Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Business of Writing: Moving into Success Mode

Editor's Note: Please welcome Linda Rohrbough back to the blog. It's so wonderful to have her contributing again, and what a timely subject.

By: Linda Rohrbough

I recently listened to several new writers, (and by new, I mean pre-published) talk about the struggles they were going through. They were polite and respectful, but my condensed version of their monologue was “what you said didn’t work.” Meaning they didn’t sell their work even though they followed my plan, got in front of agents, and got a “send it.”

Discouraged was putting it mildly. They had a throw-up-your-hands, what’s-a-body-to-do attitude. They did admit they felt like they had won the lotto when they executed my advice and got a send it (after using my pitching formula). But once they got turned down, the publishing world became all gray and gloomy again for them.

I know no one wants to hear this, but there’s a term for this mode. It’s called victim.
Here’s the truth. There are people like me who cheer others on, and I’m happy to do it. Giving you formulas and keys to help you move toward your goals is part of who I am.

But folks, bestselling authors are not order-takers. If you’re waiting for someone to tell you what to do and how to do it, then what happens when you hit an obstacle you’ve never seen before? (You may hit an obstacle no one has seen before, or at least one no one will admit to seeing before.) Part of the reason bestselling authors get paid so well is they are risk-takers. They are willing to get out there and fail, then get up again and try. 

They are not victims.

Yes, life is unfair. Yes, ouch, it hurts when you get a "no thanks." Or the same advice, again. (Which, by the way, you need to listen to, especially if you keep hearing the same thing over and over. Repetition of the same comment from different people is a major clue to solving your problem.)

One of the principles I teach in my workshops is the game changes at each stage. If you’ve figured out how to get a send it from agents or editors, then you’ve moved into a new stage. And the game changes. It’s not over. It’s never over. You’re just at a new level.

I recently had a skin treatment for some scarring on my arms, which involves micro-injuries. Turns out micro-injuries produce healing and great results. After treatment with an electric “pen” that pokes my skin with nine tiny needles really, really fast, the injuries made stimulate my brain and nervous system to send healing resources. 

Does it hurt? You betcha. It hurts more hours later because they numb you during the process. It feels and looks like a bad sunburn, and peels like one, too. But the end result over time is firmer skin, reduced or eliminated scarring, and overall glowing health. There are several treatments involved that are six weeks apart, so this is not a fast process.

The fact that micro-injuries cause pain and it's not a fast process is a great metaphor for life, and it especially applies for life as an author. Any published author can tell you the micro-injuries are many along the way. And some injuries are not so micro. They limit the time they spend in “poor me” victim mode and instead find a way to use the stuff that hurts to move themselves forward. If you can roll with the micro-injuries, they can be healing for you and strengthen you as an author. The key is letting the injuries produce the results.

My goal with this article is to help you set your expectations, see these events as stepping stones, so you can be successful.

So, my pre-published friends, and my published friends, consider an attitude adjustment. Because, in reality, our ultimate choice in life, no matter what happens, is to choose our attitude. Success requires it, and that’s how you enter success mode.

Bio: Linda Rohrbough has been writing since 1989, and has more than 5,000 articles and seven books to her credit, along with writing for television, and seven national awards for her fiction and non-fiction. An iPhone App of Linda’s popular “Pitch Your Book” workshop is available in the Apple iTunes store. Find her on Facebook as "Linda Rohrbough - Author" or visit her website: www.LindaRohrbough.com.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Resist the Urge to Explain: Another Take

By: Terry Odell

A while back, JT Evans contributed a post about the acronym R.U.E., or “Resist the Urge to Explain,” giving it a definition I’d never heard before. I thought I’d share my take on the subject with a more traditional explanation.

As authors, we want to make sure our reader’s “get it,” so we tend to go overboard with information, explaining far too much.

Here’s an example: "Mary laughed so hard, she was afraid she'd pulled a stomach muscle. Susie had just told the funniest joke Mary had ever heard."  The second sentence isn't needed; it's explaining something the reader would be able to figure out in context.

