Dramaquill's All Things Writing

February 10, 2015

Who is your favorite suspense novelist?

Part of learning to write well is reading good books by successful authors in your genre.

Here’s a list of some of the top writers who create suspense to keep you flipping pages well into the night.  Who’s your favorite?

Mary Higgins Clark     http://www.maryhigginsclark.com/

Nora Roberts  http://www.noraroberts.com/

Dean R Koontz  http://www.deankoontz.com/

Stephen King  http://stephenking.com/

James Patterson  http://www.jamespatterson.com/

November 29, 2013

Writers – What Are You Thankful For?

Filed under: Writing — dramaquill @ 11:40 AM
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Yesterday was Thanksgiving in the United States. That got me to thinking. As a writer, what am I thankful for?

1. The internet
It no longer matters where you live. You can write from
anywhere and be connected to publishers, editors,
agents, critique groups, book clubs, ezines…anything you
need.

2. A computer
Although I do love writing with pen and notebook, being
able to create my documents on a computer and email
them, rather than print and mail them, is not only handy
but also saves me money.

3. Brick and Mortar Book stores
As much as the world seems to moving into a more
digital direction, nothing is more of an indulgence than
wandering through a store with shelves brimming with
books of all kinds.  Book stores are definitely one of my
guilty pleasures.

4. My Day Job
Yes, I’ve been known to complain that I don’t always have
enough time to write my books because I have to go to
work, but I’m also very lucky because part of what I do
in my job is writing (playscripts & business correspondence).

5. My Followers
Being online can sometimes feel very impersonal and
blog posts can seemingly be lost out in cyberspace
somewhere. How thankful I am for my blog follwers.
Some comment. Some contact me. Some simply read
my posts. But…I know you’re out there and that keeps
me motivated to keep blogging.

Writers – What are you thankful for?

September 17, 2013

Writer’s Block Tip

Filed under: Writing — dramaquill @ 2:30 PM
Tags: , , , ,

No doubt every writer has, at one time or another, suffered from a bout of writer’s block.  

Empty page…cursor blinking…
White notebook page…pen in hand…

…and nothing!

The crisp fall air reminds me that there’s inspiration everywhere.  

For example, what did you do all summer?  Did you have company come and visit?  Did you go on a trip somewhere?  Were there special occasions to celebrate?  Did you meet new people or reconnect with those you hadn’t seen for a long time?

Fall is the perfect time to use something from summer as an inspiration to begin writing something new.

Or…just look out the window at the beautiful colours and the people buzzing around with their hectic schedules and let one of the scenarios unlock your creativity.

What’s your best tip for getting past writer’s block?

June 10, 2008

Pros and Cons of Critique Groups

Being a writer can be a very lonely profession. For some, this isolation becomes a real deterrent; preventing them from achieving any real kind of success.  Critique groups

provide a wonderful lifeline, especially for the newer writer.  But what exactly is a

critique group?

 

Before the internet, critique groups consisted of individuals living in similar geographic locations who desired to connect with others for support, networking and feedback.  Geographically, the internet has opened the door for writers from all around the globe. Online critique groups enjoy membership from a wide variety of places.

 

When making the decision to join a critique group, whether online or in your local community, writers should consider the following in their research:

 

1.  What do you want to get out of belonging to the group?

 

2.  How much time will participation take?

 

3.  What are the goals of the group?

 

4.  Is the group genre-specific or general writing?  (Know which you’re looking for

     when investigating potential critique groups.)

 

5.  How big is the group?  (More than 10 participants is often too large a group.)

 

Obviously newer writers can receive great benefits from participation, but many seasoned professionals consider critique groups a continuously useful tool as they prepare and submit manuscripts.

 

As with anything, there are always pros and cons. Let’s take a look at these as they apply to critique groups.

 

PROS:

 

1.  Receive feedback on everything from grammar and style to character, plot, tone, 

     POV and much more.  Critique groups are a great place to test out new works and

     first drafts as well as fine tuning a manuscript before sending it out.

   

2.  Provides a place for encouragement and interaction with other writers. 

   

3.  Critiquing the work of others is a great way to become a better editor of your own

     work.

