Sunday, May 19, 2013
Yesterday I attended a workshop presented by Larry Brooks. Other members of Valley of the Sun Romance Writers and I agreed it was one of the best workshops we have ever attended. He has a clear, precise, no nonsense approach.
Larry went over the difference between a story idea, concept and premise. Later, he went over the six core core competencies needed in any good story: concept, character, theme, structure, scenes, and voice. He believes an author can "break out" if one of these elements is "other worldly compelling." He went on to describe each element. He spent hours on structure.
If you ever have a chance to attend his workshop, I highly recommend you do. In the meantime, you can check out his blog http://storyfix.com/ He also has two books available: Story Engineering and Story Physics.
Sunday, May 12, 2013
I had an interesting conversation with some writing friends this past week. They believe traditional publishing is on its way out and authors should publish digital books either by self-publishing or through ebook publishers. They also believe you need to promo several hours a day to get your name out there. We've all heard the stories of writers who spent all day promoting and landed deals with the big publishers. But are there too many writers saturating online promotion sites now because they heard those stories, too?
I have to admit, I felt tired just listening to them. Like many other writers, I work full time, write after work, and then take care of things at home before crashing in my bed for the night. If I promo for hours a day, I wouldn't have time to write, or I wouldn't get enough sleep and would burn out. Don't get me wrong, I do have my Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. I just don't live on those sites.
It was also interesting that we shared ideas on where they promote, but neither could be sure just how successful that promotion was. We have a friend who makes much more money self-publishing and she doesn't promote nearly as much as they do. We all agree that some sites for promotion are mainly writers promoting to other writers.
So what do you do? I think every writer needs to follow the path that is calling to them and see where it leads. I for one do not want to lose the love of writing by worrying over how many times I tweet each day.
Sunday, May 5, 2013
The answer is yes. If you've seen the movie The Place Beyond The Pines, you might understand what I mean. I had read a review in our local paper which echoed the same sentiment, but I was willing to risk seeing the movie because the trailers caught my attention. Although the plot was interesting and the acting was good, I wanted the movie to end sooner than it did. The reason was the film was intense from beginning to end. I had been taught from my writing groups with Romance Writers of America to give your writers an emotional break after an intense scene. During this break, the characters reflect on what is happening and perhaps set a new goal. These breaks may include a touch of humor - anything to give the reader a chance to relax and breathe before you send them into another intense scene. The reader should experience a roller coaster ride of emotion. Can you imagine staying on the free-falling Tower of Terror ride at Disneyland for two hours straight?
Sunday, April 28, 2013
I enjoy a good story whether it is in the form of a movie or a book. My husband and I usually attend a movie twice a month and I always discover a lesson about writing a story. Last night was no different. We watched Home Run. It is a Christian-based movie about a baseball player's struggle with alcoholism.
This movie was a good example of how a writer drags the hero through hell. You first learn about the abuse he received as a child due to his own father's struggle with alcoholism. Next, the writer shows how the hero's addiction with alcohol is slowly ruining his life, but he can't see it, even when he almost kills his own brother.
The temptation at this point would be to force the hero to realize he almost killed his brother and attend the treatment program willingly. Not this writer. Immediately after causing the accident which landed his brother in the hospital, our hero pays a motel employee to keep his refrigerator stocked with adult beverages.
The main character is forced to attend a treatment center and throughout most of the story he takes one step forward and one step back. Just when you think he might overcome his addiction, life hits him in the gut and he is thrown back into the bottle. By the time our hero is ready to truly face his problems, you feel his agony and sense of hopelessness. There is no doubt he has hit rock bottom. This is the difference between a good book and a great one.
Sunday, April 21, 2013
Today's world of publishing is changing fast and most of us aren't sure where it is going. A few years ago, the road to publishing meant finding an agent who would pitch your books to editors in hopes of selling your work. Now writers need to decide if they want or need an agent. I sold Liquid Hypnosis to The Wild Rose Press without an agent. They are a reputable ebook publisher. I chose them because they also offered print copies of my book. They are professional and good to work with.
