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Top Five Things New Authors Learn by Ginger King

This is not an official list.  It wasn’t put out by a major publication after significant research.  It’s just my list of the things I’m learning and re-learning as I’m still quite new as a writer.
1.  No one else can or will promote your book like you can.

No one is as passionate about what you’ve written as you are.  No one knows the story the way that you know it.  So who better to talk about it, do interviews, and make or approve videos to be used in promotion.  Problem is you may not have the skills or the time.

2. Getting published is only the first hurdle.
Now you have to get noticed.  There are so many titles out there that your book becomes a tiny pebble.  At least at first, you may feel like it is lost in the vastness.  Unless you’ve learned that you should have a promotions plan that begins six or nine months before your book is ever released, you may be scrambling to find the proper outlets for promotions.  Hopefully these will get you off to a running start.

3.  Getting reviews isn’t as easy as you think.

So a cadre of family and friends, local book clubs and online readers have purchased your book.  Everyone promises to give you an honest review but weeks later, you’re not finding anything out there on sites like Amazon, Goodreads, etc.  You have to circle back, ask again, and possibly ask new readers as well.  Hopefully you are developing a list of contacts and trusted advanced readers, folks who are really interested in your work will likely want to help you succeed.

4. Editing is best left to professional editors.
It’s your job to get the story recorded as completely as possible using the best grammar you can as you go.  When you re-read and edit it yourself, you will see words that are not there and you will see words correctly that are missed spellings.  It’s just how our brains work when we are intimately familiar with the writing.  So it’s best to leave the editing to fresh eyes who look through your work critically from the editing perspective.
5.  There’s no cookie cutter pattern for churning out books.
We new writers, tend to look at successful novelist in awe and see the number of books they’ve written.   Wonder then ensues as to their method for getting so many novels published in such a short time.  Each author has their own strategy and their own best time of day/place to work.  Each author has to understand their own deadlines and their own desires for when the book should be completed as well as knowing when to consider it completely finished.  It is easy to continually develop and deepen characters but we have to learn when to stop, when it satisfies, or leaves the reader yearning for more.  Then it’s complete. Just don’t use the method of someone else unless you’ve tested it and know it definitely works for you too.
So I’m learning myself as a new author and I’m really trying to get through the second novel by reminding myself of each of these things as I go.  The one thing I know for sure is that continuing to write is what feeds my spirit and makes me want to write even more.  I can learn the rest as I need to.  These five are my focus right now.

Wish me the best will ya?

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Nom de Plume

ImageBy Jay Duret

The best decision I ever made as a writer was to adopt a pen name, or more precisely, several pen names. Why would anyone ever want to write under his or her own name? A pen name is so flexible. Pen names do not have social security numbers or driver’s licenses. There is no registry, no governmental permission. A pen name can be a wisp, an evanescence. How perfect! You can write cringe-worthy prose for years, then cast off the old nom de plume and start fresh under a new pen name in a matter of moments. It is as easy as murdering a character in a story.

Over the many years I have used pen names, I have learned a few things that a well advised writer might wish to consider:

A bad pen name is as easy to create as a bad sentence. I know this from personal experience. I began to use a pen name at 12 years old writing stories an impress a girl in my class. Suavely, I used the nom de plume “Clive”. I thought Clive – just one name, like “Cher” – had a sophistication that my given name lacked.

I did not stick with Clive long but I clearly liked its weight and compactness because my next pen name was “Cleave”. With Cleave I thought I would get all the sophistication of a Clive but also the whiff of menace that a Clive would have if he, say,  wielded a cleaver.

Cleave clove to me for several years but by my mid- teens I had gone to ground in Middle Earth and I had became “Merlyn”. Yes, I know, Merlyn did not inhabit the pages of The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings, but with his long beard and forkéd staff, he could easily have worked his magic in Middle Earth. And to make that point explicitly, I spelled Merlyn, not in the pedestrian manner that I have spelled it above, but in a more mysterious and vaguely Elvish fashion: “Merlÿn”.

Oh that looked good at the top of the page, just under the title. I loved the umlaut; little in life can match the power of a good umlaut. An umlaut is the symbol that means true dat. Those two profound  dots on the top of the Y made my Merlÿn distinct from all the other Merlyns and Merlins out there; indeed, it exposed them as pretenders.

