Monday, November 6, 2017

Writing Around You Day Job by Connie Vines

It’s a 5:00 world, at least that is what the popular “Vogues” song from yesteryear (1965) tells us.  In 2003, the song was reborn via the movie, “Big Fish”.

Up every morning just to keep a job
I gotta fight my way through the hustling mob
Sounds of the city pounding in my brain
While another day goes down the drain
(Yeah, yeah, yeah) but it's a five o'clock world when the whistle blows
No-one owns a piece of my time

As most writers know, writing hours are made after you complete your day job.  You time is also doled out in little snippets while watching your child’s water polo practice, Harp recital, or while boiling pasta for the evening meal.

For those of us who may find writing until 1:00 AM and having the alarm set for 5:00 AM a bit fatiguing.  It seems we are keeping good company. 

Some of these stories you may be familiar with, others may come as a surprise.
He may be a renowned author of over 50 novels, but Stephen King wasn't always a full-time writer — his time as a high school janitor helped inspire the novel Carrie. King originally threw the first draft of the story in the trash, but his wife Tabitha fished it out and told him to keep going because she wanted to know how it ended.

Before she wrote To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchman, Harper Lee worked as an airline reservations clerk in New York. She eventually quit when her friends helped support her financially so she could finally write full time.

He's a well-known author now, but before Nicholas Sparks wrote The Notebook, he worked odd jobs, including selling dental products over the phone.

She was a talented science-fiction writer and awarded the MacArthur Fellowship — but before her success as a writer, Octavia Butler worked as a potato chip inspector. She also worked as a dishwasher and a telemarketer, using these day jobs to support her writing. And they really were day jobs, because Butler would get up at 2 a.m. to do her writing before going in to work! Amazing.

She's known as a mystery novelist; Agatha Christie was once an assistant apothecary. She reportedly knew a lot about poisons, which was no doubt helpful as she created the characters of Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. Just goes to show that you never know what knowledge will come in handy later.

Bram Stoker wrote Dracula while working as the manager of the Lyceum Theatre in London, imagining Henry Irving, a famous actor and owner of the theater, playing the vampire himself.

So how about you?  What is/was your day job(s)?

Does your day job get your creative ideas flowing?

I work in the field of education, students, staff, and events give me ideas—or at least creative thoughts.

Sometimes, after a long day. It will take me five minutes to write a sentence.
Five minutes of staring into space until the idea of writing an opening line about how long it took me to think of an opening line popped into my head.

In the grand scheme of things, five minutes isn't all that long. But for a writer, five minutes for nine words can add up.

Writing takes time. A whole lot of time.

I always imagined I'd write my first book in a vacation hideaway overlooking the beach or cabin in the Grand Tetons.   Unfortunately, most first-time authors won't get to live out this literary fantasy.
In fact, circumstances will most likely be the opposite: writing during off-hours, scribbling notes in public, enjoying less sleep than you'd like and slowly losing your mind while trying to maintain personal relationships a full-time job and run a household.

Say you've finally found a quiet hour to yourself. You know you should write, but you're tired from work and are only on season four of “Game of Thrones.” What were once simple choices become tormenting tests of will power and resolution.

As George Orwell famously stated, “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness.”

In his book “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft,” Stephen King shared a similar though more concise sentiment: “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”

So how do I stay on track to reach my deadline?
I’ve learned to say “no.”

I also participate online instead of driving to Orange County Romance Writers or L.A.R.A. monthly meetings; I sign-up for online classes.  I miss interacting with other writers, and my plotting group, but talking isn’t going to write my novel.

This doesn't mean you have to say no to everything, but writing is always going to require compromise.

A large part of writing for me is preparing my environment. I like to have a cup of coffee by my side, music playing. I prefer to write from 8:00 to 11:30 PM every other day. On Fridays I write until 2:00 AM, Saturdays after the gym and running errands.  I’ll write for a few hours, then spend time on other tasks, until about 8:00 PM I will write until 10 or 11:00. (though is writing until 2:00 this morning). 

