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My Momma always said Life is like a box of chocolates…

We all remember this famous quote from Forest Gump……my box of chocolates is words…NEW words which I have never heard before.  Words that roll around on my tongue like a chocolate cherry cream out of my box of sweets.  For example here are some words I recently discovered …..

                            Tantalus: a Phrygian king who, for his crimes, was forced to stand hungry and thirsty surrounded by sweet water and fruit laden branches. I’ve seen it used loosely as an adjective: being tantalized without fulfillment.

Muniment:  a document, a title deed or charter

Muniment room: a storage or display room in a castle, church or university where pertinent historical documents or records are kept.

Entresol: a lower floor between two higher floors, between floors, mezzanine.

Cuckoo:  a common enough European bird but noted for its habit of laying its eggs in another bird’s nest which then hatched and raised the young cuckoos. The mother cuckoo never returns.  Which leads to the off-shoot of this word and description:  Usually referring to the husband of an unfaithful wife.  To make a cuckold of (a husband) and it could follow that the unfaithful wife is impregnated by the lover and (like the birds) the cuckolded husband and wife raise the child of another man.  Hence the use of the word.

When you write, never dumb it down for your readers. Remember you are writing prose. It’s okay to challenge your readers….it’s even preferred. 

As a writer, I hope that You love the flavor of words as much as I do….

(Recycled from the 2012 blog post.)
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   August: Carolyn Brown, October: George Scott, November: Lauren Willig
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NEW Haiku Journal

Just  published.  A NEW  journal   for  your  Haiku  poetry.  Some  instruction  and  tips  to  help  get  you started.  190  lined,  blank  pages  for  YOUR  poetry. Poetry is  imbedded  in  the  margins  of  the pages  to  inspire  your  writing.

An old silent pond
A frog jumps into the pond,
splash! Silence again.
Matsuo Basho

      morning sun dapples
      trees in a polka-dot dress
      shines soft green and light
           ~ T. Sugarek

 

Light of the moon
Moves west, flowers’ shadows
Creep eastward.
Yosa Buson 

                                                       Black, gnarled branch
                                                         green leaves blush
                                                       droop in autumn rain
                                                              ~ Unknown

angle of fall’s sun
so different from spring’s rays
dapples the sun porch

end of hot summer
the crisp, sharp tang of fall’s breath
smokes the air about

a waiting for sleep
under the blanket of snow
until spring sun beams ~ T. Sugarek

                                               Whether one passes on
                                             or remains is all the same.
                                       That you can take no one with you
                                                is the only difference.

                                                Ah, how pleasant!
                                    Two awakenings and one sleep.

                                  This dream of a fleeing world!
                                 The roseate hues of early dawn!
                                               Tokugawa Ieyasu

Perfect size to fit into backpack, handbag, tote or briefcase. 
Available NOW. Purchase. Click here 
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   June: Mike Maden writing for TOM CLANCY. July: Guest Blogger Desiree Villena, August: Carolyn Brown
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Book Review ~ The Revelators by Ace Atkins

reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing

5 out of 5 quills            BOOK REVIEW

From the first sentence, in the first paragraph, on the first page The Revelators had this reviewer hooked!  As sheriff Quinn Colson lay face up, in a creek bed, shot four times, Boom’s face, like a black moon, hung over him, shouting into his best friend’s face, “Quinn, man. Stay with me brother… Can you hear me?”

I’ve told newbie writers and experienced writers that the first page, if not the first sentence, should grab your reader and not let go. They must feel compelled to read on and find out what happens next in your story. Ace Atkins personifies this rule in his writing.  If you are a fan of Quinn Colson and the goin’s-on in Tibbehah County, Mississippi you don’t need a reason to buy the latest in the series.  If you are aware or not, it’s the fine writing that brings you back again and again.  We love the grit, the gore, we even love the villains. At least, I do. 

The characters are drawn with the precision of a rapier. Caddy, Fannie Hathcock, Sam Frye, Donnie, Lillie, Quinn, Boom, the list goes on and on. And the graft portrayed just below the surface of the genteel south is real. When I lived in Harrison County (Gulfport, 1974) the elected Sheriff’s job was worth $1 million per year to that elected official. Nobody really blinked at the graft that took place every day. Just as long as crime was low and we were safe in our homes. 

I highly recommend this newest release in the Quinn Colson series. 

