Let’s talk about – Write what you know

Letstalkabout

 

No matter if you write fiction or non-fiction, blog posts, do-it-yourself articles, advice columns, short stories or novels, you might have heard that one piece of advice all through your weeks, months or years of writing: “Write what you know.”

When I heard that for the first time I had immediate thoughts on what I know!

I know how to cook frozen Pizza.
I know how to not starve because I ordered a huge pack of ramen noodles in all kinds of flavours.
I know how to sleep for a long time.
I know how to take a shower without breaking my neck – 37 years of study in that subject proof that.
I know how to binge watch TV-Shows and movies.
I know how to avoid doctor visits when I really “don’t wanna”.

I know many many things more, but let’s be honest: Nobody wants to read a book about that. Well actually I’d die to read a book about it, but I might not be a big market all on my own.

After eliminating all these useful, elaborate skillsets the question remained: What do I write about?

Writing fiction might be a tad easier on that because you don’t have to go into the depths of a subject too much, but you still need to know what you are talking about. Maybe the whole ‘Write what you know’ does not only mean the experiences or your degree you have in a field.

Instead, make sure that you research the hell out of something you want to write about. Writing paranormal stories with demons and vampires? Study the lore. Writing a story that plays in the Tudor era? Read about it, the life, language, customs, important events and what have you. (Coincidentally that is what I’m doing at the moment.) Want to write for a woman but you’re a bloke and have no idea about that? Study women, read magazines, talk to them and ask what they’d do. If your character goes through a life-changing event and you have no experience with that said event, chat with folks who’ve gone through it.

There are many ways to research and accumulate knowledge about what you are writing about. So go ahead, dig in and then “write what you know”.

What is it you are writing about? How did you get to know about it and got more insight? Was it easy? Exciting? Boring (if so why the heck did you want to write about boring stuff?) Share your experiences and tell me more right down in the comments.

Self publishing #3 – Editors

As I have promised you in my most recent blog post about beta readers, we are going to look at Editors in this post. As usual I am going to tell you what I did and then tell you what I should have done. I’ll also explain a bit about different kinds of editors and give you a few sources about how to find them and what to watch out for.

Ready? Yes? Let’s begin.

When I wrote my first Book “Sra’kalor“, it was quite an adventure. It was my very first book that I’ve finished, and also the very first book I wrote in English. Since it’s my second language I’m naturally making mistakes. That just means I’ll have to learn more, but until then I definitely need someone to check what I write for grammar, spelling, possible misuse of words and so on. I went through my book four times until I couldn’t find anything wrong with it any more. Believing it was great, I sent it to my partner and he checked once more. He found a bunch of things that could be improved and a pile of spelling and grammar mistakes. I fixed these as well believed to be done, because we had worked a lot and hard on it. So I published the book and began to send it to reviewers, bloggers and the like.

In the coming weeks I received reviews that mentioned grammar and spelling mistakes, that the language sounded as if English wasn’t my first language, that it sounded too formal and some words were misused. You can possibly imagine the punch I felt in my stomach. For a while I even thought I should stop writing if it is that bad, but thanks to some encouraging friends that feeling didn’t last long and I decided to want to improve instead of giving up – yay me. One of my friends has an editor in their family and connected us. I sent my book to her, she took the time and effort to edit it and did not only mark the parts that were wrong, but also explained to me why. That helped tremendously. So I revised the book and feel much better with it now.

No matter how well you write, how much you work on your book, how many mistakes you find and correct, having an editor go through it for you and bring the best out of it is very important. That is something that I absolutely underestimated in the beginning but have learned until now. And if you work with Beta readers – as mentioned in the previous post – you would first write and edit as much as you possibly can and then send your work to your beta readers and after they took it apart and helped you to make it even better it’s the editor’s turn. Not the other way around.

What would an editor do for you? That depends on the kind of editor.

  1. Content editors/developmental editors – They check your book for structure, plot holes, parts that go too slow, others that go too fast, inconsistencies (what we call goofs in movies) and so on. It might happen that they change something in your story to make it flow better, change the way you wrote sentences or whole scenes. They work directly with the content of the story and help authors to find their writing voice.
  2. Copy editors – These make sure your book has a high readability, that it’s written smooth and has a consistent style all over.
  3. Line Editors – They focus on grammar, spelling, punctuation, verb tenses and so on. You know all these little things that we do not see any more because we know our story and our brain reads them correctly even though they are misspelled.
    1. Copy and Line editors are often one person nowadays but sometimes they are still different people. And you might even find someone who does all of the above but not that often.
  4. Proofreaders. After all editors went all through your work and you made sure to fix mistakes and rewrite what needs to be rewritten, proofreaders go through the book again and find all the little things that everyone else missed. Yes that can happen. Editors are humans, you are human, so mistakes happen. Even the most famous works still have mistakes here and there, but imagine them without going through all that editing work.

