How to survive becoming an Author…week 5…Surviving Getting Started

So you’re finally ready to sit down and write that novel. It’s been burning in your soul, playing out in your dreams like an Oscar winning movie. You’ve envisioned your characters, what they look like, how they dress, even how they talk. But now in that perfect moment as you look at the un-written white screen in front of you, you draw a blank. The white space on your screen does nothing to inspire the fact that you only have 40,000 to 80,000 words left before you can consider yourself completed.

YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

Getting the ball rolling on this type of project is never easy, not even for the most experienced writer. But there are ways of overcoming the blank, and there is no set preference on how to organize your thoughts. But here are some examples and tips that might help you get moving along in no time.

1)      Outline. Nothing is better in the beginning as organizing your thoughts. Start from the beginning, what happens, then what, how does the first thing affect the next? I’ll give you a simple scenario.

  1. Jack and Jill climb a hill.
    1. They were carrying a pail
    2. They were fetching water (or hard liquor, hard to say)
  2. Jack fell down in a drunken stupor
    1. Broke his crown (damn drunk)
    2. Which caused Jill to tumble down after (no doubt cussing continuously)

2)      Thought Bubbles. This technique is a bit more graphical. It entails writing down your basic idea of your book and circling it. From that idea, you write a corresponding thought on that idea and circle it, drawing a line from idea one to idea two, and so on. It’s really hard to show this idea but a cool example can be found by following this link, http://s3.amazonaws.com/heroku-ldatschool/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/12201259/Web-of-linked-thought-bubbles-demonstrating-an-example-of-a-concept-map..png

3)      Free Writing. This is the preferred method of yours truly. It is simple yet effective. All you do is sit and write whatever comes into your head. No structure, punctuation, grammar rules, paragraphs, or even correct spelling is needed. Just write whatever pops into your brain. Run-on sentences, go for it, gibberish, go for it, Pig Latin, whatever! Whatever it takes to just simply put your fingers on the keyboard and keep writing until you slowly find that you are getting into your groove! Then return to the screen and make that magic happen!

4)      Cut and Paste. So you know where you are going with the story, but you’re not entirely how you’re going to get there. But you know exactly how one scene will play out. So, write your scene. Sometime while you are writing the scene, other ideas jump into your head. Once you’ve written a few scenes and figure out exactly how they fit together, simply connect the dots, and cut and paste your scenes in place. (warning, though I know some writers can do this, I recommend not using this method unless you have completely used up any other method. It is very easy to get lost and forget where you were going, or mix up your scenes out of order.)

The basic idea here is simple, organize, organize, organize.

Of course, sometimes you just have to take life by the horns and just go for the gusto. Writers like Sandra Hults believe in simply sitting down with her ideas and letting the story take her wherever it leads. A lot of successful authors do this as well. It is definitely a whirlwind challenge and can make for an interesting adventure, especially when the writer themselves are uncertain of the outcome.

Next, let’s talk comfort zones. Not every writer has the ability to just sit down, crack open their laptop, and produce award winning novels while sitting in the middle of an out-of-control room of children at a daycare center. In fact, some very famous writers out there had very strange places where they would find their elusive muses. Edith Wharton would write in her bed in the morning before getting up. Benjamin Franklin wrote naked after a soothing “Tonic Bath”. And Dame Edith Sitwell only wrote after taking a relaxing rest in an open coffin.

Now I’m not recommending you run down to your local funeral home and pretend to test drive a body bag, but it is important for maximum creativity to find your “Place”. For the before mentioned Sandra Hults, she prefers to sit in a quiet library with a set of headphones, a place she admits herself sounds “Cliché” but works perfectly for her. For me, it is a warm cup of Joe, doesn’t seem to matter where, as long as I have the coffee. So search your feelings, and find your muse!

For more information on Sandra Hults and her writing, check out her blog at: www.sandrahults.wordpress.com, or her Amazon page at, https://www.amazon.com/Sandra-Hults/e/B00JQ2GHNW/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1473720432&sr=8-1

For more information on me and my writing, feel free to follow me on my Facebook page @ https://www.facebook.com/authorterryjames or on Amazon @ https://www.amazon.com/Terry-James/e/B00HUB1Q6Y/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_2?qid=1471732632&sr=8-2.

 

So in closing, don’t let anything in between you and the book you’ve always wanted to write! If you get stuck, try organizing your thoughts. Find the comfort zone that’s just “write” for you and get creative! Nothing can slow you down but yourself. See ya for now, check back in later this week for a special edition of “How to Survive Becoming a Writer”. What is it about? Find out later!

