Setting the Tone with Point of View, Tense, Narrative Distance and Voice

Ask the Authors (Round 2)

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Every story has a distinct tone. Some are light hearted, while others are grim, while still others are sad and heartbreaking. The tone of the story is created by a combination of elements: point of view, tense, narrative distance and voice. Today our Ask the Authors panel discusses how they use those elements to create the tone needed for each particular story. On our panel today, Dan Alatorre, DeAnna Knippling, RA Winter, Mark & Kym Todd, Tom Johnson, Jordan Elizabeth, Margareth Stewart, Mark Shaw, Cynthia Vespia, Lilly Rayman, and Amy Cecil. 

Tone is what determines the mood of the story. Is it a humorous story with a light, playful tone? Or are you aiming to create a dark story, with scary elements? Or perhaps a sense of mystery? The tone of the story doesn’t just occur on the page. It must be crafted with precision just like all the other elements of story, and the choices the author makes will determine if they are sucessful in achieving the desired tone, and if it is effective for the story.


Who is telling the story? There are basically four different points of view the story can be told from: first person (I), second person (you), third person limited (narrator with access to a single character’s view), or third person omnicient (narrator with access to the thoughts of multiple characters). 

Do you have a preference between first person, second person, third person limited and third person omniscient, or does it just depend on the story you are telling? What do you see as the advantages or disadvantages of each?

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre I prefer writing in first person because it forces you to pay attention as a storyteller. You don’t know what’s going on in a room you aren’t in. I also enjoy third person limited, because it’s fun to be different people instead of “I“ all the time. The big advantage is, they make you be disciplined. You’re much less likely to do head hopping in first person.

Cynthia Vespia

colorheadshot - Copy I’ve dabbled in first person but I prefer third person, especially since I like telling multi-viewpoint stories. This way I can get in the heads of each character rather than one single character mindset as you do in first person.

Mark & Kym Todd

Todds - Copy We have a definite preference for third-person limited POV. We like the distance it gives us (and readers) from the story and the opportunities for weaving in dramatic irony. We never use first-person because it’s too intimate for the kind of stories we tell – plus it makes it harder to surprise readers without resorting to what feels to us like storytelling gimmickry.

RA Winter

RA Winter  I always write in third person limited with a deep point of view.  It brings out each character’s quirks, reactions, fears etc adding depth to the story. As far as third-person omniscient, I don’t like the distance from the characters and it’s very hard to pull off properly.  First person point of view isn’t something I read for pleasure, so I’d never try to write in that niche.  I know that it is the ‘in’ way of writing, but for some reason it grates on my nerves.  I’ve noticed that the setting, descriptions, etc, usually lack in first-person stories and other characters aren’t as developed as they could be.  I’ve only written in the second person once as a writing prompt with a crit circle.  It was too hard to get into and not for me.

DeAnna Knippling

deannak If you’re going to lie to your audience or have an unreliable narrator, do it in first person.  I write in all three.  The second-person stories kind of require some kind of hypnotic element to them, one that you want the reader to be hyper aware of.  “I’m mind controlling you, see?  Mind controllling!”  Third person stories are for when you just want the reader to sink into the narrative with as much trust of the narrator as possible.  It’s one of those things where the way you write the story should reflect the content of your story.  The contents of my stories sometimes lead me into weird POVs.  I do like books where mixed POVs are used, too–try to imagine The Fifth Season without the POVs!

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture I prefer third person omniscient, that’s how I learned to write, and it has stuck with me throughout my writing career. I don’t find myself limited in scope.

Margareth Stewart

Margareth Stewart The easiest way to write is in the third person. The first person may get boring although I used that in a self-help book-guide I wrote while trying to avoid by all costs sounding egocentric. I also did some experimental writing on the second person. I tested it and it worked fine. It is a critical piece in which a subconscious voice dialogues with the main character while pointing out how she does not change her life, and keeps repeating the same mistakes. The narrative is dense in this short story called “Acid: a view from below”. I publish it for free at facebook.com/AuthorMargarethStewart. The main character is silent all the time, and the reason I used this technique was to lead people reading it to change their own. The silence holds the potential for change. My novels are all in the third person as that is the safest path. Nobody feels intimidated or bored with them and I recommend it for long novels and first-time authors.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan It all depends on the story I’m writing.  I usually stick with third person because I can explain more about what’s going on, but sometimes it just has to be told in first person.  The main character wants to tell it her way.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman Depending on what I want to convey with my story, depends on whether I write in the first person, or whether I write in a third person omniscient point of view.
My Unexpected series is written in 3rd Omni – with a couple of 1st person mini scenes to add a little intrigue to what is actually happening as that character is an unknown entity at that point of the story.

I have other works in progress, or in anthologies that are written in 1st person, simply because I needed to have a more in-depth thought process for the character that I follow, for example “A Reluctant Roxana: An Unexpected Short Story – Dare to Shine: Anthology” – The anthology was to raise funds for the Sophie Lancaster Foundation – a young woman who was killed for looking different in the way she choose to dress. I wanted my character, Roxana, to have some deep internalising about how important it is to be who you are and comfortable in yourself. I felt a 1st person point of view allowed for that kind of in-depth writing, something that a 3rd person would be hard to pull off.

3rd person omniscient is a great style for a lot of character and action that would get too complicated for a 1st person to follow.

Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil I used to write in third person, past tense, but now I prefer first person present tense.  I really don’t see any advantages other than I find it easier to write.

Have you ever written a story in one POV and then later rewritten it in a different POV to see if it worked better? Did it? Why or why not?

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre I started one story in one point of view and then rewrote it to change the point of view. I did it because I needed to be able to be multiple characters in the story, and I thought that worked best in third limited versus first. And it worked out really well because the story was a big hit.

Cynthia Vespia

colorheadshot - Copy Actually yes, twice. I started my Demon Hunter series in third person then decided to switch and tell it from a 1st person perspective because I wanted it to be Costa (my main character) telling his own story. When I started writing Lucky Sevens the opposite happened. I began with Luca “Lucky” Luchazi telling his story in 1st person and decided it didn’t work. So halfway through I switched to 3rd person and added in a multi-viewpoint approach. I don’t think I’ll ever go back to 1st person as its not as fun for me to write in.

Mark & Kym Todd

Todds - Copy Sure. And it’s why we answered the above question like we did! We think we lived-and-learned from the experience.

DeAnna Knippling

deannak If I have, it’s been long ago that I don’t remember.  I’ve tried two different 3rd person tight POVs before, but not lately.  I tend to have pretty specific reasons why I pick a character and a voice before I sit down to write.
Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture No, never, I stay with the form I’ve used from the start.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan I haven’t done that yet, but I have taken a story told entirely from one POV and added in another chracter’s POV.  It made the story feel more well-rounded.

Most fiction is written in third person, allowing the author to define who their narrator is, and whether they are omniscient, having access to the thoughts and actions of all or at least several of the characters, or have access to the thoughts and ideas of one specific character. In the first person, the protagonist becomes the narrator and the story is told from a single point of view. The most prevalent example of this that comes to my mind is Hunger Games, and even though well done, there were places where the first person felt awkward.

Do you prefer to write in first or third person? Why? Or does it just depend on the story? How do you decide what POV to use?

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre Readers want to climb into your story and get lost in the fantasy. They don’t necessarily want to be the main character. That’s why third person is so appealing. However, certain types of stories lend themselves very well the first person. Humor, for example. Or when the author is intentionally messing with you. Ishmael was not the main character of Moby Dick; he was the narrator. He was a small player. I used that device in my book The Navigators to great effect; as you go along, you’re thinking the narrator is just a nice, quiet guy and all of a sudden you get surprise after surprise because he’s being surprised – and he pulls a few surprises. That makes it fun for me and the reader. Other books like Poggibonsi are written in first person because I wanted “you“ to be all these things and find yourself halfway through kind of rooting for the bad guy and then put yourself back out of it.

But I don’t like first person present tense. I do this, I do that. Can’t stand it. I like first person past tense: I went here, I went there – as if you’re sitting down at lunch or over a cocktail with somebody who is telling you their story. They are saying, then I did this, then I did that. First person present? I run, I jump – no thanks. I have read several books that are written that way and the first few chapters are almost impossible for me to get through. It’s like nails on a chalkboard to me.

RA Winter

RA Winter My first draft is usually in present tense as I work my way through the story but I change it to past tense.  Present tense for me just doesn’t work and the voice becomes passive. I’ve also notice that while trying to write in the present tense that I will automatically switch tenses and that leads to reader confusion.

DeAnna Knippling

deannak Depends on the story.  I like to mislead the reader, but I also like to be fair about it.  If you see me writing in the first person, you are 95% guaranteed an unreliable narrator.  I’d say that’s 100% for second person, and maybe 50% for third.  The third person narrators tend to be less unreliable, too.

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture Third person, always. I agree, first person can feel awkward at times, and I prefer to broaden the view, so to speak.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan While I’m brainstorming, I try out different ideas in my head.  One or the other will always stick, and the story starts playing out.  I’ll hear it in third person or first, and I just go with it.  I’ve only had to switch once.  GOAT CHILDREN was originally third person and my original editor had me change it to first person.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman I use both first and third, depending entirely on what I am trying to get across to the reader.

Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil Basically the answer to this is noted in all the questions above.  I prefer first person, because it is easier, but in some stories, I’m required to write differently because of the story or the particular character.

Seldom do you `see anything written in the second person, because it’s hard to do. This technique decreases the narrative distance between the reader and the character, because the reader is placed within the story in a way. Essentially the reader becomes the character, using ‘you’ instead of ‘I’ or ‘her’ or ‘him’. I tried it once, and it’s a very difficult thing to do well. It usually comes off feeling rather awkward.

Have you ever tried to write anything in second person? What did you find most challenging about it?

Dan Alatorre 

Alatorre I don’t mind writing things in second person, because it’s like anything else; you have to practice it for it not to be awkward. If you don’t like it or you’re not practiced at it, it will be awkward to write and therefore it will be awkward to read. If you work at it, it can be very smooth, and a very satisfying reading experience. I don’t prefer it, because I think the types of stories I tell work best in other deliveries.

Mark & Kym Todd

Todds - Copy French authors pretty well worked second-person POV to death in the 50s and 60s, and there’s not much unturned earth left in this POV, so far as we’re concerned, within traditional narratives. So we’re content to let video games and choose-your-own-adventure stories keep this technique.

DeAnna Knippling

deannak I feel like using second person increases, rather than decreases, the narrative distance. It’s begging the reader to scream, “Don’t tell me what to do!!!” I write a number of stories in the second person. What you have to do is give the reader a story that they’re feeling especially cynical about, something that they want to react to in a negative manner. If you write a story from a bad guy’s point of view as they justify themselves, then a second-person narrator can sometimes be very effective. Another technique is to address the story to a universal “you,” an impersonal “you” that the reader won’t take personally at all, much as in this paragraph that you read just now.

Also? If you’re going to write a choose-your-own-adventure type book, you have to do you. I love Ryan North’s To Be or Not To Be and Romeo And/Or Juliet.

A story can be told from a singular perspective in the first person or with a limited narrator, or it can be told through the eyes of multiple characters, with an omnicient narrator. Each has benefits and drawbacks. Multiple points of view offer the author more options as to how much to reveal to readers and open up opportunities for subplots to be played out more fully, whereas a single point of view can create a more focused story. Multiple POVs may be necessary when the reader needs information that the protagonist isn’t privy to. (Super hero comic books use this technique to increase tension, by making readers privy to the perils the victim to be saved faces if the hero is not sucessful.)

Do you prefer single or multiple POVs? Why?

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre If you can have multiple, have multiple; it’s more fun. I prefer multiple POVs as far as what I write because it gives you the ability to get a scene to a very dramatic point and then jump away to a different story or a different person, in a different place. And then you build that story segment up to high point of drama and then jump back to the other story. If you do it right, people can’t stop turning the pages because they have to find out what’s going on with the other stories.

Mark & Kym Todd

Todds - Copy We love third-person limited shifting. It’s our POV device of choice and probably why we usually write for ensemble casts. Little Greed Men uses 3p-limited-shifting in spades and by the story’s close, the characters each think they have the story figured out whereas only the reader knows what really happened – maybe.

DeAnna Knippling

deannak Depends on the story.  I tend to revolve around a single POV, because I find sagas and epics to be kind of frustrating to read at times.  But I don’t worry too much about popping over to check in with another character now and then.

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture Single. Though I have used multiple POVs before, when I wanted my readers to see what was going on in both camps.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan I love multiple POVs.  The story opens up in a new way when you explore other thoughts and feeling, and see the world through different eyes.  Plus, its fun to play around with split personalities! I realy have to force myself to write in first person if a story calls for that voice.

L Rayman It depends on the story I’m writing. If I’m writing in 1st person, I keep my story to one POV. When I’m writing in 3rd person omniscient, there tends to be multiple POV.

Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil It really depends on the story.  Some of my books are multiple POVs and some are single.  It just depends on the story I am telling what fits best.

When using multiple POVs, does each character get equal page time? Do you switch POVs within chapters, or on the chapter break?

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre Equal page time? No. Not a chance. You have stars and you have bit players. The stars get the limelight and the majority of the pages. Everybody else only gets as much as is absolutely required.

I will switch point of view within the chapter, at a chapter break, however often as needed. I’d do it midsentence if I could.

Mark & Kym Todd

Todds - Copy We use additional page time with a given character as the way to signal to readers who our protagonist(s) is (are). But we also sometimes give extra page time to an antagonist – either to make characters hate them or else to make readers like them despite what the antagonist does. And we stand by the dictum that an antagonist is simply a character who opposes the intent of the protagonist. We never paint characters into villains for our stories – too simplistic for us.

As for POV shifts, we often change scenes to switch POVs within a chapter. It largely depends on whether or not it serves the story arc. Also, we love switching POV scenes with mini-cliffhangers. (We do it to keep readers from being able to go to bed.)

DeAnna Knippling

deannak NNNNNNNOOOOOOOOO. The main character or the main narrator gets the most page time, period. Then again, I have to admit that I don’t write a lot of romance–that’s a situation where often (not always) the two main love interests get approximately equal page time. I’m fine reading that. But I generally loathe the “rotating POVs of calculated fairness” book structure. That one thing that I’ve been in suspense to read for the last four chapters? I no longer care. Book, meet wall on other side of the room.

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture Always in scene breaks, not necessarily chapter breaks, though. We must have a clear break in the scene if we switch POVs.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan It depends on the progress of the story.  I never decide when the POV will switch.  As I’m writing, the other character sneaks up on me, demanding his/her turn.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman Depends on the story and its flow. I try to keep to individual chapters where I can. Usually though, its my characters that dictate to me their story and how it should go.

Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil Not always.  I usually switch POVs at the beginning of a chapter, but in some instances, its important to add the alternate POV within the same paragraph.

One of my pet peeves is head hopping, switching back and forth from one character’s head to another without clear indication to the reader.

How do you indicate to readers that a switch in POV has occurred?

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre I don’t think I mind head hopping as much as a lot of other people. That’s kind of like people who drink beer AND wine versus people who ONLY drink wine (and then the people who can only drink robust read deep with lots of tannins… ) Head hopping is usually a writer making a mistake. It often lessens the reading enjoyment for the reader. If you’re not writing for an audience, then it doesn’t matter, but if you have an audience that’s going to pay money for the show, they need to get their money’s worth. Most of them won’t feel they did if you head hop. Of those who don’t mind, I think they won’t feel the story is as good as it could’ve been, even if they can’t articulate why.

Cynthia Vespia

colorheadshot - Copy Oh boy head hopping really bothers me too! I try never to do that and the way I make sure is to start a new chapter whenever I want to switch a character, or at least put in an obvious break in the current chapter so you know it’s a different character POV.

Mark & Kym Todd

Todds - Copy We agree with you, Kaye. We hate head-hoppers. We feel like it’s a cop-out and the resort for lack of craft control. To shift POV we use the time-honored convention that ellipses mean one or more of three things: change of POV, change of place, or change of time. Most readers intuit this just fine, and we’ve never had complaints from fans.

RA Winter

RA Winter Most of the time I change chapters for different POV’s.  However, if the scene isn’t finished and there is another character who could add a different depth, stakes, or a call to action for a character, I use a scene break symbol, a *** in the middle of the page.
DeAnna Knippling
deannak I don’t do it often, but sometimes that’s just how it has to go.  I pull back on the POV depth on character one, so you might be inside their head or outside of the their head, then switch over to the second character’s POV, again at a very light depth.  I only add a personal, internal POV to the second character if I have to, too.
Nettie felt that she would never be able to understand her cousin Matthew.  She flipped several pages as the candlelight flickered.
Matthew walked around the outside of the room.  To see him, you would never know that he was suffering.  A black despair always fell over him at this time of year, at the memory of his wife.
Nettie said, “Would you like me to read to you?”
“Yes, please.  What are you reading?”
She paged back to the beginning of the story, considering whether the story was an appropriate one for the moment, or not.
–Like that.  We hopped from Nettie to Matthew and back again.  Neither POV is all that rich with observation, but sometimes you have to at least suggest what’s going on in the other character’s head so the reader doesn’t misinterpret the subtext.  But I’m still new enough at being able to do it that I just about have a panic attack every time I have to try to pull it off.
Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture I won’t ever jump from head to head with POVs. It might work in comic books, though.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan I break up the screen, making it clear that the previous scene is over, or I start a new chapter.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman As an omniscient writer, it can be hard to strike the right balance between an omniscient pov and a head hopper. My chapters might follow one particular character for the duration of that chapter, with a touch of another character’s perspective, but, I’ve never had any complaints, and a really good editor is a god-send to pull up any head hopping moments. I try to provide clear indication within the first sentence or two as to which character is the main lead for that chapter.

Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil I use a heading with their name on it.

 

How close are we to the story? Do you want your reader to feel as if they are at a distance, watching the story unfold or do you want them to be right up in the action. Each approach has a different effect. You must be careful not to distance readers so much that they loose interest, yet there are times, such as when your character needs to remain unaware of certain aspects of the story, when you may not want them to be right in the thick of things. This can be manipulated through the narrator, using past or present tense, or through voice.

How much narrative distance do you like to give for your readers?

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre I don’t know what that is, so I’m gonna say none. * Looks it up. * If it means what I think it means, how much space you allow between your reader and your story, the answer remains the same. None. I want them immersed up to their eyeballs, unable to stop reading, unable to put the book down, and their hearts broken when they have to close the book and after the ending and leave these people they have come to love. If a character gets cut, I want the reader to bleed. I want the reader so close, they feel the killer’s breath on their neck.

RA Winter

RA Winter I start each chapter with setting the scene to orientate the reader. This is done by a more distant narrative, but as soon as possible I draw readers into the character by delving deeper inside the scene and the motivations behind the actions. I want the reader to be inside the story, know where they are in time and place, what’s going on, the motivation, the stakes, the hidden agendas. Each character’s action should be clear and logical with the scene painted in- to add depth to the story. A deeper POV has the pull to bring a story to life.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan I try to suck the reader in as much as possible.  Even if they aren’t exactly like the narrator, I want them to feel the same emotions and sensations, and hopefully identify some part of themselves in the main character.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman Whatever is required for the story as it flows along.

I recently read Webs of Perception, by Darlene Quinn, (you can read my review this Friday, October 19). Darlene used the first person POV for her main character, but used third person for the multple POVs used in her story. The character had amnesia, so in a way, it was what made the story work, but I had never seen this done before and found it an interesting technique.

When using multiple POVs, have you ever used multiple narrator’s voices in the same story? Was it difficult to make that work? Why?

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre Sure. I did this in The Navigators. It was first person as the narrator, but whenever the narrator wasn’t present in a scene, it was third person limited. It works fine. I think one or two reviews mentioned it, but they didn’t ask for a refund so I guess it wasn’t that bad.

Mark & Kym Todd

Todds - Copy It can be a useful exercise, we suppose. But we find this sort of POV slight-of-hand a bit gimmicky. By its very nature, first-person is the most intimate but also the trickiest since readers have to learn to trust the author when getting so close to a character. And switching POV modes feels heavy-handed, more flash than substance in most instances. Our stories are already as complicated as we want them to be.

DeAnna Knippling

deannak Eh, I’ve seen it done and I’m fine reading it, but when I do that kind of thing, it’s a prologue in third and the rest of the book in first.  The prologue sets up the crime for the rest of the book, and then the rest of the book is the investigation by the (unreliable narrator) detective.

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture Third person throughout the story, I never change this format.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan I haven’t done that exactly, but PATH TO OLD TALBOT  is written in first and third person for the same main character.  When Charity is adventuring in Old Talbot, the story is in third person.  She’s detached from the emotional trauma of real life and just living in the moment.  When she’s in the present dealing with her father, the story is told in first person, showing all of her hurt.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman Only on occasion has I slipped a scene or two in for characters POV in first person when the rest of the story has been written in third person. This has been a deliberate choice when planting in certain little plot bunnies to tease at the reader until it all comes together at the end.

We are taught to use an active voice, leaving passive ‘to be’ verbs like ‘were’ or ‘had been’ by the wayside. It’s difficult to write in an active voice when the story is in the past tense yet, using the Hunger Games example, being first person, present tense may have been the reason it was awkward at times. (I think first person, past tense may be a little easier.)

Do you prefer to write in past or present tense? Why?

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre  I prefer to write in past tense only because the vocabulary is much more limited in present tense. When you start thinking about your verb usage, there’s about 10 times as many when you use past tense – and people are more used to telling things that way, therefore they are more used to hearing things that way. But it’s all personal preference. If your story kicks butt in first person present tense, then stick with it.

