Dramaquill's All Things Writing

August 14, 2011

What comes first – the plot or the characters?

Arts Blogs - Blog Top Sites Bookmark and Share

I wonder if most people’s first reaction when reading the title of this post was, “Duh, the plot of course!”  And hey, maybe they’re right.  But for me, I seem to have much greater success developing new projects if I have a set of characters in mind first.

When writing plays for Slightly off Broadway’s drama department, just knowing whether the actors will be playing hillbillies or wizards sparks all sort of creative flow.  I can’t imagine trying to come up with the story first when the list of possible characters is somewhat endless. 

My inspiration for writing my first suspense novel was actually loosely based on something I had witnessed in the life of someone I knew.  My villain took on the characteristics of a handful of individuals I’d seen in action in disfunctional relationships throughout the years, be it my own or those of my friends and/or family.  My heroine became the culmination of three strong women, all of whom faced horrible circumstances and found a way to survive.  I think the hero is actually someone I wish existed.  I can’t imagine figuring out the plot of my story if I didn’t first get to know these characters.

Currently, I’m working on another suspense novel, and again, the characters prompted me to not only develop the plot but also helped me with the location.  The story morphed relatively easily out of just a few details about the lives of each of the characters.

Now it might sound like I’m saying that it isn’t the plot, but in fact it’s the characters that come first.  In my case, that does seem to be true – at least so far.  But I think this question, much like the “what came first – the chicken or the egg” question has lots of room for debate.

I’d love to have other writers weigh in on their experiences in regard to plot and characters.  Feel free to post to get the discussion going.

Advertisements

August 7, 2011

Great blogs for writers of Suspense

Arts Blogs - Blog Top Sites Bookmark and Share

Well, it’s now August and officially, my holiday time is over.  I vowed that I would not engage in any work-related activities in July, which included checking work email accounts, blogging and, GASP, working on my next two books.

But I had to do it!

My creative side got more than its share of time this past few months.  I wrote three new kids’ plays (and watched them morph into productions), researched and wrote material for both of my new books and did a lot of work marketing myself and my first novel.

I was tapped out creatively.

Now that I’m re-energized and ready to get back on the creative band wagon again, I decided that my first post back would be to share some blog links for those of you who also write (and read) suspense.  It’s always a great idea to check out what other writers blog about, especially those in your genre.

So here goes…

http://vanessa-morgan.blogspot.com/

http://suspensebyanne.blogspot.com/

http://keepmeinsuspense.blogspot.com/

http://www.womenofmystery.net/2011/07/top-suspense-group-blog.html

http://leegoldberg.typepad.com/a_writers_life/top-suspense/

http://harlequinblog.com/2011/05/tips-and-tricks-for-writing-romantic-suspense/

http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/2011/07/10/blog-interview-no-54-with-suspense-author-marla-madison/

http://www.danamarton.com/

http://community.eharlequin.com/content/harlequin-romantic-suspense-author-blog

http://jarekkubicki.wordpress.com/2011/03/02/suspense-magazine/

and finally, here’s a HUGE list of suspense blogs from Networkedblogs.com…

http://www.networkedblogs.com/topic/Suspense/

Enjoy

June 14, 2011

Inspiration can come from anywhere

Arts Blogs - Blog Top Sites Bookmark and Share

My mind is always going at warp speed.  I can be working on one project and suddenly, bam, another idea pops into my head.  I’ve never been one of those writers who struggle to come up with the next idea.

I’m lucky – and I’m probably in the minority.  But, it got me to thinking one day.  Why is it so easy for some writers to become inspired with a new project and so difficult for others?

I don’t know about other writers but I think, for me, it’s being aware of the details of my surroundings.  I’ll give you some examples…

I have pets – dogs.  I’ve used their antics to craft children’s poetry, stories and plays. 

I own a performing arts studio where I’m surrounded by students from age 3 to senior citizens. Working with such a diverse group of individuals really gives me insight into what interests and entertains the different age groups as well as great fodder for traits for my characters.

