It’s the half year mark

IMG_20180706_134751It’s the half year mark and everyone’s obsessed with “Where did the time go?” At least everyone around me.

Everyone’s evaluating what they’ve done so far, checking their list of things for the year and depending on how many are checked off, they might either be embracing the next six months with open arms or sighing at the mountain that’s still ahead.

I prefer to take the ‘easy lane’, as in I don’t obsess about what I’ve accomplished so far or haven’t gotten to yet. I also keep the big picture in mind. Because at the end of the day, that’s the ultimate goal. Life happens and it happens whether you want it to or not. For a writer that can set you back. Because let’s face it, we all know when it comes to our writing time we literally have to shout from the rooftops for some “respectful distance” from those around us.

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been off Facebook, because that’s the social platform that sucks most of my time. Personally I’ve also kept a low profile in relationships, because like I said above, sometimes we need to enforce a “respectful distance”. (I don’t know why I’m making quotation marks; it just feels like it’s needed. Sue me.)

This helped me to get to where I want to be by July in regards to my writing. And it also made me realize just how healthy it is for a writer to get away from the clutter of voices that constantly bombard you on social media. Though I have to add, I find the clutter less on platforms like Twitter (surprising I know) and Instagram, probably because I tend to not follow as many people in my industry on those platforms. This honestly keeps me sane. There’s only so much shoptalk a person can take without blowing your brains out…uh too much? Yeah, that’s how it feels like sometimes. Way too much writing and publishing “talk” that I literally want to gauge my eyes out. Can’t help it, my creative mind is sensitive like that.

But I do appreciate how accessible our information society is (ooh look at me using that one module I hated at university’s lingo. Seriously, that class was just not my cup of tea. The very young tech savvy lecturer was, but not the class. Sorry not sorry). Without it I wouldn’t have embarked on this writing journey. But I digress.

It’s the middle of 2018. So far I’ve come a long way with my rewriting project *laughs* That’s such an awkward sounding sentence.

But I have. And I’m kind of proud of myself for rewriting a book from the foundation up, sentence by sentence and really getting into the nitty-gritty of who my characters are and what they want and how they are going to get it and what obstacles are going to be in their way.

While rewriting I realized the foundation of my story, the conflict was just too shallow and I couldn’t submit a book that didn’t build on the level of emotional upheaval that my previous stories had. It would’ve been a step back from what I normally write. And I like writing characters that have to fight for a happy ending, characters that come with their own internal struggles. It’s what makes writing so much fun for me.

I also love that I’m still learning with each book. I recently read an article that brought everything back to the heart of why I write and how to write.(http://romanceuniversity.org/2018/07/09/on-writing-by-ella-carey-2/) It’s just one of those things that will never get old for me.

So, have I checked everything off my list for the first half of the year? Uh no. But then again, I didn’t really have a list. I had an idea of what I wanted to accomplish throughout the year and there were definitely dates on each one of them, but not many were set in stone, hence the reason I’m so relaxed about the half year mark and everyone around me is going nuts! No seriously, they are. And I’m not just referring to the writing world.

I am still working on my latest project, but I’m not stressed over it. Why? Because I’m rebuilding. I’m reworking chapters and loving it. I’m learning new skills and applying them. I’m focused on telling a story that I love.

I’ve also personally and professionally accomplished most of what I wanted to. The book fair, for one. That’s done. I also joined the South African Writers’ Circle this year. Something I’ve wanted to do for ages but hadn’t gotten to. I’ve also set out the goal of branching out and reaching out to more writing communities/authors. I’ve done that. And will keep on doing it. I do believe that sometimes you can get stuck in a comfort zone, a bubble with the same group of people and become so used to a certain way of thinking/seeing that you don’t realize how narrow that can be. Not all writing groups are toxic, but some do encourage toxic behavior (with writing, publishing or otherwise), case in point #Cockgate and #Getloud.

It’s good to get in touch with people who might not necessarily write what you write. I’m not particularly fond of the ‘us against, them’ mentality in the writing world. Probably because I live in South Africa and that’s pretty much what you get here pre-and post-Apartheid SA.

But enough of that *smile*

So far 2018 has been back breaking work…but worth it. I’ve gotten a lot done, but with others I am taking my time because at the end of the day I want a product I’m pleased with.