Did you miss my Interview with Ace Atkins?
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   June: Mike Maden writing for TOM CLANCY. July: Guest Blogger Desiree Villena, August: Carolyn Brown
To receive my posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

 

 

 

How To Format a Novel

My helping you with formatting a novel is long over due…. It was a light bulb moment recently when I was reading a nice little story, self published (poorly) by its author, with hardly any formatting. The story wasn’t much to write home about (too predictable with poorly drawn characters.) but the lack of formatting only made it worse and an amateur effort at best.  So here are some tips about formatting your novel, before you even begin to write the story. 

Blank Templates:  Most self publishing platforms have FREE blank templates for you to begin writing on. You just pick the desired ‘size’ of your book and you can download the template to your document writing site in your computer.  Most of us use Microsoft Word for all our writings. Here is an example of how I start with a blank template.  (Why is this important? Believe me when I say at the end it will make your life so much simpler when you begin to ‘build’ your book.)

To begin:  I use Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/ ) Don’t be put off by the word ‘kindle’ in the name. I build and publish all of my paperbacks here. If you don’t have an account, sign up for a FREE one. Then click on ‘HELP’.  In the search bar, I enter ‘paperback templates’. Choose #1 ‘Paperback Manuscript Templates. Follow the directions on this page.  After picking the size of your book and downloading it, your Word program should open with the blank template staring back at you.  Write a few lines (the template message will disappear) and save it as your new novel.  If you are using a different manuscript platform, I feel pretty confident that they also offer blank templates to get you started. Now you’re ready to write your story.  

Formatting:  It goes without saying you want a professional looking book. Readers unconsciously expect a certain look/layout.  Bad or nonexistent formatting can detract from the reader’s enjoyment of your book. 

But, you ask…‘I’ve already written five chapters of my novel on 8.5 x 11 paper. Can I move it?’ Easy, peasy. Use your copy and paste option (I recommend saving your original copy of the manuscript). Copy the five chapters, go over to your template and ‘paste’ the chapters in. This will mess up the formatting because your original manuscript is probably written on a larger sized paper than what your blank template is for your book. But it only takes a little time to re-format what you’ve already written. Trying to get the formatting perfect can be a form of procrastination if you’re not careful. Don’t get off into the weeds. Be certain that you are writing your story every day. Now that your novel is placed on your template, you can continue writing from where you left off.     

First Page: When you open your cover, the first page (odd numbered page) can have excerpts of reviews that you have received. Just a sentence or two, not the whole review. If you don’t have any then the first page should be the title and author name. 

Second page: (Even numbered page) This is your copyright page, entitled ‘Notice’. It can also include your ISBN number, your logo, and credits for the artwork. (See sample; All centered and a smaller font; a 9 or 10.)

  Notice 

Copyright (c) 2016 Trisha Sugarek. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without the written permission of the Author. Printed in the United States of America. For information contact author at www.writeratplay.com. The Library of Congress has cataloged the soft cover edition of this book as follows: Sugarek, Trisha, Song of the Yukon, Trisha Sugarek – This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales in entirely coincidental.

ISBN 978-1489558206

Cover Design by David White, Illustrator

Song, ‘Swiftly I Go’ by Gary Swindell, Composer
Additional lyrics and poetry by Trisha Sugarek

To view all of the author’s play scripts and fiction go to: www.writeratplay.com

Quotes: The Best of Robert Service, Copyright 1940 by Robert Service.  Publishers: Dodd, Mead & Company, Inc.
                                                                    ************************************************

Third page:  (Odd numbered) A dedication or a list of the other books you have written.  (See samples) It doesn’t matter which goes first but it should be on an odd numbered page.

Also by Trisha Sugarek

Fiction

Women Outside the Walls
Wild Violets

The World of Murder
Art of Murder
Dance of Murder
Act of Murder
Angel of Murder
Taste of Murder
Beneath the Bridge of Murder
Video of Murder
Shadow of Murder

Poetry
Butterflies and Bullets
The World of Haiku with Sumi-E Artwork
Haiku Journal — a companion book
Moths and Machetes

Available at all fine book stores.

OR

Dedication

To a hundred years of Guyer girls….
still going strong.

***********************************************************************

Headers:  Should start after these pages of notices, titles, credits, etc. On the first page of Chapter One. More later about headers. 