I live in a city of approximately 110,000.  There are so many wonderful places to just go and people watch.  My handy notebooks are filled with physical descriptions, mannerisms, and expressions.  It’s also very picturesque in my corner of the world and on the advice of a mentor, I decided to set my suspense novels in different locations near where I live.

Do you have kids?  Watch what makes them laugh…cry…angry.  What keeps them interested? 

Many writers get inspiration from the daily news headlines.  Current issues can provide inspiration for articles and different slants on hot topics.  Crime stories can jump start a mystery or thriller.

We all have a myriad of people pass through our lives on a regular basis.  They all have a lot to offer us if we take the time to look for something about them, or in their lives, that can jumpstart an idea.

Many writers enjoy online ezines, blogs and newsletters.  Often, ezines and newsletters will send a writing prompt.  Try freewriting the next time you read one and see where it takes you.

An online friend of mine exhibited a really unique way of showing inspiration can come from anywhere.  Recently, her neighborhood was hit with a tornado.  She not only used her experiences, and the experiences of those around her, as great material for her blog, but also to inspire her creative writing.  Now that’s someone definitely making lemonade, or in this case inspiration, out of a terrible situation.

Look around! 

Observe!

Record!

Inspiration truly can come from anywhere, anytime and from anyone.  Be open to inspiration.

May 31, 2011

Bookdaily.com

Arts Blogs - Blog Top Sites Bookmark and Share BookDaily.com is pleased to announce that Jacqueline McMahon will be featured on the popular book sampling site – joining the ranks of the most famous authors in the world. As a featured author, the first chapters of McMahon’s books are now available to thousands of readers to sample – free of charge. At BookDaily, book fans can browse, search and read first chapters from a selection of more than 80,000 titles. McMahon is currently promoting When Love Won’t Die, a suspense novel about what can happen when your past catches up with you.Visit McMahon’s  website at https://dramaquill.wordpress.com and their BookDaily page as well http://www.bookdaily.com/userprofile/authorprofile Like many other authors, McMahon is making use of the quick and easy tools BookDaily offers for writers to market their books. Launched in May 2009, BookDaily has rapidly become the leading source of book samples by email. More than 10 million sample chapters have been distributed through BookDaily.com and through the site’s email subscriptions.  The site is a division of ArcaMax Publishing, the leader in consumer news and entertainment by email. Jacqueline McMahon  jacqueline@tbaytel.net

May 26, 2011

When Love Won’t Die

  Arts Blogs - Blog Top Sites


Bookmark and Share

Just found a new site that’s selling my ebook.  Thanks for Red Rose Publishing for continuing to help promote their authors and books online. 

When Love Won’t Die.

April 18, 2011

How writing plays helps me write better dialogue

 
Arts Blogs - Blog Top Sites


Bookmark and Share

I’ve been writing plays for kids and teens to perform for about fifteen years now.  Usually, in a typical school year, I write between six and eight new one act playscripts. 

The most enjoyable aspect of being a playwright for a drama department is that not only do I get to write plays and then within a couple of months, see them come to life on the stage, but I also get to work with a wide variety of individuals between the ages of four and eighteen.

Being around such a diverse age group offers up a variety of personalities and also allows me to observe children at so many different stages of development.  Watching the children use their imaginations to create the many types of characters found within my plays inspires me to continue to find new ways to allow them to develop and grow their own creativity.

If one considers that plays are basically made up of dialogue coupled with physical actions performed by different characters, it’s no wonder I can hear the voices of my novel characters speaking as if they were indeed real people.  I attribute this ability to write dialogue that sounds like real people to my playwriting.  Without characters delivering believable dialogue, a play is doomed.  But that goes without saying for novels and short stories, too.

How do I approach writing dialogue?

I also listen to real individuals and try to find something unique about the way they speak.  I’m sure you have friends and colleagues that are known for certain expressions or ways of saying something that immediately differentiates them from others that you know.

I try to hear my characters speaking as real people when I’m writing their dialogue.  What is that particular character’s distinct way of speaking?