Hope your half year mark doesn’t look bleak and that you’re not being too hard on yourself if it is. We are only human after all *wink*

#happywriting

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Lessons Learned in Publishing So Far

I feel like this post should be done in point system, because some points need to be elaborated on but not all of them. They are easily understandable.

So let’s get right into it!

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Ten lessons I learned in my publishing journey:

  1. Do your research. Research the publishers you want to submit your work to. Research the genre you want to write in. Research the subject/theme your story is about. Research your novel. Research your market. Research everything basically. Don’t go into publishing with blinkers on.
  2. Ask if you need help. Yes, you’ll hit a few walls but there will be someone willing to answer your questions. And please don’t let one of those questions be “how much money do you make as an author?” That’s not going to endear you to anyone. No one, and I mean no one, likes to talk about money. If it’s that much of an issue for you, than see point number one.
  3. Writing groups exists for a reason. Authors/writers like to congregate there. It’s a good source of information, creating networks and developing writing skills.
  4. Take a writing course. If it teaches you nothing else, it will test your commitment to wanting to go into writing.
  5. Publishing is a slow process. No seriously, it is. You submit (pitch) a manuscript, it takes six weeks for you to get a response. Depending on the response, if it’s a revise than it can take another couple of weeks to work on the manuscript and to get an answer you’d like. If it’s a contract, pop some bubbly but don’t get too excited. There’s editing. You could’ve written the book a year before and it only comes out the following year. Some publishers work faster and with self-publishing the decisions are up to you, so you can have a book out as soon as you feel comfortable with the public seeing it.
  6. This brings me to number six: Self-publishing. Many authors are hybrids. They can be traditionally, e-published and self-published. Some only take one of the three routes. Authors following more than one lane aren’t as uncommon as it used to be. So keep that in mind when you do your research.
  7. Having a few published books doesn’t make you a master at writing, keep developing that skill.
  8. Branding is important. So is keeping your sanity. If you like writing in more than one category, than by all means do. Just know what your readers expect from you. If they can go on a contemporary, paranormal, science fiction and historical journey with you, than good for you. Pen names are also an option to keep the brand ‘pure’.
  9. Writing awards/competitions work well to establish an author in the industry. If you feel so inclined, than do enter your work. Some competitions give feedback. However keep in mind these awards/competitions also need to be researched. A while back I entered a competition that I thought would be impartial, as it turned out it wasn’t. Not only was my novel never entered, after I paid the fee, but I only found this out after an email was sent to everyone that the judging panel had read all the books and had scored them. Not only wasn’t I given an apology for what happened, but my book was placed under a distinct disadvantage. They now had to scramble for judges on the panel that would be willing to read and score the ‘late’ entry. They rushed through my book to hit the competition’s deadline. Needless to say, I’m still a bit sour over that. Though that’s only the tip of the iceberg of the snafu. So make sure you want to enter, and then make sure your book has actually been entered after you paid the entry fee.
  10. This is not a sprint industry. ‘Overnight’ success isn’t always ‘overnight’ successes. If you put in the work, time and effort you can make it in this billion dollar industry. But that’s on all on you.

 

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A Snippet of Poetry

Cards

It’s cards

It’s endless conversations that we had

We can’t forget it,

It’s miles

we walked, feet soles will remember

though years may fade

They won’t regret it,

And nothing remains the same

In our souls we all change

Heartbreak makes fools of us

We vow and swear never to trust

Until the next leap of faith….

It’s cards

It’s laughter when your heart at least expects it

You won’t regret it,

It’s love

undone

This time around you chose better than empty words

Loyalty comes first,

Oh you won’t forget it,

You won’t, you won’t forget it.

~inge saunders

 

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Do You Journal?

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One of the early signs that I’d end up writing professionally was the fact that I kept journals from a young age. At first I liked the romanticism of it all, then I’d like that I could write secrets in codes inside and then it became part of my psyche as a reflective human being.

The act of writing down my thoughts, not just events but how I felt about them, how I internalized actions and behavior, became the first stirrings of writerly observations.

In my teenage years I would switch from writing poetry, stories and weekly entries into my journal. At varsity as life became busier, taken up by studies, societies and friends, writing took a bit of a back seat. I mostly focused on poetry and keeping a journal. Then in my final year of undergrad when I received a new computer, I started to write stories again.

