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OVERCOMING WRITERS BLOCK

December 4, 2019

This subject came up on one of the forums I attend on Facebook.
My immediate answer was that I couldn’t relate to it because I’ve never had it. EVER. However, I have to say that with a caveat. I’ve never had it since I took up writing seriously in 1995.
Before that time, when I not only didn’t have the muse, but didn’t have the mental or technical tools to take on the task of writing much, writers block was only a natural.
Once I found my muse, discovered I had the skill, it only came natural and I never had writers block again. I just had too many ideas to ever worry about it again.
I also write so linear, from A to B that I don’t write myself in a corner, or get off on sidetracks that veer far away from B.
That’s not to say I don’t run across hurdles and errors in my writing that I need to fix. Sure I do, but that’s not the same as writers block. I never get to the point where I stop, put the brakes on, or simply can’t think of anything to write.
I’m not like many of you out there.
TOUGH LOVE
Another author I know takes the tough love approach. His opinion is that there’s no such thing as writers block. When a writer blames it on their muse or whatever, they’re just being lazy and are procrastinating and making excuses for hitting a difficult area. They need to suck it up and think through the hurtle.
I don’t abide by that philosophy, but it works for him, as he’s a mercenary writer and gets paid for what he does. In fact, he won’t write anything unless he gets paid for it.
I write because I love it. That’s one of the keys to why I never get writers block.
WHAT TO DO?
While I’ve never had the issue myself, I’ve heard and seen methods others have used to get out of the rut, to break the cycle.
Probably the best thing to do is stop what you’re doing and walk away from it for a bit. Not just a few days, but weeks, months, maybe even a year or more. Whatever it takes to give you a fresh take on what you were writing.
What do you do during that break?
Maybe you write something else.
Maybe you just read.
Watch TV or movies.
Maybe you do nothing at all.
Research.
When you feel the time hit you (or muse), go back and re-read what you wrote, get a feel for what the issue is, if any, and pick up from there. The key is to forget about it during your time off. Take that time to reset your brain.
There’s nothing worse than stewing over that stumbling block which gave you the problem in the first place.
ALTERNATIVES
Seek out similar stories and read them. See how others did it and determine if you can work your story that same way. Maybe seeing how others did it can give you the impetus to do your own twist in a different fashion.
Maybe those similar stories will inspire you to take up an entirely different project, setting this one aside for another time. There’s nothing wrong with that. At least you’re writing!
Then again, there are those of you with drawers or hard drives full of half-finished stories. Yeah, that happens. You can’t complete anything.
Then there’s the inspiration. During your time away, planned or unplanned, you find something that sparks you back into the story. While you intended to give it a break for a set time…say a year, six weeks later, you’re driving down the freeway and pass a truck and something written on the side sparks your imagination.
BAM!
There’s the end to your writer’s block.
You never know.
All those plans down the toilet and you’re back in the game again.
SUMMARY
Sometimes, you just have to shut down for a while and reboot. Other times, you need to wait it out for a bit until something comes along. The key is don’t let the frustration build until it becomes the main issue.
Happy writing!

