Show Me the Story! – Writing Tips

Show don’t tell.

There are things in life that need to be chewed on for some time before the light bulb comes on and we enter the realm of understanding. Showing and not telling is one of the things that took a while for me to understand. Since the light bulb has come on, my writing has not been the same.

But what does this mean? Let me give you an example.

“Charlie was furious”.

This is a line you might come across in your own writing, or at least phrases like this. These phrases describe a scene, but fall unequivocally short of painting what is happening inside the character. This tells what has happened – Charlie was furious. This does not allow us to get to know the character to advance the story. Albeit, it might be a justifiable fury, but in the end if falls short to enrapture the reader in the tale you are in the process of spinning.

So, how do you show something without telling it? Glad you asked. Let’s revisit Charlie in the “furious” scene.

Charlie ran as fast as he could after Harry, but the older boy was much faster and was soon out of sight, cackling as he sprinted over the hill. Charlie punched his fist. He roared and raged kicking the dirt and screamed obscenities which echoed across the green glen.

Here, we are not sure what happened to evoke such anger, but the action is what pulls us in. The action of punching, screaming, kicking, and the echoing obscenities. Whatever it was, it made Charlie furious. But I didn’t say that now did I?

I hope you found this brief tip and example helpful.

I also hope you have time to enter your writer’s world this weekend.

Keep writing my friends.

Year End Writing Contests

As we move through the summer at such a rapid pace I began to reflect on the end of the year. I have goals that I wish to accomplish, and I realized some of them might take a bit more time than my usual 5-6 hours a week I spend writing.

I’d like to share some writing contests with you today. Why do I mention them? Because sometimes it is nice to hunker down and get something accomplished. There is something about a writer locked in a cabin that is alluring to me. Disappearing for an extended piece of time and then emerging with the Great American Novel!

So if you want to finish a novel this year, perhaps use the thrill, comradery, and intensity of these contests.

NANOWRIMO

National Novel Writing Month

Here is the link: http://www.nanowrimo.org/

What is NaNoWriMo?

National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing on November 1. The goal is to write a 50,000 word, (approximately 175 page) novel by 11:59:59, November 30.

3-Day Novel Contest

This is the most notorious contest I know. My writers group has, for the most part, done this each year. I highly recommend this literary adrenaline rush.

Can you produce a masterwork of fiction in three short days? The 3-Day Novel Contest is your chance to find out. For more than 30 years, hundreds of writers step up to the challenge each Labour Day weekend, fuelled by nothing but adrenaline and the desire for spontaneous literary nirvana. It’s a thrill, a grind, a 72-hour kick in the pants and an awesome creative experience. How many crazed plotlines, coffee-stained pages, pangs of doubt and moments of genius will next year’s contest bring forth? And what will you think up under pressure?

Prizes

1st Prize: Publication*
2nd Prize: $500
3rd Prize: $100

*The first prize winner will be offered a publishing contract by 3-Day Books after the winner announcement in the January following the contest. Once the contract is signed, the winning novel will be edited, published and released by the next year’s contest. 3-Day Books are distributed by Arsenal Pulp Press.

How about you, what opportunities are you taking to finish your novel this year?

Cheers,

Bob

What Fuels Your Writing?

Writing Fuel

I have a lot of ideas for books. I keep them stashed away in piles of notebooks or if I get a flash of a scene in my mind I write it down and save it in a file on my computer. I’ve never had an issue with ideas or better stated the problem of the creative well running dry.

My issue, like most of you out there, is finding ways to revitalize my creativity, or better yet fueling my creativity.

There is a difference between inspiration and motivation. I find that in my writing life they are often clashing like land and wave, warring against one another. Which made me wonder, what puts me in the writing mood?

Reading – This is obvious, I know. I think the key here is not pulling out War and Peace by Tolstoy because for me that is a work to savor and study. It should be something with great language and pace, anything by Dickens, Rowling, Lewis, and the like. Once I hear a voice of a particular author in their writing it helps me jump back into mine.

Quiet Time – When I can steal some time for myself to merely think and gain perspective instead of being a human machine fulfilling task after task it helps me take a breath, relax, and refocus. This time is best in the mornings and late at night when my wife and children are in bed. Also, there is a park nearby my work that is wooded with walking trails and a nice vigorous walk awakens the writer in me.