I stuck with Merlÿn far longer than I would confess, but gradually my taste in fiction matured. And so it was that I became “Hoadley”, the single worst pen name ever created.

What was the etymology of Hoadley? What was I thinking? It was Goddamn J.D. Salinger. He created Holden Caulfield and that’s where I got Hoadley. Making use of all the subtle artistry of a 17 year-old writer, I simply borrowed five of the six letters in the name “Holden” and secured the benefits of his name without being obvious about it. Oh my God.

By the time I finished college I had given Hoadley the burial he richly deserved and I began a trip around the world. As I did, I invented a new category of writing: I began something called a journal. Yes, yes, I know. I was not the first young man with literary pretentions to have penned a journal, but my advancement of the medium was profound. I was like the Steve Jobs of journaling. I had  read Armies of the Night by Norman Mailer and heavily under that influence I began to write about myself in the third person. 

How did I manage those awkward journaling moments that arose, for example, when the narrator was talking to a third person and to maintain coherence it was necessary to identify the narrator by a name? A lesser journalist might have floundered, but not me. Skilled as I had become in the art of the pen name, I just gave my protagonist his own nom de plume. I called him Viajero, the Spanish word for traveller. I liked that literary name because if you said it fast in Spanish it sounded like: Be-A-Hero and that suggested that traveling was heroic in some fashion. I frequently considered myself heroic in some fashion and while I couldn’t come right out and say that, a good pen name can do that type of heavy lifting.

When I returned from my world travels,  I needed a new pen name, one that reflected the maturation in my world view and sensibilities. Those one-word pen names of my youth were but frippery. I needed a real pen name. Thus I became “J.B.” The pen name J.B. was succinct and I liked the way it sounded when spoken aloud. However on the naked page it looked as if something were missing or, worse, that I was a pornographer.

It took many tries and many years of writing prose before I settled on the name “Jay Duret”. Short but memorable. Easy but slightly exotic. A comfortable, serviceable nom de plume. Every writer should have one.

But be warned! Choosing a proper pen name today is not as simple a task as it was when Samuel Clements chose Mark Twain or Charles Dodgson chose Lewis Carroll. A pen name is a brand. A pen name doesn’t just grace the byline of a story or the cover of a book, it is a Facebook page, a Twitter handle, a domain name. A brand must represent on Tumblr and Digg and Reddit and StumbleUpon. What good is a pen name – even one as mellifluous as Jay Duret – if the closest available URL is www.jayduretauthor.com or the best obtainable email address jayduret331@gmail.com? What if a Google search of Jay Duret turns up a teen singing sensation from Estonia who has lit up the Internet with hundreds of thousands of news articles and postings? Would you condemn your brand to that confusion?

Yes, a pen name has to be chosen carefully, but fortunately writers are onomasticians – that is, people who study names. Indeed, few professions are so frequently called upon to choose names for the people around them. Most parents only select a handful of names in a lifetime; even those with 5 or 6 or 10 kids hardly have a chance to become skilled in the art before their breeding days have passed. But an author, a novelist, may name 50 characters in a single book. Onomastics is in an author’s sweet spot.

For all the benefits of pen names, there are awkward issues. When I wrote Nine Digits I wanted to dedicate it to my four children, but how to do that? If I were to list them by their actual names, I would be breaching the tight curtain of anonymity that I have enjoyed for these many years. On the other hand, I didn’t want a generic reference “To my children” or “To my kids”. That felt confusingly imprecise; if I were to have more kids, those late arrivals might think they were in on the dedication even though they made none of the sacrifices that earned their siblings a seat at the table.

To solve this dilemma I reached into my bag of literary tricks and brought forth the brilliant idea of giving the four of them their own pen names! Thus Nine Digits is dedicated to Delilah, Eli, Ajax and Emmy Duret. One hopes they’ll be able to figure out who is who.

A pen name is also a liability in the places where the craft of writing intersects with the business of writing – in other words, wherever money is involved. I have never met a publisher who wanted its publishing contract to be signed with a fictitious name. Similarly, when I get a check for royalties or an honorarium, that check best be made out to Yours Truly or there’ll be mischief upon deposit. And the problems of booking a flight under a pen name! Don’t do it! They’ll think you are Al Qaeda. You do not want your nom de plume mistaken for a nom de guerre.

