Archive for the Category » Motivational Moments for Writers «

When will My Stories be Discovered??

TS. I wrote this post back in 2012….seven years ago. But most of it still holds true today.

Okay, so now you have a publisher…your books will fly off the shelves or through cyberspace, right?  Au contra, it’s still going to take some time. Or at least, that’s certainly been my experience….

Samuel French (biggest publisher for stage plays)  picked me up in 2004 and has since published four of my stage plays.  I am so grateful to be in the same publishing house as  Louisa May Alcott, David Mamet, Anton Chekhov, and Tennessee Williams. And the staff is so nurturing to their authors.  But, here’s the reality: No sales the first year, a few the second year, more the third year and so on…….but, sadly, no BIG immediate discovery of this playwright!  Not like in the movies!!

So I kept writing and editing and submitting……and writing more!

I am happy to share with my readers the news that I received a nice fat check from French with reports that reflected my biggest sales period EVER, the first quarter, this year (2012)!  Over the last six months they have sold seventy scripts of mine.  Most orders were in multiple quantities which means a theatre company was buying enough books for cast and crew.  And that means that somewhere, out in the world, theatre companies are producing my work!  You might be saying to yourself, ‘that’s not so many’  but think about it.  That’s 11.6 scripts per month. And like I said, most of them were NOT perusal copies (of one) but the number that they would need to produce a show! One production in Bangor, Maine and the other in Phoenix, AZ.

Last year (2018) a play of mine was produced in Iceland and the UK.

My books are finally selling with some welcomed regularity on amazon.com (USA and Europe) and other book outlets. After eight long years!!

So my message to you is: Keep writing, fellow writers.  Keep editing, rewriting. That’s where a really good story/book is born.  When you get rejection after rejection  (as I did) let that be the spur to write more! Use ‘Self publishing’ . ‘Vanity’ books are a thing of the past…or almost.  Most of us, as writers, have something important to say and vanity is far, far away from our thoughts.  With the advent of ‘print on demand’ self publishing is not the huge investment it used to be.  I self publish for less than $100. plus the wholesale cost of the finished book.  Sure your publisher takes a cut…but!  You’re published!!

Writing is a lonely business but keep at it.  I’ll believe in you if you’ll believe in me!
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!  December: Australian mystery writer, Dervla  McTiernan
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Revise, Edit and Re-publish

My first novel was written in 2011. Being known as a playwright, I was urged by friends and fans to expound on the play by the same title. They were left unsatisfied by the play (even though it was a thumbnail of the story and quite successful on the stage.) They wanted more. What happened to the three women in the story? 

Writing a play is child’s play (pun intended) for someone like me. After all I’ve read thousands of play scripts and portrayed hundreds of characters from other plays, not my own.  One hundred pages is a walk in the park. But 300+ pages of a work of fiction. A Novel. I still remember the day I sat at my keyboard and faced the blank page 1. I was scared out of my mind.  Thank the stars I had a story plot and the stage play to refer to. 

Now, eight years later I brought it out and dusted it off. (Remember I’ve written about this before.) The first thing I do is check for my personal idiosyncrasies when writing: those words we all use too much. Mine are ‘just‘ and ‘that‘.  So I checked the first one. 264 ‘Justs‘ and I only needed about 28 of them. So I went through the manuscript and deleted a couple hundred. Ugh. 
Now, let’s see about the second word. ‘That’. 723. Oh dear!

Several years ago I was reading one of my favorite authors (when I’m not writing, I’m reading) and something was irritating me in the back of my consciousness, a little niggle. 

Then I realized the author repeatedly used the word ‘snickered’ or‘ snicker‘ when describing the tone of the dialogue. (Let the dialogue set the tone.) I doubt the author was even aware of it. ‘Snickered’ was exactly the same as my ‘that’. There’s a whole slew of synonyms for ‘snicker’ (she could have mixed it up) Scorned, scoffed, mocked, derided, sneered, snorted, etc. Once I discovered the culprit of my irritation, I couldn’t unsee the word and it spoiled the story for me. I put the book away, unread.