Sunday, unless I have a blog post due/or am on a deadline, I do not write.  I may edit my week's work in the evening but that is the extent of my writing.  This is family time for me.

Remember: If you keep waiting for the perfect moment, the perfect time, you’ll never get anything done.

Pencil in you time to write on your calendar, or task journal.  Honor that time like you do all of your other commitments.

You may find your day job fits in quite nicely into your novel.  After all, if you have life experience, no research in needed.

Happy Reading and Writing,
Connie




Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Avoiding Adverbs by Roseanne Dowell (Replay Day)


Writing without adverbs? Then how can we describe people, tone of voice? Some writers think adverbs are the only way to add description to a story.
Wrong – the use and over use of adverbs distracts from your story.  It puts YOU, the AUTHOR into the story.  And we never (one of the few nevers in writing) want the author in the story.
There are better ways to add description.  Let’s take this sentence for example:  Roy walked leisurely down the street.  – Okay. You, the author, just TOLD us how Roy walked – you interfered with the story.   How much better if you would have showed us how Roy walked.
Example: Roy strolled down the street. (Notice how just changing the verb and taking out the adverb shows us how Roy walked.
Roy is not in a hurry - strolled implies leisurely without the author saying so, but it’s still telling. So, let’s take it one step farther. The author can show more.
Roy breathed in the spring air. What a great time of year with the trees budding and the smell of fresh cut grass. Just looking at the sky put him in a good mood.
Now the author hasn’t even told us that Roy strolled. We know Roy’s not in a hurry because he notices everything around him.  People in a hurry don’t take the time to notice the buds on the trees. They wouldn’t stop to look at the sky.  The author has shown us something about Roy besides the fact that he’s not in a hurry.  He loves spring, and he loves nature. Other people wouldn't necessarily notice the buds on the trees, even when they’re not in a hurry. They react in different ways to show us they aren't in a hurry. Maybe they'd lollygag along watching the traffic or kids playing. That shows us something different about them.  People see different things and so should our characters.
Adverbs can never replace strong verbs. As in the above example, strolled is a much stronger verb then walked in showing us how someone went on his way, but showing him works so much better.
Adverbs combined with strong verbs – John ran quickly – are repetitive. We already know John ran, that tells us he’s moving fast, why repeat it?  The adverb has the same meaning as the verb.  By adding the adverb, we weaken the verb and the sentence, and it shows us nothing. 
Avoid the use of adverbs whenever possible.  When you feel tempted to add an adverb, stop and think about what you want the reader to know. Is there another way to say it?  Usually there is. 
Adverbs to describe how someone speaks are also interfering.
Example: “Stop, just stop,” John shouted angrily.
Well, I don’t know about you, but if someone is shouting that usually means he’s angry.
 Why not show us the anger? “Stop! Just stop.” John slammed the cupboard door.
Now that shows us he is angry much better than the adverb angrily? And, we didn’t have to use the tag line he shouted. We can say, he shouted and slammed the cupboard door, but does that reinforce the anger? Not really. The action works better alone.
Now don’t get me wrong – there are places to use adverbs, but the key is to use them sparingly.  Readers want detail, they want to see and hear the story. They don’t want someone to tell them what happened. They want to feel the anger, sadness, happiness, laughter, and tears.  Readers want to feel our character's emotion.  Characters who display emotion are strong characters. And readers remember them. They become real, believable. And if we have believable characters, readers will remember us.
So next time you write, she hurried quickly down the street, STOP!! Reread what you just wrote.  Do you really want to repeat that he was in a hurry?  Hurried already implies he was going quickly.
And next time you write – “I can’t do this anymore,” John said sadly.  Rethink it – is there a better way to show John sad?  “I can’t do this anymore.” John wiped the tears from his eyes. Notice I didn’t say John said as he wiped the tears. You can also eliminate the he said/she said tags and insert action tags that shows us more of what’s happening. By saying John said sadly, we know John is sad – but we don’t know he’s crying. 

