The Secret Idea Store

Poe’s secret for inspiration is used by many writers today.

Poe scanned headlines, read newspaper stories, and gleaned ideas from the oddities. His goldstory Berenice is about a man who digs up his dead wife and takes her teeth. This is reportedly inspired by newstories of grave robbers, some of which left the body and took the teeth. Another story reportedly inspired by a news report was the Facts in the Case of Valdemar. At the time, there were reports of people who could speak to the dead; there were other stories of ways to prolong life. Poe, it seems, blended these and created a story in which Valdemar “survives” and “speaks” beyond his natural life. This short fiction was thought to be real. People believed it!

Inspiration, for me, has come from the odd news story. A human interest story in which a homeless man was selling stories on a New York street, inspired me to write $1.00 Stories.

Another story flickered to life when someone posted a handful of gold teeth and said she’d inherited them. How does someone come into the possession of teeth, not their own, and why would they will them to a family member? Hence, The Gold Tooth springs to life from my suspicious mind!

Scan the newspaper, and let your mind wander. We’re writers; we have the desire to  understand, explain, and create.

Happy Writing! happy_writing

 

I Am Not Necessarily Me

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I use first person narrator in many of my stories.  I find the level of intimacy I can connect with in the character makes the experience feel more authentic.

I also enjoy the unreliability of the first person narrator. Although I don’t intend to make my main characters questionable, all first person accounts must be met with skepticism.

There’s one possible downside to the first person narrator and I’m certain many writers have experienced the fan who believes they understand the author based on a story which utilized the “I”.

dadshiningOne reader contacted me convinced Dad Shining was about me. “This is a true story, I bet!” He wrote.

This is complimentary in the fact that the story must have been realistic enough for this reader to believe and enjoy it.

However, Dad Shining (originally published in The Chicago Tribune’s Printers Row Journal) is written from a male point of view experiencing a life event incomparable to what a woman could experience.

There’s not much a writer can do about being mistaken for their narrator except to gently correct the reader without offending them or merely thank them. I said, “thank you for reading.”

My main character in West End is a young woman, and I did use an area close to where I grew up. A number of readers have attempted to call me out on that. One reader wrote, “I know most of this is you, except for the part of leaving the boy.” Another reader, convinced it was me believed I’d been married before and left them to change my name and start a new life incognito.

This did bother me to some extent; the woman in West End is in some ways stuck in west end coverlife, and while that might be my fear, it is not me.

Still others found the first person narrator unreliable enough to question her sanity and ask me if she was seeing spirits. These questions I rather enjoyed. One character I had intended to be questionable, but when asked about another – I don’t want to say as I don’t want to ruin it for anyone! – I was blown away!

And that is the benefit and, perhaps, curse of first person narrator. The connection is so authentically intimate that you might convince readers it’s you; And you might just convince them the narrator is a little off her rocker!

Monday Motivation

A writing exercise to get your rusty writing pipes lubricated.

Write the same scene from three different points of view.  I know this doesn’t sound new and groundbreaking, but when is the last time you did it? And what types of characters did you choose?dad-shining-cover

Let’s lighten it up for you – stretch your skills. If you’ve never written from the opposite gender point of view – try it. This is an exercise I did with Dad Shining. This story could not have been narrated by a woman, it had to be chronicled by a man. And that man, it turns out, had to be the son. Dad Shining was published by Chicago Tribune’s Printers Row Journal – so I must have done something right.

But don’t stop there – go further. Write it from a pet’s point of view. The Art of Racing in the Rain is an adult novel narrated in total by the dog. And it is a GREAT novel! Imagine a story from outside of the human point of view.

Or write it from a child’s point of view.  Because my children are older, and I’m presently writing a story which involves a nine year old girl, I’ve had to call my friends. I was fortunate enough to spend time with a delightful little girl and found the time and the young woman inspiring. I have even more ideas than I can handle.

Let me know how it goes – share in our Writing 365 Group.

 

Review Power

BUFA-Time-for-Review.jpgOne writer wrote recently that they’d received some really nice reviews, but one reader sent an email blasting him for some part of his novel. He took this to heart and let it destroy his mood and his confidence in his writing.