Each chapter:  Should always begin on an odd numbered page.  Note:  It’s perfectly acceptable for the even numbered page, opposite these odd numbered pages (that always appear on the right side) to be blank.  Most common and expected font is: 12 point Times New Roman. Spacing of lines should be 1.0 to 1.25. Indent all paragraphs by .5 inches. There are no spaces between paragraphs which should be indented 3″ to 5″ inches.  

Left margin versus Justified margin:   On the home page of Word I am certain you are familiar with the ‘alignment’ options; left, center, right, and justified.  Control (key) and the letter ‘A’ will highlight your entire manuscript. Now go to the justified button and click it. As you continue to write, your manuscript is set to ‘justified’, now.  This will space your words, across the page, so there are (for the most part) no awkward blank spaces because a word doesn’t fit.  Trust me, you will want to use the justified alignment and not the ‘left’ alignment. When there is the occasional blank space, go back and hyphenate the long word to fill these spaces.  Now, you not only have a nice clean margin on the left of your page but also on the right side of your page. (See sample. Note: I have drawn a line where there should be a word.) Look at the sample below under “Headers”.  See the crisp margin on the right. This is the result of using the ‘justified’ option.

Proof Your manuscript. Then proof it again. Don’t leave anything to chance.  The following sample is just plain sloppy proofing. The circled text should have started on the next (odd No.) page. This called for a page break.

Hard Page Breaks:  On your Word Home page find “Layout”. Click. Directly below Layout is the word: Breaks. Click for the drop down menu and chose the first choice: Page.  This sets the end of the page you’re on and designates a ‘page break’, beginning of a new page. This would have solved the above problem. Note: Be certain your cursor is at the end of the text where you desire a new page to begin. 

Headers:  Put your cursor at the top of the page of your first chapter. Double click.  The page number will automatically appear.  Place your cursor to the right of the page number and ‘space’ over to where you want to type.  The odd page should have the title of the book. You only have to type it in once; it will appear on all odd numbered pages going forward.  Now, put your cursor anywhere on the (grayed out) text of the page and click twice. Your header for odd numbered pages has been created. Now repeat the same steps for the even numbered pages:  Double click at the top of an even no. page, place your cursor to the right of the page no. Space over and type in your name as the author. Wait!  Before you leave this, be certain that you are not linking to the previous header. And leave the box unchecked for ‘Different First Page”. Click the boxes for “Different Odd and Even Pages” and “Show document text”.
What you want to achieve is no header on pages before the first page of the first chapter.  If you find you have headers go back and make certain the “Link to Previous” is not used. You may have to delete all headers and begin again, before you finally get it right. (See sample.)

 

Submitting your manuscript to an Agent/Publisher: Find out what the agent or publisher recommends. Some might require double spacing, for example. They publish their specs and formatting requirements right on their websites. Checking out the specs should be your first step. Adapt your manuscript for each agent or publisher (most will be remarkably similar).

I’ve tried to think of everything you might need to format your manuscript properly. It might seem a little daunting….but it’s not…once you begin these steps it will go fast and be relatively simple.  But if you get stuck, email me at trishsugar@aol.com and I’ll be happy to help. 
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   May:  Joram Piatigorsky, June: Mike Maden writing for TOM CLANCY. July: Guest Blogger Desiree Villena, August: Carolyn Brown
To receive my posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!         

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interview with Carolyn Brown (part 3)

Q. and the all-important: What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like for you?

CB. No book is a proposal that one of my publisher’s has bought, and now it’s time to drag my writing chair over to the computer, talk to my characters and begin to write. Finished book is saying goodbye to those characters and beginning all over again.

Q. How has your life experiences influenced your writing?

CB. Everything, I see, taste, feel, get emotional about, has affected my writing. Add everything I hear or every experience—being raised by a single mother and a blind grandmother, having a step-father, nine step mothers, siblings, half brothers and sisters and a multitude of step brothers and sisters, raising three children, being married more than fifty years. It all plays a part in my writing.

Q. What’s your down time look like?

CB. What is this down time that you speak of? In all seriousness I love to spend time with my family or just have coffee with Mr. B in the middle of each morning.

Q. Have you or do you want to write in another genre`?

The walls of my office. I frame most of my covers. The shadow boxes in black are the books that have sold more than 100,000 copies.

One of my favorites.

CB. I love writing cowboys and women’s fiction. I live by the rule if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. This is working for me. When it ceases to work, I’ll move on.

 

 

 

Q. Note to Self: (a life lesson you’ve learned.)

CB. This, too, shall pass. Disappointments and grief pass. Excitement and victories pass. Love and understanding help soften the pain of one and double the joy of the latter.

