Tag Archives: Writer

Who Wants to Be a Better Writer?

In this posWritert-modern world where everyone is encouraged to express their opinion to the universe—in 140 characters or less on occasion—we should all strive to be better at articulating our thoughts in writing.

I laugh along with everyone else at the cartoons about the Grammar Police and the proper use of “there, their, and they’re,” but why is it funny? When did poor grammar become a joke?

This morning I was interviewed about a fundraising event our writers’ group is hosting. It’s sad to think that we needed a fundraiser. Why would a non-profit organization that promotes better writing not be filled to the brim with members? You can’t throw a stick without hitting a blogger.  Most people do some sort of writing every day in their job.

Whether one writes reports, articles, direct mail copy, blogs, marketing material, novels, instructional pieces, web copy, emails or even personal correspondence by hand (gasp!), it’s important to present oneself as an intelligent person.  We rely on spell-check and grammar correcting programs too much.

Being part of a group that teaches when to use “further” instead of “farther” helps to make you a better writer. It makes for better reading, too. It’s not about looking like a smarty-pants. It’s about making the reader’s experience more enjoyable or more informative, without making them get out a red pen to correct you.

When a reader decides they know more than you, they stop reading. Period. Your article, blog, instructions, or story is no longer relevant to their needs.

If you’re a writer (and you certainly are) join a writers’ group. Take a class. Learn, grow, and improve. If you’re the one who already knows it all, then join a group to help others. Please. The universe needs you.

Fothumbnail kimr information about my local writers’ organization, visit www.panhandleprowriters.org.

by Kimberly Black

Kimberly Black is an award-winning author of both fiction, non-fiction, and children’s books. She is the President-Elect of Panhandle Professional Writers in the Texas Panhandle.

To learn more visit https://kimblackink.com.





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The Hybrid Author

You’ve heard the term, but just what does it mean?

Simply put, it is a writer who publishes their work both traditionally and through self-publishing channels. The hybrid chooses her own path and isn’t inhibited by the prejudices of the past in an ever changing publishing industry.

Dianne G SaganDianne G. Sagan, long-time Panhandle Professional Writers member and award winning author, has released a ground breaking and timely book — The Hybrid Author. If you’ve ever asked yourself the question, should I self-publish or traditionally publish, this is the book that will help you make a well informed decision. The Hybrid Author explains in detail what makes a writer a hybrid, examines the pros and cons of the four paths available in the publishing industry, and assists the reader in making career decisions from a neutral position. Bob Rich, international author and editor of the popular Bobbing Around Newsletter, says in his book review:The Hybrid Author

“The Hybrid Author is a treasure house of useful suggestions and resources for any writer, already published or still merely hopeful. While reading, I followed up some of Dianne’s recommendations, particularly in the areas of marketing and publicity, which are my weak points. This useful information is logically organized, clearly presented, and is in a style that is a perfect compromise between being chatty and formal. My only suggestion for improvement is that each resource should have a web link accompany it. I’ve been a hybrid writer for many years, but didn’t know it until I read Dianne’s definition. It is someone who has some books out through royalty-paying publishers, with other books, or other versions of these books, through a less conventional path such as self-publishing. She sets out the advantages and disadvantages of each of four options, and I cannot fault her reasoning. I agree with everything she has stated. A useful feature is Chapter 8, which is a series of interviews with successful authors. I was fascinated by the commonalities and differences in these people’s opinions. Chapter 10 is also particularly useful in a different way: it is an extensive list of questions to an intending author. Thinking about the answer to each will help you to choose the uniquely right path for you.In short, this book is a useful resource for any writer.”

The Hybrid Author can be purchased at: The Hybrid Author Kindle version

The Hybrid Author print version

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The Road to 80 Rejections

My father was an avid fisherman.