As far as active or passive, I really don’t worry about it too much. There’s so much going on in my story, and the characters are so lively and the dialogue is so engaging, I could probably use all the passive verbs I want and nobody would care. The simple fact is, words are like paint strokes on a painting, and you dip into whichever one is going to suit your purpose best for that section.

Once you know how to write an engaging story, you get to choose which types of words you need to deliver it best. When you were learning to drive a car, it was all you could do to keep the car on the road. Now you drive with one knee while you’re eating a cheeseburger and talking on the cell phone. You don’t even think about it. That comes with practice. Hone your craft. And there’s something else I notice a lot, which is: the really great storytellers don’t pay that much attention to the rules because they’re telling great stories. A great story hides a lot of sins.

Cynthia Vespia

colorheadshot - Copy I prefer present. To me it feels more active, like the story is unfolding right now in front of the reader.

Mark & Kym Todd

Todds - Copy Almost exclusively in past tense. We use dramatic present very sparingly and only when we want a sense of suspenseful immediacy for a short burst.

DeAnna Knippling

deannak I hate present tense for fiction.  I find it comes across as breathless and melodramatic, especially in YA fiction.  That being said, if a story needs a breathless tone of voice, I’ll use present.  I’ll complain about it to myself the entire time.  Why, subconscious, why?!?

Margareth Stewart

Margareth Stewart I prefer to write in the past tense, but I use lots of dialogue and that is all in the present. Writing in active voice is also a great choice as it makes narratives direct and straightforward. Thus, the writing narrative is kept clean and clear avoiding redundancy and lack of objectiveness. We should use words as precious things and avoid using them merely to fill in the blank space or getting into details that make no difference to the story. So, my tip is: “write as you were opening fields in the jungle with your words, cut, chop and do not get stuck if things are not perfect, move forward and take the reader with you – on top of all that – enjoy the journey.”

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan I prefer past tense.  It flows better for me.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman I tend to write in the past tense when in 3rd person POV, this feels more comforatble to me. Yet I slip into present tense when writing in the 1st person. Although, I have written 1st person in past tense as well.

Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil Present tense.  I find it easier.

How do you avoid the use passive voice in your writing? Or do you?

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre I write such awesome stuff, nobody’d notice if I used a passive verb. They might even be grateful I let them catch their breath.

Seriously, I don’t worry about “avoiding” using the passive voice, because I’ve just realized that most people don’t write stories that are engaging enough, so the passive voice weighs the story down. If the story is engaging and the characters are lively and the dialogue is witty, some passive voice here and there isn’t going to hurt anything. I don’t worry about using it. I don’t use it much, but I wouldn’t worry about using it at all. If a reader sees it and notices – not an editor, but a regular reader – then your story sucks anyway. Write great stories and you can do whatever you want – and nobody will care. Here’s a great example. Star Wars didn’t win best picture. Critics said it was a space cowboy movie. But it changed our whole culture. A great story makes its own rules.

Cynthia Vespia

colorheadshot - Copy Editing…lol.

Mark & Kym Todd

Todds - Copy Simple, we never use it. Passive only has two functions – 1) when you don’t know who the subject is (e.g., the initial JFK headline “The President has been shot” and no one knew at the time the name of the assassin), but in fiction, we know such info already and can control such revelations in other ways; and 2) when you don’t want to reveal who the subject is. In the latter case, we always construct other storytelling strategies to avoid revealing identity.

RA Winter

RA Winter Crit cycles.  My writing undergoes numerous drafts.   There are between seven and eight critters who comb over my writing at every stage and thankfully they stay with me until the end.  My editor helps with the development of my story and is a  huge help at with every draft, I don’t know what I’d do without her expertise and input.  Each crit brings another depth to the story and every draft focuses on one aspect including passive voice.

DeAnna Knippling

deannak I don’t.  The use of passive voice in writing is often a necessary element.  Breaking rules is something that writers get to do when it provides a specific benefit to the reader.  I spent a lot more time breaking long, convoluted sentences into smaller parts so they’re more readable.  That’s my sin.

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture Oh, passive voice is easy. When I went to school we learned all about verbs and adverbs, and how to use them, past tense and future tense, etc. That’s what learning was all about. Only now do we find out that passive voice and “ly”s are not wanted. I’ve got an idea our language is even changing as I write this. Soon we may be replacing “you” with “u” and other single letters replacing words. Who knows what writing will be like in thirty years – or fifty, or a hundred years from now? I’m reminded of writers in the 1930s and ‘40s that wrote for a penny a word, and had to fill their stories with adjectives and verbs to make a living. It was called purple prose back then, and if you could sneak a “had been” in there for an extra two cents, you did it. Cowboys didn’t just turn and draw their revolver; they turned quickly and drew their six-shooter lightning fast. Anyway, it was all about words, and how many you could get in a sentence.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan Spell check finds a lot of it!  I always send my stories by multiple critique partners to make sure nothing slips by.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman I guess plenty of re-reads and editing rounds to make sure the passive voice is weeded out if it does make an appearance!

Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil I rely on my editor to fix that.


Writing fiction and nonfiction have many similarities, but in the case of nonfiction, true life stories, such as those that author and panel member Mark Shaw writes, the story determines the tone, so the above questions don’t really apply. Yet each of Mark’s works carry a distinctive voice and tone. So, I asked Mark how he decides which elements of voice to use and what tone to take in his story telling.

In the nofiction that you write, you tell the stories of others. In The Reporter Who Knew Too Much, you took a third person investigative approach, in Courage in the Face of Evil, you took a different approach, telling the story from Vera’s POV, and in Beneath the Mask of Holiness, you told the story in third person as a narrator. In each of these cases your story telling skill was spot on. If told in a different way, it wouldn’t have been the same story. How do you choose the right voice in which to tell your stories? 

Mark Shaw

MarkAtSFTS (1) Regarding “voice” and the storytelling method utilized, three of my books illustrated different methods of doing so. In Beneath the Mask of Holiness: Thomas Merton and the Forbidden Love Affair that Set Him Free, I chose to be the narrator, the guide to telling the story of how late in life the famous monk finally found true love through an affair with a student nurse half his age. While doing so, however, I wove into the story excerpts from his diary so that his “voice” was apparent to the reader as he expressed strong emotions about the love affair and what it meant to him, most important of course.
In Courage in the Face of Evil, based on a true story as captured from a Holocaust diary, I told the story through the main character Vera’s voice since I wanted readers to learn of the horrors of the Holocaust with a firsthand account as she wrote it in the diary. This also permitted the inspirational aspect of the story to come forward, the part where she trusts a German prison guard whom she hated to help her save the life of a little Russian girl who would have been killed otherwise. Vera’s own words indicate her courage and permit the reader to become emotionally involved in the book start to finish.
In both The Reporter Who Knew Too Much about Dorothy Kilgallen and the upcoming follow-up book, Denial of Justice (Nov. 20), I tell the story as the narrator, but weave in as much of Dorothy’s own words in her columns and what she said to others about how she was investigating the JFK assassination. Using as many images of Dorothy and never-before-exposed government documents, I enhance the story and provide the reader with the path Dorothy took to learn the truth just as prosecutor would do for a jury. Once again, though, the key to TRWKTM becoming a bestseller with hopes Denial of Justice will just as successful, is that the story touches reader’s emotions by their bonding with the famous reporter who did not receive justice when she mysteriously died in 1965. Many readers have told me they grew to respect and love Dorothy, emotions on their end that warm my heart.

It seems the story itself, determines the number of POVs used, and what tense it is told in, and sometimes a change in POV can make a world of difference as to how the story comes comes out and what tone is set. Finding the right tone can be the difference between a really great story and a mediocre one. Although fiction is different from nonfiction in many ways, you can see from Mark Shaw’s answers on nonfiction how important finding the right view point and voice is to the story.
Most of our panel members avoid headhopping, although a few find it useful at times and make a purposeful effort to do it well, when they do use it. Also, in most cases, narrative distance is close and personal, drawing the reader right into the thick of the story. Although I felt second person might distance the reader, DeAnna Knippling feels it brings them in closer, decreasing their narrative distance from the story. I suppose it might depend on how well it is done.
Most of our panel members give much credit to editors, critique partners and beta readers to help weed out passive voice and accidental head hops. I think it really helps to get additional sets of eyes on our work. One technique that I have used that works very well to find these errors as well as others, and helps you to know if the tone is that desired is reading your story aloud. This helps in knowing if the flow is smooth as well. You don’t even have to have someone to read to, although you can and then you have an additional opinion, but I’ve read it aloud to myself or even to my dog. (He’s a good listener, but he doesn’t give a lot of feedback. Lol.)
That’s it for this week. I hope you all will join us next Monday, when our panel members will discuss character development. 

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Interview with multi-genre author Brenda Mohammed

Brenda Mohammed Portfolio

I have the pleasure of interviewing independent author Brenda Mohammed today. She is not only a multi-genre author, but a multi-award winning author, who seems to dabble in a bit of everything. She comes from a background in finance, but became an author when she wrote a memoir about her battle with ovarian cancer. Since then, she’s written several other memoirs, as well as a science fiction series, a horror novel and a crime novel, as well as a wonderful self-help book for aspiring authors. She has done so much, and made so many travels, and I’m thrilled to have her share all that with us here, on Writing to be Read. Please give a warm welcome to Brenda Mohammed.

Kaye: When did you know you wanted to be an author?

 Brenda: I never planned to be an author. I was a successful Bank Manager for many years. After I retired from the Bank at an early age, I became an Insurance Professional. I loved working in Finance and helping many people achieve their financial goals. In 2005 I was stricken with ovarian cancer. My doctor in Trinidad told me that she could not help me, and no other doctor in Trinidad at that time was qualified to do so. I sought treatment in Miami and gained a new lease on life. In 2013 I wrote a book about my cancer ordeal and recovery, I am Cancer Free. That was my first book and I have never stopped writing after that. To date I have written nineteen books.

Kaye: You’ve written 6 memoirs, 2 children’s books, a science fiction series, a crime novel, and a nonfiction book on writing. What’s the secret to tackling so many different genres?

Brenda: There really is no secret to writing in multiple genres. I have always loved a challenge and constantly seek out new opportunities. I write whatever I feel passionate about.

Kaye: You have written books in multiple genres: science fiction, memoir, self-help, etc… What are some of the differences you run into in writing different genres?

Brenda: When I am writing science fiction I maintain my focus on science fiction, and similarly with the other genres. The secret is to stay focused on the plot or the subject to achieve the end result. However, the problem I faced was in promoting my books.

I discovered a way around that and made Facebook Author pages for each genre. I have seven Facebook author pages. I also joined several Facebook groups that specialise in genres in which I write, to promote my books.

Kaye: Which genre is your favorite to write in? Why?

Brenda: I really enjoyed writing my science fiction series because it took me to another world for a while. When I wrote it I found myself becoming the hero or heroine and doing impossible things.

Kaye: You won a Readers’ Favorite Award in the 2018 International Book Awards for both your YA science fiction series Zeeka Chronicles,and your memoir I Am Cancer Free. What, if anything do these two books have in common besides both being Reader’s Favorite Book Award recipients? What makes them award winning books?

 Brenda: Strange. I think I just answered that question above. The books have nothing in common yet there is a common thread. One is a futuristic thriller and the other is a survival story. As I said above when writing science fiction. i.e. Zeeka Chronicles,  I found myself becoming the hero or heroine.  In I am Cancer Free I am the heroine.

Seriously though, I quote from Readers Favorite: “Contest entries are judged all year long and are given a rating score based on key literary elements. The judges simply read the book and score it based on its merits.”

 Kaye: Those are not the only award winning books you’ve written. Two other memoirs, My Life as a Banker received a second place award in memoirs in the Metamorph Publishing’s Summer Indie Book Awards in 2016 and Your Time is Now received IHIBRP 5 Star Recommended Read Award Badge. What can you tell us about those two books?

 Brenda: My Life as a Banker is a memoir about my life in Banking. Banking was my first love. I always wanted to work in a bank. I love serving and helping people and seeing them prosper. Banking gave me the opportunity to do so and especially when I climbed the ranks to Commercial Area Credit Manager and was able to help business people with startups and expansion. Banking allowed me to play my part in building the economy of my native country, Trinidad.

Your Time is Now is intended to help people understand their own lives and to realize that we are all here on earth for a purpose.

The reviews for both these books speak a lot for them.

Kaye: What is it like to receive notification that your book is the recipient of a prestigious award?

Brenda: I have won many awards before in both Banking and Insurance.in my home country

However, as this was an International Award it was a most joyous feeling to tell my friends and family that I won two prestigious awards with Readers Favorite International and will be attending the Awards Ceremony in Miami. In November.

Kaye: What’s something most readers would never guess about you?

Brenda: I dabble in art, poetry, and graphics in my spare time. Some of my art work hang on the walls of my home.

 Kaye: What time of day do you prefer to do your writing? Why?

Brenda: I prefer to write in the still of the night. When everyone is asleep I find peace to think and write.

 Kaye: What is the biggest challenge of being a writer?

Brenda: Only a few days ago I penned this poem about writing:

Writing takes me into a fantasy world.

Sometimes I find myself in a black hole.

I edit and fight to come out of it

But not before I get into a fit.

 

My books have gathered great reviews

Won awards and made the news.

Is it worth it, I sometimes ask?

Writing a book is a great task.

 

A writer’s life is a rather lonely one.

All day behind a computer is no fun.

An author must make the time

Read others’ books and go out and lime.

 

Do not sit at your computer all day.

Join the family in travel and play

Love of a family is life’s greatest gift

When you need to relax they give you a lift.

 Kaye: Is there anything unique or unusual about your writing process?

Brenda: Before writing a story I write an outline of the entire plot in a couple of pages. I then use that to build my story. It sounds simple, but it is not.

How to Write for Success

Kaye: Your book on writing is titled How to Write for Success: Best Writing Advice I Received. Can you briefly share what the best writing advice you ever received really was? What is the main message of this book?

 Brenda: The Best Writing Advice I Received was “Keep the Reader in mind when writing. In other words write for the reader and your books will sell.”

To answer the second part of the question I will quote one of the five-star reviews. The one from Readers Favorite is too long so I will share this one from an Amazon Reviewer:

“Having read a couple of Mohammed’s books, I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed in this self-help book, and I was not. The book covers not only the gamut on the art of writing, but the formulation of an idea for a book, to proofreading, and eventual marketing of his/her book. This is an excellent book for anyone who finds him/herself contemplating becoming a writer. With Mohammed’s book in hand, there should be little, if any, room for error. I highly recommend.”

Kaye: You like to travel. Do the places you travel end up in your books?

Brenda: Yes they do and they did. I wrote Travel Memoirs with Pictures: Exploring the world. It is an illustrated picture book filled with reflections of my travels around the world.

Travel Memoirs New

In this pictorial travel book of my priceless memories, I describe places visited and the wonderful times I and my family had in our tourist trips. The book is great to read while on a vacation or for some travel inspiration.

I want to thank Brenda Mohammed for joining us here today and sharing a little about her lovely books. You can learn more about Brenda and her books on Amazon at: http://Author.to/BCM786. I love how she turned her own life experiences into books to be shared by all.

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Plot/Storyline: Where Do We Go From Here?

Ask the Authors (Round 2)

1375930515977128357Coloured question marks.svg.hi

Without a plot there is no story, just words on a page. So how do we create a good story? How do we go about making a plot work from beginning to end? We find out this week when our author panel discusses just that. As I mentioned in last week’s post on The Writing Process, there is no right or wrong to this, just different authors tackling the task in different ways. And if you’re new to this blog series and would like to meet our panel members, check out my introductory post to learn about the immense talent we have on board. As is often the case, life got in the way this week for a few of our panel members, so our panel only numbers ten this week, but they’ve all pitched in with some really great answers to my questions. So, without further ado, let’s Ask the Authors.

What do you think the function of story is?

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture To make sure the story has a beginning, middle, and ending, and revolves around the plot, coming to a final conclusion. There seems to be a trend these days for the plot being shaky, and the story not coming to a final conclusion. Writers are imitating television story lines that go on forever, and this can be bothersome with a 400 or 500-page novel if there is no ending.

Mark Shaw

MarkAtSFTS (1) Touching the emotions of the reader.

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre At its heart, the function of any story is to entertain. Whether you call it giving the reader an escape, or creating worlds, or whatever. At the end of the day, if it’s not entertaining, they’re less likely to read it; if they don’t read it, then nothing else much matters.

Now, how do you go about that?

Well, first and foremost, remember your goal IS to entertain. That means different things at different times, but mainly it means engaging the reader. Get them to like your hero and hate your villain. Get them to laugh at the funny spot and cry at the sad spot. Give them a rollercoaster ride. And make them care so much about those things that they can’t put your story down, they stay up until 3am saying, “Just one more chapter…” they get to the end and hate to see the story come to a close. They don’t want to say goodbye to these amazing new friends they’ve made.

DeAnna Knippling

deannak To present the author’s point of view on something, usually for entertainment purposes, but not always–sometimes a story is a call for justice, or a commentary on the state of the world or whatever.  The important part is that the author has a particular way of seeing things that their audience appreciates.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman To entertain and to provide an escape from the every day stress or mundaneness of everyday life.

Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil To entertain the reader.

What are the elements of a good plot?

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture The plot can be simple or complicated with many twists. Depending on the genre, the author doesn’t want to stray too far from the main cause that sets the story in motion, so make sure the plot is solid and moves like a well thought out chess game.

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre It has to move fast. I always give the analogy of a roller coaster: it needs some ups and some downs, some twists and turns, some fast places and some slower places. Without a hill, there is no drop. In order for something to be perceived as going fast, there needs to be a slower section. But for the most part, plots need to go from one interesting thing to another, and they need to do it as fast as possible. So we need to have “interesting things.” Hmm. What are those in your story? (They are things that a majority of people would consider interesting in a certain circumstance) and we need to go from one to the other quickly (that’s pace). One other big element of a good plot is, it needs interesting characters the reader can relate to.

Most of that isn’t hard to do, either. But where new writers screw up is they put too much extraneous information in the story, like describing the fact that the guy lives in a yellow, split level ranch home with three bedrooms and two bathrooms – I mean, who cares? If the police in your story are looking for a bank robber and witnesses say the bank robber ran into a yellow, split level ranch home, then that matters. Otherwise it probably does not. But that’s where people mess up their stories. They have good ideas, but they take too long to get to them and they make us wade through things that aren’t interesting. Alfred Hitchcock said, “A good story is life with the boring bit taken out.” That’s right. Anything you can’t read six times without wanting to skim it, that’s got to go.

DeAnna Knippling

deannak Ehhhh…a year ago I would have been able to answer this with great confidence.  Now I’m not so sure.  I’ve been reading a lot more literary fiction lately, and it turns some of my assumptions on their heads.  I think I have to go with, “A series of events that present the author’s point of view.”  For example, look at the movie Pulp Fiction.  Why were the events put in the order they were, out of sequence?  Why not a different out-of-sequence order?  I’m sure there’s a reason, but I think what it comes down to is, “That was just how the director, Quentin Tarrantino, thought it would work best at the time.”  I do plan to pick the movie apart so I can kind of reconstruct what he was thinking and why he made the judgments he did, but I’m not that far yet.  It’s fascinating.

Cynthia Vespia

colorheadshot - Copy Conflict, resolution, and character growth.

It doesn’t matter how good your story is if you can’t get anyone to read it. The ‘hook’ is the angle used to grab the readers attention and make them want to read more, usually found at the beginning of the story, before they have a chance to lose interest.

Margareth Stewart

Margareth Stewart The core aspects of humanity: revenge, love, hate, betrayal, the end of days, friendship, war, sex. Readers do not want stories about every-day life, they want every-day life exposed, nude and straightforward told. For instance: the married woman who loves the neighbor next door; the man getting his family ready for Armageddon; a father who betrays his son to conquer his son’s wife; a revenge plan that does not work out; and so on. People live up to these things in real life and they read to know what happened there if that might happen in real life and how he/she can get ideas on those issues. I believe people do not read just for reading; they read because there is a link between themselves and that plot, and that connection should be largely understood and perhaps even studied. My novel Open/Pierre´s journey after war deals with war and revenge, there is a lot of sex elements mixed into the story. War walks hand-in-hand with sex, and the element of revenge is one of the most primitive instincts we have for self-defense. My plots are all into that: our core instincts.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman Characters that the reader can connect with and or relate to, with a background rather than just springing up on the first page. A story that goes somewhere – i.e. some tension or event that the character must deal with. A good plot should also have a beginning to introduce, a middle to cover the “event” and an end to bring it to a conclusion.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan Characters and a unique plot.  You can have the most original story, but no one will want to read it if they don’t connect with the characters.  You can have the coolest characters, but another run-of-the-mill story will make readers lose interest.

Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil I think it is important to have a build up, then some action and of course romance and then the wind down.

What is the best hook you’ve ever written?

Mark Shaw

MarkAtSFTS (1) For both The Reporter Who Knew Too Much and the upcoming Denial of Justice, “Media Icon Dorothy Kilgallen was killed because she was ‘the reporter who knew too much.'”

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre Hooks are fun, but they are also work. I will usually write several chapters (often a lot more) before deciding on the hook for the story, but usually I have my story idea in mind and I kick around the best way to open it and hook the reader.

Think about the most interesting thing in your first chapter. Try to start with that, and then address it as close to the first line in the book as possible, in the most interesting way you can think of. Sometimes that’s an argument. Sometimes that’s action.

Here are a few of my faves:

The killer clutched and re-clutched the big knife, his heart pounding as he eyed his prey. (Double Blind)

We immediately know we have a killer. That’s kinda gripping. Prey = victim, so this line evokes an instinctive predator-prey thing; we almost immediately imagine a little deer being stalked by a big, ferocious lion. Clutching and re-clutching indicates nervousness or excitement or fear or apprehension, but it gets the reader into the mindset of the killer, which is intriguing; most people aren’t killers, so they are interested right away. I’m really proud of that one.

