CAREFUL WHAT YOU SAY OR DO—YOU MAY END UP IN MY NEXT NOVEL

I never thought I used actual people in my short stories and novels, but a few readers claim to “recognize” someone. That always surprises me.

Then I decided to use one woman’s particular circumstances and ended up using some of her personality in the character in my novel, A Broken Life, and even her dog. She loved it. Thank goodness.

A friend gave me a tee shirt that said, “I’m A Writer. Everything you Say or Do may end up in my Novel.” Next thing I knew, people were staring at my chest, then smiling.

Anyway, finally, a stranger said, “So, I’m going to be in your next novel?”

“Yes,” I replied. “Thank you very much.”

She laughed. As she walked away, I asked, “What’s your name?”

She laughed harder. Thank goodness.

https://www.zazzle.com im_a_writer_anything_you_say_or_do_maybe_used_in_a_t_shirt-235114230802496612

This led me to a hunt for other tee shirts for writers. They’re everywhere! Amazon. Café Press. Zazzle.

“I’m a writer. What’s your superpower?

“Save a writer. Buy a book.”

“I’m a writer. (No, really.)”

“Writer’s block. When your imaginary friends won’t talk to you.”

Anyway, putting real people you know in a novel can be explosive. Pat Conway said: “When The Great Santini came out, the book roared through my family like a nuclear device. My father hated it; my grandparents hated it; my aunts and uncles hated it; my cousins who adore my father thought I was a psychopath for writing it; and rumor has it that my mother gave it to the judge in her divorce case and said, “It’s all there. Everything you need to know.”

But what Anne Lamont said should probably be on a tee shirt you wear right after a new novel or short story comes out using real people as templates: “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”

So there.

What I really want is the mug that says, “Go away. I’m reading.”

https://www.zazzle.com/go_away_im_reading_coffee_mug-168942890660892017

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

AFTER THE STORY IS RELEASED

In your notes file (I explain what I put in that file later), I recommend you immediately input these items for easy reference as soon as you can after release of your work (hint—copy this list directly into your notes file and fill in the needed info). (Another hint, put each item on a separate line so you can double or triple click to copy it when needed instead of using your mouse or touchpad to capture it):

First put in the final word count.

Kindle

  • Price
  • ASIN: number
  • Date published
  • URL, regular and one shortened

Paperback

  • Price
  • ISBN-13 number
  • ISBN-10 number
  • Date published
  • URL(s), regular and one shortened for each store

Hardcover

  • Price
  • ISBN-13 number
  • ISBN-10 number
  • Date published
  • URL(s), regular and one shortened for each store

Short Story

  • Name of the publication
  • Date published
  • URL, regular and one shortened
  • Amount earned

For All

  • Long description.
  • One paragraph description, no longer than 1,000 words.
  • Another 500-word description.
  • A short, snappy “elevator pitch” you can use for ads and brochures. Maybe make up more than one.

When all this is in one place and you ask for a review, do an ad, have a sale or anything that needs quick access to these items, you’ll always know where they are. You can easily copy and paste where needed.

After you do all this, be sure to update the information on your website about your new publication and announce it to all your social media.

I use a “notes” document for quick reference while writing each story or novel. It contains:

  • At the top, space to put in ideas I have as I go and places I want to make changes later.
  • For both short stories and novels, a character name chart with first and last names in different columns so I can sort by first letter to be sure I’m not using first letters too often, their descriptions, and other important info about them. I fill this chart in as I go.
  • A timeline chart for novels with: Chapter #, Day of week, Time of day, Location, and chapter Summery. I fill these columns in when I finish each chapter. This can also be used for longer short stories, especially if the timeline is important.
  • Maps and other visual aids.
  • Research (I don’t do a whole lot—if I did more, this would be in a separate file with document names for each category).

Doing all of this as you go will save you time in the long run. And the file will be all set up for you to add the details of the story’s publication.

 

 

 

HOW WRITERS CAN USE THE OODA LOOP DURING ACTION SCENES

The OODA Loop is a “decision cycle” for observing, orienting, deciding, and acting, especially good in a potentially dangerous situation. It was developed by military strategist and United States Air Force Colonel John Boyd.

I learned about this because a neighbor described an encounter in a parking lot with someone who wanted to scam her into having him “fix” her tire. When she realized there wasn’t a think wrong with her tire, she brushed him off and went on her way. Then on the NextDoor forum for our neighborhood, she tried to describe the man and his vehicle. She had really not paid much attention to how he or his car looked, so couldn’t give much information. Someone else pointed out that she should Google “OODA Loop” and learn the process.

Knowing that I’m not very good at observing things either, I decided to look it up. I know I would have had the same problem with description as the other woman did.