 

How to find editors?

Since I did not have to find an editor, thanks to my friend, I have done a little research about where to find editors.

What to watch out for when choosing an editor

  • What kind of editor are they?
  • Do they work in your genre? That is especially important for content editors. You wouldn’t want a magazine column content editor to edit your romance novel. These are completely different genres and styles. If it only is about spelling and grammar, the genre that editor worked in might not be that important.
  • What is their experience? Who have they worked with?
  • Do they offer a trial page or chapter so you can see their style?
  • Do you click? You work closely with your editor if you can’t stand each other it’ll make it difficult.
  • What is their rate? Editors are not cheap. Even those with affordable prices might be out of your budget. So check how much you have to pay and how much you can pay.
  • How many authors do they work with at the same time? Do they have the time for your book it deserves?
  • Remember not every editor might be the right one for you. You might have to kiss many frogs… wait wrong subject. You might have to try out several editors before finding ‘the one’.

These lists are by far not complete, but do a google search for editors and you’ll find a ton of results. Not only editor pages but also articles about how to find them, what to watch out for, questions you should ask yourself and so on.

Two of these sites are

There is so much more but this article has been too long already. If you managed to stay with me until now – Congratulations you are a patient human being! And thank you for sticking with me.

Do you have any more invaluable tips and tricks when it comes to editors? Where did you find yours? What experiences do you have with your editor and did your first find end up to be ‘the one’? What did you do when your choice wasn’t the right one? Please share your stories with us in the comment box below! Until next time and stay creative!
SelfPublishing#3

Self publishing #2 – Beta-readers

In my first post about my journey of self publishing, I have written about the first step on the journey: Buildling a base like a blog, website and so on. I am not going to tell you how to write. That has two reasons.

Number one is that everybody writes different. Be it style, voice, length, process and so on. It’s a thing that everyone has to find out for themselves. The other is that I’m still finding my own voice, my own style, so to tell others what they should do -especially since there is no ONE way to do it right- would be just hilarious. So we are skipping that point and assume that you are writing your book, your story, what is in your heart or head. What now?

Well here we go again with the thing that I did and what I possibly should have done. So ready?

I wrote the whole book, went through it two more times for edits, rewrites and polishing. Then I gave it to my boyfriend. First of all I wanted someone to read the story who didn’t know it yet and who could tell me if it is BS or not. I’m one of the lucky ones to have that support and honesty that he’d tell me that. I have gotten a couple of great suggestions from him, have been made aware of plot holes and things that didn’t work out. He also is better with English grammar and spelling than I am, so he could find a lot of mistakes I made. We both went through the book two more times, changing things here and there, correcting mistakes until we couldn’t find any more. And then I published the book.

Now to what I should have done. All of what I have done. But then instead of publishing, I should have found beta readers and an editor. I will split this into two posts so this won’t be too long. The first part of this will be about beta readers! The next will talk about editors.

While having my boyfriend as a sounding board was a great thing, it cannot hurt to get opinions of more than one person, even if that person is brutally honest with you. Tastes and preferences are different from person to person. It also could have happen that despite being really careful, you still miss something.

So what are beta-readers? I haven’t had any but from what I ready they are something like test readers, sounding boards and opinion givers. They receive your work and give you their feedback, about things that might not work, are just bad, are good and so on. Some also might be really good with langauge and give you pointers in that direction. It really depends on the beta-reader or what you expect from them. Of course not everything beta-readers tell you will be something you want or hear or change. It is at you to see what you do with the information you get from them.

Since I have not worked with beta-readers before, I am going to post you a couple of links to articles that I found interesting and helpful for future endeavours and hope they’ll help you too.

The big question now is how to find beta-readers. I found a bunch of articles about that. Some talk about networking, making friends on platforms like twitter, facebook, goodreads and so on, because people are more likely to help you, if they know YOU. You can read about this that on smallbluedog.com or jamiegold.com for example, but google has many more results to check out.