Here’s another:

“Call 911! CALL 911!”

But it needs a little context, so I’ll give you the rest.

“Call 911! CALL 911!”

The man’s shouts ripped through the tasting room of scenic Hillside Winery. At the counter, Mallory lowered her brochures for 2017 vintages and glanced over her shoulder, unable to see who had called out. The other customers, two dozen or so elderly tourists and a smaller group that called the server by name, were looking around, too.

With confusion working its way into their expressions, nobody moved or called 911.

The man’s voice rose, straining with fear and urgency as his words boomed down the hallway and spilled over them. “Somebody call 911! There’s been an accident in the parking lot!”

A robust fellow, gray at the temples but broad in the shoulders and belly, pushed away from the tasting counter and headed toward the shouts.

“Martin.” The woman next to him reached out for his arm. “Don’t. You’re not on duty.”

He didn’t break stride. “A cop is never off duty.” (An Angel On Her Shoulder)

This one opens a chapter, but I love it:

Melissa had been able to pick locks as a party trick since she was a child, just never while somebody was shooting at her. (The Navigators)

Every day for years, Gina passed by the old white tower, often not paying any attention to it at all. Today, it called to her. (The Water Castle)

My absolute favorite is this one:

“Daddy?” (Poggibonsi)

I know, I know; you aren’t supposed to start a story with dialogue because it’s allegedly disorienting to the reader. I said it was a fave; I didn’t say it was good. But in defense of it, we learn a lot in that one word, and I don’t find it disorienting. “Daddy” means we have a child speaking to their father. Usually, daddy is used by a smaller child, more likely than not, a girl. And she is asking a question, so we kinda wanna know what she wants to know, but we’ve adhered to Vonnegut’s rule of making a character want something, and we did it in one word. She wants something; we just don’t know what it is yet.

That’s a lot from one word.

“No way.” Roger shook his head and left the kitchen. “You f*ckers are crazy.”

(The Navigators)

That’s the actual story opening to The Navigators, but it’s a good idea to start each chapter with a good hook if you can, as noted above. (And there’s no words with asterisks in the middle in the story.)

Say what you want about how hooky my hooks are, but overall they tend to grab readers and pull them in.

DeAnna Knippling

deannak Right now, I’m in love with my near-future thrillers, so I’ll give you those:
–A near-future detective investigates a serial killer who knows what his victims really want…and will allow him to kill them in order to get it.
–NO IDEA IS SO GOOD IT CAN’T GO BAD
The Giver was what they called him.  He would give you whatever you wanted, for a price.  It was uncanny.  The Giver would find you when you were at your lowest point, offer you exactly what you needed, what you had to have more than life itself. (Mindsight, by my pseudonym Dean Kenyon) 
Lilly Rayman

L Rayman I have a future story planned for my Unexpected series, but I have written a 5k section of it for an anthology that releases on 12 Oct. I think that must have a pretty good hook, because the anthology’s publisher has asked me if I intend for the story to be expanded, because she needs more! She was very relieved when I told her it would be a future work in progress to be expanded into a full novel of my Unexpected series.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan  You tell me.  😉

The stakes in the story give characters motivation to act and also let us know what is at risk if the characters are unsuccessful in their quest. But, you can’t save the world in every story. Sometimes the stakes are personal and affect only the protagonist. Other times the stakes are bigger and affect more than just the main character. Either way, the character is motivated to take action.

What types of stakes do you create for your characters?

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture My plots tend to be simple, as my stories are character driven. The hero is always pitted against great odds, but s/he never allows the enemy to have the upper hand. Even injured, or seriously wounded, the hero goes forward. Whether it’s to save a small child or New York City, the goal is the same. Press forward.

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre You don’t have to save the world in every book, but you might be saving the world from the perspective of one person. A lost puppy is the end of the world to a five-year-old girl. Robbing a bank and getting away with $1 million might be the world to a drug dealer who will be killed if he doesn’t get the money to the loan shark by noon. Being caught in a foxhole with bullets flying around your head is definitely the whole world in a story about a Marine storming the beach at Normandy.

So, the bigger the stakes, the better, but big is relative. If your reader cares about that five year old girl, the story about her lost puppy can be just as gripping as the one about the Marine getting shot at.

And the more emotion you pack in, that makes the ride worth taking.

DeAnna Knippling

deannak I think a lot of my characters’ stakes are very personal and internal, but I love it when those personal stakes have external consequences.  “Who am I?  Do I get to stay a person, or do I get brainwashed?” That’s a lot of my characters.  But often the characters are balancing those stakes against letting murderers go free, letting people get eaten by monsters, letting the world end, things like that.  To paraphrase, “What good does it do someone to save the world, if they lose their own soul in the process?”

Cynthia Vespia

colorheadshot - Copy It depends on the plot. All characters have their own motivations. In those motivations comes the character growth. Save the world, save the girl, save themselves. It depends on what story you’re trying to tell.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman For my paranormal stories, I create tension between the species – my Unexpected series is vampire and wolf. The first in the series deals with bringing peace. My characters have their own personal issues to deal with, such as grief at a partner who has died. In the meantime, rival packs are plotting against each other.

For my historical story, I had political machinations that interfered with the simple every day life, providing the tension as the characters had to navigate around the plotting of others to make their own way as they wanted.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan I like to have personal stakes as opposed to “save the world.”  For example, in GOAT CHILDREN, Keziah struggles to come to terms with her grandmother’s dementia.  She isn’t saving the world, unless you count her own world as it crumbles.  Keziah must realize the grandmother she once loved is gone and discover how to best help the woman in her place.

Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil That varies from story to story, but I think since I write mainly romance, that there has to be some angst between the H & h.  And, there is always the risk of losing the love.  Maybe there is another involved and you have a triangle, but this risk is always there.

In any story, there is certain information the reader needs to know, like backstory, but big blocks of exposition can tire the reader and cause them to lose interest.

In your writing, how do you avoid info-dumps?

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture Here’s what I do, when I can. My characters may be driving on a highway, and one notices all the automobiles are black, then mentions a scene from their youth in conversation, like a country community during harvest, with lots of green tractors on the road. Our hero responds with a mission or period when s/he was in Europe and on the road to Monte Carlo driving a red VW, while the road was packed with black Ferraris. I try to make the back-story part of what is going on at the time.

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre How to avoid info dumps, right? I’ll tell you the secret. Ready? Because this is something that almost every new writer struggles with. The solution is simple.

You might need a bunch of information about that character or about that city or whatever. Write it. Write it all. Write it down in as much detail as you need. Fill pages of notebooks or volumes of computer files.

And then leave it out of the book.

Yep. You read that right.

Characters should appear on page 1 as fully formed human beings. The story rarely begins at their birth and ends at their death, recounting everything in their lives that happened in between including potty training and every Friday dinnertime pizza topping discussion. Nobody wants to read that.

The reader knows the character had a life before the story started, so let your character act like it. Leave out the backstory.

If you feel you absolutely positively have to have some sort of backstory, write it down, only pull the essential few pieces, and then drip them into your story here and there. For example, you can explain away a ten-year relationship by having a main character’s friend say, “Well, that’s what Janice did to him.” There we go. There was a Janice. They spent time together. She did something to him, and he’s still feeling the effects of whatever it was.

One well-placed sentence replaces 5,000 boring non-related words of backstory.

Spread those little pearls throughout your story and let the reader sew them together – and reach their own conclusions about it. No spoon feeding.

For the most part, the writer needs that backstory information. The reader does not. Words to live by.

DeAnna Knippling

deannak My characters, I should note, lie a lot.  Sometimes they outright lie, sometimes they lie by omission, sometimes they just tell the story from their own point of view. So what I do is plan for the reader to find out a superficial level of what’s going on, something that doesn’t take a lot of time to explain, but that is fundamentally untrue in some way.  The truth comes out gradually, as it tends to do, which means that I don’t have to give a whole bunch of truth at any given moment.  I also bury a lot of info in descriptions of things.  Like the character will assume that everyone knows a lot of stuff about fairies in the 1920s and kind of just say something like, “I got a Daimler because they never make ’em out of fae,” and you’re like, “Wait, what do they make out of fae?!?”  I try to make it not feel like an infodump, but the answer to a question you had on your mind anyway.

Cynthia Vespia

colorheadshot - Copy There’s an incredibly good scene in the original Terminator movie where Sarah Connor is with Kyle Reese and they are in a police car trying to get away from both the T800 and the cops. In that scene, full of adrenaline and action, Kyle explains the entire plot of the movie. Its a big chunk of exposition, but you don’t realize it because he’s telling it during an action scene.

That’s just an example on how you can drop important backstory into your novel. Use pacing.

Ashley Fontainne

Ashley Fontainne It is a slippery slope to give just the right amount of information away without boring the reader to tears! It took me several years and some rather nasty reviews to learn to fling only a cupful of information across the page as opposed to dumping an entire gallon of water at once. Since I primarily write in the suspense/mystery/thriller genre, readers expect a fast-paced story, not one laced with six sentences dedicated to describing a blade of grass or the color of a character’s eyes. It all depends upon the genre and reader expectation. Romance novels needs steamy, drawn-out love scenes full of vivid detail, so if the author skims over certain pieces of vital information, the reader might feel cheated.

Mark Shaw

MarkAtSFTS (1) Pace and good transitions.

Margareth Stewart

Margareth Stewart That is a great point-not too much information and not lack of it: the right balance of everything! I read nothing that over explains things; it can be a film, a book or a teacher during a class; so I try to avoid it by all costs with my readers. Sometimes, I think I prefer less information and leave gaps for the readers to fill them in than to overexpose them to a boring extensive description that simply bores them.

Actually, I have noticed there are two kinds of literature, one that is descriptive and that in engendered in time and space; somehow, it is grounded in that place. There are readers for those and they hate anything that is too subtle and not told in the book, endings that are not clear, and so on. On the other hand, there is another kind of literature that is classical, beyond time and place, it is more universal, and this one uses less information and is more grounded into emotions. These are the classics. What I write has more to do with the last one!

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman I work in shorter sections of back story, sometimes I might use a couple of paragraphs of a flashback, providing the information the reader needs. Although sometimes a simple line can provide insight to a characters state of mind from their backstory – like this for an example – {Years of anger, hatred and jealousy powered behind the fall of his arm as he dropped the statue with as much force as he could on the back of his brothers head.}

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan I always have critique partners read through to make sure info-dumps didn’t slip through!  While writing, though, I try to be careful to space backstory out a little at a time in each chapter.  If we get deep into the story and some information hasn’t come to light yet, I let it go – it must not be essential.

Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil I usually throw the backstory in gradually instead of all at once.  Giving the reader tidbits here and there helps to keep them reading on.

Prologues. Some authors love them, others find them to be irrelevant, an unnecessary detour.

Are you in favor of prologues? What is the function of a good prologue?

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture A prologue can help at times, but I’m not in favor of them. I used them in my JUR series. In fact, the first novel almost won an award for the prologue. It set the stage for the telling of the story. In my more recent novel, Pangaea: Eden’s Planet, the short prologue helped define the commander of the mission, so the reader understood her motivations. Even though the mission failed due to no fault of hers, she still feels responsible for the others.

Ashley Fontainne

Ashley Fontainne I love them, especially when reliving events in the past which have lasting impacts on the lives of the characters in the present. The same is true for epilogues. Both show the start and ending of the “event” and the reaction of the characters.

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre Here is the problem a prologue, and I will give you the best, most famous example of a prologue, ever: Star Wars. The very first Star Wars, back in the 70s, started out with that rambling scroll that kind of went up the screen and disappeared off into space, telling us all about how it was a dark time for the rebels or somebody, and blah, blah, blah… Then, in the first two minutes of the story, we see everything that prologue just told us. That’s proof that the prologue wasn’t necessary. (But because it’s become iconic, they have to start all those movies with that. Hey, if it made me a billion dollars, I would, too.) The fact is, if you skip that part and start right out with that little spaceship shooting at the big spaceship, the next 120 seconds tell you everything in the prologue – so you didn’t need the prologue.

And that’s my point. They’re bad for several reasons.

Most people who feel like they need a prologue are really not writing a good story in the prologue. They have this great story idea that comes later, and they feel like they have to spoon feed the reader to get them up to speed. Usually that’s not the case.

Additionally, they may write a really good story once the story starts, but they write a really horrible prologue. It’s all tell, tell, tell, and summaries, and stuff that isn’t written well or written to be engaging and interesting.

I almost always skip a prologue. I would say 90% of the time, the story is not better for having had the prologue. It’s often just an info dump-y backstory we have to wade through until the fun starts. Why do that to a reader? Why give them a chance to put the book down?

Some of the most engaging stories you read are stories where you kind of have to figure out what’s going on. Like this thing is already happening and I need to run to catch up.

DeAnna Knippling

deannak Depends on the genre.  How are you gonna write a thriller with no prologue?!?

Cynthia Vespia

colorheadshot - Copy I’ll use a prologue if I deem it necessary or if I feel I want to have it in there. The thing people need to understand about writing is that you don’t need to be pigeonholed into all these set rules. Write however you want to write. Let the story and the characters guide you, not the rules.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman I do use prologues. Depending on my story, it can be the simplest form of setting up the rest of the plot, providing a simple introduction of the history of the characters and allowing the reader to engage with wanting to know more and how that introduction effects that character – usually my prologues are set years before the main story takes place, and can be the best way to avoid a major info dump later in the story.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan I used to love prologues until my past agent told me to nix them because no one ever reads a prologue. Since then, I’ve tried hard not to use them. The only time a prologue seems necessary is to deliver a scene that took place years in the past.

Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil Most of my books have prologues.  To me, the prologue is the hook.  It’s what makes the reader want to read more.

Subplots help to keep readers from getting bored when the main plot slows down, but they can also confuse the issues if not written in carefully. If they aren’t wrapped up by the end of the story, they can leave readers feeling cheated. Yet, they are vital to making your story believable, because real life isn’t linear and focused on just one thing, and neither should your story be.

What is your approach to subplots? Do you write subplots in purposefully, or just let them develop and see what happens? How do you assure that all the subplots are resolved by the end of the story? Or do you leave a few dangling, with the promise of more to come for the reader?

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture Hmm. In my novel, The Man In The Black Fedora, a subplot – or minor mystery – surrounds the man in the black fedora. He and his team (agents) rescue a young nightclub singer from the mob who is intent on killing her. She is brought into the team’s organization, but she isn’t told who the mysterious man is. The agents know who their boss is, and the reader can easily figure it out, but he remains a mystery to the nightclub singer. Throughout the story she keeps guessing at his secret identity, but the agents won’t tell her. About three-quarters into the story I do reveal his identity to the girl, and got in trouble for it. Readers said I should have waited till the end of the story to reveal the secret. However, there were already two mysteries to be solved, and I was merely using the man in the black fedora’s secret as a minor subplot, figuring I could end that mystery any time during the story. From the readers’ responses, I should have held on to the secret until the end of the story, though, (sigh).

Ashley Fontainne

Ashley Fontainne There are subplots in the majority of my novels because in reality, everyone has their own agenda whether known or not. Your main character may be working on solving a murder because they loved the person who died, yet another character might be assisting in the investigation for reasons rather on the shady side! Subplots offer a great opportunity to steer the reader into a different direction while you build up a shocking twist with another character.

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre Subplots are awesome. They are what makes the story world go around. You have your one main story and then you have lots of little stories going on underneath, and in each one of those, we should have some sort of challenge that a character is trying to overcome. So in your main story you’re gonna have a big giant obstacle to overcome, and in your little subplots, you’re going to have smaller stuff to overcome. Overcoming the challenges or obstacles in the story is what makes the story really interesting, and typically the bigger the steaks and the bigger the obstacles, the more interesting story.

The same is true for tension. The more tension, the better the story, and subplots allow for additional tension – as long as they affect the main story somehow.

Usually I try to have all my subplots wrapped up by the end. My mind works that way. How do I do that? I outline. I look at the pieces of the puzzle I arrange them until I’m satisfied, and I make sure that all the loose ends are tied up by the last chapter. As a reader, I enjoy seeing that happen, and as a writer, I can tell you most audiences do, too. (To ensure the loose ends get tied up, make lots and lots of notes to yourself. More on that later.)

DeAnna Knippling

deannak With my ghostwriting stories, the subplots kind of have to be wrapped up tight.  I find that ghostwriting clients aren’t in for as challenging plots as I am in my own work 🙂  In my own work, I may leave a few subplots still dangling, but only if that’s kind of what the story is about.  I have one series that’s a near-future thriller, (Mindsight, by my pseudonym Dean Kenyon), and how difficult it is to really know everything that’s going on in the information era.  And that character, he just lies about all kinds of things and the books are a loose kind of report for his private detective agency.  So he kind of…just leaves some things out.  Like, if he’s going to do something that could get him fired or put someone in danger.  Oops, I forgot to write that down.  He always has a logical reason for it.  I try to hint at what he really did, though.  I’m using some of the loose threads in the next book, too.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman My stories develop all on their own. Subplots and all. For my Unexpected series, a couple of those subplots are started in one book, and will conclude in the next book, although there are no cliff hangers as such.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan Subplots always happen as the story progresses.  I love writing from alternate points of view, and as each character becomes more complex, more subplots blossom. Critique partners are great at helping me catch subplots that don’t have a solid resolution.

Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil I’ve been called many times a big tease.  So my subplots always promise more to come.  I keep them open so that I can continue that story in another book.  I write a lot of series and this works well.  Keeps the series from dying too soon.

This question is for those authors who are plotters, and like to have the storyline laid out before they begin writing. What story structure do you prefer? (i.e. Simple Outline, Bracket method, Three Act Format. Beat Sheet.)

Mark Shaw

MarkAtSFTS (1) Chapter Headings with some description of content.

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre Hmm. I don’t know what any of those things are…

When I get an idea for a story, I use an outline. My outline can be as simple as for main points. Romeo and Juliet, for example, has four main outline points:

  • Boy and girl want to be together.
  • Their parents don’t want them to be together.
  • They get together anyway.
  • Everybody dies.

In that basic structure, you know we’re going to have these people meet and struggle and get together and pay a huge price because of it. The subplots go in underneath that. Sword fights! Intrigue! Here and there, some comedy.

So for my story, I make a list of my main story points just like I did for Romeo and Juliet above, and then I lay out smaller points underneath for ideas and subplots and whatnot. By doing that, I know when my story is going. Subplots, too. As I write, I will get really cool ideas that can be inserted in, and I love, love, LOVE to think of a twist that nobody sees coming. Like halfway through you find out the guy you’ve been rooting for is actually a bad guy. (Well, from his perspective, he’s not a bad guy; he just has a cross purpose with somebody else in the story.)

My method is to think of all those little ideas and lay them out, and then see what works best, and then start writing. It gives me a series of writing prompts every day – the next bullet point on the list! Goodbye writer’s block. And guess what? If the bullet point doesn’t interest you very much, so you don’t want to write it – delete it from the list. The list should only be really interesting things that are happening in your story.

This allows you to oversee what happens in your story and make sure it goes where you want, but if you decide Romeo and Juliet should live happily ever after, hey – go with that! It’s your outline. It’s to guide you to the best story, not lock you into an arbitrary set of rules.

DeAnna Knippling

deannak I plot on some things, especially when I ghostwrite. I use a simplified form of Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat.
-Set up the story.
–Fun & games (a.k.a. “the promise of the premise”).
–Reversal!!!
–Bad guys close in.
–Stormin’ the castle/final battle.
–Wrapup.
It doesn’t really matter what outline you use. The ability to go from “I have an idea!!!” to putting events in some kind of dramatic order is the important part. I feel that if you can “feel” a dramatic order to your events, you can skip the outline and pants it.
Cynthia Vespia
colorheadshot - Copy I do a simple outline with important plot points I want to touch on, character breakdowns, and often resolutions to problems…but not always. Too much plotting kills the story for me.
Lilly Rayman

L Rayman On the rare occasions I need to plot – for a tight word count for example, I plan my chapters and will outline my manuscript with chapter heading and a simple line of text as to what is to happen in this chapter.

Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil I use a storyboard.  It’s a sheet of paper that has 12 squares on it, each square representing a chapter in the book.  I write quick notes on what I want to happen in each chapter and work off that.  Sometimes I will follow that story board to the letter, others the story takes on a life of its own and it gets altered.

There is nothing worse for a reader than to be deeply involved in a story and discover a huge plot hole that the author missed. It could be as simple as the character had on a purple dress three pages back, but now is wearing a blue one, but I guarantee there are readers out there that will find it and make you aware of it.

Do you have methods you employ for avoiding inconsistencies in your story?

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture You see this not only in books, but movies also. In one scene her hair is in a bun, the next scene it’s shoulder length. The hero may jump from 160 pounds to 190 pounds in two chapters. File cards come in handy for main characters. Write their descriptions down, and what they’re wearing, if necessary. And keep those file cards handy.

Ashley Fontainne

Ashley Fontainne I once mixed up the sex of a main character’s cat in the third book of a series. One reader ripped me apart for the mistake and to this day, I find the reaction odd. No one can write a perfect book because every single person involved from start to finish is human, which means mistakes will happen. If the biggest criticism I receive during a review is because of such a minor detail then I simply smile, because that means I nailed the big plot points and the only thing they can find to nitpick is a minor one.

I have numerous beta readers and friends read the final draft several times and incorporate their suggestions. I also send the final, final, final draft to my Kindle and listen to the robotic voice speak the words. It is amazing how many little things you can catch that way. Then, I make corrections and the final, final, final, final draft to my editor.