Technical Note: For those of you who don’t know how to find a word used to excess: Use the keys ‘Control F’; a box will open. type in the word that you might have used too much. It will tell you how many times it was used in the ms. And the word will be highlighted in yellow so you can easily edited them. 

So whenever you edit, clean up and revise an older work you will get a better story out it. You will achieve better writing. You may even find a new chapter or two.

“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. ’Tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” ― Mark Twain
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    July — Catherine Ryan Hyde.  August:  My interview with Susan Wiggs  September: Alan Foster (sci-fi) and October: Kristina McMorris
 
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How to Create Tantalizing Book Covers

Intriguing cover. I see a young man and an old lady. Something tells me they are not related. The woman is blind. (see cane) Right away when I saw this cover I knew that they were unlikely friends. BTW, it turns out this is the best book I’ve ever read!

Nine Tips on Creating your Book Cover when self-publishing. There are dozens of platforms to create a book cover. Most publishing platforms have a ‘cover creator’ that you can easily use. This post is not about building a book cover. These tips are about  content. Images and titles that attract your reader. Making them want to pick up your book.  The ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’ by example.

  1. A book cover is the very first thing a book buyer is going to be attracted to whether it’s in a book store browsing the shelves or surfing the digital pages on the web. It is the first and most important step in marketing your book. 
  2. Your cover should tantalize, intrigue, and compel the buyer to pick up the book or stop scrolling (on the Internet) and delve into your book.
  3. Your cover image should not be obscure. It should represent what’s inside. But just a tease.
  4. Park your ego at the door. Don’t be artsy, egotistical, or have a “I’m the author” moment when designing your book cover. Step back and try to objectively visualize what a reader might be attracted to. Represent your story with the cover image.
  5. There is a fine line between being clever and being stupid about the design for your book. 
  6. The artwork (find yourself a good graphic designer) should be as good as you can afford. The title should be in the largest font. A tag line is nice on the front cover and absolutely mandatory on the back. The author’s name is the least important.  Yep, that’s what I said. Unless you are Nora Roberts or Stephen King with enormous name-recognition, your name should take up the least amount of space. 
  7. The artwork (images) should tease; suggest what the story line is; make the buyer curious about the story inside.
  8. The image should suggest but not be specific; leave something for the reader’s imagination.
  9. Here are some samples of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ covers in this blogger/reviewer’s opinion: 



    Say Goodbye For Now
    . Looking closely, it appears to be a younger Caucasian boy and an African-American boy. The dog looks like a Shepard/husky mix or a hybrid wolf. The cover is tantalizing; are the boys friends? how does the dog fit in? Who is going to say goodby? I give this a strong  

     

     

    The Orchid Sister. Too artsy and too dark in tone. The font is hard to read. The Cover doesn’t say anything except that there is a sister.  The vibe I get from this cover is it is probably about the occult. Which it was not. Poor decisions all around.
    I give it a                                  

     

    The Oysterville Sewing Circle. This cover is too obscure. It’s a deeply rich story but the cover short-changes it and  implies that it involves a bunch of women in a sewing circle which it is not.
                                                                                             Have to give it a

     

    Dance of Murder. I give my graphic designer (David White) all the credit for this one. So I can use it as an example. Over the years, I have developed such a relationship with him that I can give him a synopsis of the story and what I envision and let him loose. This is what I got.  I’m going to rank it as I had little to do with the creative side of things. This cover tells the buyer/reader that the story is about strippers who are murdered. The neon color of ‘Dance’  emphasizes that the story is around a strip club. The art work teases just enough to intrigue. It gets a

     

    It’s Getting Scot in Here. I’m of the school that you should never show specific faces of the characters on the cover. The reader wants to have their own idea of what the characters look like, especially the heroine and hero. Why a gazebo on the cover? They were in one for a total of 3 seconds in over 300 pages of this book. While I was caught up in this fine story, my imagined lovers looked nothing like the people on the cover.
                                                                                                                                  This is a sample of what not to do:

    My Own True Duchess. This is what you should do. This cover represents exactly what the story is. A period romance. The reader can barely see what the lovers look like and leaves it to the imagination.  I give it a

      

     Blue Hollow Falls. I prefer that authors leave me to imagine what my favorite characters look like. This cover tells me that there is a single woman, probably in conflict. She appears to be discovering this conservatory or greenhouse for the first time. Her dress and the wild flowers tell me the season. I’m curious.  I give this a


    The Colonel and The Bee
    . This cover teeters between being too obscure or being just about perfect. The story is wonderful with fine writing. But the cover doesn’t tantalize like the story deserves so I have to give it a Only until after I read this fantastic story did I understand the cover. That’s a bad thing. I had never heard of the author. Something about the title made me purchase this book. But nothing about the image attracted me.

     

     

    SEE ALSO PROOF. This is one of the worst covers I’ve seen in a while.  The Title makes no sense and doesn’t present even a clue as to the story. I read the book so I can say the 5×7 note card has no relevance. And I dislike a plug for another book on the front.  Too bad because I really like what this author offers. The tag line, while a little long, is acceptable. But a very poor cover over all.                              

     I give it a

     

     

    Women Outside the Walls. Yep, this is mine. But it’s a good example of what you want your cover to achieve.  The three women speak of how different they are in social status and education. There’s rebellion and grief in their expressions. The title makes the reader wonder; are they outside prison walls? Probably. But how did they get there?  Again, the value of a graphic artist.  I give it a

    I want to emphasize how important the cover is. If you can, invest in a good graphic artist. My experience has been to give them some room to create. The front cover should be simple as far as text:  title, author’s name, a tag line. The back cover is where you put the synopsis, some reviews, another tag line (if you want) and a short bio of the author with a small photo. 
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    MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    July — Catherine Ryan Hyde.  August:  My interview with Susan Wiggs  September: Alan Foster (sci-fi) and October: Kristina McMorris
     
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Other Writers Will Inspire You If You Let Them

I’m enjoying everything written by Catherine Ryan Hyde. I stumbled upon her as I searched through online book stores a few months back. Looking for  new authors to read and possibly interview….but mostly to read.  The cover of Have You Seen Luis Velez? caught my eye. Two figures (from the waist down) walking together; one obviously a boy with his worn jeans and sneakers. The other an older woman in a house dress and ill fitting coat. A white cane searching the pavement out in front of her old lady shoes. It intrigued me. It could be a grandson with his grandma but something about the image said no. It was something else. I ordered it and thanked my lucky stars I went with my instincts.  As I have said before, it is #1 of my top ten hits. It’s beautifully written and a gorgeous story. 

After that I read Allie and Bea. The joy of reading Hyde’s writing continued. Luis Velez was not a one shot wonder as I had feared. 
I am now  reading Say Goodbye For Now. The beautiful prose continues. Catherine Ryan Hyde is a master. It’s a turn a phrase, connecting words perfectly—(now I’m just plain gushing). But let me give you an example. It’s a small one but worth the mention.
 

On page 138 the two young boys are talking. It’s the dead of night and neither of them can sleep. The day had been jarring and scary. Pete is a thoughtful young boy. He isn’t quick to answer or judge or act. The two boys are exploring if it’s only scary when you’re a kid or are grownups scared too. They find it a depressing thought that just being a person, no matter what age, will be scary. 

Pete’s new friend has asked, “Just…I don’t know. Being a person, I guess. Is it just me, or is it really scary?”

“That’s a good question.” Pete says. “I’ll have to think about that.”

(Here’s the example of this writer’s thoughtfulness and mastery with words)

‘But once again, Pete didn’t exactly think. More left simple openings for thoughts or feelings to volunteer.’

AND: (on page 293)
“She couldn’t quite read his expression.  His face looked the way it always did. The way it always had, as long as she had known him. Maybe his sadness over these new events was no bigger or more powerful than the sadness he had brought with him to her door on that first day.”