And a big bonus for me is that it shows how my main character in a story can overcome the villain in a way I think the reader will buy into.

Not only did this seem like a good idea when not particularly threatened, especially if you’re a writer, it was an even better one when I looked further into it for when we are threatened. My search’s first page never mentioned women at all—just men, for example in combat and business (is there a difference?). And I thought women should be using it, too, for their own safety.

There is, of course, much more to it than simply telling yourself to observe, orient, decide and act.

You are getting a bead on your opponent’s intensions while masking your own intentions, which should be unpredictable.

The steps:

  • Observe—get information to determine what is really going and what you can do about it
  • Orient—how is the other person acting and reacting? (Okay, it took me a while to figure this part out, but I finally got it. The word “orient” didn’t quite do it for me.)
  • Decide–decide what to do about it
  • Act—unpredictably and faster than the “opponent” is best

Keep in mind that if you get out of a bad situation, you will probably want to tell other people about it, including sometimes, authorities who can arrest the other person. So when observing, take in as many details as you can, using all your senses—sight, sound, smell, and taste or feeling (hope it doesn’t come to those last two!).

If you’re a writer, having your characters perform these steps can be helpful. You can just use them to show the character acting, or you can have the character actually thinking (not naming the steps, of course) in this particular manner. Remember the opponent will also be going through a similar process, but not being aware of these steps could be a disadvantage.

Change the situation faster than the opponent can comprehend. Create confusion, uncertainty, chaos and panic so the opponent will over- or under-react.

Don’t you love finding something unexpected you can use to perhaps write better? I hope this helps us all.

 

 

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN AMATEURS AND PROFESSIONALS

Jeff Goins wrote a spot-on article about the differences between amateurs and professionals in any profession.

The main points  that struck me were:

  • Pros take action almost every day, if only for a short period of time, even half an hour, or perhaps fifteen minutes. Every day.
  • Pros keep working to get better, even after they’re famous.
  • Pros accept failure as a given and learn from it, then carry on.
  • Pros build a body of work. This improves their work.

To get the full article, go here:

https://medium.com/@jeffgoins/the-7-differences-between-professional-and-amateurs-ab6850c25c61

What it did for me:

I realized that I needed to work harder at being a professional marketer for my work. I need to spend time every single day on that goal, just as I spend most every single day on my writing.

If you really think about it, most of us need two main areas where we shine, usually one helping the other. For example, business manager and employee relations. Or better, wife and mother; husband and father. And yeah, writing and marketing that writing

Do you have two areas you think are complementary? If so, are you spending about equal time on both? Or do you disagree with any of this?

CAN LOOKING AT STATISTICS MAKE US BETTER WRITERS?

Interesting interview with an author about using statistics to improve our writing. Go here and see what you think.

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/one-writer-used-statistics-reveal-secrets-what-makes-great-writing-180962515/

Some of my observations:

  • Best-selling female writers use more “ly” words than the men do.
  • Beginning a story with the weather is not a deal-breaker for most readers. (But it almost always is for this reader.)
  • Favorite words can tell you a lot about an author.
  • This looks like a book that would be great fun to read.

Bottom line? Some writers “break the rules” and become famous. I like to play it safe, though, so I don’t usually start my stories with long sentences, the weather, or a single character musing, especially if she just woke up in bed. I also avoid “ly” words as much as possible, but I do use them sometimes because, you know, variety is the spice of life, and sometimes there is not a good verb that can stand alone that doesn’t distract from the flow. Every time I read that someone is trotting, I think of a horse. Is that what writers want? Think about the reader! Most readers never notice “ly” words, I’m sure. But weird words that are seldom used will take them right out of a story.

READING TO LEARN HOW TO WRITE BETTER

A great trick for helping your own writing is to read other fiction similar to what you write and see what you skim through because it doesn’t interest you or bores you.

Does anything in particular annoy you about the book? Examples:

  • Present tense
  • Starting with one character musing or waking up. No conflict, no action
  • Too much description is a good example. Or maybe even, not enough, which results in no sense of place.
  • Characters with annoying habits that distract you from the plot. One recent read had several characters puckering their lips, apparently in confusion or disgust—I was pretty disgusted myself after about the fourth use of this word. Another one I saw by a best-selling author was; “Her eyes crunched.” What? Like cereal?
  • Anything that distracts you from the plot
  • Long descriptions of travel routes. Who cares how the character got from A to B, unless something exciting happens along the way? I don’t mind a mention of a few streets so that people familiar with a real setting get a better visual, but no need for every single turn, IMO. Or telling the reader every time a character climbed into the car, and then exited again. Anyone find it amusing, as I do, at how hard we try to use different words for ordinary actions, like sitting and getting in and out of a car (climbing in and exiting out of)?
  • Too much jumping around—with too many character POVs, settings, and/or timeframes. All this can be handled well by a good writer, but it can be hard to read by a not-so-talented one.
  • Weird attributions. The latest one I saw by a best-selling author was; “Her eyes crunched.” What? Like cereal?