KEEPING YOUR READERS ENGAGED

November 27, 2019

I recently posted a sarcastic piece on Facebook about how they constantly badger me that I haven’t posted anything recently. Well, it isn’t true. I post something on each of my two dedicated book Facebook pages once a week, as a minimum, unless unforeseen circumstances get in the way.
What Facebook is trying to do is badger me into PAYING for their pretty much useless advertising, which is something I’ve talked about before here at Fred Central.
Facebook advertising is all about them taking your money and trying to engage NEW FANS. The return on your investment is almost always ZERO. However, I do have fans already. What about them?
TIME BETWEEN BOOKS
It doesn’t matter that you still haven’t come out with your first, are writing your second, or are well off on your journey with several in the hopper.
You need to keep your fans engaged and let them know you haven’t “fergotted” about them.
To do this, you keep them engaged with periodic posts about something.
The old trend was to have a web site and post things to do with whatever your platform is. That’s something I do with these articles here at Fred Central. My web site also contains stuff about my other interests for those so inclined. However, book-wise, there are sections dedicated to those aspects in-particular.
There can be long stretches between books. No matter what kind of impression your first or second or whatever book made on your audience, you need to let them know your still around and still working on the next one.
There’s nothing wrong with throwing them a bone once in a while.
WHAT DO YOU DO?
Some authors have a barely functional web site, no social media presence, and become those media hermits that readers never hear from until BAM! A new book shows up on the shelf.
The reader just has to forget all about them and be surprised when a new story appears one day.
That method works just fine for some, but when you’re not exactly a number one best-selling author, it’s a lot better to expand your horizons and engage your small fan base. It’s better to be more approachable and do a bit more marketing because frankly, you need all the help you can get, especially if you don’t have a budget to let some big publicity machine do it for you when your book comes out.
WHAT I DO
At the risk of repeating myself, which I’m not at all ashamed to do, I approach this several ways.
I have this web site, with which I post my weekly articles every Tuesday.
I also post a notice of these articles on Facebook and Twitter.
On the weekends, I post a little article about each book or series on the dedicated page here at Fred Central for my two series, Meleena’s Adventures and Detach And His Search For Gold. I then post the notices on the dedicated Facebook pages.
Twice a week, I engage my readers.
Apparently, this twice a week doesn’t count for Facebook because they keep sending me these bitch notices that I haven’t posted in a while. Why? Because I didn’t pay for their useless advertising!
Why should I when a bunch of strangers are going to just ignore my posts anyway.
Yet, my readers, like you will see them.
That’s what these things are for. YOU.
ENGAGEMENT
This may all seem like a lot of writing and posting to do each week, but the only thing it is for me is a few minutes to dream it up, about fifteen minutes to write, then actually posting it. The thing is that I keep my readers constantly engaged so they always have my books and my series in mind. Plus, because I post to several open forums, I DO get the word out to strangers, I just don’t have to pay for it!
SUMMARY
You can engage your readers in all kinds of ways, and it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to pay for it with annoying ads.
It also doesn’t mean you have to spend hours and hours at the keyboard.
It’s up to you.
Happy writing!

WRITING MAGIC

November 20, 2019

This has nothing to do with writing about magic, or magick, or about the fantasy genre. This has to do about a subject near and dear to my heart. This is something I’ve covered many times here at Fred Central.
This is when the book is close to (or is) perfectly written.
That’s right.
This is when the writing does not get in the way of the story.
This is when what’s on the printed page is merely an avenue in which you’re grabbed, and you never let go until THE END.
When you sit down to read, before you know it, you’re absorbed into the story. You never get jerked away, are never stalled, never hesitate, nor have to flip back to re-read something. You never have to slow down to slog through a spot, or skip something. You never have to dread coming across “one of those spots again.”
You read a scene or chapter, get to the end, and cannot wait to start the next chapter to find out what happens next.
This is called writing magic, and maybe it’s not a common term, but it’s mine, at least for today.
WRITING MAGIC
There’s no experimentation with voices. There’s no endless narrative. There are no long passages of italics.
The story doesn’t bog down with backstory.
The author doesn’t foretell.
The point of view is solid, and doesn’t jump around every sentence or paragraph.
GRABBING YOU
No matter how fascinating a story might be, if not done right, the writing can get in the way. Clunky writing is a story killer.
There’s always the “artiste,” out to throw their values on the unsuspecting world. I suppose they need to be out there as a counterbalance for those that want to actually sell a book, or those that just want to get people to actually read them. These artistes will garner fans in the intellectual crowd, but for the general masses, well…
Do you want to grab your reader?
I know that as a reader myself, that’s what I seek in every book I pick up. I read a lot, and when I fork out the bucks for a book, and invest the time to sit down and read it, I expect that author to grab me and take me away to another world. Most of the time, it beats television. The reason I read in the first place is to escape.
You won’t see me reading much non-fiction. That’s just not my thing, and it’s not an escape. I see enough reality in the world as it is. I DO keep informed. When I read, I read for pleasure, therefore, I expect the author to present it to me in the best and most efficient way possible.
I’d expect most people are the same way. Not all, but most.
I also know some people’s tolerances for bullshit are different than mine.
I’ve had over sixty years to experience and analyze what does and doesn’t work best. I KNOW it doesn’t fit everyone, but I also know by sales numbers that I’m right a good bit of the time.
The books that possess that writing magic always do well because they grab you. Period.
SUMMARY
There are plenty of books out there that grab you by subject matter, yet the writing has no magic at all. The writing is pure crap. Unfortunately, because the subject matter becomes so popular, other imitators copy the writing style and more crap churns out.
In other words, there’s even less magic out there inadvertently, because of a hot subject matter. It’s written like crap, but the style becomes popular because people are not only imitating the subject matter, but the horrific writing.
Happens all the time.
There are no absolutes.
Oh well…life goes on.
Happy writing!