These questions, thoughts, observations are on every page. They are sometimes so subtle, like this one, you have to be on your toes to even notice them. But, damn! They’re beautiful when you catch them and stop a moment to taste them.

Did you see my Interview with Catherine Ryan Hyde?

Watch for my Review and the Release of her newest book, Stay  (On sale December 2019)
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    July — Catherine Ryan Hyde.  August:  My interview with Susan Wiggs  September: Alan Foster (sci-fi) and October: Kristina McMorris
 
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Writing Tips ~~ Write in Present Tense or Past?

write, create, writing, authors, blogThe best writers almost always seem to know, either consciously or intuitively, when to use present tense. Many of us, however, do not. Present tense has become something of a fad, and we often use it even when past tense would serve the story better. Whatever the causes for the prevalence of the present tense in today’s fiction, it is important that we understand its advantages and disadvantages so we can better decide when to employ it.

Present tense restricts our ability to manipulate time. Altering chronological order and varying duration both work against the primary purpose of present tense, which is to create the feeling that something’s happening now.

It is more difficult to create complex characters using present tense. While it is certainly possible to create complex characters in present-tense fiction, it’s more difficult to do so without natural access to the basic techniques that allow us to manipulate order and duration. 

The present tense can diminish suspense. Because present-tense narrators do not know what is going to happen, they are unable to create the kind of suspense that arises from knowledge of upcoming events.

I, as an author, am in the ‘past tense’ camp. I am always put off, and find it very distracting, when a writer chooses to write in present tense. And horrors of horrors, flips back and forth between present and past tense for no apparent reason.  TS

                                                                                                     ~~~~~~~~~~~~

‘Most stories are told using the simple past—was, walked, drank, hoped. Stories using the past tense are written the same way stories have been told for years—once upon a time, sometime before the present time, these marvelous characters existed and lived out a fantastic adventure. They did these things, these events are over, and someone can’t resist telling you all about these happenings and adventures.

When I say most stories, I mean the great majority of stories. Oral stories as well as written fiction are told using the past tense. It’s common to readers, it’s common to writers, and it’s been the prevalent format for storytelling for years and years and years.

It’s so common that readers don’t notice it; they simply jump into the story’s adventure.

The present tense—is, walks, drinks, hopes—on the other hand, is rare. Yes, we all know wonderful stories told using present tense. Yet in comparison to the number of novels that use the simple past, present-tense novels are few in number. Present-tense narration is also much more recent a practice.

From what I can tell from a quick survey of Internet articles, readers notice when stories are told using the present tense. I’m not saying, nor are those readers, that there’s anything wrong with the use of present tense. We are saying that its use is noticeable.

Choose the present tense if you’re trying for a unique feel to your fiction, but know the limitations. Know that readers might not accept your choice. Know that publishers might ask you to change your narrative tense.

Choose past tense when you don’t want to distract the reader, when you want to use the common storytelling method.

Don’t let fear hold you back. Use the narrative tense that works for the story, the genre, and your readers. Know what narrative tense can achieve.

Write strong stories.

Write powerful fiction.

(Thank you, Beth Hill, The Editor’s Blog)

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   May: Boo Walker, June: Anne D. LeClaire and July — Catherine Ryan Hyde.  August:  My interview with Susan Wiggs and September: Alan Foster (sci-fi)
 
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What Other Writers are Saying…

TS. I am currently developing a new journal for creative writers who are or want to be writing plays. If my fans and readers are familiar with my journals, it is traditional for me to embed quotes from other writers, authors, actors, directors, etc., into the blank pages of the journal. These are meant to inspire the owner of the journal with their own story writing.

Louis L’Amour

So I am always looking for new quotes as I hand pick every one when considering them for my journals. Here are what other writers have said about the joys (and heartbreak) of being a writer.