Another way is to join groups on platforms like facebook, goodreads, wattpad and so on to connect with beta-readers and find them. You can find more links on where to find them in the jamiegold.com article. But to be honest, even if you go that route, networking and making friends sounds like a great idea.

NOTE: Many beta-readers do this for free, but there are also ways to get beta-readers if you pay for them. I have not looked much into that so far, but I saw it mentioned.

Another great post that I’ve found was on  thebookdesigner.com which gives out free advice about what to know about working with beta readers.

From what I have read in several articles the steps are as follows:

  • Find beta-readers and make sure you clarify what kind of feedback you want from them.
  • Don’t send them a draft. This came up over and over. Make sure you finish the book as much as you possibly can. Edit, fix, rewrite, polish until you believe it is the best you can make it. Your beta-readers deserve to read it that way and if they really like it and work with you on it, they might tell their friends about it as well.
  • Make sure they get the format they prefer your book in – for example some prefer kindle format, others are okay with pdf, again others would like a version they can print and so on.
  • Feedback sometimes stings, especially if it is negative. But if you feel hurt by it, take a step back, breath, think about it. Are they right? Is it something you should change and adjust? Will changing that one thing make the book better? Don’t pick a fight over it, but instead thank them for the input even if you do not make the change.
  • Remember that while every feedback is valuable, that not every feedback needs to be put into action. Some things are personal preferences, you decide what works with you.
  • Remember to thank your beta-readers for their work. Reading takes time, writing up feedback as well and just like you when you write, they take it out of their free time they could spend otherwise. Beta-readers are valuable and do this by choice not because they have to. So thank them, be nice, treat them well and mention them in your acknowledgements.

It is quite important to know that beta-readers, be they as brilliant as they come, are not the same as editors. Beta-readers will help you to make your book as great as your combined effort can make it. The editor will receive it afterwards.

Self publishing #2 - work with beta-readers

What is your experience with beta-readers? Do you have any? How is it for you working with them? How did you find them? Do you have any extra tips for us? Feel free to comment below and share your stories!

I hope this was helpful. Next time we’ll take a peek at editors!

 

 

Re-blog Brian’s Writing Tip #3: Write like you talk

I saw this yesterday and it made me think. I sometimes write too formal. Not because I want to sound formal, but because I am not a native speaker. But i realize that I rarely write how I speak. So maybe I should try that next time I start writing.

What do you think? Should we write how we speak or can that be a problem? Comment below and tell me what you think. 🙂

 

Source:  Brian’s Writing Tip #3: Write like you talk (3) Brian’s Writing Tip #3: Write like you talk | Writing Tips | Pinterest

Self publishing #1 – The start is not what you think it is

I have been asked a couple of times how I went about my self publishing journey and I have tried to answer to the best of my ability. Despite having read hours and hours about self publishing, what to do and how it works, I have made many mistakes. So I decided to share my way, and not only tell you what I did, but also what I did wrong. Maybe the one or other will find this helpful. Because self publishing is such a long journey, I thought it might be more useful to split this in several parts and make it a series. So here is where we start.

If you are anything like me, you might think that the start is to write and finish the story. Boy, I couldn’t have been more wrong. After reading more and more after I have published my book, I have learned that the actual start of the process is to begin building your base, a community of people, followers, future readers etc.

But why should I do that when I don’t even have the book yet to show them? Well that was my question. But actually it makes a lot of sense. You need to get people interested in you. I have not done that when I started, so I am telling you about the things I should have done.

The start could be anything like this:

  • Start a blog (I personally love wordpress, but there are other platforms, depending if you want to host it on your website or not. Even if you have a static website, a blog is a fantastic addition, to allow people to subscribe and follow your new posts more easily.)
  • Create a twitter (unless you have one that you want to use for it already.)
  • Create a facebook page for your musings and book promotions
  • Syndicate your blog with twitter, facebook, google+ and other social media websites for maximum exposure of your blog. It helped me because it saved me the time to manually post every article over the net.
  • Check out online communities/forums about writing and get active (If you google for writing communities you will find a lot of sites with lists and such to help you find the right one for you. These are just 3 of the top results here, here and here.)
  • Read author’s websites and blogs, comment and connect. (Contrary to the whole rumour (and sometimes fact) about authors being solitary creatures, many of us actually love to interact with other writers and readers.)

