WARNING: Writers Eyes Only Should View These Links

If you notice the links below you will find information on Facebook ads, critique groups, stressed out writers, how to sell books, how not to sell books, 25 great writing tips, and blogging tips. This and much more you can find on Anne R. Allen’s blog with Ruth Harris. Having subscribed for years I can attest to the useful information I have gotten, some of which goes against common perceptions, but common perceptions are often wrong, which is another reason to follow their blog. It does not always agree with beliefs, too often regurgitated without anyone saying, “Hold on here. Does this really make sense?”

Facebook Ads that work

Disappearing Amazon reviews

Beware Groupthink-About choosing a critique group

Important for depressed, stressed and anxious writers

Speed Kills or Does it

How Do I Sell My Book

How Not To Sell Books

25 Must Read Tips

6 Tips for getting More Traffic to Your Blog

Blogging Authors, Ignore the Rules

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Who Was Dr. John Yeoman And What He Did For Writers ?

I subscribed to Dr. John Yeoman’s blog on writing for years. He died last month and I felt it time to share not only who he was, but some of his helpful blogs and his e-novels. Not only was John’s blogs helpful, written very conversational, but often with humor, and certainly intelligence.

First who he was can be found here 

Now a dozen of my favorite Dr. Yeoman blogs:

How To Shape Great Stories With Word Games

How to Plot A Story (Even If Plotting Scares You Silly)

7 Great Ways To Close A Story (and How Famous Authors Did It)

Do You Make These Six Big Mistakes With Your Writing Blog

How To Cope With Bad Feedback On Your Work

Nine Big Lies That Agents Tell You

Could This ‘Magic’ Trick Rescue Your Story

How To Sell 100,000 novels Without (Really) Trying

Three Ways (Not) To Kill Your Story In Its Cradle

Top Ten Tips For Promoting Your Book-From A Dog

How To Write A Kindle Best Seller

Five Top Tips For Being a Happy Writer

And he practiced what he preached and taught. Here is his Amazon Page. I have read “The Cunning Man” and “The Hog Lane Murders” and they are great for new writers for you can read the e-novel like you read any book, but is also has footnote markers. When you click a footnote number he shows the why and how he wrote that scene and you can learn from seeing what he is doing. Great writing tool.

Thanks John!

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Why telling a story around a campfire makes you a writer

I was looking at some of my blogs from a previous incarnation and ran across this post and thought I would share it.

I have no illusions about my writing. I am not a great writer, though if you want to disagree I shall not object. Like most Indie authors who write e-novels and short stories, I have flaws. But I have read novels from writers who have an actual publisher and agent, and I wonder how they got published.

I contend that writing advice is often more analytical after the fact. What I mean is that the advice about structure and plot usually give examples to dissect, to show how it was done. That is fine, but how many writers actually sit down and write a structural outline, with character arcs, denouements, epiphanies, and other literary  analytics.

Of course there are writers that do and my congratulations to all of you, but it seems backward. If you have sat around a campfire and told a story, you are actually writing as you speak. The story you tell has its own built in structure, its own twist, its own climax. When you sit down at the keyboard, instead of keeping all that advice in your mind; advice that can clutter, confuse and cause writer insanity, consider telling a story by narrating in your mind.

Imagine you are telling a story. Listen to your voice, forget grammar, forget everything and just tell your story.  You don’t need long, complex sentences with heavy use of adverbs and colorful description. Trying to impress will backfire. When you hear the phrase ‘a writer’s voice’ it is more than writers style and technique; it can also have something to do with how the author speaks with his voice.

In a good documentary film the narrator can captivate you with his words as he tells the story. That is what story telling is. Narration. You can even speak your words aloud as you pound out keystrokes. I don’t because I am already nuts, but I do listen to my words as I type. I narrate a story (Including dialogue of course). I don’t write it.

I bet you can do the same.

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Off-the-Wall Books for Writers

Creative writers own books on writing. Those books are easy to find, but there are other books that writers can learn from, ones you may not think about and I am here to help.

