Category Archives: Guest Post

4 Ways to Make Money as a Young Writer

by Andrew Zimmerman
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When little kids say what they want to be when they grow up, visions of star athletes, astronauts and pop singers usually flood their heads. Aspiring writers appreciate the imagination of these dreams, but they don’t want to dunk, sing or become an astronaut to live out their dreams. All they need is a pen and paper (or keyboard and computer). If they weren’t professionals, most writers would express their thoughts on paper, whether in a journal, blog or website. Luckily, writers have many avenues to make money doing what they love. Before you apply for a business credit card to support yourself, review these promising opportunities in professional writing.

Trying to make money writing feels as difficult as making it to the NBA, flying to the moon, or composing a hit song, but the reward is the chance to satisfy your curious spirit daily.

Freelance — The Tried and True Model

Few businesses need a fresh copy continuously. When they do need a writer to draft a website introduction, statement of purpose or any other piece of content, they’re reluctant to hire a full-time writer. That’s where freelancers enter. These writing vagabonds jump from job to job describing and depicting topics as needed. Young writers need not look far for their first freelance opportunities. Freeswitch.com is one of many forums that connect freelance writers with paying customers. Young writers unable to earn paying jobs can write for free to build their portfolios. Published clips are the key to a paying writing career.

Blogs — A Long, Rewarding Path

I know. I know. Everyone has a blog. Not everyone has the discipline, writing chops and stamina to maintain a blog that turns a profit. It may not put money in your pocket right away, but over time, blogs can become lucrative properties. Examples include Daringfireball.net, a tech blog, Incomediary.com, a financial advice blog and Caradvice.co.au, an auto blog. The common thread? A niche topic. General interest blogs are a dime a dozen. Tailored-specific blogs attract loyal followers. Visit Adwords.com to learn how you can turn traffic into income.

Even if, your blog doesn’t turn a profit, it can still benefit your writing career. A blog raises your profile as a writer and boosts your portfolio for freelance gigs. Who knows? Maybe you’ll be one of the lucky few who is able to blog professionally.

SEO Writing — The New Frontier

While print media are going the way of the buffalo, a new trend demand for content has emerged. Unique copy is a powerful tool to boost keyword rankings on Google and other search engines. Businesses are willing to pay top dollar to get on the front page of Google, so new writing jobs have emerged. A search for "SEO (search engine optimization) writer" on Simplyhired.com returns more than 2,000 positions nationwide. You may not be writing the next great American novel, but you'll earn a paycheck improving your craft.

Self-Publishing–Why Not You?

Writers need an independent attitude to stand out. Self-publishing provides total independence and removes costly middleman. Ebooks level the playing field for aspiring authors. Writers used to need distribution companies, and mass-production printers to publish. Now, authors can write, format, distribute and advertise their own work for little or no cost. Amazon offers direct publishers to Kindle devices for free. The Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy was originally self-published, according to Cnet.com. Self-publishing software removes the roadblocks that have kept you from following your dream.

If you’re feeling discouraged to make money as a writer, take heart. The industry may be changing, but the demand for quality writers isn’t going away anytime soon.

Photo by Flickr user rmarshall

Please note that Andrew Zimmerman is a guest and I haven’t used any of the sites he mentioned, so I don’t know how good they are.

The Beat Sheet

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Today’s post is very special. It comes from Michelle Ann King, whose short story Never Leave Me touched my heart so deeply that I simply had to invite her here. Please give her a warm welcome.

Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat revolutionised my writing–or rather, my storytelling. It’s primarily a screenwriting book, but the principles apply just as well to fiction. My favourite part is the Beat Sheet: a list of elements making up the classic Three Act Structure.

Snyder is quite exacting about the timing of these elements, down to the script page number. A story can be more flexible than a film, but this still provides a great sense of timing. Your Act 1 doesn’t necessarily have to finish at precisely 25%, but if it finishes at 72% it’s a good indication that your pacing is off (or your story needs to be a lot longer.)

Some writers find the concept of structure constricting, but for me it was liberating. I would often find myself with cool characters in an interesting scenario, and then sit there wondering what should happen next. Keeping the Beat Sheet at the back of my mind helps me realise what HAS to happen next. It provides a natural progression for the story.

