Tuesday, September 19, 2017

"Leave Out the Part Readers Skip"

The title today comes from the mouth of one of the best-regarded modern writers. He had a way with words! Here are some more Elmore Leonard quotes for all you writers, beginning with his famous 10 writing rules:

“There are some people who have been reading me for years, and they keep saying kind things about the writing. That’s what you’re writing for, to get people to respond to it.” 

“It doesn’t have to make sense. It just has to sound like it does.”

“It’s my attempt to remain invisible, not distract the reader from the story with obvious writing.”

“My most important rule is one that sums up the 10. If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”

Elmore Leonard is famous for many things: his Raylan Givens book series that became the TV series, "Justified."; Get Shorty and The 3:10 to Yuma; and for writing spare and elegant prose across his 52 novels and short stories in westerns, crime fiction, and suspense thrillers.

He is a great one for writing quotes. So pithy and direct. So on-point. His writing rules are among the most shared of his quotes. The last one being the most shared: leave out the parts readers skip.

Ha! A genius statement. But, I wonder, how do I know what those parts are? A quick Internet search turned up some elements.

1)   Fast pacing is necessary. If not, re-write a scene or leave it out.

Pacing involves a balance of tension, energy, and calm. No book can be breakneck in every sentence. That kind of book would be like the plot heavy/character absent action adventure movies where something blows up every three minutes interspersed with car chases. Stock characters with no growth. That’s not your book!

2)   Snappy dialogue is necessary. If not, rewrite or leave it out.

Dialogue advances plot or reveals character. Examine the dialogue you wrote. If it does neither, dump it or re-write. Even better if you can get your dialogue to do double-duty.

3)   Setting should set the scene not dominate it. If not, rewrite or leave it out.

Literary fiction is the place for extended and rich scene setting. In the books most of us write most of the time, the job of the scene is to anchor the actions and characters. Checkov famously said, “If a gun is on the mantle in the first act, it must go off in the third.” Examine each part of your scene setting. What is necessary to advance the plot.

4)   Word choice must be appropriate to characters. If not, rewrite or leave it out.

I get called on this one all the time by my crit partners. If a word stops the reader, it’s got to go. Words should be like caramel flowing over ice cream, smooth and easy.

Oh, there are more stoppers that should be eliminated in my writing (and yours), but this bunch ought to get you started toward a cleaner, sharper manuscript with less skipping by your readers. Thanks, Elmore!

Bloggers need readers. If you found this pertinent, perhaps you could share on social media.

Facebook: Elmore Leonard’s writing advice was the inspiration for this post on leaving out the parts readers skip. Check out Sharon Arthur Moore at http://bit.ly/2wefJQ9

Twitter: Elmore Leonard said leave out the parts readers skip. How do you know what those are? @Good2Tweat has some ideas http://bit.ly/2wefJQ9

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Book Review: The Emotional Craft of Fiction

This book does more than give you strategies and tips and writing exercises. It does more than elucidate principles with stellar writing from others’ novels. The Emotional Craft of Writing is at heart a book about how to write an enduring book, a book for the ages.

What do “books for the ages” all have in common? They create a resonance that remains in the mind and heart of the reader. An emotional chord is played and reverberates long after the song has ended.

Maass’ is a unique book among my myriad writing craft books. From the first chapter you know this book will be different. He makes a strong case for taking the reader on the emotional journey of the characters, not just describing the journey.

Merely telling or showing those inner conflicts and effects is the skin-deep part of the novel. Getting to the internal organs and the skeleton is what we should be aiming to do. The visceral reaction, not merely the goosebumps of reaction.

You might not need to read this book if you want to be a good writer. Lots of serviceable and successful writers don’t tap the emotion of fiction as deeply as Maass directs us to.

But if you want to be a great writer, start here. Plan to read this book more than once. Get your stickies out to tag the segments that speak to your need as a writer.

As Maya Angelou said, “At the end of the day people won't remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” Maass understands that very well. His analysis of thousands of books over the decades informed and guided this book. The subheading delineates that: The Emotional Craft of Fiction: How to Write the Story Beneath the Surface.

Here are some quotes that show the depth of his expectations for our writing:

“How many novels have moved you to tears, rage, and a resolution to live differently?  How many have left a permanent mark, branding you with a story that you will never forget?”

“What makes them classics? Artful storytelling, sure, but beyond the storytelling, classics have enduring appeal mostly because we remember the experiences we had while reading them; we remember not the art but the impact.”