hook     Some of my earliest childhood memories were of fishing trips out to the lake. We’d set up shop at the spillway or down on the rocky shore. He’d spend the day catching some of the biggest catfish I’d ever see. Personally, I’d be lucky to land a gar, despite the fact those things were everywhere. You didn’t even have to put any effort into catching gar. They’d slither directly from the gates of Hades to your fishing line, even though your worm had fallen off ten minutes ago and your bobber was only half-on. Yeah, I was lucky to even get one of those. My dad, however, flung fancy tackle around in all sorts of ornate patterns and could catch sharks from a creek bed.
     There were times when I’d get really lucky and could catch a small perch. I’d tie a line to my finger and find a little rocky hole in the water. I’m sure that my success rate was something like 1,594 fishing trips for each silver dollar-sized perch. Suffice it to say, I’m no angler.
     I can remember one fishing trip better than any of the others. My family in Amarillo (where I live now, but didn’t when I was a kid) brought us along for a vacation that spanned from a bear-infested camp in Colorado down to a mecca of all that is good and glorious in New Mexico. Our options were either to fish or to go hiking. My dad chose the former and I was happy to join him. The thing is, he wanted to do some serious fishing. And he knew I didn’t. Ground rules were set that I’d have to actually cast lines and try to catch something.
     About two hours into our mission, I got the first bite on my line. I jerked my pole up in the air the way I saw him do it and reeled my line in. No fish. “Here’s your problem,” Dad told me, “throw a line out all day and if you don’t know how to hook it, it won’t do you any good.”
     I’ve dropped a few figurative lines in the literary lake now. Seven attempts, to be exact. This last week started out with my very first rejection. My line was sent back sans worm, but with a kind note stating that it was them, not me. And then, just two days later, I got my very first nibble. A managing partner liked what she saw and requested my full manuscript and a brief summary of my novel. My first reaction was one of triumph and my second, worry pooling in the bottom of my stomach. I’ve never been any good at setting that hook. I thought back to my dad, and that time at the lake, and him telling me that arms flailing and excited screaming never caught anything at all. I need patience, faith, and one heck of a hook.Meli Landry
By Meli Landry
When Meli Landry isn’t chasing down her children or behemoth boxer, she relaxes with a good book and her blog. Visit her at: www.melilandry.com
The Road to 80 Rejections is part of a series about Meli’s journey into publication.

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What a Character

They’re all around us. The people whose outfits demand a raised eyebrow, whose accents incite chuckles, or whose topics of discussion could give hard-boiled news anchors a full-bodied blush. They are the real-life characters in your daily routine, and they make wonderful additions to your story, too.

Most of my fictional characters are fairly normal human-beings. They all tend to be semi-well-adjusted adults of various ages, with typical jobs, cars, homes, and families. But every story needs some quirkiness. It breaks up the normal, and wakes up your reader.

man-looking-through-binocularsI like to add some fun to a story with folks like Jib Boeller, a middle-aged man who insists that he saw the aliens who abducted the missing photographer. Rowan Kirk is a character I invented who refuses to wear neck-ties – why give an attacker a weapon already in place? – and who is fluent in nearly one hundred different languages, if you count all the most common computer programming scripts. I’m currently developing Ingrid, who is 118 years old with the appearance of a twenty-something supermodel. She’s a gourmet cook who loves opera and dangerous stunts.

My eccentric players are fictional, but their most defining character traits are certainly borrowed from my reality. I have friends who “speak” computer, see aliens, and jump from one adrenaline rush to the next. Every time I hear about someone doing something outrageous, I write down the basics and look for opportunities to include them in a story.

I don’t write them in such a way so that they could recognize themselves and be offended. I just include the details that make me curious about them in the first place. I believe that if I, as the author, am interested in them, then my audience will be, too.

Go ahead and give your reader a character who wears tiger-striped pants and chews fruflamesit gum whenever he wants to remember his computer passwords. Give your hero an Aunt Gilda who wears blue-glittered false eyelashes and drives a hearse with flames on the fenders.

These quirky folks don’t have to be your protagonists, but how a point-of-view character reacts to their idiosyncrasies can speak volumes to your reader. A vignette with a peculiar personality can provide your readers with respite from an otherwise tense scene. A well-placed kooky character can also help connect you to your reader. They will recognize their outfits, their mannerisms, or their habits, either in themselves or in someone they know.

Great characters are everywhere, just waiting to be part of your next tale. Keep your eyes and ears open and your pencil handy.

Kimberly Black

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Yes, Writer, You Do Bear Some Responsibility for Getting a Good Critique From Your Group

critique-help-imageI had written a half page summary of a novel that is almost finished. It stated the concept and the theme, the major characters and the key plot points. Over lunch at a Taco Villa, I handed it to my friend and critique partner, Janda Raker.  After she read it, she made the comment that if the group had seen it before I started reading to them, perhaps they could have done a better job of critiquing. Hmmm.

There is a lot written about the responsibilities of critique groups—be constructive, don’t get sidetracked on gossip, don’t get sidetracked on grammar, don’t get in arguments. The main reason for reading each other’s work is to help the writer make it better.

Janda’s comment got me thinking about the responsibility the writer bears for getting the most from the group. For helping the group do its job. Let’s look for a minute at the big picture. A novel must contain characters who grow, a plot with a sticky problem that is structured correctly, and a setting that evokes a picture in the readers’ minds. If the group doesn’t know where the author is headed, it can easily get bogged down on details within a scene—word choices, the hero’s granny walking through a closed door, the dog morphing from a collie to a setter. I don’t mean to imply that those things aren’t important, but the possibility exists for hammering a point to death, when, if it is taken within the context of the whole story, needs to go anyway. That’s why you skip the grammar for now, by the way. Your manuscript does need a close edit, but save it until you’ve got the rest of the issues addressed.critique

For me, this means that the next time I go to a critique group with a new project, I will first present them with a summary, or an outline—some representation of the guts of what I am about to write. That, of course, means I must quit writing by the seat of my pants and actually know all those things they need to know before I start writing. Having done the seat-of-the-pants thing, I realize it is possible to get to the end that way, but man, does it ever require a lot of revision. So, this is the bottom line for me. Put in the work of structuring, thinking through the whole plot, identifying the character arc before starting to write and get better quality help from your group, or do that work as you go—again and again.

