Category Archives: Valuable Writing Tips

Week 6 – Summer Short & Sweet Challenge – Have You Been Bullied?

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This week, Susanna Leonard Hill’s Week 6 challenge is to come up with a pitch for a picture book. I offered sweets in my first pitch.

Badge created by Loni at http://www.loniedwards.com

A writer needs to include three key elements for a successful pitch—character, conflict, and stakes.

Susanna’s definition is a:
“[Character] who [a unique, special, or defining characteristic of said character] wants/needs [goal] more than anything but can’t get it because of [obstacle(s)].

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to write an awesome pitch (or 2 or 3) for a picture book. The fun part? It doesn’t have to be for a book you’ve written. Or even intend to write.

It can be a pitch for something you think up right here right now this very second! Or a pitch for a work-in-progress! Or a pitch for a bit of an idea you’ve been ruminating on since breakfast! Or a pitch for someone else’s published book – you take the story and boil it down into a pitch! Or take the idea from someone else’s published book, or a nursery rhyme, or a fairy tale, and change a detail of the plot, setting, character, POV etc. and make it into a new pitch idea! Anything goes!”

The challenge got me thinking about bullies.

Tracy Campbell - Whimsical Work of Art

Tracy Campbell – Whimsical Work of Art

Here are four scenarios:
Your boss threatens your job when you refuse to work weekends
Your ex-spouse threatens to keep your children from you
The new kid in class threatens to beat you up
The big, bad wolf threatens little red riding hood

Yes, bullies exist even in fiction. And no matter our age, we’ve all encountered a bully or two.

So here’s my first pitch on a fairy tale.

Timid, red riding hood needs to swallow her fear when the big, bad wolf breaks into her cottage, snatching her last batch of oatmeal cookies.

Here’s a second pitch from my middle grade novel.

Working Title: “Georgia Rose McLean and the Poisonous Paper Plane”

A new boy in class jams bubblegum into eight-year-old, impulsive, Georgie’s ponytail. When her hair-brained scheme for revenge backfires, she thinks she can never go home.

My pitch needs work. A pitch should be no more than 25 words. An ideal pitch is 12 to 17 words.

For more information on what makes up a good pitch, check out Janice Hardy’s blog post

To find out what some of the top fears and concerns parents may have about sending their children off to their first day of school, check out Positive Parental Participation’s blog post. 

Have you dealt with a bully? How did you handle the bully? Would you have handled it differently?

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Do You Think English is a Wacky Language?

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Illustration courtesy of http://www.bing.com

Last week, I wrote how one word can potentially be a lethal weapon. So I though I’d switch it up and offer a lighthearted post.

Do you think the English language is wacky?

I sure do. And I pity anyone who has to learn our wacky English language. Check out these examples.

  • The bandage was wound around the wound.
  • The farm used produce to produce.
  • The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
  • We must polish the Polish furniture.
  • He could lead if he would get the lead out.
  • Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.
  • When shot at, the dove, dove into the bushes.
  • I did not object to the object.
  • The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
  • There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.
  • They were too close to the door to close it.
  • A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.
  • The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
  • Upon seeing the tear in the painting, I shed a tear.
  • I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
  • How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

The wacky examples continue:

  • There is no egg in eggplant.
  • No ham in hamburger.
  • No apple or pine in pineapple.
  • English muffins weren’t invented in England or French fries in France.
  • Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren’t sweet, are meat.
  • Boxing rings are square.
  • A guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

Why is it that writers write but fingers don’t fing?

  • An grocers don’t groce.
  • Hammers don’t ham.

If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn’t the plural of booth, beeth?

  • One goose, 2 geese.
  • So one moose, 2 meese? One index, 2 indices?

Doesn’t it seem wacky that you can make amends but not one amend?

  • If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?
  • If teachers taught, why don’t preachers praught?
  • If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?

Sometimes I think English speaking people should be committed to an insane asylum for the verbally insane.

In what language do people recite at a play and play at a recital?

  • Or ship by truck and send cargo by ship?
  • Have noses that run and feet that smell?
  • How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites?

Do you marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up as it burns down?

