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!

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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.

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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

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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.

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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/.

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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!

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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/.

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Choosing Topics to Write On By. J. Kukuruza

When we taught college classes, we assigned an essay a week on different rhetorical modes. After we had assigned a rhetorical mode for them to tackle, the first question was always, “What is the topic?” Our answer was ALWAYS, “Your choice.” This would elicit responses such as, “But we need a topic!” Or, “We were always assigned a topic to write on. I don’t know what to write about!” The frustration they were experiencing was obvious and always, again, led to the advice to pick something they were curious about if it were an explanation essay, or something they had a definite opinion on (if the essay were to be argumentative) that could be backed up by facts. As to a narrative essay–they should pick a time they remembered and write about it so that the reader would feel they were there, experiencing what the writer experienced. There would be much head-shaking and looks of discouragement–but they would try and most did an admirable job.

In your writing, the same thing should apply, we believe. It does not matter what genre you choose, it needs to be something you are vested in some way or another. What intrigues you, as a writer? What do you see, hear, experience that makes you want to explore further, write about?

If you feel like you are stuck in, for example, writing murder mysteries and cannot break from this mode, what else interests you? Can you weave a tale from seeing, for example, a homeless person with their dog, nothing more than a backpack, and wonder what that person’s story is? Plus, go one step further and watch, observe nuances, and then dare to talk to the person that you now THINK you know. They could help you write a different piece of work by their experiences, an editorial if you’re inclined towards journalism, a narrative, and yes, even a murder mystery. This may sound a little extreme to get a topic going, but think about it. If you are open to what is going on, how people feel or don’t feel, how certain things make an impact or can be shuffled off the shelves of your mind, you are now reaching new material, new topics, and developing new passions and desires to write about.

It is our opinion that there is no shortage of topics to be written about. Risk being open and human. If you want to write children’s stories, sit with children and listen to their stories, their interests. Talk to others who seem to share your particular fascinations with certain topics or issues.

It may seem we are being redundant but we truly believe if you watch–nature, people, animals–you will be afforded more topics and more in-depth material than you ever felt possible. One thing, as a side-note, that we find fascinating, is sitting in a waiting room anywhere, or a library and notice what people are reading, doing to amuse themselves. And many times, we wind up researching and developing topics that have personal significance to us. In short, the things to write about are there–You just have to see them, hear them, and put them into words.
Happy adventures in writing.


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/.

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What kind of writer are you?

Words strung together create meaning.

What kind of writer are you? Have you thought about it? Do you prefer to write small things – like ad copy, product descriptions, job opportunities and short lists?

Do you like investigative reporting? Interviewing someone? Describing the food, service, and amenities of businesses?

Do you enjoy reading books and writing reviews? Do you like to explain how to do things, or how to fix or build things? Do you like collecting bits of trivia? Recipes?

Do you like to proofread, edit, correct grammar and spelling?

All of these activities have niches that writers belong to, and make a living doing (sometimes it is part of a larger set of job requirements, sometimes it is a part-time job, and sometimes it is a freelance gig).

Knowing what you like to do and what you are good at doing (or wish to become better at doing) will give you an idea of what kind of writer you can be – what kind of writer you are.

This is part of the process of figuring out your niche. None of the above precludes your becoming a creative writer that does fiction (of any and all flavors) and poetry. But it does give you an idea of where you can make some money immediately versus after signing a book deal down the road.

Writing, if you want to write words you can live by, is a job. If you love it, it becomes a career and a passion.

For example: if you were one of those intrepid souls who, in school, loved to work on the school’s newspaper – you might be happy if you pursued writing and curating newsletters for clubs, organizations and/or businesses. There is a market for e-newsletters as well as printed newsletters, just check your own email and mailbox to see that you get newsletters of all kinds in a lot of different formats.

Those were written or curated by people who have many of the same skills you did when you worked on the school newspaper.

So think about it – and let me know, what kind of writer are you?

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Blogs by J. Kukuruza

When it comes to blogs, have you ever thought about how many different blogs you may read? What topics they cover? Do some inspire you to want to respond? To offer a comment at the end? If so, then great! Blogs are actually as important and even more often read than op-ed offerings in a small town newspaper. If you choose to blog, they can be offered as your opinion, or about facts you have on a topic or issue–IF you blog.

There really are no restrictions when you blog. You are not confined to a word count or paragraph count because these are irrelevant in a blog. Of course, if you go on for several pages or thousands of words, you may lose your reader’s interest 🙁 Many aspiring writers appreciate the freedom blogging offers. As your blog gains an audience, there are responses or helpful criticisms from the readers, allowing you to polish and work on your writing and gain the pointers you may be seeking. Remember–the better your writing, the bigger your audience and it becomes a win/win for you and your readers /followers.

There are several advantages to blogging. Of course the first is getting your writing “out there.” You are sharing your thoughts and your voice. Another is adding your blogs to your writing resume so that when you submit your work to a publisher, that publisher sees your efforts to keep writing and getting your work before the public. Last, but certainly important, you could be read by people willing to pay you for your work. Publishers and website perusers scan blogs because they are easy to scroll through, and show what kind of writer you are. A short sample of your writing, style, and thought processes are apparent in a blog without them having to labor through a much longer work.

So how do you get started? There are several sites you can google to show you how to create and get a blog site going. A few are: wix.com and WordPress.com. Both are free and there are directions to help you get started. Another thing you can do is browse different websites that you are interested in and see if they offer you a place to post or share. This could lead to your having a blog connected to their site. There are also writer’s groups you can join that will have blog challenges or contests that you can participate in. Some may have you follow a prescribed theme while others allow creative freedom. We are participating in a blog challenge presently that was offered by Writers of Kern. It is a 26 day challenge that we write for every day for 26 days. Our fellow members read and offer comments which are usually quite helpful each day or soon after our blog is posted. There is one more we would offer that is great for challenging your writing skills called–creativecopychallenge. wordpress.com This particular challenge gives you a certain amount of words to incorporate into your writing to see if you can weave a tale with all the words given.

Blogging helps you in the ways mentioned above and also helps you use self-discipline to keep you writing. If, for instance, you are participating in a challenge, you have to submit every day for a certain amount of time. That means whether you “feel” like it or not, you have to write. For us, that is good. Self-discipline is not one of our strong suits 🙂

We hope this helps and you will use it. Writing a blog is good so you stay on top of your writing skills, get your material to an audience, and one of your random readers could wind up being your employer, paying you to do what you love.

Happy writing.


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/.

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