An unselfish wish made on the horn of a unicorn will come true. Our wish? To support the writing community by giving constructive tips and criticism through submissions. Check out the submissions tab for more information. We can survive the crucible of fire together.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Generated Prompts--First Lines

Today I'll give you first lines and you can turn it into any kind of story you'd like! Let's keep it around 500 words.

Choose one:

It will be spring, the season of art and howling.

You can kill a famine - she told me how.

Sanity was an ugly boy, and that's before everything went wrong.

Dad was my worst enemy and my greatest betrayer, but the truth isn't quite what some think.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Writing Prompt Generator Romance

We're continuing with our random generator prompts today in the romance genre. I admit these are way over the top, but fun none the less. All of them came from Seventh Sanctum. Here's our rules, same as the other day:

I'll give you the set up, you create the characters and write a brief (200 word) synopsis of the story. It's a query!

Choose one of the following:

A plain novelist is in love with a hot scientist. What role will a cab driver with unexpected depths play in their relationship?

A humble performance artist is in love with a paranoid hockey player. Yet, how can a veterinarian tear them apart?

An immature computer programmer falls passionately in love with an unbalanced doctor - all thanks to temptation while visiting a port city.

A clumsy repairman runs into a detective searching for truth. What starts as confusion becomes love.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Random Generators and Writing Prompts for Action Films

Okay, I have a confession to make. My number one procrastination destination is a site full of generators. Names, organizations, settings, character traits, medical equipments, weapons, you name it! I've never really used the story generator, but I thought it would be fun to try it out this week.

You know, get those creative juices flowing.

First, let me tell you about the site. It's called Seventh Sanctum and I seriously adore this site. It's where I go when I need to find names or if I'm just bored. The fun never ends when I'm there. Often I have to remind myself to go back to my manuscript.

Seriously, just go hang out over there.

Now, for today's prompt I pulled something off the one titled Action Film Trailers. I'll give you the tagline to the "movie" and you write a brief synopsis (200 words) of what the movie is about. Create some characters, show us what's at stake, that kind of thing. This is great practice for writing queries!

(And don't worry, we'll have other genres represented this week.)

Pick one of the following:


In an empire of dreams and panic, five planetary explorers hope to find the cure for a deadly disease.

In a world of hopelessness and illusions, an FBI agent attempts to avert the destruction of mankind.

In a city of misery, in an age of necromancy, a martial artist opposes an evil supercomputer.

On a planet of monsters and doom, a magician and a nurse seek love and oppose an army of raiders.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Hooking Readers

Hi all. It’s with great sadness that I’m announcing that this will be my last post for Unicorn Bell. It has been great fun, but I had to make some choices regarding what I can spend my time on. I’m really just not in a place where I can do posting here the justice it deserves. It's not the end for my blogging, though. You can still find me discussing writing at my blog and on Wattpad.

But yeah, all good things come to an end, and as it happens, I’m ending my time here by giving a spot of advice on beginnings.

Specifically, hooks.

See, I think writers have a tendency of looking at hooks wrong. Agents have this way of hammering on the importance of the first sentence, and as a result, writers agonize about how to make the first line as intriguing as possible.

The thing is…I believe that hooks are way much more than just a first line. Furthermore, hooks do more than make people want to read the next sentence. Which means that more often than not, I’m reading stories that start with a major gimmick for the first line but the immediate follow-up falls way short.

Hooks are there to serve one of two functions. If they’re good, they serve both. 1) They bring the reader into the character’s world. 2) They make the reader ask a question that would take further reading to answer.

Honestly of the two, the latter is more important. However, it’s important to note that “What the heck is going on?” is not the question you should be going for. Why would he/she say this? Think this? Do this? What leads up to it? How will the character react to it? Those are all good questions to encourage a reader to ask.

That’s a tough task to achieve with one sentence, though. Which is why you shouldn’t even strive for this. Instead, see the hook as something that must take place over the first five pages of your book. (But aim for fewer pages.)

