Friends helping friends

Today’s post is about support. I address this to the friends and family of writers of all kinds.

Nothing is more daunting to an aspiring author, content writer, or even newsletter writer than putting something they worked hard at – out into the world; and then hearing absolutely nothing. <insert cricket sounds from your favorite cartoon.>

But I can’t always afford to buy their book, ebook, etc.” you may be thinking.

So when they are confident enough to announce their work- here’s how you can show your support:

  1. If there is a “like” button involved – then LIKE it;
  2. If there is a comment section, say something nice. A “Congratulations” goes a long way!
  3. If the announcement can be shared – then SHARE it.
  4. If there is space to do a review, and you feel good about doing so, then REVIEW it (and SHARE your review).

You will notice that no where in that list did I say you need to purchase their book, ebook, or what-have-you unless you want to. Support means helping to bolster the person and their work, and sharing it far and wide to help with getting others excited about the person’s work. And possibly even helping them to get more work (if they are that kind of writer).

Every writer would be thrilled to make a living at their writing, and of course, money speaks – but most of us just need to know that we are supported in our work. That someone outside of us understands that it was an effort, and we created something – it might not be the next best selling book – “soon to be a major motion picture” – but then again, it might.

Thanks!

Writing Prompt #1

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A lot of sites introduce writing prompts from time to time, and I love the idea, especially when you hit a block and need something to distract your mind for awhile. With that in mind, I introduce you to Writing Prompt #1.

Rules:

  1. Write a Flash Fiction story (2,000 words or less) on the theme of “I wanna be 14 again and ruin my life differently…I have new ideas”.
  2. Your Flash Fiction can be in any genre – non-fiction memoir, romance, horror, scifi, fantasy, or any combo of those.
  3. Submit your writing via the Submit an Article page or click here.
  4. Include “Writing Prompt #1” in the title of your story.
  5. Watch your email to see when your story gets published (with a by line!)

And, yes, you can include it in your writing resume once it is on the blog! Let’s see what you can do! Looking forward to reading your stories.

Writing Dialogue by Storyteller

Writing dialogue can be complicated if you try to stick to a rigid format. For example, if you are trying to make it clear who is saying what, you wind up with some dull adjectives, verbs that are passive for the most part, and a reader skimming as they realize who is speaking anyway. In our experience, if the dialogue between characters shows differences in “speaking” and different ways of speaking, it can be much easier than- ” ‘Okay,’ John said.” So how do you do it?

One way is to listen to people around you having a discussion, or even an argument. How do they speak? One with voice high-pitched and one with a lower voice? One shouting, one calm and subdued? Or both trying to talk at the same time, getting louder and louder to out do the other? Or the best to listen to is those who have different speech patterns. One could be from New England, while the other is from the Southern states. Fun ones are those with a burbling vocabulary and the “down-home” speaker. These make for interesting dialogue.

A problem with dialogue can come with trying to capture the different nuances of the speakers. If, for instance, you are listening to someone who has spent time in the state of, say, Mississippi, you need to write what they say in the way they say it. Capturing this means you have to HEAR their words, the way they say them, and translate it onto the page. John may say, “Did y’all see that there big ol’ turkey jes flying’ ’round like he owns the place?” That is how John talks. That lets your reader hear the way John actually speaks. If you choose to clean up John’s language because it doesn’t sound “right” to you by writing down “Did you all see that big old turkey just flying around like he owns the place?” you can lose the flavor of his southern drawl and his true speech.

Or if you are writing John’s words and he comes from the northeast, you might write, “Did ya see the turkey? Yup. Actin’ like he owns it all.” There’s a difference in speech, obviously.

It isn’t easy to capture slang, words cut off or elongated in different cultures, different environments, and requires true LISTENING. The trick is to get the sounds/words of these characters in you head–literally. When you hear them speak as you write, you are able to capture their essence, distinguish them from one another. As the speakers change, you have shown them changing without ‘he/she said’ at the end of every line of dialogue. Your reader is following the speech patterns without having to stop and figure out who is saying what.

Yes, you will have to refresh their memory by saying one person or another said something and it helps if you add how they wave their hands in frustration or bow their heads as they speak softly. But this adds dimension to your characters, makes them distinct and embeds them into your reader’s mind as you go on.