You might not have a book to show yet, but you have your mind. Share your way, your ideas, interesting articles about writing, writing prompts, inspirations that make you write, quotes that you feel are worth sharing and so on and so forth. I am the first to admit that it takes getting used to. I keep thinking that I have nothing to say, nothing to share, but that is not true. I just keep telling myself that for some reason. So I’m still trying to get into the groove.

On twitter you can share these blogposts, interact with readers and writers or just anyone really. You might think that your stories are the most interesting part of you, but actually readers want to know you. They want to be part of your life so share something about you, don’t hide behind a wall of books. I know that many writers out there are more comfortable focussing on their writing, I am one of those. I really have a hard time to be active on social media, but I have my moments here and there. But mostly I think that my stories are more interesting than me. But I’m trying to get over that. 😉

But the more connected people feel with you, the more interested they become in you and what you are doing. That also means they might be more interested in hearing about your story, your book, your novel series, whatever you are writing, once you have something to share. It does makes sense. I mean would you be more interested in a book a friend publishes or in that of a stranger? Yes, the stranger can deliver a fantastic book that you want to buy – we do that all the time, right? – but if a friend tells me about their new book I’m all over that like I’d be over a meat only buffet.

So Step 1 is to start building your base, interact (even if it is hard for you it’s worth it), and show yourself.

 

SelfPublishing#1

 

Stay tuned for the next part soon. Until then feel free to share your beginnings. Did you start with building a base? Or did you write all the way through and started after? What are your experiences and what would you do different if you’d have to start again? The comment section below is hungry for your input!

How To Write A Great Story – Pixar rules

Source: How To Write A Great Story – The Meta Picture

Guest post “Meet the Villains”

A few days ago my dear friend Jonathan Snyder has written a guest post on this blog “You Have to Torture your Characters!”. Now I had the honor of writing a guest post for him!

The post I chose will talk about writing an interesting Villain character! So head on over to “The Musings of the Crazy One” and read “Meet the Villains”.

Again, thank you Jonathan!

MeetVillains

My way to overcome writer’s block

Writing Tips-WritersBlock

The empty page, glaring into my soul, taunting me and making faces to mock me, when I do not find words to fill it. The feeling of failure looming over my head, as I struggle to continue what I have started. My head is full of things, thoughts, worries, but nothing of it has to do with the story.

Sounds familiar?

I have been asked by some of my readers and friends, how I am dealing with my Writer’s block. Since I know, that quite a number of writers have to deal with that from time to time, I thought I’d share it here. Please note, that these methods are what help me and might not necessarily work for everyone. But let’s be honest. When you are blocked, you want to try as many things as possible to find the one thing that helps YOU.

So let’s get started.

There are several methods that I use, depending on what I need at this point. There is also my go-to method that I’ll talk about last.

Distraction
I know there are some “Oooh no, then you’ll never get anything done” voices, trying to hammer into my mind. But hear me out. Sometimes my mind is so full of so many things, that I cannot hear my creativity over them. When I distract myself, I am turning my mind off. I play a video game, watch videos on youtube, read a book, take a walk (well no, I am lazy, but it’s an option), watch a movie… whatever gets my mind to shut up for a while. After that it is much easier for me to focus on writing. But you gotta make sure that you are not in distraction mode all day long. Set yourself a max timer if you have to.

Write something different
If you do not get into the story you are focussing right now, try writing something different. Maybe that will help you to free your mind for your main project.

Changing the story
There is the kind of writer’s block that comes when you feel you hit a wall in your story. Everything seemed to work nicely so far and suddenly you’re stuck, with no way to go. That happened to me, while I was writing Sra’kalor. One thing that I did was cutting out the scene that gave me headaches. I did not delete it, but put it into a different file, in case it fits later. Then I started that chapter again, did some change to the story, and from then on it went much easier.
A note about that cut out scene: If you are sure it will not work ever, just delete it. Also, just because you put it aside, does not mean you HAVE to use it at some point. Maybe it will work in a different story, or never. That is fine. I have not used that scene later on. I actually have forgotten about it at some point, because my story went in a direction where it was not relevant any more. So I deleted it then.

Character changes
Sometimes the reason we get stumped is because a character does not work. We had an idea for it, and either they developed differently (I do not have to tell you about characters getting a life of their own, so they completely ignore our input, right?), or we have written them in a corner, or they are just feeling wrong. Do not be afraid to change them. Make them more interesting, rewind and see where things went wrong. Change what is needed to be changed, and adjust the story around that if needed. It helped me a big deal sometimes.