How it works is this: 
First line makes the reader ask a question that encourages them to read the first paragraph. The first paragraph encourages the reader to read the second paragraph and on and on, each successive paragraph “hook” sucking the reader in deeper.

And before the reader knows it, they’ll be at the end of chapter 1 and paging over.

But an incredible opening line followed by no further hooking just doesn’t work. So stop cleaning up those few words and look at the bigger picture, will you? Overall, those first five pages are much more important than just the first line.

Thanks all! It's been fun. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Query Critique: SHROUDED GODDESS

Hi All!

Sorry for the delay in posting! Yesterday was a rough one. But, without further ado, I give you a query for analysis. (And please do feel free to add your (NICE!!!) critique in the comments.) I added my overall thoughts in red beneath the original version, and then specific comments as a critique. Finally, I reworked the query using the information I could glean from the query to show how focusing works.

Original Version:



Dear [Agent's name]

I am seeking representation for my manuscript SHROUDED GODDESS, a 71,000 word YA fantasy set in a world that mirrors South America during the Portuguese colonization of the sixteenth century.

Seventeen-year-old Sophia de Paula sings like a rainforest bird, but her most marriageable quality is her Peetanguara descent. The so-called Easterner nobility wed red wives to recruit native laborers for the sugarcane fields, and Sophia’s fair, noble cousin needs her in order to claim the family barony. But she would rather drown like her brother than marry someone who keeps trying to take her by force.

When her native grandmother entreats her to awaken Ig, the Water Goddess, and save the rainforest tribes from the conquering Easterners, Sophia leaps at the chance to flee her controlling Easterner relatives. No one has seen Ig for fifty years, since the blond invaders arrived from across the sea. But, disappointingly, the Goddess Sophia awakens turns out to be more interested in Easterner fashion than the devastation of the rainforest and the tribes.

Apart from bestowing water-controlling powers on Sophia, Ig’s advice is to seek another deity, a powerful Goddess no one knew existed, and ask her to bring peace to the land once and forever. Ig’s quest will send Sophia deep into the rainforest the Easterners keep burning, and if she doesn’t succeed, marriage to her cousin will be the least of her worries. If she fails, Sophia’s tribe will perish at the hands of the conquerors who married into her family.

With Avatar waterbending in the rainforest, SHROUDED GODDESS will appeal to fans of Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha series.

I was born in Brazil and now live in Florida where I work with science fiction in test tubes at [where I work].

As per your website guidelines, the first chapter and synopsis are pasted below. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
[Redacted]


My Critique: 


Overall:

I like that it’s a fantasy outside of the usual European fare and I know a lot of agents are looking for non-European fantasy. BUT I do think your query needs focusing. You need to remember that the person reading this probably has zero clues about what’s going on here, so you need to make sure everything is understood, or that the query unfolds in a way that’s easier to understand.


The complicated things and terms that get explained in the book can probably be left out of the query.
Also, I feel like your query’s reading too much like a synopsis. (A short one, I know, but a synopsis all the same.) What you want here is a short summary of what makes your story an awesome read. If the agent wants more detail, he/she will ask for it.

Instead, you need to focus your query around the following:

Intro: Who’s Sophia in the beginning of the story? Also, I’d suggest including a bit about her relationship to the Easterners.
Inciting incident: What changes things for Sophia and kicks off the story?
Goal: What is the main goal as a result?
Conflict: What’s preventing her from just achieving the goal?
Stakes: What happens if she fails?

Choice: What choices does she have? (If any.) 

Specific: 

Dear [Agent's name]

I am seeking representation for my manuscript SHROUDED GODDESS, a 71,000 word YA fantasy set in a world that mirrors South America during the Portuguese colonization of the sixteenth century. [
I think that, when it comes to catching an agent’s attention, it’s better to het right into the query’s hook. This should be the last or second to last paragraph.]

