10 Ways to Navigate Plot Holes, Dead Ends, Blockades, and Other Hazards on the Roadway to Writing Success

I just had a brilliant idea. While I am busy busy busy editing all the stories for the charity anTROLLogy, why not share the mighty blog words of the stories’ authors? Today, behold this reblog from author Christina L. Rozelle. Behold it well!

Signs

by Christina L. Rozelle

For the past few days, I’ve been navigating the rough roads of a writer trying to meet a deadline-destination with a yet-to-be-completed novel. It was complete, but then I got it back from a few fabulous beta-readers and with their help, I was able to see where I needed to add flesh to bone in a lot of places. This included a new ending, which is where I’m at now. So far, I’ve added 25K words to the story and I forsee it topping out at 100K, which means I have a mere 15K  words to bring it all together.

So, I’m traveling along this awesomely smooth road where the sun is shining, the birds are singing, and things are falling into place, when my engine screeches to a halt and the rest of the cars slam into my backside. I’m sure you know this dreadful moment. When these things crop up, we are never really prepared for them. Something doesn’t fit. F***, we might say. We may nosedive into depression because now we realize this fabulous ending we’ve been sailing towards, doesn’t pan out. I was totally bummed for two days because I needed to make A,B, and C at the beginning connect with X, Y, and Z at the end, but couldn’t make it work. The pressure to finish was on and there I was, twiddling my effing thumbs.

I decided now would be a good time to take a step away, meditate and drink some herbal tea, and scribe to you 10 of my discoveries:

 

1. If you are bored, chances are, the readers will also be bored. Don’t be afraid to cut the bore. 

I wrote for three days and was bored to tears with what was going on in the plot. The action and tension was not where it needed to be to keep me focused. Big red flag there. So, what I did was scribble out some ideas for an action-packed, tension building, and fulfilling ending. I asked myself some questions: What would that look like? Where’s “the twist” going to come in? Because I love those moments as a reader myself where something happens that blows my mind, and I for one, want that in my own writing. So, how can I tailor in a twist? I may have to go back and add some things in the beginning, foreshadowing and whatnot, but it will be so worth it. So, once I decided where I wanted to go, I cut back the bore (5K words of it), put it in my “take-outs” doc in case I want to use chunks of dialogue or description for later, and I started from that point with my note-pad in front of me.

2. Sometimes, thumb-twiddling is necessary.

The same goes for staring off into space for hours at a time and cleaning out that drawer that hasn’t been cleaned out in two years. Everyone should have a junk drawer for this purpose. Sometimes, mindless tasks–or no tasks at all–allow the blockage to clear. If you have a tendency to over-think things, you may do better with busy-work. I usually get a good mix of the two. When the wheels begin to smoke upstairs, I know it’s a good time to tackle those things I’ve been procrastinating.


3. Write by hand.

Get away from all electronic devices and conjure the spirits of the ancient art of pen and paper. Things sometimes have a way of working themselves out when we switch it up like this. Just seeing it from a different angle can shed some new light.

4. Draw a map. 

Sometimes, drawing a map of your fictional world may help you to see things from a different angle as well. Plus, it’s fun.

5. Run . . . for your story, not away from it.

Physical exercise can truly help eliminate the mental blockage that can sometimes be caused by self-doubt. After a good work-out, we feel better about life and ourselves, and may in fact feel better about the story as well.

6. Give your deadline the middle-finger and go for a drive.
I’m not saying abandon your deadline entirely. Sure, you should aim in the direction of the deadline, but if you want your story to be the best it can be, the fact is, sometimes, your story won’t be ready. Like a little furry, mysterious creature, preparing to hatch from the egg, it may need another week or two to develop. It may need longer. It takes what it takes. Sometimes, going for a nice long drive can release some pressure, getting physically far from the laptop and writing space. From there, we can “take a step back” and see better the full picture. We can just let go and stop trying to force it when it isn’t quite ready to hatch.

(Read the rest at Christina’s blog. You know you want to!)

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Indie Author Appreciation Day!

It’s Indie Author Appreciation Day! (Yes, I just made that up.) Today, I’m appreciating Mark Capell, author of Cafe Insomniac and much, much more, including this guest post:

Will Audiobooks Change Writing Styles?

by Mark Capell

Recently, Audible.com brokered a deal with the author David Hewson to publish his latest book, Flood, well ahead of its print run. As audiobooks rise in popularity, will the way they’re written change?

As David pointed out, audio “is the original form of storytelling. It’s what Homer did. Homer was not a writer, he was a storyteller”. I’ve always had a fondness for aural storytelling. I once met one of the few traditional storytellers still working the pubs in the UK, in the old folk tradition. He was such a vibrant performer, living the story he was telling, sometimes veering off into the melodramatic, but always finding a way to convey his enthusiasm. I asked him if he’d ever considered writing a book. He looked at me astonished. “Why would I want to do that?”

I listen to as many audiobooks as I read print or ebooks. Sometimes it’s just more practical; while out for a walk, on a crowded train, or in a car.

But over the years, I’ve noticed something. Some writing styles are more suited to audio than others.