The best advice is to write as you listen, i.e., “y’all” vs. “you all” or “you guys” vs. “You-uns.” It is sometimes difficult to get the right sounds written out, but you can do it! Write down what you hear in your head from the person speaking. Stop and read it back, aloud. Does it sound like that person? If it doesn’t, play with it until you capture it. And if it all still eludes you, fall back on phonetics. Write it simply as it sounds phonetically and you will capture the unique speech you want your reader to hear.

Play with dialogue. It will enhance your writing and give you a deeper appreciation of the way people speak and express themselves! Have fun y’all, and you-uns out there, too!

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Judy Kukuruza’s book “One Body, Many Souls” can be found on Amazon at https://amzn.to/2FuA241; Their website is at https://onebodymanysouls.com/. Their blog is at https://wolvescrowsandspirituality.home.blog.

You can give us a “Listen”

Today I am shouting out to Patricia Hope, who reached out to us recently and suggested that we add an audio version to our website for folks who may have challenges with their eyesight (or even just like to multi-task).

Thank you Patricia! And thank you to everyone who reads or listens to our articles!

Let us know how you like this new feature.

We have more coming, so stay tuned!

P.S. If you are curious about what we used, it is a plug-in from Website Voice (http://websitevoice.com). This is the free version. You can get different voices if you customize in an upgraded (paid) version.

Queries and pitches

Many writers get stymied when it comes to queries and pitches. These are almost as bad as having to write the dreaded “bio”.

So today I am going to try to simplify these concepts into something you may have either done or been on the receiving end of – yes, you have all experienced queries and pitches, even if you didn’t realize it.

Ready?

QUERY: Hey, want to go see a movie sometime?

PITCH: Avengers: Endgame is playing at the Studio Movie Grill, would you like to go this Saturday?

QUERY: Anybody want to go get lunch?

PITCH: There’s a new Mexican restaurant open down the street, would you like to go try it out today at lunchtime?

Now to put it in the writing framework:

QUERY: Do you accept non-fiction articles on grammar and punctuation?

PITCH: I would like to write a 5,000 word article on “The importance of good punctuation” for your blog – would that be of interest to you?

Hoping that helps. Have a great weekend! ~N

Outline or Free Writing by Storyteller

Often, aspiring writers question what is the best form to use for writing a novel or really, any work. Many renowned authors tell novice writers to use an outline. There are many positive aspects to this way of getting started, one of the most beneficial being keeping the writer on track and helping to maintain focus. Points are set out to be covered, places to introduce which characters keyed in, and details about characters and overall plot can be followed so that one maintains a presentable flow to the piece of writing. This type of structure can be as rigid as you would like, or as flexible as you feel you might need as your work progresses. Many authors do this with writing longer works to avoid going off on tangents.

For shorter pieces such as essays or short stories, some rely on the tried and true “5 paragraph essay” taught in grammar and high schools. Paragraph one is the introduction with a thesis and some inkling of what is to come. Paragraphs two, three, and four are the main talking points with as much illustration and as many examples as needed to get the point, moral, etc. of the essay/short story across. And paragraph five is the wrap-up or summary. This method is helpful if you are writing a journalistic piece or a how-to article. I, personally, find this method too rote and verging on being boring and dry (if not already). As an English instructor in college, I did not use this method for fear of driving away students with dull and less than creative writing for class. I preferred more than a 5 paragraph essay in that it gave the students room to explore and branch out in their writing assignments. Likewise, some students could wrap everything up in two or three paragraphs. It depended on the individual writer/student.

Another method of getting words and thoughts on paper is Free Writing. Maybe the most written down to follow is the first paragraph that will tease and grab the reader with maybe a character or two and an elusive plot laid out. The rest? Free writing. Use a chosen character and let she/he develop and interact with others, weaving your plot around these encounters and interactions. Free writing allows freedom of characters and also some fun plot twists you didn’t realize were available to you until you kept working your story and characters. This, however, means staying with it and in it until you definitely have an idea of where you are going with your piece.
So what should you do? If you need structure and definite direction, go for the outline. It can reassure you that you are following your chosen path and you can check off items in your outline as they are brought into your writing. The outline should work well for you and give you a sense of accomplishment and completion.