I’ve heard that writers should keep a journal. I don’t know if I fully agree with it or not. I’m undecided *smile* As someone who did/do still journal (though not as much as I have in the past) I can say that it does create a certain level of awareness. Reflection like this can sort out the cobwebs.

These days I like to keep journals and notebooks that centre more on developing book ideas. I keep my reflections for my poetry *smile*

In that sense, keeping a journal does serve a tangible purpose. You can go back to it and look at an outline, a mind map or character sketch you scribbled down. You can plot out a story in a few sentences. I once rewrote a synopsis in a journal because I needed a different form of writing. I couldn’t look at the synopsis on my laptop screen any more. Fixing it that way became problematic after a certain point, so I grabbed a pen and one of my journals. I could easily see where I hit a snag. Sometimes a different medium offers solutions.

Journaling definitely got me here…on this blog *smile* It wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t felt comfortable writing my thoughts down. So there’s that. Oh and did I mention I wrote for my school newspaper? *ha* What I’m getting to is this, keeping a journal can create confidence in expressing thoughts and ideas. That’s a plus for any author. For any type of writer.

So if you haven’t kept a journal before, and you’re serious about writing, why not try it for a month, see where it takes you. If it improves your way of writing, or not, come tell me about it *smile*

 

Pop Culture and Writing

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I was watching a Nail Horan performance (yeah I never thought I’d open a blog post with that line) and what hit me about his performance was the level of honesty in his music. An earnestness. And I couldn’t help but compare him to the other One Direction “boys” who’ve released solo albums.

If you didn’t know, which none of you probably did, I was a One Direction fan…but not a fan-girl because I’m (honestly put) too old to be getting pfklahbjkllmwnhkowz about boys in a boy-band. I did that with Backstreet Boys, Nsync, Boyzone, Westlife, 98 Degrees, Five…*cough* uh yeah, I have a thing for boy-bands so sue me. I should add The Beatles to the list too since I jam out to their music once every blue moon. But I digress.

So being the fan that I am, I still follow the members and former member’s solo careers. And recently Nail and Liam (Payne) has released albums. While I wasn’t too hyped up about their releases, out of the two Nail’s music seem to resonate with me more. (Let’s ignore Liam’s Justin Timberlake inspired offering of “Strip That Down”.) After watching Nail perform on the Ellen Show, I understood why. He wasn’t trying to sell his music to me as the next number one hit in the world (though I’m sure he’d love that); he was just singing a song that came from a sincere place. My Mom actually walked out of the kitchen into the TV room and said she loved his voice. This people, is a feat in itself since my Mom isn’t big on music in general if it’s not gospel.

As I watched him perform I also realized that as a reader sincerity is what I look for in a book. It can be from the straight-forward romance story of a Harlequin/Mills & Boon novel to the more complicated genre bending dark romance; I still expect sincerity.

But now you ask, “Inge isn’t that what every writer puts in their work?” And I’d have to say, no. Not all writers write books because they feel compelled to write them or because the characters can’t leave them alone or because the story is important to tell (and I’m specifically referring to the romance genre here). I’ve read romance novels that felt rushed, whose characters were one dimensional and the plot unmemorable. Someone once said in a writing group, the romance is the plot. And I thought, yes it is. But, the journey is what makes it interesting. The intrigue. The pushing, the pulling, the crisis, the misunderstanding, etc. you get where I’m going with this.

In romance we only have so many tropes. Sometimes it can become generic and repetitive. I’ve read so many romance novels in my teens and while all of them were enjoyable, I couldn’t tell you who wrote them. I kid you not. I just didn’t pay attention. I paid more attention to the logo of the publisher printed on the book because I knew what type of story I would get.

Back then authors didn’t have to be writing machines the way they are required to be now…and because of that, I do believe a lot more honesty in prose has fallen to the wayside. Characters and plots that grip you at the heart rather than ones that tick off all the boxes that makes them a “hit on the charts” *smile*

There is no formula to romance, no matter what people say. Writing a romance isn’t that simple. However, there are elements to romance novels that are expected to be in there. And for some writers/publishers just hitting those marks are enough to put the work out and on your virtual and non-virtual bookshelf. The same way you hear the same generic pop songs on the radio or on music channels. (I haven’t listened to the radio in years. Wow. I should try it again. *ha*) For the same reason we love artists like Adele and Lorde, because they stand out from the crowd. They offer you something that doesn’t sound standard, but sincere. Authentic, if you will.