As fine as a pen name may be in literary cyber life, confusion can be created in more physical space. At a reading, particularly one with other authors, how does one introduce oneself? Am I Jay, the suave reader of the next short story, or am I that actual flesh and blood person who labored to produce that story under the name his parents settled on those many years ago? And what if at that very same reading there should be readers who know me as Jay and friends and family members that use my, well, actual name. How awkward to stand in a cluster of chardonnay sippers from each camp and see my different identities crash into each other.

There is no doubt that writers from an earlier era had an easier time with their noms de plume than we who write in the cyber age. Among the issues they did not have to worry about was the problem of photography. They had daguerreotypes when Mark Twain was writing, not Instagrams, not Snapchat.  Whenever you publish today you need an author photo.  It is standard. What are you supposed to do when you write under a pen name? Don a fake nose before sitting for a photo session?

Fortunately, this is a problem that I have solved.

All those who post their words on the Internet in any form are familiar with the idea of an avatar. The word comes from Hinduism and describes the manifestation of a god in human form. An avatar on the Internet is a photo or image or likeness of the author that appears with the author’s posting and becomes something of trademark for that author.

Every author must have an avatar, but choosing one is no easier than choosing a proper pen name. A picture tells a thousand stories and the avatar must represent those author’s stories in many media. My first avatar expressed my desire to project gravitas:

Gravitas

 

But that was so wrong. Too Einsteiny, too threadbare, too old. That was not Jay Duret, no way.

My second try was a bit better, but still not right:

My third try was an utter failure:

Beat Marcus2

But finally inspiration arrived:

 

Jay Duret

 

Jay Duret, in cyber flesh. Good looking. Deep. Clearly a poet, a lyricist, a writer of critically acclaimed bestsellers: Jay Duret.

Not just another scribbler with a nom de plume; this is an author with an  image de plume as well.

*          *          *

Jay Duret is a San Francisco writer and illustrator. He blogs at www.jayduret.com. His first novel, Nine Digits, is being published this year by Second Wind Publishing. Jay welcomes feedback at jayduret@yahoo.com.

 

 

 

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Novel Writing Tips and Techniques From Authors of Second Wind Publishing — Excerpt: Weather

Novel Writing Tips and Techniques from Authors of Second Wind Publishing is the 100th book published by Second Wind.  The book is dedicated to everyone who made this accomplishment possible: our authors, our readers, our friends, and our followers. Thank you!

EXCERPT FROM NOVEL WRITING TIPS AND TECHNIQUES FROM AUTHORS OF SECOND WIND PUBLISHING

IMPLEMENTING WEATHER AND ATMOSPHERE

By
Deborah J Ledford
Author of:

Staccato, Snare, and Crescendo

Atmosphere is a captivating way to introduce a scene. Try featuring weather to enhance the tone for a setting.

During one of the last chapters of STACCATO, Nicholas confronts the man he always thought of as his closest friends—who turns out to be the co-conspirator in the death of his love. The end of the scene takes place outside the morgue. A storm is brewing in the North Carolina night:

“Why? Nicholas shouted. “Tell me, you bastard. Why did this happen?”

Sampte kept his chin tucked to his chest, refusing to look at Nicholas.

A flash of lightning lit the area, halting all action for a moment. A deafening crack, followed by a train-like rumble resounded through the trees.

When Sampte raised his head, Nicholas searched the man’s eyes for any clues. Instead, he recognized the flat, resolved gaze, rivaling a look only Alexander could brandish.

To Nicholas, Sampte’s silence seemed louder than the thunder.

In SNARE the implication of a storm is introduced when Steven Hawk takes in a vision as he arrives in Taos, New Mexico. The danger for Katina remains and he has no idea what he will encounter in the days ahead:

As the vehicle approached the airport exit, Hawk noticed a massive billowing white cloud high in the air that encompassed a third of his vision. The formation reminded him of a natural Hiroshima bomb mushroom. He hoped the duality of beauty versus tragedy wasn’t an omen of what was to come and pushed aside the troublesome thought.