Some of the things I’ve found are:

  • expressions/slang
  • sentence length
  • level of intelligence and word usage
  • speed of delivery
  • body language/animated movements
  • an accent
  • specific words that they use frequently
  • vocal tone

Sometimes, I even start developing a new character by writing a sort of monologue first, in that character’s voice.  For example, when I created my villain in my first suspense novel, I wrote an opening speech (BTW, this was an exercise only and never actually made it into the book) letting him vent about his situation.  Just listening to him in my head helped me see a physical being whose details only began to take shape after I’d written this monologue in his voice.

Do you have to write plays to write good dialogue?

NO – of course not!

But it my case, it certainly helped me become a more observant listener and it definitely strengthened my ability to write dialogue.

If you don’t have access to a lot of different people, go and sit in a coffee shop with a newspaper and just listen to the conversations of the people around you or head to the mall’s food court to have a listen. 

Remember – real people rarely worry about speaking in gramatically correct sentences.

March 22, 2011

Finding your author’s voice

  Arts Blogs - Blog Top Sites


Bookmark and Share

I belong to a wonderful online critique group.  From time to time, our group engages in workshops as a way to share information, ask and answer questions, and apply what we’ve learned to our writing.

Recently, thanks to one member’s suggestion, we decided to embark on a week-long discovery of author’s voice.  What is it?  How do you find it?

At first, because none of us felt that we were experts on this subject, we wondered if we would be able to teach ourselves anything of value.  As it turned out, we all discovered ways to find our unique voice and make our writing stand out as our own.

What is your voice?

The easiest way for me to explain it is this:  you write like you speak.

If I call someone I know on the phone and start talking to them, they immediately know it’s me.  If I’m having lunch with friends, I’m certain that if you asked them, they would be able to tell you things about the way I communicate that makes me different from each of them.

We all have our own unique personality and if we can find a way to bring that out in everything we write, then we are well on our way to constructing our own unique voice.

In our workshop, we first gathered bits of writing from different authors and discussed what made each example’s own voice unqiue.  For some, it was the way the author used description.  For others, it was the way the POV shaped characters that jumped off the page as real, three dimensional beings. 

We also discovered that finding the right genre definitely contributed to stronger voice.  If you’re not comfortable writing YA romance novels, perhaps it’s because your unique voice isn’t a good match to that genre.  Maybe you’re more suited to adult suspense or MG adventure.

So how do you know which genre(s) to try?

Read…read…read.

Read authors you love but also try new ones.  Try genres you haven’t read before.  You need to find a real connection to what excites you as a reader so that you can translate that into your author’s voice as a writer.

With so much competition to find a publisher and/or a literary agent, writers must present their absolute best writing every time they submit.  If you feel you’ve done that and you’re still getting rejection after rejection, perhaps you haven’t quite nailed your author’s voice yet.  Many blogs and online articles say that a great portion of their rejections do in fact stem from writing that just doesn’t have a stand-out voice.

Once we had discussed the examples of other writers, members of our group look at their own writing, picking something that they felt lacked that “unique” quality and rewriting it with voice in mind.  In was amazing to see the new results.  Writing that was fine became writing that jumped off the page.  Characters that were bland embodied new life.  Everyone’s writing definitely improved.

We also made some self-discoveries along the way.  Some of us really figured out our ideal genre.  Others unveiled new ways to use POV as a way to develop a more unique voice.   We also found situations where expanding the original brought more voice into it and other situations where cutting certain words and phrases actually brought the voice out better.

We all learned how to make our characters’ voices better and get “inside their heads” on a deeper level.

No one can give you a list of magic steps that will result in finding your own author’s voice but through reading, writing, comparing and learning from others, you will become more aware of how and what you write.

March 16, 2011

Author interviews & online press releases

  Arts Blogs - Blog Top Sites


Bookmark and Share

Another great way to promote your book is to promote yourself as an author.  There are always ezines and websites looking to interview new authors.  Link these pages to your Facebook page or your website to actively drive more possible readers in the direction of your book(s).