Games People Play by Eric Berne. It is a basic book about transactional analysis. STOP. Don’t get scared and run away. This book has sold millions and was published back in 1964. The title says it all. People play games; life games, marital games, sexual games, underworld games, and on and on. None of it on video by the way. This is how people interact, the games we play with each other. This is good for writers to develop characters. What type of person is your character? How about the “If it weren’t for you game.” A character who blames other people for holding them back in some way. A writer can learn how the game is played and how the person plays it out and use that trait in developing  a character. An insightful book on human behavior, one that can make a writers characters real.

I will pause here before continuing to scary books for advanced writers.  Spunk and Bite by Arthur Plotnik is not only a fun read, but one whose message is we should forget the classic book on writing style “The Elements of Style” by Strunk and White  because it is wrong, at least for today’s writers. And when you read the book you will agree. Crisp, witty, perceptive, Plotnik makes the profound simple and delightful.

And now for post graduate work.

Berne’s book will work for any creative writer. but if you want something more advanced and you want to write something complex, say along the lines of Dostoyevsky you may want to dive into Denial of Death by Ernest Becker. It won a Pulitzer Prize winner and is in one word-challenging. The book talks about the philosopher Kierkegaard, the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, how we deny death, psychology, religion, and the heroic individual. You can run away now if you like, or you could read Man and His Symbols by Carl Jung. An excellent book for reading about dreams, symbols, deep psychological and cultural meanings. This is a book for those who seek metaphor. So if you have a bent for James Joyce, D.H. Lawrence, and the like this book will be helpful.

Or you can pick up any book on mythology and use those cast of characters to draw from, giving them new names and new stories and in doing so, you create a new mythos using previously created symbols and metaphors. And you can bypass those ‘heavy’ books. Aren’t you glad you didn’t run away?

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My quest for the perfect ‘it’ and why

Whether it is called hook, logline, blurb, selling point, promo copy, or the old fashioned description, a writer needs to create something that entices, lures, snares, traps or otherwise induces the innocent to tap or click the buy button to download  the writers self published e-Book, a book that will enthrall, entertain, dazzle and delight. The writer needs the ‘it.’

In truth it is a calling card. Write a good description, one that shows some degree of writing ability and the potential reader is likely to make a purchase. If you write good copy then it follows the book must also be good. But writing that brief description is the hardest part of writing for many, myself included.

Over the past few years I have rewritten, edited, and changed the copy for all five of my books innumerable times and like the Great White Hunter of Bigfoot, my search continues. I revisit my descriptions to see what is wrong, how better can I make it. The following is an example for “Loonies in the Dugout.” 

The book is a fictional account of the mysterious Charlie Faust and how he influenced the Giants to win the pennant. His story is told through the eyes of rookie Chet Koski who is trying to woo chorus girl Eveleen Sullivan while trying to figure out big league pitching. A satire on fame and celebrity based on a true story in which Chet and Charlie meet Bat Masterson, George M. Cohen, Damon Runyon, and many others.

BORING.

I did not think so at the time, but with fresh eyes I see how dreadful it is. It is flat, matter-of-fact, does not engage, does not indicate a sense of style. I recently changed it to the following.

How does a 21-yeard old rookie off a Minnesota farm figure out how to hit big league pitching in New York when he is trying to woo chorus girl Eveleen Sullivan? Harder still when you find yourself becoming the guardian angel for the mysterious Charlie Faust who believes apple pie gives him pitching strength, even though he never pitches. Based on a true story about the 1911 New York Giants and the influence of Charlie Faust, featuring Bat Masterson, Damon Runyon, George M. Cohan, and the New York Giants of 1911.

Is it perfect.? No. But it is an improvement. It poses a question that engages the reader to think-however briefly. Within the first sentence it is indicated that this kid is in the big city, is trying to ‘figure out’ pitching and wooing, indicating perhaps a coming of age story. The next sentence indicates the kid is good guy because he is looking after a strange man, posing another question, a mystery of who this Charlie Faust is. Why does he love apple pie? Why does he think it gives him pitching strength-and he never pitches. And silly, yes maybe, but. . .it is based on a true story.

I think the second description is more colorful, less dry, more engaging. But of course, in a few months I may look at it and go “Yuck!”

But this is what writing is. Rewriting. And you are not stuck with your novel either. Yes, you can rewrite that as well. Mary Shelley did that with “Frankenstein” changing the nature of the good doctor and cutting a scene or two in a revised edition. Usually a writers first instincts are best and her original story is far superior.