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre PLOT HOLE RULE #1: It’s not a plot hole if nobody notices.

Usually there is enough time between the first draft and the final version of the story for me to be thinking about any loose ends. Things randomly pop up in my head because I want to be sure to not have loose ends, and I think about my story a lot in my non-writing time. Did I remember to explain X? Did I give a reason for Y? I immediately make a note, then go check out if I dealt with the question.

In my most recent story, I wanted to have the killer confront a certain character, but there just wasn’t a convenient way to do it. So I made a note to myself. I had to address that before the final chapter. And I wrote other pieces of the story, but eventually I had to resolve that. If I had not, it would’ve been a plot hole. There have been others, but I become aware of them as I write, and I make a note to tie it up somehow.

Notes are big. Just dash off a line to yourself: Remember to have Mrs Dilger say X. That’s all you need. It’s like a checklist. As you address each one, cross it off the list. As you create each twist, think ahead about how it ties in and makes notes about things you have to do to ensure it does. I might have 30 motes to myself during a story, and at the ed I go through and double check that each one is taken care of.

I think people who outline tend to have far fewer plot holes anyway, and if there are still a few when you finish, your critique partners and beta readers should catch them. If they don’t, well… it’s not a plot hole if nobody notices it.

DeAnna Knippling

deannak With novels, I try to maintain a sheet with character names.  I have the worst time with names.  I find that if I describe the character vividly enough in each scene (which doesn’t mean at great length, just vividly), then I remember what clothes they’re wearing anyway.  If I screw something like that up, it means I did a bad job at the original descriptions, and I try to backpedal and add more details in.

Cynthia Vespia

colorheadshot - Copy Plotting as we mentioned before. I use a very detailed character sheet so that those things don’t happen.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman I re-read for information if I need it. But I avoid most major plot holes by writing scene by scene, chapter by chapter in order, rather than having to sew up scenes that have been written randomly as the inspiration hits. I also have a trusted friend, who is also an author who will read through my manuscript after the first round of edits and tell me if I have missed anything in bringing the story to its conclusion.

Jordan Eliabeth

Jordan I always use an editor and a proofreader, as well as numerous critique partners.  I hate it when something sneaks by.  I’ll be kicking myself for years!

Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil I am lucky enough to have two editors who are very thorough.  They did deep into my stories and find those plot holes and make sure that they point them out to me.

I’ve been working to improve my interviewing skills, and one thing I’ve learned is that the interviewer must phrase the questions so they won’t be misinterpreted. It seems I still have a way to go in this area. So, for those who read ‘hook’ as ‘book’ in my earlier question, (lol), I figure this is a legitimate question, too.

What is the best book you’ve ever written?

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture I don’t know. My nonfiction books have probably made more money. I love writing children stories best. The JUR series was my break out series, and actually the most fun to write. But if I were to pick my favorite it would be between The Man In The Black Fedora and Pangaea: Eden’s Planet. Between those two, perhaps I would lean towards The Man In The Black Fedora. Both would make good movies.

Ashley Fontainne

Ashley Fontainne What a tough question and so difficult to answer.

For emotional impact on the ’ol heartstrings, I would say Ruined Wings. The story is a painful reality for far too many people in this world, including a close loved one, which is why I wrote the book and why it’s been turned into a short film. Addiction is a major, worldwide crisis.

The best mystery/suspense/thriller book I’ve written to date would have to be my latest novel, Fatal Agreements. Family secrets, revenge, murder, an old house, and southern charm! What more can you ask for in a novel?

Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil Thus far, I would have to say Ripper.  The story is a very erotic love story that is engrossing and will leave you on the edge of your seat that takes place around the Jack the Ripper murders.  The ending is a total surprise and will definitely leave the reader with a book hangover.

Well, it looks like most of our panel can agree that the function of story is to entertain and/or present a message, although they may disagree on other things about plot. A plot is like a completed puzzle, with all the pieces fitting together exactly. Those pieces include a beginning, middle and end, but you can’t just place the beginning of one puzzle with the middle and end from other puzzles because they won’t match up right to create a whole picture that’s clear. So, those pieces must contain the right elements, like conflict and resolution, character growth, good tension and pacing and an appeal to the humanity in all of us in order to fit together properly and form a cohesive whole.

There must be something at risk or no one will care enough to read on. The bigger the stakes the more your readers will care. The stakes can be internal or external, but even internal stakes should have external consequences. And there must be obstacles to your protagonist reaching their goals. It can’t be easy. What’s the fun in that? Where’s the tension. I had a professor who was fond of telling us to beat our characters up, and when you think they are as low as they can go, beat them up some more. It makes the triumph when they reach their goal that much sweeter.

Info. dumps can be avoided in several ways including weaving backstory and/or flashbacks into action and dialog. But, it also was suggested that you create questions that readers will then be looking for the answers to and won’t notice its exposition or have your characters lie, giving off subtle hints at things, but not outright telling readers what they need to know. A few authors suggested leaving backstory out, doubting that there is a need for it. And, they may be right in some cases.

Our plotters keep things straight with storyboards or outlines of some sort, and to avoid inconsistancies they use those outlines or make notes, character sheets or filing cards to avoid inconsistancies. Most panel members also utilize critique partners, beta readers and/or editors to help expose plot holes. Having your story read aloud with the author becoming a listener can also be helpful, because you hear things that you may overlook on the page. And I have to agree with Lilly Rayman that writing linearly, rather than jumping around in the story is probably also helpful in this respect.

That wraps up this week’s segment. I want to thank our panel members for all their great input, and thank my readers for joining us and tuning in. I hope you all will pop in next Monday, when Ask the Authors will take a look at “Setting the Tone with Point of View, Tense, Narrative Distance and Voice”.

 

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The Writing Process: You’ve Got a Story Idea, Now What?

Ask the Authors (Round 2)

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This is the first segment of Ask the Authors (Round 2), and the topic of discussion is, as if you couldn’t guess from the title, the writing process. You can meet each of our panel members in my introductory post from last week. For those of you who didn’t catch the first round of Ask the Authors, here’s how this series works. Our panel members are published authors and they offer their answers to my questions on the topic each week. If one of their answers piques other questions for you, please leave your questions in the comments, and we will respond to them in the final segment, or sometimes indivual panel members may respond to you directly on the blog. (It has happened.) The point being that comments are welcomed and even encouraged.

The writing process. Hmmm. Let’s see. That could encompass a lot of different things, from inspiration and developing an idea into a story, to pre-writing activities, to plotting, to everything that comes right up to setting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard. It can include rituals to get into the writing zone, or how we set atmosphere before we begin.

There is no right or wrong to this, and every author does things differently. There is no secret recipe or magic potion that garuntees a good book will result from your efforts. What works for some may not work for others. With that said, we have fourteen authors who have taken the time to answer some of our questions regarding the writing process and what works for them. Lets find out what they have to share.

Why do you write?

DeAnna Knippling
deannak I’ve always had a calling for reading and telling stories.  I briefly considered going into computer programming or psychology, but I really don’t have the patience for either.
As my daughter approaches college age, I watch her taking on different ideas about what she wants to do with her life.  I’m starting to think that people should find a job that uses the skills they spend a ton of time on when they’re bored.  My boredom skills are daydreaming, what-if-ing, people watching, and exploring.
Mark Shaw 
MarkAtSFTS (1)  To make readers stop and think about important issues.
Mark & Kym Todd
Todds - Copy Depends on who we’re writing to. We both write for love but also for money. For love, it’s when we have an idea in our heads that won’t shut up until we write it down. If we’re lucky that might fit something we decide to submit on spec. For money, it’s often service journalism and then the deadline determines when we write and when we’re done.
Ashley Fontainne
Ashley Fontainne Like a lot of girls, I kept a journal/diary when younger, detailing my hopes, dreams, pain, and fears. I found writing poetry came naturally and helped me release pent-up emotions. The same is true today in my writing, which allows me the opportunity to share with an audience things I hold near and dear to my heart.
Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil Mainly because I enjoy it. There are so many stories running through my head that writing gives me an outlet to share them.

Art Rosch

Art 2001 I have no choice. My mind is analogous to a cow’s udder.  It fills every day with words and I have to milk it or I go insane. This insanity takes the form of depression, anxiety and the delusion that I am a nuclear submarine commander. So…as  you may perceive, writing is imperative.  I am forced to write or my brain will burst like an udder that has not been milked for weeks. I assure you, it’s very painful.
The preceding paragraph is a joke, I confess. I was born an artist who uses music, photography, words and dance to produce material that, if fortune smiles, will confer fame upon me, albeit most likely after I’m dead. I’ve examined this drive all my life and I’ve come to a few conclusions. One is that I have a strong desire for attention. I want to be noticed by other people. When I was young I thought that attention was the same thing as love. It’s not. Love brings a much higher form of emotional pleasure than mere attention.
Still, it’s essential to get attention if you want to attract readers to your work. In a world populated by seven billion people it’s difficult to get people’s attention without committing a heinous crime or running naked through the Guggenheim Museum shouting “All Whores Are In Heaven!” I don’t want to do either of these things.
That leaves me with social media as my vehicle for gaining attention. I’m a complete flop at using social media. For more than a decade I’ve been spending huge swathes of time haunting the pages of Twitter, Facebook, Zifflenook, Instagrab and Crapchat. No matter how much time I spend posting interesting content, my numbers remain anemic. I have never broken a thousand Twitter followers. I’m serious! I’ve noticed that buffoons and cretins of every stripe are capable of attracting hundreds of thousand of followers. My highest Twitter following was nine hundred sixty two. My platform is made of popsicle sticks. One of my favorite tweets is this: “If you aren’t crazy there must be something wrong with you.” Still, no retweets, no Favorites, nada. I admit that I’m crazy. Therefore I must be okay.
Cynthia Vespia
colorheadshot - Copy I write for the joy of telling stories. I’ve been creative my entire life and without using that creativity in some manner life just seems dull. Building worlds and developing characters that I bring to life on the page, that resonate with readers, that’s why I write.
Jordan Elizabeth
Jordan I write because I have to. The stories keep pummeling me all day until I can finally sit down to get them all out.

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture I blame that on my mother. She read fascinating fairy tales to me as a child, and they must have tickled a writing bone somewhere. If I’m not writing, I’m reading.

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre Gratification.

For a long time, I wrote posts on Facebook that were like very short little vignettes, and they were pretty well received. People kept telling me I should write a book. Eventually I did, and without getting into too much detail, I learned this is something I can do – and do well. Not everyone can. Something like 80% of Americans want to write a book and never do. The ones who start, most of them don’t finish. The ones who finish, most of them don’t get it published. So I realized I was in a unique position to do something that most people would like to do and probably would never do, but also the people who read what I wrote found it really entertaining and they wrote me letters to tell me that – and that was very satisfying.

Once I did that for a while, I wanted to try different things to see if I was any good at them. So I wrote a time travel adventure story (The Navigators) and I wrote a romance (Poggibonsi) and a paranormal mystery (An Angel On Her Shoulder) and children’s books (The Zombunny series, Stinky Toe, Laguna the Lonely Mermaid)… I recently was invited to be part of a 20 book anthology with a bunch of New York Times and USA Today bestselling authors, so I had to write a murder mystery (Double Blind) for that. My critique partners say it’s my best work to date! So in the ensuing years from my first book to now, I learned a lot and my writing has improved, but it’s still about reaching out to one person and trying to entertain them. Connecting. And so I write because I feel like I have stories to tell and they’re worth telling, but it’s just a way to entertain and I like it.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman I write for mainly for the pure enjoyment that I get from putting together a story that my readers enjoy. I also write for my own pleasure and the stress release that I get from writing. As a fiction writer, I can escape from the reality of every day life and relax in the world and characters that I create.


My Muse

By Kaye Lynne Booth

 

My muse is always trying to inspire in every way.

She dances and sticks out her tongue, enticing me to play.

She knows just what inspires me

And she tries to make me see

A world that’s filled with beauty, everywhere I go.

Inspiration is all around, my muse does surely know.

 

On days when I am feeling down or am busy as can be

I don’t always take the time to see what she wants me to see.

By the time I’m ready to be inspired,

Of this game, she has grown tired.

She may be sulking in the corner, or in the other room

Seeking inspiration, she might be staring at the moon.

 

Listening to my muse is the wisest choice, I’ve learned.

She knows how to stir the inspiration, which within me burns.

The miracles of nature; a flower or a bird

Are brought to my attention, but she never says a word.

She shows me how the morning dew, on the grass does glisten

She fills my head with great ideas, if I will only listen.

 

Where does your inspiration come from? What can you tell us about your muse?

DeAnna Knippling
deannak I was unsure of my muse for a long time. I’ve heard other writers talk about that, but in different terms.  “I don’t know what to write.” “This story isn’t working and it doesn’t really feel like me.” That kind of thing. But I’ve taken the time to really sort through what connects me to a story, and it’s simpler than I thought it was: in order for the inspiration to flow, I have to find a way to care about the things going on in the story.  I kept trying to force myself to write things that I didn’t really feel connected to, or that I didn’t have strong feelings about. I care about a lot of things, but somehow I was managing to find a million story ideas that I didn’t care about, and stories kept dying as my muse helpfully derailed my imagination in order to work on something–anything–that I did care about.
When I have feelings about a story, then it takes off, and I hardly notice the effort of writing it. Thinking won’t really get me anywhere in a story. It has to be driven my emotion.
Mark Shaw
MarkAtSFTS (1) With The Reporter Who Knew Too Much about Dorothy Kilgallen and Denial of Justice, the follow-up book to be published In November, she was my muse, my inspiration, my guiding light leading me to details about her life and time and her mysterious death.
Mark & Kym Todd 
Todds - Copy We both come from journalism backgrounds, so we learned a long time ago not to count on inspiration to carry us through. For our last project, which was a creative nonfiction book, the publisher gave us a one-year turn-around deadline for street release. (Our muse was more of a harpy in that instance, but we got it done on time.)
Ashley Fontainne
Ashley Fontainne I draw most of my inspiration for a story from real events. All it takes is one little spark and the wildfire of words follows!
Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil My husband. He is the perfect idea man. And his ideas take me outside of my comfort zone and allow me to venture into different genres.

Cynthia Vespia

colorheadshot - Copy I don’t use the term Muse. I get inspiration from ideas which are all around me. Snips of conversation, a quote, a name, those can all spark what we call a “plot bunny” that I either develop or it falls to the side.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan Most of my inspiration comes from dreams. I wake up in the morning, think back to the wild adventures of the night, and know what my next book is going to be about. I also draw inspiration from real life. Something will happen and I just stop to blink. Yes, that would be perfect for a novel.

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture Inspiration has come from many areas. Dreams come to mind. When I’m not dreaming about the military, I have some real doozies. Aliens, UFOs, and spaceships filtering into my dreams will give me many plots. TV is another inspiration. I’m sure all of us remember The Equalizer. One episode featured a young boy with AIDS living with his grandmother, and the local rednecks wanted them out. After harassing them, the boy calls Robert McCall, thinking he is his comic book hero. That episode sparked a three-novelette story arc. I wondered why the pulp magazines never had a hero that protected children. The Masked Avenger was born after that episode.

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre My inspiration comes from all kinds of places. Hmm… that’s not really helpful, is it? They say that there are 20 good story ideas around us every day and a good author will see two or three of them. I think that’s right. I think if you are looking for things to inspire you, they will. But I also think there’s a lot of hard work that forces a person to sit down and write every day whether they feel like it or not, because atrophy is real and writers block is real for some people, and the more you let things affect you, the more they will affect you. If you instead say, “I’m just gonna muscle on through,” you learn a certain discipline that really helps you find more inspiration.

So my strength has always been prolific and being able to find what’s funny or unique in the normal situations that we are all extremely familiar with, so that my reader finds themselves suddenly turned on their head over things that they that are commonplace to them.

As far as a muse… Well, it’s like this. I believe several things make a story really powerful. Being able to bare your soul and put it on the page – that will allow your pain or love or passion or whatever, to connect with the reader. I actually think we even choose different types of words and different sentence structures when we are emotionally “in” the mood the scene needs. The word choice somehow seems to carry the spirit on the page and converts to the reader. You want to write to one person, so that he or she gets it; then everything else seems to fall in place. It’s a way of being disciplined and not trying to do as Vonnegut warned: don’t open the window to make love to the whole; you’ll only catch pneumonia.

I write to one person. That’s my muse.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman I often joke that if I knew where the ideas came from I would turn off the tap. In all seriousness though, I love that my mind is so active that my imagination can be sparked from any number of things. I shake my head that my two little girls (3 and 5) enjoy watching a particular movie again and again, and then suddenly I’m hanging out the washing and a whole new story idea drops into my head based on a retelling of a Disney classic. Sometimes my muse can be my fellow authors, they approach me with a story idea that would be fun to explore for an anthology and then I find myself with the story half written in my head before I can blink. I then have to find the time to sit down and write. My readers themselves can be my muses. They ask me questions about the characters that I write about, “what would they do if…”; “What would happen….” And then I find myself exploring those ideas further and my stories evolve, and my series grows with bonus content.


Research is a part of the pre-writing activities for most authors, whether it is historical research for setting or time period, traveling to location in order to write about it, or people watching to observe behavior. It can be reading all the works of a given author in order to immulate their writing style, immersing oneself in a culture or subculture or digging deep to uncover the facts for a nonfiction work. 

What kinds of writing do you do and what types of research are required?

DeAnna Knippling
deannak I mainly write fiction. Most of my research is reading a book on some subject before I start the story, or even as I’m writing the story. I used to be really intimidated by having to do research, but I decided to make a habit of reading more nonfiction that I found interesting, just completely outside of the need to research something for a story. I used to rarely get around to nonfiction, despite having good intentions to do so. Now nonfiction books are in my regular rotation. Somehow this has made me more comfortable with research in general.
I’ve also made a habit of doing more research just because I’m curious. If someone makes a comment like, “And that’s why Benjamin Franklin had a different lover in every zip code,” then I have permission to go, “When did ZIP codes get invented anyway?” and I’ll go find out. (ZIP codes were first used in 1963, although there were postal zones for large cities in the U.S. starting in 1943. So, Ben Franklin didn’t have a different lover in every zip code. I’m not sure why the person made that comment in the first place, because the comment thread was about something else entirely.)
I’ve given into my inner nerd in general; specific research seems to be categorically easier when you practice your research skills in general. Or something.
If I’m writing nonfiction about writing advice (which I often do on my blog), then I’ll often test the theories involved on other writers. “Does this even make sense? How would you do it?” Sometimes that stirs up trouble with people strongly disagree with me, though!
Mark & Kym Todd
Todds - Copy Even for fiction, we generally situate our stories in realistic locations and try to maintain enough verisimilitude in our world-building so reader’s don’t shatter their willing suspension of disbelief. That means we spend time researching and fact-checking the plausibility of our scenarios. Our novel All Plucked Up quickly developed into a story that needed a protagonist who was an antiquities black market con artist, which we knew nothing about. But we soon became knowledgeable about this (appalling yet fascinating) racket.
Ashley Fontainne
Ashley Fontainne How much, if any, research I conduct depends upon the story. For example, I did extensive research for my post-apocalyptic series yet nary a search for other books.
Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil The genres that I mainly write in are historical, contemporary and erotic romance. I’ve dabbled in fantasy and want to do more of it. Depending on the story, my research is extensive. I read a lot about the topic, watch movies and documentaries that pertain to that particular subject matter.

Art Rosch 

Art 2001 Every writer should be…no..MUST be…a psychologist. I don’t mean a shrink or doctor, I mean a keen observer of human nature. When sci fi writer Philip K. Dick was asked what he wrote about he had a concise response. “I write about two subjects,” he said.  “I write about what is real, and I write about what is human.” That pithy reply has guided me since I first read it many years ago. Whatever the genre, whether I’m writing fantasy, science fiction or literary fiction, I’m always writing about people. I write about their behavior and their motivations. I write about the secrets they keep and the fears that dominate their lives.

My research begins with myself. My own behavior has been like a laboratory experiment. The genres of fantasy and science fiction draw me repeatedly to the creation of new worlds and the testing of new concepts. I’ve been using myself as a research subject since I began to behave in ways that I perceived as abnormal. I didn’t think that taking LSD at age sixteen was abnormal. I thought it was a reasonable response to a world gone mad. I grew up in the aftershocks of World War Two. I grew up viewing images of concentration camps, charnel houses and smudges that were once people before they were vaporized by atomic bombs. I didn’t think I was crazy to take risks with my fragile mind using powerful drugs.

I only began to think I was crazy when I started to eat vast quantities of food when I wasn’t hungry. I was suffering from bulimia. In the late sixties this wasn’t in the vocabulary of psychiatric afflictions.  There was no awareness of eating disorders. I had a monstrous eating disorder that lasted several years and still hangs on with vestigial persistence. I knew that something was wrong with me. I looked for help, but couldn’t find help that didn’t resemble control and imprisonment. I read Freud, Jung, James Hillman, Alice Miller and Heinz Kohut. I read obscure occultists and classic Buddhist literature. I read everything on the subject of Consciousness. It seemed like the most important subject to study.

I also did more conventional research. When I was creating the world of my fantasy novel, The Shadow Storm, I read about The Balkans, Albania, Russian history and the civil wars in Yugoslavia. By this time I had the Internet, a vast magic trove of information. Got a question? Ask the internet, the ultimate research tool.

Cynthia Vespia

colorheadshot - Copy I write mostly urban and high fantasy, but I have different genres cross through the threads of each novel…it just happens that way, I don’t plan it. Any research I do would be based on a specific story. For instance, alot of the work I’ve been doing lately revolves around advanced weaponry so I’ve been researching alot of sci-fi and fantasy movies, books, and TV shows to see what others have come up with for example. Also, you’d be surprised what’s already in R&D in the real world!

