tagged with: writers

Dr. Martin Luther King was a civil rights activist who was not afraid to fight for what he believed in. He inspired us with his eloquence and challenged us with his vision. His “I Have A Dream” speech, which he delivered to over 250,000 people from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D. C., was voted the top American speech of the twentieth century in a 1999 poll.

That speech has proven to be not just an oratorical masterpiece, but a prophecy of what was to come. Today, our nation seems more divided than ever, but in many instances, as in the murder of George Floyd, we see races join together across the country to bring awareness to the need for gun reform, an end to police killings of black people and to issues that affect women.

The dreamer may have departed, but the dream lives on.

What about your dream? Do you have one?  MLK shouted his dream to the masses every chance he got. Have you told anyone about yours? You may have to be careful though about who you tell your dream to. Some may support you, others may laugh, but that’s okay. Don’t give up on your dream.  Hold on to it. Write it, speak it, share it, and one day it will become a reality. Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House On the Prairie was published between 1932 and 1943, and is still being read today. Maybe fifty years from now people will be talking about you.

Think about it.

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Angela is the author of Women For All Seasons, the Egypt series, Love, Lies, and Grace, and Making Music Together. 

This week I accepted a challenge by writing coach, Suzanne Lieurance. Suzanne threw out a challenge to members of the Working Writer’s Club to join her in adopting some healthy habits over the next four weeks. If you are a writer, you know how difficult it can be to find time for exercise. Even our nutrition suffers as we tend to snack while writing, or drink cups of coffee while we struggle to meet deadlines.

If you fall into any of these patterns, the following tips will help you observe healthy habits while you write .

1. Shop right. If you want to be a healthy writer, the first thing you need to do is go out and shop for some real food.  Bypass the junk food and stock up on some fruits, veggies, eggs, meat,  fish and whole grain breads. 

2. Prepare meals beforehand and store in the freezer so you won’t be tempted to snack.  Make a few sandwiches – chicken, turkey, tuna – whatever you like, wrap and store in the fridge. That way you don’t have to worry about what you’re going to eat and you won’t be reaching for the potato chips or something like that.  For your afternoon snack, you can make a smoothie and store it in the fridge, or try some strawberries with low-fat whipped cream.

3. Exercise. I know this sometimes sounds like a bad word, but you can find time to exercise. It doesn’t have to be for long blocks of time. In fact, if you find it difficult to tear yourself away from the computer, why not do it first thing in the morning? I went walking  this  morning and it always boosts my energy for the day and helps me think clearly. If you can’t do that, there are exercises you can do while sitting at your desk.  I wrote a post on that sometime ago. You can read about it here: http://angelasfreelancewriting.com/fitness-tips-for-writers/.

So accept the challenge and come back and leave a comment on what you are doing and how it’s benefiting you. Happy writing!

 

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If you answered ‘yes’ to the above, you may want to watch this video first. What he shows in this video is funny, but so realistic. After you write The End, you have only just begun. You have to go through the blood, sweat and tears of EDITING!

Watch and enjoy!

 

I recently returned from a fourteen-day cruise to the Adriatic where I visited historical sites in Athens, Greece, Ephesus, Turkey, Dubrovnik, Croatia and Venice, Italy to name a few. On all of these trips, we revisited pages and pages of history in one or two hours of walking tours. Needless to say, I took hundreds of pictures and made some jottings in my little notebook, but when I returned home something very strange happened. In looking at some of the pictures, I couldn’t remember where they were taken. I asked my friend who accompanied me on the trip, “Do you remember where Achilleon’s palace is?”

She shook her head. “No.”

Here I am in front of one of the gates of the Acropolis in Athens

“Do you think it could be in Corfu?”

She knitted her brow. “It could very well be, but I don’t remember what we did in Corfu.”
Neither could I. We burst out laughing. The only reason I could ascribe to that senior moment we seemed to have had, was Corfu was the last place we visited, and by then our brains must have reached saturation point with all the material we were fed over the past two weeks.

Achilleon's palace, dedicated to the god Achilles

This brings me to something I have learned about being a writer. You must write things down. As soon as they come to you. Don’t wait until you get in front of your computer. I have worked out plot points, scenery descriptions, even dialog in my mind, only to remember just a fragment of them when I sit down to write. And try as I might, the words never sound as beautiful or as poetic as they did in my mind.

