World Building

World Building

by Adam Huddleston


For writers who set their stories in the world as it exists today or in the past, the concept of world building may not be quite as important as it is to folks like me; the fledgling sci-fi/fantasy author. Real places with real people populate their work so they simply write what they know (or could find out through a basic internet search). What happens when you want to set your story on the planet Xynon in the Gordita galaxy? Or what if the country of your protagonist’s birth happens to be Fargan, where it rains peanut butter and jelly?

Mountains of books have been written on the subject of world building. I would highly recommend “The Writer’s Digest Guide to Science Fiction and Fantasy” by Orson Scott Card, author of “Ender’s Game.” He takes the major facets of world building chapter by chapter and explains them very well.

Once you get a feel for the different aspects: geography, peoples, history, religion, flora/fauna, etc. it is just a matter of developing them into a cohesive environment. Generally speaking, the deeper you delve into each part of world-building, the richer your work will be.

Another bit of advice: If you are going to create something that does not exist in the real world, you must make it relatable to something that is. What I mean is, the reader needs to be able to understand what it is they are reading about. For example, if you say, “the warfle crawled along the ground” give a good description of it so the reader won’t be lost.

Along the same lines, use real adjectives and verbs. Don’t say “the warfle cavadered along the sand.” Your reader has no idea what “cavadered” means. Just use crawled, slunk, etc.

Hopefully these suggestions will give you a jump-start in the practice of world-building. Happy writing!



Same Song, Different Tune

Outtakes 195

Same Song, Different Tune

By Cait Collins


Three boys grew up together. They were closer than brothers. When they entered college, they chose the same major, planned to graduate together, and work together. But on graduation night one walks the stage to get his degree. Ten years later, they are reunited. What happened to separate the boys? What brought them back together?

On the surface, there is nothing new to this story. It’s been told time and again, because there are a limited number of stories. Depending on the instructor and the text book used, we were taught there are between four and seven stories; man against man, man against nature, man against himself, and coming of age are the most common themes. Yet each retelling can be new and exciting. It all depends on the writer, his theme, his characters, and the circumstances around which he builds the story.

What if the first boy was badly injured in a car accident while on vacation? The head injury resulted in a memory loss. He wanders the country looking for home. The second boy is forced to drop out of college when his mom, a single parent, dies suddenly. He has two younger siblings that need a guardian, and so he moves home to care for them; The third continues his studies, graduates, gets his masters degree, and makes a name for himself in his chosen profession. A news bulletin changes all three lives.

I’m playing with this story line.

I have a number of questions to deal with. What is the profession the boys planned to pursue? They need names. I’ll start out with Tom, Dick, and Harry. The characters will tell me who they really are. Who is the antagonist? I need three, maybe four major settings. What are their social backgrounds? Do they all have brothers and sisters? What secondary character will enter the story? Am I writing a novel or a novella? Is my work a mystery or closer to mainstream?

The process of creating a new work is both exciting and frustrating. There will be days when I am prolific and days when I struggle to write one paragraph. At this point I know one thing. Three boys, now men, will reunite. But will their reunion by joyous or a heartbreak? Truth is, I don’t know; however, they will tell me. The men will guide the story. I look forward to the adventure.



How Do I Manage My Social Media?

How Do I Manage My Social Media?

By Rory C. Keel


As we have already discovered, social media will help the writer in building their brand, platform or fan base for their writing. Social media is expected in the modern world of technology.

We previously explored the large variety of social media applications available to the writer such as blogs, business-to-customer avenues like Facebook, Twitter and Google+. We also looked at business-to-usiness focused applications such as LinkedIN. And let’s not forget the use of picture and video oriented social media venues such as Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube.

Managing Social Media

Now that we have a social media presence on the web, how does the writer manage the avenues he or she has chosen?

First, you must understand that social media is NOT FREE.

Are you surprised?

While you may not have pulled out your credit card to set up an account, you will pay by investing either time or money. Your time equals money and unless you are a professional blogger, the hours you spend managing your social media accounts are hours NOT spent on writing projects.

Secondly, you need to understand the different ways to manage your social media accounts.

Individual App Management

This will require you to log on to each application and enter information, reply to messages or requests for followers and manage the account yourself. If you have several different applications this can be time consuming.

The optimum average time one should spend managing all accounts should be no more than 15-20 minutes in the morning and the same amount of time in the afternoon.

Basic Simple Links

Basic simple links in the applications offer the user shortcuts to link them together. By linking these social media platforms, one entry can be made and it will be posted on all applications, saving time and money.

Management Programs and Services

When you achieve your fame as a writer, management services are available to manage these accounts for you. They range from free limited services to different levels of service for various monthly charges.

Next week we will discuss some general tips in using social media.

Creative Genius or Paranoia?

Creative Genius or Paranoia?

By Natalie Bright

The creative person is both more primitive and more cultivated, more destructive, a lot madder and a lot saner, than the average person. FRANK BARRON, “Think”, Nov-Dec 1962.