Another pitfall—telling something, then going on to show it. Let's say you're beginning to understand the "show don't tell" advice everyone gives you, and you do put the action on the page. For the sake of example, a simplistic passage might be written as follows:

After Bill cancelled their date, claiming his aunt was sick, Mary was depressed. She took one bite of chocolate cake, then pushed the plate away.

The second sentence shows what the first tells. If you find this in your writing, use your delete key on that first sentence. A better approach:

Mary had been looking forward to her date with Bill for weeks, but he'd cancelled, giving some excuse about a sick aunt. She moved the chocolate cake around the plate with her fork, then pushed it away.

The reader gets the information, and can see that Mary's depressed without having to be told. You can use the same to show other emotions. Maybe Mary was angry, not depressed, after Bill cancelled. Maybe she throws the whole cake against the wall.

What about this?

Mary's feet felt like lead. She couldn't run fast enough to escape the man chasing behind her.

Cut the first sentence. You don't need both. What about:  Mary ran, but her feet refused to move fast enough to escape the man chasing her. Or, Mary's feet moved as though encased in lead shoes.

Sometimes, we tell the reader too much.


Mary twirled up two strands of spaghetti and waited for the excess sauce to drip onto her plate. Leaning forward, she manipulated the fork into her mouth, then wiped her mouth with her napkin. She was a very careful eater because she hated getting stains on her clothes.

Don't insult your reader with the last sentence. No need to explain. We can see for ourselves Mary is a meticulous eater.

Another common place writers need to Resist the Urge to Explain is in dialogue. Too often, we tack on tags or beats that tell the reader what the dialogue has already shown. Are you adding adverbs to your dialogue tags?

"I'm sorry," Tom said apologetically.

Those adverbs are usually signals that you're telling something the dialogue should be showing. They're propping up your dialogue, and if it needs propping, it wasn't strong enough to begin with. All that 'scaffolding' merely calls attention to the weak structure beneath.

Will your reader notice these differences? Probably not, but they might not enjoy the read even if they can't explain why. However, agents and editors are tuned into them, and if you're submitting, you don't want to send up any red flags.

Check your manuscript for 'emotion' words, especially if they're preceded by "was" or include "felt." Are you describing your character's feelings? Don't tell us how your character feels. Show us.

Check your dialogue tags and beats. Are they consistent with the words being spoken? If so, you don't need them. If not, your readers will be confused, trying to reconcile dialogue with the action.

Readers are smart. Don't patronize them by 'talking down' to them.

About the Author:  Terry Odell always wanted to "fix" stories she read so the characters did what she wanted. Once she began writing, she found this wasn't always possible, as the mystery she intended to write became a romance—a real surprise, since she'd never read a romance. Terry writes mystery and romantic suspense, but calls them all "Mysteries With Relationships." Her 20+ published works include the Blackthorne, Inc. covert ops series, the Pine Hills Police series, the Triple-D Ranch series, and the Mapleton Mystery series. Her awards include the Silver Falchion and HOLT Medallion, among others.



Sunday, January 15, 2017

Quote of the Week and the Week to Come

No one can write decently who is distrustful of the reader’s intelligence or whose attitude is patronizing ~ E.B. White

E.B. White & his dog Minnie
Source: Wikipedia

“E.B.” White, July 11, 1899-October 1, 1985, was an American writer. He was a contributor to The New Yorker and a co-author of the English language style guide, The Elements of Style, which is commonly known as “Strunk & White.” He also wrote books for children, including Stuart Little (1945), Charlotte’s Web (1952), and The Trumpet of the Swan (1970).