“What all that means is that readers fundamentally want to feel something, not about your story, but about themselves. They want to play. They want to anticipate, guess, think, and judge. They want to finish a story and feel competent. They want to feel like they’ve been through something. They want to connect with your characters and live their fictional experience, or believe that they have.”

“When a plot resolves, readers are satisfied, but what they remember of a novel is what they felt while reading it. Hooks may hook, twists may intrigue, tension may turn pages, and prose may dazzle, but all of those effects fade as quickly as fireworks in a night sky. Ask readers what they best remember about novels and most will say the characters, but is that accurate? It’s true that characters become real to us but that is because of what they cause us to feel. Characters aren’t actually real; only our own feelings are.”

“When readers feel strongly, their hearts are open. Your stories can not only reach them for a moment, but they can change them forever.”

“What shapes us and gives our lives meaning are not the things that happen to us, but their significance. Life lessons, revelations, changes, and growing convictions are what we think of when we ponder who we are.”

Each of the seven chapters concludes with exercises for you to apply what you were just taught. The seven chapters are:
~The Emotional Craft of Writing
~Inner versus Outer
~The Emotional World
~Emotions, Meaning, and Arc
~The Emotional Plot
~The Reader’s Emotional Journey
~The Writer’s Emotional Journey

Interspersed among the seven chapters are thirty-four “Emotional Mastery” elements (like moral stakes, shifting from tension to energy, and the emotional mirror) with exercises for you to internalize the lessons.

An appendix, “The Emotional Mastery Checklist”, provides you a list in one place of these thirty-four elements you need to embed in your writing. The depth of thinking Maass demonstrates is impressive. The task before us to learn the principles is daunting.

As I said, a remarkable book filled with the wisdom of what it takes to write a powerful book, words that will affect the hearts, minds, and souls of others.

Pick up your copy of The Emotional Craft of Fiction: How to Write the Story Beneath the Surface by Donald Maass. I think it’s his best yet.

Spread the word and let others know about this great new tool for writers. Copy and paste the messages or make your own post linking to this page. Thanks so much!

Facebook: Maass has outdone himself with his best writing craft book yet and one of the best of all times. Get an overview from Sharon Arthur Moore at http://bit.ly/2eN7Jzx

Twitter: @DonMaass’ THE EMOTIONAL CRAFT OF FICTION is a must-own book for #writers. See why at @Good2Tweat http://bit.ly/2eN7Jzx

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Should You Be Using Instagram as an Author?

Instagram seems to be everywhere and on the lips of many. Do you have a personal Instagram account? How about an author one?

I was curious about this feature on the social media horizon. Back a few years ago, everyone was talking about Pinterest. I thought it of no relevance to me. I enjoyed looking at the pictures of food and vistas, but there was nothing that drew me into the Pinterest world.

Until. Hmm.

I read an article about authors using Pinterest as part of their writer’s platform. Hmm. After reading more, I joined up and developed my boards. I wrote a blog post about Pinterest for authors on this blog. Check it out. I love my Pinterest Boards and am so happy I started them.

So, here we are a few years later, and I’m thinking, “Hmm. Is Instagram the new Pinterest in terms of something I should add to my platform?” I went hunting for the answer. 400 million+ users? Hmm.

After looking at tons of Instagram pictures on dozens of author sites, I’ve concluded that this one isn’t for me. Instagram is a largely visual medium with few words. So is Pinterest. One big difference for me, however, is that I just don’t see posting regular pictures to Instagram so my fans (they are legion, don’cha know) can follow my plot points or character development. To be honest, I don’t know how I’d make it work for me.

Maybe you are an author using Instagram very successfully. I’m happy for you. Post a link in the comments, and I’ll check you out. With Pinterest, benign neglect works. I periodically add to my boards or even create a new board as I did for “Intrepid Women.” People find me and follow me with little effort on my part.

You have to be more intentional with Instagram. It works best for authors who already have a large following. Those fans want to know see pictures of the next book signing. Use popular hashtags so you find a new audience to add to your fans. Also, follow others and interact. This is true of all social media.

Fans are eager for a cover reveal. They enjoy the pictures you snap for them to vote on who looks most like your protagonist. You can announce book releases. Show your human side with pictures of you reading someone else’s book, of you in your writing nook or researching. Run contests (like selfies with your book cover; one-sentence stories; dressing like a character, etc.) and give prizes (like your book; Amazon gift card, etc.). Post a character’s picture with a teaser quote. Ask questions to get fans interacting.

Instagram has to be for somebody. Sure, Pinterest does, too, but people (like me) go hunting for food porn and happen across new boards to follow. People with like interests sort of accidentally find you on Pinterest. Not so much on Instagram.