Seventeen-year-old Sophia de Paula sings like a rainforest bird [
Not important], but her most marriageable quality is her Peetanguara descent. [ Means nothing to someone who hasn’t read the book/doesn’t know the mythology.] The so-called Easterner nobility wed red wives to recruit native laborers for the sugarcane fields, [ Is this the explanation of her descent and of her relations with the easterners?] and Sophia’s fair, noble cousin needs her in order to claim the family barony. [Not sure how he could need her so this only confuses things.] But she would rather drown like her brother than marry someone who keeps trying to take her by force. [Interesting, but not relevant to the query.]

When her native grandmother entreats her to awaken Ig, the Water Goddess, and save the rainforest tribes from the conquering Easterners, Sophia leaps at the chance to flee her controlling Easterner relatives. No one has seen Ig for fifty years, since the blond invaders arrived from across the sea. But, disappointingly, the Goddess Sophia awakens turns out to be more interested in Easterner fashion than the devastation of the rainforest and the tribes. [Interesting, but later on, it’s clear that this isn’t technically the inciting incident, which means it’s taking up space in your query without actually adding to it.] 

Apart from bestowing water-controlling powers on Sophia, Ig’s advice is to seek another deity, a powerful Goddess no one knew existed, and ask her to bring peace to the land once and forever. [The inciting incident is in here somewhere.] Ig’s quest will send Sophia deep into the rainforest the Easterners keep burning, and if she doesn’t succeed, [Conflict, but with the above paragraph gone, you could probably make more of it.] marriage to her cousin will be the least of her worries. If she fails, Sophia’s tribe will perish at the hands of the conquerors who married into her family. [Stakes.]

With Avatar waterbending in the rainforest, [I’d cut this.] SHROUDED GODDESS will appeal to fans of Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha series.

I was born in Brazil and now live in Florida where I work with science fiction in test tubes at [where I work].

As per your website guidelines, the first chapter and synopsis are pasted below. Thank you for your time and consideration.


Sincerely,
[Redacted]

Rough Draft Query From Gleaned Info:


Dear [Insert Agent Name Here], 

Sophia de Paula might be related to the Easterners invading her rainforests, but as far as she’s concerned, they’re not welcome there. 

She wakes up Ig the Water Goddess to stop them. Instead, Ig sends Sophia into the rainforest in search of another deity she never even knew existed. Finding this goddess might mean ensuring peace for Sophia’s country, but the quest will send Sophia deep into the rainforest while the Easterners are burning it down around her. 

But on the quest she must go, because if Sophia doesn’t bring the goddess back, her tribe will have no defense against the Easterners' weapons.  

It would just have been nice if she was sure the goddess is real. 

SHROUDED GODDESS is a YA Fantasy set in a world based on South America during Portuguese colonization. It is complete at 71,000 words and will appeal to fans of Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha series.

I was born in Brazil and now live in Florida where I work with science fiction in test tubes at [where I work].

The first chapter and synopsis are included below as per submission guidelines. 

Thank you for your time. 

Regards, 

[Redacted]



Anyone have advice to add? Please feel free to critique my query as well and to suggest improvements. 

I'm still taking submissions for critiques. If you're interested, please click here

Monday, May 18, 2015

Need a Query/Blurb, Synopsis or First Chapter Critique?

Hi all! Misha here. It's been a while since I've done this, since I've had a crazy few months lately. But hey, things are better and I'm slowly getting back on track.

So this week, I'm willing to critique queries/blurbs, synopses and/or first chapters. If you feel like something's just not right, you're welcome to send me all three and I'll see what I can find.

Also, you're welcome to ask me not to post any of the specific critiques on the blog (although I'd like to share some if possible.) I'll then just write a post about something related to the critique without pointing out something specific.

I'll be doing up to one post a day, and will be working on a first come first serve basis.

Just note that my style is no-holds barred bare-boned honesty. I do try not to be nasty, but if you're expecting pure praise, I'm not the lady to help you.

Okay. Game?

Send me a mail at mishagericke(AT)gmail(DOT)com with Unicorn Bell as the subject.