Reading Blogs – I follow several blogs and many of them are located on my blogroll. Being involved in the writing community is important, and hearing what my cyber writing friends have to say is always beneficial. Also, seeing people putting up content constantly is a friendly rub of motivation to get out there and produce myself.

Talking with Other Writers – I have a scheduled night each week that I use for writing, though it changes from time to time, it is nice to meet regularly with Josh. Also, when I catch up with fellow Weaklings, Andrew and Matthew, it’s helpful as well.

Reading Books on Writing – When you are trying to do anything in life, travel across Europe, buying a car, starting a degree, it is always good to read books by people who have accomplished it. It reveals that finishing is possible, and perhaps some insightful tips along the way.

Sherlock Holmes 2: A Game of Shadows

But what about you writer? What have you done lately that has put you into the writing mood? Because, if you are searching for motivation, you should probably do that before getting to your writing device.

Cheers,

Bob

New Years Writing Resolution Progress Report

Whether stated aloud or left unsaid inside our heads, resolutions abound at the turning of the New Year. It is June and I would like to take this post and reflect on my New Year’s resolutions thus far. Why don’t you do the same? If they pertain to writing, it matters not. What matters is that if you’ve falter or life has derailed you, you have nearly six months to right the ship!

BOB’S 2012 WRITING AMBITIONS

Goal #1 – Finish my original story – The Tale of Calelleth. How? – I have been finishing a chapter a week. I have two more to write. I see this as a totally doable goal.

This I completed in February. The submission process should happen this month.

Goal #2 – Write 1 blog a week for 2012. How? – My daughter is now going to bed around 9:30 instead of 2:00am. Hopefully, this will allow one night a week for a quick update or thought about the part time writing process.

A blog a week means 52 posts. I started writing a blog a day in April, thus, I have passed this and will certainly destroy this goal this year unless an unforeseen derailment. That’s 2 for 2!

Goal #3 – Write the first draft of a kids’ book, by mid early spring/mid-summer. How? Again, I hope to have more time in the evening and get a couple of mornings per week schedule going. Also this book is much shorter than my original work. As a side note, I have to remember to stay healthy, for I have been told I sometimes burn the candle at both ends, and have two lighters in the middle. Also, I am a much better writer. Things come out much easier and more coherent (or so they seem!) than when I first started.

I have written about 10000 words this year. It took a while to get back on the novel horse, but I have a good outline and good direction. I was a bit ambitious with this “finish it in spring business, but I should have a decent chunk done in the fall.

Goal #4 – Submit both stories to an agent/agencies. How? I have a few examples for proposals, some ideas on where I can get the information, and where I should send them. It is strange really, thinking this is an actual possibility. I cannot believe it even as I write this.

I will certainly submit The Tale of Calelleth to an agent or hundred, but the kid’s story is a first draft. It will take a while until that is submission ready. I need to know what I have first, and I need to have the first draft completed in order to do that.

Lastly, I wrote this to my readers in January, perhaps you will find motivation through it today. Get going writers, time is of the essence!

The one parting comment I would like to send out to my readers is this: If you ever dream of writing, if you ever wanted to find an excuse to begin down this thrilling path of writing a novel, starting a blog, or working on short stories, now is that time. It is a new year. Stop dreaming about it and do it.

Cheers,

Bob

Why do YOU blog?

I have been a whining moaning writer. Time has been my Enemy. Outside, I have been calm and collected. Inside, I am frustrated, tired, and utterly spent. Which made me reflect, why am I even blogging? I could be working on my novel! I want to be a writer and it is hard to both build a platform and work on a novel.

However, the question much closer to the heart of all of this is: When you strip all of the craziness of life away, if you could stop for a moment and evaluate what is important, what is worth the precious currency of time we all carry in the pocket of our days?

I am a writer I tell myself, that is why I am writing. I am building my platform. But, I am married and have young children. Cindy and I have been married for seven years and I wish that to continue for the rest of my life. Clara is eight months, soon to be nine months, and June is capable of conversation. Do I want to be one of those distant husband or father figures so virtuously engrossed in my own little writers’ world that I put my dreams above them?

True, the answer is obvious. My kids and wife mean more to me than my job and my writing and even my life. But, I still want to write. There’s just too little time for it in this season of life.