If you want to add Instagram to your platform stable, first build a base of potential followers by announcing on Facebook, Twitter, etc., and to your e-mail list that you are on Instagram and encourage them to follow you. Then post interesting content. Don’t post more than once a day (unless it’s a book release day, then you can post several times). Follow other authors (and other creative professionals) to see how they use Instagram. Get ideas everywhere to keep your content fresh.

Hmm. Did I just talk myself into jumping in to Instagram?

Intrigued? Curious? Want to read more about using Instagram as an author?

Bloggers need readers. Please share this post with others if you found it helpful. Here are some copy/paste messages all ready to go.

Facebook: Authors, should you be using Instagram as part of your platform. Sharon Arthur Moore’s post gives ideas and other resources if you’re thinking of trying it. http://bit.ly/2xB7cZo

Twitter: @good2tweat examines how and why #Writers use #Instagram as part of a social media platform. http://bit.ly/2xB7cZo

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Would You Take This Class?

Few writers make much (if any) money. Did you know that? You don’t do this to get rich because that reason and the lottery odds have a lot in common.

Over the years, I’ve thought about a variety of ways to supplement my royalties. I could sell some of my professional/writing craft books on Amazon’s used books section. I could write advertising copy for companies. I could write quick and dirty writing craft books and indie publish them. I even considered offering on-line classes. That’s a novel idea for a former educator, right?

I approached the co-founder of one of my favorite on-line writing class sites with a couple of ideas for teaching classes for them. Might they be interested? It turns out they might.

I’m not naming the site or the person (yet) I contacted since “interest” is a long way from “implementation.” I’m just trying out some ideas here. I’m looking for help. Tell me what you think.

One excellent suggestion I was given was to offer the class to a few beta participants so I could refine the class after the initial design. Great! I will do that!

In the meantime, I am working on the 20 class lessons I could offer. Here are the general areas I’ve come up with so far. In the comments section, please offer critiques, suggestions, options, and other ideas that might help me design this course.

First the title.

The course is sharing with others and having them try the elements that I use when I plan my novels. I am a mega-planner, most of the time. The system I’ve developed over the years is what helps me “win” National Novel Writing Month, “winning” being defined as producing at least 50,000 words in 30 days.Whether the participant wants to win NaNoWriMo or whether heesh just wants to try the jump-start apart from NaNoWriMo, this course is designed to ramp up the planning process.

So what would be a good title for a mega-planning class? Planning Your NaNoWriMo Novel? Write/Writing Your Novel in 30 Days?  Planning for NaNoWriMo? Or do you have another idea?

I would pitch this as being for novels not yet written, novel ideas not drafts.

Topics to be covered in 20 lessons (some take more than one day to present):
            Plotter or Pantser? A spurious distinction.
            Choosing a mentor text for assignments; what it is and
                   why it’s important
            Recommendations for several craft books for later
                  reading such as Larry Brooks' Story Engineering and 
                  James Scott Bell's Write Your Novel from the Middle 
                  and others
            What planning gets you and why you should do it
            Bell’s 14 signposts
  Bell’s five essential tent poles
            Premise vs concept
            Concepts and sub-concepts
            10 key events
            Character sketches
            Story treatment
            Scene grid Elements
            Using the scene grid for planning
            Writing the first scene

Lessons/Assignments (some take more than one day):
            Advantages of plotter. Advantages of pantser. Where are
                  you and why?
            Choosing your mentor text—the components: your 
                  genre; recent; well-written
            List craft books you’ve read and their influence on you
            What does “planning” mean?
            Find examples of Bell’s signposts in mentor text
            List your concept. List your premise.
            Identify your sub-concepts
            List your 10 key events
            Write five character sketches
            Write a three-page story treatment with main characters 
                   and plot twists including the ending
            Design your scene grid
            Fill in your scene grid from the middle out
            Write the first scene from your scene grid

So the question remains: would you take this course? Do you have suggestions for inclusion or change?

Bloggers appreciate you spreading the word. If this post helped you, tell others. Copy/paste the messages and post to your social media. Thanks so much!

Facebook: Sharon Arthur Moore wonders if you’d take this on-line writing class on how to plan your novel. What suggestions do you have for improvement? http://bit.ly/2xlWx4P

Twitter: Would You Take This Class? Give feedback for a proposed on-line writing class for novel planning. http://bit.ly/2xlWx4P

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Birthin' a Book

Prissy, of Gone with the Wind fame, famously said, “I don’t know nothin’ ‘bout birthin’ babies.” That might be the cry of the debut author who changes the last word from babies to books. Or maybe not change it. After so many months with a book, it IS your baby!