We add so much more to the story by eliminating needless adverbs.  We all enjoy reading strong stories, why not write them

I Smell a Story by Roseanne Dowell (Replay Day)

Did you ever notice that unless something smells especially good or particularly offensive, we tend to ignore it?
Because our sense of sight and hearing are dominant we tend to ignore every day smells.  We see the trees, hear the traffic, and look into each other’s eyes as we speak.
But we take our other senses, touch, taste, and smell for granted. We often ignore them.  Oh sure, we feel, taste and smell, but not with a lot of awareness. While the smell of bacon makes our mouth water, and we may say it smells good, or that it’s making us hungry, we don’t elaborate on it. On the other hand if we smell something offensive, say a
skunk, we go on and on about the distasteful odor.  Same thing with taste.
 The bacon and egg tastes good, and we enjoy them, but we expect to enjoy them so we don’t say much about them. On the
other hand, the sour taste of vinegar or a lemon has us spitting and complaining about the acrid flavor.
The same applies to our sense of touch. We feel something soft or silky, it’s comforting, and we might make an off-handed remark. But, if we burn, cut, or hurt ourselves, we complain and make a big deal about the pain.
But in writing all of these senses are as important as sight and sound.  We describe the setting, the background. But by using all of our senses we bring our stories to life. We can go from the real world to a new world of make believe. But we also need to make our story realistic. In both fiction and nonfiction, a richly described setting will pull your readers out of the real world of pressure and tension and into your world of make believe. So we can’t ignore these senses in our descriptions?
We need to become more aware of these senses in our everyday world?  Go outside, look around you - listen to the sounds. Close your eyes.  Inhale deeply, breath in the odors. What do you smell? The flowers, exhausts from cars, it depends where you are. You can do the same wherever you go. Walk into a department store at a mall.  Inhale the scents. What do you smell, the lingering scent of someone’s perfume or the perfume counter, if a smoker walks past you, you detect the odor of cigarette smoke. At a movie it will probably be the smell of popcorn.  Restaurants have many smells, garlic, onions, rich sauces or maybe coffee. Remember these smells. Use them in your writing.
Next time you eat, savor the food. Hold it in your mouth, relish the experience and texture of bread and the slight aroma of yeast.  Feel the surface of the tabletop or tablecloth.  Ingrain them into your memory.
Use these senses in the story. Let your reader hear, see, feel, smell and taste the story. The story and characters will come alive through these senses. It’s not enough to tell us what something looks like. SHOW US!! We want to feel it, smell it, and maybe even taste it. Readers won’t notice that you included them, but they will notice if you omit them. Without them, your world will be flat, boring, and unrealistic.
 No, you don’t have to add them to every sentence or even every scene. Maybe your characters are in a situation where they don’t notice smells or textures and there’s nothing to taste. That’s often true of tense scenes. If someone is attacking you, you certainly aren’t going to notice the sweet smell of roses. On the other hand you might notice the offensive odor of his sweat. And you’ll certainly feel the beads of perspiration on your own forehead or the taste the nausea building up from your throat to your mouth.
Other times we might be deep in thought and won’t even notice our surroundings. That’s fine, but make sure to include them when they are needed. If your characters walk into a restaurant, we want to know what they smell as well as what they see and hear. Too often, as beginners these senses are ignored.
Remember also, that some odors will smell different to different people.  Some smells are “Universal”.  Dog poop and the smell of garbage are offensive to everyone. Flowers, freshly cut grass or fresh baked bread usually evoke memories.  We can all picture a garden, or remember the first spring mowing and of course Mom or Grandma in the kitchen baking. Use these scenes to help show us the scene or bring out an emotion of our characters.  Some smells scents are less universal. Cauliflower will smell differently to me than you. If the reader loves it and you hate it, the scene will be all wrong. What you want to make sound delicious might make your reader go yuck and you’ll have lost the realism. Stick to the universal smells.
Pick up your favorite novel. Go through it page by page. Highlight the senses with different colors. What an amazing array of colors on the pages. No, you might not see all the colors on every page, but enough to make it colorful.
So how do we use these senses in our scenes?
Imagine your character on a beach by the ocean. Put yourself there. Close your eyes. Picture it. What do you hear?  Are the seagulls squawking, children playing? Can you hear the swish of the waves? Let’s take it further. Inhale, take a deep breath. What do you
smell, the fresh air, salty water?  How does your skin feel? Can you feel the wet spray from the waves? Can you taste the salty ocean? Wiggle your toes in the gritty sand. Is it hot, does it burn your feet? Are the waves coming on shore and flowing over your feet? Can you squish your toes in the wet sand?
How much stronger your words will be describing these feelings and tastes as well as the sights and sounds through your characters. Your story and characters will become more alive.
The senses are as important to non-fiction, as they are critical to fiction.
If you’re writing a how to article about baking bread, the reader needs to know that they should knead the dough until it blisters for a better, lighter loaf, and that it should be smooth to the touch. No the smell of the yeast is not important.  Some things are not important in non-fiction, but if you are writing a nostalgic piece about the memory of Mom or Grandma baking in the kitchen, add those senses. They’re an integral part of the article.
Start today, right now - observe these senses in everyday life. Pay particular attention to the feel, smell, and taste. Sometimes you can taste something just from the odor. Have you ever experienced a particularly bad odor?  It smelled so bad you could almost taste it.