 

“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” Louis L’Amour

“Write hard and clear about what hurts.” Ernest Hemingway 

Mary Y-Arr

“What would you write if you weren’t afraid?” Mary Y-Arr

 

“The thing all writers do best is find ways to avoid writing.” Alan Dean Foster

Alan Dean Foster

“You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.” Jodi Picoult

“The desire to write grows with writing.” Desiderius Erasmus

“I must write it all out at any cost. Writing is thinking. It is more than living, for it is being conscious of living.” Anne Morrow Lindbergh

“As a writer you try to listen to what others aren’t saying…and write about the silence.” N.R. Hart 

MJ Bush

“Step into a scene and let it drip from your fingertips.” MJ Bush 

“We write to taste life twice. In the moment and in retrospect.” Anais Nin

Anais Nin

“I think new writers are too worried that it has all been said before. Sure it has but not by you.” Asha Dornfest 

“An opening line should invite the reader to begin the story. It should say: Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this.” Stephen King

Stephen King

“Be courageous and try to write in a way that scares you a little.” Holley Gerth

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   May: Boo Walker, June: Anne D. LeClaire and July — Catherine Ryan Hyde.  August: My interview with Susan Wiggs and in September: Alan Dean Foster (sci-fi)
 
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Writing Tips: Prequels and Sequels

fairies, books for children, literacy, reading, bullying, bullies, elves,

Recently I’ve returned to the Fabled Forest  writing a new book for the series of children’s books.   
Emma and the Aardvarks will address endangered species when two sisters, aardvarks, arrive unexpectedly in the Forest. Just when I think a series has run its course another book pops into my head. 

I write fables (not fairy tales) with a lesson in every story. Subjects like bullying, running away, being different, ecology and so on. 

For you new writers:  A sequel, of course, is a new story that continues (almost) where you left off in the last one. It has reoccurring characters and the scene is usually the same as in my forest. 

A prequel is a story of what happened before your current book.  For example: I might write a story about Emma’s life before she entered the fabled forest and met all her mystical friends.

Is there a prequel or sequel to a story you have written? I’ll bet there is. This idea is very popular with readers. If they like a story, they want more of the same.

GIVE IT TO THEM! 

 

Cinderella's stepsister stumbles into the Fabled Forest clearing

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   May: Boo Walker, June: Anne D. LeClaire and July — Catherine Ryan Hyde
 
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How To Write a Play, The Arc

What is a story arc, you ask.  The dictionary defines a story arc as ‘(in a novel, play, or movie) the development or resolution of the narrative or principal theme’. Story arcs are the overall shape of rising and falling tension or emotion in a story. This rise and fall is created via plot and character development.

A strong storytelling arc follows this principle. It shows rise and fall, cause and effect, in a way that makes sense. An example is from one of my stage plays, Women Outside the Walls. Right before intermission, my antagonist, Charlie (an inmate) took the entire visiting room hostage, with a knife. Who wouldn’t want to come back (after intermission) to see what happens next?

It is my belief that the story’s arc, in a stage play, should happen right before the intermission. More people than you can guess will leave at the intermission. So my theory is to ‘hook’ them and make your audience want to come back in and sit down.

 

A whole should have a beginning, middle and an end… A well constructed plot … must neither begin nor end at haphazard.’ Aristotle

 

 

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   December:  Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)  January: Molly Gloss.  February: Rick Lenz, March: Patrick Canning and April: Poet, Joe Albanese
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Guest Blogger, Adam Durnham, on Writing