***

Novel Writing Tips and Techniques is available from Second Wind Publishing, Amazon (Print & Kindle), Barnes and Noble (Nook), Smashwords (all ebook formats including palm devices)

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Novel Writing Tips and Techniques From Authors of Second Wind Publishing — Excerpt: Settings & Mood

Novel Writing Tips and Techniques from Authors of Second Wind Publishing is the 100th book published by Second Wind.  The book is dedicated to everyone who made this accomplishment possible: our authors, our readers, our friends, and our followers. Thank you!

EXCERPT FROM NOVEL WRITING TIPS AND TECHNIQUES FROM AUTHORS OF SECOND WIND PUBLISHING

Captivating Settings

By
Deborah J Ledford
Author of:

Staccato, Snare, and Crescendo

MOOD TO CONVEY SURROUNDINGS

At the top of chapter 22 in STACCATO the lead investigators witness the surroundings where Nicholas’s vehicle is found:

Hawk and Stiles arrived to a scene bathed in generator-driven white-blue spotlights. County vehicles were parked on U.S. Highway 74, resembling a young boy’s scattered toys. The cruisers’ revolving red and blue lights added to the eerie glow.

One hundred yards below the roadway, officers milled about on the muddy bank of the Nantahala River. They searched the area around the crushed vehicle, barely recognizable as a black Porsche. The sports car sat precariously on the riverbank, suspended by a cable attached to the rear of a tow truck.

White-capped ripples rushed past, glinting in the moon’s light. It had been hours since the Porsche had been discovered, but the scene still buzzed with activity.

This is an example of mood conveyed within setting at the top of chapter 57 in SNARE:

Hawk’s shoulder throbbed. Shooting pains that ripped to the bone brought tears to his eyes. The smell of fresh coffee and baking pie would normally be inviting, but instead, his stomach churned in a cataclysm of nerves. Every sound seemed amplified. Even the clock over the stove ticked louder than he thought possible.

***

Novel Writing Tips and Techniques is available from Second Wind Publishing, Amazon (Print & Kindle), Barnes and Noble (Nook), Smashwords (all ebook formats including palm devices)

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Novel Writing Tips and Techniques From Authors of Second Wind Publishing — Excerpt: Foreshadowing

Novel Writing Tips and Techniques from Authors of Second Wind Publishing is the 100th book published by Second Wind.  The book is dedicated to everyone who made this accomplishment possible: our authors, our readers, our friends, and our followers. Thank you!

EXCERPT FROM NOVEL WRITING TIPS AND TECHNIQUES FROM AUTHORS OF SECOND WIND PUBLISHING

Foreshadowing

By
Nancy A. Niles
Author of:

Vendetta: A Deadly Win

Foreshadowing is one of those techniques that seem to come naturally and effortlessly to most writers. It is something that happens often in real, everyday life and can be blatantly obvious or so subtle that it can easily be overlooked.

Foreshadowing has been described as being hints of what’s to come. These hints can be delivered by the author through narrative. They can be spoken by the characters. They can take the form of thoughts in the POV character’s mind. They can be symbolic. They can come through the sense of smell, the sense of sight and hearing. Usually a writer’s imagination is the limit when it comes to foreshadowing.

Verbal Foreshadowing is when the hint is said through dialogue such as one character asking the other if so and so still carries a gun, or as subtle as asking if so and so is still taking medication. These examples leave the reader wondering if that character is going to shoot someone or wondering what would happen if he/she stopped taking the medication, or if the medication could somehow make her/him change in some way, maybe become violent, or at the very least, unpredictable. The reader then expects something to happen from this foreshadowing and it cranks up the suspense. These gems can be interspersed throughout the novel to bring interest and a bit of intrigue to the story.

Foreshadowing Through Inappropriate Responses. This is done through having one or more characters react to stimuli in an inappropriate manner, such as, in a fearful situation, the character, instead of showing fear shows amusement. What is going on? Has the character set up the other character for a downfall? Has the character been scared into insanity? This type of foreshadowing tells the reader that more is going on and prepares them for the unexpected.