 

4.   Writers are exposed to each other’s styles and unique voices.

 

5.  Although the critiques are the focus of the group, network opportunities also exist

    in everything from leads on contests to information about publishers and agents as

    well as wisdom from those with experience in different areas of the business.

   

6.  The submission deadline, usually once per week, is often the nudge many writers

     need to continue to produce new work or stay with a longer project (like a novel).

 

7.  Writers can easily miss small errors in their editing but the critique group offers

     several pairs of eyes who can spot these mistakes.

 

Critique groups, then, can be a great place to test out new works or give final drafts one last tweak before sending them out.

 

CONS:

 

1.  Is it safe to show your work to strangers?  (Although this can be of concern, the

     many writers surveyed for this post agree that critique groups are quite safe.)

    

2.  Harsh critiques can be discouraging.  (Remember, you must decide if the

     criticism is constructive and whether or not you choose to use the advice given is

    is always up to you.)

 

3.  The time it takes to critique the work of others can become time away from your

     own writing.           

 

It is apparent that the pros definitely outweigh the cons when it comes to critique groups.

Do your research.  Before you join any group, make sure that they meet your needs so that belonging to a critique group can be a helpful tool in your ongoing quest to become a better writer. 

March 27, 2008

The Power of Chocolate

With Easter just behind us and several chocolate eggs still sitting on my counter, I am reminded of the many comments I’ve read over the years on writers’ forums and listserves.

A writer posts the sad news of yet another rejection.  His/her fellow writers chime in with supportive comments and one common suggestion:   Eat some chocolate.

Another writer posts the jubilant news of an acceptance or even better, a payment from a publication.  His/her fellow writers chime in with congratulatory comments and one common suggestion:  Eat some chocolate.

As I stare at a small pile of brightly wrapped chocolate eggs, I begin to wonder why chocolate seems to be the treat of choice, whether it’s to console the rejected writer or help the published writer celebrate a success. 

What exactly is the power of chocolate?

One site online suggests that chocolate effects the same parts of the human brain as marijuana, however, it would likely take 25 lbs. of the yummy confection to create the same buzz as smoking one joint.

Another website tells of a study where the results suggested eating chocolate might actually enhance cognitive performance, including verbal and visual memory.

And I’m sure we’ve all heard that dark chocolate, in small doses (like the equivalent of 2 Hershey kisses/day) is actually good for our hearts.

There are even studies debating the positive and negative effects of chocolate on our moods. 

But as writers, does any of this apply to our reasons for eating chocolate as we are subjected to the ups and downs of the writing biz?
I don’t think so!

The power of chocolate is that it makes us feel good – at least temporarily. 

Now put down that chocolate easter egg and get back to the business of writing.

March 4, 2008

Sidetracked

It’s happened to all writers at one time or another, from the newbie to the seasoned author.  You’re working away at your latest project and bam…life hits you with circumstances that won’t be ignored.

So what about your writing?

Well, if you’ve got a deadline and it’s looming close, don’t disappoint your editor by missing it.  If at all possible, get the assignment finished.  However, if the circumstances won’t allow it, then contact your editor immediately and explain the situation.  But…don’t make this a habit.  If life is always getting in the way of your deadlines, your career will be short lived.

But what if it’s not anything monumental?  What if it’s just life getting in the way?

That’s what I call getting sidetracked.

Sometimes we all get busy…too busy.  Sometimes life throws us a monkey wrench (overtime at work/visiting relatives/not enough sleep) but if we really want to be taken seriously as writers, we have to find ways to keep on track no matter what comes our way.

This past week I’ve been at a music festival with several of the singers from our studio.  Most days I had to be there from early morning until around nine in the evening.  I knew this would be a challenge as far as keeping on track with my writing.

Here are a few things I did to help get through this “crunch” time.  Maybe some of them are tools you already use or maybe they’ll give you some new ideas.

1.     Try to work ahead on a project since you know you won’t have
        much time for a few days.  (I wrote a new chapter for my novel
        revision two days before my schedule got crazy.)

2.     Take a notebook with you and jot down ideas or write even a
        paragraph or two whenever you get even a short break. (I did
        this instead of socializing on the breaks.)