Have a great day!

Friday, May 15, 2015

A Different Soldier

At the heart of much speculative fiction (and fiction in general) is a question. What if? Occasionally I like to throw one out there and see what you make of it. Do with it as you please. If a for-instance is not specified, feel free to interpret that instance as you wish.

Question Mark, Characters, Question

What if we sent older people to fight our wars rather than using the youth as soldiers? (For example, taking more experienced individuals and having them virtually fight via robots or such. But the question doesn't need to be limited specifically in this way.)

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Faking It

At the heart of much speculative fiction (and fiction in general) is a question. What if? Occasionally I like to throw one out there and see what you make of it. Do with it as you please. If a for-instance is not specified, feel free to interpret that instance as you wish.

Question Mark, Characters, Question

What if you could initiate a hoax? Would you? Would you use it for good or evil?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Ursa Major and Other Stories by Tamara Narayan

I asked Tamara Narayan to give us a what if question for today. She gave us four. Take it away, Tamara...

Thanks Liz, for inviting me to the Unicorn Bell. I understand you enjoy what-if questions. Ursa Major and Other Stories contains three tales that answer some off-the-wall ones. Let's get started . . . 



Ghosts of a Benevolent Place: What if an autistic child met a senior citizen who, in his dementia, thought he was still a kid?

For Audrey Ericcson, raising an autistic son is like juggling hand grenades. She never knows when Ian is going to blow. Gloria Carter, whose husband Winston suffers from Alzheimer's, can sympathize. The unlikely friendship that blossoms between Ian and Winston on the shore of Lake Ontario is nothing short of miraculous to both women. When Ian begins to spell out words with rocks on the beach, Audrey is first thrilled, then puzzled, and eventually frightened. Are the mysterious stone messages from Ian, Winston, or something else entirely? Approx. 77 pages (21K words)

Ursa Major: What if you were starving and came upon a pristine box of donuts in the woods? Would you eat them, knowing they were bait?

Something with a heavy gait and a taste for sweets lurks in the woods behind Josh Surrel’s new home. Not that he has time to worry about it. As the new kid in school, he's got to figure out quickly whether to join the outcasts or the bullies, if he's got the guts to speak to the prettiest girl in ELA, and the answers to his hideous math homework before he lands in detention. Yet when everything goes wrong, these problems become meaningless. Josh finds himself alone in the dark, freezing in a freak September snowstorm, searching for the one thing he's most afraid of . . .
Approx. 73 pages (21K words)

The President and the Pea: What if you witnessed a murder, but no one believed you? What if the victim was the leader of the free world?

Sixty-something Annette Hutchins has her quirks. She abhors eggs and never drinks anything red. But those oddities pale in comparison to the secret she's been forced to keep for years. Annette witnessed the assassination of the President of the United States. Or did she? Approx. 35 pages (9K words)

Links
Ursa Major and Other Stories (reduced to $0.99 through May on Amazon)

Ghosts of a Benevolent Place ($0.99 on Amazon)

Ursa Major ($0.99 on Amazon)

The President and the Pea ($0.99 on Amazon)

Author Bio

Starting at a zoo, I wrangled African penguins and raised several fluffy little footballs. Next it was back to school for a Ph.D. in mathematics and sympathy for Barbie. (Yes, math is hard.) After three years as a professor, daughter number one arrived (8 hours after final grades were submitted) and bam! The ever-challenging, at-home mom marathon began. When daughter number two was old enough to survive shopping trips with her dad, I dove headfirst into writing. Today I've got eight sci-fi/fantasy stories published through Wormhole Digital and am in the final edits (I hope) of a historical novel. I also blog a bit at www.tamaranarayan.com.

What can I say? I like variety, which leads to my final question:

What if you could snap your fingers and experience any job on the planet? Would you become a CSI investigator? An acrobat with Cirque du Soleil? Chocolate technologist for Ghiradelli?