RAMBLING

November 12, 2019

In January, 2018, I had an article called Rambling On And On. In this article, I’m revisiting it because this is a subject near and dear to my heart and it recently came up on a fantasy forum on Facebook.
The question was about what sub-genres or how much fantasy do you read? I’m paraphrasing here.
My answer was that I hardly ever read fantasy, even though I write in the genre.
Why?
Many of the authors tend to ramble on and on too much and I find it a real slog to get through all of that to get to the point. Once again, I’m paraphrasing myself, but that’s the gist of what I said.
While I expected some flack from that, I was quite surprised to not only get several likes, but written responses with like-minded words to the same effect.
ONE LITTLE THING…
My most glaring example is an un-named author, who I struggled through four books in his series of thousand-word tomes. He would take one hundred pages just for one little thing to happen. I’m not kidding.
His books were a real slog.
I completely lost interest in the series, and cringe every time I see those thick books on the shelves.
Whenever I see a six-to-nine-hundred page fantasy novel, I automatically skip it.
Why?
The authors can’t seem to get from A to B in an efficient manner.
SOME PEOPLE LOVE IT
Undoubtedly there are many fans of these writers, otherwise what publisher would want to invest in these endless tomes which apparently sell enough to keep the publishers in business?
However, there are plenty of readers like me who would rather spend their time and money on a story that gets to the point.
There are two sides to this coin.
GETTING TO THE POINT
If you go to the bookstore and browse the fantasy/science fiction shelves, you’ll notice the majority of books are quite thick. The majority.
There are thin ones out there.
I guess for some fantasy readers, they feel cheated if the book isn’t at least five-hundred pages.
On the other hand, I’ve deliberately selected a thin one or two just to see the difference and ran into another issue. So far, they were all either first-person or present-tense!
I still haven’t found a thin fantasy novel that’s readable by my standards of third-person, past-tense yet, at least at the bookstore!
Once I do, I’ll let you know how it turns out.
I’M NOT DONE YET
I wouldn’t be fair, simply restricting myself to the bookstore.
I have read thin fantasy novels that never made it to the bookstore shelves because they were traditionally published, but by a small publisher.
I could list them, but I’m not here to plug any particular author.
Let’s just say they were great! I mean that sincerely because I not only loved them, I reviewed them to let everyone else know. These stories were true fantasy. They got to the point, told a great story, and didn’t need five-hundred plus pages of rambling to do it!
They’re written in solid third-person, past-tense, and are all available on Amazon. I wish they were available in the bookstore, but oh well.
A GREAT FANTASY (OR ANY) STORY ISN’T JUST ABOUT WORD COUNT
I’ve never bought into this idea that you have to describe everything including the kitchen sink. You don’t have to delve into ever characters inner thoughts and feelings, ad nauseum.
Give enough of everything to make the story come alive and absorb the reader, but get to the point. Your book is an escape, but not a prison!
Happy writing!

FOOD IN YOUR WORLD

November 7, 2019

It’s the little things that color your world. Some you never really think about but just do. When you’re world building, whether in a fantasy world, science fiction, or in the real world, one way or another, your characters are eventually going to eat or drink something.

How’re you going to handle it?

Not everyone is going to buy off on McDonalds.

USING REAL-WORLD FOOD

Even in a fantasy or science fiction world, there’s nothing wrong with using real-world food. This is a case where maybe you just give this real-world food different names and slightly altered the descriptions.

Also, you probably shouldn’t take a modern-day, current recipe and use it in a fantasy setting. On the other hand, in a science-fiction world, maybe you could use it but call it an antique or ancient dish of some kind.