This Week on Writing from the Peak



Jan 16          Resist the Urge to Explain (Another Take) by Terry Odell



Jan 18          Moving into Success Mode by Linda Rohrbough



Jan 20          Sweet Success Celebrates Aaron Ritchey


Friday, January 13, 2017

Sweet Success Celebrates Patrick Hester

By: Ann S. Hill

On December 13, 2016, Patrick Hester’s essay I’m Pretty Sure I’ve Read This Before was released in the anthology Upside Down:Inverted Tropes in Storytelling. The anthology of 366 pages was released by Apex Publications. (ISBN-10: 1937009440 and ISBN-13: 978-1937009441) It is available in eBook and in soft and hard cover. Following is Patrick’s description of the work and his author bio:

Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling. An anthology of short stories, poetry, and essays edited by Monica Valentinelli and Jaym Gates. Over two-dozen authors, ranging from NYT-bestsellers and award winners to debut writers, chose a tired trope or cliche to challenge and surprise readers through their work. Read stories inspired by tropes such as the Chainmaille Bikini, Love at First Sight, Damsels in Distress, Yellow Peril, The Black Man Dies First, The Villain Had a Crappy Childhood, The Singularity Will Cause the Apocalypse, and many more...then discover what these tropes mean to each author to find out what inspired them.

Patrick Hester is an author, blogger and two-time Hugo Award Winner. He lives in Colorado, writes science fiction and fantasy, and can usually be found hanging out on his Twitter feed. His debut novel, SAMANTHA KANE: INTO THE FIRE is forthcoming from WordFire Press. His short fiction can be found in the anthologies Space Battles: Full-Throttle Space Tales #6 and An Uncommon Collection, as well as the eBooks Conversations with my Cat, Witchcraft & Satyrs, Consumption, Cahill's Homecoming (Cord Cahill Serials Book 1) and Cahill's Unfinished Business (Cord Cahill Serials Book 2).


-Website www.atfmb.com

-Where to buy/read website

Blog: All Things From My Brain: http://www.atfmb.com
The Functional Nerds Podcast: http://www.functionalnerds.com 
The SFSignal Podcast: http://www.sfsignal.com

Skype: guitarbluesman

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Process of Writing a Historical Novel Blog 1

By: Jason Evans

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Was your holiday restful? Was it crazy and fun? Did you have to put out a lot of dysfunctional family fires? Regardless of whether or not you enjoyed your holidays, they are now over. Time to get to work on that book. More importantly, it’s time to start working on that book of historical fiction.

Over the course of 2017, I will blog about my process of writing a historical novel. It could be action, romance, mystery or any genre grounded in the history. We will cover ALL the steps required to finish your novel. From concept to research to organization to publication. We will cover it all.

In addition, if I bring up something here that you wish I could discuss further, simply cross over to www.jason-evans.net for further details. On my website, I will go into further details about all the stuff you’ll read here, first. But enough of my shameless self-promotion!

YOUR BIG IDEA.

Have you ever watched a television show or film and thought, hey! That’s an interesting character! I want to learn more about her! Or, have you ever read a magazine article and thought, Wow! That was a really fascinating time period! I wonder how they would have reacted to ________________?

These are the beginning of story ideas. Ideas that you can chew on in your head and develop into novels that other people will read.

Stephen King was working a custodial job at his high school when he was asked to help out in the girl’s locker room. He saw the little metal boxes for tampons in the shower stalls and thought, What would happen if a woman had her first period, here, in the shower stall? From that Carrie was born.

Lin-Manuel Miranda was on vacation and read Ron Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton, which inspired the hit Broadway musical, Hamilton. Inspiration is all around you.

Maybe you only have a character in your head. A scrappy young heroine, or a grizzled, bitter veteran of a thousand campaign. Maybe you have a setting that excites you, like Mexico City as the U.S. Army is about to attack it in September or 1847. The intrigue! The tension!

Maybe you only have an event in your mind. You see a sad woman all dressed in antique white lace about to put a veil on and walk down an aisle. Why is she sad? Will she marry for duty? Does she wish a loved one was there to see her marry? What’s going on?