CB. Thank you for inviting me to Writer at Play and letting me prop my feet up and visit for a while. Happy Reading to everyone!

 

Did you miss part I of this charming interview?
You can visit Carolyn at www.carolynbrownbooks.com.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   May:  Joram Piatigorsky, June: Mike Maden writing for TOM CLANCY. July: Guest Blogger Desiree Villena, August: Carolyn Brown
To receive my posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

 

 

 

 

 

Interview with author, Carolyn Brown (part 2)

Q. What first inspired you to write?

CB. I’ve loved to tell stories since I was a little girl. My folks separated when I was four years old and my mother, sister and brother (who were younger than me) came from California to Oklahoma to live with my blind grandmother. We didn’t have many toys so I made up stories to keep my younger siblings entertained.

Q. What comes first to you? The Characters or the Situation?

CB. The characters. They create the stories with their situations. I just listen to them tell me what to write next. Shhhh….don’t tell anyone that I have voices in my head! (TS. You’re in good company!)

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

CB. Oh, yes, ma’am. I get so involved with the story and my character’s emotions that I forget about time. Whatever my characters feel, I feel. When they are angry, I’m upset, when they are laughing, I’m giggling. If I don’t have the emotions they do, how could I ever describe them.

Carolyn with hubby, Mr. B.

Q. Are you working on something now? If so tell us about it.

CB. I’m just starting a brand-new women’s fiction entitled The Hope Chest. It’s set in Blossom, Texas and is the story of three cousins, two women and a man, who have inherited a small house from their grandmother.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

CB. When my third child was born and wouldn’t sleep at night, I sharpened a few pencils, got out a spiral notebook and began to write a story that Mr. B and I had been talking about for five years. That book had everything in the world wrong with it, but I was writing…and after too many edits to count…40 years late I sold it with the title The Lilac Bouquet.

Q. Do you think we will see, in our lifetime, the total demise of paper books?

CB. No, I don’t. There are too many readers out there who like to hold a book in their hands and who love to see them on their bookcases.

Q. What makes a writer great?

CB. Keepin’ on even when the goin’ gets tough. Don’t give up and keep writing.

Q. and the all-important: What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like for you?

CB. No book is a proposal that one of my publisher’s has bought, and now it’s time to drag my writing chair over to the computer, talk to my characters and begin to write. Finished book is saying goodbye to those characters and beginning all over again.

Framed book covers by Carolyn

Q. How has your life experiences influenced your writing?

CB. Everything, I see, taste, feel, get emotional about, has affected my writing. Add everything I hear or every experience—being raised by a single mother and a blind grandmother, having a step-father, nine step mothers, siblings, half brothers and sisters and a multitude of step brothers and sisters, raising three children, being married more than fifty years. It all plays a part in my writing.

Q. What’s your down time look like?

CB. What is this down time that you speak of? In all seriousness I love to spend time with my family or just have coffee with Mr. B in the middle of each morning.

Q. Have you or do you want to write in another genre`?

CB. I love writing cowboys and women’s fiction. I live by the rule if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. This is working for me. When it ceases to work, I’ll move on.

Q. Note to Self: (a life lesson you’ve learned.)

CB. This, too, shall pass. Disappointments and grief pass. Excitement and victories pass. Love and understanding help soften the pain of one and double the joy of the latter.

CB. Thank you for inviting me to Writer at Play and letting me prop my feet up and visit for a while. Happy Reading to everyone!

 

Did you miss part I of this charming interview?
You can visit Carolyn at www.carolynbrownbooks.com.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   May:  Joram Piatigorsky, June: Mike Maden writing for TOM CLANCY. July: Guest Blogger Desiree Villena, August: Carolyn Brown
To receive my posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Blogger, Desiree Villena, Addresses Writer’s Block (conclusion)

The last two steps to combat writer’s block :

…………In a brief, it’s expected that you provide a synopsis of your book, as well as highlight any important visual elements within it. Don’t be afraid to play around with this! For example, if your project involves an epiphany, a revelation, or solution to a mystery, a cryptic cover that features a clue could be a way to “wink” at readers who have read the book and now understand the hint. Similarly, if an object plays an important role in your story (think of the cut-glass bowl in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story ‘The Cut-Glass Bowl’, for example), you should let your designer know about it, as they can brainstorm cover ideas that involve this object.
This is an entertaining and creative exercise to do when facing writer’s block because you’ll see certain aspects of your story in a fresh way after trying to synthesize your plot from a visual perspective. Envisioning a potential book cover for your project is guaranteed to motivate you —
not to mention it’ll probably come in handy later!

