help for early writers; non-fiction
Want to write a book of your own? A is for Author can jump-start you on the path to success. Friendly and candid, and a touch curmudgeonly, Shayla gives you the basics on 333-plus must-know subjects that many how-to-write books overlook. Industry jargon is clarified, technique explained, branding and promotion examined, and sex (sort of) illuminated. Easy to read, A is for Author is not only an essential for the new writer, but the perfect holiday gift.
1. Write. Produce words on the page. Don’t fiddle around, watch soaps, tweet or re-tweet, update your status on anything, talk to the cat, or answer your spouse when he asks where his socks are. He knows damn good and well where his socks are, he’s just miffed that you’re not paying attention to him. At some point he has to accept that writing is as important to you as Monday night football is to him.
2. Try to set a schedule. If not a definite time, then a definite word count per session. One session a week does not make you a writer. A daily session, in time, might. Starting, be nice to yourself, and set a word count of two hundred. See #3, #8 and #10 why. If the words of the story don’t come to you, write a bio of the main character(s) to warm up. Increase the word count as you gain comfort and speed.
3. Recognize, in the beginning, that you do not know how to write genre fiction. Yes, of course you can write, you write all the time. But fiction is a whole new gig and the quicker you understand that you know nothing about actually creating an original, readable, sellable work of genre fiction, the quicker you’ll start learning.
4. Research the requirements of your chosen genre or sub-genre. There are no-no’s in every one of them, and there are requirements (the HEA in romance, for instance, or the in medias res start of a thriller) that you can’t ignore. For quite a while, I thought I wrote romance. Then I found out I was writing romantic suspense and suspense. (I might’ve won that Daphne had I entered in the right category!) Knowing your genre is more critical then you might imagine.
5. Join a writer’s group. Read your work to them. At first, you will hate it. You’ll be told “show, don’t tell” or chided about your wobbly POV or use of cliché until you want to scream. But, through listening to critiques (of your own work, and others), you’ll start to learn technique.
6. Develop a thick skin. You will need to listen to critiques of your work, and it can be traumatic to hear that your verbs are flabby, your hero comes across as a pansy, your setting is trite, and your action unbelievable.
7. Ask for feedback. Understand that your mother can’t help you, or a friend who reads the genre you’re writing in. Another, more technically-mature, writer can, even if you write romance and they write horror or dystopian. Hopefully, they’ll be honest as well as considerate. If they are the slash-and-burn type of critiquer, find others who are more humane.
8. There’s never been a written word that couldn’t be deleted. Or replaced by another, juicier, word. Words are not sacred. They are tools to get your point across. The overall impact of the entire work is paramount. Learn to delete.
9. Do not publish your first completed novel. It’s your “training wheels” novel. Put it away and start on your next work. When you’ve finished that, re-read the first one. See? It was a piece of crap and you’d be embarrassed to have it before the public.
10. Unless you’re a raving alcoholic, there is no such thing as writers block, so there is no excuse for not writing. There is such a thing as being unprepared to write, however. See if you can spend some time prior to writing to just mull over options.
11. A freebie! Be merciless to your characters. Make them suffer. Make nothing easy for them. Thwart them at every turn. If they want something, put meaningful obstacles in their way. No reader picks up a book looking for a stroll through a flower-filled meadow. She wants challenge, conflict, tension, confrontation, disappointment, strife. And, only eventually, triumph.
Want to know more? Short-cut your path to writing competence? Get your own copy of A is for Author, over 333 must-know tips and topics for the new writer. Available in digital and hard copy. Makes a very nice present, too. Visit Shayla on Facebook, Goodreads, or at http://www.bit.ly/2xtT9qY.
A pejorative term for romances, particularly historicals whose covers have ever been untrammeled visions of unbridled lust. Most romance writers do not appreciate hearing this outdated slur.
CAUSE AND EFFECT
As in life, everything a character does has a downstream effect(!). Actions and words have effects, on other people and on following events. What your characters do or say or feel drives the story forward, from one scene(!) to the next, toward the conclusion. Those emotions and actions don’t happen in a vacuum.