Snyder’s 15 point Beat Sheet can be found here: http://www.blakesnyder.com/tools/

The blog section of the site also provides some fascinating breakdowns of films, which are well worth a look. Once you know it’s there, you start seeing this structural skeleton everywhere–it’s like having X-ray Vision.

I use a 12 point adaptation of the Beat Sheet, and it’s served me very well–even for very short stories. To show a working example, my dark fantasy Never Leave Me, recently published at Daily Science Fiction (free to read here: http://dailysciencefiction.com/fantasy/magic-and-wizardry/michelle-ann-king/never-leave-me) is only 1,280 words long–but the Beats are still there:

Act 1
Normal World: MC’s current struggles, in their current environment.

The opening paragraph is a reference to fairy tales, both to set the tone for the story and to introduce Katrine’s problem: the reality of her ‘happy ever after’ hasn’t matched her expectations.

Inciting Incident: An event caused by the Antagonist that changes the situation.
The Antagonist here is Aron–even though he doesn’t know it. He provides opposition by not being the kind of husband Katrine really wants. He sets things in motion by going hunting and leaving her behind.

The Challenge: MC debates what this means & what to do about it.
Katrine makes Aron swear not to leave, but it’s not enough–she’s not satisfied. She wants to guarantee it.

Act 2.1
Start the Revolution: MC takes action towards achieving their goal.

Katrine goes to the village witch for help.

Reactions & Progress: MC learns info, gains skills, discovers problems.
Katrine learns that the spell she wants does exist, but the witch won’t perform it for her.

Midpoint of No Return: A game-changer, risk or revelation that raises the stakes.
Katrine kills the witch and takes her magic.

Act 2.2
Setbacks & Complications: Antagonist fights back, MC is demoralised.

Aron is horrified by what she’s done. Their relationship sours.

All Is Lost: Defeat. The Goal looks lost.
The marriage breaks down completely: Aron no longer loves her and Katrine no longer wants him to stay–but the spell keeps them together.
Bonus Whiff of Death: an image of rotting fruit.

Dark Night of the Soul: Emotional reaction to the All Is Lost moment.
Demonstrating the flexibility available to a short story, the whole beat here is contained in a single line: Katrine wept, and he did not comfort her.

Act 3
The Comeback: MC decides to give it a final go.
Katrine tries to break the spell.

Final Battle: MC fights the Antagonist.
Unable to loosen the magical binding, Katrine attacks Aron and kills him.

New World: MC in their new situation.
In Never Leave Me, this beat is not actually on the page. It’s still in the story, but it takes place totally in the reader’s mind–which is probably why people have found it so haunting. As is so often the case, the scariest monsters are the ones you don’t describe.

Michelle Ann King writes SF, dark fantasy and horror from her kitchen table in Essex, England. Her stories have appeared in various venues, including Daily Science Fiction, Penumbra Magazine, and Untied Shoelaces of the Mind.
She has worked as a mortgage underwriter, supermarket cashier, makeup artist, tarot reader and insurance claims handler before having the good fortune to be able to write full-time. Find details of her stories and books at http://www.transientcactus.co.uk

The Writer’s Poison

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Today’s post is a guest post written by one Joelle Fraser. Please give her a warm welcome.

Last month, I became a published author for the second time. You’d think I’d feel successful, wouldn’t you? I have two books with prestigious houses, both of which received excellent national reviews; I’ve been anthologized and gotten awards, been flown by Random House on book tours and chauffeured around by media escorts, been interviewed on NPR’s Fresh Air.

And yet, like every other writer in the world, I can name a thousand others who’ve achieved more. Much, much more—whether it’s money, fame, acclaim, awards, or a combination thereof, there’s always someone who leaves you in the dust.

Success, I learned with my first book, The Territory of Men, is a moving target that can cripple you with frustration. One day, for example, 75 people would come to a reading; the next week, in another town, eight might dribble in. I’d open my email one morning to find a great review in The Washington Post or USA Today, and an invitation to teach at a prominent conference. Then my inbox was empty for a month.

The longer your book is out, the more sporadic the attention; if you don’t publish another, it can fade away altogether, like a photograph of a fabulous event no one remembers.