Awesome jobs I’d like to experience: a zombie on the set of The Walking Dead, a tour guide to Machu Picchu, or a guitarist on tour with U2. Why not?

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Five (Future) Corporations You Don't Want to Mess With

Today Briane Pagel is joining us to tell us about... I'm not sure what he's telling us about, actually. Take it away, Briane...

“I hate corporations,” a rather bellicose new employee told me one day at my old job, when we were discussing some sort of regulation or other.

“You work for a corporation,” I pointed out to her, at which point she looked rather embarrassed. 

Has there ever been a more potentially malignant organization than the corporation? We're more or less geared to hate them (even though most of us work for one, I bet) from the earliest days of US History classes: the corporation was something spawned by Robber Barons to allow them to pave the US with railroad tracks and the blood of immigrants, while they smoked cigars moistened with baby’s tears. (Chapter 2, History 101 Textbook.)

This sort of reputation makes corporations the go-to bad guys of any sort of science fiction, and the fact that the US Supreme Court declared corporations to be people right around the time they also declared that companies can use your genes without paying you for them only added to that reputation.  So it’s no wonder that I picked a corporation as the root of all evil in my book Codes, is it?

In Codes, the corporation (which goes unnamed throughout, the anonymity adding to the sinister nature of the company) that is behind all the evil has begun a program to clone human beings – against their will—and implant them with computerized personalities, which can be tweaked to make the person a better worker, or more loyal, or instill other features.  But the company doesn't just make clones (which are called Codes… hence the title.)  They are also slowly taking over the city around them.  When people call the police in that city, company security shows up. The same for other government services, such as the department of health.  The corporate employees can set up other dummy corporations and infiltrate the internet, and they're able to kidnap people and hold them without any sort of repercussion – they do it in broad daylight.  It’s pretty apparent, throughout Codes, that the company is not only powerful, but so powerful it can flaunt it, with most people in the city just accepting this as a fact of life.

That’s pretty bad, right? But it’s not like I’m the first person to make the link between “anonymous shareholders forcing the company to seek profits at all costs” and “nihilistic vision of a society where that is condoned.” There’s, as I said, a rich history of corporate badness in movies, television, and books. I could probably do the top 100 of these, but I've limited it to the five best (or worst). 

5. The Sirius Cybernetics Corporation: The Hitchhiker’s Guide To the Galaxy series, Douglas Adams. Perhaps not so much “evil” as “inept,” Sirius was responsible for such abominations as the talking doors that smugly waited for you to open them, elevators that eventually have existential crises, and my favorite, the Nutrimatic Drinks Dispenser, which engages in an in-depth probing of the user’s likes and dislikes to craft a particularized beverage meant to provide the ultimate drinking experience, and then dispenses something almost, but not completely, unlike tea.  The complaints division for the company sprawled over three planets, and the company’s motto, “Share And Enjoy,” was built right into the company’s headquarters, the buildings being shaped like the letters – but then they sunk halfway, so that the buildings appear to spell out “Go Stick Your Head In A Pig” in the local language.  Not the kind of company you’d want to deal with, at all.

4. Rosen Industries: (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep/Blade Runner): The makers of replicants, androids built to mimic humans exactly, but who ultimately tend to go rogue and want to kill humans, the Rosen Corporation is so awful it created a replicant specifically designed to trick the best test available to sort out who is human and who is not – and then didn’t tell her she was an android, but used it to seduce bounty hunters so they couldn't keep killing replicants. (Fun fact: Phillip K. Dick set his story, originally, in the far-distant year of 1992.  Later editions have now set it in 2021.)

3. Ilium Works, Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut.  I couldn’t find out if the corporation in this book had a name, or if in fact the corporation was simply the US government; set in a post-WWIII society, the corporation is busy automating everything, which has the effect of replacing anyone who’s not an engineer or a manager; those people have the choice of menial labor or receiving a stipend to live on. When Paul, the main character, begins to dislike this system, he eventually decides to rebel against it, leading to a brief (and unsatisfying) armed conflict.