Also, take advantage of FREE press releases online to announce your new book(s) or any events, like speaking engagements, booksignings etc.

http://www.sellingbooks.com/jacqueline-mcmahon-when-love-wont-die
by Cathy B. Stucker

http://www.writersmanual.com/show.php?id=2&uid=1018
sister site to Writers Gazette and eBooksCafe

http://www.wireservice.ca/index.php?module=News&func=display&sid=3871

http://yewalus.blogspot.com/2011/02/books-that-are-out-there-romantic.html

Are you doing everything you can to promote yourself and your books?

February 13, 2011

Sellingbooks.com: Great promotional tool for writers

  Arts Blogs - Blog Top Sites


Bookmark and Share

Writers are always looking for resources, whether it be for some aspect of the writing craft or for promotion and marketing tools.  FREE promotion and marketing definitely fits into everyone’s budget and this author was lucky to find such an opportunity at sellingbooks.com.

Run by Cathy Stucker, this website contains articles on everything from agents to writer’s block.  Many contributors provide the content and although no monetary fees are paid to contributing writers, links to their websites can be provided on all articles submitted.

Any author with a published book can contact Cathy for information on being interviewed.  That’s exactly what I did and my interview is now up on the site at the following link:

http://www.sellingbooks.com/jacqueline-mcmahon-when-love-wont-die

I hope you’ll find time to read it and find out more about my suspense novel, When Love Won’t Die.”

Please let me know if you end up using this resource and provide the link to your interview and I’ll be sure to post it here.

January 16, 2011

Promote your book on to the Best Sellers List

 Arts Blogs - Blog Top Sites


Bookmark and Share

Every writer today knows that writing the book and getting it published is only half the battle.  Much of the marketing and promotion is also left up to the writer and with all the tools on the internet, you CAN get the word out and if you’re lucky, maybe even end up on the BEST SELLERS list.

I did just that with my suspense novel, “When Love Won’t Die”.

Some of the things that I did:

1.      Held a booksigning at a branch of my local library  
         (In the future I’ll post some great ideas on how to attract people to your booksigning)

2.      Created pages on social networks like Facebook
          http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/pages/Jacqueline-McMahons-Writing/115755788486062

3.      Joined other sites like Twitter, Linkedin, and Jacketflap and get socializing with other
          writers, publishers, editors, agents etc.

4.      Used FREE press release sites to promote your book online

5.      Sent out press releases to all the media where you live (radio/newspaper/TV)

6.      Got reviews from those who have read it and have them posted online
          (I’ve got some at Amazon.com and Facebook already and also from a couple of
            book reviewers)

7.      Created a website

8.      Made postcards of the book’s cover and on the back put the following info:
          *    name
          *    website/book’s website
          *    where to purchase
          *    an enticing excerpt

9.      Got interviewed in a local arts magazine
          (You can also try getting press with local papers, TV and radio stations, plus online
           ezines and blogs)

10.     Joined online writers’ groups where to mingle, learn and promote

Keep promoting whenever you see an opportunity to network, but also, don’t forget to reciprocate by reading other writers’  books and offering reviews/comments on their blogs and sites.

December 20, 2010

Book Reviews help authors promote

It’s been exciting getting feedback on my novel, “When Love Won’t Die”, from those who’ve purchased it and read it.  Today, I got a google alert and to my surprise, The Pen and Muse Book Reviews posted an amazing review of my book on their site.

Here’s the link:  http://networkedblogs.com/bMYZu

Here’s an excerpt of what reviewer, Tammy Elizabeth Southin, had to say about my writing:

“McMahon’s writing successfully captures the trauma women in abusive relationships must deal with and the emotional scars that are carried for life. For readers who wonder how the Eleanors of the world cope, McMahon provides a strong narrative that avoids hysterics and focuses on the individual with compassion and understanding. To the women who have been there, no explanation is necessary; for the women who have not, no explanation can be given.”

It’s reviews like this that help an author sell more copies of their book.  My publisher submitted my book to several review sites but it’s also up to the author, yes that means me, to also seek out reviewers and get as many reviews as possible if I want to really sell a lot of copies of my book. 