Foreshadowing Through Thoughts in the main character’s mind can give hints of what may be coming. Such as, “I wondered where he had been. Some said he’d been away on a vacation. But I could never find out where exactly he’d gone. Camp Fed? Or the Good Shepherd Home For The Silly? Wherever he’d gone he seemed to have gotten a new lease on life. He seemed more determined, more purposeful, as though he had plans. But for what? Revenge? Did he have murder on his mind or was my imagination working overtime?” Well, you get the point. The main  character can lead the reader anywhere through her thoughts and a little paranoia is always called for especially in the PI genre.

Foreshadowing Through a Character’s Fears is closely related to foreshadowing through the character’s thoughts. However, the fear factor makes the foreshadowing more ominous. And again, in the PI genre the detective is usually cynical and expecting the worst, not believing anyone or anything.

Symbolic or Paranormal Foreshadowing can be something that the main character brings to the reader’s attention. In the horror genre I’ve noticed many times the author will tell the reader of legends surrounding certain animals. Such as, crows are the harbinger of death. They supposedly carry the dead person’s spirit to the other side. And then lo and behold a flock of crows appears just as the main character is setting out on her journey. Or make it one crow who is hunched on a fence post, its beady obsidian eyes tracking the main character. In that instance, less is definitely more. Actually, the author can make up their own legends and feed them into the story. Or the more subtle approach could be an icy touch of wind on the back of the main character’s neck when they look into the eyes of the antagonist.

Which leads me to another type of foreshadowing: Bodily Reactions in Foreshadowing. Who hasn’t read a book where a chill goes down the spine of the main character, or the main character experiences a shortness of breath at the mention of a name? It is both a subtle type of foreshadowing and also rather obvious. It tells the reader to be warned, something is not quite right, and who among us has never felt a chill at certain times that turned out to be a warning?

Foreshadowing Through Smell, Sight and Hearing. This is also called setting the stage, or using setting as character. In the PI genre the setting is usually as haunting as the haunted main character. The PI is in the streets that teem with the smell of fear, violence and decay. You just know the main character is in an unsafe place and violence is expected. Sounds of people fighting, guns going off, etc., also foreshadow danger. Smell can let the reader know someone is smoking marijuana, or the stink of whisky, or even the copper smell of blood can lead the reader to expect certain things to come.

This is a great way to foreshadow. Especially with the sense of smell since smell is so closely connected to memory. The author can have the main character smell bodies being burned and then find out that it isn’t bodies, but it’s the Fourth of July and there are barbecues happening. The main character interpreted the smell from a memory that still haunts him of the Vietnam War and witnessing people being burned alive. This type of foreshadowing gives the reader a window into the main character’s mind and past experiences. It can foreshadow a tenuous grip on reality and make the reader nervous for the main character.

Foreshadowing Using the Weather and Dreams, Or Through Finding Something Out Of Place. An impending storm or natural disaster is a good way to foreshadow a possible upcoming suspenseful event. Dreams can warn the main character and the reader of something coming and finding an article out of place can foreshadow mischief. And who among us hasn’t seen that solitary shoe out of place on the highway and wondered what happened to the owner?

I’m sure there are many more ways to foreshadow. In my novel Vendetta: A Deadly Win I used foreshadowing throughout the book.

***

Novel Writing Tips and Techniques is available from Second Wind Publishing, Amazon (Print & Kindle), Barnes and Noble (Nook), Smashwords (all ebook formats including palm devices)

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Novel Writing Tips and Techniques From Authors of Second Wind Publishing — Excerpt: Organizational Tools

Novel Writing Tips and Techniques from Authors of Second Wind Publishing is the 100th book published by Second Wind.  The book is dedicated to everyone who made this accomplishment possible: our authors, our readers, our friends, and our followers. Thank you!

EXCERPT FROM NOVEL WRITING TIPS AND TECHNIQUES FROM AUTHORS OF SECOND WIND PUBLISHING

Organizational Tools: Name Charts

By
Coco Ihle
Author of:
She Had to Know

As a reader, quite often I find in my hurry to get into a new book, I race over character names and then get confused later about who is doing what. When character’s names start with the same letter, the confusion is compounded. I’ve had to discipline myself to take my time learning the names as they are introduced, thus avoiding backtracking. My reading experience is also enhanced by investing my thoughts in these people from the start.

