From Adults to Teens and Everything In Between

From Adults to Teens and Everything In Between

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Not-So-Lonely Writing Life

Most people tend to agree that the writing life is a lonely one. As writers, we do weird things that most "normal" people don't understand. We argue with characters in the middle of supermarkets and hold bizarre sleep schedules and spend hours at a time living in our own little worlds. It ain't a spectator sport.

But it also doesn't have to be completely solitary.

I was in a Creative Writing program in college, so I spent a good 80% of my time around like-minded writers. We told bad literary jokes. We encouraged each other to finish one page. Then one chapter. Then one novel. We critiqued each other's work. A majority of my last two years in undergrad was spent in workshop-style classes where the goal was to produce some potentially publishable writing.

Imagine my surprise when I graduated and entered the "real world" and found myself, for the first time in at least four years, completely alone.

People are supportive, of course. My family cheers me on, even if they have no idea what I'm talking about half the time. I'm lucky to have a few friends who like writing too, but agents and query letters and publication aren't on any of their minds yet. The rest of my friends pretty much go with the flow and buy me helpful books and "like" my Facebook statuses when I need encouragement and keep me rooted somewhere in the realm of sanity. But it's still a little lonesome.

What's a writer to do?

I've only recently (finally) started figuring it out. Here's what I've learned.

1) Network. And I don't mean just so you can boost your career. Writers tend to be pretty supportive of each other and know the pain of the process, particularly writers who have actually gone through the publication process. I have a wonderful author friend, Michelle Zink, with whom I've been in close contact for a couple of years. Whenever I feel discouraged by the process, she almost always offers a few words of encouragement to keep me pushing through. Because she's been there and she knows.

2) Keep in touch. If you have some serious writing friends, keep in touch with them. It sounds simple, but even long-distance understanding and encouragement is better than going it completely alone. I've tried to keep in touch with a friend who graduated a couple years ahead of me from the same Creative Writing program. We got each other through NaNoWriMo this year and laughed when it was over. She's determined to get me to an MFA program. I'm just determined to read all the writing craft books she recommends for me.

3) Online communities. I recently joined the Litopia Writers Colony. There's something about having so many serious writers in one place that's uplifting. In just a few short weeks, I've seen so much support and so many thought-provoking discussions in there that it blows my mind. And somehow, the Litopians always manage to find the strangest news stories to share with each other.

4) Critique groups. This was the biggest step for me and the one piece I didn't realize I was missing. There's an immediacy and trust involved in critiquing each other's work face-to-face. I was used to it in college, but got away from it in the two years since. At our last writing group meeting, I got critiqued for the first time. It felt good to get back into that. Plus, writing groups give you several nearby people who can help hold you accountable. That's half the battle really--having people close by who truly understand this life.

And if we writers can't count on each other, then it's a lonely life indeed.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tips for pushing through the block

Free Associate: This is probably the most popular writing exercise to get the juices flowing. Pull up a new Word document, take a deep breath and just write whatever comes to mind. Dig as deep as you can into your subconscious and don’t worry about what comes out. Sometimes there’s a mental blockage with something that’s been bothering you, so it helps to write it down and get it out of your system.

Get out of your box: Think of something you’re passionate about, like a hobby or a love interest, and write everything you know about it. Sometimes writing slumps happen and it helps to write about something you love. Even if you just write a paragraph, it’s better to write something that’s not your current project. This will rejuvenate you to re-start on your current project.

Sharpen your wits: Something I do is read a favorite author’s work, especially an author who writes in the same style or format as my current project. Escaping into someone else’s world for a bit can relax you enough to delve into your own imaginary world again.

Eavesdrop: This is a wonderful exercise if you struggle to write natural dialogue between your characters. Sit in a public place like a park or at your local college campus and listen to the things people say as they walk by. Take copious notes and share them with other writers. This exercise is also great if you need a laugh.

Use Music: Writers feel their work, and when you can't quite get the description on paper, it can be frustrating. Find some songs that appeal to you and the scene or piece you’re working on. and are two websites that offer free, instant music streaming to get those juices flowing.

Practice Writing Prompts: A writing prompt is simply a topic around which you start jotting down ideas. The prompt could be a single word, a short phrase, a complete paragraph or even a picture, with the idea being to give you something to focus upon as you write.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

LIFE IN THE WAY OF WRITING: Writing gets a foothold

At our first writers meeting of 2011 we decided it would be a good idea to have some goals. As we were all sharing those goals someone mentioned the 'nifty two-fifty'. Of course I, with my dumbfounded look, asked for an explanation. The answer I got was pretty straight forward and simple. Write 250 words everyday. I decided to adopt the 'nifty two-fifty' as one of my goals.