Book-making is a lot similar to pregnancy and birthin’. First, you have the idea. You “plant the seed”, so to speak, in fertile ground and hope it takes hold. Will this book develop or will it spontaneously abort? Losing this baby is hard and painful, but sometimes nature decides it’s for the best. But the joy you have watching the baby grow makes it worth the risk to try.

All through the pregnancy, you “eat right”. You feed the baby what it needs. You stuff in research, and plot twists, and character dilemmas. “Yummers,” the baby, er, book says.

But the real fun begins at delivery. Will it be short or protracted labor? You either decide to go with a natural delivery (indie publishing) or you use drug assistance, or maybe even a Caesarian (both traditional publishing). The last involves lots of publishing professionals and a good bit of waiting around for things to happen.

But in the end, no matter your path to get here, you have a spanking new baby to show off to the world.

Unlike many parents, you put your kid out there on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and all the rest as much as you can. No worries about catching germs from exposure to others. You carry that baby everywhere. And you even give it away sometimes. Good for you! Do it again and again and again! Babies thrive in a wide-range of homes.

Now, go get pregnant again and again and again.

Bloggers love it when readers share the post with others. If you would do that, I’d be most appreciative. Here are some copy/paste messages you can use.

Facebook: Authors, have you ever considered how much writing and publishing are like having a baby? Sharon Arthur Moore offers a light piece for your enjoyment. http://bit.ly/2wjFmmY

Twitter: #Authors, #writing/publishing a book is a lot like a baby pregnancy & delivery. Check out @good2tweat’s light post http://bit.ly/2wjFmmY

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

10 Procrastination Beaters

Sandy Wright (Song of the Ancients) one of my writing partners, wore a tee-shirt to our weekly writing meeting. I immediately coveted it. Now, as a disclaimer, I finally have the other commandments under control. Stealing? Check. Killing? Check (well, except in my murder mysteries). Adultery? Check. But covet . . . I struggle with covet. Sigh.

Anyway, her shirt read: “Author: Putting the PRO in Procrastination since . . . I don’t know, I’ll look it up later.”  Too funny. You can see why I coveted it.

A quick Internet search turned up some other clever procrastination sayings:
I’m taking care of my procrastination issues . . . just you wait and see.
Procrastination: Working tomorrow for a better today
Procrastinators Unite . . . Tomorrow
I procrastinate and that’s okay because I’m 10 times less likely to become a serial killer.
I got so much procrastination done today.

And so on. Very funny stuff. Unless, um, you’re one of “them.”

You know what I mean. Now, of course, all of us uh, put off “stuff”. Occasionally, that is. All of us, at some point, find junk-drawer-cleaning more engaging than a blank page.

You’re not who I am addressing today. I’m talking to the professional procrastinator. The owner of The Big P. The one who would rather start a fourth blog (Who, me?) than edit pages for submission to an editor.

Yeah, you! (and me)

So what is the best thinking about how to beat back the procrastinator bug? Try out some of these ideas and see if they help.

First, you should examine why you are procrastinating. Some authors suffer from “fear of success”. “What if my book is good and then I can’t write another. I’d be a one-book wonder.”

Others suffer from “fear of failure”. “I’m a fraud. What makes me think I can do this? I’m just no good.” In both cases, in the author’s mind, finishing the book is NOT an option, so the author finds myriad reasons to delay the work.

Some authors delay a task because they don’t want to work that hard. They are facing 300 pages of revisions and edits and they know they will be difficult. The author has spotted numerous troublesome areas that have to be fixed. Will the book need to be re-written in various places? Will 50K words have to be eliminated?

Some authors (and this is my main issue, I believe) are just not very good finishers. They love new beginnings. The next bright and sparkly book idea attracts long before the current opus is done. They want to move on and feel the thrill of discovery in the new project.

Whatever your reason for procrastinating, as Cherry Adair puts it, “Finish the damn book.” You have to wrestle procrastination to the floor or deliver the knockout punch to it. Writing a book means you have a complete story, and that you not only prettied it up (with edits) but that you revised it until it’s as good as it’s gonna get.

Here are 10 suggestions. I’ll bet one or more will work for you.