Two years after my first book, I started a family, and for a long while, stopped writing. Meanwhile others continued to revel in success! For years, every Sunday morning I’d sit with my empty notebook while reading the steady cascade of achievement in The New York Times Book Review.

When my marriage fell apart, and I lost half custody of my son, I moved to an isolated cabin in the Sierras. For the next year I healed by walking in the wilderness and writing words on the page. Those pages became my next memoir, The Forest House. While I loved writing the book, I wasn’t looking forward to the publication process, and all the stress over whether it would succeed.

What helped was my peer, Alison Singh Gee, whose lovely memoir, Where the Peacocks Sing, came out at the same time. Even though we were ostensibly competitors, we were also friends who had much in common: we both teach college writing and are mothers of one young child. We even blurbed each others’ books. As reviews came in we’d “like” the links on each others’ FB pages; and we’d comment on the gleaming photos of our book covers. During our book tours we’d post promotional blogs about our respective events.

Yet over the months, we emailed and called each other privately. I knew her worry, understood her hopes and disappointment, and she knew mine. We’d both taken those long drives to bookstores on school nights—all the while wondering if more than a handful of readers would show up—and felt the same weight of the piles of ungraded papers and mounting chores waiting at home.

I shared the disillusionment that comes from watching your Amazon sales rank ebb and flow, then ebb again. I’d also tasted the same bittersweetness of the mixed review.

It was as if this time, with Alison, I had a constant reality check. She helped me see through the smoke and mirrors of the author’s “glamorous” life.

Like travelers on an escalator we’d wave to each other as we moved up and down the fickle ladder of success. We both know there’s a place you have to reach—no matter what stage you’re at as a writer—where you feel that someone else’s success is your success. If you can get there, it’s a wonderful, liberating place to be—and from it your own work will soar.

And so when Alison’s book was praised in Entertainment Weekly and People Magazine, I was happy for her; and when I was asked to do a guest blog for The Huffington Post, she cheered for me.

What I’ve learned over the past decade is that envy can poison your creativity—it’ll stain your writing like blood spilled across a page. It implies not only deprivation—something is missing in our world—but someone else has what we don’t. Looked at so simply it’s not hard to imagine envy has its roots in childhood. My son is in the first grade, and I’ve seen the raw expression of envy in children’s faces: I want what you have—give it to me!

The ultimate antidote for envy, which comes from our basest selves, is gratitude—which comes from our highest.
For it’s only from a place of plenty that we have something to give. And that’s what writing is, in the end—a gift, one we have and one we give to others.

No, it’s not an easy solution. Like any good habit, gratitude takes work. I have to remind myself to do it, and then it’s often grudgingly at first. So I’m grateful to the writers who write such wonderful stories and poems and articles, who’ve enriched my world with a lifetime of pleasure and enlightenment.

I’m grateful to my friends like Alison who remind me that I’m not alone, that my best is good enough, and that most of all, the words I write are worth it.

Bio: Joelle Fraser is the author of the memoirs The Territory of Men (Random House 2003) and The Forest House (2013). A MacDowell Fellow, she has an MFA from the University of Iowa. She teaches writing and lives in northeast California with her son. Find her at http://www.joellefraser.com.

You can purchase a copy of The Forest House here.

Travel Writing From Home

by Jordan Clary

Travel writing might conjure up images of exotic resorts, luxury cruises or riding across sand dunes on a camel, and while, travel writing can, indeed, open up some of amazing experiences, it’s not necessary to travel far or even travel at all to write and sell articles. You can start with your own city, neighborhood or even backyard to find ideas for travel stories.

Every place is a destination for someone and you are the best expert on your area. Learn to look at your own town with new eyes. What might a visitor like to do? What are the local products? Are there any specialized niches you can fit into?

Most of the ‘rules’ for travel writing are the same as for anything else. A well-written, compelling story will always have a chance of finding a home. Readers want to smell, taste and feel a place through your eyes.

But there are a few things specific to travel writing, and one of the main ones, is learn how to use a camera. Unless you’re lucky enough to only get gigs with big glossies like Condė Nast Traveler, and most of us aren’t, you’ll want to learn how to take decent photos to sell with your articles. It’s too bad, in a way, because the two are different skills, and some photographers feel slighted by all the amateur photographers selling pics with their pieces, but that’s the reality of the market. Most places will want photos and article as a package deal.