Ignore cause and effect and you can wind up with a story that merely inserts various events you dreamed up to move the story forward with no logical, previously-established basis. It’s wish-list writing and will produce a shallow, unbelievable story.
The cause produces the effect. No effect without a cause.
In the first scene, the cause is manifest, with the short-term effect possibly included. The second scene of the pair, the reaction scene, is the longer-term effect, the reevaluating and new planning. Then on to the next pair of scenes. But, always, whatever happens has an effect, either immediately, or later, or both. Otherwise, why is it in the work?
EEUW FACTOR, THE
This really does exist. There are things you just can’t do in a work of genre fiction. Here’s a biggie: do not kill puppies or kittens. For any reason, even a good one, even if it’s logical or (you think, as I once did) completely in character and necessary to the plot. I had to re-write 20% of a book to get out of the dead-puppy dilemma.
Do not describe torture or get deep into the entrails of a murder victim. Minutely describing acts of violence is usually a turn-off. A detailed description of this kind is merely gratuitous and disgusting, and will garner you few readers. It may even cost you some.
The other eeuw is a bit harder to define. What, exactly, is too much? Where does violence cross the line from necessary and organic to gratuitous and unnecessary? You, the author, decide. Most of the time. The wife of one noted horror author has to continually throttle him back; he loves to gross out his readers. In mainstream genre fiction, soft-pedal the X-rated stuff.
♥ If you are writing in a genre that makes you uncomfortable or bored, you’re more likely to violate the Eeuw Factor. Why are you writing something you don’t enjoy?
5 out of 5 (exceptional)
A is for Author is a comprehensive guide that I think would be useful for all writers, whether they have published one book or ten. There are commonly used terms and jargon in here, together with no-nonsense explanations and examples. It is all alphabetical, so everything is easy to find. The author herself suggests you sip, rather than gulp, this book.
In my opinion, this is a book to have as a paperback or hardback, so that you can refer back to it for years to come. Definitely recommended by me.
* A copy of this book was provided to me with no requirements for a review. I voluntarily read this book, and the comments here are my honest opinion. *
Archaeolibrarian - I Dig Good Books!
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Think of the worst photo you’ve ever had taken. End-of-binge candid, strawpile hair, baggy eyes even Photoshop couldn’t erase, an Autumn shirt and you’re absolutely a Spring. Multiply that by ten. That’s how much the camera likes Shayla. So...no photo.
I’m a native of New York. Now I live in Florida, on the edge of Irma’s path. We’re fine, thanks, although Princess CooCoo refused to come inside while canines were in emergency residence. Before Florida, I lived in Maryland and Morocco. Two years in southern Morocco, in a small town near the Atlantic coast where I was a Peace Corps volunteer, convinced me we can all get along, but we have to try a lot harder than we are now. The previous twenty years in Annapolis, MD convinced me that “Crabtown” is the best, prettiest, funnest state capitol in the US.
At the end of Peace Corps, the idea was I’d move to Paris and become an expat. It was all about the food, of course. And the wine. But my kids are in Florida...so here I am drinking French wine while hurricanes roar instead of drinking it while sitting in a café on the Champs Elysées.
But I wouldn’t be a writer if I’d gone to France, and A is for Author would never have been written. Think of all the new writers who would’ve suffered without that book! And don’t forget the ever-enduring hero Carl Tanner, Key West’s Jake Baron and Margo Hollander, and hilltown Italy’s Marco McCabe and Laura Walter (and all the others) who would never have seen the light of day. Or the black and white of your e-reader or paperback. So it’s all to the good. But...I sure do miss a decent baguette...
I write, on average, seven hours a weekday. Obviously I have no time for housework; fine by me. I do have time for gardening, cooking, painting (house and fabric), my kids and friends, the Florida Symphony, and my fave, travel. I love exploring third world countries, especially their food and music. Street food: yum! Any ancient ruin is on my to-do list, as is any colonial town regardless of age. One of my favorites? Trinidad, Cuba (founded 1514). I do have a photo of Trinidad, and of a delicious garbanzo-ham-chorizo dish I had there. Find it on my website.
Thanks for visiting...Shayla