Today was my first attempt, even though I'm three days out from my pledge. However, I did manage 262 words. That's how much I added to my manuscript today. Quite an accomplishment for me considering both my children are home and awake.

This was accomplished after serious negotiations with my 4-year old about computer time, sharing and who got to go first. Finally, I won and programed our timer for 20 minutes. Yep, 20. That's all I got. My 2 year old was taking his afternoon nap.

So, I sat down, spent some time on email, facebook and generally getting comfy. I checked the timer and whoah! Fifteen minutes, twenty-three seconds left on the clock. I better buckle down. I open my word doc and review the last few paragraphs from my previous session. 253 words later the timer dings. My 4-year old excitedly jumps out of his chair where he'd waited ever so patiently thanks to his favorite cartoon.

"My turn Mommy!"
"Just a minute dear," I hold up my hand to stop him "Mommy needs to finish her thought."

A few seconds later I've done my word count, posted my email to the group. Yes, we are holding each other accountable to our self made goals. And my turn was over.

I felt a great sense of accomplishment. It hadn't taken me very long. No real disruption to my daily routine and chores or my family's needs.

262 words
4 paragraphs
18 lines
20 minutes

That's it. For a 55,000 word novel it would only take me 220 days to finish if I simply wrote 250 each day. And honestly, I have always written more than that when I do sit down. Look at today's count, it was over, even just barely but every bit adds to the whole.

Today I surprised myself. No more excuses, I learned that I definitely have had ample opportunity. Thanks to my ultra-smooth negotiating skills with my little guy I now have time every day. And possibly my own stubborn dictator, since he never misses his daily computer time.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Gee, I Hope the Feds Never Confiscate My Computer

Research and writing go hand in hand. Last year, I was fortunate enough to attend a short series of classes on the topic taught by local author Alicia Adams (Bathroom Book of Ohio Trivia). One vital lesson she drilled into us was: never let the internet be either your sole or primary resource! Get out there and be sure to get your facts right.

Incredibly enough, I have even heard some anecdotal tales about folks basing their information on works of FICTION (and I’m not just talking WIKIs). Here is a word to the wise: don’t do it!

Now, having said all that, your Home Computer or Laptop is a great place to START your research, however. Call it the tip of the research iceberg, if you will.

Here are a few of the things I have looked into for my fiction over the last couple of years:

“Totally Pedestrian and Not at all Suspect” Searches:
Native Flowers of West Virginia
Carnegie Libraries
Ladies Fashion in the Early 20th Century

“Possibly Suspicious, But Hopefully Under the Radar” Searches:
How to Make Moonshine

“Momma, I’m Gonna Need Bail Money” Searches:
How to Detonate a Home Made Still
How to Prepare a Corpse for Burial
Using Arsenic to Embalm a Body

How about you?

What interesting/unusual/weird things have you researched while writing?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

We Need Your Input!

Hi Fiction Flurry readers and followers!  2010 turned out to be a great year for us here at the Fiction Flurry blog, and we were really pleased to provide you with pertinent content, engaging author interviews and great give-aways.

But we want to make 2011 even bigger and better.  To do that, we need your input.  So please, please, please give us some feedback. 

Give us your thoughts on:

*What genres do you read?
*What genres do you write?
*What subjects would you like to see discussed?
*Do you enjoy the author interviews?
*Do you like our contests and give-aways?
*What thoughts do you have about the book reviews?
*What do you want to see more of?
*What do you want to see less of?
*What ideas do you have to improve the blog?

Your opinions matter,
and we greatly appreciate both your input and your continuing support!!!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Rediscovering Old Favorites in a New Format

So did you get an e-reader for Christmas? The opportunities abound as far as downloadable content.  Sometimes I find it difficult to browse for titles from my Nook.  If I'm shopping for a book without having anything in mind, I prefer to do that in the brick and mortar bookstore.  I'm still attracted by interesting covers and the text on the back jacket, giving me a glimpse into the feel of a book.