Free writing will leave you exploring and up in the air most of the time. It requires more self-discipline and tenacity as you are coming up with stuff all of the time. It requires constant editing and re-reading to make sure it flows and you are aiming toward a goal now with all your twists and turns and characters interacting.

So what is your best bet? If you aren’t tied to form and structure or determined to free wheel it, combine the two. Rough out what you want, leaving plenty of room to add details, characters, twists. Then have fun bringing all of it together in your own unique way, allowing yourself the freedom to change your mind, introduce more characters or kill off some you might be bored with, and exercise some creative license.

Remember, there is no ONE RIGHT WAY in writing your novel, prose, essay, or short story. Play around with what works best for you. Personally, I get frustrated with an outline as I see myself straying from it and going down another path. But friends who are great poets and writers use outlines all the time and flourish with this method. It is up to you and what works best for you. Don’t be afraid to try one, another, or a combination. It only matters that you get it on the page!
Go for it!

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Judy Kukuruza’s book “One Body, Many Souls” can be found on Amazon at https://amzn.to/2FuA241; Their website is at https://onebodymanysouls.com/. Their blog is at https://wolvescrowsandspirituality.home.blog.

Is “Romance” your genre?

If so, you’re in luck, because here are two publications looking for romance stories.

First up, “Once Upon” anthologies –


Prompt and Theme: The autumnal equinox marks the shift into darkness which completes on Samhain. Warmth is behind us, cold lies ahead. This is a time of Thanksgiving and kinship. However, in our stories, we also want to consider the theme of The Enchanted Forest. How can you place romance, sorcery, witchcraft, an enchanted wood, cottage, village, or castle into this theme? How can you play up the impending knowledge that everything is changing from light to dark? How can you take your characters from a time of celebration into a world of romance, magical intrigue, and sorcery?

Word count: 7K-15K

Submission Window: February 5 – May 15

Payment: $75 paid upon publication + 2 paperback copies + 25 electronic copies for distribution to readers/giveaways

Click here to go to their submission page (they use submittable).

Next, Stormy Island Publishing – looking for romantic fantasy submissions.

Word count: 1K to 8K

Submission Window: now – June 14

Payment: $20 for each accepted story after the contract has been signed. Payment is only available through PayPal. Each signed author will also receive one free copy of the anthology after publication.

Click here to go to their submission information page.

Feedback by Storyteller

Getting feedback on your writing, in any genre or form, is a good litmus test for the writer. Often, what we put on the page and think conveys a story or point, can be lost on a reader who doesn’t “get it” in some way or another. One of the best ways to get some true feedback on your writing is to share it before submitting it to an actual publisher or self-publishing and throwing it out there. One good source for this pre-read can be a critique group, if you can find and join one. An easy way to find such a group is to google “Meet Ups” in your area and specify for writing groups. Often they will offer options such as online meetings or local meetings you can attend. Some require a membership in a writing organization such as here–Writers of Kern. Others may not, so explore that venue.

Another good way is to put out a blog and see if you receive comments on what you have written. You can say it is part of a larger work or just test the waters with a short essay, poem, etc..

A third venue is friends or nearby/local colleges and universities who put out anthologies from their liberal arts division. They are often looking for aspiring writers and eager to help. Contact them and ask if they can help. Friends you may ask to read need to be ready to be honest and forthright so that you gain some insight into where you can improve and what is good that you wrote. It is not fishing for flattery. 🙂 It is asking for some constructive criticism.

We often find that feedback is priceless and many times we have found these avenues beneficial to our writing and a great learning experience. We often tend to write in our own “bubble” so we need outside sources to help us see our foibles and triumphs. Contests and submissions to same are good, but they will not always give you feedback–merely rejection or acceptance. It is up to you and your particular level of comfort in sharing that will determine which, if not all, sources you seek out. But remember, FEEDBACK is your greatest measurement if you want to make a living through your words–or share with the world.

We sincerely hope this helps!:)

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Judy Kukuruza’s book “One Body, Many Souls” can be found on Amazon at https://amzn.to/2FuA241; Their website is at https://onebodymanysouls.com/. Their blog is at https://storywritersthoughts.wordpress.com/.