Which brought me full circle to myself as a writer; so far I have three published works out there in the universe. I like to believe I hadn’t become generic in my writing (though a part of me suspects that I might have) and with my current manuscript, another paranormal romance, I’m aiming to not just hit all the elements of what’s expected. But to bring honesty to my work.

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I recently read a Brenda Jackson novel, (a first for me) and though the premise of the story has been done before, the way she told it completely drew me in. I’m hooked to the series now. She put a spin on the “brothers-coming-home-per-the-patriarchs-request” on its head by throwing in a murder mystery that spans three books. Nothing felt contrived. I didn’t get the sense that she was writing a series because her publisher or readers demanded the next Brenda Jackson novel. This in turn made me think of the latest Veronica Roth novel that I read, racist and mind bending insensitivity to people who suffer from chronic pain aside, the story hit the checklist of a “hit making” YA sci-fi novel aimed at teenage girls. And it is a bestseller. Like a Veronica Roth novel would be in this decade. It still didn’t change the fact that it was generic. (I’m not going to read the second book.)

What’s funny to me, is that you’ll get big names like Adele and Lorde (yeah I’m back to music again *smile*) who will go to pains to give you something true…honest…authentic. But then also artist who because they have big names, seem to think, they can sell you anything and you’ll buy it. And let’s face it; a lot of us buy it.

I recently mentioned to someone that Taylor Swift’s 1989 sounded to me like she took a lot of inspiration from her friends and sister-music-group HAIM. And it seems to be right around the time she met them that Tay-Tay’s music started to change. Now I’m not saying we can’t be influenced by people, but if you want to listen to the ‘original’ download a HAIM song (my favorite is “If I Could Change Your Mind”).

As a writer, as someone who is operating in the realm of creativity, honesty in anyone’s work matters to me. It’s become one of the things that cause me to return as a customer. If you’re sincere in what you’re offering to me, I’m more likely to buy in to you. Over the years I can only name a few authors I’ve consistently bought and read.  At varsity I bought so many chicklit books but I can’t say I consistently bought a certain author over and over again. I’d invested more in the genre than the authors and when I got sick of the genre, I stopped buying the books.

What I will add at the end of this very longwinded view on Pop Culture and Writing is that I love what self-publishing has done for sincerity and authenticity in the romance novel. Too many checks and balances can make for generic reading. It can keep out voices that stand out from the crowd, that write for the love of it, not just for the deadline or bottom-line. This is a shift I noticed in music too. Singers who start their own label and produce the type of music the recording companies wouldn’t allow them to make. Something that I as a (reader and) listener want: artists who walk on stage like Nail Horan with the ‘world’ at your feet but still have the sensitivity to know that your audience isn’t stupid. We can spot a fake. We’ll know if you put your heart into it, if you borrowed from someone else and if you’re just doing it for the money.

 

 

On the Bandwagon: The Dolan Twins

I’m on the bandwagon. Of what you may ask. The Dolan Twins.

And yep I had to write it out like that *grin*

A few years ago I was introduced to these twin brothers who were at the time, very popular Vine stars. They had something like six million followers (?) on the thing. Then they moved over to YouTube too and started making their brand of videos consisting of pranks, challenges and all around randomness.

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Ethan and Grayson Dolan

Now if you Googled ‘Dolan Twins’ because you don’t know who the heck I’m writing about, than Google would’ve coughed up a short bio of comedians Ethan and Grayson Dolan, a list of the Teen Choice Awards they’ve won, links to their YouTube channel and their most recent popular video uploads, as well as entertainment news articles about them. Depending on who has recently tweeted, you might also get a news feed of either Ethan or Grayson’s recent tweet history. Btw Ethan’s older than Grayson by twenty-minutes. I could tell you the dramatic story that accompanies why that is but I’d let them tell you themselves.

Here’s a link to “Draw My Life” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e5QZVaw3-6E

I was just done with the Africa Online Book Fair, mentally and spiritually exhausted. I had also come to the disheartening conclusion that I would have to do a full scale rewrite on a completed manuscript since I discovered some issues with it. So, not in the best of moods.