Recently, I've decided that it might be a good idea to download to my e-reader all those classic, notorious, or other books that I always meant to read, but never had the opportunity.  Right now I'm reading In Cold Blood by Truman Capote.   I've never read anything by Capote.  Heck, I haven't even seen the movie version of Breakfast at Tiffany's.  I borrowed the movie Capote starring Philip Seymour Hoffman from the library over my holiday break and decided I then had to read the author's seminal work.  I purchased In Cold Blood on my Nook for just under $5.  What a worthwhile purchase!  I'm not a true crime fan, but the writing in the book is spectacular.  If you've read it, you'll recall that it's non-fiction that reads like fiction.
In Cold Blood

Books on the craft of writing are coming out in e-versions as well.  Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones is getting a well-deserved new life through e-publishing. You can download it for less than $10.  Ms. Goldberg has taken  an active role in marketing the e-release of her book two decades after its first publication.  

Some other "older" books on writing available for your e-reader are On Writing:  A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King and Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott, which are both excellent and dirt cheap in e-book form!

Your e-reader is a great way to use new technology to connect with old favorites!  What kinds of books do you download?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Podcasts for Writers

This post is really "Achieving Your Resolutions - Part 2" continuing my post from last week about online learning for writers.

As I said before, learning, no matter what the format is a good thing. So this week I want to talk about podcasts. It's definitely the most convenient way to learn...well, almost anything!

Look, I'll be the first to admit that regardless of the technology, I will never be an "early adopter" so I'm new to podcasts. If you, like me, are new to podcasts - but you have a computer, MP3 player or iPod, you can find out how to subscribe to podcasts here.

Once you are set up to subscribe, check out these podcasts especially for writers.

1. I Should be Writ­ing: cov­ers the ins-and-outs of writ­ing, from com­ing up with ideas to self-publishing to writ­ing queries. Mur Lafferty is straightforward and has some good insights into the writing and publishing world. (RSS  iTunes)
2. The Writ­ing Show: The Writing Show Slush Pile Workshop is designed to help you practice engaging readers. In each podcast, Paula B. plays agent and comments on your anonymous submissions. Does she want to see more, or does she lose interest? Beginning in December 2010, the format of this podcast changed to feature only Slush Pile Workshops. You can find other writing topics in their archives. (RSS  iTunes)
3. Litopia: Litopia con­sists of two pod­casts. The first, “Litopia Daily”, is a short daily round-up of news of inter­est to writ­ers. The sec­ond, “Litopia After Dark”, is a longer weekly round-table dscus­sion of issues in the writ­ing and pub­lish­ing worlds. (RSS  iTunes)
4. Gram­mar Girl: Mignon Fog­a­rty offers “quick and dirty tips for bet­ter writ­ing” in this twice-weekly show on the ins and outs of Eng­lish gram­mar. (RSS  iTunes)
5. Writ­ing Excuses: fea­tures three writ­ers (Bran­don Sander­son , Howard Tayler, and Dan Wells) talking about var­i­ous writ­ing chal­lenges, either amongst them­selves or with guests. It's a brief 15 minutes - because, they say, “you’re in a hurry and we’re not that smart”) — fun, and sur­pris­ingly help­ful. (RSS  iTunes)

I hope you find these podcasts informative and interesting.

Do you know of other podcasts dedicated to writing? We would love to hear about them. Please post a link in the comments section along with a note about why you like it.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A Brief Word on Writer's Block

What would you have to say if I were to tell you that there’s no such thing as “writer’s block”? Hey! Hey you in Poughkeepsie, I heard that! Geez, I haven’t been called that since ninth grade.

Just hear me out. Like you, I endeavor to write. And like you, sometimes I feel like I simply cannot write. There have been days when I have been too sad to write. Or too anxious. Or too preoccupied. Too tired, too busy, too overwhelmed. Even too bored! Too, too, too.

But on any one of those days, was I able to open my e-mail and jot off a note to a friend? Text my brother? Update my Facebook status? Tweet to the entire free world? Well, sure! Er, uh, what I mean is, I guess I wasn’t actually incapacitated or anything. I mean I could write; right? So what was it? What was stopping me?

It was me.

Likewise, you are stopping yourself.

To write or not to write is a choice. Always remember this. Writing, be it for a job, a hobby, or “just for fun” is an activity. Like jogging or watching TV or playing a round of golf, writing can only be accomplished when you pursue it. Nobody needs “inspiration” to sit down and watch the boob tube. The “golf muse” doesn’t tap you on the shoulder and encourage your choice of clubs.