But that is not true when searching for the perfect pitch to your novel.

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Need a plot for your mystery novel-try this

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If you want to write a murder mystery, or something more mysterious click/tap here for a list of unsolved murders and deaths dating from before 1800 to present day. If one intrigues you then take a hand at solving the murder on your own. I did this with “Loonies in Hollywood” in which I took the true life, unsolved murder, of silent film director William Desmond Taylor, and using the crime scene evidence, the most mentioned suspects, I chose the one mostly likely-to my thinking- and ‘solved’ the murder. 

Edgar Allan Poe also used the unsolved murder of Mary Rogers, a popular young woman, perhaps the first to became famous for doing nothing other than being so beautiful, that she attracted dozens of men each day to the cigar store in which she worked, attracting so many that newspapers began writing about her. For doing nothing. Poe took the story and using all the evidence wrote “The Mystery of Marie Roget.”

Those are but two examples and if you do a little research you will find many murder mysteries written by authors who based their story on an actual murder. They, like you, can do the research, examine the crime scene, take a look at the suspects, come to your own conclusion, and  then write the mystery. The benefit is that the story ingredients are all there for you, ripe for the picking that you can pluck straight off the tree and cook up the solution. It makes coming up with an idea on your own a mute point. And if it is a famous case, you will tend to sell more books, because famous cases, no matter how old, have followers.

I offer this as an option. I wrote “Silent Murder” based on nothing but my imagination, and if yours is hyperactive then drain your brain of all it has to offer. But if you get stuck for an idea, by all means, use the resource by clicking/tapping here.

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Creating a character through dialogue

There are many ways of creating characters in fiction. What they wear says a lot about a person, colorful clothes, drab clothes, formal, casual, rich, poor. Character quirks also work. Maybe they walk funny, maybe they limp, walk quickly, or just amble. Describing their apartment or house furnishings can also indicate what type of person they might be; orderly to the point of being a neat freak, or messy to the point of a hoarder. Or sparse with no personality.

But another way is through dialogue. In my e-mystery in progress a 1927 flapper named Clancy reveals a lot about herself in the following scene.

Grover looked at Clancy like a thirsty man in a dessert who just found a well of water in an oasis. He was actually drooling a bit. “Are you married? I’m not. Do you want to go on a picnic with me?”

Clancy said, “Well Grover, November is not a good month for a picnic. Way too cold for this California flapper. But I must tell you dear Grover I am not the marrying kind. Nothing personal, mind you.  I have heard people say you are selfish if you do not marry, but that makes no sense. It is selfish to spend your entire life making one man happy and far more generous to share yourself with as many men as possible, or in your case, women, of course. Why make one man happy when you can make dozens of men happy? So you see marrying one person to spend your life with is just selfish. And I am nothing if not generous.”

“But that is not nice, having lots of men and all. Women in the bible are called harlots. We have whores in this town, not many; at least I don’t think so. I don’t want to know them.”

“Well Mr. Grover I am neither of those types of women. I have some integrity after all. But there is another reason. Marriage is a contract, therefore you are obligated to love your husband, but being single I am free to love the man-forever if I want to-because I have the freedom to do so, not under an obligation you see. Don’t you think that makes sense to you Mr. Grover; that a person should love out of freedom, not out of obligation?”

We learn more than Clancy’s feelings on marriage. We see she is insouciant, a free thinker, not shy, a bit flippant, probably living in the moment and a bit of a challenge for any male suitor. Good luck winning her heart.

In “Loonies in Hollywood” in which she made her first appearance I wrote a scene to describe how she affected men. The scene follows:

Clancy swiftly glided past police desks with me as her tail, detectives and uniformed men stopping what they were doing, staring at her like a silver screen goddess who came down off the screen to mingle with the normal folk. She was accustomed to this type of reaction, not pausing in her sashaying glide through the station, looking neither left nor right to offer a brief heart melting smile.

From the reaction of men we learn she is attractive. Doesn’t matter about hair color, tall or short, nothing descriptive, all reaction from others. She is unattainable to the common man.

You can say a lot about character though dialogue and other’s observations.

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How to properly use a writing prompt

If you are a writer and follow writing blogs you have come across someone who challenges your creativity with a writing prompt . I gave a prompt in a previous blog, quoting writer John Gardner who said, “describe a barn as seen by a man whose son has  died in a war. Do not mention death, war, or the son.” I do not need you to respond to it. I offer it as an example.