 Remember these senses. Concentrate on the feel of the smoothness of a baby’s skin or the texture of your sheets, vegetables, everything you touch. Make a mental note of these feelings. Use them in your stories. Make your characters real to the reader and enjoy the senses that we take so for granted.

Monday, September 25, 2017

"Classic Ginger" Snippets from Culture Shock Ginger Simpson

This week I'm sharing snippets from Culture Shock, my mystery romance that takes place in San Francisco.  Cynthia Freitas moves from the Midwest to the big city, expecting a different lifestyle.  Imagine her shock to find a serial killer loose in her own backyard, and he's killing women that look just like her...or her body when the old wiring in her run-down tenement causes her first kiss with her handsome neighbor to have a jolting outcome.


The sun was setting when they got back to the Cairns. Alex held the door open. “Here we are, back to reality.”

Cynthia stepped inside, but paused at the bottom of the stairwell. “Does reality have to smell so musty? I’d prefer something more pleasant.”

He smiled. “I agree, but the reality I referred to is we both have to work tomorrow, and that
sucks. I wish I’d been born rich instead of handsome.” He flashed a wink.

Did he know how attractive he was? His good looks had drawn the admiring stares of so many
women during their outing…and they all envied her, little ol’ Cynthia Freitas.

He followed as she climbed the stairs. She paused at the first landing and faced him. “Too bad
we can’t have everything we want, but I’d say today was a great ending to the weekend.” She smiled.
“Seriously, this was a great afternoon. I really enjoy looking in all the stores, although I can’t believe I didn’t find anything I wanted to buy. Maybe I should see a therapist.”

He shook his head and grinned. “Maybe, but push on, my dear. We have another flight to climb,
and dogs are barking.”

At her apartment, Alex took her key and unlocked the door. “I had a great time too. If it wasn’t
Sunday evening we could have made our time together last a little longer. Maybe we can do this again another time?”

Her excitement bubbled to the surface. “That would be wonderful. Hey, as a matter of fact, my
brother Kevin and his girlfriend, Sara, are coming to visit in a few weeks. They want me, of all people, to show them around the city. Would you be interested in joining us?”