The last thing you want to do is jerk the reader out of your world because you use some meal that doesn’t belong.

On the other hand, steak is steak. Chicken is chicken. However, in your fantasy world, maybe you’d call it cow or bird or some other variation to keep it a bit isolated from the real-world. If it were science fiction, maybe make it synthetic, or make it real but rare, because in the future, real meat is a rare and valuable commodity (though this seems to be a trope nowadays).

Then again, there’s nothing wrong with world building real steak and chicken right into your fantasy world along with…

MADE-UP FOOD

In world-building, part of the fun IS world-building. In other words, you’re making this all up. That includes the minor details that bring it alive. Food is a good example. Exotic to mundane dishes dredged up from your imagination (that you’ve cleverly disguised to seem more than they really are) make for great dressing (ha ha) for your meals.

My only suggestion is that you don’t make these dishes either too complex, or too revolting so that they turn off the reader. At least keep them less revolting for the main characters, or at least some of them. Then again, it would be kind of fun to see some characters eat stuff that is completely revolting. They’ve done this with science fiction and fantasy. The point is that you don’t want the food to distract too much from the rest of the story. It should enhance the story, not give the reader nightmares!

REAL-WORLD FOOD

There are no restrictions on what you can do here. You can go for simple, snooty exotic, to anything in-between. That’s entirely up to you, and the character of your characters. In fact, food can be a key part of your character’s character. It should be an enhancement though, and not a distraction.

SUMMARY

We don’t eat, we drop dead.

Therefore, it’s a critical element in any story, whether real-world, fantasy or science fiction.

How you use food in your story is up to you, but it should enhance the experience and not be a distraction.

Happy writing!

ANYTHING BUT WORD

October 29, 2019

More and more I see writers seeking some form of writing software that isn’t Word.

They’re constantly looking for something…anything as a tool to write with.

One might get the impression they absolutely despise anything Microsoft.

That’s not necessarily the correct assumption.

Why?

DEVICES

Many people nowadays don’t write on a conventional keyboard or computer. They use apps and devices. So guess what? As I’ve learned in several painful incidents, apps and what I know of as conventional software aren’t one in the same.

Therefore, from the feedback I’ve obtained, Word somehow has lost the ball when it comes to the world of apps.

I do know that at least when it comes to Facebook, I’m no fan of the Facebook app, which I’m forced to use on my phone. If that’s any indication, then…hey, come to think of it, I’m not all that crazy about any of the apps I use on my phone.

Okay, if I was a writer and had to use an app on a device, I’m all sympathy.

THOSE WITH KEYBOARDS

There are those with keyboards who STILL don’t want nothing to do with Word. Maybe they’re Apple people who hate Microsoft “juss cuzz,” or they somehow came from some other word processor that’s obsolete. Of whatever the case. They’ve heard there’s something else out there.

ORGANIZATION

Many writers are disorganized. They’re scattered about, or have several different programs to compile their characters, plots, towns, locations, statistics, chapters, outlines, special words, bla bla bla. That has brought up the rise of all-in-one writing programs.

This is something Word doesn’t do. It doesn’t organize, fold, bend, staple, and mutilate all of this for you in one easy to access place. Some of these software packages do it for you on the fly, or supposedly do.

Some people are gleefully happy to discard Word for this stuff.

One problem.

Learning curve.

LEARNING CURVE

While writing software packages can be a cure-all for some people, there is the caveat that you have to learn all this crap. Since you have a complex bunch of programs melded together, you have to learn said complex melded programs, and all the ins and outs. This doesn’t happen overnight, though the learning curve may not be as hard as some things.

It all depends on how much effort and time you want to put into it and how much you want to take away from your actual writing to get it all done.

It could be worth it.

DEPENDS ON THE TYPE OF WRITER YOU ARE

If you’re just starting out, it might be worth it to invest the time, money and training in learning one of these complex writing packages to get a step ahead.

If you’ve been at things a while and are struggling, it might be worth it.

If you already have a system that works and are just restless, you’re better off spending all that pent up energy on a plot twist.