“Procrastination is unprofessional and a heinous habit…. If you are not a self starter or you cannot find it in yourself to show up for work on your own and deliver on time you should not pursue a writing career.” ~~Dorothea Benton Frank

#3.    Describe your reader avatar. In marketing lingo, a ‘reader avatar’ is your ideal, perfect reader. It’s a notion that every book marketer will remind you to consider as you narrow down possible target markets. For example, the perfect reader of Roald Dahl’s Matilda could be a bookish, moral, and playful child (just like the protagonist) or an English teacher, parent, or relative who encourages children to read and study hard for school. Once you’ve dreamt up your reader avatar, try experimenting with this “character” in a writing exercise! Narrate an ordinary day in their life, write a dialogue between your reader avatar and a friend, or try some poetry in the form of a dramatic monologue and see what their voice sounds like. Getting to know this avatar is a great chance to practice your characterization and dialogue skills, while also keeping them in mind for when the time comes to reach out to them! 

“Stop procrastinating! Okay, serious answer: Remind yourself that your book isn’t going to write itself. It doesn’t do you any good to sit around dreaming up every single detail of your plot and all the action and every line of dialogue. You’ll forget most of what you dream up, anyway, unless you write it down, and if you’re going to write down notes, you might as well just write the damn story.” ~~ Olivia Hawker 

#4. Write a review for a similar book.
If you really need to escape your project, you might even read another book in your genre and distill your thoughts in a review. You don’t have to publish it if you don’t want to, but do consider making it public since all writers appreciate getting a book review. Reading someone else’s work can be a uniquely revitalizing experience for a tired mind, and if their project is somewhat similar to yours, you might find yourself inspired to return to your work in progress. As for the writing part, it’s one of the best ways to support other writers and still train that word-generating part of your brain! Every piece of writing is an opportunity to structure your thinking with eloquence, so no writing effort ever goes to waste. No matter what you find yourself writing in your attempt to move past writer’s block, as long as you’re producing words, you’ll soon find your way through. Hopefully these four writing tasks can renew your excitement for crafting your book, while also inspiring you to think about its future marketing prospects. The key is to just keep going, one word at a time. Don’t lose hope!

Did you miss part 1?

 More good information, click here
Additional post about writer’s block
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   May:  Joram Piatigorsky, June: Mike Maden writing for TOM CLANCY. July: Guest Blogger Desiree Villena, August: Carolyn Brown
To receive my posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

 

 

 

 

Guest Blogger, Desiree Villena contributes…(part 1)

Guest Blogger: Desiree Villena is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that connects authors and publishers with the world’s best editors, designers, and marketers. In her spare time, Desiree enjoys reading contemporary fiction, writing short stories, and giving (mostly) solicited advice to her fellow writers. When asked about where she lives and how many cats or kids she has, this was her response, “Sadly I have no dogs, cats, or kids, as my London flat isn’t quite big enough!”

Battling With Writer’s Block? Here’s four tasks to help kick start your writing again….

When you find yourself dreading going back to your work in progress, it may be time to switch to another writing task. Writing something different can provide the perspective shift you need to  able to return to your project without a feeling of miserable writerly drudgery.
Of course, these alternative writing tasks can still be related to your project, but it’s important that you allow yourself to take a break from the specific points in your writing where you’re encountering difficulties! Since the mind works subliminally, working on something that’s somewhat related to your project is an excellent way to keep exercising that writing muscle, while giving your brain the space to reorganize itself and find new inspiration. Here are four different writing tasks I recommend for anyone trying to break through writer’s block, while still keeping your project in sight.

#1. Draft a query letter to a literary agent
Your query letter is going to be critical when it comes to finding a literary agent. This letter functions as a pitch of your work in progress, and writing this pitch means two things. First, it forces you to distill the essence of your book. Trying to present your project to a total stranger involves taking a step back and re-assessing the bigger picture, which can help dislodge our tired focus from worrisome micro details and minor issues. Second, in describing your idea, you’ll hopefully be reminded of why you love it so much: in other words, you’ll get a chance to re-motivate yourself on the way. Of course, queries to agents are subject to some conventions and rules. To avoid remaining in an agent’s (or indeed publisher’s) slush pile forever, remember that your query should stand out for its content, not its structure. So make sure to open with a hook, followed by an exciting and concise synopsis of your book (check out some examples here).
Then make the case why you are the best person to be writing this book, and demonstrate your knowledge of the literary market by listing a few comparable titles — and don’t pick the most popular titles just because they appear to buff up your work! It’s much more effective to choose books that you feel are actually the most comparable to yours.