When I heard about Ray Bradbury’s death and some of the things he used to do, like write for hours at a time EVERY. SINGLE. DAY., it made me wonder what his life was like. He had children. He was married. With all of the other obstacles that come up in life he still found that minute morsel of time for his dream.

Every person’s life has seasons. Perhaps this is my writer’s Winter. I cannot wait for the writer’s Spring!

Find some time this weekend to write my friends. I shall try and do the same.

Cheers,

Bob

Ray Bradbury, Dead at 91

Fahrenheit 451

My friend Andrew handed me a book nearly six years ago. He said, “Here, this is by one of my favorite authors, you should read it,” (or something like that). It was titled Fahrenheit 451 written by Ray Bradbury.

I am a person who tends to view science fiction or fantasy in an unfriendly light. It is Ironic because that is what I love and write. However, I believe the reason is one in the same with my aversion to anything self published, because it tends to be poor. There are many authors “published” on Smashwords, but that does not mean they are good, though I’m sure there are some very good ones.

Another reason I struggle with fantasy is because I don’t find the main plots and drivers to be culturally relevant.

I’m not saying it has to have a financial crisis or political gridlock as plot lines, sometimes you need something to aspire to and Bradbury with his forward thinking mind provided this. He wrote of far flung places like Mars, other galaxies, and dystopian earth, however he, could not have been more prophetic about our society and our technological dependence. He wrote, mastered, and solidified Science Fiction as an art form.

One beautifully penned article said this about Mr Bradbury,

Ray Bradbury anticipated iPods, interactive television, electronic surveillance and live, sensational media events, including televised police pursuits — and not necessarily as good things

Courtesy Villagevoice

The man wrote feverishly. What I mean by that is he wrote every day for nearly his entire life. He died at ninety one so I suspect he wrote every day for about seventy years and his desire to write burned bright even unto death. Can you imagine that? Based on what I have read, he never had a day off, he merely plunged again and again in the well of his creativity as if he had his own private ocean of it.

What would happen if you and I wrote like he did? What would happen if we wrote every day? I am sure I would have a lot more than one novel finished.

To Ray Bradbury though, writing was never about the money. He was about the craft and if there is any advice he would echo from the grave it would be to write and burn bright and long as you do so.

Goodbye Mr. Bradbury, and thanks.

Cheers,

Bob

Submission Process Step One: Know the Market

There is no correct way to compose a novel. Of course there are grammar rules and sentence structure that we must adhere to as novelists, but there is not a sure-fire way to write one. It’s like telling someone that chocolate ice cream is the correct flavor of ice cream.

That is one of the things I love about writing. It’s a process of discovery and imagination, which, when combined, create a very interesting, albeit sometimes frustrating, quest.

This blog is not about “how to submit a novel”, but rather steps that I (and other marketers and novelists I know) deem important in the submission process. However, please take this for what it is, a suggestion, and if you have had success in the submission process, please share your ideas.

Submission Process Step One: Know the Market & Seek Your Competition

I am writing fantasy. I hate that term but it is what it is. When you think of fantasy immediatly the books of JRR Tolkien, J K Rowling, and perhaps even C. S. Lewis come to mind. If I am writing fantasy, you might wonder, why not compare yourself to one of the greats?

Simple. Everyone who is writing fantasy says they are like them, and in actuality, no one can be them. And all of this besides as a new unpublished author how could I presumptuously believe that my unknown work belongs on the same bookshelf or even at the same address as those Tomes?

Thus, I have started a search for books that are like mine and are not as well known. One of them I discovered, is Secrets of the Fire Sea by Stephen Hunt.

Why did I choose this novel? Glad you asked.

The book begins with an isolated island and a time of innocence. This is like my beginning. Also, there is a scandal and power struggle within the society as well as an unknown outside force of immense power which descends upon my character’s beloved city. There are tremendous amounts of similarities, I could go on for quite some time but, the main reason I want to know my competition is because I wish to exploit them. (Devious laugh)

Alright, if you know me I am not the devious and exploiting sort, however, I am want to get to know this book for several reasons.

I want to know who published it. I want to know the agent behind it. I want to know the synopsis, and I want to know the target audience. This information is important when trying to find that oh-so-precious-niche where my novel might belong.

Since I have discovered one of the books I can complete with (or deliriously believe that I can) I will begin researching its publication process. All of this information is located on the book for the most part, and once that is finished, I merely need to put together a proposal and send off my dreams to be assuredly rejected.