  • Or you fill in a form by filling it out.
  • An alarm goes off by going on.

English, invented by people, reflects the human’s race creativity, which of course, is not a race at all.

That is why, when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible.

You lovers of the English language might enjoy this…

There is a two-letter word that perhaps has more meanings than any other two-letter word, and that is ‘UP.’

It’s easy to understand UP, meaning toward the sky or at the top of the list, but when we awaken in the morning, why do we wake UP?

  • At a meeting, why does a topic come UP?
  • Why do we speak UP?
  • Why are officers UP for election?
  • Why is it UP to the secretary to write UP a report?
  • We call UP our friends.
  • We use it to brighten UP a room, polish UP the silver; we warm UP the leftovers and clean UP the kitchen.
  • We lock UP the house and some guys fix UP the old car.

At other times, the word UP has special meaning.

  • People stir UP trouble, line UP for tickets, work UP an appetite, and think UP excuses.
  • To be dressed is one thing, but to be dressed UP is special.
  • A drain must be opened UP because it is stopped UP.
  • We open UP a store in the morning but we close it UP at night.
  • We are pretty mixed UP about UP!

Are you UP to building UP a list of the many ways UP is used?

  • It will take UP a lot of your time, but if you don’t give UP, you may wind UP with a hundred or more.
  • When it threatens to rain, we say it is clouding UP.
  • When the sun comes out we say it is clearing UP.
  • When it rains, it wets the earth and often messes things UP.
  • When it doesn’t rain for a while, things dry UP.

I could go on and on, but I’ll wrap it UP, for now my time is UP, so…….it is time to shut UP!

Now it’s UP to you what you do with this post.

Thanks goes to Belinda Burston for sending this my way.

If you’ve read this far down the page, I hope you enjoyed this post. If so, please leave a comment. Oh yes, and enter your email address after clicking the “Sign Me Up!” button to receive free updates every time I post.

Thanks for visiting.

Three Tips for a Successful Writing Career

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Coming up with original posts each week is a challenge. On Monday’s, I write a “To Do List”. On this long list are the words, “Post a blog on Saturday”.

I take a deep breath and then exhale. “Great, I still have five days to come up with something half intelligent.”

At the beginning of the week, I’m surfing the net hoping something will inspire me. By Friday, I’m scouring the net, desperate for an epiphany to strike. Then I stumble across a quote. I have an “ah ha” moment. I’ve discovered a gem.

Raymond Chandler wrote:

I’m further inspired because he was an author who didn’t start writing until he was forty-five-years-old. There’s hope for me yet.

Below are my thoughts on what this quote means to me:

Ability

I believe I’m capable of writing. And I believe we all possess the ability to become great writers. But it takes hard work.

Yes, I said hard work.

For me, writing doesn’t come easy. Even though I’ve read a trunk load of “How to Write” books, it’s a struggle. I digest what I’ve read by highlighting passages with a blue marker, and when that marker dries up, I pick up a pink one, and then a yellow one…you get the point. I read novels and short stories in an attempt to figure out how writers weave their sentences together. They make it appear effortless, but that’s the sign of a great writer.

Then a light bulb switches on in my brain and I say, “By George, I think I’ve got it.”

Ah, but when I try to carry out what I’ve learned—poof it vanishes. So I try again, and again, and again.

Case in point—I’m reading a book by Randy Ingermanson and Peter Economy, “Writing Fiction for Dummies.” (Now that’s an appropriate title.) They say, “A scene has two levels of structure, and only two. They are: the large-scale structure and the small-scale structure.”

They continue to say, “The large-scale structure of a scene is extremely simple. A scene has the following three-part pattern: goal, conflict and disaster. A sequel has the following three-part pattern: reaction, dilemma and decision.” Sounds simple enough. So now I’m trying to ensure my large and small-scale structure works in my novel. It’s a painful process. But with tenacity and hard work, I’ll figure it out.

Motivation

Where does my motivation come from?