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How to survive becoming an author…week 4…Surviving Creative Story Telling Stereotypes!

Introduction, The problem or need, The Conflict, The Climax, The resolution. It may sound like the makings of the perfect ‘One Night Stand’, but it is actually the model from which many story tellers arrange their stories when it comes to writing. Here is an example of what I’m talking about:

“Here is Dave (Introductions). Dave needs a ride to the bar so he can hook up with a babe while avoiding the Mob (The problem or need). Dave calls his friend who apparently wrecked his car dodging a squirrel and now needs to ride his bicycle through the Mob’s territory (The Conflict). Dave narrowly escapes the Mob while riding his bicycle to said bar (The Climax), only to find out he’s 30 minutes late and babe has already hooked up with his friend with wrecked car and Dave ends up passed out in dumpster after drinking away his sorrows (The resolution…sort of).”

And so the Formula goes on, and on, and on, in nearly every piece literature. Most stories are also either narrated by a either a narrator (often referred to as ‘third person’ is a person telling the story who is not actually in the story). Another is a secondary character close to the main characters but has limited interaction with the actual story, action, or plot. Yet another is that the narrative of the story is being told by the main character or supporting characters themselves who actually contribute to the overall action and dialog of the story.

Now don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with these particular models, and for most stories this method is actually best. But for the adventurous few, there are a few ways in which you can tell a story using non-traditional stereotypical means.

An example of a non-traditional method of telling a story can be found in a book penned by Tom Lambert entitled “Living with Earl”. The book is a fictional narrative of the author himself (Tom) and his live-in house guest (Earl) who looks and speaks exactly like the famous author Samuel Langhorne Clemens (a.k.a. Mark Twain). The inspiration for the book came from the famous author’s thousands of known quotes, which Tom Lambert individually picked out one at a time and wrote a short story for each based on the Mark Twain quote. Though the stories are short, each story builds one upon an other to a crescendo of emotions, and produces thought provoking commentary on such topics as veterans and today’s youth, not to mention a few laughs along the way.

Another example of non-traditional story telling can be found in Jim Beard’s prose series called “Sgt. Janus, Spirit Breaker”. Roman Janus is an ex-soldier who now travels around “Breaking” spirits and demons from various locations in the late 1800’s early 1900’s England. In the first book of the series, the story is told chapter by chapter, by each of the spirit breaker’s clients, who are asked to write a journal accounting for every aspect of their experience while he battles the spirits to the finest details. Once again like Mr. Lambert’s book, the stories are told in short chapters, but the progression of Sgt. Janus’ deterioration as his adventures begin to take a toll on the character is evident  with his described demeanor with each passing story. A very impressive feat of story telling in both instances.

So as you sit down to write that first novel you’ve always dreamed of penning or typing, keep in mind that your creativity does not have to always follow traditional story telling stereotypes. Don’t be afraid to venture into uncharted territories and let your readers see the story in a new and exciting angle and view that only you can tell. Mix it up, break traditions and be, you!

For more information on Tom Lambert and his novel “Living with Earl” go to http://www.livingwithearl.com/ or follow him on facebook @ https://www.facebook.com/LivingWithEarl/

For more information on Jim Beard and his “Sgt. Janus” series, you can look him up on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Jim-Beard/e/B004UWVOPE/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1471732278&sr=1-1 and while you are at it, show him some love on his Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/thebeardjimbeard.

For more information on me and my writing, feel free to follow me on my Facebook page @ https://www.facebook.com/authorterryjames or on Amazon @ https://www.amazon.com/Terry-James/e/B00HUB1Q6Y/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_2?qid=1471732632&sr=8-2

Best of luck in your writing and I will see you next week for another installment, and be sure to drop me in a comment on this and my other blogs! Let’s get a conversation started, especially those with experience so we can all help new, budding writers achieve their dream!

How to survive becoming an author…week 1…Surviving initial disappointment.

So, you want to be an author, congratulations! There is nothing more exciting than surfing Amazon and seeing the novel that you have poured your blood, sweat, and tears into sitting on their website for the whole world to see. That is, until you creep your cursor to the middle of the page and find it ranked at about 800,000,000th out of 799,999,999 books available. It is about this time when you start feeling like you are doing something wrong. You befriend other writers both online and in the real world and wonder what exactly they are doing, then you start trying to do what they are doing to help get your name out there and…

Stop…Right…There

Let me tell you a story, well not a story per say, but let me tell you about my experience. I started off pretty much the same way most writers do, alone in a dark and sinister world, when my over imagination netted me the creation of my very first novel. I couldn’t have been more proud and as I watched my first title grace the catalog at Amazon.com, and as most first time authors do, I waited impatiently for the hundreds and millions of dollars to start flying my way. You can imagine the initial disappointment when I received my very first royalty check in the amount of exactly $1.00.