And, who knows, maybe you’ll find you have a knack for photography. Since words have always been my medium, I was actually opposed to learning to use a camera. I felt it separated me from the experience and if I concentrated on writing a description, it would be so much richer. But to my surprise, photography doesn’t separate me. It helps me see things from a different perspective. I’m much more aware of light and shadows than I ever was before learning to take photos.

Seeking to place your articles in well-known travel magazines is probably not the best approach. Those markets are saturated with submissions and highly competitive. However, many magazines, including trade magazines, would be open to a travel article if it was within their scope.

As an example, take your own backyard. Look around. What types of plants grow? Do you know what the native plants in your area are? Many botanical societies have their own publications, and while most of them concentrate on the plants in their own locale, a carefully crafted travel piece introducing a new area from a botanical point of view might be welcome.

For several years, until it went out of print, I freelanced for Colored Stone, a trade magazine dedicated to colored gemstones. I was living in China at the time and broke into it first with a query letter, and then with an article about China’s South Sea pearls. I developed a niche writing travel articles about gemstones, including ruby mines in Vietnam, blue zircon in Cambodia, and smokey quartz in Mongolia. The pay wasn’t bad, although it pretty much just covered my traveling expenses, but they were among the most fun and interesting pieces I’ve ever done.

A thorough look at your community will surely lead you to ideas for trade magazines. Is there a railroad museum in your town? There are many magazines dedicated to model trains. Even magazines that don’t lend themselves immediately to travel ideas based on their trade might welcome an article. In this case, you’ll want to point out the advantages of travel to relax and de-stress. Doctors, businesspeople, lawyers, teachers all like to take trips.

So if you are interested in breaking into travel writing, start with what’s familiar, and you’ll soon find yourself with enough ideas to keep you busy for a lifetime.

Jordan Clary is a freelance writer living in northern California. You can find out more about her at her website and by checking out her blog, Cloud and Mountain.

The Real Deal by S.S. Hampton

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There is an old maxim—“Write what you know.”

True enough, but sooner or later you might want to write about something you do not know anything about. Then what? Give up on the idea? File it away in a dusty filing cabinet with the farewell thought, “Someday”? Or maybe you grab the bull by the horns and wrestle it to the ground and command (as a writer friend of mine once said), “You will conform to my wishes!”

Everyone has their own style of research; my style may not be yours, but as long our style works for us that is all that matters.

Okay, let us say you want to write a story about a chimney sweep. Sounds simple, but to make your character and story believable, what exactly does a chimney sweep do? How does the sweep do it? Time to check Wikipedia. Check YouTube. Just Google “chimney sweep” and see what crops up. You will start to develop a database. In the process you will probably uncover details that might have an impact on the plot of your story that you had not foreseen before. And then, it is time for the moment of truth. Go find a real chimney sweep and interview him or her.

Be sure to bring a digital recorder with a lapel microphone—a backup for each is a good idea too. And a pad of paper and working pens.

Preparation for an interview is crucial. After your initial research you now have a far better idea of what questions to ask. Start off with the basics—age, education, hometown, what did the parents do, etc. Married? For how long and what does the spouse think of the chosen vocation? In the early 21st century how does a chimney sweep find work? Internet? Yellow pages? Post notices at rural feed & seed stores? The clothing worn—is that something of a “chimney sweep uniform” or just the person’s chosen clothing?

As the interview progresses do not hesitate to pounce upon an interesting remark or ask the person to clarify a remark. You never know when a stray comment may lead into unexpected and fertile research territory. Be sure to keep your interview to 30-45 minutes, no more than an hour.

And you have it. You conducted your initial research, learned enough to frame proper questions like an old pro, and you conducted an interview. You can now add factual, believable information to your character, to your story.

It will be easier than you think. Tell a person why you want to interview them, buy them a cup of coffee and a slice of pie, and you will discover that people enjoy talking about themselves and their jobs. Your job is to listen.

So, good luck, good research and writing, and enjoy!