Outlines, Mindmaps, Drawing boards
Where do I start? Where do I go? How do I end? How will I get there? These are questions I ask myself often while writing. With a creative mind, that is in constant chaos with either too many ideas or no ideas, that can be a tough call. Helpful to me were things like outlines, scene lists, mindmaps and so on. I actually have installed an add-on called MindMeister in my google dogs, so I can put mindmaps together easily. Write down your scene or story ideas. Be it digitally or on paper, whatever floats your boat and helps you. Put them in order, that makes your story flow, think about how to connect those scenes and your story will come to life. Then you only will have to write it down.

It does not have to be perfect
One of the biggest problems many writers I know have is, that they want to write the perfect chapter right away, while they actually are in their ‘First Draft’ phase. Your first draft is exactly that. A draft. Your first written proof of a story that spooks around in your head. It is rough, like coal, and needs work. But you wrote it down, it’s a huge step. And after that you begin with editing. Not the kind that an Editor does, but your run through of fleshing out the story. That part is where you add things to explain, where you take out stuff that is redundant, where plot holes are filled and so on. After that I work on descriptions, make things sound prettier, which by then is my third or fourth round of writing. Once I am happy with that I go through it again, to check for spelling and grammar. After that I will give it to my proof reader, who will find more mistakes, plot holes, points that make no sense and have to be improved or changed.
What I am saying is. Write and do not be afraid to not be perfect. You don’t have to be. Do not put that pressure on you. Making your story into the book that you can be proud of is a progress, not an instant ‘must do’.

 

Now my go-to method. It actually is a method that I have learned from a friend (Thank you Karen!) and I have been using it ever since. Her simple advice was “Write”

I can imagine that you might either say “I knew that!” or you wonder if I am crazy. “How am I supposed to write, when I have a block. That is the problem, didn’t you listen to me?” That is what I thought when she told me that in order to get over it, I gotta write. Things become easier when make them a habit, so if you have the habit of writing, you will get into the groove much easier. Now you might think, that this is easier said than done, BUT there is method in this chaos, in form of an exercise.

What you need for that is a timer, alarm clock, your cell alarm anything you got that rings a bell or something when time is up. You also need your writing utensils. If you want to use a computer, pen and paper, napkins, pig skin, whatever is up to you. Just do not use permanent marker on another person’s skin okay?

Now follow the following instructions:

  • Give your clock 5 minutes to run. After 5 minutes the alarm goes off and you are done.
  • Turn on the timer and begin to write and do not stop for corrections (Remember, does not have to be perfect, it can be riddles with spelling and grammar mistakes, this is not a test)
  • When the alarm goes off, stop writing.

But what should I write about? Everything, nothing of consequence, words, sentences, anything really. For me it usually began with random words. Any word that popped into my mind. Words turned into half sentences, later into full sentences. The sentences or words were not connected to each other, it looked like a looney wrote down every single thought that popped into their mind, which was exactly what had happened.
To my own surprise, after a little while of verbal doodling, I had begun to write things that belonged together. And I ended up with a paragraph, that made sense and could have easily been the beginning of a story.
I had not forced it, I just went with what came out of my mind and into my fingers. Which was good, because we know that forced writing is not enjoyable, neither for you or for your reader. The outcome was not always that great, nut sometimes, and it became more and more often, the more I did this exercise.

Ever since I have started this, I made sure that I put aside at least 5 minutes a day to write. Be it the exercise itself, a writing prompt I found online or got from a friend, a diary entry, the blurb for an idea that popped into my mind or whatever else I found there. Most of the time it ends up to be much longer, like an hour or two. But 5 minutes a day is all it needs to form a habit, that will help you on your journey.

For example: Right now I am writing this blog post as part of my daily writing and for overcoming a block. Tadaa surprise!

There for sure are many many more methods for overcoming writer’s block, but these are the ones that have worked for me so far.

Thank you for taking the time to read all the way through this long post and I hope that this is useful for someone out there. If you run into a writing wall again, I hope that you will find the method/s that do the magic trick for you!

Do you have any experience with overcoming writer’s blog? Did you try any of the mentioned methods and did they work for you? Do you have more methods for us that I have not mentioned? Comment below and share your story! Subscribe to this blog for more writers tips and more in the future and share it with your friends!

 

writersblock