When I wrote the first story of Fogland, a series being released as a set of podcasts, I was writing specifically for audio.

I thought long and hard about it. At college, my first love was the theatre. I was obsessed by the rhythms of dialogue. I would read the plays of Harold Pinter obsessively, along with David Mamet and Tom Stoppard.

The “Pinteresque pause” has become a theatrical cliché. But these pauses are not empty silences, they are surrounded by dialogue that, even when the actor has finished speaking it, resounds like an echo within those pauses. In other words, the pauses are infused with meaning.

All writing should pay attention to the sound of words as well as their meaning, that’s a given. In fact, one musical element — rhythm — can add meaning and atmosphere on its own. Short sentences, for instance, can imbue a sense of urgency. Thriller writers are well aware of this technique.

But in audio it’s even more important. Some of the rhythm is down to the narrator. I was listening to one audiobook recently, one by a famous author. But the actor reading it, also suitably famous, sounded like he had a train to catch. The delivery was hurried, the sentences not differentiated one from another. This famous actor could have done with a few lessons from my storyteller in the pub.

In many ways, the audio presentation starts with the manuscript, begins with the source material. The author might be having more of an effect on the audio production than he realises.

The more audiobooks I listen to the more I become convinced that writing good audio stories is a different skill from writing good print ones. Even breaking important rules of grammar can become a necessity, not a stylistic choice.

At the moment, stories are written for print then recorded for audiobook, almost as an afterthought. I think this attitude might go back to their roots, originally being recorded mainly as a concession to the visually impaired. But there’s no reason that a story written for one medium is suitable for another without adaptation.

Sometimes I’ve found myself drifting when listening to an audiobook, something I rarely do when reading. And it’s not connected to what I’m doing while listening to it.

I think it is a matter of writing style. A sparse writing style seems to work better. Too much happening in a sentence can clog up the ears.

But that doesn’t mean a writer is compelled to make the storytelling simplistic. To make up for the limitations of a sparse style, you have to make each word work twice as hard.

In writing for audio, it’s not only what is being said but what is being left unsaid. The way to do this, as any dramatist will tell you, is with subtext. Like a good dramatist, you should make full use of subtext. Where you might be explicit about a situation in print, leaving room for a listener’s imagination is important in audio.

I think this advice from Ernest Hemingway is particularly pertinent when it comes to writing for audio.

“If a writer of prose knows enough of what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an ice-berg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water.”

Radio drama has often been called “the theatre of the mind”. And this is true of audiobooks, too. Imagery works particularly well, especially if it’s repeated with variations. Repetition is often frowned upon in print, but it’s a vital tool in audio. Take a cue from music. You hear it in songs all the time, in the form of a chorus. The kind of resonance repetition brings with it, bounces around in a listener’s head. I’m not recommending the equivalent of “she loves you yeah, yeah, yeah” repeated ad nauseum, but it does help in reinforcing tone and theme.Of course, the best way to build up a respect for the sound of words is to listen to poetry. Good poetry marries sound and meaning — they are inseparable. The Fogland Project is trying to present prose that works firstly as audio. I wonder if audiobooks, as they develop, will follow this trend, and whether authors will adapt their style if the primary audience switches to audiobooks? For more information about The Fogland Project visit www.fogland.net.
(Lindy adds:) Episodes by authors Mark Capell, Lindy Moone, John L. Monk and Kelly Ferguson can be listened to there right now, with more to come.


Mark Capell is the founder and voice of The Fogland Project, and the author of many novels and stories, including Cafe Insomniac, the Myles Undercover series, and Vows to Kill.

Like his author page on facebook to get news of his further exploits, or follow him on Twitter @MarkCapell. Here’s the book page on his website. Mark is also available to narrate your audio books in his sexy British accent. Here’s his ACX profile.

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50 Awesome Moments Only Writers Would Understand

Originally posted on Christina L. Rozelle:

old typewriter

50. That awesome writer moment when you type “The End.”

49. That awesome writer moment when you reread something you just wrote and it’s like reading something somebody else wrote, and you wonder where the hell it came from.

48. That thankful writer moment when you get the kids to bed and you FINALLY get to sit your ass down and write.

47. That sad writer moment when you discover that a character you’ve grown to really like/love . . . has to die.

46. That awesome writer moment when you realize that what you are writing is bigger than you, is coming from some place beyond you, and you are but a vestibule for the creative workings of the Universe to materialize. . . . When that Universal truth comes to you as a gift to be shared through your talent, humbly, a light for others to see themselves…

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When Pigs Fly…

Yesterday would have been my mother’s birthday. I thought and thought about how I wanted to commemorate it, but didn’t quite find the right thing. Then, today, I found this video:

These marvelous pigs, drawn by the amazing Sandra Boynton, look so much like the first thing my mom taught me to draw — little pigs made of circles and triangles, with wry little smiles and snuffly, naughty noses…

I’m glad that she read part of my first novel, that she saw that I was finally on my way to being a published author. That she said, “I’m proud of you.” That I said, “You are the best mom, ever.” And I’m sorry she’s missed the rest of my flight. But Mama’s little piggy took wing and she’s defying the laws of gravity every day.

Wish she could have seen my website. (I did it all myself, Mom.)