One bad apple don’t spoil the whole bunch of readers.

The cold, hard fact is – writers need reviews. But I’m not sold that a bad one is actually a bad thing to have. It shows that people, other than family, friends, and hardcore fans have taken the chance. Critical readers will look at the review closely to see what the person took issue with. Reviews that just say, “terrible,” just like reviews that say, “it was great,” doesn’t tell the readers anything and they’re likely to overlook these. If the reviewer said something more specific, “weak characters,” yet others have said the opposite, they’re likely to judge for themselves.

There’s another cold, hard fact – most readers don’t leave reviews. I know I’ve sold far index.jpgmore books than the few reviews that I have. It’s not write, or even ethical, to pay for reviews, although such services exist.

So – readers – review the novel, book, ebook, story, etc in an honest and fair way. If you didn’t enjoy it, but it wasn’t terrible, be gentle in your criticism. The writers behind these books are human and did put a lot of work into them.

Writers – don’t get upset by a bad review. Not everyone is going to like your work. That’s the value of diversity in our society. Everyone has different tastes. Focus on the good reviews, but do read the not so favorable ones.

The Comma Coma – a deadly disease

Do you go into a coma when someone starts talking about commas?

Don’t get bit by the deadly comma coma bug! Figure out how to make the comma work for you, not against you!

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The purpose of all punctuation is to clarify your thoughts and ideas so readers can enjoy and understand the book!

Did you have a teacher that told you, “whenever you feel the need to pause, insert a comma”?

WORST ADVICE EVER!

When we are writing, we naturally pause to think. That is not necessarily where a legal-grammar-rules-keep-calm-and-use-commas-e1490740001283comma needs to be.

Commas have a number of rules. My favorite site to use – and to introduce to my students – is the Owl at Purdue. Their comma usage explanations are clear and detailed.

One of my editor-friends believes the comma used for introductory words, phrases, and clauses is “going the way of the dinosaur.” While I agree that some people and publications seem to think so, I think it’s still a valid and needed use. [I’ve used introductory commas in this blog – one was in the previous sentence, “While I agree…]

The Fanboys rules is the easiest to remember; however, because of the number of teachers giving the pause advice, I get sentences that look like this:

The Rams won but, not everyone was happy.

We sometimes punctuate our speech this way for emphasis, but you can’t hear tone in these words, and it’s just wrong.  < this sentence contains correct use of the fanboys rule.

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My students often ask me to explain the whole “Oxford Comma” disagreement. Well, it goes like this: There are people who use the oxford comma and then there are monsters!

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Commas are confusing, but they’re not impossible to learn. Any editor is going to appreciate the correct use of commas regardless of how much they appreciate or introductory comma. 🙂

 

 

Interview your character

interviewDoes your character like her/his marshmallows burned and why?

I love this – but it’s not mine.

I got this from Writer to Agent advice video from The AWP and Folio Literary Management.

Watch this video for tons of good information!

 

Rejections – how not to punch someone!

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Rejections are the worst…..

or they used to be.

Once, a long while ago, I received a letter (snail mail) from a publisher. I let it lay on the table, unable to take what I thought would be yet another rejection.

When I did finally open it – I was quite pleasantly surprised by an acceptance!

And then…. a little annoyed with myself…. I needed to sign the contract and return it and I’d almost missed the deadline.  That taught me – open immediately.

These days, most of these things are done through email or digital submissions. So, now, on a regular basis, we get rejected by just opening our email.

However, rejection, in all forms, tells us something.  We are doing our jobs!  That job is writing and submitting.

All editors have their own values. It may not mean that our work is bad, but that it did not fit the needs of the publisher or the values of the editor.

Rejections are nothing to be ashamed about, not to be feared, and not to be avoided. We should rush in with open arms.

I read the rejection, see if there is any valuable information. I’ve received some very nice rejections with some editors telling me to resubmit or offering advice.

If I have a piece which gets rejected too often, I go back and take another look at it before I send it out again. But it will go out again. And I will keep submitting.

Don’t let rejections get you down, don’t let it stop you. Publishers can not take everything they receive, but one day they will say yes to you – if you’ve actually submitted something!