Cue to me re-watching a YouTuber (Reaction Time aka Tal Fishman) reacting to a Dolan Twins Vine Compilation. I think it was a 2015 one, not sure. Anyhow, I decided to check the twins channel out on YouTube. The first video that caught my interest happened to be the one they did with Olympic gymnast Laurie Hernandez. It shook me out of my exhausted state and into a shocked and laughter induced one. I was high on endorphins as I kept replaying Ethan Dolan face planting while trying to beat his brother at gymnastics. (Here’s a link if you want to watch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3J5fXd71Vmc )

People the stage was set for a Dolan Twin marathon. A marathon I’d only recently come out of to find the world hadn’t changed much. Jacob Zuma was still dodging the courts, Donald Trump was still the number one President of Twitter and the weather was wrecking havoc on the world. Between politics and Mother Nature I was glad I had this Dolan Twin-reprieve.

And that’s why I’m on their bandwagon. I have no clue what they’ll be in ten years time, because we all know sometimes child stars don’t translate well into adulthood (though I don’t think the brothers will have a problem with that.) In spite of this, I’m firmly in their corner. They’ve been honest about their mental struggles, and also about why they love making YouTube videos. They come across as well-adjusted and grounded people. They spread positivity and always strive to make others laugh. And they genuinely seem to enjoy what they’re doing. You buy into who they are because it’s not fake.

Watching them made me understand character and plot driven stories more. Yeah I’ve gone back to author mode *smile* If the Dolan Twins was a book, you’d be reading it because of who the brothers were. You’d get invested in their personalities, characters and because of that, want to know how the book ends. Whether it was a romance novel, adventure story, mystery…theirs would be character driven. They’ve got strong personalities and are charismatic in their own way. Of course it doesn’t hurt that they won the genetic lottery when it comes to the looks department, though I have to add it’s not their biggest selling point. The ability to provide entertainment, fun, convey camaraderie and add a sincerity to what they do, give them a well earned place as one of the top YouTubers on the website.

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So if you need a pick me up…check them out. If you’re on a break from writing and want mindless fun…check them out. And if you’re thinking this is me doing some free promo for them…you’re right. But still check them out *laughs*

 

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#happywriting

 

I am Grateful

I haven’t written a blog post like this one in awhile. A recent Facebook status update on my book page reminded me of just how grateful I am to be able to write, to have books contracted with a publisher, to have people buying those books and leaving reviews. I’m still at the start of my writing journey, by no means an expert or long in the publishing world, but I can’t help but be thankful for the strides I’ve been allowed to make.

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Because it is tough. Like anything worthwhile doing and having is. It doesn’t come easy. And I’m so grateful to be able to have this outlet and write the stories I like to write. To form part of the romance community. To feel liberated enough to say I am a romance author and even if people judge that, to still not care *laugh* because romance writers are AWESOME! *smiles*

I’m grateful for the people who’ve encouraged me and shaped me on this journey. I’m grateful for the countless writing advice gurus who give their advice for free on the inter-webs through articles and video tutorials, for all the authors who write on their blogs about what they’ve learned and who share that knowledge, and also for writing groups on social media…groups who are accessible, open and do not discriminate for whatever reason…you are amazing. And you help people like me who live in a small town, in a third world country, who don’t have a clue on how to approach her dream of becoming a published romance author. It’s really amazing how many willing people are out there, sharing what they know without expecting anything in return. I’m awed. I’m grateful. I’m thankful and am working on paying it forward.

And to my readers (all three of you…Hey Mom! *laughs*), you inspire me, push me and always make me want to give more than a 100% with every story I write. Your support humbles me. My latest book have placed me in front of readers who didn’t know who I was until they picked up my book as part of the Black Hills Wolves series and I’m grateful for you because you gave an unknown to you author a chance. Thank you.

It’s humbling when you think that there are so many people all over the world who do not get to live out their passion. Who do not have the freedom to venture into any career path. For many years South Africa was that type of country. Recently my mother again reminded me on just how tough it was when she was in high school. The then Apartheid government would literally come to Coloured and Black schools and tell students that they couldn’t study certain subjects at grade 11 level. Usually those subjects would be Mathematics, Accountancy, Physical Science and Biology…they didn’t want doctors, lawyers, accountants to come from Coloured and Black groups. In fact there was a quota placed on how many could be allowed into those types of university courses each year. Imagine you’ve spent years doing Mathematics only to be told you couldn’t take it again in grade 12 because you, according to a rigged system, didn’t qualify? And guess what, having a B in those subjects disqualified you. *snorts* Yeah, I also didn’t get straight A’s.