I suggest you avoid any prompts you encounter in your Internet perambulations.

Here is why. It is okay if you are bored and have nothing better to do on a rainy day, your dog won’t play with you, your cat is sleeping (when aren’t they) and all your friends are busy-or avoiding you. If you are a writer then why waste your time being creative on something you won’t use. If you need a prompt to stir your creativity then turn to the story you are working on, or the story you intended to write, but have put off because you were eating cookies while reading the new Stephen King book.

Instead of responding to another’s prompt, I respond to my own prompts. As an example, in my short story “The Castle” found in “Cemetery Tales and other Phantasms” I prompted myself with this-describe a scene where a young excited boy just out of high school has left America for the first time, arrives in a remote area of England for a new job. Do not mention America, England, the new job. I came up with this:

Taking a deep breath of fresh air Quinn felt intoxicated. He wanted to giggle, to jump up and down, but proudly he maintained his cool.  Outwardly he was sure he looked composed, confident, and worldly; inwardly he was concerned the blood racing through his pounding heart would be noticeable through his pale skin, worried people would mistake the pounding of his heart with thunder in the darkening skies. 

My goal was to capture his feeling of being in a new adventure in a new country. I think it worked.

Or from the same story, describe a scene where a character is lost somewhere, scared, where death may be imminent.  I came up with this:

He turned and saw nothing, no outline of any trees, nothing to separate sky from ground, just total blackness in a black vacuum. He had to get back to the castle. He was safe there. He tried to run towards the castle. He couldn’t. He tried to walk, gingerly putting one foot forward. He couldn’t. He had to get back to the castle. He couldn’t. The silence was deafening, the darkness blinding. The cold, dank, swampy air was crushing him.”

The point is time spent on your writing is best served prompting your scenes. Nothing wrong with prompts, they’re a good exercise, but exercising on your own story will get it done quicker.

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How I lost my identity through writing fiction.

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It started innocently enough. I was working on character names for my first e-novel, “Loonies in the Dugout” and thought I would use the first names of my father and two uncles for three fictional characters. But I also wanted to use my mother’s name, but this was a baseball novel and there was not going to be that many female characters. So I used my dad’s first name Chet, for the lead character, and my mother’s last name Koski for Chet’s last name. Though I got to honor my mom and dad in one character, I did not anticipate what would happen.

I enjoyed Chet and his girlfriend Eveleen so much I wanted to use them in another story, so I went from 1911 in my first book to 1922 in Hollywood for my second book in which Chet and Eveleen, now married, solve the murder of William Desmond Taylor. I had no problems in this story, but I got confused in book three.

In “Silent Murder,” set in 1927, there is a murder and it turns out the victim was a cousin of Chet. But he had no idea this was his cousin. So the police, naturally, when they find this out and inform Chet, got me into a family tree to sort out some police questions. And I nearly messed it up. Chet’s fictional last name is Finnish, but I was thinking Danish because that is my real father’s heritage. Yes, I realized later that I could have used the Finnish family tree, but the problem is it was too hard to trace for too many reasons to go into here. So I was stuck staying with a Danish tree for a Finnish character. I had to tinker a bit.

This tree was part of the plot-at the beginning of the story anyway. It is always a possibility that this plotline was a red herring. Had I known while writing the first novel that Mr. Koski would continue in two more stories and another now in progress I would have done things differently. As it is, by using my mother’s maiden name, in the third book I dug a pit that addled my brain about two families. After all I am talking about people from the 1800’s whom I never met.

If I had to do it all over again I would have used my real fathers last name and changed his first name, using perhaps Paul (my mother’s name was Pauline). Or even better, use my fathers middle name as his first, so I would have had Alvin Nelson.  Actually I don’t like that name, Paul would be better, except that is also the middle name of another relative, and that only adds more confusion.

I dug myself into a pit and I am stuck with it. Did I learn a lesson? No. I am using the names of two real life cousins who are cousins in my work in progress, but the two cousins in real life from opposite sides of the family and have never met. I don’t care. The territory is familiar to me. Besides I am too confused about my family tree I no longer know who I am. Writing as many pitfalls.