2. The entire planet Proton, The Apprentice Adept series, Piers Anthony.  Another one I’m not entirely sure is a corporation, but it sure seems like it.  The citizens of Proton are insanely wealthy – the 1% of the 1% of the 1% ad infinitum as a result of mining protonite for fuel.  They've set up a system in which they hire ‘serfs,’ people who work for them for 20 years, receiving their pay in a lump sum at the end.  20 years of work pays enough to make a serf wealthy on any other planet, but barely buys one’s way into society on Proton.  The serfs, though, have almost no freedom, must live and work entirely naked, and exist solely to please the Citizens.  Oh, and many of the Citizens are aware that their planet shares an alternate space with an identical magical planet, one they intend to raid of its magical energy because their own protonite is running out.

1.  The General Oblation Board, His Dark Materials Trilogy, Phillip Pullman  I suppose it’s not technically a corporation, since the G.O.B. was a branch of the church, but I had to include this organization because it’s just so evil: Run by Mrs. Coulter, a beautiful but cold woman, the G.O.B. was tasked with finding a way to rid humanity of Original Sin – and opted to do that by experimenting with the children of Philip Pullman’s phenomenal alternate-Earth. I'd rather face off against any three on this list than take on the Board.

What’s your (least!) favorite corporation from a book?



Briane Pagel is the author of Codes, available on Amazon and through Golden Fleece Press.  He blogs at Thinking The Lions
Links:
Thinking The Lions: http://www.thinkingthelions.com
Codes, on Golden Fleece Press:  http://goldenfleecepress.com/catalog/fiction/


Monday, May 11, 2015

Not a Memorable Conversation

At the heart of much speculative fiction (and fiction in general) is a question. What if? Occasionally I like to throw one out there and see what you make of it. Do with it as you please. If a for-instance is not specified, feel free to interpret that instance as you wish.


Question Mark, Note, Duplicate, Request

What if you could make someone forget their conversation with you? Not that they saw you or talked to you, necessarily, but just what was said.

Friday, May 8, 2015

How to Kill Your Writing Career

An uncounted number of writers start out on fire for their craft. Their mind blazes with new ideas and fantasies. This is it, their time to shine. Then reality strikes. Hard work follows. Rejections and criticism stings. Roadblocks ensue and enthusiasm wanes to a spark. It goes out.

Why?
         
Negativity. Telling yourself, you’re not good enough, that no one likes what you do. Criticism takes its toll and beats you down. “I can’t do it.”

It is hard work, this writing gig, but every day you continue is another day of improving your skill. Let you creativity out and give it free rein to do its will. Write every day, something. Anything. Join a writing club or guild. Listen to crits and accept them as sign markers on the road to Published.

Make good thoughts your journey not your destination.

Take a hint from Taylor Swift and Shake it off, Shake it off.

Free Books. It has become an industry standard, pricing
books at $2.99 and below. Or free.

What is your time worth? Devaluing your work is a plague in this industry. Amazon seems to run on this marketing ploy. Does it work? Or does it cheapen writers.

My Kindle books are regularly priced at $4.99. I will initiate sales from time to time but I won’t go below that amount. In my opinion, to price a book below $3 slots it into the category of Desperate and Inferior. Your books deserve better.

In Cruise Mode. The manuscript is done and you’ve polished it to a high shine. You submit it and an agent wants to know your marketing plan.

You scratch your head. You don’t want to learn how to market. You barely know how to format in Microsoft Word. Social networks leave you disgusted. Besides, it’s time consuming, and you don’t want to take the time to network, blog, or maintain a website. All you want to do is write.

Well, it don’t work that way, minion.

To survive in this World Wide Web market, you must learn to make a name for yourself, to create a platform, and be more than a puff of air. Tech—how to use Google maps, create a website, use Word or other word processing programs, how to Facebook—is unavoidable. You need to continue to improve your writing skills and blog, blog, blog.