I had no idea what I had done wrong! I was on the radio promoting it, I was on TV promoting it, I was featured in online and printed news stories. It was about that time, in the very beginning, when I first crossed the starting line of this long race that I nearly gave up. But instead of giving up, I started looking for answers to what I was doing wrong. I will tell you that answer soon enough.

During my initial slew of interviews to promote my book, I was blessed to become acquainted with (now a good friend) another author who was from the general area in which I live by the name of Jim Beard. Now Jim’s specialized in many fields of expertise including a very in-depth knowledge of comic book history and pop culture in general, but his primary writing style was that of the old “pulp fiction” novels. No, I’m not referring to the famous Quinton Tarantino movie, but a particular style of writing in which the story line is driven more by action than by purpose or searching of meanings.

Okay, this part will be difficult to write (not to mention embarrassing), but here it goes. As I got to know Jim, I started watching what he did, what he said, how he confronted buyers at a local signing he attended with me. The more I observed and followed, the more I wanted to do what he was doing, write in the style he wrote, go to the shows he went to, publish with the same people he did. I actually think in a way I started to become jealous of him and the success he had. I wanted to literally attach myself to his hip and do everything he did, like he did. It was about this time when I realized that I had to just…stop…and reassess my situation.

After a long month of pondering, I finally figured out what I was doing wrong, It was…

nothing…

I was doing nothing wrong at all, so simple yet so profound. The reason I don’t write like Jim Beard, or know comics like him, or was an expert in pop culture, or write like a pulp writer is simply because I’m not Jim Beard, I’m Terry James! I write like Terry James writes, and that is not a bad thing!

As far as sales are concerned, they are still light or near non-existent, but I am slowly earning my fan base as I go. It ain’t going to happen over night, but I will achieve my goals eventually. When I do, I’m going to achieve it the way Terry James is going to achieve it, and I’m good with that. (not that having a few writer friends with a little experience ain’t a good thing, but remember that your success is determined by what you yourself put into it, not by jumping on the shoulders of others.)

As far as Jim is concerned, me and him are still good friends, and I am a huge fan of his work. If you are interested in seeing some of his work, you can look him up on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Jim-Beard/e/B004UWVOPE/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1471732278&sr=1-1 and while you are at it, show him some love on his Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/thebeardjimbeard.

For more information on me and my writing, feel free to follow me on my Facebook page @ https://www.facebook.com/authorterryjames or on Amazon @ https://www.amazon.com/Terry-James/e/B00HUB1Q6Y/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_2?qid=1471732632&sr=8-2

I hope if you are a fledgling writer that this blog helps, see you next week when we talk about writing tippers!

How to survive becoming an author…week 2…Surviving Writing Tippers!

So you’re ready to write, but you are just not sure what you are doing. No problem, a quick spin of ye old Google wheel will net you nearly tens of thousands of “ready-to-help-you” specialist clinically trained to teach you exactly how to write the novel that will instantly launch you to the very top of The New York Times best sellers list, netting you millions of dollars in royalties and a carefree life for as long as you live. (if you believe this, please go back to the first blog in this series, I think you missed it…or the point.) Of course, not much of it is really ‘free’ and usually want your credit card up front to subscribe their newsletter which will explain how you can learn more about how to write if you spend more money on their book, “How to Write a Winning Novel!”

For example, for a nominal fee into the hundreds, you too can learn how to write just like James Patterson! Of course James won’t come into your home and address the questions you have personally, but he has a crack team of other students standing by ready to help. Several other authors offer similar classes in the form of online seminars as well. Not to mention the millions of publications that offer to walk you through the writing process.

But let me ask you one important question, who taught Mary Shelly to write a good horror story? How about, who taught Homer how to write a 179,103 word poem? Who taught Douglas Adams to translate his skewed and humorous view of humanity onto the pages of his books? The answer is…no one…simple huh?

Now that is not to be interpreted into having an excuse for not having a well-natured grammar-nazi on hand to double check your run-on sentences or sulk over your fondness for, the, Walken, comma, over the, Oxford, comma. (please tell me you get the joke…please!) I’m just saying that each of their styles of telling a good story is so distinctively, them, so when you write look for your own style and make it yours!

