Sunday, December 4, 2016

Read To Learn To Write!

Brilliant idea! I drive, so that makes me a mechanic. Right?

Who comes up with this stuff?

There is an element of talent required to write, but even more important is the skills of writing. The way we read fiction isn't done in a way that directly teaches writing. We may pick up a few things about style, but overall, I want to see YOUR style.

The reason professionals attend training and are required to have continuing education credits is so they keep their skills fresh and improve upon them.

Read fiction for enjoyment. Read about writing to improve your writing skills.

Here is a book that covers the basics of writing. It is good for beginners or as a refresher for seasoned writers.

Writing Genre Fiction: A Guide to the Craft by H. Thomas Milhorn.
Check it out and let me know what you think.
(I am not compensated for mentioning this book.)

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Telling vs Showing

Telling vs Showing is a basic skill that the beginning writer should strive to master. Too much telling is boring. It drons along in a monotone voice and doesn't have the momentum to keep the average reader engaged.
 
One of the best examples of telling a story through showing is Passengers by Diane Keziah Robertson. Diane brilliantly tells the story through the life events of six people who first meet on the coach. She created the setting against the backdrop of the plague in England. Passengers is almost like theatre with the characters coming and leaving [the stage] in a way that advances the overall story.

One way to self-monitor whether you're writing in Telling Mode too much is to look at how much dialogue you've written. Are the characters telling the story through their actions and words? Or is the writer narrating the story in their own voice?

Characters are defined by their words and deeds. When the writer tells who the characters are, it is almost like gossip. Let the characters tell who they are rather than the writer telling about them.

There are times that I call, "Meanwhile, back at the ranch," when the writer needs to tell some short bit that transitions the characters to a different setting or introduces benigning information that will be important at some later point.

Here is a benign piece of information: He reached for the handrail when step unexpectly gave under his weight.

Basically, who cares? I don't, unless that loose step or handrail plays a role later in the story. Don't go on and on about how many times he had planned to fix the step. Who cares? Not me.

What I will care about is later, when he pulls up the end missing nails and stashes something under the step tread while someone is pursuing him. In this case, the broken step needs to be in the setting earlier so it can be used later. Please, please don't introduce it when you need it by saying, "He suddenly remembered..." It feels like a cheat.

Read your work out loud so you hear it out loud. Reading to yourself in your mind allows for skimming and self-correcting words in your thoughts, but not in the ms because you didn't notice them.

Reading aloud also shines a bright light on long rants of telling. It will scream "BORING!" as you drone along reading it out loud.

Here is a writing exercise that helps with too much telling. Write a hundred or so pages in first person. It forces you to only write what the person knows, experiences, thinks, or says. If the main character is telling the story, that is all the writer can use. No magical fixes.

Honestly, if I can't get through the three chapter submission, then I won't ask for the full ms unless Judith wants it. Submit your best work, whether it is to us or someone else. You owe it to yourself and your story.

Passengers is here:
http://www.cactusrainpublishing.com/passengers.html

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Facebook

It isn't normal for me to make two posts in one weekend, but it isn't normal behavior that we would create a facebook page, either.
 
Check out our page and contribute if you like.
 
True confession: I didn't do this, it was dreamed up by our authors and executed flawlessly by Joyce, our web designer. There is yet more to come. Check it out.
 
What do you think?

Saturday, November 12, 2016

I suddenly love Janet Reid

Janet Reid is a literary agent. We have never met and are not likely to meet. However, on her blog she said read your submission aloud.
 
How many times have I said that? A bazillion.

It is even better if you print your ms, and read it aloud to someone who has not read it yet. I usually give a copy of the ms to the listener to follow along. That way, they can catch when you read it different from what is written.
 
Of course, what you read is better than what you wrote, so make changes on your copy and fix the ms when you finish reading.
 
I'm 100% serious about this. How can you not want to use the paper when it can make the difference of someone picking up your ms or not? Reading on the monitor is simply not the same as seeing it in print.
 
After all the hours put into writing do not skimp on the final polish. Cactus Rain sometimes will make recommendations and give a second chance to get it right, but most people in this industry do not give second chances so make sure you are querying with your best product.

The other issue Janet lists is not following the submission guidelines. This industry, like most others, has expectations, norms, and 'rules of conduct.' Otherwise, it would be pure anarchy. If you don't think that you need to follow our submission guidelines, think again. We won't read what you sent, if you didn't send the right stuff. Don't waste our time. You aren't that special that the rules don't apply to you. Prepare for a ton of rejection letters.

http://www.cactusrainpublishing.com/submissions.html 
 
 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Staying Published

While staying current on the blogs that I follow is not a high priority, I did see something this morning that seems worth repeating from Janet Reid's blog. Janet Reid is a literary agent.
 
The post is:
http://jetreidliterary.blogspot.com/2016/10/can-publishers-see-my-sales-numbers.html. In one of the comments someone wrote, "It is one thing to get published and another to stay published."
 