As a writer, I decided to make it as easy as possible for readers to meet my characters in a way they would remember. To accomplish this, I introduced married people as a couple, gave some distinguished description for the lone individuals and made sure names were not similar. I also wrote out a background profile for characters who appeared, both major and minor. That way, their names fit their personalities and thus are easier to recall for the reader.

A really handy tool I used early on was a chart I made, divided into two vertical columns. The left heading read: “First Names of Characters.” The right, “Last Names of Characters.” I started with the letters of the alphabet on the extreme left, A-Z down the page and did the same for the right column. Next to the alphabet letters I filled in my character names, first names in the left column and last in the right column. This gave me a visual of what letters I used for my names. It’s quite easy to repeat letters unconsciously and this is an easy way to catch those repetitions. I had to change character names as a result of this exercise, but it has eliminated problems for my readers. I even included page numbers (in parenthesis) next to a name of a lesser used character in order to find him/her later when rewriting or editing.

***

Novel Writing Tips and Techniques is available from Second Wind Publishing, Amazon (Print & Kindle), Barnes and Noble (Nook), Smashwords (all ebook formats including palm devices)

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Novel Writing Tips and Techniques From Authors of Second Wind Publishing — Excerpt: Interior and Exterior Settings

Novel Writing Tips and Techniques from Authors of Second Wind Publishing is the 100th book published by Second Wind.  The book is dedicated to everyone who made this accomplishment possible: our authors, our readers, our friends, and our followers. Thank you!

EXCERPT FROM NOVEL WRITING TIPS AND TECHNIQUES FROM AUTHORS OF SECOND WIND PUBLISHING

Interior and Exterior Settings

By
Deborah J Ledford
Author of:

Staccato, Snare, and Crescendo

BE CONCISE IN DESCRIBING INTERIOR SETTINGS

Let the reader become comfortable. Show them the room or area your characters will inhabit. For instance, in SNARE, the reader learns quite a lot the first time we meet Katina’s nemesis, her father who has just been released after seventeen years in prison after killing her mother:

In a flophouse off 37th Street, Karl Brandt lay on the thin mattress in his third-story room studying a discolored splotch on the ceiling. The quiet made him uneasy and restless. Muffled street sounds urged him from the bed. He wrenched the window open and sat on the radiator beneath the glass to watch the strangers below. Accustomed to seeing only prisoners’ orange jumpsuits or correctional officers’ bland uniforms, he still had difficulty taking in the brightly colored clothing of the passersby.

 

In STACCATO, this is what the unofficial mortician of Swain County, North Carolina, finds in his morgue:

Once inside the morgue, he wedged a straight-back chair under the knob. He flipped on the light switch and the fluorescents hummed and flickered, then bathed the room in its flat, blue light. Henri’s mouth dropped open. He froze, gaping in disbelief. Six, black plastic-covered bundles seemed to swallow the light.

TAKE YOUR READER “THERE” WITH EXTERIOR SETTINGS

 You have the opportunity as a writer to take readers where they may have never visited before. This is a perfect way to show exactly what you wish to convey.

In SNARE, Hawk experiences Katina’s upbringing when he sees the traditional structures on the Taos Pueblo Indian reservation:

Two massive structures bookended a narrow creek. He counted five stories of staggered, uneven rooflines covered in more of the smooth mud, the levels stacked on top of each other like twin rectangular tiered cakes. Doors the color of turquoise marked openings in the walls.

***

Novel Writing Tips and Techniques is available from Second Wind Publishing, Amazon (Print & Kindle), Barnes and Noble (Nook), Smashwords (all ebook formats including palm devices)

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Novel Writing Tips and Techniques From Authors of Second Wind Publishing — Excerpt: Captivating Settings

Novel Writing Tips and Techniques from Authors of Second Wind Publishing is the 100th book published by Second Wind.  The book is dedicated to everyone who made this accomplishment possible: our authors, our readers, our friends, and our followers. Thank you!

EXCERPT FROM NOVEL WRITING TIPS AND TECHNIQUES FROM AUTHORS OF SECOND WIND PUBLISHING

Captivating Settings

By
Deborah J Ledford
Author of:

Staccato, Snare, and Crescendo

One of the most important elements for any writer is to establish a “voice”—one that is recognizable, and somewhat expected by the reader as you continue to present more works. The ideal way to imprint your particular voice, cadence, tempo, tone is by setting your scenes. Once you truly place the reader at the location, whether it is a city, neighborhood, store or house, they become comfortable and willing to take the journey with the characters you present.