This is your resume. It shows the potential agent/publisher/reader that you are serious and worth their time.

Otherwise, you’re just another skiff of cloud scudding across the sky, wind-blown and quickly gone.

Not a hobby. The day you finally have the guts to tell an acquaintance that you are a writer, everything changes. When you make this a business and not a hobby or a feather
in the wind, you become a Writer. It is your job, your career. 
Not a sideline.

“Make it so.” – Captain Jean Luc Picard, Star Trek, the Next Generation.

Marketing. This is the pinnacle of the mountain we are climbing, the last step of the plank. And if you can show me someone who loves this aspect of published author, I would gladly scream, “Are you nuts?”

To promote myself is painful. At family reunions, I’m the quiet introvert in the corner, watching people. I am NOT the one standing in front of a classroom and giving lections on how to become a published author...

...oh wait. That was pre-Wilder Mage. Now, I do give speeches. *shiver*

You must swallow the Nerd and force the Diva into the limelight. Make a name via branding, website, blog. Have a social network. Join a local writers club. Call the schools. See if they need someone to give a lecture on how to write. Do press releases and book signings.

Learn how to YouTube, comment on other blogs, and create email signatures. All of this lends to making a name that stands out. It sells.


Summary. Be and act like a professional writer. Believe in yourself. Never stop learning your craft.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Stalking and Capturing a CP

Or Critique Partners...How to Destroy Them.

pmslweb.com


So you wrote a manuscript, read, re-read, edited, and cut. Now you need a critique partner. Or two. Or three. 

You find several betas/cps and begin the process of exchanging mss.

But one quits. She says she isn’t your type. “It’s me not you.”

Oh, but it’s always you, isn't it.

Talk about a blind date and all the awkwardness involved with meeting strangers. This is much worse. We’re talking about wringing out your mind and handing over that dripping cloth holding your deepest thoughts to someone who you only recognize via a blog.

Copyright issues? Theft? Is that the worst that can happen? Well, yeah probably. But even if that person was on the up and up, there are other issues. Namely, a match that works for both of you.

Reading another’s manuscript involves enthusiasm, knowledge, tact, and, sometimes, determination. Jumping into another writer’s world has consequences and it isn’t pretty. 

Roadblocks spring up and soon you can’t go on. The biggest are:

Genre. A lady came up to me at a book signing event and asked what Wilder Mage was about. I said it concerned a wizard living in modern times who was evading a wizarding guild—

“Stop,” she said. “I don’t read that kind of crap.” She looked a little disgruntled as if I had insulted her by displaying my book.

Ah. Okay then.

If you find a good editing partner, make sure they like and enjoy your genre, especially sci-fi/fantasy. Westerns is another genre snooty people tend to look down their noses.

Knowledge. One of my earliest CPs was ahead of me in style and craft. She read a chapter or two and told me she couldn’t go on. She said I wasn’t in her league and had nothing to offer, indicating I was, well, bad.

And I was. When I started, my writing was upchuck material. I made mistakes but gradually I learned and found many avenues to improve. At this juncture, I am more like the lady who told me the truth, unable to read or enjoy horrible writing. I never took offense at her comment, btw. She was blunt and I understood. Then and now.


Sex. I read and critique nearly everything. YA, NA, contemporary, Sci-Fi, Fantasy. I’ve never edited a memoir, but I wouldn't have a problem with it. I’ve critted bloody scenes while eating a sandwich, toiled through teen-speak, muddled around MG. No problem. But send me a graphic sex scene and I freeze. Erotica and all its minions has passed me by. I can’t, just can’t critique super instructive intercourse. I skip. I turn the page. Can’t.


Finding a match is not easy. Wait. I didn’t say that with enough force. Finding a match is like looking for a single unique grain of sand on a fifty-mile beach. Improbable. Difficult. But someone is out there for you. Keep looking. Heaven blessed me with two.

Gotta CP? Still looking? Do you have a genre or scene that you won’t read or crit?