Just like anything else we jump into, looking at the big picture is essential to 'correct' first steps.
 
Writing is on a spectrum, although some people see it as an end point. While writing itself is satisfying to most of us, beyond that euphoria we need to have a serious conversation with our self about where we want to go with this 'writing stuff.'
 
Bang away on your laptop with the TV blaring, take writing classes, walk the isles of the bookstore with glazed over eyes, but find a bit of quite time to think of this craft as a business.
 
The only way to succeed in any business is to do your homework and understand the industry inside and out. Plus, to some extent understanding the ebb and flow of the economy helps build a strong business.
 
The point is, of course, identify your goals, and then develop a plan on how to achieve those goals.
 
There is a lot of advice, mine included, on the Internet and in print books. The work is to distill all of that into a working model that fits YOU.
 
Write your best work and make time to understand the industry. Cheers!
 
 
 

Sunday, October 2, 2016

What We Like

It is a lazy beautiful day in Arizona, USA. The drizzle of the monsoons tap a soothing sound on the patio cover above me as I think about the mystery of Cactus Rain Publishing. A few years ago, a close friend told me that CRP would never work.
 
It does work. What is the secret? It is hard to say, and it is probably more than one thing that works. We don’t advertise – at all. Maybe we have passed on some mss that we shouldn’t have passed. However, we have done well with those we selected.
 
I think that Irene Watson nailed it when she wrote about my novels that, “Nadine produces works of social relevance.”
 
That is also true of the novels we publish.
 
Of course, we look at writing ability and style. Though, the social message of our books is what speaks to me as I read the submitted manuscripts. For me, it is probably the tipping point.
 
What does anything matter if we don’t continue to evolve into better people, better societies? Though there are many others who do more and larger than our small voice, I believe we quietly and gently contribute to the betterment of all of those who read our books, without being preachy and forceful.
 
Our books, and those under contract, speak to critical issues and in the end, good wins over evil in the characters.
 
Check out what Steve Mwase says in this interview. http://www.cactusrainpublishing.com/dunia.html or here  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yOSXZIfrIbw

Friday, September 23, 2016

Banned Book Week

Yes, it is true, there is a special day, week, month for everything and September 25th to October 1st is banned book week.

My friend, writer Jeannine Garsee (Bloomsbury -- buy her books), says that writing a banned book is an excellent way to land on the Best Seller list somewhere -- not her exact words maybe. The real goal is to write a great book, banned or otherwise.

Here are a few of the "subversive books" that have been banned: The Great Gatsby, The Catcher in the Rye; The Grapes of Wrath; The Color Purple; Lolita; Of Mice And Men; Catch 22; The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; The Scarlet Letter; To Kill A Mockingbird; Where The Wild Things Are (yes, that children's book with great artwork -- sheesh); Moby Dick; For Whom The Bell Tolls; and many more.

Remember in 2011, when someone had the idea to make Mark Twain's works politically correct? That is a great way to erase history, so we don't remember and are doomed to repeat it.

There are quite a few discounts on banned books next week. Do a little research and grab one or several of the many banned books.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Scene Break

In the throes of inspiration, it is easy to get caught up in the action and write a 150,000 paragraph. Okay, that isn’t actually likely to happen. However, I have seen some long chapters.  Let’s make this simple. We used to say, “Back at the ranch …”
 
Think of this: A chapter change occurs when the location, time, people changes. Granted there is some license taken with this. But, start there.
 
What about scene breaks? I put in scene breaks when the rhythm of the read changes by ONE of the above factors; location, time, person. Think of it like a big comma, the story continues, but there is a signal that there is a change. Whereas, a chapter break is more like a full stop (period) in my analogy.
 
I’ve said this before, but the absolute best writing book that I have read is a scriptwriting book. The Complete Book of Scriptwriting by J. Michael Straczynski should be in your library. My copy has underlined sections, notes in the margin, and stickies popping out from the edge of the book. The single most important lesson, I think, is the section on camera angles. Get the book. Read it. Thank me later.
 
For a reliable place to visit for writing tips and lessons check out: http://www.writersdigest.com.
 
I recently found this program, which I haven’t fully tested, grammerly.com – I’m testing the free version. Let me know if you try it and what you think.


Thursday, July 21, 2016

Ellipses

There is no nice way to say this, so here is the blunt truth — stop using so many ellipses! Seriously, stop it!
 
Either write what you left out with the ... or use a normal punctuation mark, such as a full stop (UK) also known as a period (USA).
 
Creative punctuation is distracting to read and if you overuse it, it is plain annoying. (I bet you can tell that I'm reading an ms with this issue, right?)
 
The last several mss that I've read have a half dozen ellipses per page. Let me tell you what I'm thinking while reading that craziness. I'm thinking that I have to go through and fix that mess.
 
You can bet that the next ms without ellipses is going to be my favorite, even if it has other issues.
 
People, I'm over the ellipses. Just stop using them. If you do use them, then use them correctly and sparingly.
 
Thank you.
 
 
 


Monday, July 11, 2016