One more suggestion for the writer. If you know what you have written isn’t good, don’t waste the group’s time. When you don’t need them to tell you how to fix it, don’t make them do it.

How do you help your critique group with your work?

Vicki Schoen

Follow my blog at vickischoen.com

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Practice, Practice, Practice

How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.

When I first started writing I went to plenty of classes and conferences, hungry for every bit of knowledge that the pros had to offer.  I took copious notes, recorded the lectures as often as I could, and saved every handout I ever got.  In the end, that was all I had, notes, recordings and stacks of handouts.  My own writing had not improved.

I’ve since learned that no matter how much money you spend on conferences, books, classes and so on; there is only one true road to better writing–practice, practice, practice.

Just like the old joke about how to get to Carnegie Hall.  Practice is the key.  Read every book you want on the art and craft of writing.  Continue to go to conferences.  Attend lectures as often as you can, but the bottom line is write every day.

Here are a few suggestions to keep you writing every day even if your time is limited:

1.  Start a journal.  It’s not the same as a diary, you don’t have to write every detail of your day.  Use it to write insights and observations as they occur to you, story and character ideas, and settings.  Use the journal to pose the “What if” questions.

2.  Write a letter.  What kind of letter?  Any kind.  Write a letter to the editor on something you are passionate about.  Write a letter to a friend you haven’t written to in a long time.  Write a letter to a deceased loved one.  The type of letter you write is not as important as the writing itself.

3.  Find writing exercises.  There are many places on the internet where you can find these.  Some may seem silly, but as you experiment you will find that they inspire you.

4.  Contribute to a newsletter or start a newsletter, even if it’s just for your family.

5.  Try your hand at flash fiction.  And try the shortest form of flash fiction you can.  A story in six words or 100 words or less.  Make sure your story has a beginning, middle and end.  This teaches you to write tight.

6.  If you have a smart phone, search for writers apps for story starters and inspirations.

The more you write the more you learn to use an economy of words to express emotion, set a scene, or describe a character.  After a while, you’ll find that you are writing faster and better.

Take the challenge and see what happens.  You will be surprised.  Even the best writer will see improvement in their work.  A side benefit  is the confidence that comes with writing every day.  At your disposal you will find myriads of ideas you never thought you had to draw on when you come to the bane of every writer–the dreaded writer’s block.  It won’t happen, or at least not as often.  There will always be new ideas–new “What ifs”  to inspire you.

So, how do you get to be a better writer?  Practice, practice, practice.

What works best for you?

Suzanne Bogue

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The Muse Takes a Holiday

Some call it Writers’ Block. Others refer to it as a simple lack of inspiration. What happens when you just don’t know what happens next in your story? The words won’t come. At all. What is the author of the next Great American Novel to do?

Of course, there are lots of suggestions out there. Take a nap. Fold the laundry. Phone a friend. I’ll be the first to confess that most of these “tricks” are merely avoidance techniques. But why do I procrastinate with something that I love to do?

I’m certain that there is a deep psychological meaning behind it, but I refuse to research that right now, maybe it could be the subject of my next book.

In fact, research may be at the root of the blocked imagination. When I don’t know what should happen next, it’s often because I have no idea what would happen next. I haven’t researched that deeply into the technicalities or history of the subject. On the other hand, sometimes I find that I’ve researched so much that I don’t care anymore. Yes, it’s often the mystery that keeps me going.

If research isn’t the problem—if I just don’t know how my protagonist would respond in a particular situation—maybe I need to get to know him or her better. I could write a scene, completely separate from my story, in which my lead characters are all trapped in an elevator somewhere between floors of a Metropolitan high-rise. What do they say? How do they treat each other? What do they smell, see, or hear? Sometimes writing out these little vignettes can trigger something that will propel the stalled work-in-progress.

Another solution may be to skip to the next scene that I know, and write that. The idea is that having that next goal in sight may shed light on the path to get there. Or… it may not be that I have writers’ block at all, but that I’m trying to write too much. A minute-by-minute account of my hero may just be boring. Experiencing a stall may be an indication that I should skip that part. If the next scene makes sense without it, it’s highly likely that a reader would skip it, too. Leave it out. Write tight.

I hope that these suggestions help—I just thought of something…

Kimberly Black


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