The old Olympic stadium in Ephesus, Turkey.

So now, after my Corfu experience, I’m going to write things down as they occur to me. Those flashes of inspiration don’t hang around forever. You must grab them now, or consign them to the shredder of your mind.

How do you keep track of those bits of genius the muse throws your way? Leave a comment and let me know about it.

Have you seriously thought about your About page? Are you happy with it? Is it drawing the readers you hope to attract? If you answer no to any of these questions, maybe you need to go back and take another look at this important page on your site.

Consider your About page as your sales copy. It is what sells you to your readers, your target market. Once you know who they are you should address them with the proper tone and content. So here are some facts to consider:

1. Tell them who you are – your name and your credentials. Whether you write in first or third person depends on the tone of your site. First person tends to be more informal.

2. Show them who you are – You are not a dog, a cat or a flower. As long as you are a human being you should have a photo so people know who they are dealing with.

3. KISS – By this I mean Keep it Short and Simple. Write in simple, concise sentences. Readers don’t have much time to stay on any one site.

4. Infuse your values – Let your readers know what makes you tick, what brought you to this point. It doesn’t have to be an essay, just a few short, simple lines.

5. Include your social media – Let your readers know how they can connect with you on Facebook etc. That way they get to know more about you.

6. Have a call to action – What do you want your readers to do after they have read about you? Invite them to browse your online store, subscribe to your blog or visit your Amazon page.

7. Toot your horn – Potential clients want to know what makes you an expert. Any certificates, honorable mentions, awards etc. should be mentioned on your About page.

I did a major overhaul to my About page and am still in the process of tweaking it. I think it’s still too long and wordy. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Also, if you post your website URL, I’ll check out your page as well.


As writers we are always researching to find information that will help us improve our writing skills and market ourselves. There are many good websites for writers, some of which I subscribe to and receive regular updates from them in my mailbox. I have been greatly helped by some of them and thought I would pass on the information to you. I hope the following list will be helpful:

1. American Writers and Artists Inc. (AWAI)

This site offers excellent courses – live as well as virtual – in copywriting, photography, travel writing and freelance writing in general. Once you sign up for one of their courses you get their newsletter with up to date information on their conferences as well as other ways to build your business.

2. Bloggerlinkup.com

If you are looking for ways to link up with other bloggers either by posting to their blogs or having them post to yours, this site is a great way to do so. Through the site you can also request sources for interviews and reviews, announce your giveaways, contests and the like. A great resource for bloggers.

3. BookDaily.com

This is a site I recently came across. On this site writers get to post their profile, the title of their book, a short summary and the first chapter of their book and it is seen by visitors to the site. If you want advanced promotion where your information is sent by email to their subscribers, you pay a fee.

4. Book Buzzr.

What better way to buzz your book than by posting regular tweets to your followers? Book Buzzr allows you to do that and more, and best of all most of it is free. When you use the look inside feature, your readers get to read an excerpt from your book on your site or on Book Buzzr.

5. Funds For Writers

This site is managed by Hope Clark, writer and editor, and features articles on freelance and fiction writing as well as a listing of contests, markets, grants and retreats. It has been listed by Writer’s Digest among the 101 best websites for writers.

6. Freelance Writing Jobs

As the name suggests, this site gives a listing of writing jobs, both local and remote. It also gives valuable writing tips and encouragement to writers.

7. Mediabistro.com

No serious freelance writer should be without a membership to this site. In addition to offering some of the best online freelance writing courses available, you can also receive health and dental insurance at reduced premiums, How-to-Pitch articles, tax services and a host of other benefits. The How-to-Pitch articles are one of my favorite features of the site.

8. The Working Writers Club

This is a site where writers get to meet each other virtually, exchange ideas and learn more about the business of freelance writing. I am a member of this group and have benefited greatly from interacting with other members, from the daily hints and tips put out by the coach, Suzanne Lieurance and from the monthly teleclass. This is a good and inexpensive way to learn more about improving yourself as a freelance writer.

9. Writer Beware Blogs

There are so many scams out there nowadays and writers, because they generally operate as solopreneurs, are very vulnerable to these scam artists. This is why you need to visit Writer Beware Blogs to acquaint yourself with the many pitfalls that unsuspecting writers sometimes get themselves into.