I can tell some of you may not be completely convinced, you still want a little help, who do I turn to? well first…not me, LOL! I have the years and the cred for these blogs, but my personal editor still screams at me from 45 miles away (no she don’t, but I’m sure she has cursed me a few times in her head. Luv ya Ash!). So here are a few credentials to look for when listening to peoples help in writing: First, what have they written? People who want to help others succeed should have at least written something successful, right? If their book-ology includes nothing but books on how to write books, there is a problem. Second, look for someone who is writing in a genre similar to your own. If you like to write YA fantasy, you probably don’t want to take advice from a documentarian. And last but not least, charge! There are several authors out there who are generally interested in you achieving your goals and want to help, at no charge. Authors like Cassandra Morgan and myself who ourselves don’t quite know everything, but are willing to offer what little we can offer.

For more information on Cassandra Morgan and her work, you can visit her website @ http://www.authorcassandramorgan.com/.

For more information on me and my writing, feel free to follow me on my Facebook page @ https://www.facebook.com/authorterryjames or on Amazon @ https://www.amazon.com/Terry-James/e/B00HUB1Q6Y/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_2?qid=1471732632&sr=8-2

So have fun with your writing, be yourself and put all of yourself (and not James Patterson) into your books! Next week, we will look at surviving author etiquette.

The Holiday Wars

Thanksgiving was not a happy camper as he looked out over the land on his day of days. He witnessed the huddled freezing masses lined up in front of store fronts and shops waiting in desperation for another holiday’s season to begin, Christmas.

How dare he!? He thought to himself as more and more people lined up for the pre-holiday sales, Some of those people have been there for a week! How dare he overrun my holiday with this disgusting display? Something needs to be done about this!

In the dead of the night, he had gathered the other major holidays together to discuss his feeling, all but one that was…

“This is an outrage! People even have their Christmas decorations out already!” Thanksgiving screamed from across the table, “If it’s happening to me, how soon will it be before others are effected!?”

“If it’s any consolation,” Halloween spoke up from the other side of the table, “the Devonport’s on First Street there still have my decorations up.”

Thanksgiving shot him a dirty look, “You’re not helping.”

“Dude!” another holiday shouted, “You have to show him love man, then everything will be okay. Why don’t you send him a card and some flowers?”

“Shut up Sweetest Day,” Thanksgiving sneered in return, “you’re nothing but a Hallmark holiday! Who invited you anyways?”

“I did!” Valentine’s Day answered as she stood up and pounded her fist on the table.

“Imagine that! Somebody remembers him for once!” Thanksgiving replied as he buried his head in his hands, “Look, this is all I’m saying. In the last decade, people are hurrying through my day early so they can rush to start shopping for his day! Some people don’t even gather for dinner anymore, unless it’s in front of one of those darn super stores!”

“Hey, as long as he ain’t cutting into my day, why should I care about yours?” Easter replied as he leaned back and placed his oversized paws on the table.

“Can’t you see…it will only get worse and worse!” Thanksgiving began to plead, “He’s even got Christmas in July!”

“Yea!” Independence Day howled as he stood up, “Why does he got to be all up in my month!?”

“Exactly! We had an agreement that his holiday would start on the Friday after mine,” He said, “soon, he will dominate all of our holidays!”

“Well,” Labor Day added, “people do spend a lot more money for his day than any other.”

“Good point!” Columbus Day spoke up, “Don’t everyone think it’s time to spread the wealth?”

“Shut your mouth!” Ground Hog’s Day told Columbus Day sharply, “You’re nothing but a 20 percent off sale, no one wants to hear from you! Columbus didn’t even discover America, everyone knows that!”

“Well, you haven’t been right in years so-“

“Silence!” Thanksgiving interrupted, “It IS time to spread the wealth!”

“I think I know where you’re going with this,” Halloween said, “and it sounds kind of scary.”

“You bet it is…it’s time to get rid of Christmas, once and for all!”