It comes from within. It’s a desire planted in me by God. It’s the drive to accomplish something worthwhile. My motivation also comes from having a great support system in place. I’m blessed because I network with other writers and I belong to two amazing writing groups. They (and you know who you are) consistently provide encouragement. It gets me through those days when I think, “Is this really what I’m supposed to do with my life?”

Attitude

Truthfully, some days my attitude sucks. I wrinkle my nose and grit my teeth, certain I look like I’ve just sucked on a sour lemon. On those days, I’m ready to chuck my laptop out the window. Then I come to my senses, bow my head, and pray, “Lord, I need an attitude adjustment.”

Today, my attitude is positive. It may take years before I’m proficient enough to write a book, but with help from above, encouragement from my writing buddies, hard work, and of course, possessing the right attitude…

“By George, I’ll get a novel published.”

Until next week, remember…

“Life is a series of great opportunities, brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.”

If you can relate, leave a comment or two.

Do You Have A Nom De Plume?

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Nom De Plume is just a fancy word for pseudonym, or in plain English, a pen name chosen by an author to hide his real identity.

Did you know the following genre fiction authors have a Nom De Plume?

Stephen King writes Horror. He also writes as Richard Bachman, Eleanor Druse, Steve King, and John Swithen.
Jack Higgins (his pseudonym) writes Mystery. He also writes as Martin Fallon, James Graham, and Hugh Marlowe.
Barbara Michaels (her pseudonym) writes gothic and supernatural Thrillers. She also writes as Elizabeth Peters.
Alistair MacLean writes Mystery. He also writes as Ian Stuart.
Eboni Snoe (her pseudonym) writes African-American Romance.

Is choosing a pen name right for you?

It’s important to know that writing under a pseudonym is a personal decision. Here are 7 reasons for doing so.

  • Your real name is difficult to pronounce or spell.
  • Your last name is near the bottom of the alphabet.
  • Your name is too common. (Hmm. There are a lot of Tracy Campbell’s).
  • You might write in different genres. If you are a woman and you want to reach a male audience, you might want to consider using a masculine name or just initials. Let’s take Romance novelist Nora Roberts, which is her real name, also writes futuristic suspense under the pen name, J.D. Robb. (I’ve thought of using T.C. Mac).
  • You might want to keep aggressive fans at bay.  (I should be so lucky).
  • Your sales weren’t great with your first book and you want to start fresh. (Hopefully, I won’t have that problem).

Before you decide on a Nom De Plume, get a second or a third opinion because the name you choose is your brand and it could haunt you the rest of your life.

Happy Writing

For now, I’ll stick to Tracy Campbell.

Leave a comment. I’d love to know what you think.

 

Multiple Submissions?

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I interviewed Mark Arnold–Writer, Script Doctor, Consultant, Director and Producer, or rather, I picked his brilliant mind on what his thoughts were on multiple submissions.

Welcome to my blog, Mark.

What is your position on multiple submissions?

Ahem, well, you’ve touched on a tender subject with me there.

You’ve piqued my interest with that statement. How do you view your writing?

My writing is a business. The stories I write, until sold, belong exclusively to me and I may do anything I like with them

Anything?

It is not good business to send a story out to one publisher, wait months for a reply, and in all fairness it is most likely going to be a rejection.

You sound a tad pessimistic?

That’s just the way the odds go, and then, once the rejection has arrived, send out the story again. Years can go by that way before a short story sells.

That’s ridiculous.

Hmm…that is rather ridiculous.

I don’t care what the publisher “prefers,” as far as sending out multiple submissions to other publishers.

Is there any other business that doesn’t want you to get as many potential customers as possible lined up for the product?

Not to my knowledge.

If I want to sell my car, for instance, I advertise in the newspaper. Thousands of people get to see it in one go. If I was to do it like I would for a short story the way the publishers want it, I would have to get a list of all the paper’s readers, go to their homes, one at a time, and ask them if they want to buy my car. I’m not going to do that. Who would?

No, I certainly wouldn’t. But Mark, what if two publishers want to buy your story at the same time?

I should have that kind of problem! I think the odds on that happening are in the neighborhood of winning the lottery – twice.

Doesn’t sound promising. Is there another way to look at multiple submissions?

