Monthly Archives: June 2014

Every Writer for Him/Herself

Reading the blogs of other writers is something that most writers do – call it professional courtesy, an act of reciprocity or the opportunity to learn something from a peer – it’s part of the job.

When I first started reading the blogs of other writers it sometimes left me feeling a little confused.

lost

Regardless of the topic (editing, publishing, marketing, style, habits, tips, techniques, etc.) it seemed that each blog was giving me different information. At first I wondered who I should believe. Writer “A” picks his editor according to price while writer “B” picks hers based on qualifications, and writer “C” doesn’t use an editor.

So who is right?

It took me a while to figure it out, but the answer is “D” – All of the above.

all of the above

When it comes to writing, the only right way to do it is your way.

Okay…settle down…before you call me an idiot – let me finish…

When I say “your way is the right way” – it is not without qualification, and of course this caveat is strictly my opinion.

Quite simply, before you choose your methods and develop your habits you’ve got to ask yourself one question…

(How many of you were thinking “Do I feel lucky”?)

Lucky

…well as cool as it is to quote Clint – that isn’t the question.

The question is – “Why are you writing?”

Is your goal to produce a cute children’s story that will only be read by your grandchild?

Do you want to eclipse JK Rowling in the “rags-to-riches” category?

Or are you looking for a Nobel Prize in Literature?

nobel prize

Before you answer – remember that your answer will determine your methods.

It’s sort of like me with golf.

I own a set of golf clubs…and I play once or twice a year…and, quite bluntly, I suck at it.

I’m sure I could improve if I practiced more or maybe took a few lessons, but I have no desire to be better. I’m happy with my golf game, such that it is.

Now if beating my brothers was important to me, I’d have to take appropriate measures to improve my game, but it isn’t, so I don’t.

golfing stooges

I don’t mind that my brothers can destroy me on a golf course, and my brothers don’t seem to care that I can write books while they can’t.

So it’s all good.

Back to you and your methods…if you’re writing for fun, it’s okay if you don’t use an editor, or market your books aggressively or pay $500 for a cover design.

On the other hand, if you envision yourself sipping wine, and calling your agent from your yacht to discuss the terms of your big Hollywood movie deal – you may want to rethink your strategy.

It’s this simple – you will never get more out of writing than you are willing to put into it.

This is why I rarely offer advice on my blog. My methods are just that…my methods. They seem to be working for me…for now…

…your results may vary.

 

As always – thank you for reading

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Enter to win signed copy of Chasing Butterflies in the Magical garden

My friend Jorja wants to give away five copies of her book…

jorjao2013

Dear Friends,

I have five signed paperback books, they are just sitting waiting to be read. You know the saying if you love something set it free…(Truth is, I am a book hoarder, and I need to do some giveaway’s!)

I have promotional work to do before Chasing Butterflies in the Mystical Forest is released this fall-2014.  I decided to give away five signed copies of Chasing Butterflies in the Magical Garden. It does help to have the first in the series before you purchase the second-right? All it takes to enter:

A picture of YOUR magical garden. Also you and other viewers will get to pick the top five, I will post them to this site and the voting will begin. You have until June 30, 2014 to submit your photo.

Send the picture to email address jorjao@msn.com on subject line type GARDEN ENTRY also include your mailing address as to where I need to ship the book  to with the full name of the recipient.

Yours…

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An Author’s Lament; With Promise of an Upbeat Sequel

My friend Susan Toy (yes, the same one mentioned in the following post) shared this post with me. It is an excellent reminder to every independent author out there that, no matter how futile it may seem at times, the only way to reach your goal, whatever that goal may be, is to keep working.
Working hard and promoting yourself is actually harder than writing the book…but as soon as you stop doing it your book(s) will begin that long, lonely descent into oblivion.
Don’t let that happen.

Betty Jane Hegerat

Someone on the Writers’ Union forum posted a link to this interesting piece into a journalist’s journey into self-publishing yesterday. http://nyti.ms/1w2v6Gg — from “I Was a Digital Bestseller!  by Tony Horwitz from the NY Times, June 19 2014. Not a lot of resonance for me in the piece because journalism, actually making a living from writing is a different sack of cats from my quest to write fiction that will live on in the annals of Canlit. But this small excerpt from the article lit my fire: “FIVE months ago I published a short book called “Boom.” Commercially it was a bust. No news in that: Most books lose money and are quickly forgotten by all but their wounded authors.”

Absolutely true. Most authors know that their books will not only lose money, but they themselves will subsidize their ephemeral creation. Small regional presses are often described as “not for…

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The Inspired Mic Recap

The Inspred Mic is a local event allowing area writers to showcase their work each month. I’ve been participating fairly regularly (https://blindoggbooks.wordpress.com/2013/08/21/things-i-learned-at-the-inspired-mic/ ) and it has helped me in many aspects of my work. Fortuantely, Flagler Beach has enough talented people to make this event a perpetual success.
I’m sure I speak for all the participants when I say “Thank you” to founder and organizer Michael Ray King.