PS: You may wonder why I chose a chimney sweep as an example. I read an article in a Colorado Springs newspaper many years ago and was surprised to find such professionals were still around. Since then I have always wanted to include the character of a chimney sweep in one of my stories.

SS Hampton, Sr. is a full-blood Choctaw of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, a divorced grandfather to 13 grandchildren, and a veteran of Operations Noble Eagle (2004-2006) and Iraqi Freedom (2006-2007). He has served in the Army National Guard since October 2004, and holds the rank of staff sergeant. He is a published photographer and photojournalist, an aspiring painter, and is studying for a degree in photography and anthropology—hopefully to someday work in underwater archaeology. His writings have appeared as stand-alone stories, and in anthologies from Dark Opus Press, Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy, Melange Books, Musa Publishing, MuseItUp Publishing, Ravenous Romance, and as stand-alone stories in Horror Bound Magazine, Ruthie’s Club, Lucrezia Magazine, The Harrow, and River Walk Journal, among others. As of December 2011, he became the latest homeless Iraq war veteran in Las Vegas, Nevada. You can purchase his books here.

Brianna Soloski on Becoming a Freelancer

Today’s guest is another Musaling, this time an editor and freelancer to bring you a totally new perspective. Please give Brianna Soloski a warm welcome.

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When I was little, I wanted to be a teacher or an author. I went to school for education, but ended up not going into that field. I was working at a preschool, but was laid off in 2008. I floundered for two years after that, moving a few times, not working, unsure what I wanted to do. Summer 2010 found me in Seattle working at a summer camp. It also led to a long chat with my cousin about what I really wanted to do with my life. She suggested I go back to writing, since I’d always enjoyed it and been relatively good at it. I turned that over in my head for a few weeks. When I got home, I began volunteering at the Jewish Community Center in Las Vegas. I also got wind of a local city lifestyle
magazine that was just starting up. I called the editor and asked if there were any volunteer/internship positions available. I got a volunteer gig putting together the print calendar – a tedious, time-consuming job nobody else wanted to do. As time went on, I got more responsibility. About a year and a half ago, the editor who had hired me quit and I moved into the (now paid) position of editorial assistant. I still do the calendar, but I also write and edit for the magazine.

From there, writing just became a natural habit. I participated in National Novel Writing Month in 2010 and had that novel published in October 2012. In 2012, I made the decision to freelance full-time. I run a freelance editing business that is thriving. I work for an award-winning magazine. I have as much time to write as I need. I can come and go as I please. I still work at the Jewish Community Center part-time, but I’m hoping to have enough business to phase that out by the summer.

How I came to Musa Publishing was kind of accidental. I had recently read Twin Sense by Lydia Sharp (amazing!) and sought out the website to see what other books they had to offer. There were a few freebies so I picked those up. I signed up for their newsletter. Just for kicks, I clicked on the employment page, just to see if anything was available. There was a head line editor position open, so I applied, even though I wasn’t sure I was completely qualified for the job. Turns out, I wasn’t, but I was offered a line editor position, which I accepted.

I’ve edited four books for them now and I absolutely love it. Line editing is the process of going through a work line by line to check for errors. I do not edit for content (although I do offer content editing through my personal business). The opportunity to read great books is wonderful. The experience is invaluable and will help me as I move through my career and take on other jobs.

The thing about Musa that really shines is their professionalism. In a little more than a year, they’ve published a remarkable number of books. Every title I’ve read from them has been excellent – well written, well edited, etc. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them to an author looking for a home for their book. In fact, it’s highly likely I will submit my current work in progress to them for possible publication.

Bio: Brianna Soloski is an avid reader and writer. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Humanities from Sierra Nevada College. She also obtained her teaching credentials from the college. Although she’s not currently teaching, she enjoys spending time with her friends’ kids. In her spare time, she loves to travel and would love to book
a world cruise – imagine the memoir that could come from an adventure like that! Girl Seeks Place is available for purchase on Amazon. She can be found blogging at http://www.girlseeksplace.wordpress.com. She can also be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Brianna-Soloski-Writer.