3.     Force yourself to get up even 30 minutes earlier and use that
        time to write or revise.

4.     Stay up 30 minutes later and promise yourself to accomplish
        something before you head to bed (This is tough if you’re really
        tired so for many, early mornings work best.)

5.     Whenever you’re driving, use a portable recording device to keep
         track of any thoughts about your project, or keep a what to do
         list of things for the next day.

6.     Eat well and get enough rest so that you stay healthy.  Also, if you
        are sleep deprived, it’s much harder to be creative.

7.      Know that this glitch in your regular writing routine won’t last
         forever and make plans to work a little harder/longer as soon as
         you can.

8.     Don’t get discouraged if you have abandoned your project for a
        few days.  Get back on track as soon as you can.

Life can be full of sidetracks.  Don’t let your writing take a backseat to all of them.  Know when you really have no choice and when you just have to be flexible and adjust your schedule.

When our performing arts students begin preparing for an audition or a performance, I always ask them, “How badly do you want it?” whenever they get sidetracked.

You say you’re a writer?

How badly do you want it?

February 5, 2008

Howdy y’all – Developing a character

I’s a takin’ a break from writin’ a hillbilly play fer our drama class.  Ifn I’s a talkin’ funny, it’s a cuz I’s bin a writin’ in hillbilly speak fer daze an’ daze.

All kidding aside, using a dialect can add a whole new flavor to a character but writing it can be a tough job.  I spent a lot of time researching hillbilly expressions, names, activities and anything else I could find before tackling this type of character.

But, due to the success of last year’s hillbilly play, and the way the class responds to the silly humor and antics of hillbillies, it was time to write a sequel of sorts. 

As a reader, I’m not always excited to read a character who speaks with some unique dialect.  I can imagine that I’m not the only one who finds this type of read slower than if the character didn’t speak in such a way.

The neat part about writing a play that utilizes characters who speak in dialect is that it’s not a “sit-down” read at all.  Yes, I have to read through the dialogue to make sure the characters have their own personalities and of course when I’m checking for typos etc.  But the fun part is listening to the students as they begin to master the hillbilly dialect.  And of course, the finished product is always a crowd pleaser once the audience gets to come and watch.

So how do you feel about dialects as a writer?  Ever try a character like that?

How about as a reader?  Do you prefer to read straight English without the flavor of dialect?

No matter what you do as a writer, just remember that in order to create believable, 3 dimensional characters, they must possess qualities that remind the reader of real people.  Whether it’s an expression they use, or mannerisms they possess, or a personality trait that always seems to get them in trouble, make sure your characters come alive on the page.

January 29, 2008

Is blogging really writing?

Blogs have become the latest craze on the internet.  People in all walks of life can create their own space online and post anything they are thinking about or want to share.

Some people use blogs as a way of communicating with friends and family.  Others use blogs as a means of self expression.  Still others blog in order to make new friends, acquaintances and maybe even find a romance.

So is that writing? 

Well, I’m not going to answer that – I’ll leave it up to you.

Instead, what I’ll say is that the blog has become a useful tool for writers of all kinds, from those published and highly successful (J.K.Rowling has a blog, for example) to those looking to get attention and maybe even possible representation.

One of the writers in one of my critique groups got asked to send a partial to an agent because of her blog.  (So a word to the wise – remember that whatever you say in your blog, it can be read by anyone.)

A lot of reputable writers have blogs and post everything from their ezines to markets, jobs, contests, articles, links and the latest news from the writing world.  And some of these bloggers have a fantastic following.

So is blogging really writing?

I guess I will answer my own question after all.  Of course it is. 

Is it professional writing?

You be the judge!

January 21, 2008

Does SAD affect your writing?

Filed under: Creative writing,Writing — dramaquill @ 6:12 PM
Tags: , , , ,

I live in Northwestern Ontario, Canada and we’re right in the throws of winter as I write today’s blog post.  We’ve been lucky not to have had too cold of a winter for the most part but right now we’re back in the deep freeze again.  The sound of the furnace fan starting up reminds me how nice and warm it is here in my office.  Did I mention it’s a windowless office?