Throughout the evening and into the early hours of the morning, the holidays conspired and prepared for war.

~~~~***~~~~

The day was finally here, the battle was great. Both sides gaining and losing ground with every passing moment.

“What is the update on the front lines?” Thanksgiving shouted from atop of his command deck.

“We’re winning!” a voice answered back from the back of the room.

“Really?” he asked as he turned to the voice.

“April Fools!” the holiday laughed as it turned and hurried out the door.

Thanksgiving growled as he turned and re-examined the situation from afar, “Where are those artillery shells? Where is Labor Day with the artillery shells!?”

“Union break!” Boss’s Day ranted as he through a pile of papers on the desk.

Thanksgiving slammed his fist into the table, “Does anybody have any good news for me?”

“The current projection shows that our possible victory is too soon to call!” Election Day shouted from in front of his computer monitor.

Suddenly, Tax Day burst into the room in a panic, “We have a write-off! Secretary’s Day is dead!”

“Stop panicking!” Thanksgiving replied as he turned back to the battle ahead of him, “We still have Executive Assistant Day, we will be fine!”

“IIt “burp” waaas, wha was iit, AAHHH! Itwasahorriblesitetosee! “Hick”

“My god! Are you drunk St. Patrick’s Day!?” Thanksgiving yelled.

“Heee “hick” heeee’s “hick” nooooo druuuunk aaamiiiigoooo, “hick”.” Cinco De Mayo replied as the two stumbled across the floor.

Thanksgiving buried his head in his hands, “How is it that Christmas gets all the good holidays!”

“DDAYISBUSTINGTHROUGHTHEFRONTLINESANDISPRACTICALLYATOURFRONTDOORANDWEGOTTOGETOUTOFHEREFAST!” screamed National Carbonated Beverage with Caffeine Day as he turned and ran face first into the door and fell back on his butt.

The remaining holidays stopped in their tracks and stared at the door in horror as it slowly began to creek open. The dark and unrecognizable shadow stood at the door, the only sound that could be heard was the deep eerie breath or the unknown figure.

“Oh no!” Boy Scout Day screamed as he ran across the room flailing his arms around in the air, “it’s the most horrible site ever in the history of mankind! RUN!”

The shadowy figure stepped into the room and pointed straight to Thanksgiving, “I know a very naughty boy who will be spending a lot of time in the corner!”

“M…M…Mother’s Day!” the other holidays screamed in unison as they all began to flee out of the room, jumping through windows and such, everyone except for Leap Day who sat shivering in the corner hoping not to be seen.

“Please don’t say it, please don’t say it,” he whispered to himself as Mother’s Day turned slowly in his direction.

“You’re not supposed to be out for another two years,” she said with an evil grimace on her face, “Just you-“

“No!” Leap Day pleaded as his face turned more and more horrified with tears running down his cheeks.

“Just you wait-“

“Please! I’m begging you!” He screamed and cried in vain. “Don’t say it, please!”

“Just you wait till your father gets home!” she screamed as she picked up the frightened holiday by his ear and faced him towards the door where an awaiting Father’s Day stood ready with a paddle in his hands.

“Son, this is going to hurt me worse than it is going to hurt you.” Father’s Day said as he held the paddle up.

“Really?” Leap day asked still shivering.

“No, It is going to hurt you a lot!” he replied as the three exited and slammed the door shut. The screams could still be heard for what seemed like minutes after their departure, which left Thanksgiving all alone.

A deathly silence loomed in the air as Thanksgiving slowly looked around the room cautiously. The door would be too obvious an escape route. He thought to himself as he began to creep towards one of the windows.

A loud crash from above shook the small cottage that the fallen holiday had taken refuge in during the battle. Thanksgiving fell to the floor,  once again he eyed the window for a quick escape. Suddenly, a plume of smoke and soot filled the room. He struggled to breathe as he peered across the room trying to make anything out in the haze. Finally, an all too familiar sound would fill the room that made the hairs on the back of his neck to stand out. “Ho….Ho….Ho”, the sound resounded horrifically.

“You know this is wrong, Christmas!” He choked out still struggling through the sediment. “You have defiled my day! Others will see through this injustice!”

“You’ve been a naughty holiday, Thanksgiving,” Christmas said as he began to stroll across the room, “did you think a little turkey and stuffing could beat out the marketing bonanza that is me?”

“I am the day of giving thanks for everything we have, family…friends…not of pre-holiday savings and shopping! It is a day of reflection, of mending relationships, of having yet another year of having the ones you care about close without the bribery of gifts and stuff to bring them in!”

“I completely agree with you, and I’m sorry…”

“Really?”

“Sorry that I have to do this, but I’m going to have to ask you to change Thanksgiving Dinner to maybe Thanksgiving Brunch…or…even better… Thanksgiving Midnight Snack,” Christmas replied, “I have an entire truckload of gifts I have to unload and I need workers to give up the morning and afternoon to do it.”

“Oh, and we scaled the first sale back to 8 AM Thursday, so I hope that won’t be a problem?”

“NNNNOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!”