However, this is just the beginning. At some point I might very well elbow my way through the clouds. 

Here’s to my, and your, dreams novel writer.

Cheers,

Bob



How Often Should You Write?

Happy Tuesday. I am proud to announce that the internet quandary has been resolved and I have the ability to post once again, look out!

Since my hiatus from the blogging and writing world over the last few weeks a question came to mind. How can I call myself a writer if I am not writing? Which brought to mind another question. How often should a writer write and still be allowed maintain that glorious namesake of “Writer” with a capital W?

I wrote a post a while back about warring between time spent on my platform (here) and time spent on my novel. What happens when you are too busy to do either?

I know I am the king of “If you can’t find time to write why not cut out some sleep and just catch up on that later.” Well, Bob, I can’t cut out sleep because I can’t count on the fact that there will be sleep in my future! (Take that haughty Bob).

Some of my “Greats”

Which brings me to my question for today’s blog. How often should writer’s write? When you consider the Greats, (whatever authors work resides on your bookshelf, I presume) how often did they write? In my mind I consider them super heroes, writing from dawn until dusk and even all night for months or years at a time.

However, how unbelievable it might seem, I am certain there were times when they did not write too. Times when they had to focus their efforts on their clerk duties or when there were papers to be graded.

How long does it take until you get that twinge of guilt and shameful thought of, well, I should probably get back to writing? I am there and will certainly remedy it this week. If you are here I hope you do too.

Cheers,

Bob

Three Benefits of Writing to a Schedule

While I finish a week of banishment from the internet, a result of my recent move, my friend Josh has graciously agreed to write a guest blog on Parttimenovel.

Josh is a fellow member of my Weaklings writer’s group who is in pursuit of publication. I hope you find this post insightful. I know I did, as I also listened to Andrew’s presentation at Baker Book Store and was inspired to start a blog. Please visit their blogs at Josh Mosey Writer and Tell Better Stories.

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My good friend Bob Evenhouse was the one who inspired me to start my blog, but it was another Weakling  who gave me some helpful tips about how to actually do it.

A while back, I had the pleasure of co-leading a seminar at the Breathe Writer’s Conference with my friend and former co-worker, Andrew Rogers. Andrew and I met through working at my bookstore, but it wasn’t long before his talents were stolen away by local (yet global) publisher, Zondervan. The session we led at the writer’s conference was titled something like “Marketing 101: What bookstores and publishers want from authors”. It was supposed to be an hour long session with the last 15 minutes reserved for questions. We were each going to take a few minutes to introduce ourselves and our platforms and then speak for about 20 minutes on our individual subjects. Much of what I said, I’ve included in my Bookstore Symbiosis posts, but Andrew talked about online marketing tools and the author’s brand and other cool things. By the time he was done, people didn’t want to wait for the appropriate Q&A time and I ended up with about 10 minutes to go through my presentation. But I wished he would have continued without having to stop for me. It was so good.

Among the things he said was one nugget that stuck with me, even though it would be a few years before I started my own blog. He said that when just starting out, write to a schedule. Make a plan for your posts and stick with it. My personal blog schedule started out like this: Monday – Autobiographical, Tuesday – Character feature from one of my novels, Wednesday – Book Review, Thursday – Writing Tips or Inspiration, Friday – Links and Report Card, Saturday and Sunday – Relax.

When I scheduled my posts like this, my previous concerns about starting a blog and then not having anything to say proved to be unfounded. All I had to do was come up with a post that fit the theme of that day. With a little direction, I had no trouble coming up with content. So the first benefit is always having a prompt.

Another thing I noticed with my post schedule was that I was allowing myself a variety of ways to relate to other people. By choosing a different prompt each day, I could allow people to see something about my past, my writing, my taste in books, and what I found interesting enough to link to. I was allowed to be well-rounded.

Last, by having a schedule, I forced myself to be consistent in my posting. In blogging, I’ve found that sporadic posts mean a low readership. It is difficult for people to build reading your blog into their routine when they have no idea when to expect a new post from you. And if you decide to post a whole string of posts in one day, there’s a good chance that your followers won’t follow for long since no one likes being force-fed for long. It doesn’t matter as much whether you post daily or once a week, as long as people know what to expect. By setting a schedule, you’ll know what to expect of yourself, and your readers will know what they have to look forward to.

Thanks for reading!