Tag Archives: Writing Toolbox

Toolbox 16: Engaging the Reader

This post was written for the Author Toolbox Blog Hop where we share our new discoveries on the craft of writing, editing, querying, marketing, publishing, and blogging tips. Posted every third Wednesday of the month. For rules and sign-up click here.

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I don’t know about you but I’ve been asking myself this for some time. What engages a reader? That fell flat on its face, so I move on to why do I read.

  • Biggest reason is I’m looking for the next big story.

While I’m looking I’m okay with:

  • visiting to another world (fantasy or not)
  • enjoying a good laugh, surprises, crazy antics
  • solving mysteries

I thought long and hard about what makes up a great story. The Five (TV Series) comes to mind. It blew my mind, but I’m not talking. You’ll have to watch it yourself.

And The Magicians + the Wayward series (the books) were definitely good.

I Googled it. Online says its all about the characters. I’m not sure it is only the characters, but I have to start somewhere.

WHAT MAKES CHARACTERS COMPELLING?

My problem is don’t necessarily connect with the characters immediately but I do accept them. I’m like that with the people I meet as well. Be warned: it’s a personal thing that may slant my point of view.

Online suggests to write a compelling story, we must start with a compelling character.

Some traits to include:

  • well-rounded and random characteristics from all walks of life
  • a driving need, desire, ambition or goal
  • a deeply hidden, possibly shameful, secret
  • coping/not coping with a contradiction and vulnerability (ex. bravery = deep need vs fear)
  • showing vulnerabilities beneath a tough exterior (to the reader at least)
  • the constant pressure of the consequences of success and failure
  • the drive to face an opponent that has a better chance of succeeding than they do

What’s a hero without a villain

Something I love to see the protagonist and antagonist are both sympathetic characters. I love understanding and even agreeing with both sides. It makes for an undetermined outcome. (Rarely found in a mystery.)

Lets say we’ve done all this and the readers are still not connecting. What then?

Characters carry the reader with them throughout; but occasionally, it takes time to get to know them. Stalling for time….

The world

We might have a very strong woman on a vestroid in the Asteroid Belt. We don’t know why she’s there.

Why do we care?

We might not. But hey! we are experiencing the Asteroid Belt. Hopefully that’s cool enough until the reader gets into the murder, industrial espionage and characters.

I’m thinking of the Magicians and Wayward. Sometimes the world can draw a reader in.

The Stakes

It isn’t the actor as much as what they face that brings out the egads in us.

Our actor faces an incident that could shatter their outer world as well as their inner reality, leaving them changed forever. The consequences leading to something more unimaginable. And will not only destroy the protagonist, but everyone else in their world.

For example check out an episode of Manifest.

Whether or not we used the stakes as a draw, we need to express them as early as possible.

OUR MISSION AS WRITERS

All of us need to find a way to engage our readers. They’ve checked out our cover, and read the blurb. They’ve scanned the first few pages. Lets not lose them now.

Anything you’d like to add? I’m all ears.

Gleaned from:

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Toolbox 15: Horror Writing

This post was written for the Author Toolbox Blog Hop where we share our new discoveries on the craft of writing, editing, querying, marketing, publishing, and blogging tips. Posted every third Wednesday of the month. For rules and sign-up click here.

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I’ve read all kinds of how-to writing manuals. That said, I know that I won’t write romance, but some of my stories will have romantic elements. I include several genre elements in my work, so why not horror.

It’s October and during this month I watch, read and eat up horror stories.

Stephen King built his career on horror in the early years. Some quotes to consider:

“Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win.”
― Stephen King

“There’s no bitch on earth like a mother frightened for her kids.”
― Stephen King

“We make up horrors to help us cope with the real ones.” 
― Stephen King

My favorite is psychological

Some people imagine blood and guts when it comes to horror. I don’t. I’m more of the person who makes sure the windows and doors are locked because I suddenly suspect there is a vampire outside. I’m all about atmosphere and the creepy feeling that doesn’t go away after the story is over.

It’s exhilarating, and to me that’s horror!

It starts off in a normal world we are all familiar with. Then slowly changes into a world no one else would recognize.

Why it works

Horror has monsters—human and otherwise.

Darkness brings an element of the unknown it. Degrees of shadows that warp everything from playgrounds, and backyards to our neighbor’s face. Friendly streets become sinister when the lights flicker off.

We can’t help but instinctively want to avoid the imagined danger.

A flashlight is just a flashlight swinging in someone hand. But when it falls to the ground and rolls to a stop, it changes.

Without the deepened shadows, we’d easily see the fellow who dropped the flashlight bending over to pick it up.

And if we can’t see what’s there?

For all we know something’s lurking. Possibly behind the flashlight carrier. When the flashlight falls and is left untouched, there is only one answer. The answer is unique to each of our imaginations. If it frightens us, and we can’t call for help, the most we might do is watch as the batteries die.

Already imagining what we’ll find only inches from the Maglite come dawn.

Suspense is not Horror

Just as not all fingers are thumbs and all thumbs are fingers.

Suspense and tension are in all good stories. We want the reader to care. To feel the emotional escalation that drives the page turner.

Horror uses suspense with a mix of the fear factor (maybe sprinkled with the terror of it all) to drive the story forward.