Don’t know where to start?

Check out these sites:

http://www.ebookcrossroads.com/book-reviewers.html

http://www.midwestbookreview.com/links/othr_rev.htm

http://www.topbookreviewers.com/authors/author_info

Remember that as an author, your job doesn’t end when you finish the book.  Now it’s time for promotion and marketing.

Soon I’ll be posting a “how to” for hosting a book signing, another great promotional tool for authors.

What are you doing to get the word out about your book?

November 19, 2010

Press Release

Arts Blogs - Blog Top Sites


Bookmark and Share
 

What’s the best way to get the word out about your newly released book? 

How about a press release?

Just google the words “press release” and you’ll find lots of articles, “how-tos” and information about writing and sending a press release.   Below is a copy of my press release for my first published novel, “When Love Won’t Die.”

 

LOCAL Author signs first book deal

Thunder Bay author and entrepreneur, Jacqueline McMahon, signed her first book deal with mid-size U.S. publisher, Red Rose Publishing, earlier this year. Her anticipated suspense novel, “When Love Won’t Die”, was released in e-book form on September 23, 2010. Once one hundred copies of the e-book version are sold, McMahon’s book will be available in print paperback form as well.

There will be a book signing event on Monday, November 29, 2010 from 6:30-8:30 at the Brodie St. Library. Guests can meet the author, buy autographed copies of the e-book, enter prize draws and enjoy a short reading. Cake and refreshments will be served.

“When Love Won’t Die” is the first of several suspense novels McMahon plans to write. Currently, she’s working on the sequel as well as penning another novel in the same genre. All of her novels are set in northwestern Ontario, a backdrop that Jacqueline believes serves the genre well and one that, to her knowledge, has not been used in suspense fiction until now.

McMahon is not new to the publishing world and has successfully submitted articles on different aspects of the writing craft to ezines, websites and print publications. She also dabbled, quite successfully, in the kidlit genre, writing numerous children’s poems for many mainstream markets. Most recently she has been published in two of Writer’s Digest’s Market books (Screenwriter’s and Playwright’s Markets 2009 and 2010) and Hopscotch for Girls Magazine (June 2009 issue and December 2009 issue).

To purchase her novel, “When Love Won’t Die,” online, download it directly onto your computer, phone or e-book reader by visiting any one of the following sites:

http://www.amazon.com/When-Love-Wont-Die-ebook/dp/B004AYD6YE/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1289249395&sr=1-3

http://www.bookstrand.com/when-love-wont-die

http://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-whenlovewontdie-480604-149.html

http://redrosepublishing.com/books/product_info.php?products_id=649

The e-book is available in many different formats including PDF, HTML, Kindle, Kindle for PC (free download) and zip file. Copies on CDR can be purchased directly from Jacqueline and autographed for gifts.

So now that it’s written, what am I going to do with it?

I’ve submitted my press release to all my local newspapers, radio and TV stations, independant magazines, my alma mater alumni association and online through my social networks.  So far, I have an upcoming interview in our local arts and culture magazine, “The Walleye” and hope to garner other opportunities to promote my book signing and my book with responses to my press release.

I’ll keep you posted.

Remember, it’s up to you, the author, to market your work and get the word out if you want to sell lots of copies of your book.

October 25, 2010

When Love Won’t Die Reviews

Arts Blogs - Blog Top Sites


Bookmark and Share

The ebook version of my suspense novel, “When Love Won’t Die”, has been out for about three weeks now and the reviews are starting to come in.  I’m thrilled to say that so far, it’s been two thumbs up from everyone who’s read the book. 

Here are a few quotes:

Sandy Carlson (novel writer and columnist from Michigan)
McMahon makes her characters seem so real and alive, I seriously recommend that this gripping story not be read after dark.

Cyndy Fairbrother (avid novel reader from Saskachewan)
I’ve probably read over five hundred books, and I only remember the good stories. I’ll remember When Love Won’t Die!

Erin-Brie Warwick (Warwick Life Strategies – Winnipeg)
The book is fantastic!! I’m about 1/3 of the way through…probably won’t sleep well tonight though haha.