Bottom line, try to figure out why this particular book was easy to put down.

On the other hand, notice what you liked about a work:

  • The characters? Why? What actions and emotional responses made them come alive for you?
  • The setting? Why—because it was simply interesting to you personally or because it was done so well, or?
  • The plot—because it had great twists or was unusual, or what? What plot points worked well for you? How can you make them your own in your writing?
  • The writing itself—was it voice, or word choices, or theme, or pacing, or something hard to define? See if you can nail it down

As soon as you figure out that the book you are reading right now might be a favorite, start taking notes. For each chapter, do a short synopsis.

  • Pay particular attention to how it starts and ends
  • What was the main conflict in the chapter, or questions raised?
  • How did the writer describe things that made you actually see them in your mind’s eye?
  • What did you like about the characters, including the villain(s). What made you love to hate them?

Is there anything in particular that almost always makes you love or dislike a book? If so, what is it? And what do you try really hard to do well with your stories?

For a much longer blog post about reading to help your writing, I recommend this:

How to learn to write while you’re reading

RANT ALERT: CHARCTER NAMES – TOO MANY STARTING WITH SAME LETTER

Okay, this is a rant. Hey, I enjoy reading other people’s rants, so maybe some readers will be interested in my occasional ones here.

In the last two novels I read, each had three characters of the same sex with names that began with the same letter. I suspect these authors never joined a critique group, and wonder about their editors. I have done this in the past, so I understand how it can happen. But if they had editors, the editors should have caught this. The ones I’ve used have pointed out this problem to me a few times. Now I’m aware it can happen to me, so I do this:

I made a table in Word (or you can, of course use Excel or equivalent) and in headings I have: First Name, Last Name, Age, Car, and Description. Yeah, I put in car because for one novel I kept forgetting what each character drove, and they all seemed to be determined to do a lot of driving. This way you can sort the names by either first or last name and see if any duplicates for first letters appear.

One writer compounded this problem by having a father and son with the same letter for their first name (necessary for the plot), BUT she also had another character with that same letter, plus three more with a different same one. Yeah, I know this is awkward, but I’m sure you can figure it out.

Please find a method for yourself that will prevent this from happening. Your readers will thank you!

PS: You know you may have too many characters if you run out of letters.

ENDING YOUR DAY RIGHT

Especially for my writer friends (but nonwriters can steal these tips), before you leave your desk for the day or night:

BACKUP YOUR WORK: In two places is best. I use OneDrive and a thumb drive, then once a month I back up to an external drive I keep in a water and fireproof small safe.

CLEAR OFF YOUR DESK: Put everything away and file anything that needs filing.

CALENDAR: Make sure everything is written on your calendar and check to see if you have any early-morning appointments.

TO-DO LIST: Be very systematic with your to-do list. Quickly write down everything you hope to accomplish the next day, but then put everything in order of priority.

DO ONE EXTRA THING: If needed, for example, write one email you owe. Deal with one piece of paper you’ve been hanging onto. Make a quick phone call you’ve been putting off.

Did I leave out anything anyone thinks is also important? Let me know in the comments!

FIVE MAJOR INFLUENCERS OF MY NOVELS

Lewis Caroll

Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass

Entranced during childhood and beyond by the quests with very quirky characters and fun situations.

Influenced and still influences everything.

Mad Tea Party

Anne Tyler

Love her quirky characters, the humor, and the interesting plots. Locations are also often well-drawn.

Influenced almost everything, but especially my first published novel:

Sara’s Search

Nancy Drew

Influenced:

Tina Tales, especially Cluttered Attic Secrets where a group of friends—both female and male, but grown-up–attempt to solve a mystery. Sassy, pro-active protagonist.

Organized to Death

Buried Under Clutter

Cluttered Attic Secrets

Donald Westlake

Dortmunder Series, but all his books are great with engrossing situations and amazing characters.

Influenced: The Artie Crimes series:

Artie and the Long-Legged Woman

Artie and the Green-Eyed Woman

Artie and the Brown-Eyed Woman

Artie and the Red-Haired Woman

and upcomming, Artie and the Big-Footed Woman

Sue Grafton

Influenced, of course, my female PI series about Paula Mitchell:

Perfect Victim

A Broken Life

Secret Exposure

Front cover final I recommend composing your own blog post about the five major influencers of your writing.

(Sorry about the formatting. I don’t know why WordPress won’t let me do single spacing in this post, and I don’t want to take the time to figure it out when i could use the time better by writing my fiction!)

Save

Save

Save