lot of work – I’ll back up a minute.

For those of you that don’t know what Lucas Mangum’s Awesome Reading Fest is, it is a bi-monthly event that I host in Doylestown where local writers have the opportunity to read their work in a public setting. The event is usually videoed and posted on my YouTube channel. ( Last Saturday was the third one I’ve put together.

Oddly enough, today at work, my boss asked me the same thing. Why do I do it?  The number one reason is networking. Anyone who takes the field seriously knows how important networking is. Taking the time to get to know people who do what you do can lead to some truly magical relationships and opportunities for growth.

My belief is that as useful as social media is, all the Facebook and Twitter in the world is no replacement for meeting with someone face-to-face. For example, through events like the monthly Writer’s Coffeehouse in Willow Grove I have met some really awesome people. I know I’m not the only one who has. So it’s important, for us as writers, to unite within the community because as Mike Ventrella said in his excellent blog post, it takes talent, hard work and meeting the right people (and impressing them) to be successful.

And we definitely live in the right community for it!

Through some unexplained phenomenon, there are writers of all levels of experience residing in the greater Philadelphia/Bucks County area. Among them there is a lot of talented and tremendously dedicated individuals. I believe that bringing us all together in regular events can inspire great things like contacts, support and constructive criticism.

So while I believe social media is vital to a writer’s existence –actually to anyone who takes their work seriously—I also believe that it’s equally important that we don’t underestimate the power of live person-to-person contact.


Filed under Authors, Writing Resources

My top sites on the craft and biz of writing & getting published

How to get from writing THE END to published. We’re all following the same road, so let’s learn from the masters.  A sampling of sites I cruise on a regular basis for help (umm..that’s every day!). I have so many, there’s sure to be another post with another list in the near future!

Somedays it feels like this...

Need info on agents? Get the scoop and their interviews!
Casey McCormick
Many of these YA/children’s agents also do adult.

Chuck Sambuchino
He just recently switched his blog to a new format, so takes time getting used to but can search on right hand side for blog categories.

Publishers Marketplace
A must have subscription. For $20 a month search for agents, editors, authors, publishers, new deals, jobs and more.

Free to join. Find agents and also find out who reps whom.

Query/synopsis/pitch help:
Agent Query
Hailed as the largest, most searchable database of literary agents. There AgentQuery Connect has great forums to post queries/synopsis for feedback. Helps to critique others. Good spot for info on agents and publishing process.

Public Query Slushpile
Open forum for critiquing with good, constructive feedback.

Great query writing resource and fun to read queries gobbled up, don’t expect to get yours in the fray though – easier to get a request for a full MS!

Pitch University
Get help on crafting your novel pitch.

Piers Anthony
Tracks industry news on publishers and other writing services. Take with a grain of salt.

Top 101 Indie Book Publishers
Title says it all, I think.

Blogs I visit often for advice on the general business, craft and industry news of writing:
Publishers Weekly
A must read to get hottest industry news in the publishing world.

BookEnds Literary LLC
Fantastic blog by agent, Jessica Faust, about – well – everything! Scroll on right side for must read posts, categories to search, resource links.

Jody Hedlund
Author who posts 3x a week with stuff you need to know about on writing, marketing and getting published, as one who has been in the trenches.

An annual online writing conference for children’s writers but tons of info useful across genres. Access to last year’s conference transcripts as well. Free but donations welcome! They just wrapped up this year’s conference.

Nathan Bransford
Agent turned author. Tons of valuable info here. Scroll left for publishing essentials, resource links and more.

Philly Liars Club
Great bunch of authors with real advice on making it in the world of writing. They also host a great monthly writer’s meet-up (local to Willowgrove, PA) and writing classes (I am taking the Write a YA Novel in 9 months with Author Liars Marie Lamba and Jonathan Maberry)

Blog by agent, Kristin Nelson with Nelson Literary Agency.

Joe Konrath
Not much introduction needed here. Successful writer with much to say about the industry goings-on.

Miss Snark’s First Victim
Regular online contests to win critiques and to garnish helpful feedback of your work by the community.

Rachelle Gardner
Scads of tips/advice from this literary agent with Word Serve Literary Group.

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Filed under Book Marketing, Writing Resources

Write-On Wednesdays! Self-help author Jerry Waxler reaches out to other writers

Jerry Waxler, M.S.

Jerry Waxler, M.S. author of “Four Elements of Writers,” considers himself a writing-activist, trying to convince people that if they want to write, they ought to overcome obstacles and “just do it.” Jerry answers questions today about how he became interested in helping writers help themselves.