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan Most of my writing involves a fantasy setting, so I don’t tend to do research when working on one of those manuscripts. I do write some historical fiction, and I’m obsessed with research then.  I don’t want anything to be inaccurate (if I can help it).  When I’m done with a piece of historical fiction, I try to find people who are into that time period to read it for anything that seems off.

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture As a pulp magazine collector I have read all the hero pulps. While writing for ALTUS PRESS, the publisher asked me to collect all my research into half a dozen books. They became some of my best selling books. I also wrote Intros and Forwards for ALTUS PRESS books, plus I wrote fiction stories for the publisher while doing my research into the pulp magazines. Remember, my wife and I had published a pulp hobby magazine for the 22 years, so I had plenty of data on hand.

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre I write everything, and I research as much as is required for the book I’m writing, but a lot of that research has kind of been going on my whole life. For example, figuring out how to tell a joke to a group of friends, they’re your friends, so they kind of know your sense of humor – and you know what makes them laugh. Writing a scene so that a joke turns out funny to a reader who has never met you and doesn’t know your sense of humor, and you don’t know theirs – that requires a lot more in the product development phase of the writing!

When you write a detective story, you have to research what kind of guns detectives carry, and how they check their clip to see how many bullets they have before they kick in a drug dealer’s door, that kind of thing. But, while that is important, that’s not as important as caring about the characters. And that’s what I say is the lifelong study thing. Why did you care what happened to Harry Potter? Why did people care that Oliver’s heart was breaking at the end of Love Story? Why was it tragic that Leonardo DiCaprio drowned at the end of Titanic? You had to care about those characters or nothing else mattered. So part of that is your lifelong experience, what you care about and how you convey that to someone you’ve never met. How do you do that? Practice. You bare your soul, and you put it on the page, and you put it out there with the full expectation that everyone in the world might laugh at you – but you summon the courage to do it anyway. Some of the best stories in the world never make it out of the desk drawer. Writers swallow hard and show that intensely personal piece of themselves again and again and again, until the next thing you know, people are telling you that something you wrote changed their life. Which is freaking awesome.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman I write paranormal romance and historical romance. I’ve also touched on other genres by working with others in anthologies. My Unexpected series involves vampires, wolves and faeries. My research for this series included looking into the history of Rome and setting the “birth” of my wolf nation within the whole myth of Romulus and Remus, the twins suckled by the she-wolf Lupa, who later went on to be the founders of Rome. My vampires are set within ancient Egypt and their many gods. I like to bring in an element of ‘this could totally be true!’

My research also falls into the mundane of simply seeing what trees and other fauna are indigenous to the area my story is set.


Which writing groups do you belong to? What are their benefits to you?

DeAnna Knippling
deannak I belong to Pikes Peak Writers, which is the writing group that I “came up” in. They took me out of being a baby writer into a writer, if that makes sense. I got to meet my first ‘Real Writers’ and listen to them talk about what they did and how, and just to grasp that they were people and not mythological figures. I gained a lot of basic knowledge there and always end up meeting new people at their events.
I also have a group that I started on my own, called Colorado Tesla Writers, which is a networking group for science fiction, fantasy, and horror writers. I got jealous of romance writers and mystery/crime writers having their own groups, and SF/F/H writers kind of just meeting each other only by chance. It turns out to be a great way to force myself to get out of the house and hang out with people, which, if you’re a freelancer, gets to be an issue after a while. People still keep going, so I still keep doing it.
I’m also in a few other writer groups that are mainly on Facebook or Yahoo groups, that are just general information sharing groups on various topics. I’m not sure how writers get by without staying involved with a variety of other groups. The gossip network is pretty vital in this business.
Jordan Elizabeth
Jordan I belong to groups on Facebook and in the past (as in before my current day job), I was into CritiqueCircle.com. I enjoy connecting with other authors and sharing experiences. I’ve learned marketing methods I never would have considered.
RA Winter
RA Winter I joined Scribophile.com a few years ago while looking for feedback on a novel. I browsed other sites but Scrib blew me away. Over time, I’ve gained friends, colleagues, and collaborators. Scrib has a sense of community where authors connect with like-minded individuals with one goal in mind- the best product an author can produce. The forums provide a vast amount of knowledge, resources, and experienced authors’ input.
The amount of support I’ve received from the community, and especially the Uber group, continues to amaze me. Uber focuses on the craft in small contained groups. Different readers point out aspects of my writing and search for those pesky little flaws that derails a good novel. My stories are read from start to finish by the same people, whether it is at the Alpha or Beta stage. The plot, setting, characters, arcs, and prose are broken down and taken apart, providing me with the opportunity to build the best story for my skill level, knowledge, and research.
I recommend every author or aspiring writer join a writing group. I’m partial to the Scribophile family because that’s what it is to me. And gasp! I’ve met a few of the authors. They are just as wonderful in person as they are on the internet.

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture My wife and I started a writer’s group in town, most of the members were retired teachers, and the majority wanted to write poetry. I could handle that, no problem. What I didn’t like was the attitude of the members. The writing group was something they came to if there was nothing else going on. We tried to make them understand that writers needed to be dedicated to the craft, but so many meetings consisted of just my wife and me. We finally quit and turned the group over to another member, but it didn’t last long. Unfortunately, where I live doesn’t have good pickings. Let’s face it a turtle crossing the yard is more interesting than the writer’s club.

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre This is gonna sound bad, but I don’t belong to any writing groups. I used to belong to an online critique group, and I learned a lot there and met some good writers there, so I asked those people to work with me and left the group. I kind of outgrew the group, and I really felt like I was doing a lot of teaching and not a lot of learning after a while. But that may just be arrogance on my part.

Since then, some very impressive bestselling authors have come to me to critique their stories, and they critique mine, and we kind of have our own little group. I would say there are three or four people who, if they read and like my story, everybody in the world is going to read and like my story. If you can belong to a writing group and draw some benefit from that, terrific. That works for you. That didn’t really work for me after a brief period (although you could say in a sense I just created my own writing group) and the biggest difference is, we in my group know all the basic stuff, so we don’t waste time teaching each other the rookie stuff to avoid or fix. We are pushing each other to keep going to the next level. We’re not worried about hurting feelings or anything, we are worried about trying to write great stories.

There are benefits to being in a writing group, though, and the biggest one is this: by pointing out how other people need to improve their stories, you will develop a sharp eye to help you make yours to be better. For that reason alone, it’s worth it to join a writing group. Online or in person, you’ll figure out what the garbagey comments are, and you’ll learn to dismiss those, and you learn to seek out the people who aren’t just giving you undue praise but who are actually trying to help you become a better writer.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman I am a follower of Booksgosocial and try to remain an active participant within their regular blog tours and newsletter content sharing programs. I am also actively involved with a newly established Hybrid Publishing company and enjoy the interaction that comes from discussing not only our craft, but elements of our every day life. I’ve found myself with a support network of people happy to share my posts and retweet me on social media. They also share in my celebrations and support me in my endeavours.


Do you belong to any writing forums? Tell us what their value is.

DeAnna Knippling
deannak I don’t use ’em. I just lurk in FB groups. Writing forums seem like an invitation for “experts” to harass other writers in order to feel good about not getting any actual writing done. I may just be bitter after a couple of bad experiences with online writing forums. But that was a long time ago, and people may have learned from mistakes in order to build something better by now.
Ashley Fontainne
Ashley Fontainne At one time I was a member of a few online groups yet found the entire “online” community too impersonal.

A professor of mine once said, “You should read at least 100 books a year to get a good idea for your genre.” Author and Freelance Writer De Anna Knippling claims to like to read at least 100 books in any genre before trying to emulate it in her own writing.


How much do you read? What do you like to read?

DeAnna Knippling
deannak Hey, that’s me! I’m shooting for 200 books this year. I’m already pretty close, but some of those are graphic novels and manga. I’m strongly of the opinion that if you don’t like to read, you’re going to have disadvantages as a writer. You won’t know how stuff gets done with the written word, you won’t know what expectations you’re meeting or missing in a genre, and you won’t know what kind of writing you really, truly love.  That doesn’t leave you with a big toolbox for writing different types of stories. You can really end up writing yourself in a rut, especially in series, if you’re not packing in a variety of stories.
I’ve been reading a lot of books to catch up on areas where my reading is thin or inconsistent. A lot of what I’ve really been enjoying lately are more literary reads with a dark sense of humor. The Round House by Louise Erdrich, After the Apocalypse by Maureen F. McHugh, The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemison, Japanese Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Edogawa Rampo, and Double Indemnity by James M. Cain have been recent favorites.
Something to think about:  I have friends on Goodreads who read a book a day or more. You probably wouldn’t believe me if I told you how many books they read. Some of them are disabled and reach out to the world through books. Books are their lifeline.
Mark Shaw 
MarkAtSFTS (1) During the past year or so, my reading has been restricted due to completing three books. When I am able to read, mysteries are a favorite genre.
Mark & Kym Todd
Todds - Copy We’re both avid readers, and always have a couple books going on the side at the same time. Fortunately, our pleasure reading usually coincide with our genre-writing habits, so we treat that as market research and a way to keep a handle on what’s trending. A hundred books? No way, but we do each read about a book a week. Mark likes hard(-science) SF, and Kym likes adventures, and we both love mysteries and noir (which we don’t write).
Ashley Fontainne
Ashley Fontainne As a wife, mother, employee, and writer, my free time is nonexistent, yet when I snatch a few minutes here and there, I read from many genres except erotica.
Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil Oh, I easily read 100+ books a year. But I can’t read when I am in writing mode. It just doesn’t work for me.

Art Rosch

Art 2001 I would write a hundred books a year if I could, but it seems more like it takes a hundred years to write a book. My revisions are so extensive that some passages are written a  hundred times. I’m serious! Read the first chapter of my Confessions Of An Honest Man. That passage was revised so many times that I couldn’t possibly speculate on a number of iterations. Yet…and here I become utterly shorn of modesty…I got where I needed to go. It’s beautiful! It does what must be done for the first chapter of a novel. It evokes a sense of danger, reveals characters, excites curiosity, elicits a bit of laughter and swings open a gate on the narrative that is to come.

Lately, I’ve been fascinated by crime novels. I think that Patricia Cornwell is one of the most brilliant writers I’ve yet encountered. I’m in the unfortunate situation of having read all of her novels in a short period of time. I’ve run out of Cornwell! So, now I read Robert Crais. He’s very good. I love James Lee Burke. I’ve read all of his books, too, and he’s so old that I’m not sure how many books he has left in his gorgeous literary soul.  The element that all three writers have in common is their emotional honesty. Their soulful-ness. They write with passionate intensity and their prose contains bits of profound wisdom. They are writing about the human condition by utilizing themselves as models, probing their own condition. They are, after all, human beings. I think….

The writer who has had the most influence on my work is fantasy writer Jack Vance. No other writer captivates me in quite the same way. Every five years I re-read the work of Jack Vance. I never grow tired of it. I remember reading his classic “The Dying Earth” when I was ten years old. I was reading in the family car as we drove from St. Louis to Mexico. It was an ambitious family vacation. I spent most of it reading science fiction and fantasy. Mexico, itself, proved sufficiently weird that I looked up from my books from time to time, absorbed the ambience, then returned to Vance, Heinlein, Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov. In more recent years I’ve read and re-read David Foster Wallace. There is so much pain in his dense, highly intelligent fiction that it may as well be an extended suicide note. Losing DFW was tragic. As was losing Robin Williams and Anthony Bourdain. Depression has no respect for success, wealth, fame or achievement.  It strikes wherever it wants to strike.

Cynthia Vespia

colorheadshot - Copy I don’t read as often as I should but I’m trying to rectify that. When I do read I stick with fantasy, self-help, or biography.

Jordan Elizabeth

Jordan I used to read a book a day, but with my current day job, its more like a book a week. I’m obsessed with young adult novels, any genre, and I’ll gobble up historical fiction in any form. Recently I’ve been into religious historical fiction. There’s something about the sweet, romantic plots that make the books the perfect end to a busy day.

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture I usually read a couple books a week, although books are constantly getting longer every year. The 120-page novels I grew up with are now four-and-five hundred page monsters. Every time I get one of those monsters I pray that the author writes so smooth the book will read like a two hundred page novel. Age has one advantage, and it’s this: I’ve been reading for 65 years or more, and I’ve always read genres I wanted to write.

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre Pfft. That’s crap. Stories are about connecting with characters and going on a journey. If I had to read 100 books a year – two a week – I’d never have time to write anything.

I read a lot only because I do a ton of critique work for other authors, but I’d be happy not reading at all. I pick up on insights very quickly, and TV shows and movies are just as good at giving us the keys to amazing storytelling. The answers aren’t only in books. I don’t need to see something dozens of times to get it, but that doesn’t mean I don’t study the heck out of something when it connects with me, regardless of the method in which I received it. People say reading a 5000 word chapter of mine is like reading 3000 from someone else. That’s pace. That comes from seeing Steven Spielberg cram 400 pages into 2 hours. I can’t often get that in books.

But!

I work with people who read a ton, so it’s a little like cheating off the smart kid at school. They gain those insights and hold my work to that standard. I bring other stuff to the table. The collaboration works.

What do I like to read?

My critique partner says I read stuff to learn how to be a better writer. Not “How To” books, but other writers: King, George R R Martin, Rowling, Portergirl. I study the masters in storytelling, on Tv and books and movies.

But what do I LIKE to read? Hmm. I’ll go with Green Eggs and Ham. Everything you need to know about storytelling is there. Pace. Lack of back story. No rambling prologue, just jumps into the story. It has great conflict and plot… and it shows how to wrap it up as fast as possible after the climax. If you can’t say it in 32 pages, you need to rethink your story (said the guy who writes 90k consistently).

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman I’m not sure how many books I read, honestly. I do read as much as I write though. And I enjoy immersing myself in someone else’s craft, especially well constructed craft.


What goals do you set for yourself in your writing?

DeAnna Knippling
deannak Ugh, I used to set myself daily personal wordcounts, which was lovely. But I’ve gotten so far behind in getting stories submitted or published on the indie side that I’ve had to cut back on that a lot. I’m at 500 words a day now for my own writing, which feels like a snail’s pace. I write a lot more than that for my ghostwriting clients, but I don’t track that right now.
Mark Shaw
MarkAtSFTS (1)
To tell a good story about important subjects whose lives are important in an historical sense.
Mark & Kym Todd
Todds - Copy
Logical and organic plots, quirky but believable characters, and the hope that readers have as much fun reading as we did writing our stories.
Ashley Fontainne
Ashley Fontainne
I don’t. The story needs to unfold naturally without any outside influences.
Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil My #1 goal is write 60k words in a month and I track it daily.  I know how many words to write in a day and make sure that I keep myself on track.  If I don’t discipline myself in this way, I’d never get anything written.

Cynthia Vespia
colorheadshot - Copy At the moment I have a specific time frame in mind for when I want to finish the sequel to my superhero novel Karma. My other goals probably reflect any other author. I want to be able to write full time, land a publisher, and agent, a simple dream of mine is to get published in the traditional paperback that you see on most bookshelves. But I guess my main goal is to just finish writing all the ideas I currently have waiting for me in my notebook.
Jordan Elizabeth
Jordan My goal is to finish the book and have people enjoy reading it. I get a bit twitchy if a book takes longer than usual to finish just because of things going on in my life. I don’t want to set the book aside and suddenly lose my place in that world.

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture To write a thousand words a day. I usually end up writing two thousand words a setting.

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre Keep the reader from falling asleep!

Really, I just want to connect with my reader. I want them to realize that all of a sudden they are completely immersed in a world that I created and they care about these characters so much that when the character laughs, the reader laughs. When the character cries, the reader cries. And I have a goal of getting you really involved and then BOOM it turns out that what you thought all along was wrong. I give you a plot twist, and all of a sudden you’ve been pulling for the bad guy. I have a goal of always giving you and ending that has you sitting there saying, “Holy cow!” in complete satisfaction. That’s my goal. That, and a yacht in the Caribbean.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman To write something that is entertaining as well as thought provoking. I also try and improve my writing each time I write. I take note of faults that reoccur in my manuscripts from my editors, and then do my best to avoid them when I write again, or at least to take note of them and be able to self-edit as I write.

Ultimately though, my main goal is to provide a story that the read can sink into, feel like they are a part of the story and can relate with each and every one of my characters, whether that be to love them or hate them. I want to evoke the reader’s sense of smell, sight and touch as they read.

 


What is your favorite setting to write in?

DeAnna Knippling
deannak At first I thought you meant what historical era!!!
It doesn’t really matter where I write, because I’m not really there–I’m in the story.
Mark Shaw
MarkAtSFTS (1)  A corner of our dining room.
Mark & Kym Todd
Todds - Copy The world falls away when we become immersed in the writing zone, so ambience is irrelevant. Long ago, we started writing on our bed (in a small, cramped house) away from the kids when they were smaller. That’s pretty much stuck even now the house is larger and the kids gone.
Ashley Fontainne
Ashley Fontainne My computer room is downstairs which offers a lot of privacy. At night when everyone is asleep and my kitty is curled up purring next to my keyboard is the
best!
Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil That’s a tough one.  I really don’t have a favorite setting.  But I fully immerse myself into whatever setting I am writing in.

Cynthia Vespia
colorheadshot - Copy Anywhere quiet.
Jordan Elizabeth
Jordan I used to need to be alone in my room, with the door shut, and everything silent.  Now my house is filled with my husband watching TV, my toddler running amok, and my cat begging for food.  I’m satisfied with whatever time I get to write.

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture My bedroom, with the door closed, and no sounds from outside sources.

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre I have the most awesome writing office. I have rich mahogany furniture and dark green walls and a chandelier; book cases lined with the classics and a window that looks out onto a lush green yard filled with massive oak trees. One door opens into my daughter’s play area. It’s the best.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman I actually do the majority of my writing at my local library. The library manager jokes that she is lucky to have a writer in residence. There is something inspirational about being surrounded by so many literary works, and it certainly makes research easier, I just jump up and grab the required book from the shelf.


Atmosphere is important. What do you do to get into the writing zone?

DeAnna Knippling
deannak I disagree; atmosphere stopped being important to me after a certain number of deadlines forced me to write (and EDIT) when I didn’t want to. (Trying to get into the editing zone on my own writing is harder than writing, in my opinion.) But because I don’t always write in the same place or I have to write when I’m in a bad mood, I’ll have specific music to remind me of what world I’m writing in and what I like about it. It’s funny, because sometimes my brain will play that music for me when I’m supposed to be writing and I’m putting it off, or when I’m brainstorming.
Mark Shaw
MarkAtSFTS (1) Focus on the task at hand blocking out all the noise of the world.
Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil I make sure I have coffee, my computer and either music playing or the TV on.  I can’t write without some type of noise in the background.  And most importantly I stay away from social media.

 

Margareth Stewart

Margareth Stewart This is as important as the writing process in itself. I have to get my coffee or tea ready, make sure I also have my mobile next to me and a bottle of water. Besides all that, I usually need the living room to be clear either with sunshine or artificial light, plus a comfortable pillow at my back. I sometimes have some background classical music – only classical music with no words or lyrics as for me they interfere with the voices within the narrative. Under the table, I keep a kid´s chair that I use to elevate my legs, otherwise they go dormant. The word font must be 12 and never enlarged, or I lose track of the text. Then, I write two or three pages and I stand up for coffee or toilet every fifteen or twenty minutes. And, that may go on for two or three hours, and even more if possible. There are weekends that I take a whole Saturday or Sunday to write, and that rhythm is kept for eight hours at least. Once when I was talking to a friend who is painter, she summarized it all: “It takes more time in the get-in-the-mood-get-ready process than it takes to actually paint or write”. I felt that was so true for me-and once we are there into a scene, into the book: nothing else matters. For instance, I am usually late to pick up my kids, and the fault is all due to my characters; they love to start acting when I really must go (lol).

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture I’m usually in the mood to write. I don’t watch TV any more, and I only listen to music at night before going to bed. So if the mood hits me I close myself off from everything else and write.

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre Treadmill. Nothing gives me ideas to write faster than when I have to run a mile on my treadmill. It’s magic.

Other than that, I get up early, like 4:30, and write when it’s quiet. I’m always in the writing zone. I can dash off insightful pieces on a whim, and I’ve done so. But like training for a marathon, that came from practicing and building up to it – and from having the confidence to know when a piece is finished and ready to be seen.


Some authors outline, others use a screenwriting tool called a whiteboard, where you place all your plot points on the board and then maneuver them until you have them in an order that works for the story. Some authors use the same concept with notecards, and others use a graph to plot out their story.

What planning tools do you use to prepare before actual writing begins?