Gotta go blow my snuffly nose, now…

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Guest Post: Editing — Why Do I Bother?

Do you ever ask yourself, “Why are so many traditionally published books woefully under-edited?”

Sci-fi and fantasy author Michael Drakich does, too.

Editing – Why Do I Bother?

author Michael Drakich

Lately, in my recreational reading, I have been finding a greater number of the novels I read as being poorly edited. I understand that, by being engaged as an author, my perspective has skewed from the days prior to my entering the industry as I now examine what I read in a different manner. Still, I cannot help but believe the need for crisp editing has gone out the window.Before I go further, I need to clarify something. I’m not talking about self-published works. I’m referring to novels being produced by the big publishing houses.
Call me old-fashioned, but I still have a penchant for buying print copy books instead of reading eBooks, and I tend to make my purchases at my local bookstore. This habit precludes buying self-pubs, as they rarely make bookstore shelves. Some of the things I have seen make me cringe. The list of transgressions covers just about every writing faux pas that editors hate. Here’s the rub. Too often I peruse the front pages and discover there is no editor listed. How could that be? You would think, before committing to a large print run for distribution to the brick and mortar purveyors, the publisher would suffer the small expense that editing would entail. Why would they forego this step? The only answer that I can surmise is time. When an author is popular, who wants to delay the next release for months while the editing process is completed.I decided I needed to consult with someone about this disturbing growing trend. As I was home alone, with only the cat as company, my options were limited. I decided to ask the only person in the room for an opinion – me.Now as I am taking the position that good editing is an absolute necessity, I allowed my counterpart, me, to take the role of devil’s advocate.”So, me, aren’t you alarmed at the degradation of editing in what is being published today?””What’s to worry? People today can’t tell good written from bad anymore. Heck, they need their cell phones to spell check the alphabet.” “You mean writing?” “Written, writing, what’s the diff? You say potato, I say potato.”, me mumbled in hopes I wouldn’t hear.I shook my head. “When it’s spelled out, potato is still the same.”

“Exactly my point. (As if I needed one.) No one cares anymore because they can’t read!”, me shouted loudly.

“If what you say is true, then why am I still spending countless hours having my work critiqued and edited and honing my craft?”

Me gleefully looked gleeful with a gleeful grin in his fully glee lit uniquely colored eyes. “Hey, you want to waste time, that’s your choice. The people will buy what they’re told to buy, whether it’s good or not. That’s how marketing works.”

“You do know you’ve breached a number of writing etiquettes while we’ve been chatting, don’t you?”

“You say potato, I say potato.”

“You said that before. I can see this is going nowhere. I think I’ll go chat with myself instead.”

“Don’t drag me into this.”, said myself.

“I’m ALREADY in it.”, Me growled.

I sighed. There was just no winning the argument. Instead, I decided to get back to my writing. At some point, I hope to get me, myself and I united on this issue, but for now will have to live with only being on the same page.


(reblogged, with permission, from Michael Drakich’s Goodreads blog)

Learn about Michael and his books on his website: Michael Drakich

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Something is Now Available!

(Click the cover to go to Amazon.)

It’s a boy! And a girl! On a trip! Reading!

Now, I know what you’re thinking: This thing must be Photoshopped. Those two are waaaaaay too skinny, and the girl only has one arm! In fact, there’s no way they could even stand up without snapping like twigs. But that’s why they are sitting, people, and why it’s a good thing they have Something to Take on the Trip. (Including my story, Vietnam With a Side of Asparagus – a peculiar slice of my childhood life.)

Thanks to author/editor Stella Wilkinson for putting this anthology together, to Frank Zubek, for cracking the whip, to all the other authors who donated stories (including some famous ones!), and to Gayle Ramage, who donated the cover, which not only is beautiful and NOT Photoshopped, it is color coordinated with my trilogy covers.  How did she know? Cover coordination! (I may have to lie down. Also, I may have to get her to do my other covers. I take waaaaaay too long!)

Now, back to what’s important: All proceeds go to The Grand Appeal, a Children’s Hospital charity. It’s $3.99 well spent! For more information, please go to the website.

Get yours today.

No, really. GET YOURS TODAY.

 

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‘KICK’ back and relax in my fabulous interview session with John L. Monk!

Lindy Moone:

The Keys to the Monkster!

Originally posted on Logan Keys Fiction:

kick

“Right now “Kick” has 65 reviews on Amazon, and a 4.7 star rating out of 5. When I first published, I’d hoped people would like the book, but I never expected the reaction I’ve gotten. I had a top 500 Hall of Fame Vine Voice reviewer say it was “one of the more entertaining and unique books” he’d read that year. Another Vine Voice reviewer also gave me a great review, and multiple reviewers made statements requesting a sequel. Over on Goodreads, I have a 4.3 rating (43 ratings/16 reviews), which is pretty good for Goodreads. I’m hugely flattered.”John L. Monk

I know I’ve whetted your appetite for this for far too long! Here it is folks,
John L. Monk rocks the house with our very first Loganesque interview.

*cue music as John enters*

So John, are you as stoked about this interview as I am?

John: Uh huh…

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