10. Writer’s Digest

This post would not be complete without a mention of this giant among writers’ resources. With articles from top notch agents and experts in the business, writing materials, conferences and contests, Writer’s Digest delivers again and again.

So, there you have it. The Top Ten, if you want to call it that. I am sure you have your favorite websites that you frequent. Please drop me a line and let me know, or if any of the above have been especially helpful to you, I would be happy to know.

Do you agonize over the opening of your novel? Do you rewrite and rewrite until you barely recognize the first paragraph you wrote just minutes ago? With all the emphasis on captivating or hooking your readers, moreso your agent, most writers really sweat over that first paragraph.

To get some idea as to what the experts consider captivating, I took Leads and Story Openings by Robert Walker off my bookshelf. It’s a book I purchased when I first began writing seriously. According to Walker, your lead should

Get Attention
Set tone of the piece
Create an interest factor

In other words, make you want to read the book. Let’s look at two examples Walker gave. The first of each is a poor to average attention getter; the second is the better one.

The last flight to Cuzco was due to leave in an hour and a half. Yet our tickets had not yet arrived. What were we to do?

Here’s the better lead according to Walker:

“No tickets!There are no tickets, no reservation under your name. Please step aside for the next customer,” she said.

Here’s another example:

One night while I was working late at the church office, a man knocked on the door. He appeared distressed and had a woman with him whom I recognized as a member of our congregation.

The better one:
“I’ve just kidnapped this girl,” the man shouted. Waving a gun he stood before me with his captive, a young woman I recognized as Delissa, a member of our church.

From these two examples, Walker seems to favor a lead that begins with some type of dialog. In his own words: Note the techniques: direct quotes, narrative-type lead, clear description of the scene and its people. However, if you take a look at some of the most famous opening paragraphs, you will see that none of these elements are present.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going to heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
“A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens (1859)

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it. In the first place, that stuff bores me, and in the second place, my parents would have about two hemorrhages apiece if I told anything pretty personal about them.
“The Catcher in the Rye” by J. D. Salinger (1951)

Through the fence, between the curling flower spaces, I could see them hitting. They were coming toward where the flag was and I went along the fence. Luster was hunting in the grass by the flower tree. They put the flag back and they went to the table, and he hit and the other hit. Then they went on, and I went along the fence. Luster came away from the flower tree and we went along the fence and they stopped and we stopped and I looked through the fence while Luster was hunting in the grass.
“The Sound and the Fury” by William Faulkner (1929)

These are three of the more famous openers that have remained on the iconic list throughout the ages. What do you think of them? Do they really spur you to read the book, or does the opening impress you after you have read the last line? Drop me a line and share your thoughts. Next post I will deal with a few contemporary opening paragraphs.

If you’re a writer I’m sure you’ve heard of NaNoWriMo, a catchy little title that stands for National Novel Writing Month. The month happens to be every November. This is the first time I have entered this, what should I call it? Race? It’s not a competition. At least you’re not competing against anyone but yourself. To write at least 50,000 words by the end of the month. That’s a tough call, but doable for those folks who do not have a day job and have the luxury of writing as much as they want to, or as little. I don’t fall into that category. So why am I doing it?

It motivates me. Since I still have a day job, my writing is sporadic, to say the least. Knowing that I have to try to keep up, gives me the push I need to write if only half a page, as I did this morning. The folks at NaNoWriMo say you should not stop to edit. Simply allow your thoughts to flow and get through the first draft. For me that is difficult. I love to ponder over every line, but now I have to train myself to simply put my thoughts down, then think about them later.

Link up with others. Writing can be a lonely business. NaNoWriMo is a good way to link up with other writers. I haven’t done it yet, but there are groups in my city that meet at certain times to give support and assistance. This also helps keep you motivated and you may make lifelong friends.

Free Giveaways. Writer’s Digest is also getting into the act with free giveaways. Check out http://bit.ly/RFgQkA every Monday – Friday in the month of November to access the content. They are also highlighting weekly themes to help you write your novel. So now I’m off to get some more writing done.

You have worked for months, maybe years, on your novel and now you are faced with the daunting task of writing the synopsis. Writers dread the work of condensing a 300-page manuscript into one page. Knowing what to include and how to include it is crucial to writing a compelling synopsis.