DeAnna Knippling
deannak Depends on whether I’m writing for a client or for myself. If a client’s involved, I’ll usually have an outline I’m supposed to be following, although it doesn’t always work out that way. (I try to deliver the same emotional content, but mysteries often balance on such delicate clues that the order stuff gets put into the book can vary greatly, especially in the last third or so.) For myself, it depends. I’ll often test an idea by plugging it into a short outline, then ditch the outline before I start writing. On short stories, sometimes I’ll have a certain short story in mind before I start writing, so I can explore a certain plot technique, but I haven’t been able to do that with novels yet.
Here’s my short outline (mostly based on Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder):
1.  Set up the situation.
2.  The fun side of the situation (Fun & Games).
3.  WTF!!! (Crisis or Reversal).
4.  The not-fun side of the situation (Bad Guys Close In).
5.  The last big push (Storming the Castle).
5a.  Wrap up.
Where a lot of people get stuck is going, “I have an idea!!!!” and not having a plan to turn that into a sequence of events that can be experience by a character. A plot outline or a beat sheet is just a way to check that the idea is good. The exact plot may not be important, as long as the idea can be transformed into a plot. An example.  “There was an enchanted toilet!!!” is an idea that goes nowhere. You can’t plug it into any plot outline.  “The enchanted toilet only works for people without the imagination to use it.”  Now, you can start building a plot with that. Just plug it into the outline…
Other times, I can tell that the idea is plot-able, so I just run with it. Logic will carry me to a complete story sooner or later.
Mark Shaw
MarkAtSFTS (1)
Chapter headings are my guide once I have settled on the story I want to tell.
Mark & Kym Todd 
Todds - Copy
We’ve had luck with notecards to arrange the beats, but we generally outline anyway.
Ashley Fontainne
Ashley Fontainne I don’t use any sort of tools. I let the story flow organically. This works for me yet does have a few pitfalls. Sometimes I have to re-read through sections to recall the eye/hair color of a character, or the sex of an animal. In one of my older books, I inadvertently changed the sex from male to female in the main character’s cat, and hawk-eyed readers caught my mistake!
Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil  I use a storyboard.  Similar to the whiteboard, but it’s just handwritten on a form that I created with boxes that signify each chapter in the story. My story doesn’t always stay on target as sometimes it has a mind of its own, but it definitely gives me a starting point.

Art Rosch

Art 2001 I’m lazy. I don’t use outlines, story boards, notes, prompts, post-its, diminutive butlers or portable tape players. I just write. I have a goal, a broad concept of what I hope to achieve and I simply begin to write. I start off rusty, clumsy, impaired. I write at my desk, where my computer sits and a stack of USB drives snake their cables under my feet. Some day my mummified cadaver may be found, strangled by USB cables, swathed in black and gray wires running out the window and across the carpet. My fictional detective, Dizzy Tilton, will solve the mystery of my demise with his sidekick, Haakon Wyre. “His fiction killed him”, they will declare. “We must arrest his fiction and put it on trial. No doubt a clever lawyer will find a loophole and get his fiction off the hook for murder, or cop a plea for the lesser crime of Authorcide. We can’t bring him back. Let his genius speak from beyond the grave!”

I write from scene to scene. So long as I know what the next scene is to be, I can move the plot forward, I can develop my characters. My books take decades to write. I’m now seventy and my most recent book has already taken ninety years to write. I hope to finish it before my next incarnation.

Cynthia Vespia
colorheadshot - Copy I don’t like over planning because it kills the spontaneity for me and then I don’t enjoy writing the story. I want to be surprised like the reader will be. So the most I plan will be major plot points and then a heap of descriptive elements for the character including backstory. These things I’ve laid out on note cards or even just a sheet of paper. For characters I’ll often find a picture of an actor I could see playing them in the film/TV version and I save it for inspiration.
Jordan Elizabeth
Jordan I’m horrible at planning. I start off with a general idea of the plot and just go for it. Characters evolve as I write. The setting takes shape before me. The only time I write down notes is if I want to remember an obscure character.

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture I don’t outline. Once I have my plot I create my characters, and I know what the beginning and ending is before I start writing. I am in control, and my characters become chess pieces that I move about the board. They move on my command, not theirs. I always have the end in sight and move the pieces accordingly. When writing continuing characters, however, I have file cards with descriptions. I’ve seen too many blondes become redheads by mistake, or men five foot nine become six foot two from one book to the next.

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre Wow, all that stuff sounds like a lot of work. I’m don’t use any special tools; they aren’t necessary. What I do to come up with a story is I definitely, definitely, definitely create an outline. Too many writers think an outline stifles their creativity. It’s just the opposite. An outline channels your energy so you stay on track and don’t wander all over the place and you end up where you’re supposed to end up.

Now, just because you say we’re going to go from here to there, that doesn’t mean that’s the only places you go, and it doesn’t mean that’s where you have to end up. But having AN ending doesn’t mean it has to be THE ending. It’s just when you start, that’s the direction. Halfway through, if you decide you have a better ending in mind, change it and use the better ending! But if you don’t have that moment of brilliance, you’re at least going to end up in a good place. Too much “writers block” – a condition that doesn’t usually exist – comes from not having a destination you were writing towards. By having an outline, every day you have a series of writing prompts.

My process is, I’ll get a story idea and I’ll dash off a few lines about it. Three or four things that give you the essence of what the story is about. Then I throw it in a file, and as I am doing things throughout the day/days, I’ll keep getting good ideas about the story. Like maybe in a murder mystery, the guy who’s running for mayor, his opponent committed the murder. Or it’s his campaign manager, and the campaign manager wants it to look like the opponent did it. Something like that. So I’ll just list all these ideas down, one after the other, and I just kind of collect them for a while. They don’t come in any particular order; I’ll get a great idea for an ending, and then I’ll get a great idea for a beginning.

Right now I have the great idea for a political murder mystery called Primary Target. It starts out with an assassination attempt. So that’s how that’s chapter 1, but that’s all I know about chapter 1. Chapter 2 will probably be with the detectives who get called to check out the assassination attempt. But I know I’ll want three or four other things to happen in the story (subplots) so I’ll think about those and eventually write them down, but for now that’s my outline, those handful of bullet points.

Here’s what people don’t understand about outlines. Here’s the outline for Romeo and Juliet:

  1. Boy and girl want to get together
  2. their parents don’t want them to get together
  3. the boy and girl get together anyway
  4. everybody dies

That’s it. Those four points are an outline. Nothing stifling there. You know what’s going to happen and you know how it’s going to end. Go ahead and start writing.

My process starts out with about four points, and then I’ll realize I have 10 good ideas that can go on in that first major point. So I’ll flesh those out, and as I do, my outline evolves. Sometimes I look at one of minor points and say, “No, that doesn’t work anymore” and it comes out. My outline gives me total creative freedom, but I’m guiding and funneling my energy. That’s why everybody should outline.

I read lots of stories every year from lots of new authors. Usually, he ones where they didn’t outline end up wandering around and getting BORING because they lose their way. You don’t want that.

Use an outline, keep your chapters short, keep your characters interesting, and keep the dialogue witty. But using an outline is probably one of the most important things you can do for yourself.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman I’m a bit of a pantser – I write from the seat of my pants – I don’t always plot, unless I have a tight word count and need to plot how my story runs. Sometimes I simply write a short synopsis of my story plot, something I can refer back to, especially when I have several different works in progress at once. Surprisingly though, I haven’t found any of them overlapping.


Some writers can take an idea and run with it, while others need to have a good portion of the story worked out before writing can begin.

How much of the story do you know before the actual writing begins?

Mark Shaw
MarkAtSFTS (1) Nearly all of it, the beginning, middle and end and how I want to touch the emotions of readers, the single, most important aspect of any writing.
Mark & Kym Todd
Todds - Copy We verbally explore for a week or two if we think we have enough story to make a novel. Then we write a five-page outline to see if the idea leads where we think it’s going. After that, we outline no more than a chapter or two before we start fleshing it out. Doing any more is, for us, a waste of time since the actual writing often changes where we thought we were going.
Jordan Elizabeth
Jordan I know the general idea. For example, with GOAT CHILDREN, I knew that I wanted to write about a girl taking care of her grandmother with dementia. The first chapter would be about the girl discovering her grandmother’s diagnosis. I started writing and suddenly, I was on the last page.

Ashley Fontainne

Ashley Fontainne Once the idea hits me, the story unfolds so fast inside my head it is like watching a movie, so I just close my eyes and type what I see inside my mind.

Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil As long as I know how it’s gonna begin and how I want it to end, I usually can run with it.

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture I take the idea and run with it.

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre Uh… both. I take an idea and run with it, yes, but I usually also bring in some ideas I’ve been kicking around.

For Double Blind, my new murder mystery, I knew it was going to be a murder mystery – which is new ground for me – but I wanted some nice twists. So the murder mystery idea was new. Then I said okay, I’m gonna have readers think THIS – and then pull the rug out from under them later, so I had to plan how to give certain pieces of information without tipping my hand. I’m pretty good at that, but since I’d done it before, I kind knew how to do that, so that was an existing thing for me. Then I also had the idea of having a man and woman working together who had lots of rapport like two good friends, but who were not romantically involved. I’ve been kicking that around for a while, so when the murder mystery came up I had the detectors be a man and a woman who were good friends.

So on one hand, the murder mystery was a short idea that I ran with; on the other hand, I brought in these characters that I have been working on for a while. The whole first draft of 92,000 words took about six weeks to write. I spent probably another three or four weeks refining it with input from critique partners. It’s an amazing story, and it’s available as part of that 20+ book anthology called Death and Damages, with all the New York Times bestselling authors.

For The Navigators, another simple premise: some people discover a time machine. From there, I wanted to have as much conflict as possible and not do a conventional time travel story. So there’s lots of intrigue and action, because the fun part of the time travel story is actually going back in time. But the other fun part of storytelling is having lots of conflicts happen that get in the way of the characters’ goals, and each of the characters in The Navigators had different goals, and a different story arc, so it was really nice combination.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman I need a character and the idea and then I simply run with it. I’ll mull the idea over in my mind throughout the day, either whilst washing dishes, or milking the cow, and then I find the words dropping into my mind. I then can’t wait to find the time to sit down at the computer and get those words out. On the rare occasions that I take a couple of days until I can stop and write, then those scenes simmer away in the back of my mind until they are so well developed that my fingers fly over the keys as soon as I have my manuscript open.

 


How many drafts do you make before considering a manuscript ready for publication? What are the differences as you write each one?

DeAnna Knippling
deannak One draft and one cleanup pass to address issues and infelicitous wording, unless there’s something off about my assumptions about the story. Then it can become a real train wreck. With ghostwritten books, you generally have to write pretty cleanly the first time or the client will lose patience.
Mark Shaw 
MarkAtSFTS (1) With most of my books, there have been at least 200 drafts or more. Each time the story is enriched in some manner.
Mark & Kym Todd
Todds - Copy Usually three or four drafts: We write a scene in one sitting, and then revise it before we go on to the next scene (on the next day). A read-through when we put it all together, fixing typos. A revision after beta readers have at it. And then another draft if a publisher wants something added or changed. By then, we can’t see typos or missing words anymore, so we feel useless with galleys, and let the publisher’s copyediting eyes give it the final go.
Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil Just one.  Once I am done writing, I send it to my BETA readers.  I make their suggested changes to the storyline and plot.  They also help with continuity and then it goes off to my editor.

Cynthia Vespia
colorheadshot - Copy So, here’s how I do it and it might seem a little weird. But, I write the first draft long hand on a legal pad…it’s just easier that way, it always has been because to me it doesn’t feel as permanent. I’m not distracted by Word telling me something is misspelled, etc. Once I have a first draft, then I’ll go in and put it in the computer. At the same time I’ll be doing edits on what is essentially a second draft. But I couldn’t give you a definitive answer on when it will be ready for publication…its ready when its ready.
Jordan Elizabeth
Jordan I write it all, then I read back through, editing as I go.  I show it to my critique partners, edit based on their comments, and then off it goes to my agent or publisher.

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture Hmm. I write the first draft, then I go over it line by line. Then I turn it over to my wife who runs a grammar check and looks for words I may have wrong. I might go over it again after my wife is through. We try to make all necessary corrections before we submit the manuscript to a publisher. But I’m not using publishers any more. We are doing our own publishing, and we are the editors. I can use verbs, if I want. We do make mistakes. On one of my recent short novels we did all the above, and I ordered 25 paperback copies for book signings. By mistake I uploaded a first draft for the paperback printing! Money wasted. We heard from a reader that there were several typos. I checked and found the first draft was used instead of the final edited version. It was a costly mistake. I’ve been trying to give the paperbacks away, with a note about the typos. I can’t sell the darn things!

Dan Alaltorre

Alatorre Ha! None. I usually think my manuscript is ready for publication after the first draft – even with the typos and things in there. I always think what I’ve written is awesome. The differences I make between the drafts? I try to find the typos.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman I’m a perfectionist as I write to begin with, so even my first raw draft tends to be fairly free from errors. I see those red or blue squiggly lines and I fix them up. That said, I still like to at least have three read throughs of my work, saving each one as a separate draft at the start. The first read through might catch wrong words, and maybe tweak synonyms to get the best feel for the scene. I might remove sections or add more. I then like to do a typo and grammar check. Then a final proof read before it goes off for editing.


What’s the hardest part of the story for you to write: beginning, middle or end?

DeAnna Knippling
deannak The wrap-up after the climax. UGH. Suddenly I have to remember the entire story and every plot point I ever mentioned and wrap that all up in some kind of interesting fashion. I sometimes wish I could just write a checklist:
–The thing that ate the bad guy got indigestion, but is feeling better now.
–That one guy you hated got killed by a cement truck but it was just a coincidence.
–The main character decided to move but took the haunted urn with her because she kind of likes the ghost now.
–The cat likes the new house, but keeps trying to tip the urn over anyway, because he’s a cat.
–They got it all wrong on the news, but in a funny way, and at least the phrase “sewer gas explosion” wasn’t used.
–Too bad about the noodle restaurant.  The main character hopes they’ll reopen.
–Maybe next time, she’ll just ask the ghost for help from the start and the whole thing with the ear infection can be avoided, hahaha.
–The main character, the cat, and the ghost decide to watch Stranger Things on TV.  They all jump at the scary parts.
–The end.
Usually it’s write one sentence, wander around the house moaning about how hard this all is for ten minutes, write another sentence. A list would be much easier. I’ve actually started to jot down notes as I write the climax. “Oh, make sure you wrap up the thing with the gun.” Maybe I should write the ending first, then figure out what the rest of the plot was and write that. I wonder if that would be easier.
Ashley Fontainne
Ashley Fontainne The first sentence is the hardest.
Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil Luckily, I have not encountered a hard part yet.  I’m sure I will some day, but for now, once I have the beginning and end worked out, I usually have no problem getting from point A to point B.

Art Rosch

Art 2001 The hardest part for me is just to begin. To sit, put my hands on the keyboard, and write a few pages. Once the cobwebs clear I can write quickly and the story develops as if I am a psychic medium, a channel. I get dictation from an entity called WaldWen. He writes most of my fantasy material. The number of drafts is endless.  A manuscript is never finished. I merely succumb to exhaustion. “Good enough,” I think.  “It will do. Or…..maybe another revision…no…leave it alone….the manuscript has peaked….but…but Chapter Two Thirty has a clunky feel to it….no..forget it. No one reads your stuff anyway.”

Let me be honest.  Sometimes it seems as if someone is dictating chapters to me. Seems.  It’s actually just me and my compulsion to write. It feels as if I’m channeling something mysterious and when I read back my material I wonder, “How the hell did I do that?  Where did it come from?”

The answer is quite ordinary. It came from years of reading, researching, experiencing, filtering, transforming, warping, skewing, observing and participating in the activities of human beings. I find these activities sometimes incomprehensible. I view myself as if I am an alien from another world and this life is a fiction, a script that was crafted as a method of instruction. My life is a work of fiction designed to teach me about consciousness and the intelligent control of matter. Who fashioned this script? A guide, a spirit, a Being, a WaldWen? An Arthur Rosch. A man who writes with a modicum of coherence and has thus far been able to avoid imprisonment for my strange behavior. I sure as hell haven’t sold many books, but some day I will. Some day.

Cynthia Vespia
colorheadshot - Copy Seems like I always get stuck in the middle. I lose momentum, start to doubt myself, or I have written myself into a corner. In that instance its good to do some rereading and figure out how to jump back in.
Jordan Elizabeth
Jordan The end is always the hardest for me.  There’s so much more I want to write, but I know I need to cut myself off before it evolves into 900 pages.
Margareth Stewart
Margareth Stewart I guess it is the beginning, I think, or at least for me! The beginning is the starting point, when everything is set and must interest the reader. The book should capture the reader´s attention at once. It is the “do or die” kind of thing, just like “love at first sight”. The opening sentence of a book is that element that we should pay lots of attention to – to make the reader willing to turn and read the next pages.

Tom Johnson

Tom's Back Cover Picture I have to say the beginning. I want to capture the reader’s attention, and sometimes you really have to work those beginning words to enter the adventure.

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre The beginning the story is the hardest for me to write, but not for the reason you probably think. For most writers, the middle gets mushy. They have lots of good ideas that get everything set up, and maybe have an idea of how it’s going to end, but tying all that together in a cohesive manner without getting boring is the mushy middle that you’re always trying to avoid.

For me, how I avoid that is I just try to get through it as quickly as possible, and make something interesting happened in the middle of the mushy middle. Maybe a plot twist, maybe somebody dies, but that keeps the mushy middle from getting mushy

But the reason the beginning of the story is hardest to write is because it’s also the easiest to write. Like I said, in my next murder mystery, the opening chapter – the opening sentences – are going to be something like “The assassin watched his prey through the rifle scope” – something like that. So right away, your first sentence is gonna be somebody’s about to get killed and we’re watching it happen!

But the reason the beginning is hard is because most the time you are starting a new story with new characters, and you don’t really know those characters until you are a few chapters into the story. And by the time you end the story they’re gonna be different (because the story arc). For that reason, you have to go back and look at the first three chapters and have the characters be fully formed on page 1. That’s a little harder to do, to give them their personalities on the first page, and most writers don’t do that, so that’s why I say that’s the hardest – for me and for everybody else. But once you realize that, you know you need to do that. Then it’s like proofreading. Is the character fully developed on page one? No? What do I need to make him or her be there? Write that.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman Depends on the story. I like to continue writing in sync – in other words, from beginning to end. I know some people like to write a scene as it comes to them, but for me I find that can cause too many plot holes as the story is stitched together. If I have a specific scene in mind and it’s stewing away in my mind, I sometimes find the hardest part is not rushing through my story to get there, to make sure my story is of a consistent strength the whole way through.

Mark & Kym Todd 
Todds - Copy It’s all fun, right? 🙂

As a writer, what is the biggest challenge for you? What’s the biggest reward?

DeAnna Knippling
deannak
Biggest challenge: Marketing.
Biggest reward: I play make-believe all day 🙂
Mark Shaw 
MarkAtSFTS (1)
Biggest challenge: To tell the story I want to tell, to write the book I want to write.
Biggest reward: The reward is hearing from readers and their reaction to my book. With The Reporter Who Knew Too Much, I have heard from nearly a thousand readers and have been humbled by their kind words about Dorothy’s story.
Mark & Kym Todd 
Todds - Copy The biggest challenge is knowing when to stop. We don’t want to wear out our welcome, so we try to trust the reader to get where we’re going without beating the ending over their head. Our first book in the Silverville Saga, Little Greed Men, saves the most important clue until the very last sentence. But once we published the book, our publisher wanted to know if we were going to take the next logical step in the sequel. But we held firm and said no – that’s up to the reader to see where they wanted to take that final, surprising information, not us.
Ashley Fontainne

Ashley Fontainne

Biggest challenge: Marketing. Marketing. Marketing! (Spoken in the Marsha Marsha Marsha tone from The Brady Bunch!). I detest that side of writing so much I really don’t delve too much into it.

Biggest reward: The biggest reward is knowing something born inside my head connects to the heart of a reader!

Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil
Biggest challenge: My biggest challenge would be marketing.  Right now, I mainly rely on social media, but I believe there are so many other advertising and marketing avenues out there.  I’ve recently started looking into them and plan to have an advertising budget next year to explore my options.

Biggest reward: The biggest reward would have to be the fans.  When I see the reviews start to cumulate on a release or when a fan messages me saying they loved a book that I have written totally makes my day.

Art Rosch

Art 2001 My fantasy epic, The Gods Of The Gift revealed its ending to me as I was driving home to my North Bay mansion. I knew the ending, and then WaldWen began speaking in my head, so I drove and took notes simultaneously.

Biggest Challenge: The biggest challenge was writing the book.

Biggest Reward: The biggest reward was writing the book.

Cynthia Vespia
colorheadshot - Copy
Biggest Challenge: The biggest challenge at the moment is balancing everything. My writing has taken a back seat for too long. Once I get going again its usually a challenge to market a new book in a sea of other authors all clamoring for the spotlight.
Biggest Reward: The biggest reward is when I get a reader tell me how they enjoyed the book
Jordan Elizabeth
Jordan
Biggest Challenge: The biggest challenge is negative criticism that doesn’t come from a good place. Some people just want to tear you down, and its hard to disassociate from that.
Biggest Reward: The biggest reward is hearing from a reader who has genuine criticism or praise. I love that someone took the time to become immersed in my story.
Tom Johnson
Tom's Back Cover Picture

Biggest Challenge: The biggest challenge is to write something that will attract readers.

Biggest Reward: The biggest reward is to see a nice review, or have someone say they were entertained by my story. My main goal is to entertain.

Dan Alatorre

Alatorre

Biggest Challenge: The biggest challenge? The biggest challenge is marketing. Sorry. If I can get somebody to read two pages of my story, they will read the whole story – and love it. Getting more people to figure out how to find me to read those first two pages? That’s the hardest part for almost every writer. All the hard stuff about writing the story is actually the easy stuff. The marketing is the hard part.

Biggest Reward: The biggest reward is definitely writing something funny and having people email you or see you and tell you how funny it was. Writing a scene that made you cry while you were writing it and having tears dropping on your keyboard, and having people come up to you later or email you and say how emotional they got during that scene. Putting a little Easter egg type of thing in there and having a reader “get it.” You’re like, “Yeah!” and you’re fist pumping, because they got it. Those rewards are huge. Just making that connection and putting something out there and having it having work.