 But with winter comes what I refer to as:  The season of perpetual darkness.  With sunrise at approximately 8:40 a.m. and sunset at 5:40, I’m feeling the results of SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder.  And believe it or not, our days are actually getting longer now.  On the shortest day of the year the sun isn’t up until about 8:50 and sets before 5:00.  Many get up in the dark and come home in the dark and if they work in an office cubicle without any windows, it is likely they could be feeling signs of fatigue and SAD.

As a writer, I don’t really keep the most consistent of schedules when it comes to sleeping and getting up, so I can’t blame SAD on my sleep patterns, although for many, having to wake up in the dark can cause signifigant fatigue during winter months.

Another symptom associated with SAD is craving more carbohydrates.  With fresh produce harder to get in the winter, it’s no wonder those of us who sit at a computer for several hours a day don’t feel as energetic in the winter. 

So one would think that this energy zapping SAD would turn a writer’s mind to mush.  For me, it’s the opposite.  When it’s cold and dark out I find that the perfect time to hole up in my little office and write, revise and research, my steaming cup of coffee or cocoa by my side. 

Maybe it’s because I live in a place where it’s winter for at least 5 months out of the year.  I know that when it’s light out in the evening, I’d much rather be outside than sitting at the computer.  When temperatures start to get warm, I’d much rather feel the sun on my skin and smell the fresh air than sit at my desk.

So I guess that even with the fatigue of SAD playing at least some part on my energy level in winter, I still find time and inspiration to work on my writing a lot. 

What about you? 

If you aren’t feeling very productive and you’re energy levels are zapped, perhaps you need to do some research on SAD.  There are different therapies associated with relieving the symptoms, one of the most popular being light therapy.

So if you’re finding yourself hibernating under the covers in front of the TV and not producing much on your writing projects, check out some of the links below.  May SAD is the cause.

http://www.cfs-recovery.org/seaonal_affective_disorder.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seasonal_affective_disorder

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seasonal_affective_disorder

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seasonal_affective_disorder

http://www.ncpamd.com/seasonal.htm

December 27, 2007

How do the holidays alter your writing habits?

Usually all the prequel to Christmas (the shopping, baking, wrapping, socializing) are my excuses, or should I say reasons, for not doing as much writing as I’d like.  But the past couple of years I found lots of ways to make sure I found time to create.  Here are a few ideas for you:

 1.    Take a notebook with you when you shop and make sure to use
        a cart.  That way, while you are in line, you can jot down neat
        snippets of conversation, excellent character descriptions and
        ideas for new stories.

2.     Plan a coffee break during your shopping trip and while you sip
        a hot cup of cocoa or a mocha latte, write down a description of
        the coffee shop, what you are tasting, seeing, hearing…anything.

3.     Use a portable tape recorder and record ideas that come to you
        while you wrap presents.  Maybe one of the items, or the person
        to whom it will be given to may inspire an article or a story.

4.    I have an excellent memory for detail so when I attend a party or
       social event, I replay it the next day and jot down interesting
       conversations or characters from the night before.

5.   When baking cookies, cut out all the shapes at once and then, while
       each batch bakes, work on revising a chapter of your novel or
       make a list of good ideas for Christmas articles that you can sub
       out for next year’s magazine deadlines.

6.    Give up one TV program (60 minute length is best) and use it to
        write on one of your current projects.

7.     Plan to browse in a bookstore for gift ideas and while you’re there,
        check out the writing section.

Get creative!

I’m sure you can figure out lots of your own ways to steal some writing time over the busy holiday season.

And at the very least, make a new year’s resolution to write everyday…even if it’s only for 10-15 minutes.

Of course, I don’t have to tell you all this.  Anyone hooked on writing can’t go a day without doing it. 

Stephen King writes everyday. Do you?

December 7, 2007

My favorite online writing resources

Do you ever get so involved in what you’re writing that even the smallest interruption, like having to get up from your desk and walk over to a bookshelf to grab a dictionary frustrates you?

If you’re like me, when you’re in that zone, you don’t want to break your creative flow and moving away from your keyboard isn’t an option. 

So do you pile your desk with every resource book you own, just in chttp://www.urbandictionary.com/ase you might need one of them?  Well, I couldn’t because I’d be buried under the pile. 