Why are you so passionate about reaching out to writers?
When I was 18, I knew exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up, a doctor. By the time I was 24, I was living in a garage, preparing to move to Costa Rica to sleep on the beach and eat fruit from the trees. At the last minute, I steered back toward civilization, but it took me another 20 years to put my life back together. Years of being in therapy, and studying self-help books culminated in a graduate program Counseling Psychology at Villanova. After I earned my Master’s degree I wanted to write what I learned so I could help other people achieve their own goals.

When I became serious about writing, I was fortunate to find a club in Doylestown called the Writers Room of Bucks County, where writers congregated and learned from each other. The storefront club for writers turned out to be a powerful incubator for learning about writers and the writing life. The experience made me realize how much writers can offer each other, in support, craft, and also “moral authority,” empowering each other to believe in what they are doing.

Why do you think writers need self-help tools?
Aspiring writers start with the desire to create something entertaining, or beautiful, or informative. That in itself is a lovely goal, but then most of us discover it’s not easy to sit at the desk hour after hour. The blank page is daunting. How do you justify the work when it won’t earn money for years, if ever? Other, easier or more urgent tasks call. In the end, self-management is as important a part of being a writer as the writing itself. And then even after the work is complete, writers face another round of psychological challenges when they have to overcome shyness, and try to present their work to the world.

I realized that many of the strategies that I had been learning to help overcome obstacles in other aspects of life could be applied to writers. For example, writers have to set priorities, establish healthy habits, improve attitude, and steer through a variety of social interactions.

How did you decide to write your self-help book for writers?
Most of the workshops at the Writers Room were directed to improving craft or selling books. There was hardly any training about overcoming psychological obstacles. The directors of the Writers Room in Doylestown, first Foster Winans and then Jonathan Maberry, gave me the opportunity to give workshops to help writers. I developed handouts for those courses, and the handouts grew longer and longer until I finally made them available in a book.

Why is your book only available from your website?
When I finished writing the book, I spent some time trying to find an onramp into the book publishing industry but soon realized that it was going to take a lot of time to find a publisher. I was intrigued by book production and thought I could learn a lot by putting the book together myself. I hired a book designer, cover artist, and editors, and printed the book and sell them directly from my website. That was before the revolution in electronic publishing. A few weeks ago I bought a Kindle, and everywhere I go, I meet people who just bought an e-reader or going to soon. This is all happening so fast, I am only now gearing up to re-publish the book.

One reason I self-published was because it was my first book and I wanted to learn from my mistakes. One mistake I made with that book was the fancy title, Four Elements for Writers. The title refers to  the way I organized the self-help tools into four categories, action, attitude, story-of-self, and audience. Each of the sections corresponds with the alchemical notion that everything is made up of earth, air, fire and water. The title is too abstract and when I republish it, I want to change it to something more straightforward.

So what else do you write?
I blog about memoir reading and writing and treat each post with the same respect as I would if I was writing for a literary journal. Most of the essays on the blog have been through dozens of revisions, including feedback from critique groups. Keeping up with the blog is a crucial part of my goal as a writer, because it lets me publish material at the same time as I’m developing expertise.

In addition, I’m working on two books. One is about the value of reading and writing memoirs, which I propose is one of the great cultural breakthroughs in the new century, allowing people to understand themselves and each other in a more authentic way than any other time in history. And I’m working on my own memoir. This is particularly daunting first, because it is hard turning a life into a story and second, because at the same time as I’m trying to make sense of my life I have had to learn the craft of storytelling.

And at the same time, I continue to connect with writers. In the old days (3 weeks ago) you could be a successful writer by associating with the big publishing houses. That might still be the case for some of us, but the rest of us find our public through the internet. It’s time consuming but I don’t see any way around it. Writers need each other, and these online groups give us a way to connect. I also maintain a yahoo group for memoir writers and I’m on the Board of Directors of the Philadelphia Writers Conference and volunteer at other groups. I’m always trying to stir up writing community because I enjoy the camaraderie and mutual support.

Why do you push yourself to do all of this?
Like most people who write, I can’t imagine not doing it.

To read more about “Four Elements for Writers” and to order your copy, click here.

To read Jerry’s blog, click here.

Jerry’s Home Page:


Filed under Authors, Memoir Writing, Writing Resources

Hot WritingTips from the Philly Writer’s Conf: On Plot

Kelly Simmons, Author of Standing Still & The Bird House on Plot

Kelly gave us great ideas on how to prepare the plot of our book BEFORE writing it so we don’t get 80 pages in & have to re-write it all.

On Plot: Ride the 7 C’s
Tip: Combustion and Coordination are most important

Most plot problems from beginning. Creating a premise with such interesting characters and high stakes will automatically inspire interesting plot and things to happen with combustion. Start properly vs. revise. Build tension. Create combustion plus conflict as it relates to premise. Look at your plot and see where you can add those what-ifs and extra high stakes.  The engine of your plot is your premise. Then combust it. Then add higher stakes.