Since you’re just working on a draft letter for fun, you don’t need to worry about personalizing your query for its intended recipient. But when the time comes for this query letter to be sent, make sure you also talk about why you have chosen that agent specifically.

#2. Write a brief for a book cover designer
Another fun way to mentally circle the terrain of your ongoing project is to draft a cover brief. A strong book cover design is going to be a crucial part of your marketing later on, but for now, a design brief is a fun way to summarize your project. In fact, it’s not dissimilar to drafting a query letter, but with a distinctly visual focus.  To be continued…

“The first lie every writer tells themselves is this: I don’t have the time to write. The second lie is this: I can’t write. Here’s the truth: writers always write. Are you a writer? But you’re not writing? Then ask yourself this: why aren’t you writing? What are you trying to avoid by not writing? I promise you the answer is going to be some variation of abject fear.” ~~ Mike Maden writing for Tom Clancy

Don’t Miss Part II next week. 
For more helpful information. 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   May:  Joram Piatigorsky, June: Mike Maden writing for TOM CLANCY. July: Guest Blogger Desiree Villena, August: Carolyn Brown
To receive my posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

 

 

 

 

Interview with Mike Maden, writing for Tom Clancy


Mike Maden grew up working in the canneries, feed mills and slaughterhouses of California’s San Joaquin Valley. A lifelong fascination with history and warfare ultimately lead to a Ph.D. in political science focused on conflict and technology in international relations. Like millions of others, he first became a Tom Clancy fan after reading THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER and began his published fiction career in the same techno-thriller genre, starting with DRONE and the sequels, BLUE WARRIOR, DRONE COMMAND and DRONE THREAT. Mike’s fourth Tom Clancy novel, FIRING POINT, featuring Jack Ryan Jr., was released June 9th.
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Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing? (please provide a photo of you at work in your shed, room, closet, barn, houseboat….) Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.

MM. My office is a converted screened-in porch with a stunning view of the Smoky Mountains. We put in a giant plate glass window to capture that view and it’s a constant source of both inspiration and distraction for me as the seasons unfold before my eyes. I split my time equally between a sitting and a standing desk.

Witness the distractions (actual photos from my office/deck. My desk (seldom this uncluttered while working. My “stand up” desk (notice the hand crank). A gift from my wife after publishing my second book:

Q. Do you have any special rituals or quirks when you sit down to write? (a neat work space, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)

MM. Gallons of coffee and a workout at the gym (in that order) are my first morning rituals. I usually arrive at the desk late mornings where I begin the writing day with meditation and journaling. And coffee. Always more coffee. This period of time is always my least productive in terms of word count but absolutely necessary for my process. After lunch I crank out a few more words and often crash into a power nap and then really get rolling on the word count. The late evening is when the afterburners kick in; I’ve kept track of my word counts and writing times over the years and invariably 60% of my work occurs during this later period. I strongly urge all writers but particularly new ones to track their word counts. You might be surprised that your best writing doesn’t occur at either the time or place you assumed. All of us, including full-time writers, simply don’t have enough time to do everything that needs to be done. So if you are particularly time-challenged—balancing career, family, and other responsibilities against your writing time—then being as efficient as possible is absolutely necessary. Nearly every book on creativity will tell you that early mornings right after you wake up is your most creative time and many writers will tell you that they fall out of bed and onto the typewriter even before they have their first cup of coffee or tea. I’m here to tell you, that ain’t me and I have the stats to back it up. So take a week and assiduously track your writing hour-by-hour and find out when you are at your personal best as a writer and ruthlessly schedule yourself accordingly.