Yes. Sometimes when a publisher says “No multiple submissions” they are not saying that they don’t want you to be sending the same story out to other publishers, they are actually saying, don’t send us more than one of your stories at a time. Let us reject one story at a time. Once we have rejected the first story, send us another. Make sure you understand what they mean by “Multiple Submissions.”

Good point. But doesn’t the publisher have the right to tell me what I can do?

Here’s the thing; the publishers have no right to tell me what I can do with MY story. They can let me know how they would prefer to do it, and that’s fine. Now publishers have preferences that are reasonable such as the format of your submission, contact information, etc. Most of this stuff is the same from publisher to publisher and I have no problem conforming to their needs – that is courtesy and professionalism, but I don’t work for them. I have a product that I want to sell and I’m going to do it in the most efficient way that I can.

Do you think we should be up front when submitting our work?

Some people feel that they should be up front when they submit their work and say that they are sending it out to other publishers at the same time. Well, that’s fine if they want to do that. I don’t do that. What I am doing with my story is my business and how I go about selling my work is not the publishers’ business.

With that attitude, I’m surprised you sell anything at all.

I can see your point, or at least, I would have seen your point when I first started out. Like most beginning writers I had the attitude “Please Mr. Great Publisher, who is God in my eyes, please stoop to look at my unworthy submission and have mercy on me, even though I am so low and unacceptable, please give me a chance. I will do anything to get published.” That comes from insecurity about your writing. And if that’s the way you feel about your writing, and that’s what you broadcast to the publishing world at large, expect to be treated as if you’re worthless. I’m not saying that I go to the other end of that scale with an attitude of, I am the God of writing, and I am willing to look kindly on your piece of crap periodical by allowing you to publish my work. I don’t think or feel that way. No, but I do expect, insist on, being treated with courtesy and respect. And decent business practices too, damn it.

Don’t you think you might be a little unreasonable in the way you attempt to sell your writing?

No. Publishers act as if they have all the power but that’s because writers hand them the power.

Oh. But I need a publisher to publish my work.

Fair enough. The publisher NEEDS a writer’s work so that he has something to publish. Think of it that way and you may realize that we’re actually on an equal footing.

Good point.

Now I realize that I am writing this message with heat. That’s certainly not the way I communicate myself to the publisher.

Thank you for clarifying that. But how do you communicate with a publisher? 

I attempt to be courteous and professional. I don’t give them my life’s story in my introduction.

What information do you provide?

I may mention that I am a published author with a list of credits, etc., just to show that I’m not some amateur beginner and that I should be taken seriously.

Can you give me an example?

I don’t explain why I wrote the story or what I was trying to accomplish. It’s “Hello, my name is Mark, please consider this work for publication in your periodical. Here are my credentials. Thank you for your time.”

That’s it? Aren’t publishers drooling to know how you came up with your story?

The publisher doesn’t want your letter of submission to be a novel in itself – and I find the more you write in the letter, the less interested or impressed the publisher, editor, reader, will be. In and out. Surgical.

Ouch. So how do you cultivate a relationship?

With time you may get to know the editor or publisher after many submissions and they may start sending you personal notes along with the rejection or acceptance letters, then you can start adding extra detail to the letters. And yes, cultivating a relationship with these people is a critical part of the process. They have to make the first move in this direction, however. If you are going to have a satisfactory relationship, if I want it to be satisfactory, then there has to be respect going both ways and not the relationship of patron and servant, master and slave.

Respect yourself before you can expect respect from others.

Sounds simple enough.

And stupid and obvious, but tell me, how did you feel when you were submitting your stories?

Gulp. Submissive?

That’s a joke.

I’m not laughing.

You have rights as a person, if you give up those rights, don’t complain when you are treated badly.

Yes, I do have rights. So I won’t grumble or complain any longer.

Thank you Mark for you candid response. I’m now in your corner.

Mark Arnold has been writing since he was about ten years old.  His first story was published when he was twelve.  Mark now works in the film industry as a script doctor, consultant, and has written, directed, produced, and animated short films for cable TV.  He also sells short stories to periodicals and is working on a novel.