I write psychological suspense thrillers, therefore ominous settings are crucial in my novels. In this chapter you will find examples from STACCATO and SNARE to give you an idea of my personal writing voice when it comes to settings.

It is important to put the reader at ease and to give them a visual at the beginning of each chapter, especially the first time the location is presented.

The first scene of STACCATO, our hero, the twenty-year-old world-class pianist Nicholas Kalman discovers his father’s journal hidden away in the music room of the mentor who has raised him for a decade:

Compelled by the words, he found it impossible to re-shelve the book, or to dismiss the pages as utter fiction. He wondered what the written implications meant for him. Reading his father’s recollections, he had fallen under their spell. His father warned of the seductive elements to be cautious of—things that had already ensnared Nicholas.

Looking around, he recognized what his father had described as cunning manipulations of deceiving comfort: first edition books exhibited within walnut cases surrounding him in a ritualistic circle, the ebony Steinway grand piano that sat regally upon a platform in the middle of the music room, exactly as the writings stated. The details even noted how flames from the fireplace bathed the Pakistani rug in an amber glow.

In the introduction scene, first pages of SNARE, we meet eight-year-old Katina Salvo and within a few paragraphs discover the life she is burdened with in 1995:

She wished for a radio or record player, anything that might drown out the sounds. She wondered how long this fight would last. There had been so many in the past few weeks. They seemed to get worse each time.

Streaked ivory wallpaper peeled near the heat register in the cramped bedroom, furnished only with a twin-sized bed and scuffed desk. The room displayed none of the comforts the few kids she knew took for granted. A tattered, handmade quilt, passed down from her father’s mother, offered the only color in the room. Its unraveling edge brushed against the frayed braided rug on the floor.

Both of these examples provide setting information for the reader, and the details show insights to what have formed these characters as people.

Every element you introduce must be used somewhere within the novel you are writing. Think of this as foreshadowing what will come. Make certain that each prop (such as furniture) introduced is instrumental and will be used later in the novel. The point is not to introduce anything that will not be useful to the reader. Be careful of “info-dumping” when it comes to creating your settings.

For instance in SNARE, this is the description of the stage where Katina Salvo will perform live for the first time—where chaos soon ensues:

Stage lights were now set for a mere amber glow and soon she could make out a knot of people near the stage opening at the farthest end of the wings. As she moved to them, she noticed someone had closed the main curtain and she realized the effect would add to the mystery. It would also provide a much more dramatic entrance than if the drape were already open.

In STACCATO, Nicholas’s nemesis, Alexander Boden, is described in the setting Nicholas always thought of as home, where terror now reigns. This passage is described within the journal by Nicholas’s father that the son has discovered adds to the suspense that follows:

Lips holding an easy smile. Clothes flawless and crisp, shoes polished like mirrors, cufflinks gleaming in tailored shirts. The cane tapping.

Tap. Tap. Tap. You hear it approaching, but you can’t escape.

***

Novel Writing Tips and Techniques is available from Second Wind Publishing, Amazon (Print & Kindle), Barnes and Noble (Nook), Smashwords (all ebook formats including palm devices)

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Novel Writing Tips and Techniques From Authors of Second Wind Publishing — Excerpt: Writers Block

Novel Writing Tips and Techniques from Authors of Second Wind Publishing is the 100th book published by Second Wind.  The book is dedicated to everyone who made this accomplishment possible: our authors, our readers, our friends, and our followers. Thank you!

EXCERPT FROM NOVEL WRITING TIPS AND TECHNIQUES FROM AUTHORS OF SECOND WIND PUBLISHING

Overcoming Writer’s Block

By
Mairead Walpole
Author of:

A Love Out of Time

We’ve all been there. Two hours go by and all you have written is “Chapter One” and you’ve changed the font type twice and the size once. You have developed a severe case of Writer’s Block. Don’t panic, don’t toss your computer out the window, and don’t write yourself off as a writer, this too will pass. And, when you least expect it, it will happen again so find some strategies that work for you.