Thanks to the internet, writers can find literally anything they need at their fingertips and I’ve collected a few sites that I really can’t live without when I’m writing.  Many of you may already use these tools but for those who haven’t discovered them yet, here’s a list of my most-used favorites:

http://www.dictionary.com
An online dictionary that’s so easy to use.  Just type in the word you want to look up (I use this most to double check spelling) and get your options. 

http://www.thesaurus.com
Partnered with dictionary.com, this is my other most favorite online resource.

http://www.rhymezone.com
Since I dabble in kidlit rhyming PBs, this site is always one I turn to when my story sends me to words that are more difficult to rhyme.  But I do have one piece of sage advice for all rhymers:  Don’t end a line with orange.  No amount of resources will find you anything to rhyme with that word.

http://www.urbandictionary.com/
Now this is one resource not everybody will find a need for but if you’re writing a streetwise character, it’s worth the look.  Don’t make the mistake of using “out of date” expressions.

http://www.verlakay.com/boards/index.php
This is one of the best places online for writers of kidlit to chat, ask questions and get the latest info.  Often visited by editors, agents and professional writers in the genre.

http://www.plagiarismchecker.com/help-authors.php
This one is great for writing teachers (and all teachers who have students write papers) but also for authors.  Ever wondered if something you wrote sounds too familiar.  This is the place to check it out.

http://www.onelook.com/reverse-dictionary.shtml
This is a neat site to use when you’re on a roll, writing away and suddenly, you can’t think of the right word to use.  Type in a concept or a definition and get the word choices.

http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/default.aspx
There are lots of good grammar sites online and I’m sure you all have your favorites.  If you’re looking for something a little different, try Grammar Girl.

http://anotherealm.com/prededitors/
I think this site is the most useful of all my links.  Before submitting anything, check out the information at this site.  Don’t let yourself get sucked into a vanity publisher or a publication known for not paying writers.  Check out a wide variety of topics from Agents to Publishers to Resources to Submissions.  Also a section on Warnings that is very useful.

Now these are only a handful of my favorites.  Care to share any of your links with the readers? 

November 27, 2007

Critique Groups: Every writer should belong to at least one

Where I live, there aren’t a lot of opportunities to gather together with other writers.  There is a group that meets at our local library, however, due to the nature of my business, I cannot make the meetings. 

I used to think I was alone – isolated in a place geographically removed from the big city life of the publishing business. 

But with the internet, I’m only a click away from connecting with writers all over the world, in any genre, and at every level from raw beginner to professionally published.

It’s easy to get tunnel vision when you’re a writer.  Of course everything you write is good – you wrote it.  And yes, for the most part, we writers do realize our first drafts aren’t polished enough to sub out so we accept the task of revising.

But…we only have our own close relationship with our ideas, words, characters and scenerios from which to draw.  Every writer needs feedback from fresh eyes.

Relatives, friends, neighbors and co-workers may want to read your prose, but often their feedback isn’t entirely honest.  Either they love everything you do (and who wouldn’t find that encouraging, right?) or they suggest, based on a complete lack of any knowledge of the writing world, what they think you should do to improve your manuscript.  Although at times their perspectives can be helpful, more often you need to connect with other writers.

So naturally, as a writer, you consider joining a critique group.  There are those groups that meet face to face and those that meet online.  I’m sure I could start a healthy debate on which of the two are the better scenerio but instead I think I’ll leave that up to the individual writer. 

Personally, I’ve gone the online route, out of necessity, and find it to be a wonderful forum.  I think it could be easier to be totally honest when critiquing the writing of a fellow critique group member when you aren’t sitting, looking into their disappointed face as you endeavour to offer your suggestions, changes and heaven forbid, criticisms.

I’ve been extremely lucky to find two very diverse critique groups, one for my kidlit rhyming PBs and the other for my novels. 

My rhyming group, originally posted on MSN, has gone private and contains 10 members, several of whom have belonged to the group now for many years.  Every single person in this rhyming crit group has seen at least one of their pieces published in a paying market.  A couple have broken into the PB market although most have had more success with shorter rhyming pieces published in magazines.  Nonetheless, the level of writing in each individual has grown and matured.  We’re friends on one level, co-workers on another, and brutally honest critiquers when necessary. 