What a synopsis is not

It is not an author’s bio, nor the reason why you wrote the book. You can state this briefly in your query letter, but only briefly. It is not a character sketch, neither is it a list of plot points. Having said that, let’s take a look at what a synopsis is:

It is a summary of your book

Plain and simple. It contains the beginning andthe end with the high points of your story sandwiched between them.

It is compelling

Notice I use the word compelling because your synopsis should be as compelling as the story itself. And in order to do that you have to first start with a hook, just as you did at the beginning of your book. You want the editor to continue reading, right? Then in the body of your synopsis you write the salient points of your story in chronological order. This may not happen in your book, but for the sake of clarity, events should follow each other in order.

It uses strong verbs

Just as when you wrote the book, you chose strong verbs, used the active voice rather than passive and used adjectives and adverbs sparingly, do the same with your synopsis. And always write in the present tense.

It is concise

Leave out details that don’t matter. For example, if Anne confides in her friend, Susie, that she’s thinking of divorcing Jim, it’s not necessary to say Ann picked up the phone and called Susie and invited her to dinner and over a steak and lobster dinner … No, you are choking the details. Simply say what Anne tells Susie.

It includes action and reaction

Be careful to state how major characters react to events in the story – if their reaction helps to drive the plot. Let’s say Susie is thrilled at Anne’s news because she has had her eyes on Jim for a long time – then you must include that.

It follows the agent’s/editor’s guidelines

Some agents may ask for a one-page synopsis, some may simply say “short.” If they do not specify, limit your synopsis to two or three pages.

I heard someone say it’s a good idea to write the synopsis first. I don’t think that would work for me. My characters tend to change direction midway. But if you have carefully plotted your novel before you started writing your story, then you can give it a try. Either way, the more you practice, the better you will become. Why not try writing a synopsis for a story you have read?
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Resources

I have been away from my blog for a few weeks, reason being that I was at a conference the first week, then I went on vacation and now I’m trying to reignite my brain to pick up where it left off. I must confess that during my vacation I broke one of my rules, which is to write every day. But even the best of us slip up sometimes, don’t we?. So on to the conference.

Before I signed up, I’d never heard of the Black Writers Retreat & Conference. But since it was in my backyard, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, I thought I should take advantage of the proximity. It turned out to be a good investment in time and money. The seaside location proved to be ideal, the workshops practical and helpful and the presenters knowledgeable and inspiring.

The first workshop I attended was titled “Writing Faction.” Now this got me, as I thought it was a typo, but, of course, the organizers were too professional to make that kind of error. The subject had to do with research methodology and presenting the facts in your memoir, biography or even in fiction. The presenter, Dr. Heiss, who hails from Sydney, Australia showed us how to gather and include facts in our stories.

Dr. Heiss cautioned that in preparing to write we should first consider:

1. What do I want to do with my novel and
2. Why do people need to read my story

She then went into the importance of research methodology. Now this is a topic that, unless you are a history buff or someone like that, most writers may not find very exciting. But as Dr. Heiss spoke about the research she conducted for her novels, I saw how research can add depth, richness and authenticity to any story. Most of what she said the average writer already knows, but it is always tempting to skip a few things in our enthusiasm – or lack of – in carrying out our research.

Here are some reasons for doing proper research:

1. Authenticity – especially important in historical fiction or a memoir
2. Ethics
3. Truth
4. Accountability
5. The Hippocratic Oath – first, do no harm
6. Respect for those you are writing about
7. Avoiding litigation
8. Readers deserve the best product

Once you have identified your sources you need to:

1. Communicate and consult with them and obtain consent – in writing, of course.
2. Be accurate in your note-taking.
3. Obtain approval/confirmation of facts from your sources. You do this by sending them a copy of the relevant pages once you have completed your first draft. This would ensure that everything is accurate.
4. Be flexible. People may change some of the information, or they may remember something important that was left out.

Now that you have received confirmation from your sources and your book is complete, you need to acknowledge contributors, unless they asked to remain anonymous. You also need to address any copyright issues that may arise. You can always go to the library or online to gather material for your books, but think how much more impactful it would be if you can attribute your facts to a person or persons now living.

How do you conduct research for your books? What issues/challenges did you face? How has your research methodology helped to make you a better writer? Please leave a comment below.

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