One Cannot Be Ready for Everything by Allison Cosgrove

Today’s author is Allison Cosgrove, several time Nanowrimo winner, former word war captain, mother of three, hard worker and recently published author. I’ve already interviewed her here and am currently reading her mystery novel, Sacrifice of Innocence, which I’ll be reviewing sometime in the upcoming months. Today she’s decided to do us all the honour of sharing her realization that none of us are ever truly ready for Nanowrimo.

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One thing I have come to realize, as a long standing WriMo Veteran, is that in preparing for the wonderful thing that is NaNoWriMo is that we are never truly ready for it. I mean there are things we can prepare. We can plot and outline and make notes for just about everything, pre-cook and freeze meals, but in the end we can not be completely ready for everything.

The one and only year I have ever tried to plot out everything it turned out to be all for naught. I honestly had everything set out. I knew EXACTLY where I was going. I was so proud of myself. And then two days before NaNo I was hit by a monster of plot bunny and away I went on a completely different direction and everything I did was pushed to the side until later in the month.

That, to me, is the most amazing part about NaNoWriMo. We plan everything out. We get all of our emergency junk food kits ready. We set our coffee pots to constant brew. We make sure our loved ones know that if they don’t hear from us for a month that everything is alright and that we are just knee deep in a whole other world. Then we set out and put pen to paper, fingers to keypads and the world around us disappears.

We don’t always end up where we expected to and that’s alright. We may eat more junk food, drink gallons more coffee, sleep less and we may even end up smelling like yesterdays socks. We may not finish at the amount we would like and we may not cross the 50,000 word finish line but that too is alright.

Because it is not where we end up that matters most. It is the journey that we take to get there that counts. We will learn and grow so much in 30 days. We will learn to stretch our wings and not worry about where the winds take us. We will take chances and risks we may never have taken with our creativity. We will forge long lasting friendships and find a new place to call our own.

Just remember that as you finish off your plot notes, your character sketches and pack your pre-made food for next month. You may not end up exactly where you think you will when you set out in a few days but enjoy the ride none the less.

It will be all worth it and besides you can always edit later.

Robin Burks on Character Development

Today’s author is debut novelist Robin Burks, whose novel, Zeus, Inc. began as a Nanovel. I hope you’ll give her a warm welcome and enjoy her thoughts on character development.

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What makes a good character in a story?

Character development is something every writer has to think about. A good character is key in readers enjoying your work and a good character will keep readers coming back for more of what you write. But where to begin when creating a character?

I tend to look at my own personal characters from an actor’s perspective because of my background in theatre. I ask myself about their motivations and I put myself in their shoes and try to react to situations in a way that I would if I were them.

But there’s so much more to character development than just that. As an actor, the character is already formed by the writer. In writing, you have to create that character from scratch and then continue painting on its various personality quirks, moods and physical traits.

So where does that come from?

When I sat down to write Zeus, Inc., I had to ask myself that very question. Initially, my protagonist, Alex Grosjean, was a young woman, fresh out of high school. I wrote three chapters before I realized that I could not relate to her.

After several more attempts, I made Alex older, closer to my own age, and I started adding personality traits that were similar to my own. Perhaps this was cheating, in a way, but I made her an idealized version of myself. And once I started, I found the character easily enough. As I wrote, I put myself in her position and asked myself “What would I do if I were a private detective being hired by my best friend to find her dad?”
And from there, Zeus, Inc., was born.

But I also had to make Alex flawed because in real life, we are all flawed. And reading about someone who is perfect is also rather boring, right? So I had to come up with something in her background that made it difficult for her to take her friend’s case. Alex needed something personal that she had to overcome. I do not entirely remember where the missing girl case in Alex’s history as a police officer came from, but it gave her that much needed thing to overcome.
As an actor, motivation is key, but so also is conflict. And Alex was written with both in mind.

But Alex wasn’t the only character in Zeus, Inc. There were also a host of other characters. Again, I cheated by writing everything from Alex’ perspective (first person), so I wrote those characters as Alex (or myself) saw them. I ended up basing many of them on people I knew or television characters that I had come across. For example, Aleisha Brentwood is based on a relative of mine, someone that I hold very dear to my heart, as Alex did Aleisha.
But I will admit that the handsome and mysterious Pip was an idealized version of a television character I tend to have a major crush on.