Q. How do you ‘get inside’ Tom Clancy’s head and write for him?

MM. The day I got the call from the series editor, Tom Colgan, and was offered the position was both the best and most terrifying day of my literary life. I’ve been a fan of Tom Clancy’s ever since I read THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER. He was a giant and, in my opinion, single-handedly invented the techno-thriller genre, or at least the one we’re all familiar with. What an honor to be asked to join The Campus…but what a responsibility! It was as if Queen Elizabeth had called me up and asked me to add a play or two to Shakespeare’s First Folio. What to do? I was already writing in the genre that Tom Clancy had invented which meant I pretty much had to accept the offer, right? Otherwise, time to hang up my spurs. Except…I did have one pre-condition in my mind that would kill the deal: if I was asked to imitate Tom Clancy’s voice. It’s a huge mistake for anybody to try and imitate a wholly original voice because it simply can’t be done well and I was incredibly relieved to hear Tom Colgan warn me against trying to do so before I even had the chance to ask. This showed me that both Tom Colgan and the Clancy Estate knew exactly how to approach the problem of inviting writers into the Clancy world. I was told in no uncertain terms to write in my own voice and in my own style and I think that’s why all of the other Clancy writers have done such a great job over the years as well.

Q. Do you find your ‘voice’ creeping in when writing for another author?

MM. Absolutely—see above! The single most difficult but most necessary task of an author is to find their own unique voice. The only original thing we have to offer the world is our unique selves; the words we all use are the same, aren’t they? Have you ever read someone slavishly imitating the style of another writer? Yuck. It smacks of artifice and desperation—the act of someone utterly lacking in confidence and originality. We love writers who are original which is another way of saying that they are being their true selves on the page. There are, of course, rules—precious few, mind you—in the Clancyverse that I must obey (e.g., no one in the world recognizes Jack Ryan Junior as the son of President Jack Ryan Senior). But so long as I stay within the guardrails, I’m free to drive as fast and as violently as I care to.
And I do.

Tune in for part 2 of our chat with Mike Maden, June 19th 
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    March: Olivia Hawker, April: Dan Sofer, May:  Joram Piatigorsky, June: Mike Maden writing for TOM CLANCY
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Storytelling….. (Nostalgia series)

I was reading a particularly good story (Brave Girl, Quiet Girl by Catherine Ryan Hyde)  the other day and it set me to wondering;  when was my first memory of a story being told to me. The very first one? I must have been three or four when I first heard of Cinderella. Many stories were told orally by my mother.   It’s really amazing how many fairy tales she knew by heart. I believe that began my life-long-love of story telling.  When I got a little older, my mother went on to tell me hundreds of stories about her five sisters and their growing up in the woods of Tumwater, Washington.  (Wild Violets)

At about age eighteen my sister gave me three books by Erich Maria Remarque. I don’t remember why those particular books, or why that author. Arch of Triumph, A Time to Love and A Time to Die, and All Quiet on the Western Front. (First Editions, copyright 1954) I wasn’t a reader of books; a typical teenager who got plenty of assigned reading in high school left no time for pleasure reading. Sigh. I can’t believe I was ever of that mindset!

 I had idolized my big sister since birth and wanted to please her in all things so I began reading the first book. I was enthralled with the writing and the story. Sixty years later I still have those books; From that moment on I have always had a book in my hands. 

There came a time when I felt I should try my hand at ‘storytelling’.  Writing plays at first. Telling a story in less than 100 pages. It came so naturally. Friends who read my plays wanted more of the stories; fleshed out as it were. (What happened to the characters after the play was over; what were their lives like before the play began?) and they insisted I expand the stage play into a full length novel. Which, even though it took me years of labor, I did. 

As I lived my life I was always the one who sought out stories. I never tired of my mother’s tales about her and her sisters and what hellions they were. My own library of books grew and grew.  Walls  of books.

Around 1994, I sat down and wrote my first stage play…and as they say…the rest is history! By this time I had read hundreds of scripts (during my acting career)  so I found it extraordinarily easy to write in that format. It certainly sharpened my skills at writing dialogue. Along the way, I discovered that ten minute plays were very popular and for me, easy and fun to write. 

In another life I must have been a forensics detective because, as a hobby, I love murder, gore, forensics and clues. Characters come first for me when writing and one day Detectives Jack O’Roarke and Stella Garcia popped into my head. They were fully formed and rarin’-ta-go!  (World of Murder).

My advice to writers? If you’re just starting out, tell a story you know . You can always research a topic that you don’t know anything about but your writing will take longer, because you must get it right.  Keep writing!

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    March: Olivia Hawker, April: Dan Sofer, May:  Joram Piatigorsky, June: Mike Maden writing for TOM CLANCY
To receive my posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!