Michael Ray King

loglineTuesday night allowed over thirty people to revel in local creativity. Gathered at the BeachHouse Beanery in Flagler Beach, Florida, twelve talented souls placed their work live before an audience eager to hear what creative juices had flowed through their fingers/hearts/minds in the past month. Here’s a quick rundown:

Gi Arena (http://babyboomersagas.com/) delivered a short piece of writing from her blog about a “Manhattan Special” and her desire for a time machine…

Jim Harter brought his poetry to the ocean, but also broke into song a number of times. Jim’s upbeat and heartfelt poetry always aims to entertain, and this evening was no different. His newest book of poetry was just released on June 6th and can be purchased at Heartfelt Thoughts Chapters Eight and Nine.

Tovah Janovsky shared a lifelong love/fear relationship with the ocean with riveting accounts of undertow and serene and beautiful appreciation of the…

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The Butterfly and the Dragon

My friend and fellow author Becky Pourchot has a few thoughts about career paths, happiness, butterflies and F. Scott Fitzgerald – I’m sure there are lots of Indie Authors out there who have had similar thoughts.

The Transparent Author

butterfly

I recently attended a class by Ali Rodriguez, a local business consultant who spoke on “Passion to the Fifth Power”. Her lecture, though business in nature, felt more like the words of some sort of Indian yogi than someone teaching us how to get rich quick. I liked her right away.

Ali’s shtick was all about overcoming fear, finding self-confidence, and listening to your gut. She said turn off the voices around you and focus on what you want, not what everyone else wants for you.

Here’s what I know about me: My outside voices are loud. In regards to business they’re constantly telling me, “You should be marketing more. You should be on Twitter. You should be doing book tours. You should, you should, you should.”

But when I step back from those voices and listen to my heart I hear, “Write, write, write. Spend time with your…

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Is Bad the New Good? No, but it’s Important in Writing Your Characters

They say a writer’s life is spent either “writing, or thinking about writing”

snoopy3

…and I can personally attest to the accuracy of this statement, both from my own experience and from the testimony of the dozens of writers I have the pleasure of knowing.

So it should come as no surprise that one of the most treasured commodities for the independent author is extra writing time. Most of us have to fit our writing time in between a day job and a host of other adult-like responsibilities. Logically, it is easy to understand how most indie authors will go into a tail-spin of depression when an opportunity to crank out a couple-thousand extra words is missed.

writer's clock

This happened to me this week.

When I left work last Friday my “big plans” for the weekend were to plow through the most recent set of editorial comments for my next bookEyewitness Blues”, which is scheduled for release in August, and to write a new short story for an anthology I’m working on called “Path of a Bullet.”

When I woke up Saturday morning with a sore throat and a stuffy nose I didn’t really think much of it, I turned on the computer and sat down ready to give it hell…

After an hour-and-a-half, and a word count of about twelve…I realized that the sore throat and stuffy nose were a little worse than I had given them credit for. I made the executive decision to write Saturday off (no pun intended), get some rest and be back at the keyboard bright and early Sunday morning “greased and ready to kick ass” (to quote Sha-Na-Na).

You know what they say about the best laid plans, right?

Sunday was worse than Saturday.

watching TV

I was pretty much confined to the couch going through the contents of my DVR. Not one word written, but I did think about writing, for whatever that’s worth. On the bright side, I now have lots of free space for the recording of future programs.

The score for the weekend stood at illness – 2 days…word count – 12.

Monday was no better. I called in sick and made my way back to the couch for another date with my television…but now there’s a problem…I’ve pretty much wiped out my DVR and I’m not in the mood for watching movies on DVD, as this would entail having to get up every 90 minutes or so to put in a new one. I’m sure as hell not going to watch daytime TV, as this would entail…watching daytime TV.

Then I remembered…

Somebody had “loaned” me the entire first season of a NetFlix program called Orange is the New Black.

orange

The thumb drive had been sitting on my desk for months, but I had never gotten around to watching it. I figured it was serendipity…

I plugged the thumb drive into my TV (it’s a very smart TV) and started my binge.

Thus went my Monday…twelve-plus hours of watching a show about a women’s federal prison.

The series is based on the real-life memoir Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman. Kerman is a self-proclaimed WASP from a wealthy Boston family who spent a year in prison for money laundering and drug trafficking.

I’m not writing this post to give my opinion of the show, but I will say it’s pretty good. It succeeds in giving the viewer something to watch with a little more substance than The World’s Wildest Police Videos, Survivor or American Idol without resorting to the cliché images about women’s prisons…but it falls a bit short of some of my favorite shows…The Sons of Anarchy, Justified and Hell on Wheels.

That being said – one thing that impressed me about the show was the handling of the protagonist, inmate Piper Chapman (the fictionalized version of author Kerman). It must be quite a challenge to write a story where the good guy is a convicted felon, thus making them, by most standards, a bad guy.

Since the show revolves around her I, mistakenly, assumed that Piper would go through her trials and tribulations and come out on the other side a better person for it – and the rest of the characters would come to accept her and realize that they had misunderstood her the whole time.

I was pleasantly surprised when this didn’t happen.

In fact, by the end of season one, almost the exact opposite is true (no spoilers here). The writers did a great job of making it difficult to assign the good guy/bad guy labels to any particular character. The viewer will find themselves rooting both for and against almost every character at one point or another.