She held her breath hoping he wouldn't decline. She'd like to show Kevin she did have some
confidence in herself. 

"I'd like that very much." He leaned down and brush his lips against hers.

Her heart skipped a beat then resumed its normal pace. She took a quick breath. "That was nice."
"Good. I was hoping I wouldn't offend you."

"No offense taken." And no defense either. Her knees turned to jelly. She opened her door, but
paused, hoping for maybe yet another, and longer, kiss.

Instead, he took her hand and held her knuckles to his lips. "Goodnight," he whispered, warming
her hand with his breath. He smiled and walked toward his apartment.

Cynthia went inside her place, closed the door and rested against it. She pondered the emotions
Alex stirred within her. She feared falling for him, too afraid of what might happen if he didn't
reciprocate the feelings. Could she handle rejection? She had no idea.

After making sure the door was locked, she went straight to the bedroom. Alex’s reminder about
the deadbolt flashed through her mind. She’d buy one tomorrow and ask him to install it. His offer of
help provided more opportunity to be with him, and she'd take him over the super any day.

*******************

This is where the excitement really begins.  You can get your copy at Books We Love, using my author's page and clicking the cover you like.  Please take advantage of the BOGO sale going on right now....buy one, get one free.  A great holiday special.

Now hop on over and visit my other Sunday Snippet Pals:


http://yesterrdayrevisitedhere.blogspot.com/ (Juliet Waldron)

http://triciamg.blogspot.com (Tricia McGill)


Don't forget to come back next week for more Sunday Snippets.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

To Plot or Not by Roseanne Dowell (Replay Day)



At one of our chapter meetings of RWA, the speaker talked about plotting a novel and writing a synopsis before the book was written. She suggested if we had never done that to try it.
So I did.


I had an idea for a story that was taking shape in my mind. As usual, I knew how it would begin and how it would end. What happened in the middle? I didn’t have a clue. Oh, I had a few ideas. 







I knew there was a secret about my heroine’s birth, and she’d find a dead body But I had no idea who he was  (yes, I knew it was a male) or why he was killed. So I tried plotting. I came up with a few ideas about his identity and even about who murdered him and even why. 



I was totally blocked. The story sat for the better part of the year without me typing even one word. Every time I opened it, I read it, made a few changes and then I got to the part where I was stumped.
I stared at the computer, sometimes for hours, trying to come up with something, anything –even if it was garbage – just to get me past that hump. I couldn’t do it. So I’d move on to something else. I revised several other stories that I’d written a long time ago, then I’d go back to it. The problem was –I was locked into the outline, I didn’t know how to make the transition to the next thing. It didn’t feel right.                                                                                 
It wasn’t until one day; I was emailing my writing buddy about my dilemma. I needed help and any suggestions she could offer would be most welcome. I wrote what I had so far, and where I wanted the story to go. For some reason, in that email, I started to ask what if, which is how I usually wrote. I threw out a couple of ideas to her and answered them myself. Finally, I was unblocked. I even created a new character and another conflict. I ignored the plot outline and went a completely different way.
That was how I usually wrote, asking what if as I wrote, coming up with new ideas. For me, plotting and outlining doesn’t work. I’ll never do it again. For others, it works fine and good for them.  I understand it’s not necessary to stick to the outline, but for me, since I  outlined, I had trouble deviating from it.  It blocked my creativity. Yes, I should have ignored it long before, but it was too fresh in my mind. It took a year and then some to forget what was on that outline so I could move on.
I guess my whole point is – write the way it’s comfortable for you. There is no right or wrong way, there’s only your way. There are few hard and fast rules in writing. We all have to develop our own style, our own voice, and our own rules. Some authors get up in the morning and sit down to write. Some write later in the day, and still others write in the middle of the night. Again, whatever works best for you. The important thing is to write.

My current novels are available from Amazon at: http://amzn.to/tnqgR2  
Visit me at my website www.roseannedowell.com 


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