1)   Stop thinking about the task and get started. Too much thinking hinders. Set a time to start. Just getting started creates positive energy. Worry creates negative energy.
2)   Make a list of the steps needed to finish the task and post them in your work area. When you do the first one, cross it off and give yourself a treat (like checking email).
3)   Set a timer and work on your dreaded task for 15 minutes (30? 45? You decide).
4)   Do the hardest thing first. The rest will not be so difficult to gear up for.
5)   Make a list of what NOT finishing will mean. Don’t do the pros. Only the cons.
6)   Blab to the world that you’re going to finish The Great American Novel by November 1st so you can do NaNoWriMo. Ask friends to hold you accountable.
7)   Find the place in your environment where you are most productive. Make it more so by not allowing in distractions (Internet, phone messaging, etc.) until a goal is met (# of pages, # of minutes, particular task).
8)   Visualize before going to sleep each night what finishing will look like and feel like. You create a mindset for success at your most vulnerable time—right before sleep.
9)   Confront your fear. What is holding you back from completing the task? Sit your issue down and face it down. Tell your issue you’re not going to be hostage any longer.
10)  DECIDE to stop procrastinating. Yes. Decide. It was a decision you made to avoid the task (even if subconsciously), so consciously decide to stop.

Bloggers love it when others share their posts. If you found this helpful, would you spread the word on your social media outlets? Here are some copy/paste messages.

Facebook: Writers, do you own The Big P? We’re talking PROCRASTINATION. Sharon Arthur Moore has a listicle post about causes and what you can do about your Big P issue. Read 10 Procrastination Beaters to see if it helps. http://bit.ly/2vwwSWp

Twitter: #Writers, does The Big P (Procrastination) hold you captive? @good2tweat ids causes and 10 solutions http://bit.ly/2vwwSWp

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Building Your Writing Platform-How Much is Enough?

  Okay. I admit it. I’m out of control. I started my fourth blog. Whaaat???

I hear you saying, “Sharon, you are not a model for other bloggers on keeping up with the three (whaaat???) blogs you already had. So, what’s the deal?”

The thing is, I’m insecure. Nobody knows me. Nobody reads my books. Nobody . . . You got the idea. So how do I combat the insecurities as I do battle to convince myself I’m a professional writer? Yep. I write more. Not on my novels, of course. I write tweets for my four accounts, I blog on my four accounts, I post on my five Facebook pages, and try to periodically update my website. And ask me to guest post for you, and I’m there.

All of this, okay, sure, I know it . . . all of this is the illusion of a platform. My attempt to point a dozen fingers at myself so that people will find me, notice me, read me. But if people don’t see the hands on which the fingers reside, they never see them pointing.

Ah, the conundrum. No hands with fingers pointing? Then how do people find you? Hands with fingers pointing, but, still, how do people find you?

Platforms are the stuff of conference sessions, on-line classes, and dozens of books. All part of your marketing plan, right? I was pretty green about the jargon of the writing field when I first began to professionalize my writing. In my first writing conference, I saw a session about “developing your author platform.”

Platform, I remember wondering? Platform shoes? Train platform? I was bumfoozled. What in the heck is platform in relation to writing. It sounds silly now, I know, but I honestly didn’t get it.

At the session, I learned that an author’s platform is simply about increasing your visibility and name recognition. That’s it. The corollary being that visibility/name recognition translates to book sales. Okay. I got it. McDonald’s has huge visibility and name recognition. Starving? Get a Big Mac.

But are people “starving” for the kind of books I write? And where Ronald McDonald has maybe a dozen others vying for that burger sale, I am in a sea with millions of authors, thousands of whom write culinary mysteries. One fish in a large sea. How would anyone cast a hook my direction?

Supposedly, the theory goes, I become a household name because I offer substantive content on my Twitter, Facebook, blog, and website accounts. And because I offer substantive content, I will be “discovered”. Oh, and I must write great books, too.

Discovery hasn’t happened yet. And I know I’m not the only author to be wondering what else I can do. So I started another blog. Maybe this one will be the straw that turned to gold (instead of breaking my back). 

Oh, FYI. Whereas, STREETWALKER is still on Amazon, MISSION IMPASTABLE isn’t available right now while I change publishers. One more impediment.

Want to read more? Check out this article
Article from Writer Unboxed on Writer Platforms:

Please point a finger at me! Tweet or post on Facebook to get people to read this article. Here’re a couple to copy/paste. Thank you!

Twitter: What #writing platforms are supposed to do and how much is enough. Read @good2tweat’s post http://bit.ly/2vkbQdx

Facebook: Authors, do you ever wonder how much is enough for your writing platform? Does your platform translate to sales? See what Sharon Arthur Moore thinks. http://bit.ly/2vkbQdx