Your book’s premise must answer these questions.
1. Where are we?
2. Who is the lead?
3. What do they want?
4. Why should we care?
5. Where are they going?

Example: Jason and Joshua are brothers who attend the same high school and learn of a Columbine-esque plot about to go down the next day. The novel unfolds over 24 hours when they must save their classmates. Now we have possibilities for more conflict. Make better:  Jason and Joshua are twins. They are in love with the same girl. Their Dad is a cop and comes to the scene. Jason doesn’t know Joshua has a gun. Mother committed suicide by gun. Twins have an invalid sister in a wheelchair and both want to save the sister. Com-BUSTED!

Action + Voice + Setting + Premise must all be coordinated together for your story to flow. Before writing, experiment with POV to see if a good fit for your premise. Exercise: Write down plot premise. Then write down opening scene in different voices.

Stuck in the middle? Add some conflict. This can get you out of that sagging middle we all dread. Change locale, add excuse for an argument, add a surprising situation. Kelly echoed Gregory Frost in emphasizing here the 3Ds of writing conflict: Desire + Danger = Drama.

Look at your characters voice. Strip out all prose/exposition and just look at their dialogue to see the beat of their voice. Flow their beat throughout the book. Step outside of your outline to listen to your characters as they grow through your book as they may change from your outline. Ie. Would this character do this or that? Is that true to them and their voice? Maybe it was in the beginning but not now.

Give the reader a character they enjoy. A character you sympathize with, a character who longs for something and then take away what they most want. Give the reader a character to enjoy – but not necessarily like.

Wrap up your novel in a satisfying way that serves the premise and reader anticipation. Tie up loose ends.

Know when to end. Is your book too long? Then look at where there is overwriting. End sooner if need be. Too many plot points can be too much – know when plot is done.
Tip: Where should novel start? Write the synopsis and elevator pitch first to find out.
Tip: To make your writing stronger brainstorm more and (over)write less.

What quadrant of writer are you in? Dreamer * Outliner * Non-Outliner * Doer.  Find a good combo of two. Ie. Combo of being a non-outliner and dreamer might need more of the “doer” in them to get the writing done. For me, I am an outliner and a doer but I need more of the dreamer in me to sit and “think outside the box” and be creative.

Different plots = Different Styles Some plots demand a particular type of writing. Ie. Thriller/suspense should have action first, scare readers early on, fast pace, punchy dialogue. Exercise to do: Write opening paragraph or page in different voices. 1st person, 3rd person, 3rd person limited, Omniscient, even 2nd person (very difficult! Hard to write)

Now plot on!


Filed under Plot, Writing Conferences, Writing Resources

Hot WritingTips from the Philly Writer’s Conf: On Character

Back from the Philadelphia Writer’s Conference June 3-5. Lots of good stuff to report on! I will post hot tips and techniques over the next week on what I learned during this past weekend from a round of excellent presenters.

On Character – presented by Gregory Frost, Author of ShadowBridge and many more works.“You paid for this pain” – quote on his critiquing our work.
Darn right.

All good fiction is 3D
Desire + Danger = Drama
The danger part is the impediment – add it. Get your MC out of their comfort zone.

Dramatize it, don’t tell it
Show drama through dialogue and action. Have the characters reveal things as they go along, don’t just tell us.
Exercise: Imagine scene. A married couple is fighting. One wants to divorce, one doesn’t. At the end of dialogue one has convinced the other of their argument. Write 1 page of dialogue only for this scene. Now write 1 page of exposition only of this scene. Find a way to combine them.

Identify the gap in characters
Make characters rich in symbolic self. People act on the basis of how they see themselves and who they think they are. Ie. Priest lives one life, then is a pedophile behind public life. Ie. A politician rails against homosexuals, he is one himself. Find the gap between character’s actions and how he sees himself. Symbolic self is very powerful and drives character to do what they do.

Cool character names
Names evoke a visual. Names matter. They can be found walking through cemeteries. Names of long ago can be unique and not mainstream now.

Character Chart
Create a character chart that list in detail their physiological, sociological and psychological traits. In doing this your character will come alive to you and can be referred back to as you write. They may reveal new things about themselves.

Characters have a life before your book
This is true for your multiplex characters not simplex characters (nameless/faceless characters such as delivery person, etc). Get to know them by interviewing your multiplex character asking 20 questions or free write about who they are.

Create a triangle of characters
Triangle keeps characters from agreeing with one another and adds conflict. Don’t forget siblings – they make great secondary characters.

Check filtering words
When revising, eliminate words like ‘realized’, ‘noticed’, etc. Keep reader in the story through eyes of the character. Ie. Change “Ben noticed the fire burned fierce in the wind” to “The fire burned fierce.”