Another big reward is, and I love this, is having a plot twist. Like, in chapter 10 there’s a big twist, and your critique partner is going along, and they read chapter 8, and they read chapter 9, and then all of a sudden you get this email that says OH MY GOD. That’s awesome. That’s so much fun – for the writer and the reader. That’s the rollercoaster they want, and that’s what I give them.

Lilly Rayman

L Rayman

Biggest Challenge: The biggest challenge for me? That would be find enough time in the day to actually sit down and write. I have to balance my home life as a wife and mother with my life as a writer. And that can be a challenge when my mind is brimming full of story ideas and scenes begging to be written.

Biggest Reward: The biggest reward? To hear that a reader couldn’t get enough and wants more. I love those 4 and 5 star reviews, where the reviewer is practically begging for more. But most especially, I love it when they have picked up on the subtly of a plot line and pulled it out from the story.


It seems we all write for different reasons, draw inspiration from different places or experiences, and our writing processes are varied. We differ not only in where we like to write, how we get into the zone, and the prewriting activities we partake in. There are all types of authors, as there are all types of people, because after all authors are just people from all walks of life who have chosen to embark upon a writer’s journey. But, we all choose different paths to get to our ultimate destinations.
I particularly liked the idea DeAnna Knippling mentions for getting into the writing zone, the one about selecting specific music for each of her different works, so she can easily slip into the proper story and get busy. As an author who always seems to have multiple WIPs in progress, I found this to be a great idea. I already associate certain songs with certain people, memories or life events, so this seems like a technique which might work well for me, and I am definitely going to give it a try. 
I also found Dan Alatorre’s accumulative process for building a story idea into a workable storyline to be very interesting. Sometimes if you just let an idea simmer, you’ll be surprised what results from it with very little effort. At times it can be as if the storyline develops all on it’s own, and Dan’s process seems like an organized method of gathering your characters and plot events to shape up a basic outline.
One thing that’s obvious though, is that one of the biggest rewards of writing is knowing people are reading your work, through reader feedback or reviews, it seems there’s nothing like learning that what you were trying to do worked and your readers ‘get it’.
I think this was a great first segment for Round 2 of Ask the Authors. Your comments are welcomed, so feel free to let us know what you found useful or interesting. I hope you all will drop in next week  to catch  the segment on Plot/Storyline.

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“Ask the Authors” (Round 2): Meet the Authors


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I’m excited to tell you that Ask the Authors is coming back to Writing to be Read starting next Monday. And wait until you see the great line-up of authors we have for our Round 2 panel. We’ve got an interesting mash up of talent just waiting to be shared and I’m going to delve in with the important questions, which could help other authors along the way.

Round 2 of Ask the Authors will include twelve segments, includining this introductory post and the final round of quetions, one every Monday. Topics include:

  • The Writing Process: You’ve Got a Story Idea, Now What?
  • Plot/Storyline: Where Do We Go From Here?
  • Setting the Tone with Point of View, Tense, Narrative Distance and Voice
  • Creating and Developing Character: Writing a Character Readers Will Relate To
  • World Building: Making it Real with Effective Dialog and Sensory Details
  • Action Scenes: Keeping the Story Moving
  • Editing & Revision: The Finishing Touches
  • The business segments will include: A Discussion on Publishing Platforms
  • How and Why You Should Build an Author Platform
  • Marketing and Promotion.

Fourteen great authors who all write different genres and for different audiences, both traditional published and self-published, all with expertise to offer to you, my readers and fellow authors. They will each weigh in on the weekly topics with writing tips and  advice on the business of writing. So, without further ado, let’s meet the authors.

Margareth StewartWe have Margareth Stewart, who emerges from academia to write her first novel, Open: Pierre’s journey after war. One unusual thing I know about Margareth is that her book is not on the Big A, Amazon, and I can’t wait until the publishing segment to discuss that decission and see how the publishing platform she’s using is working out for her. Margareth was on the first AtA panel, and I’m thrilled to have her back for another round.

Bio: Margareth Stewart is the pen name for Mônica Mastrantonio, debut author of Open/ Pierre’s Journey After War published by web-e-books.com. She has also compiled and published three international Anthologies featuring global authors: Whitmanthology, Womenthology, The Pain that Unites us All.

She holds a PhD in Social Psychology, and she has been teaching and tutoring students over 22 years. This zen-mother of 3, loves life and her tattoos. She spends her time between Sao Paolo, Miami and writing residencies.

When asked about her favorite form of exercise: “Jogging – that´s kind of an obligation for me. As writers, we tend to sit for long hours, so every single day, I do try to keep that up and go out for a short run of 4 to 5 kilometers. If I have more time, I go round a park nearby and that makes 6 kilometers. I do recommend it – it keeps our mind sharp and our ideas bright.

Links: You can learn more about Margareth and her book on her Facebook page.


deannakDeAnna Knippling is another return panel member, who I’m thrilled to welcome back. I made DeAnna’s acquaintance through the Pike’s Peak Writers and have been learning from her ever since. Besides writing her own wonderful stories, she freelances full time and makes it all work. You can read my interview with her here. Her books which I’ve reviewed include: How Smoke Got Out of the ChimneysClockwork Alice; and Something Borrowed, Something Blue.  I also interviewed her for my 2017 Book Marketing series, and did an author profile on her, in addition to her being a panel member in Round 1 of AtA. She is a fantastic resource.

Bio: DeAnna Knippling writes across many different genres, both under her own name and under several pen names as a ghostwriter, and has written over thirty novels and a hundred short stories.  Under her own name, she is the author of The Clockwork Alice and A Murder of Crows:  Seventeen Tales of Monsters & the Macabre. She lives in Colorado.

Links: You can learn more about Deanna and her books by visiting the following sites:

Goodreads
www.WonderlandPress.com
www.facebook.com/deanna.knippling


colorheadshot - CopyI’m happy to be working with Cynthia Vespia, a.k.a. Original Cyn, once more in AtA: Round 2. Cyn has turned her many talents including design, video, and promotional skills into a lucrative promotional service, as well as writing dark fantasy, suspense and paranormal thrillers. I reviewed the books from her Demon Hunter Saga, all the way back in 2010, completing the series a couple of years later with the review of Hero’s Call. I reviewed Resurection, when it was only Life, Death, and Back, now the subtitle. My first interview with Cynthia was back in 2012. She participated in my 2017 Book Marketing series, as well as being a panel member in Round 1.

Bio: Cynthia Vespia an award nominated speculative fiction author, cover designer and promotional content developer. She also teaches internet advertising classes and marshal arts workshops. Her speculative fiction encompasses fantasy, the paranormal, and magic realism.

Links: You can learn more about Cynthia and her books at her website: www.cynthiavespia.com/ 


Art 2001Another AtA panel member in Round 1, who I’m pleased to say, will be returning for Round 2, is Art Rosch. Art also does a monthly segment, The Many Faces of Poetry, here on Writing to be Read, the fourth Wednesday of every month. I’ve known Art for many years, I’ve reviewed all three of his published works: his science fiction novel, The Gods of the Gift; his autobiographically based fiction, Confessions of an Honest Man; and his memoir, The Road Has Eyes: An RV, a Relationship, and a Wild Ride. Art always gives lengthy, well thought out responses. In fact, during the first round of AtA, Art gave me one lengthy reponse which, I felt, warranted a post all its own, and I gave it to him here. In addition to being a writer, Art is a photographer and a musician with an ear for jazz music.

Bio: The greatest thing that ever happened to Arthur Rosch was his awful childhood. He had no choice but to get angry, rebel and follow his path to becoming an artist. His first duty as an artist was to cultivate obsessions. He proceeded to do this with gusto and learned that there is no substitute for a good obsession, compulsion or addiction to gain insight into human nature.

Of course it was a girl who inspired Arthur to write poetry. It wasn’t until he was twenty six that he realized he could write novels. Prior to that he had been a jazz musician. He changed direction after winning Playboy Magazine‘s Best Short Story Award.  Arthur has appeared in Across the Margin, Exquisite Corpse, Shutterbug Magazine and several online venues. His novel, Confessions of an Honest Man won Honorable Mention from Writer’s Digest.

Writing is the refuge of his life after forty. It took him that long to wear out the obsessions. They had really gotten out of hand. Not that he regrets a single one. Part of a writer’s apprenticeship, he believes, is to spend at least twenty years being mentally deranged. It took twelve years of intense therapy to pull himself back into the functioning world.

One of Arthur’s passionate interests is astronomy.  He got some lovely recognition as a photographer by doing creative work at night with cameras. He loves science fiction, literary fiction, Rumi’s poetry, travel, history, dogs and cats and his wife, who is half Apache. She can be very eerie when she goes dipping into the shaman’s world. She invokes the spirit helpers called “The Grandmothers”. Those ladies have helped Arthur and his spouse out of a lot of jams.

Stories of weird miracles are told in the travel memoir THE ROAD HAS EYES, AN RV, A RELATIONSHIP AND A WILD RIDE. This book is available at Smashwords dot com. Arthur’s younger and musical life is described in CONFESSIONS OF AN HONEST MAN, which has appeared in both paperback and e-book form. Everything else he either know or doesn’t know is in the sci fi epic THE GODS OF THE GIFT. Then there’s the new trilogy, THE SHADOW STORM.

Links: You can learn more about Art Rosch and his books at www.artrosch.com



Jordan Also returning is young adult fantasy author, Jordan Elizabeth. Jordan has been featured on Writing to be Read several times. Always willing to jump in and help out, I’ve interviewed her and she participated in both my 2016 Publishing series and my 2017 Book Marketing series. Currently, you can find her on the third Wednesday of each month with her segment, Writing for a YA Audience. I have reviewed most of Jordan’s books, including: Kissed by Literature, Rotham Race, Kistishi Island, Wicked Treasure, The Path to Old Talbot, Runners & Riders, The Goat Children, Victorian, Treasure Darkly, Cogling, and Escape to Witchwood Hollow, in addition to several anthologies in which her stories were featured.

Bio: Jordan Elizabeth is a young adult fantasy author of more than fourteen books. She writes down her nightmares in order to live her dreams.

Links: Learn more about Jordan and her books at the folowing links:

Website: JordanElizabethBooks.com

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Jordan-Elizabeth/e/B00P0KBRD4/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1537224298&sr=1-1



Tom's Back Cover PictureTom Johnson is one author who will be new to the Ask the Author panel. He has published multiple novels, which I think are reminescent of Edgar Rice Burroughs or the pulp fiction novels of times past. I reviewed of his book, Pangaea: Eden’s Planet or you can find my interview with him here.

Bio: Tom Johnson’s dad was a cowboy and cook, giving his family an itinerant lifestyle. Tom changed schools often, as his dad’s jobs were relocated. His dad wanted him to follow in his footsteps, but a cowboy’s life didn’t appeal to him. Instead, during his high school years, Tom dreamed about becoming an entomologist. He loved biology and math, but was weak in other subjects. He read every book he could find on insects, reptiles, and arachnids, as well as paleontology.

Years later, he and his wife, Ginger, started the publishing imprint of FADING SHADOWS, and published a hobby magazine for 22 years, and several genre titles for nine years. He was a voracious reader from an early age, and has never stopped reading for pleasure, though his interest in genres have often switched from SF to western, to hardboiled detectives, the classics, and back to science fiction again over the years. In his own writing readers will often find something about his love of zoology, whether insects, reptiles, or saber-tooth cats. Now retired, they devote their time to keeping Tom’s books in print, as well as helping promote other writers.

With over 80 books in print which he has contributed to, Tom has slowed down now. He is still writing children stories, while promoting his books still on the market. Plus, he still has hopes of one day seeing his short novel, The Man In The Black Fedora, made into a film.

Links: You can learn more about Tom and his books at the following links:

Tom’s Blog http://pulplair.blogspot.com

Tom’s Face Book Page https://www.facebook.com/tomginger.johnson

Tom’s Books http://jur1.brinkster.net/index.html

Tom’s Amazon Page http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B008MM81CM

ALTUS PRESS http://www.altuspress.com


RA WinterAnother new panel member will be RA Winter, whom I only recently met. She is a multi-genre author who writes fantasy, science fiction, contemporay and paranormal romance. Most of her work contains Native American elements which reflect herheritage. You can find last week’s interview with her here or check out my review of her Vampire Werewolf Freaky Friday novelette, Twisted. I believe she will be a welcomed addition to the AtA Round 2 panel.

Bio: RA Winter loves to create magical worlds with strong female leads who grow into their love. Humor is a big part of her life and she brings a touch of it into all her stories. She promises a smile, a look beyond reality, and interesting characters in all her novels.

RA grew up in a small town in Indiana, surrounded by lakes, creeks, and woods were she stomped around as a child. She’s traveled the world and has called Germany, Turkey, Egypt, Jodan, and various US states home at one time or another.

Links: If you like to stay updated on discounts, new releases, and exciting finds, please subscribe to her mailing list: http://eepurl.com/dbCIE5

You can learn more about RA and her books at the following links:

Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/By-RA-Winter/e/B00PMF26SC

Spirit Keys site: http://rsch881.wixsite.com/rawinter

Website: https://rawinterwriter.wordpress.com/

Goodreads Author Page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/9869268.R_A_Winter


Todds - CopyI’m extremely pleased to welcome author duo, Mark Todd and Kym O’Connel Todd. Mark was one of my graduate program instructors. He and his wife Kym write books and talk as a team. (Seriously, they finish each other’s sentences both on the page and in their speech.) They have been published traditionally and also self-published, so they should have great stuff to add, particularly in the publishing segment. I interviewed them for my 2017 Book Marketing series, and I’ve reviewed many of their books, including: Wild West Ghosts; Strange Attractors; and, (as the Southern Colorado Literature Examiner), their Silverville Saga: Little Greed Men, All Plucked Up, and The Magicke Outhouse.

Bio: Mark Todd and Kym O’Connell Todd are writers and novelists who have collaborated on four books: the paranormal-comedy Silverville Saga trilogy as well as the nonfiction book Wild West Ghosts, the latter an exploration of frontier haunted hotels in Colorado. Their research for their books has included their experiences as U.F.O. investigators and ghost hunters, including a guest spot on Ghost Adventures in 2017.

Links: You can learn more about Mark & Kym and their books at the following links:

Website: WriteintheThick.com
Blog: WriteintheThick.blogspot.com
FB page: facebook.com/WriteintheThick
Twitter page: twitter.com/WriteintheThick
Google+ page: plus.google.com/+KymnMarkTodd
YouTube page: youtube.com/c/KymnMarkTodd



Amy CecilAmy Cecil is another new face to Ask the Authors. She writes both historical and contemporary romance. I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing her twice: one was a regular author interview, and she also participated in my 2017 Book Marketing Series; and I also reviewed Ice on Fire, the second book in her Knights of Silence Mseries.

Bio: Amy Cecil writes contemporary and historical romance. Amy has published seven books which include three Historical Romances that are Pride and Prejudice variations, A Royal Disposition, Relentless Considerations and On Stranger Prides. She also has an MC series, Knights of Silence MC, which includes, ICE, ICE on FIRE and Celtic Dragon. Her latest release, Ripper is her first attempt at a new genre, Erotic Thriller/Romance. She has several works in progress, including additions to the Knights series, a new mafia romance series and hopefully more on Ripper.

Amy has held memberships in the Romance Writers of America (RWA) and the Published Authors Network (PAN). She was a winner in the 2015-2017 NanNoWriMo writing contests and a nominee in Metamorph Publishing’s Indie Book 2016 contest in historical romance, and her books have won multiple awards.

She lives in North Carolina with her husband, Kevin, and their three dogs, Hobbes, Koda, Karma and Katie. When she isn’t writing, she is spending time with her husband, friends and her dogs.

Links: Learn more about Amy and her books at the following links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authoramycecil

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/authoramycecil

Twitter: https://twitter.com/acecil65

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/author/amycecil

Website: http://acecil65.wix.com/amycecil


L RaymanI want to welcome paranormal romance author, Lilly Rayman to the Ask the Authors panel, as well. I had the pleasure of interviewing Lilly earlier this year. I don’t know her well, but I’m sure she will have a lot to share.

Bio: First and foremost, Lilly describes herself as a wife and mother. She was born in England where she had a dream at the age of fourteen. That dream was to chase cattle on horseback across the Australian Outback.

In 2008, Lilly had the opportunity to follow that dream and found herself travelling to Australia on an Outback working holiday, and she’s chased cattle, on horseback, across the Outback. Lilly met her soul mate, while on her working holiday, married him, and now they have two beautiful daughters, and she is still in love with life in Australia.

Lilly loves to read, much to her husband’s dismay sometimes when she has her head metaphorically buried in the pages of a book (after all, how can that be literal since the dawn of e-books?)! She love’s fantasy; she used to take herself away from her nasty world of bullies and appear in some beautiful land of dragons and magic! Pern was her all-time favourite hide out world, and Lilly is often heard saying “God bless Anne and Todd MacCaffery”.

Whenever Lilly immersed herself in her fantasy worlds, she would re-write the plots in her head, starring herself as some great, sword drawn character who wouldn’t give two hoots what the local bully thought! That eventuated in Lilly’s first foray into writing down her stories at the age of fourteen.

More recently Lilly was inspired to start writing again, and picked up on the whole craze of werewolf and vampire. She has had the most enjoyment writing AN UNEXPECTED BONDING, the first book of An Unexpected Trilogy.

Links: You can learn more about Lilly and her books at the following links:

Website: http://lillyrayman0007.wixsite.com/lillyrayman

Goodreads Author page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/9866872.Lilly_Rayman

Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/Lilly-Rayman/e/B00X5CR5QC

Facebook Author page: https://www.facebook.com/LillyRayman0007/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/lillyrayman0007


AlatorreDan Alatorre is a well-versed independent international best selling author with a sense of humor. Dan was the first author I actually interviewed and it was a fun one. He has written many books, including one called 25 eBook Marketing Tips You Wish You Knew, so I’m looking forward to picking his brain in the marketing and promotion segment. I’m pleased to welcome him to the AtA: Round 2 panel.

Bio: International bestselling author Dan Alatorre has published more than 22 titles in over a dozen languages.

You’ll find action-adventure in the sci-fi thriller The Navigators, a gripping paranormal roller coaster ride in An Angel On Her Shoulder, heartwarming and humorous anecdotes about parenting in the popular Savvy Stories series, an atypical romance story in Poggibonsi, and terrific comedy in Night Of The Colonoscopy: A Horror Story (Sort Of). Dan’s knack for surprising audiences and making you laugh or cry – or hang onto the edge of your seat – has been enjoyed by audiences around the world. And you are guaranteed to get a page turner every time.

“That’s my style,” Dan says. “Grab you on page one and then send you on a roller coaster ride, regardless of the story or genre.”

His unique writing style can make you chuckle or shed tears—sometimes on the same page (or steam up the room if it’s one of his romances). Regardless of genre, his novels always contain unexpected twists and turns, and his endearing nonfiction stories will stay in your heart forever.

He has also written illustrated children’s book and cookbooks, as well as stories for young readers. 25 eBook Marketing Tips You Wish You Knew, co-authored by Dan, has been a valuable tool for upcoming writers of any age (it’s free, but only available to subscribers of his newsletter) and his dedication to helping authors of any skill level is evident in his wildly popular blog “Dan Alatorre – AUTHOR”.

Dan’s success is widespread and varied. In addition to being a bestselling author, he has achieved President’s Circle with two different Fortune 500 companies. Dan also mentors grade school children in his Young Authors Club and adults in his Private Critique Group, helping struggling authors find their voice and get published.

Dan resides in the Tampa, Florida area with his wife and daughter.

Links: Learn more about Dan and his books on his blog:  www.DanAlatorre.com



Ashley FontainneI made the acquaintance of multi-genre author Ashley Fontainne after I reviewed her book, Zero Balance. She is talented and vivacious, with a killer smile, and I just had to interview her. She’s an independent author who writes in several genres, including: thriller, science fiction, mystery, suspense, post-apocalyptic, romantic suspense and coming of age. I was thrilled when she accepted my invitation to be on the AtA Round 2 panel.

Bio: Ashley writes in multiple genres ranging from mystery/thrillers to suspenseful paranormal to dark comedy. The recipient of numerous awards for her gritty, no-holds barred style of writing, her stories will captivate and pull you inside the lives of her characters and intricate plot lines.

Links: You can learn more about Ashley and her books at the following links:

Website: http://www.ashleyfontainne.com/

Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/ashley.fontainne/

Blog: http://ramblingsofamadsouthernwoman.blogspot.com

Twitter: http://twitter.com/AshleyFontainne
Movie site of Ruined Wingshttps://ruinedwings.com/


MarkAtSFTS (1)Our final addition to the AtA Round 2 panel is a traditionally published author of non-fiction with a background in journalism, Mark Shaw. His investigative research has resulted in controversial books, one of which, The Reporter Who Knew Too Much is now being produced through visual media. I began reviewing Marks books as the Southern Colorado Literature Examiner and have reviewed a couple here on Writing to be Read: The Reporter Who Knew Too Much, and Courage in the Face of Evil. I also had the privalege of interviewing him this past year and he participated in my 2016 series on Publishing. His work raises historical questions and touches the heart, and I am thrilled to welcome him to the AtA panel.

Bio: The bestselling author of The Reporter Who Knew Too Much: The Mysterious Death of What’s My Line TV Star and Media Icon Dorothy Kilgallen, and the follow-up book, Denial of Justice: Dorothy Kilgallen, Abuse of Power and the Most Compelling JFK Assassination Investigation in History, to be released November 20, 2018, Mark Shaw is an investigative reporter who has written more than 20 books including The Poison Patriarch, Miscarriage of Justice, Beneath the Mask of Holiness, Courage in the Face of Evil, and Down for the Count. A former legal analyst for USA Today, CNN and ESPN, Shaw, a member of the Society of Professional Journalists, has written for Huffington Post, the New York Daily News, USA Today and the Aspen Daily News. He lives with his wife in the San Francisco area.