Tooting your own horn

(aka self-promotion)

Many people have trouble with self-promotion or as some folks call it “tooting your own horn”. This happens to folks in all professions, not just writers. It is hard for a lot of people and the majority of those are women, who are culturally conditioned to be humble and demure.

There is also an unspoken stigma to self-promotion, although it is a neccessary “evil” if you want to succeed in your chosen field. Often it is perceived as being egotistical and self-serving in a negative way.

However, there are definitely times and ways to do it, that are less “egotistically” perceived and more “informationally” received.

So what are the circumstances that will help you to promote yourself without coming across as being a butthead?

Well for starters, it is perfectly acceptable to spread the word near and far on social media, your blog, your online resume/portfolio, and in the newspaper when you have published something or have had something of yours included in an anthology that has been published. And if you decide you only want to do one of those – make it your online resume/portfolio that you definitely update with this marvelous information. If you can, link your announcement to wherever the book or item can be purchased. And encourage people who may be happy for you, to also spread the word.

If you have been invited to read your work in front of a live audience – as in a book signing or poetry reading – make sure you promote it, invite people, tell people when and where and how much it costs to attend. If you are truly ambitious, send out a press release! Make sure you post the event on your Goodreads.com author’s page, and for goodness sake, get photos and make sure those get posted to your blog, your social media and everywhere else right after the event. And again, provide a link to where folks can purchase your book or item.

When you receive feedback in any of those formats, THANK the person and share any upcoming news that might be relevent to their commentary. For example: if someone congratulates you on publishing your book and you have just scheduled a book signing – mention it. Or if it someone you know well, thank and offer to sign the book for them. You get the idea.

In short, even if you have hired a promoter (social media manager, or PR person) – it is up to you to manage the process, to make sure that the information is complete and out there and that your work gets in front of as many people as possible.

It is a small world, and you never know who knows someone who might read your work and review it well, causing it to spiral up to the best sellers list somewhere. Seriously, stranger things have happened.

PROMOTE yourself well and others will want to help to promote you, too!

Perils and Plusses of Writing by J. Kukuruza

A lot of times, writers complain about “writer’s block” and how they are stymied because they can’t think of anything to write or they don’t know where to go and how with a particular piece they are working on. That can be a real pain and costly if you have a deadline to meet! But sometimes, the opposite is true and just as debilitating–too many ideas in too many genres. Which do you go with? Can you pick just one and focus on it? Or is your mind constantly teasing you with more and more ideas and more and more genres to explore? THAT can clog up the works even more so than the dreaded “Writer’s block,” leaving you wandering around in a maze of words and ideas, going nowhere. Ever have that happen? Personally, “writer’s block” is preferable to having topic after topic, idea after idea, bumping in your head and begging to be put on the page! For us, “Writer’s Block” will recede as we make a conscious effort to notice things, people, or animals and apply it to what we are writing or want to write about. But a plethora of ideas? Aaaaaaargh! We become like a kid in a toy store with limitless choices and feel the pressure to choose, but… The peril lies in having so much in your heart and head to choose from that you could conceivably walk out, choosing nothing, and hope it will all sort itself out. Result? Nothing written, nothing explored, NOTHING DONE! To avoid this, we choose a simple solution–at least to us. We write poetry and lots of true memoir stuff. So when overwhelmed, we often turn to a genre we are less familiar with and then write. Children’s stories, for instance, are HARD to write! Why not try to write a story for a 4-6 year old? Now that will tax your brain and creativity! Or try flash fiction! That is not an easy genre, either! You have to lure your audience in, hit them, and bang! Get out! Another challenge to creativity! There are so many genres to choose! And so many ideas floating around in your head–why not go there? You might find you simply CANNOT do it. PLUS side? An abiding respect for those who can!
We all learn as we go. We have tackled so many different genres and found some that feel really good, and others we now know to steer clear of. If you feel this way, don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone — go for it!
Having said this, and being tired of poetry presently, we are toying with historical fiction. Never done it, but so many ideas relating to history right now. Wish us luck–and the same to you!

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Judy Kukuruza’s book “One Body, Many Souls” can be found on Amazon at https://amzn.to/2FuA241; Their website is at https://onebodymanysouls.com/. Their blog is at https://storywritersthoughts.wordpress.com/.