A creative writing professor of mine in college told us that the best way to overcome Writer’s Block was to write your way out of it. Write your way out of Writer’s Block? Er, really?

Yes, really. When I am dealing with a bout of that wretched state, I write. I will admit that most of what I write is absolute dreck that will never see the light of day, but just like a walk on the beach after a storm, amid the sea foam and debris one can find the occasional treasure. On occasion, what I write about evolves into a blog article or a completely new storyline. On other occasions, the only response is to hold down the backspace key or use the highlight CTRL X combo.

I limit the amount of time that I will spend writing my way out of the block. Usually 15 to 30 minutes a day. (I don’t want to develop any repetitive stress injuries from the deleting or highlight CTRL X maneuvers.) Some folks may need more than that, but this time frame works for me. I also allow the Muse to lead me down creative paths that weren’t in my original storyline. Writer’s Block can be a good thing. It can help you see a plot that has stagnated or a character that you originally thought was a minor one should be expanded.

One of the first things that I will do is go back to my original notes and any outlines I put together. I tend to do an analysis of the basic plot. Does it make sense? Do the characters seem flat or unbelievable? I look at the outline from a reader’s perspective to see if I can find any gaps or flaws in the logical progression. Then I re-read what I have written. If still am not getting anywhere, I will ask a trusted friend or critique partner to read what I have done thus far and give me some feedback. And, I continue to write. Eventually, the block will lift and I am back on track, perhaps with a different story than the one I started out with.

 

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Novel Writing Tips and Techniques is available from Second Wind Publishing, Amazon (Print & Kindle), Barnes and Noble (Nook), Smashwords (all ebook formats including palm devices)

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Novel Writing Tips and Techniques From Authors of Second Wind Publishing — Excerpt: Style

Novel Writing Tips and Techniques from Authors of Second Wind Publishing is the 100th book published by Second Wind.  The book is dedicated to everyone who made this accomplishment possible: our authors, our readers, our friends, and our followers. Thank you!

EXCERPT FROM NOVEL WRITING TIPS AND TECHNIQUES FROM AUTHORS OF SECOND WIND PUBLISHING

Finding Your Style

By
Dellani Oakes
Author of:

Indian Summer, and Lone Wolf

A good friend made a comment after having read one of my books. She said, “You have two styles of writing. You write like a writer and like an English professor.”

Ouch! Admittedly, I do have a fairly good vocabulary—not that I always use it. I used to teach Advanced Placement English, so I know about antecedents, subject and verb agreement and the correct use of semi-colons. Until she said that, I had no idea that there was such a difference in style until I went back and re-read the first few chapters. What I saw surprised me. The difference was startling, making the text difficult to read.

When I taught high school English, the students had to read The Scarlet Letter. What a tough book. I had to sit and read it with a dictionary by my side. My poor students were really suffering! I found some sections in my own writing that were nearly as difficult. Grant you, I was not incorporating words like physiognomy, but I did use ephemeral, supererogatory, and geosynchronous.

I think I was trying to make every word count, not use fluff words which mean little to nothing. By incorporating bigger, better words, I hoped to convey my meaning more forcefully. Apparently all I did was cause a mad rush for the Webster’s. I never intended my books to be hard work. If I want to make my readers sweat, I’ll put in a hot love scene! My novels are purely for entertainment.

A day or two later, my daughter told me, “Mom, your sentences sometimes confuse me. They go on forever, and I lose track of the beginning when I get to the end!”

After a brief moment of remembering William Faulkner’s nine page parenthetical sentences, I decided perhaps I should change that too. I found myself going to the other extreme—Ernest Hemingway. His short, choppy sentences always got on my nerves. I don’t deal well with it. I don’t like it. It annoys me. It worked for him. It does not work for me.

What’s my point in all this? Write to your audience, not down to them. Give them a little mental exercise, but don’t make them work too hard. Reading is for expanding the mind and titillating the imagination, not making the reader’s mind turn to slush.

If I want to be completely confused, I’ll read James Joyce! In the meantime, I think I’ll continue to search for my place somewhere between “Moby Dick” and “Peter Pan.”

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Novel Writing Tips and Techniques is available from Second Wind Publishing, Amazon (Print & Kindle), Barnes and Noble (Nook), Smashwords (all ebook formats including palm devices)

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