Whatever kernel of a story you have, at least it’s a beginning. There is something about that character, that event, or that place that excites you, gives you the flutters, and motivates your story. Now it’s time to tease it out.

Before I go on, let me just say I am a BIG fan of Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat trilogy of screen writing books. I will refer to his wisdom often during our writing journey. Here is my first ode to Save the Cat. You gotta have a log line.

A Log line is a simple couple of sentences or short paragraph that describes what your story is about. It is really important you have this down before you go writing, willy-nilly. Let me explain why.

Chiefly, I don’t want you to get excited and go write a kernel of a story. I want you to write the whole blasted thing. Writing your log line will help you create an antagonist, a conflict and a hero’s journey.



But Jason,” you say, “I’m not a planner, I’m a pantser! I don’t organize anything when I write.” My response is this: “I’m just asking you to write 3-5 sentences, so you can anchor your story, give it some depth. I’m not asking you to write a five-page outline with subplots detailed out and 50 pages of written back story. Writing a log line will help focus you as you write the opening chapters of your book. But there’s another reason why you should write your log line.

I want you to go up to people you know and read them the logline. Do they get as excited as you do? Do they think it’s a good idea for a book? If so, you probably have something workable as a story. If you don’t, figure out why. Is it because your ideas aren’t fully formed or is it because you weren’t clear about how awesome your story is?

Both are fixable. But do you want to know the REAL reason you should write a logline?

If you pitch to editors and agents, you’ll have to come up with a logline, anyway. A quick way to give them a synopsis of your book. It is better to do it now, before it’s written, then to do what I did and write it afterward.

See, I was so proud that I had written a book. So proud of my dialogue, my subplots, and my twists, that I blathered on about the characters and the challenges they faced. I talked about the minor characters, the historical events it surrounds, and everything but the conflict, the heroes, and the road they walked.

Don’t be like me.

If you write the logline now, then it will act like a compass, a beacon, that will guide you back to your book’s true purpose. If you feel like what you’re writing is true to your logline, but you just don’t like it, then change your logline to better reflect the story you want!

A logline should have the following:

An adjective to describe the protagonist
An adjective to describe the antagonist
A compelling goal we identify with as human beings
It should offer the most conflict in the situation
Show the protagonist has the longest way to go emotionally.  

Proud Farmer’s daughter (adjectives describing protagonist) Elizabeth mean girl Sue always picking on her. (adjective describing antagonist,) But the Founders Day picnic is coming up and Elizabeth has the fastest horse in the county. She’ll show Sue, she’ll show everyone when she wins the blue ribbon. (Compelling goal: vindication, revenge, respect of peers,) There’s only one problem, Elizabeth’s father won’t let her compete. (Most conflict: How can I win if Pa won’t let me?) He says such competitiveness is sinful pride, that Elizabeth should love her enemies. But Dad doesn’t understand. Will Elizabeth defy her father to save her pride, or allow Sue to humiliate her again? While Elizabeth chooses, she learns what true respect and love really are.
  
I hope this has been helpful. Next month, we’ll talk about organizing, shaping and sanding out your story so all your characters have depth, your conflicts are intense and the stakes are high.

Come over to my site at www.jason-evans.net if you want to learn more about the logline and how to twist your story concept so it’s more compelling. There, I’ll also explain how I got inspired to write my first unpublished novel, The Gallowglass.


About the Author:  Jason Evans always wanted to be a writer, he just didn't know it. He grew up in Pasadena, California, in the 1980s where he watched way too much television, but was introduced to literature by his grandfather and his favorite middle school and high school teachers. He wasted his youth working at the So Cal Renaissance Faire (a dangerous place because it’s the gateway drug to other historical costumes,). In his leisure time he’s an educator, a writer, and a bon vivant. He is a graduate of UC Santa Barbara, with degrees in History & Renaissance Studies, a teaching credentials from CSU Los Angeles, as well as a graduate degree from the University of Colorado, Denver. He currently resides in Denver with his wife, the fetching Mrs. Evans, their three dogs and a mischievous cat who calls him his thrall. 