According to the Apartheid government I would be as dumb as a doornail.

I am grateful that I get to do what I do. That I live in a time in the world’s history where as a person of color I can write the stories I like and have people from every ethnicity enjoy them *smile*

And as strange as this sounds, I want to say thank you for all the ‘likes’, the reviews, ‘shares’, ‘follows’, ‘subscribing to my blog’, buying my books, ‘liking my book page’, having me on your blogs, tweeting, and generally coming along with me on my writing journey.

I still have a way to go, but I’m truly grateful for what the journey so far has taught me and how much support I’ve received.

#HappyWriting I know I am because of you.*smile*

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Buy Links:

Amazon: Kindle Store https://t.co/gipdx4OYiZ

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/za/en/ebook/the-wolf-s-choice

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/711816

 

Like my Facebook Page: Books by Inge Saunders: http://bit.ly/1defI54

And I’m also on

Twitter: @saunders_inge

Instagram: @ingesaunders

 

On Novel: My Writing Process with Brenda Kuchinsky

On Novel: My Writing Process

BY:  Brenda Kuchinsky, Author and Clinical Psychologist

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I don’t outline and I don’t plan anything formally.  I start off with a kernel of an idea, revolving around a character.  Then I daydream and dream quite a bit which helps other characters emerge as well as plot lines.

I have to say that I began to meditate successfully in 2013, using the Transcendental Meditation ™ technique.  I had never been successful at meditation before.  This worked for me, doing it at home for twenty minutes twice a day with my own private mantra.  I am convinced, in retrospect, that meditation led me to writing for the first time since high school.  Several careers and postgraduate work in several fields as well as two husbands intervened.  Also, I think low self-esteem and shaky confidence, despite numerous successes in other areas, held me back both consciously and unconsciously.

I now meditate before I start writing.  I first hit upon this as a productive method accidentally when I became seriously stuck and bored with one of my characters in a scene where he travelled away from home to Key West.  I decided to take a writing break and meditate.  Rich imagery rose up unbidden and a second character stood before me, solving my problem and lending incredible depth and suspense to the story.  That’s when I realized that I probably wouldn’t have started my novel if it were not for meditation.  Serendipitous, right?

I write in one spot only.  On the corner of my yellow leather couch with my feet up on the coffee table and my IPhone by my side for instant research, word definitions, synonyms, antonyms, and inspiring pictures.  I had a Lenovo yoga laptop up until last month when I bought my first MAC, which I had been lusting after for quite some time.

So, I’m free form mostly and write an outline about halfway through a book when the characters and plotlines are at the bursting point and I need to organize.  I’m very character driven.  Character comes first and the plot lines devolve from that.  I also read that way.  Plot driven novels with cardboard characters bore me, no matter how great the plot. I’m writing the third book in a series, Time’s Haunted, so the same characters keep popping up. However, there are several intriguing new characters.  Sophia, the protagonist, also travels and in this one she goes to Buenos Aires.

I’d love to hear from people.  Happy writing and reading.

Times Harlot Brenda

Website: brendakuchinsky.com

FB: https://www.facebook.com/brenda kuchinsky

TW: https://www.Brenda Kuchinsky @yogabrenda

Books available from the website and also Amazon.  Latest: Time’s Harlot: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B072KKL3YJ

Check out Amazon Author Central: https://www.amazon.com/Brenda-Kuchinsky/e/B01KM69002 for Bio and blogs, etc.

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On Novel: My Writing Process with Elaine Dodge

I love reading about another author’s writing process. Not only does it make me feel sane (because sometimes there are some weird things I do while writing) but I also gain useful tips that help in how I approach some of my writing projects. On Novel: My Writing Process is a writing tips series I’m going to be running throughout August, September and October with guest posts from authors sharing their experience. If you’re a novice the series will definitely benefit you. So without further introduction, here’s the first guest post from Elaine Dodge.