That’s good writing.

My point is this – I think we, the book-reading, movie-going, TV-watching public have been brainwashed into accepting, as fact, that our protagonists are “the good guys” and that they always help the old lady across the street, retrieve the kitten from the tree and restore order to the universe.

It’s a romantic notion, to be sure, but come on…we know better.

To use my favorite show, The Sons of Anarchy, as an example…the show’s protagonist, Jax Teller, is seriously flawed, but we root for him nonetheless.

jax

We see both sides of him. We can identify, on some level, with his inner turmoil, because it’s something we’ve all dealt with. We have all been in situations where it seemed like the only way to do the right thing was by doing the wrong thing.

It’s an inevitable element of the human condition – and therefore we shouldn’t ignore it in our writing.

As writers we naturally want readers to enjoy our stories. I could be wrong about this, but it seems to me that the level of enjoyment is greatly increased when the characters seem more like real people than some unattainably perfect androids.

I’m not saying bad is the new good…but you can add so much depth to your protagonist by sprinkling some flaws into his/her personality—that is to say, give them a dark side. Likewise, you can also make your antagonists ring truer if they exhibit a touch of humanity now and then, i.e. a light side. Don’t be afraid to let your characters be who they are…as opposed to who they’re supposed to be.

If you make the good guys too easy to like and the bad guys too easy to hate, you aren’t challenging your readers (or yourself), which will leave them unsatisfied, even if they don’t fully understand why.

Challenge them. Make them like your story, but make them work for it.

I think they’ll appreciate it.

I know I’m not preaching anything new, I just thought a friendly reminder never hurt.

So, I wasted three days of potential writing time and all I have to show for it is this blog post…it doesn’t make up for the words that should have been written, but hopefully the overall lesson will be a fair trade-off.

 

As always – thank you for reading

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When Is A Book Like A Building?

In the writing world there is an ongoing debate over HOW a book should be written. It separates writers into two distinct camps…

Planners – those who outline their entire book, down to the smallest detail, before they start writing

Pantsers – those who pretty much make it up as they go along (as in “flying by the seat of their pants”)

plan v pants

If I had to pick which category I fall into – I would call myself a plantser… I have a bit of a plan, and I try to follow it, but sometimes I go a little off course.

Plantser

I have no formal training in writing, unless you count a high school journalism class and a semester of creative writing in college, so when I started writing my first novel, Living the Dream, I did it the way that felt natural to me.

Living the DreamI had no idea of where the story was going.
I knew that the bad guy, Kurt, was going to go through a lot of crap, which would hopefully teach him a valuable life lesson. The same for the other three main characters, Vicky, Jimmy and Leslie – I knew that they, too, would learn important lessons, but I didn’t know how those lessons would be taught.
In fact, when I started writing it, Leslie wasn’t even part of the story. She was created about a third of the way through the book because I realized there was a void in the story. It wasn’t until I finished the first draft that I realized what else needed to be changed…and again after the second draft.

The way I usually sum up my writing style is by using the analogy of a cross-country road trip.
I get in the car at Point A – knowing that I want to end up at Point B – but I have no specific route in mind. I just head off in the general direction of my destination and enjoy the trip.

road trip
When I tell this to people, they sometimes think, mistakenly, that I am endorsing my particular method over another.
I’m not.
I don’t consider myself qualified to tell anybody how they should write a book. I believe that every author, or potential author, should use the method they feel most comfortable with.

I don’t believe there is any right method – or wrong one.

Let’s look at it using a different analogy, the construction of a building.
The construction of a building is a complicated process which begins long before work-boots hit the ground. Naturally, one of the most important elements in the process is the drawing of plans (blueprints, if you will, even though it’s technically an incorrect term).

floor plan
After spending more than twenty years drawing plans for buildings of every conceivable size and type, I can tell you this…unless the plans are a complete train wreck – the building will get built regardless of how much effort was put into them.

Like writers, Architects’ styles vary…no two are alike.
There are Architects out there who try to anticipate every potential problem that could arise during construction, and take measures to avoid them by including pages and pages of details in their plans.

bldg 1Sometimes it works…sometimes it doesn’t.

Then there are those who include only the barest essentials when it comes to details using the attitude “It’ll be worked out in the field.”
Sometimes it works…sometimes it doesn’t.

architectureNeither method can guarantee the quality of the finished product. Buildings are built everyday using one method or the other. When John Q. Public enters a newly constructed shopping mall he doesn’t know what the plans looked like or how many times the original concept was changed, or why
He only sees the building. He might like it…he might hate it…but his opinion of the finished product will have little, if anything, to do with the plans used to build it.
The same can be said about novels. You can write a forty page outline before you start, or just start writing without a clue as to where your story will go…the book buying public will never know which method you used.
If you read enough blogs and how-to posts you may feel like you have to pick one method or another.
Don’t believe it. Do it the way you feel most comfortable.
Your readers will only know the finished product.
So, regardless of your method…give them the best damn book you can.

review
They might like it…they might hate it – but if it’s your best effort you did all you can do.

As always – thank you for reading

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