Alison Gigliotti (avid reader of ebooks – Thunder Bay)
BTW wicked good score on the cover. I have bought many many ebooks and I gotta say, some of the covers are horrendous.

As an author, it’s definitely encouraging to read comments like these and know that what you have written has been well received by those who have purchased the ebook. 

But what if you haven’t published a book?  How can you get feedback?  Do you trust the opinions of your family and friends?

Do like I did:

  • Join a writing group in the city where you live
  • Join a critique group (either online or in person) where you can get constructive
    feedback
  • Attend writing conferences
  • Read books in the same genre as what you are writing
  • Learn everything you can about the publishing business
  • Research publishers that you feel have the right fit for your book by studying their submission guidelines and reading books they’ve published
  • Make sure the manuscript you are submitting is nothing short of your very best writing

Now…on to plan the booksigning.  I’ll post info. on the event when I’ve nailed down all the details.

And don’t forget – getting the book out is just the first step.  Now it’s up to you to seek out marketing opportunities and sell those copies.

October 11, 2010

When Love Won’t Die – my suspense novel is published!

Arts Blogs - Blog Top Sites


Bookmark and Share

As many of you know, I signed a contract back in February for my first suspense novel and after months of editing and revising, it’s finally available for purchase.

My novel, “When Love Won’t Die”, is currently in e-book form and available from Red Rose Publishing at this link: 
http://redrosepublishing.com/books/product_info.php?products_id=649

In a month or so, it will also be available from Amazon.com, on Kindle, Mobipocket and other e-reader formats.

For every writer out there who never thought it could happen to them I say, “Never Give Up”!

It took nearly three years of edits and revisions from critique groups, a professional author and finally, my amazing editors at RRP to see this project through to its completed form, but it was all worth it.

I’m currently working on two other suspense novels and hope to have them both published when the time is right.  First, I need to complete both of them and then get some critiques.

Never send anything out until you know it’s your very best writing.  Be tenacious and never give up.  Hard work truly does pay off.

I’ve also guest blogged about the entire process at Warwick Life Strategies:
http://www.warwicklifestrategies.com/long-haul

***If you need a jump-start to your novel, why not try Nanowrimo this November?
http://www.nanowrimo.org/

Become a fan of Jacqueline McMahon’s writing on Facebook at:
http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=894970174&v=wall&ref=notif&notif_t=share_wall_create#!/pages/Jacqueline-McMahons-Writing/115755788486062

August 24, 2010

Short on cash? FREE online writing courses.

 Arts Blogs - Blog Top Sites


Bookmark and Share

Do you want to try your hand at writing and don’t know how to start?

Are you finding it hard to justify paying for a writing program until you see whether or not writing is really something you want to do?

Have you written a rough draft of a book or screenplay and want to know if you’re on the right track?

Here are some FREE online writing courses that may help those who are struggling to decide whether or not they want to pursue a career in writing.   This is just a list and none of the courses are endorsed by me nor do I have any relationships to any of the websites/teachers/programs etc.

Check them out – you never know what you might learn.

 http://storymind.com/channels/writerschannel/
Each lesson is in streaming video & audio.

http://www.lifewrite.com/html/class.htm
Free screenwriting course taught by a former UCLA professor

http://education-portal.com/articles/10_Universities_Offering_Free_Writing_Courses_Online.html
Free online writing courses from 10 different universities

http://www.collegedegree.com/library/college-life/50-Open-courseware-writing-classes
50+ free online writing courses (mostly MIT)

These sites seem to be a good place to start and also actually have free lessons.  Many search results lead to sites that don’t so hopefully you’ll find something of interest here.

Another amazing online resource is free articles.  They can be found absolutely everywhere.  Google your genre and you’ll find blogs and websites filled with free information and advice, much of it from professionals already successful in the writing biz.

So if you don’t have the money to take writing classes, don’t let that stop you from following your muse into the world of writing.

« Previous PageNext Page »

Blog at WordPress.com.