 

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On Novel: My Writing Process

Author Elaine Dodge

 

Rabbit trails. I would have to say rabbit trails – if I was asked where I find my ideas. Inspiration is everywhere. Pay curious attention, do good research and everything can lead to a great story idea. That’s not to say though that the research you do today will have any bearing on the story you’re currently writing. But, file it away, make a brief note on it and let it brew.

When asked about my actual writing process, I tend to laugh as I don’t really think about it. But having been asked to think about it here, I realised I write short stories and novels in completely different ways.

I’m currently part of a short story challenge. Perhaps it’s the fact I’m a content creator by profession, where word counts are essential and not up for debate, that I love the constraints of the challenge. Others rail against the prompt, the word count and the deadline. I have no idea why. Where’s the challenge if there are no constraints?

I approach these tales the same way as I do my ‘Running the Bathwater Stories’. These are a series of short stories which I write under one strict, self-imposed rule. After turning on the taps, I must sit down at the laptop, with no story idea in my head, and start writing immediately. I must complete a tale by the time the bath is ready. My bath does admittedly run rather slowly. It takes about fifteen to twenty minutes to reach an acceptable depth. I can edit, but not change the actual story, any time after that.

When I write for the short story challenge I basically do the same thing. Although, to be honest, in this case, I don’t start writing till I have the idea. But that idea, based on the prompt, is usually as simple as ‘blinding sunshine’. The prompt in that case being, ‘Coming Undone’. Then, I sit down and start writing. I seem to instinctively write short stories in the first person. I’m working on that.

The only tale in this short story challenge I didn’t do that with was one entitled ‘A White Lie’. As it was based on Scott’s expedition to the South Pole, I wanted to make sure I had all my facts right first. It was fascinating.

Novels, however, are a different herd of elephants, although I often approach the first chapter in a similar way. A thought, the spark of inspiration and then the ‘let’s see where this leads’ and off I go. Occasionally, these can begin as Running the Bathwater Stories, but if I like the ideas that start to flow once the writing begins, I may find I have a whole novel sprouting in my head. Or at least the possibility of one. So, I keep going. When I’ve finished the first, or in some cases the first three chapters, and I’m convinced this may be something worth pursuing, I stop and go back to the beginning.
I write a list of all the characters I’ve thought of so far, doing character sheets for all the important ones.
I open an Excel spreadsheet and begin to plot the book. I try to figure out the ending as soon as I can. I didn’t do that with my second novel, ‘The Device Hunter’, and it threw me off kilter for about a year. I had to rewrite the entire second half of the book. So now, I have a hard and fast rule; Know thy ending first.
Then I begin the research. I end up with thick files full of facts, useful in ways I may not have originally intended.
Once I have enough to work with though, I carry on writing the book, doing whatever extra research is needed along the way.

For both short stories and novels, I try to apply other rules to myself:
Every word counts. Only use as many as necessary. No fluffing around.
Stop using so many commas. A failing of mine.
The last line must be memorable and leave people thirsty.
The first line must be a goodie, hook the reader in. Can it carry more weight, show location and character? Can it hint at theme? Can it give a taste of the ending of the whole book without giving the ending away? Can you use the first two lines as a double whammy?

The first lines of that ‘Coming Undone’ short story…

He seriously missed mirrors. And occasionally, Carly Simon.

 

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AUTHOR BIO

I was born in Zambia and went on a round the world cruise with my family when I was four years’ old. We moved to Zimbabwe where I grew up and set on my own round the world adventure a few years after I left art college. I’ve been in South Africa for the last thirteen years and although I’ve travelled haven’t managed to get more than two countries in at one time.

At college, I trained as a designer and after a few years segued into advertising. When I came ‘down south’, I moved into television production. I had always wanted to ‘make movies’, but that didn’t seem to be a door that would open for me. Writing TV proposals for international broadcasters however, did open a door. One I hadn’t realised I’d been camping outside of all my life – writing fiction.

I decided I needed to devote myself to writing. In order to do that I am now a freelance website creator and copywriter. The theory being that working from home, and for myself, will allow me to plan my days so that I have more time to write my books.