Links: More about Mark and his books at:

www.markshawbooks.com

www.thereporterwhoknewtoomuch.com

www.thedorothykilgallenstory.org

I hope all of you will join us for Round 2 of Ask the Authors. Pop in on Mondays to find out what tips and advice our panel has to offer. I’m very excited about this round and hope that everyone else is, too. It should be a really good series and I can’t wait to see what our panel members have to say. Be sure and drop in next Monday, when our topic will be The Writing Process. See you there!


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Interview with Multi-Genre Author R.A. Winter

RA Winter

I recently made the acquaintance of the energetic, sassy author, R.A. Winter. She writes in several genres, including fantasy, magical realism, dark fantasy, , time travel romance, contemporary Native American romance, and paranormal Native American western. And it seems she never rests when it comes to writing. Please help me to welcome R.A. Winter to Writing to be Read.

Kaye:  Hello and welcome. Would you start by sharing the story of your own publishing journey?

R.A.: I started out writing genealogy nonfiction books under my married name.  I love research and old libraries! I also love reading romances.  With so many ideas flirting around my head, I thought I’d give creative writing a go.

Kaye: Is there anything unique or unusual about your writing process?

R.A.: I write the raunchiest first draft, the humor is way over the top. Then I cut it down, and my crit circle cuts it down further.  My editor slices more.  They say that a bit of humor goes a long way.

Kaye: You have sites on both WordPress and Wix. Can you give us the advantages and disadvantages of each? Which site do you prefer? Why?

R.A.: Wix is easier to deal with, super simple to navigate and change.  WordPress is a bit of a pickle to deal with, and every time I change something, I mess up the page.  I do prefer WordPress because I can easily  share review and pages on a whim.  Wix doesn’t give you that option.

Kaye: You’re on the review team at The Naked Reviewers, where authors can submit a book and request an honest review. Would you like to tell us a little about that site and what the review process is?

R.A.: We have a group of published author on Scribophile.com who formed the group.  Right now, I think there is twelve of us.  When someone submits a book, we all read the first chapter, the ‘look inside’ feature on Amazon.  Then we rate the writing, the blurb, and the cover.  If two of us agree, we review the book.  Each Wednesday, two of us leave our review as a feature, if anyone else read it, they leave their thoughts in the ‘comment’ section.  It does mean that most books that we review get a 4.0 or higher rating, usually.  We wanted to show off the best books.

Kaye: You had bad experience with Amazon regarding reviews. This is something we’re hearing from many authors, although complaints vary. Many reviewers, including myself,  have had book reviews pulled by Amazon, with the claim that their terms of use were violated because of an existing relationship which would bias our opinions. I even heard of an reviewer whose reviews were pulled because Amazon saw that they were Facebook friends, which they claimed indicated a prior relationship. (This doesn’t make sense to me. Many authors who I have done reviews for have become virtual online friends because of the review, not the other way around.) Your experience was a bit different because it wasn’t books that you were reviewing. Would you like to tell us a little about your experience?

R.A.: I ordered products from Amazon.com.  A coffee grinder, a milk frother, and a small coffee taper, they just happened to be from the same company in China.  Now, I review every product I receive, but when I went to upload my reviews, Amazon wouldn’t allow it.  After contacting them, they said that I had a ‘relationship’ with the company in China and that I’d violated their terms.  Apparently, I ordered too many things from them. I just don’t understand. They ask you to review, you review… then they’re like… you review too much! They banned me for LIFE for writing any reviews.

My point to them was- IF I was screwing reviews, wouldn’t my books have like 300 hundred reviews instead of each of them having less then 10? I mean seriously. THAT’S what would have benefited me!

Kaye: What is one thing that your readers would never guess about you?

R.A.: I have five children… all boys. I’ve lived in 5 different countries too. I don’t know which one was harder to live through. And all my boys look like my husband.

Kaye: What are your secrets for juggling writing with family?

R.A.: My kids are older, so they don’t need me. I like to write at night, when the house is quiet and no one interrupts. My earbuds are essential, and a song list that corresponds to my writing mood.

Kaye: You have some really great covers, some of which you’ve shared here. What do you do for cover art? DIY, or hired out, or cookie cutter prefab? Do you have a great cover designer you’d like to recommend?

R.A.: Some  are creations of Kayci Morgan, from KreativeCovers.com.  A few I did myself, which you can probably tell.  Kayci is wonderful to work with and very reasonable.  I am learning Photoshop and I’m doing my own teasers.  I’m getting better but I just don’t have the finesse to do covers well.

Kaye: You have a paranormal romance fantasy novella, Twisted, which I’m excited to be reviewing here on Writing to be Read. (So watch for that review on Friday.) What can you tell us about that story?

TwistedforRAwitheyesR.A.: Twisted is a novella, and one of the hardest things I’ve

written.

It’s a Freaky-Friday, body switching piece… full of adult humor. A witch’s land is cursed. Males are no longer born to the vampires, nor are females born to the wolves. To end the curse, the witch must solve a riddle, and she has to have the cooperation of the vampires and the werewolves.

The only way to make them work together, is to make them work with themselves, so she switches their bodies. The male werewolf becomes the female vamp, and the vamp a male wolf. Then, the fun begins. It’s been called a cross between the “Underworld Series’ and ‘Once upon a Time.’

Kaye: What is the strangest inspiration for a story you’ve ever had?

R.A.: My Spirit Key series was a way to keep my cat alive in my memories.  He’d just past away, and Dingle had the oddest personality for a cat. He always reminded me of an old man, you know the one.  The spunky old guy in the nursing home who’s constantly bugging the pretty nurses and running behind them with his walker, never able to catch them.  Occasionally, he’d pinch their behinds, but act like he didn’t do it. I taught Dingle how to wink, but usually he had this grumpy look on his face.  He used to love to jump out and scare me, then give me that ugh, you’re-stupid-to-fall-for-that-again look.  He’s now a ten-thousand year old spirit who has a bit of trickster in him.

Kaye: Your Spirit Key series are westerns with a bit of a different twist to them. Would you like to tell us about them?

R.A.: Contemporary Native American’s in a western setting with magical realism is the gist of the Spirit Key Series.  In book 1, we follow young Sara,  as  the ghosts of ancestors  haunt her days and try to keep her away from young RedHorse.  There’s a new spirit in town, a nefarious one who has his own agenda.  The Old One wants the land for the dead and he’ll do anything to have it, including taking away what Sara loves most.

Kaye: There are two books in The Spirit Key series: Painted Girl and Redhorse. What type of research did you do for these books?

R.A.: The first two book are contemporary, set in modern day Kansas on a farm.  Books 3 and 4 (which are almost finished) go back to 1950, and we delve into Grandfather’s life, and that of the ten-thousand year old spirit who watches over them.  My research centered on the old Indian Schools, and the horrors that the children underwent.  It’s all to stop the spirits from invading this world, and to give grandfather his happy ending.  The Native American research is from my family.

Kaye: You also write contemporary romance with a Native American twist. What about Little Sparrow, A Kiowa in Love or Red Dress, Two Wives?

R.A.: Those were my early books.  I’ve taken the ebooks down, and now I’m writing those into the Spirit Key Series.  Everyone is related, so it made sense to do that.  I kept the hard copies up because a few people really liked them the way they were.  My writing evolved, and I thought those two would be great as part of the Spirit Key Series with some rework.

Kaye: What is the attraction for adding a Native American element to your writing?

R.A.: Two fold.  My grandmother was ‘found’.  It was assumed that she was Native American.  This was in the 1880’s, a time when the tribes had to travel west and were forced onto reservations.  Our family farm was near one of the routes and my grandfather brought home a baby girl one day, saying that he’d found her. My cousins are Sioux.  I barely remember the eldest two girls but I do remember their beauty.  One day, when I was only six years old, they disappeared.  Just up and gone.  Our family went nuts, as you can imagine.  It wasn’t until twelve years later that we learned that they had been taken west  to different orphanages and divided up.   (This was the early ’70’s when the government still took NA children on a whim.)  Anyway, my stories revolve around finding your identity when you don’t know who you are, when you have no memories of your family.  My Native American family is rooted by my life stories. You know that you’re different, but you feel the same as everyone else.  You just have to find your own special, because it’s there, you don’t have to go looking for it.  It just may be hiding in plain sight.

Kaye: I’m also very interested in your time travel romances, As Long As I Have You and Always With You. What can you share with us about them?

Always With YouR.A.: These were part of an anthology, and part of a series inside the anthology. The rules  are simple, Cupid owns a bar, and his mate has a special tattoo that glows when soul mates are touched.  In book 1, Ann Paolo comes to the bar with her dog.  Unbeknownst to her, the dog, Han, is the spirit of a long dead Native American,  who has been cursed to follow Ann through time, always to love her, and be loved, but never to be with her.  Cupid sends them back in time, so Han can erase his curse.  In book 2, Ann’s back, because so many lifetimes couldn’t be rewritten.  This time, Cupid calls on the fates to bring Han to life in this day and time.  The fates have a bit of trouble writing him into time-line, so they turn to Netflix for ideas.  Han is now, Dan Winchesty, from the TV show Super-Unnatural Killers and Revealers  Suckers for short.  You know, Dan Winchesty- the one with the perky nipples?  It’s a spoof on Supernatural, and I think it’s hilarious, but that’s just my opinion.

Kaye: What is your favorite genre to write in so far? Why?

R.A.: I love magical realism and fantasy.  Creating my own world, and rules, takes a lot of thought and design.  You just can’t pop something on paper, it has to make sense, have rules, have life, and you have to bring a reader into your world and make them happy.

Kaye: How much non-writing work, (marketing & promotion, illustrations & book covers, etc…), do you do yourself for your books?

R.A.: I do all my own marketing, which isn’t much.  Word of mouth is my best friend, because lets face it, my works are different.  I just had a review from a guy, who said that someone at work bullied him into reading it and he loved it, even with the romance in the book.  I think that was a compliment.

Kaye: If one of your books was made into a film, which book would you want it to be? And who would you like to play the lead?

R.A.: Hmm, I’d love the Spirit Key to be a series on Netflix, but for a movie, I’d chose Twisted. Sam Witwer and Meaghan Rath. They had great chemistry in Being Human.  Now, however, Meaghan would be a vampire, and Sam would be a wolf.

Kaye: What’s next? What does the future look like for R.A, Winter?

R.A.: Oh, I have at least six books in various stages of completion. Twisted will be turned
into a series, readers have asked for that. I’m also writing a series about Death Takers
coming alive and finding love. It’s a dark romance series that takes the reader on a
journey to Tartarus and the bowels of hell. Book 1 is finished, book 2 is halfway. Once
book 2 is ready I’ll publish.

Kaye: If writing suddenly made you rich and famous, what would you do?

R.A.: I’ve done a lot of things on my bucket list. I’ve traveled the world, lived in five different countries and enjoyed most of my life. If I had a lot of money, I’d pay off my family’s student loans. Right now, it’s around 200k, and I’m serious. It would be life changing for them to pay off their debts. BTW, I have one family member, with 100k debt who graduated from Pitt with a bachelor’s in psychology. Anyone have any job prospects for him? E-mail me.

I want to thank R.A. Winter for joining us today and putting up with my interrogation. Seriously though, she was really a good sport about answering all of my questions with open, honest answers. You can find out more about her and her writing on her website, her Spirit Keys site, or her Amazon Author Page.

 

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Interview with poet Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer

Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer

Today I have the privelege of interviewing a fabulous poet, Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer. As well as writing poetry, she also does performance poetry and is fondly called Word Woman. Once you see her perform, there is no question as to why. Rosemerry is vibrant and energetic and enthusiastic about her poetry, and about life, and this shines through in her work. She was Western Slope Poet Laureate here in Colorado from 2015-2017, she leads poetry and in 2016, she gave a fabulous TED Talk in Paonia, Colorado, The Art of Changing Metaphores, which is definitely worth watching if you wish to see how we can use metaphores to help shape our thinking, our lives and even the world around us. Please help me welcome this wonderful Word Woman to Writing to be Read.

Kaye: When did you know you wanted to be an poet?

Rosemerry: I have a very strong memory of sitting on the floor in my fifth grade classroom in a reading corner, and finding a poem by Walter de la Mare in a magazine. It was about a snowflake, and it began, “Before I melt, come look at me, this lovely icy filigree.” I memorized it, only 12 lines, and fell totally in love with the sounds of the poem. I had no idea what it meant, I just knew it thrilled me, the way the sounds chimed with each other. I felt it in my whole body. I don’t know that’s so much when I knew I wanted to be a poet, but it is when the love affair began.

Kaye: What is the biggest challenge of being a poet?

Rosemerry: Hmmm. Perhaps it is knowing that I have so much farther to go in my craft—that I am not yet writing the poems I feel I am here to write. Still so many layers of me to peel away, still so much to explore. And no way to get there except to write and write and practice and practice and read and read …

Kaye: Would you talk a bit about your personal poetic process?

Rosemerry: Since 2006 I have written a poem a day, and that daily practice is a huge part of my process. It makes it so that writing a poem isn’t just something that happens when I am sitting in front of a page, it’s something that is happening all day long. It completely changes the way I am in the world—how I pay attention, how I meet the moment. I’ll add that I am an avid reader of poems and read many every day—I am always trying to expand my poem horizons, see what a poem can do in other’s hands, and teach myself based on what other poets have done successfully.

Kaye: As a poet, you sculpt your words to form an image in the minds of those who are listening or reading your work. So, in a way, you are an artist and words are your medium. Are you creative in other ways, as well?

Rosemerry: It wouldn’t be painting (though I enjoy collaborating with artists!) But I do sing with a women’s acapella group, Heartbeat. We’ve been together since 1994, and I love pushing myself musically with them. And in the kitchen, I like to be creative with cooking and baking. And perhaps I am a creative parent? In fact, my son tells me he wishes I were more normal. And perhaps this is a good place to mention that I am currently finishing the first season of a podcast on creative process called “Emerging Form,” which I am doing with science writer Christie Aschwanden.

Kaye: How did you become attached to the handle of Word Woman? Is there a story behind that?

 

Rosemerry: About twenty years ago I was trying to come up with a business name that would accommodate all my language interests. At the time, I was an editor for a newspaper, freelancing for magazines, writing and teaching poems and performing a lot. Plus, my Master’s Degree is in English Language and Linguistics. I am obsessed with words, always have been. It just seemed to fit! It kind of cracks me up that it sounds like a super hero. The words themselves are the heroes. Poems have literally saved my life.

 

Kaye: Your book, Naked for Tea recently came out and was a finalist for the Able Muse Book Awards. Would you like to tell us a little about that?

Rosemerry: Such a thrill! I was sooooooo hoping to be published by Able Muse. I love their poetry books. The day that I found out that they were going to publish it, even so it wasn’t the winner, I was in the Telluride Library. When the text came through, I started jumping up and down, and was soon surrounded by a host of cheering and exuberant librarians! The library is a great place to find out about a book contract!

Kaye: Naked for Tea is an interesting title. How do you decide the titles for your books?

Rosemerry: Usually the titles come from lines in poems, and that’s the case here, too. The title poem is actually named, That’s Right. The first line is, “I showed up naked for tea.” And it’s the perfect poem to represent the book in that I feel that the whole collection is about the art of showing up as vulnerably, as authentically as possible. I joke that the poems are all about failure, and they are—about finding the beauty in our brokenness, our mistakes.

naked4tea-frontKaye : Naked for Tea also has a very interesting cover. How did you come up with it? If you don’t mind me asking, did you serve as the model?

Rosemerry: It’s not me! The publisher, Alex Pepple, had no idea the stir it would cause, because it certainly does look as if it’s my naked spine and long brown hair. The name of the photo he used is Back Story, which tickles me—perfect for a book of poems. I am happy with the metaphorical suggestion of showing up naked.

 

 

 

 

Kaye: Would you talk a little about performance poetry and how you got into that?

Rosemerry: When I moved to Telluride in 1994, I was lucky to fall in almost immediately with Art Goodtimes, one of the finest performers of poetry in Colorado. He awed me. So physical. So playful. So powerful. Before that I had NO performance poetry skills. What luck to find myself in close proximity to a master—and one who was willing to give me honest, gentle feedback, too.

Kaye: Performance Poetry is really a physical medium, yet when you perform, your movements appear as if they were a natural part of your speech. Your movements flow smooth and graceful. Does it ever feel as if you are doing a dance with your poetry? Have you ever tried adding music to your poetry performances?

 

Rosemerry: I naturally talk with my hands and body, which, I think, is lucky for poetry performance, though I don’t doubt that the performance enhances it. There are small pieces in a few poems which I have intentionally choreographed, but for the most part, I just let my body do what it does. I have found, though, that it often will move the same way for the same poem, and that these repeated gestures are very helpful for memorization—it’s as if the poem gets in the body which helps it to lodge in the mind.

As for music, yes! I love adding music! Of course I sing myself sometimes—to enter a poem or within a poem—but to have someone else accompany me is one of my greatest pleasures! I perform frequently with my good friend Kyra Kopestonski, a cellist. She and I have so much fun playing around and finding ways for the music and the poem to speak to each other. It’s especially great for very short poems because those are very hard to perform successfully without musical interludes. But it’s especially great for all poems! And I’ve been lucky enough to collaborate with many different musicians—guitar, flute, bass, drums, even a whole band. I would love to be like Laurie Anderson and have my own band!

 

Kaye: What is the strangest inspiration for a poem you’ve ever had?

Rosemerry: Ha! I’ve written some mighty weird poems. Picking up a grave digger hitchhiker, perhaps? Black widow egg sacs? Wearing a tail?

Kaye: What is the single most important quality in a poem for you?

Rosemerry: Authenticity.

Kaye: What’s the best piece of advice you were ever given?

Rosemerry: From David Lee, past poet laureate of Utah and a very fine poet and performer: Surround yourself by poets better than you are.

Kaye: What is the one thing in your writing career that is the most unusual or unique thing you’ve done so far?

Trommer ActivityRosemerry: Tough to say … but here’s the first thing that comes to mind. Once I participated as a guest artist for the Art & Architecture Weekend in Telluride. The Ah Haa School assembled a team to support me. We used three-line poems (I have thousands) and they painted them on the walls, they made garlands with poems, I had a cream dress covered in poems, white gogo boots covered in poems … and then I stood in the middle of the decorated room at a table with a bowl full of words and the participants came in and either picked a word or gave me one of their own, and then, after a brief conversation with them about why they chose the word, I wrote them a personal three-line poem on the spot—87 in six hours. I felt so in the zone, the day whizzed by. It was absolutely magical. People wept, hugged me, kissed me, laughed. It was an incredible interaction. And then I was given the juried artist award for the whole event, icing on the cake!

Kaye: Imagine a future where you no longer write poetry. What would you do?

Rosemerry: I can’t imagine it. Really. I think if I were deserted and alone on a desert island, I might still write poems in the sand. But if I try really really hard to not be me and think of what else I would do, um, drive race cars. But I would never do that.

Kaye: It seems like poetry really is ‘in your blood’. Can you give me an example of how poetry flows out into the other areas of your life?

Poetry Stones

Rosemerry:  Well, it does feel like an integral part of me. And I guess it does leak out! I have a little game with myself to see how poems might make their ways into the hands of people who think they don’t like poems. Part of that is doing readings. Part of that is leading collaborative workshops with other teachers, pairing poetry with meditation or painting or healing from grief. Part of that is writing short poems on river rocks and leaving them all over town (in stairwells, public bathrooms, on street corners, etc). Like a poetry easter bunny, any given day of the year. I’ve left many hundreds of rocks out there, and they are always picked up! But I would say that more than poetry flows out, it flows in. I feel as if I am always finding poems, other people’s poems and poems waiting to be written. That’s such a thrill!

Kaye: What’s the most fun part of writing a poem for you? What’s the least fun part?

Rosemerry: Most fun: The blank before the poem arrives. All that potential! And then the thrill of the seed of the idea showing up. That AND when the ending shows up and you know, “Yes, yes, that’s it.”

Least fun: realizing that I have already used the words blossom, sometimes, moon, shine and invitation a million times and I need to come up with another word.

Kaye: Which poet, dead or alive, would you love to have lunch with?

Rosemerry: Only one?? And I think you mean besides the poets I presently hang out with. Hmm. Gerard Manley Hopkins. I think it would be awkward, but to be that close to greatness?? I would be happy to sit there in awkward silence as we ate our boiled potatoes.

Kaye: What advice do you have for aspiring poets?

Rosemerry: Surround yourself with other poets. Though the act of writing is solitary, as Ammons would say, you “sit alone picking away at your own liver,” the art of it and the communion of it is in community. Most of my best friends are poets—they inspire me, chide me, keep me in line, offer me a life line.

And of course, read. Read. Read smart—with a pen in your hand, taking notes on what you love and why. Read for pleasure.

And last, memorize, or, better yet, learn poems, as we say, by heart.

I want to thank Rosemerry for sharing with us today on Writing to be Read. Her energy and enthusiasm seems to be contagious for me. I hope it is for all of you aspiring poets out there, too. You can learn more about Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer and the amazing things that she’s done on her Word Woman website, where you’ll find calendar, book sales, writing prompts and more. Her poetry books are avaiable on Amazon and you can visit her Author Page , too. You can also find her daily poems here. Please take the time to like the post or leave a comment to show your support for Rosemerry and/or Writing to be Read.

 

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If you are an author, poet or screenwriter and you’d like to be interviewed on Writing to be Read, drop Kaye an email at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com with “Interview Request” in the subject line.