How to Improve Your Creative Writing Skills by Adam Durnham

Creative pieces are usually meant to entertain, but since readers often want more than mere entertainment, they expect literary pieces to challenge the mind and tickle the imagination. For some, writing or reading literary pieces could also be a form of art therapy.
Though these standards are quite simple, they may put more pressure on writers. The more advanced readers are, the higher the standards they set for the authors’ literary pieces.
Here are four tips that can help people improve their creative writing skills:
Do not underestimate your readers’ ability to understand and imagine
Leave room for your readers to imagine the back story, the motivation of the characters, and the exposition (the elements that explain the story). You don’t have to reveal all of these in graphic detail all at once. You can give clues or foreshadow some events in the story, but be careful about revealing every element at the start of the piece. Let your readers use their imaginations and formulate theories.
Identify the key points of your story, specifically taking note of the following:
i. What is the main goal of your protagonist? Try to create a protagonist who is interesting or unique in some way.
ii. What are the relevant actions your protagonist takes towards the completion of his or her goal? The protagonist of the story could make conscious decisions that drive and direct the entirety of the story.
iii. What are some unexpected outcomes of the protagonist’s decision(s)?
iv. What are some details related to the literary piece’s setting, tone, and dialogue that can help you reveal the story to the readers?
v. What is the climax of the story?
vi. Will readers find any morals from the story?
vii. How will the story end?
Pay attention to character development
To create realistic, multifaceted characters, it is important to understand and describe characters. To help you develop your characters, consider examining one or more of the following details:
● Name
● Age
● Appearance
● Family and relationships
● Ethnicity
● Drinking habits
● Likes and dislikes
● Strengths and faults
● Illnesses
● Hobbies
● Pets
● Phobias
● Religion
● Job
● Residence
● Sleep patterns
● Nervous gestures
● Secrets
● Memories
● Temperament

Including such details can make it easier to define your characters. They can help you mold your characters, build storylines, and create dialogue. You might want to consider

● Appearance: Create a visual understanding for your readers so that they can vividly imagine what the characters look like.
● Action: Instead of simply listing adjectives to define characters, describe the characters’ actions to tell your readers what the characters do and what they’re like.
● Speech: Don’t kill the story’s momentum by explaining the plot in great detail. Instead, try to reveal the plot through your characters and their dialogue.
● Thought: Show your readers how your characters think. Show them the characters’ hopes, fears, and memories.
Create a great plot
A story plot tells us what happens in the story. Writers establish situations, identify the story’s turning points, and determine the fate of each character.
Plots are the sequence of events arranged by the writer that reveal the story’s emotional, thematic, and dramatic significance. To create a great plot, it is important to understand the following elements of the story:
● Hook: The stirring or gripping problem or event that catches readers’ attention.
● Conflict: A clash between characters and their internal selves, or between different characters, or even between characters and external forces.
● Exposition: The back story or background information about the characters and how this background information relates to the rest of the story.
● Complication: A problem or set of challenges that the characters face that make it difficult to accomplish their goals.
● Transition: Dialogue, symbols, or images that link one part of the story to another.
● Flashback: Something that occurs in the past, before the current events of the story.
● Climax: The peak of the story.
● Denouement: The story’s falling action or the release of the action that occurs after the climax.
● Resolution: The solution of the external or internal conflict.

Writing can be challenging if you don’t know the techniques. It can be a form of art or art therapy if you come to master it. Techniques and tips can help you build the literary skill you need. Practicing them can give you the experience to produce creative, well-crafted work.
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   December:  Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)  January: Molly Gloss.  February: Rick Lenz, March: Patrick Canning and April: Poet, Joe Albanese
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Motivational Moments…for Writers #41

Be certain you tie up all your loose ends.  I am writing another true crime mystery. I was knee-deep in blood in the lobby and elevator car of my detectives’ latest case.  The tiny dog had survived the barrage of bullets but his owner did not. Bodies are loaded up for transport to the ME’s morgue, CSI is working the scene and….okay…what do I do with the dog?  

While you’re writing (and rewriting), be aware of your loose ends. Have you resolved all of them?

 

“All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you: the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was. If you can get so that you can give that to people,  then you are a writer.” ― Ernest Hemingway

 

“A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author.”  ― G.K. Chesterton

“I’ve got the key to my castle in the air, but whether I can unlock the door remains to be seen.” ― Louisa May Alcott

 

 the entire Collection of  Motivational Moments for Writers can be found in one book, How To Write Creatively

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   October: Alretha Thomas. November: Joe English. December:  Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)  January: Molly Gloss and in early 2019  Patrick Canning.
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