Hey, I am not saying it’s easy. Some days, it’s not. But what I am saying is that there is only one person who can write that story knocking around within the gray matter between your ears. That person is you – because it’s your story and no one else’s.

So push “too this” to the side and sweep “too that” out of the way. Choose to write that story today!

Come say "hi" to Bijoux (she's irresistible):

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A New Sort of Novel

As I was perusing the web I wandered across the page of a writer I like. When what did my wandering eyes spy but a 'twitter novel'. So I clicked, began reading and became hooked.

If you are not already aware, the face of the literary world is rapidly changing and expanding. With the long reaching arm of the internet offering varied forums for posting and electronic readers on the rise Authors have more options when it comes to releasing their work.

Staring boldly in the face of change are a few brave pieces, even if some have been forced into the position. If you haven't heard about the leak of Stephenie Meyer's Midnight Sun Manuscript, then you must have been living under a rock for the last several years. Eventually she released a rough draft on her website for all her fans. Someday, maybe, she'll finish that piece. Recently she startled fans with The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner which was released in a downloadable version free on her website for a limited time then available in print with all proceeds going to a charity. And now, here comes a 'twitter novel' courtesy of author Kathleen Duey.

Kathleen began with tweeting an experimental novel, her character talks and she types. Eventually, she moved the postings to blogspot and now posts updates at her twitter site. There is a huge cult following for the story. Unfortunately, for those of us hooked she has been on hiatus from this story while working on her projects that "pay the bills" as she says. Though Ms Duey has posted that she will resume installments in January 2011.

This is a, pardon the pun, novel new idea...I can't wait to see what other authors do in response. Will other authors jump on board with more than just excerpts of upcoming novels on their websites? Will more writers post whole manuscripts on their sites? Is this a new advertising angle that could result in readers falling in love with an author and then obsessively purchasing all the stories, series, novels and anthologies? These are exciting times in the writing world.

If you're remotely curious please click on the link and see what Kathleen has to offer.

You must admit, the idea of linking a novel to a friend is enticing and makes it easier on us as readers to share those stories and authors we love. I think I see the next generation of 'going viral'.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Achieving Your Resolutions

Admit made some New Year's Resolutions this year, didn't you?

It's okay, you're among friends. And I promise - I won't tell!

Chances are, if you made resolutions for 2011, then at least one of your resolutions had to do with learning. Something to the effect of - "I will take one class in 2011 that will further my writing."

First, let me just say - Good for you!

Personally, I think that learning, no matter what the format, is a good thing. So I'm here to help. Here's a roundup of 10 online writing classes that I guarantee will fit your schedule - it's online so you can work at your own pace - and your budget. The classes are all FREE!!

1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology - MIT offers dozens of free online courses through its MIT OpenCourseWare initiative. No registration required.
2. Utah State University  - Three free courses devoted to the art of writing are available through the school's OpenCourseWare program. No registration required.
3. Open University The UK's largest academic institution, Open University, offers a number of different writing courses through their OpenLearn website. Classes are open to everyone, regardless of country of origin. No registration required.
4. University of Utah The University of Utah offers two free writing courses designed for beginners. No registration required.
5. Purdue University Purdue University's Online Writing Lab (OWL) materials are free to everyone regardless of location or student status. The OWL site offers writing instruction, grammar and usage information, individualized help from tutors and much more. No registration required.
6. Steven Barnes' UCLA Writing Course Steven Barnes offers a free version on his website of the writing class he has been teaching for many years at UCLA. No registration required.
7. News University Courses cover everything from writing and editing to reporting and ethics. News U also offers a newsletter, a blog and other great resources. Registration is required.
8. E-Zine University Although the courses offered at E-Zine University are designed mainly for web and e-zine writers, they would be helpful to almost any type of writer. Courses are short and don't take much time to complete. No registration required.
9. Wikiversity There are currently several different writing courses that can be found at Wikiversity, many of which focus on technical writing. No registration required.
10. Online writing classes for all levels of writers -- from beginning to advanced. Registration required.

Here's to 2011. I wish you success in achieving your resolutions!

Monday, January 3, 2011

And the Winner Is...

Erin M., congratulations!  You've won a hardcover copy of H. Terrell Griffin's Bitter Legacy!

If you didn't win, not to worry.  We'll have a lot of giveaways in 2011, so keep checking back. 

Happy New Year, everyone!
Bitter Legacy (Matt Royal Mysteries)

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