The best thing that worked for me with Zeus, Inc., was to write what I know, and that’s exactly what I did. And it’s probably the best advice I could give to other writers. Take things from your own life, people you know or other characters you’ve seen and use that to create your own characters. Picasso famously said that great artists steal, and I believe that’s exactly what he meant. Let the things around you inspire your characters.

Robin Burks is not only a novelist, but also writes for RantGaming.com, Syfy Network’s DVICE.com and as well as her own blogs – FanGirlConfessions.com and Robin-Burks.com. Robin’s first novel, Zeus, Inc., is now available on Smashwords, BN.com, Amazon.com and in the iBookstore. She also occasionally speaks French and loves Doctor Who.

Plotting in Three Parts


Today I’d like to introduce Anne Marie, author of La Dame a La Licorne, brought to you by Musa Publishing. This will be her ninth year participating in Nanowrimo. Lucky for those of you scrambling for ideas and trying to figure out how you’re going to outline a novel before November first, Anne’s got some ideas of her own about outlining which I hope you’ll enjoy.

For the past eight years I’ve participated in National Novel Writing Month (aka: NaNoWriMo or NaNo). Every year I’ve tried a different approach to writing. I wanted to prove to myself that there isn’t one way to tell a story, and the methods outside my comfort zone might actually work better. Besides, what’s comfortable about writing 50,000 words in one month? Answer: everything when you’ve got the NaNo community with you each step of the way.

There are at least three types of writers: Outliner, Beader, and Pantser. I’ll detail each method, and what to do before and during November. I hope it helps you reach the finish line on November 30th (or earlier).

The Outliner:

You’re the type of writer that wants to know exactly how you get from the beginning to the ending. You write pages and pages of detailed character sketches, setting description, research notes, twists and turns, and how each scene will play out.

Before NaNo, make sure you don’t write down any dialogue or actually description you’re going to use. It’s tempting to dive in before October. If you get stuck, put your outline away for a week. Return to it with a fresh mind and see if you can improve it during the last week before November 1st.

During NaNo it’s helpful to check your outline and make sure you’re on track word-wise. There is no set word count for a scene; however, if you have twenty-five scenes that run two thousand words, and you write a scene a day, you’ll finish with days to spare. Since the daily word goal actually is 1,667, you might want to write a scene with that word count in mind. For a thriller writer, your scenes may be shorter to keep the pace fast. That’s fine! Just know, roughly, how many scenes it will take to reach that daily goal.

The Beader:

Much like the Outliner, you have a pretty good idea how your story starts, important scenes in the middle, and how it ends. What you don’t yet know are the linking scenes between big events.

Before NaNo, the big scenes are what excited you to begin with. Concentrate on how to link the explosion on page 1 with the alien invasion on page 15. Read books in your genre. Talk to your friends. Ask them how they would logically get from explosions to aliens. Day-dream.

During NaNo, your daily payoff will be to write those explosions and invasions. Which means, you should start each day writing the linking scenes. Your reward will be writing those scenes you’ve been thinking about since October. And rewards never hurt. If you don’t make your daily goal with a linking scene and a big scene, write half of the next linking scene. Generally, you’re going to be writing more linking scenes than explosions.

The Pantser:

You throw caution and preparation to the wind. You might have a vague idea about the topic you want to write about, you might not. You might know a character’s name, but then again, you probably don’t.

Before NaNo, it might be helpful to brainstorm some big general ideas that won’t tie your free spirit down. Where do you want to start? Where do you want to end? It’s always helpful to have an ending in mind, so that you know where to steer your NaNo ship.

During NaNo, every day is going to be a new adventure. Sit down and follow your characters. Throw everything in their way. They want to go to the mall today? Make it rain. Give them a flat tire. When you get stuck, stop and think about how you’d get out of the situation they’re in. Make it worse.

Whether you’re an Outliner, Beader, or Panster, NaNo teaches you how to embrace your style in thirty days. Remember, this isn’t a polished piece. If things aren’t flowing the way you want them to, don’t delete. Put a note in the document. Trace your steps back to the last point the story was working. Continue writing from there. When you go back to edit, you can delete all the non-working words. When I know I’ve gone on a dead-end tangent, I make all the text red.