 

HarcourtsMountainbyElaineDodge500

 

Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/Elaine-Dodge/e/B00H2EK45S/

Website: www.elainedodge.weebly.com

Running the Bathwater Stories: http://elainedodge.weebly.com/runningthebathwaterstories

Short Story Challenge: http://elainedodge.weebly.com/12-short-stories-in-12-months

 

News, Views and Writing that Love Scene

Another week has gone and I woke up this morning thinking, ‘wow where did the time go?’ It’s been a hectic week writing wise. On Monday I got an email on a manuscript I submitted early this year and was asked to do revisions and resubmit. So I pushed back on a WIP I was working on for submission to Harlequin at the end of August.

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I’ve written about this manuscript I was asked to do revisions on before. My publisher (Decadent Publishing) had started a series, Black Hills Wolves, and I’ve read some of the books and love one of the co-creators behind the series, Rebecca Royce’s books, so I was more than intrigued. I queried about the series and then submitted a synopsis. The novels are short reads and I’ve always wanted to see if I could write a novella. During that time there was a lot of back and forth working through plot ideas and I’ve never had that with an editor before. It was amazing how easy, open and friendly; Laura Garland was as we went through this process. I also got guidelines from Rebecca and Heather Long, who’s also the co-creator of this multi-author series.

I had my Rupunzel story to complete while I was doing this, so I figured since I had a worked out synopsis writing would be fast. And yeah it was *smile*

A Wolf’s Choice was just one of those stories that flowed, and I think it had a lot to do with the level of investment and interest I had in the characters. I’ve worked from synopses before, even though I love the ‘discovery’ as I write. And I’ve learned to go with my gut. Some stories will always require a bit of more in-depth planning than others. Instead of viewing an outline and a synopsis as stifling, I rather see it as a road map, along the way side roads will probably be taken and a couple of hours spent admiring the view, but I know where I’m heading.

That’s what A Wolf’s Choice felt like writing. I knew where I was heading, I knew who my characters were and I knew what they were going to find at the end (not just a HEA *wink*).

A Wolf’s Choice is also my first foray into writing a love scene (I talked about it on my Facebook Page:http://bit.ly/1defI54 ). I did what every author does when confronted with something they’ve never written before, I went on the internet, researched, did silly status updates where I ‘voiced’ my anxiety but still tried to do it in a non-I’m-a-dunce way.

The best advice I got from the inter-webs was write what you’re comfortable with. Use words that doesn’t make you cringe and words your characters would definitely use, that fits with their personality. And most importantly be true to the story.

So I took the pressure off and decided to chuck out the guidelines for the series (which had a distinct heat level) and just write what the characters and story demanded of me. And the scene became effortless. In fact I think I surprised myself, which really shouldn’t have been such a surprise at all.

My bookshelf consists of such a variety of genres and heat levels that I should’ve known I wouldn’t have a problem writing a love scene. I think where the pressure or even fear comes in, was with what people who knew me would think. Even at thirty-two you can’t help but still care. I’m fairly open about my faith and what I believe; it’s a lifestyle to me. Every day, all day *smile* so how do you reconcile writing a love scene (not a sex scene mind you) with the conservative world of Christianity? (Of course you also have to ask how do you reconcile werewolves, but that’s a story for another blog post *smile*).

Two of my favorite Christian authors are Francine Rivers and Frank Peretti, two writers who write a distinct spiritual message in their stories, but don’t sacrifice the story or characters for preachy writing. It astounded me to learn at first that Francine Rivers was a romance writer, and then I went, “No wait that actually makes sense, since she writes romance in her books.” There’s a love story between a man and a woman, but also between them and God. Made perfect sense. Frank Peretti on the other end, writes nail biting suspense slash horror filled blockbusters you just want to ask Hollywood to make some big feature film out of so you can be scared witless again *laughs* They are open about human sexuality. They do not draw a veil over it as if it didn’t exist. They are honest in their writing. And that’s what I love about these two authors. They don’t conform to what a Christian book is ‘supposed’ to be, but they write the story that’s in their hearts to write and stay true to the characters.

I took a page from them and went for it. In the end I was pleasantly surprised. There are really a lot of varied emotions that goes on in that love scene and it’s vital to the plot of the story. A Wolf’s Choice couldn’t have happened without it. I’m glad I didn’t shy away from writing it. It’s become one of my favorite scenes in the novella. I’m hoping to complete the revisions and hit send soon, and God willing, come back with good news *smile*

Thanks for being on the writing journey with me xoxo

#HappyWriting.