Get to action from the start
Don’t start your novel with the character sitting around alone in exposition. Need action! If he is sitting around, then skip and start at Chapter 2 or 3 –  wherever the action finally starts. Get right to it. Ie. Read Accidental Tourist intro scene.

No backstory in the beginning
Don’t add in all the backstory in the first scene. Wind it in later. Don’t inform the reader of all that is going on, the characters know. And they don’t need to tell each other what they already know. Character development is delivered as you go along through the book. Tip: Find a way to start at near the end of your story and then go back.

Check out: Lajos Egri’s book The Art of Dramatic Writing.

Watch for more hot tips and advice over the next week! Now to working on my MS from this workshop. I like pain. Pain is good.


Filed under Characters, Writing Conferences, Writing Resources

What makes me a better writer: guest post with Sally Hepworth

Stop on over author Sally Hepworth’s blog today. She asked me to write a post on what makes me a better writer (eek! am I?). Sally is a globe trotting Aussie with a wicked sense of humor. Her blog is a great resource too!

Well Sally, you made me “thunk a lot” to answer your question on what makes me a better writer.

When trying to get my 8 year old to do something that needs to get done I often say “Come on!” His response is usually, “I’m come-on-ing!” So how does this fit in with how I have become a better writer? (and able to keep calling myself a writer?)

First, by come-on-ing – Or finding the discipline to just keep writing. Writing isn’t a fair weather friend so don’t treat it as such. I had to keep writing even if it meant getting up at 4:30AM – 6:00AM to write. I wrote my first book this way. (Yes, I know it was bad but I finished it!). Now on days off I hit the library early for three solid hours. My biggest word crunch time happens there. No distractions. And I don’t take advantage of their online access. Writing is a job. I focus on this one task and none other.
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What’s your biggest challenge in writing? How do you face it?

What’s your biggest challenge in writing?

For me its self discipline. Not editing, not pacing, not voice, not character development or dialogue. All those techniques I can keep improving on through courses, books, author mentors, writing sessions, and critique groups. But there seems to be no technique to apply for self discipline.

Typical day when self discipline battles the pants-on-fire-writer.

Have you had this kind of day?
Finally – a whole day at home to write…
That’s six glorious writing hours before school pick up time.
Writing goal for day 2,000 words.
Sit and stare at new chapter’s empty page.
250 words. Ack.
Let me just check twitter, face book and email.
Oooh, great article on this and that blog I need to share.
Need to post comments on this or that blog by author friends.

Listen up! Just write, will ya?

Listen up and just get writing!
750 words.
Hungry, yogurt time and twitter, face book and email again.
Where did 3 hours go?
Stuck on scene. A walk always frees my thoughts and resolves a scene.
Walk helped! Writing ahoy!
Lunch time. Would a beer help? maybe…
Stare at screen.
Re-read what I wrote.
Something not working right. How to continue then?
Need some research. Ahh that helped. Back at it.
1000 words.
OMG – only 2 hours left!

When alone it's okay to scream

Stuck again. Need a visual. Draw out dystopian world in book on paper.
Now fired up.
Write write write.
1,500 words.
Stuck again. What was I thinking?  Who are these characters? And who cares?
This book sucks.
Pressure! Pressure!
1,700 words.
Time to go pick up son.
Defeated. Race was lost.
Want to stay home and write NOW. On a roll.
But time to punch the clock. Work day is over.
I should have gone to the damn library.
Drive to school, nose to wheel.
I suck.

Writer in angst realizes there are some jobs that may never pay.
Writer’s son who grabs new chapters, jumps up and down and says it’s the best story ever.

Hope reigns another day – until tomorrow when empty pages loom again. But then my son comes home eager to get his hands on new chapters and all is well, for now.

Have you figured out under what conditions you write best AND how to make that happen?

I discovered, for me, that to write with dedication and commitment on a regular basis I must build a schedule that empowers me to write. I also discovered that I write better under pressure and without distraction. No music. No noise. No people. Otherwise forgeddaboutit. I envy writers who can travel around to coffee shops with their iPod and write for hours.

ME: I am a morning person. I like total quiet. I write best under pressure.

WRITING TIME SHORT: Set alarm for 5AM. 1.5 hours of solid, quiet writing time. Clock is ticking. Under pressure before the house wakes up, lunches to be made, paycheck work to go to.

ALL DAY WRITING TIME: Leave the house with laptop and all research materials. Find quiet library and hunker down. Turn off wireless connection on computer and keep it off. No email. No twitter. No FB. Bring ear plugs in case of screaming kids.

What works for you?

Share it here! We need all the help we can get to get those words on paper.

My champion

Off to face another empty page. But then my son makes it all better. Thanks, Josh. You rock as my champion.


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