But I still wanted to sell to the big print publishers. I still do. My journey in finding an agent is a bit different than some. I have writing friends who have a Rule of 5. They make sure they have 5 submissions out at all times. I never did that. Most likely because I kept growing as a writer and didn't feel the need to rush into anything. I only submitted to a handful of agents. Early on in my career, I targeted Harlequin and they don't require an agent. I submitted to an agent who gave me the win in the Desert Dreams Conference Contest. She rejected the book, but I decided not to write Inspirationals after all and shelved that book for now. One day, I'll take it out and give it the overhaul it deserves. Since it is very different from what most publishers want, I'll sell it digitally.
Next, I sent Liquid Hypnosis to two agents I met at another Desert Dreams Conference. They both rejected it and at that point I heard about The Wild Rose Press and sent it to them. I was glad to get the publishing experience and credit.
I soon decided I wanted to try my hand at cozy mysteries. I wrote a story I loved and an agent came to a Desert Rose meeting and listened to pitches. She took me on as a client. Reflecting back on the experience, I was glad everything played out the way it did. She is a good fit for me.
I'm still going through the same decision making process other writers are facing. If she can't sell my cozy, do I sell it through one of the digital publishers or self-pub it while waiting for her to sell the next proposal? I'll let you know when I make a decision. In the meantime, I keep writing.
The bottom line is every writer has to make decisions that feel right to them. If you want an agent and you feel you have a perfected book, then you can try the Rule of 5. If you aren't in a rush, then you can do what I did and submit when it feels right. It's your career, it is up to you.
Sunday, April 14, 2013
Independent publishing is growing quicker than most of us ever imagined it would. Many of us are wondering if we should step into those murky waters and are looking to others for guidance.
At The Desert Dreams Conference last year, I listened to Bob Mayer speak on the subject. He has found more success in epublishing than he did with New York. In his book, The Shelfless Book, he says, "99.5% of indie/self-published authors will be gone in two years.... They will step away, for whatever reason, and another indie will take their place. And be gone in two years. The gatekeeper to a writer's success is the writer and his or her own perseverance, talent, and willingness to learn and change. We have to keep producing quality books that our readers want to read and in turn will pass on to other readers. We have to continue to hone our craft. Learn from each other. We also have to continue to build our business and promote."
For those of you looking for guidance, I suggest you read the rest of the book.
Friday, I will be introducing a new author.
Until then, keep reading and writing.
Tina Swayzee McCright
Sunday, April 7, 2013
This past week one of my uncles, Johnny, passed away. He was about nine years old when I was born and I remember him playing with me when I was young. Him and another uncle, Chuck, would feed me black licorice, then spin me in a chair till I threw up. That was great fun to little kids.
The Swayzee's are a huge group, I usually call us a clan. Johnny spent his final moments at Chuck's house with his daughter, brothers, nieces, nephews, and friends in every room, including the garage. I joke that you always know you've reached a Swayzee gathering if the garage door is open and there are few people, usually my uncles, standing around talking.
There were about eight of us in the room when he passed, a fraction of the gathering. We cried and then later came back into the room where his daughter and former wife remained, close to his side. We told stories and laughed. To some, that would be creepy, but my uncle would have looked down and smiled. That is how we said good-bye. My family is tight. We love each other, we joke, we laugh.
Saturday night I was in a funk. I suggested to my husband we go a neighboring shopping center and find a new place to eat. We ended up at a nice Italian restaurant where we sat on the patio. It was a beautiful evening. Sitting outside with my loving husband lifted my spirits. At the end of the evening, the waiter brought us Sambuca, an Italian anise-flavored liqueur. We didn't order the drink; they give it to their customers because it is a part of the Italian tradition. I did not know we would receive the drink. In case you didn't know anise tastes like black licorice.
At this point, I can choose from a selection of possibilities 1. Coincidence - I don't believe in coincidences. 2. My uncle made sure I got the licorice tasting drink as his goodbye - possibility. 3. It was The Law of Attraction. I was thinking of my childhood memories with John and attracted the drink to me. I do believe in the The Law of Attraction.
Life always gets me thinking about writing. If this happened to one of my characters, would I explain the reason to my reader? I don't think readers need to be told everything, especially when it comes to spiritual elements. They should be allowed to draw conclusions based on their own belief systems. Also, it gives them something to take away from the story and think about. You want readers to discuss and/or think about your story later. In The Life of Pi, he gives you two stories and allows you decide which to believe. In Shutter Island, you decide whether or not Leonardo DiCaprio's character is crazy. Both of these stories are memorable. So, do you tell your reader or not? You think about it.