You can visit Jason at his website at www.jason-evans.net
You can like his author page on Facebook at Jason Henry Evans
Follow him on Twitter @evans_writer


Monday, January 9, 2017

Meet Pikes Peak Writers Member J.T. Evans

Today on Meet the Member, I'm bringing you an interview from Pikes Peak Writers President, J.T. Evans. We all know J.T. in his leadership capacity, but what do we really know about his writing career? Let's find out!

Kathie Scrimgeour:  How long have you been writing and what genre do you prefer to write?

J.T. Evans:  I’ve been writing on and off since I was 10 years old. I got serious about my writing efforts in 2006 and haven’t stopped since then. I prefer to write fantasy, urban fantasy, horror, and science fiction.


Kathie Scrimgeour: Do you have anything in particular you are working on right now? Tell us a little about it.

J.T. Evans:  I just finished up edits on two novels and am editing a third. For the actual writing part of things, I’m about to launch into sword & sorcery-style fantasy involving two reluctant vagabonds saving their neighborhood from a dangerous gang that is preying upon the children of the area under the direction of a secret cult.

Kathie Scrimgeour: Have you set any goals for your publication date?

J.T. Evans:  For the two novels that I just finished edits on, I’m hoping one comes out spring of 2017 (Griffin’s Feather – Urban Fantasy) followed by early fall of 2017 (Warmaiden – Fantasy) for the other. I don’t have a date for the book I’m about to write as I’m just now getting into it.

Kathie Scrimgeour: Do you set daily, weekly, or monthly writing goals? If yes, what are they? What do you do to ensure you meet these goals?

J.T. Evans: I used to set word count goals for myself, but if I missed even one day (or week) of hitting the goal, I’d get discouraged and I found that my productivity would go down. Some people thrive on word count goals, but I’ve discovered I’m not one of them. I don’t write every day, but I try to do something creative each day. When I seriously get into writing a novel, I can usually do 3,000 to 4,000 words each day, which makes me incredibly happy. I sometimes will burn a vacation day from the Day Job to sit down and try to hit 10,000 words (or more!) in a day.

Kathie Scrimgeour:  If you have a completed manuscript/story/poem/flash have you submitted it yet? What have the results been? How do you get past the "No's"? What do your reject letters say? What best advice, or lessons learned, have you gotten from them?

J.T. Evans:  As I’ve mentioned, I have a fantasy novel under contract and a separate urban fantasy under contract as well. Both are with different publishing houses. The fantasy received over 140 rejections before I found a home for it. The urban fantasy landed almost 90 rejections before someone loved it as much as I do. Writing a novel is the easy part of this career. Handling the rejections is the hardest part, but it’s necessary to find the right home. I want a publisher to love my stories as much as I do. Many form rejection letters mention something along the lines of “reading is subjective, so my rejection doesn’t mean your work is of low quality,” and these words are very true. I’m very certain that my favorite book of all time won’t line up with someone else’s tastes. That’s perfectly okay because it takes a wide variety of people in this world to keep life interesting.

Kathie Scrimgeour:  What does success mean to you?

J.T. Evans:  There are different levels of this. Finishing a story is one success. Selling it is another. Making a living from writing is yet another one. For me, the validation of selling a story is success for me. This means that someone else out there in the world agrees with me that the words I’ve produced are worthy of editing and publication.

Kathie Scrimgeour:  Does success scare you or motivate you?

J.T. Evans:  100% motivation for me. I’ve always been driven to excel and improve. Success is just an indicator of that drive.

Kathie Scrimgeour: What do you do when procrastination is winning over writing?

J.T. Evans:  I have to be honest here. I’ve rarely have this problem. When I realize that I’ve spent the last 10 minutes on Facebook, I shake my head at myself, close the browser tab, and flip back to my writing project. Most of my procrastination efforts have been very minor. Usually it’s a case of I need to step away from the work and let my subconscious mull things over for a few minutes.