Good luck! I hope to see your purple “Winners” bar on November 30th. To follow along with my progress, you can find me here.

Bio: Anne attended the University of Colorado for a BA in English Literature, where she fell in love with folklore and myths from around the world. She adores languages, great white sharks, and the impossible. Her work usually includes one of those three things. She currently lives in Aurora, Colorado with Brody the beagle. Once a week, she posts a short story at Cimmerian Tales (http://cimmeriantales.wordpress.com). You can follow her on Twitter @annemariewrites.

Karina Fabian on Surviving the Submission Process

Today I’d like to welcome Karina Fabian, author of several ebooks across different genres. I’ve interviewed her here before and today she’s joining us with a guest post to discuss the submission process and celebrate her latest novel, Live and Let Fly, to be released on April 20th. I hope you enjoy.

I’d like to thank Dianna for hosting me on the Live and Let Fly book tour. I’m especially excited about this one because it was a long time coming, and when she asked me to write about the submission process, I’m not sure she knew what she was getting into!

Live and Let Fly features a snarky dragon detective, Vern, and his partner, the magic-slinging nun, Sister Grace. I’ve told many of their adventures in short stories and novels, but this is their biggest case to date, as they will have to travel far from where they have friends or magic to help them in order to stop a Norse demigod from starting Armageddon in our world.

I started writing DragonEye stories when I wanted to be in an anthology, Firestorm of Dragons. I created Vern for the anthology and adored him and the noir style of his voice. So I started looking for other stories for him. The premise is that he solves problems where magic is slipping into our world or technology into Faerie for nefarious purposes. I selected an Irish myth about pixies turning into bugs to fight a war. The idea sounds stupid in English, so I found someone to translate it into Gaelic. She just happened to run a magazine and asked me to write a serial story for it. I wrote the short story, “Amateurs” and for her a serial called “World Gathering.”

I took “Amateurs” to the MuseOnline writers’ conference. (It’s free, and worth years of writing courses!) A new publisher was offering to critique works, and she enjoyed “Amateurs” and Vern so much, she asked if I had a novel. I didn’t, but I did have this serial story I could expand.

A year later, Magic, Mensa and Mayhem came out, got great reviews and won the INDIE Award for best Fantasy. I suggested I write another and she agreed. Sadly, her life situation changed as Live and Let Fly was getting ready to come out, and she returned it to me. However, if it had not been for Dindy Robinson and Swimming Kangaroo, there would have been no Vern novels. I treasure our time together.

So, I started sending it around, the standard way: find the publisher; read the guidelines; submit; wait. Find another publisher, repeat process. I did this for a few years, while I continued to write DragonEye stories and started a newsletter, A Dragon’s Eye View. However, I didn’t get many bites.

In the meantime, Lea Schizas, who founded the MuseOnline conference, and I became good friends, and she started her own publishing company, MuseItUp. She is a big “Vern fan,” and told me that when I was ready, she’d be glad to consider my books. In April of last year, I decided I was more interested in getting Live and Let Fly published and moving on to other DragonEye books than I was in seeking that gold ring of a Big Six publishing contract or agent. I was also impressed with how MuseItUp has grown and all the work they are doing to cultivate faithful readers. I felt Vern and Sister Grace would find a good publishing home there, so I sent her the manuscript.

So this book did not take a traditional publishing route, but there are lessons to be learned.

1. Network. If I hadn’t met and befriended these lovely ladies at writers’ conferences, this book might not have even been written.

2. Write the freebie now and again. I didn’t get paid for the serial story “World Gathering” (which is now on my blog, btw, http://dragoneyepi.net). I did it for fun. However, it led to a book contract and some faithful fans.

3. Take chances, but know when to go the sure route. I still have a dream of being published with Tor or Baen or one of the other “big six” publishers. However, I appreciate the support MuseItUp is giving me for the DragonEye series, and I’ve learned a lot from working with its editors. I’m proud of the book, excited to see it in print, and know it will bring more fans for future books.

No one has the same submission process. It takes work and imagination—and perseverance. Good luck to all of you in the middle of the process.

Karina Fabian is a multi-published author with several ebooks in different genres available to the world. You can read my interview with her here or check out her website here. To purchase a copy of Live and Let Fly, click here.