Heroes are different too

In horror, we count on the hero doing more than we would dare. It has become cliché for a hero, alone and unarmed, to hear a sound and pursue it into a dark basement. It’s a cliché for a reason, fellow horror lovers.

Heroes offer hope. Out of all the things that happen, one person might live.  And when we watch or read on, we need our hero to fearlessly face what scares them most. They jeopardize their lives saving others or trying to.  To feel the failure, the heartache and shake it off long enough to try one last time.

Survival brings with it a giddiness that makes life sweeter, even if we still carry a little fear with us afterward.

Are you writing any horror this month? Reading some? Tell me about it.

Also: I’ve joined Wattpad. If you’re there too, let me know. Link’s on the sidebar. 😉

Gleaned from:

Toolbox 14: Query Revamping

This post was written for the Author Toolbox Blog Hop where we share our new discoveries on the craft of writing, editing, querying, marketing, publishing, and blogging tips. Posted every third Wednesday of the month. For rules and sign-up click here.

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Last post I shared that I submitted to ten agents since then I’ve received eight rejections. All form letters confirmed in QueryTracker.

A quick visit to  Query Shark, some heavy reading and I went into revamp mode.

I reworked my query, synopsis, and sample chapters.  I didn’t have to redo all of it. Form letters usually mean the reader didn’t get past the query letter, but once I started fixing things…

What i focused on when revamping

What’s the hook? Many of the example letters started off with a general book description. I didn’t make this mistake. I’m pretty sure I was too vague. She strongly suggests looking for the crux of the character’s dilemma, a rhetorical question, or grabbing the reader with a tagline.

Why does anyone care? Excellent question—hence the rewrite. Several actually. It took work to pin down why anyone would care and want to read my book.

Maintaining an even ten

Ten queries are out and its been quiet. Of the seven rejections, one came the next day. So now I’m wondering if I hit a busy patch or maybe they haven’t gotten to me yet. OR, fingers crossed, my query letter survived the agent’s initial read through and is in a holding pattern.

Anyhoo.

I’ve read this process can take years and it has been suggested I get working on my next project just in case I run out of agents on my list to keep me moving forward.

What do you do to keep a positive outlook when submitting?

Toolbox 13: Quotes to Inspire

This post was written for the Author Toolbox Blog Hop where we share our new discoveries on the craft of writing, editing, querying, marketing, publishing, and blogging tips. Posted every third Wednesday of the month. For rules and sign-up click here.

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Right now I should be writing this for the IWSG but alas that isn’t for weeks and I need a post now. I threw away my original post and thought, instead of going on and on about my dry research, I’d dive in to what inspires me most—other writers.

As I read, I remember they started as we did: knowing nothing, learning the craft and taking a chance.

“If I waited for perfection… I would never write a word.”
—Margaret Atwood

“Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good.”
William Faulkner

“I write to give myself strength. I write to be the characters that I am not. I write to explore all the things I’m afraid of. ”
— Joss Whedon

“I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.”
–Anne Frank

“I really think that if there’s any one enemy to human creativity, especially creative writing, it’s self-consciousness.”
—Andre Dubus III

And one to inspire Easter eggs hunts

“If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and overagain, there is no use in reading it at all.”
—Oscar Wilde

As you may have guessed, I’m starting something new. I’m taking chances and trying my hand at a magical realism mystery. What was I thinking, is what I’m thinking right now. Please add your favorite, if you have one, in the comments.

Toobox 12: Calibre, “Send to Kindle”, and Lulu

This post was written for the Author Toolbox Blog Hop where we share our new discoveries on the craft of writing, editing, querying, marketing, publishing, and blogging tips. Posted every third Wednesday of the month. For rules and sign-up click here.

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Calibre

Many people like to read their work on an ereader. Calibre is one way to do that. Here are the download links if you want them:

Windows | MacOS | Linux

I started using Calibre because I could not catch all my errors on a computer screen. My mind, like many others, self corrects. I was stuck printing. Fine, but expensive when still in revision mode. As my stories got longer the more I looked for an alternative.

Calibre converts a MS Word doc into a mobi (that’s my choice but there are more). I see both my Calibre library and the books/documents on my Kindle. I’ve also added my favorite recipes. One button and the document is transferred to my phone. Easy peasy.

Amazon Send to Kindle

Another  way to get a document on a Kindle is “Send to Kindle”. Here are the links to download this app: PC, Android, & Mac.

There is some setting up required.

  • Download and install app
  • Sign in (same info for registering your app/reader)
  • On any closed MS Word Document right click and from the drop down menu choose: send to kindle.
    • First time asks for accept terms of service
  • It lists the title and author of the work, how it will be sent (wifi or Whispernet) and which device (if you have more than one with the Kindle app)
  • Wait for a bit and it will show up with the next sync.

Once it is set up it is very straight forward to use.

Lulu

And for the person who still prefers a hard copy…

If you still like paper copies try Lulu.com. Their most basic package is cheaper (according to one of my writing buddies) than printing it out at home.

Note: Select 8.5 x11 and One copy.

For my final read through before submitting, I like make changes and just leave remarks to consider later. If I don’t do it this way, I land up reverting back to revision mode—not the goal.

Just thought you’d enjoy some alternative methods to read over your latest project.

I keep thinking one day I’ll gather my work together and create a volume of works using Lulu.

Do you do something similar? Feel free to share  you methods. I love to learn something new. 🙂