Kathie Scrimgeour: Writing conferences, workshops, and critique groups are an important part of the new writer's experiences (and more experienced writers too!). How have they helped you?

J.T. Evans:  Without the support group that I’ve found through my past critique group, my current critique group, Pikes Peak Writers, and others, I would not be writing today. My list of concrete items of how I’ve been helped would go on for pages, but the number one thing they’ve done for me is to support me and hold me up when my own self-doubts clouded my mind.

Kathie Scrimgeour: Do you attend the events and, if so, which ones are your favorites?

J.T. EvansI attend as many Write Brains and Writers’ Nights as I can get my hands on. I usually only attend the Open Critique when I’m a guest critiquer. I don’t want to take one of the eight slots from someone else because I already have a regular critique group. As I’ve already mentioned, the “Tools in the Toolbox” Write Brain has a warm spot in my heart because of the quality of the presentation.

Kathie Scrimgeour: Do you have any "self-help for writers" books that you use regularly? How do they help? Please share your list of your top 2 or 3.

J.T. EvansI have dozens of them. I used to have almost 100, but I’ve donated, gifted, or given away many of them that I won’t get further use from. My top ones are:

1.    On Writing – Steven King
2.    Dialogue – Gloria Kempton
3.    39 Most Common Writing Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them) – Jack Bickham

Kathie Scrimgeour:  Does your reading influence your writing? How?

J.T. Evans:  I’m sure it does, but I can’t put my finger on it. I don’t write fan-fic, and I certainly don’t intentionally “steal ideas,” but I’m certain my concepts of what makes a good story is influenced by what I read.

Kathie Scrimgeour:  If you met someone who was thinking about starting to write, what advice would you give them?

J.T. EvansDon’t quit. Follow your passion. You can’t “find time.” You have to make time to do the things you love.

Kathie Scrimgeour: What is one (or a few) of the most important lessons you have learned so far?

J.T. Evans:  Be nice. It goes a long ways in all relationships. I’ve had doors opened for me that would normally be closed off because I was nice to someone.

Kathie Scrimgeour: What expertise in your background do you draw on in your writing? (e.g. were you a photographer, chef, court reporter, FBI agent?)

J.T. Evans:  My martial arts background (armed and unarmed) has served me very well in writing the multitude of fight scenes that I throw into my stories.

J.T. is all over the internet...check it out! 


Email: jt@jtevans.net

Social media pages:



Interested in being interviewed by Kathie Scrimgeour for Meet the Member? Contact her at kjscrimwriter@gmail.com 

About the Author: Kathie Scrimgeour writes under the name K.J. Scrim and has been a member of Pikes Peak Writers since 2013. She has volunteered at the last two PPW conferences and coordinates the Sweet Success column. Kathie is a self-taught writer who delves into fantasy, fiction, and historical fiction. Her debut fantasy novel,The Manx, is scheduled to release later in 2017. She lives outside of Denver with her family, two dogs, and a crazy cat.






Sunday, January 8, 2017

Quote of the Week and the Week to Come


Where the spirit does not work with the hand, there is no art. ~ Leonardo da Vinci



Source: Wikipedia -- Artist Francesco Melzi 

Leonard di ser Piero da Vinci, April 1452-May 1519, was more commonly known as Leonard da Vinci or simply Leonardo. He was an Italian polymath whose areas of interest included invention, painting, sculpting, architecture, science, music, mathematics, engineering, literature, anatomy, geology, astronomy, botany, writing, history and cartography. He is widely considered the greatest painter of all time, and many historians and scholars regard Leonardo as the prime example of a “Universal Genius” or Renaissance Man.


This week on Writing from the Peak:


Jan 9            Meet the Member J.T. Evans



Jan 11          Writing your History Novel by Jason Evans (Blog 1)



Jan 13          Sweet Success Celebrates Patrick Hester