Monday, May 4, 2015

The Trap that is Politics


Everyone has a view of the world order. Or lack thereof. I don’t doubt it.

But for pity’s sake, don’t express them to your fans unless committing career suicide is your goal.

I see this often. A favored writer going into rant-mode about a law that has or has not passed. Social injustice. Political parties. aIEEEEEE.

Stop. Just stop.

Of course, have an opinion. Research. Have solid facts. Vote. Express your belief to friends and family. 

But don’t spout off to your fans and potential readers.

I dropped one favored author because of his views. Hey, it’s fine to see things differently than I do. I don’t have a problem with that. But saturate your new book with these leanings and I am out of there.

Same with writing blogs. You can bet on offending at least fifty percent of your clientele if you go on a rant-binge.

Facebook. You are violently in favor/disagree with a new law and post a FB-driven news organization’s view on the matter. If I do research and find a reputable news outlet that disputes the Screamer Network, will you read the dissenting view? After reading your vitriol in the comment section, probably not. Unfriend.

Summary. Confine your opinions about explosive issues to close friends and family. Keep an open mind on another’s POV on said matters. Do not spew vitriol and resort to name-calling.

Above all, have an opinion. But realize that others, feeling  just as strongly, might object. And you might lose a reader.


Friday, May 1, 2015

Dear Blocked Writer


Dear Blocked Writer,

Writer's Block is a condition in which a writer loses the ability to write new work. Every writer at one time or another suffers from writer’s block. Some writers may experience it a couple of times a week. Some writers may have writer’s block for months. No matter how long it lasts or how often it comes, writer’s block is a pain in the boo-thang! :P
Causes of Writer's Block: 
1. Creative problems within the work.
2. Lack of inspiration
3. Distraction/procrastination
4. The project is too big for the writer.
5. Physical illness
6. Depression
7. Stress (of any kind)
8. Pressure to write or create a best-seller.
9. Feeling of failure
There is no sure-fire way to break out of writer's block, but here are ten tactics that have helped me over the years:

1.     Read the last chapter or two that you wrote. Sometimes going over your work will get you back into the groove of your book and will motivate you to continue from where you left off.

2.     Write a song or poem for a specific scene in your book to help you tap into the emotion you need to write it. In the end, you may be able to use whole verses from the song or poem you created in your book. That’s a double bonus!

Image from Wikipedia

3.      If you are good with a pencil, draw a picture to help your creative juices flow. This technique is great to help release an image trapped within your mind. Once you get it down on paper in one form, you can do it again in another.

4.      Listen to music. Find songs that hold the same emotion and have the same theme as the event in your book. Then plug in your headphones and let the music call to your muse.

5.      Watch a movie with scenes similar to what you have to write.

6.      Read a book (or five) in the same genre as yours.

7.      Discuss your book with a trusted person to bounce ideas off them. You may be surprised at how helpful a second party can be.

8.      Motivate yourself. Say, “I don’t have writer's block. Nothing can stop me from writing! I can do it!!” 

9.      Step away from your book for awhile:

- Take a nap
- Go for a walk or run
- Work in the garden
- Take a long bath
- Wash the dishes

   Then go back to your book when you’re done and try again.

10.     If all else fails, skip the part you are struggling with and start writing a different  chapter/event instead. Just don’t forget to go back to it later.

BONUS TIP:

Don't give yourself too much to work on. Writing a novel is a big job, but if you keep looking at it as writing four hundred pages (or so), you will shut down. Whenever you sit down to write, don't focus on writing your novel. Worry about the next paragraph that you have to write, not the next chapter. Don't even aim to fill the whole white page. Go sentence by sentence. Or as Anne Lamott would say, "Take it bird by bird."

QUESTION: How do you defeat writer’s block?


Have a writing-related question? Leave a comment and I may turn it into a post right here!




Author of Hurricane Crimes, 30 Seconds, Ghost of Death, and Witch of Death. Blogger. Reader. Auntie. Vegetarian. Cat Lover.