If you’re like me, I already have my methods that work, like yellow stickies on my computer desk, an encyclopedia for my fantasy series which I update as I go along, linear plots, and seat-of-the-pants writing style for everything else. I have no need to fix something that isn’t broke, especially after thirty years of experience with the Microsoft package.

SUMMARY

You’ll notice I didn’t mention a single other software package or writing program. First off, this isn’t an instruction article on any of them. I attended a single session on one of them conducted by our own Amanda Skenandore of the Henderson Writer’s Group. While an outstanding instructor, I knew after just a little while, the one she taught, Scrivner I believe (and don’t quote me on the spelling), wasn’t for me and instantly forgot the correct spelling of the name of that software package. She had a few converts at the meeting, but I wasn’t one of them. Everything she taught sounded great for someone who needs organization, but it was also stuff I already do in my own way, already using what I already have, with Word alone. I’m not sure if she still uses that software package, but whether she does or not, she’s come out with some outstanding stories and that has more to do with her writing skills than whatever software she uses.

Happy writing!

UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES

October 23, 2019

Have you ever run across the situation where you wrote something and then someone pointed out to you that you just said or implied something off the wall, or something you never intended?

I know I just said something three times within the same sentence, which in this case, was intentional, but more to my point, what if it was unintentional?

Since this is my article and I just brought it up, I’ll be the sacrificial lamb and use myself as the perfect example.

A PERFECT EXAMPLE

This is not a blatant plug, but why not?

In my latest work in progress, Across The Endless Sea, which is the third Meleena’s Adventures fantasy novel, I referred to a particular tome as “fake.”

During the course of the story, I referred to this “fake” book multiple times.

At one reading critique session, one of the reviewers pointed out to me that given it’s a fantasy world, and while it IS my own creation where the word “fake” could be a part of the local lingo, there’s another issue. With real-world events taking place today, the word could be construed as a political slur, or a political comment or maybe even hint at my political leanings.

While some in the group considered that a stretch, myself included, at least at first, I had to think about that one.

I’ve been using the word fake for over sixty years. It’s been a part of my language a loooong time. Only recently has that word been thrust to the forefront by the national news. Should I let that force me to delete it from my arsenal of useful words?

Then I had to pause and consider the consequences.

The last thing I want to do is give my readers the impression I lean one way or the other politically. Those that know me personally know where I stand, but I don’t want to alienate my audience and any potential readers by imposing any political, religious or sexual beliefs on them. I just hate when celebrities or non-political personalities do that.

Therefore, here come the unintended consequences. This harmless little word, “fake” has been hijacked by recent media. While I still personally find a wide array of uses for it, because of the political implications, I don’t want to give the impression to anyone that I lean one way or the tuther.

Therefore I’m changing this “politically charged” word to something else (undecided yet) and adding a new word to Meleena’s world. If somehow this new word isn’t right for normal fantasy, well it IS now for Meleena’s world and just tough if it doesn’t fit the genre. I bend it enough as it is and it doesn’t seem to bother anyone!

YOUR UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES

This can be a single word like mine, a character, a plot or sub-plot.

What you intend and what comes out, you may have a blind eye to until a second set of eyes or maybe third of fourth sets of eyes look at it and tells you what you don’t see.

The thing is, what do you do about it?

Are you going to change things, or defy everyone?

Are these consequences hurtful or just something different? Are they something you might find as a happy accident? Or, will they change the entire outcome of your story?

Will changing things change your direction, or keep them the same and make things better? Worse?

SECOND AND MORE SETS OF EYES

I repeat this over and over again.

There’s nothing more important that multiple sets of eyes.

You can’t always see the forest through the trees.

Someone else may need to help you see the “fake” out there for you.

SUMMARY

I could just as easily have left things be and not worried about it. However, as my fellow critiquers suggested, as far out as that fake word may be in today’s world, it might give someone the impression I either support or am making fun of certain people in power. That’s the last thing I want to do. In fact, the last thing I want to do is even make people think of what’s going on in today’s world…at all. The whole point of going into Meleena’s world is to, for a little while, forget about today and drift off into a fantasy world.

Hopefully, those of you that are fiction writers want to do the same thing…well…most of you.

Happy writing!