My prose critique group formed through a now defunct writing site.  We migrated away from the site and the same six writers have been together for several years now.  We have developed close, online friendships.  One of our group has an MG novel coming out in 2008 and it’s an amazing fantasy that will easily compete with some of the most sold and read rivals in this genre.  Others in the group have been paid for articles and illustrations.  Several have had requests from agents for full manuscripts and are waiting for representation. 

Without them, my suspense thriller novel wouldn’t be where it is today. 

The writers in both of these groups represent a cross section of business knowledge, writing styles, and the opinions of those readers we hope to snag into buying our books for years to come.

If you want a shot at getting published, do these things:

1.   Familiarize yourself with the markets and the publishing biz.

2.   Write your best work and don’t be satisfied with anything less.

3.   Join a critique group and let them give your manuscript the
      onceover.

4.  Attend writing workshops whenever possible.

5.  Use the internet to network with other writers, editors, agents,
     and publishers on the many forums available.

6.  And most important of all…never ever give up!

November 26, 2007

What do you do when?

Drat!  As luck would have it, just when I was finding a real rhythm to surge ahead with my Nano novel, I got sick.  Having spent the past few days fighting a fever and eventually succumbing to much needed bed rest, I have missed three days of writing opportunity on my nano book.

I already knew the last week of November was going to be tough with a drama presentation to prepare for and some other writing projects, all with “end of November” deadlines.

It looks bleak that I’ll make the 50,000 now, but I’m not giving up.  Whatever happens, I’ve written a ton this month on a project I doubt would have ever gotten off the ground because something else always come up and gets in the way.

I’m inspired by those who managed the 50,000, whether for the first time or who continue to do so annually. 

I’m definitely doing nano next year.  In fact, I already have the novel picked out from my book of ideas and scribbles of inspiration that I keep on hand to jot down moments of creativity.

So next year I’ll be writing “Quick!  Pass the Chips.” 

But for now, cheer me on as I try to sprint ahead even a little more on my suspense novel, “Losing Charlotte.” 

I wish all the Nano participants great, long episodes of creativity this week and the stamina to write…write…write…

 Yay, Nanowrimo!

November 23, 2007

I may not finish but I’m giving it my all

Despite a couple of bumps in my Nanowrimo road, I’m back on track again and churning out a new section of my suspense novel.

At close to 30,000 words, I’m feeling pumped.  Has there ever been another month when I’ve written 30,000 words on the same project?  On multiple projects?  Until Nanowrimo, I never really thought about it but I suspect this is a record for my 3 week participation.

Will I finish the 50,000 goal?  

I hope to.

Will I be disappointed if I fall short?

Well, maybe a little bit.

But I can’t say enough how great the Nanowrimo PUSH feels.  And I haven’t spent nearly as much time as I would like to writing this book.  Imagine, if I can get to 30,000 words with an hour or two of writing time each day, what I could accomplish if I continue this disciplined focus on writing from now on.

I can’t wait to get back to revising my first suspense novel that’s getting ready to go out the door but now I have a new project to keep me busy once I’ve subbed it out.

So thank you Nanowrimo, for giving me the jumpstart to realize how many words I can get down on paper if I just believe I can do it.

Anybody finished yet?

Let’s hear from all those Nano hopefuls and those cruising through the final stretch.

November 19, 2007

You never know who might be watching

I just heard a fascinating story from an online writer friend who has a blog that I’d love to share with my readers.

There are a ton of blog spots online and blogs on everything from soup to nuts.  So do you ever wonder why you bother?  Do you ever questions whether or not anyone even cares to read what you write?

Well this might make you all get inspired to keep up with your blog and to remember that anyone, and I do mean anyone, could be reading…

An agent, in the same genre as my writer friend’s unpublished novel, contacted her with a request to read the manuscript – all based on reading her blog.

So remember as you post comments, entries and interact in blogdom, you never know who might be out there checking you out.

Anyone interested in a suspense novel?????

Hey, it was worth a shot.

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