People should realize that writers apply their vivid imaginations to every aspect of their lives. It’s an endless list, the things we can worry about, and the writing and submitting process is no exception. I’m not saying I’ve ever had any thoughts on this list (perhaps one—okay, two), but these issues have come up in conversation with creative types:

  • My children, husband, in-laws, co-workers, neighbors, my cat—the entire universe—have conspired to prevent me from finishing this book.
  • Why did I send that stupid and inappropriate email to my agent? I should have never asked that question. She’s never replied because obviously, I’ve been dropped as a client. Can I be any more unprofessional? My career is over.
  • No response. They never got it. It’s been 14 days, 8.5 hours, 22 minutes since my submission. I don’t like the way the new mailman looks at me. He probably never put it in the bin for mailing. The crazy postman sabotaged my writing career.
  • I can’t believe I let this story out into the world. What a piece of crap. No wonder I can’t sell anything. I’m a total joke to every editor in New York City. They probably read my work out loud at happy hour just for a good laugh.
  • My book would have sold by now except for my website. I need a complete redo with a more vivid color scheme, different pictures, new bio. A blog! I need a blog. And a tribe. How much does a tribe cost?
  • I’m done. It’s too hard. I can’t take all of this rejection. Who am I kidding? My dream. Is. Over. *sob* Hey! A great idea for a picture book just came into my head! I’ll sleep later, AFTER I finish the first draft…

…onward my WordsmithSix friends!




By Nandy Ekle

The heart, the center, the core, the theme, the main idea. This is a very important part of your story. The heart is what the story is about.

Look at anatomy. On the outside we see skin, hair, fingernails. But we don’t see what’s under the skin. We don’t see the bones, the muscles, or the blood in its vessels. But we can look at the skin and see the evidence of those deeper body parts. Our skin has a firm shape because of the bones under it and it’s warm and has a rosy color because of the blood being pumped by the heart through the blood vessels.

Our stories are the same. We talk about story layers all the time, and that’s another good analogy—the onion theory. On the topmost layer of the story you have what’s happening at the moment. The next layer might be what’s going on inside the characters’ heads, and there might be a layer of tension between the characters because of the relationship between them. You could even have a layer of discovery and healing when the relationships change. But the very center of the story, the heart, is what the whole thing is really all about.

The other definition of “heart” I want to talk about sort of fits parallel with this one. Heart equals feelings. One of the best ways to connect with your reader is with emotions. You have a main character that wants something so much they are willing to risk everything to get it. You want your reader to feel this yearning and hunger as much as the character. You want your reader to feel every struggle, every disappointment, every victory with your character. When that happens, the center layer of your story goes right into the reader’s heart and they learn the same lesson the character learns.

In my blog next week, we will look at ways to burrow down into a reader’s heart and make your story become their story.

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

Let’s Get Emotional

Let’s Get Emotional

by Adam Huddleston

After reading an excerpt from the novel I’m working on to my critique group, the other members encouraged me to deepen the protagonist’s emotional connection to the reader. After looking through my submission, I couldn’t agree more. Here is why it is important and some ways to achieve it:

Readers have invested time and money into your story. They expect to experience a connection with the main character(s). They want to be immersed in every plot twist, conflict, and whatever else occurs along the way. If they feel cheated, they’re less likely to spend their hard-earned cash on your work in the future.

There are many ways to develop that connection. First and foremost, be sure to emphasize what your character is feeling inside in relation to what’s happening in the outside world. Also, don’t be afraid to let your character reminisce once in a while. As long as it’s not overdone, it can be a powerful tool to use. It’s important to remember that when writing, don’t confuse your emotional reaction to a situation with what the character would feel. Stay true to the story!

Happy writing!

Things to Write About

Outtakes 194

Things to Write About

By Cait Collins


The San Francisco Writers’ Grotto has done it again. I’ve enjoyed their first release 642 Things to Write About. The pages are full of ideas to spark a writer’s creative juices. The ideas are unique. For example, “Write two prayers for your character: one to be said in private, one to be said in public”. Or, “study a stranger. Go home and write a tragedy about his or her mother”. Or maybe write about “a tree from the point of view of one of its leaves”. Sounds interesting doesn’t it? I can assure you there are plenty of ideas in this journal to jump start the imagination. They also released 642 Things to Write About Young Writer’s Edition designed to inspire our younger aspiring authors.

If you think 642 ideas is impressive, the Grotto has another volume; 712 More Things to Write About. Yes, 712 more ideas. Try this. “What were you thinking the first time you made out with someone?” Then there is “Write about a time in your life when you narrowly escaped some terrible fate –but change the ending, and write as if the terrible thing actually happened.” And now “Write five messages from the Ouija board”. And if you are still not convinced everything is fair game, I challenge you to “Write for 10 minutes without stopping about everything that stops you from writing”.

Sometimes we may believe the muse has left us. Our minds are so clouded with what went wrong at work, your child needs braces and your dental insurance will pay less than half the cost, and the social function you’d rather skip. We allow our concerns to block our creativity. But these journals give so much inspiration. They are treasures for our tired, stressed minds. I do recommend them. Just think one short exercise may be the start of a short story, an article, or a novel.

Which social media platforms should a writer use?

Which social media platforms should I as a writer, have a presence on?

By Rory C. Keel

As we discussed on my blog post last week called Basic Social Media for Writers, that Social media for business has become the norm. For a writer it is no different, you are a business and your customers are your readers.

With literally hundreds of options to choose from such as Facebook, Twitter, Pintrest, LinkedIn, Google+, and YouTube, it could drive a person mad. Before deciding on which social media venue to have a presence, you need to do your research.


First, you need to develop a platform of readership. Choose a B2C social media platform. B2C simply means a business–to-customer platform that will allow you as a business, to focus on your genre and connect with your readers, the customers.

Second, understand what the venue is and how it works.

A Blog is a place to publish thoughts, tips, ideas. Regular blogs provide keyword-rich content for search engines and can help create you as an expert in your field.

Facebook, Google +, Myspace and other similar platforms, are used to connect and interact with your audience with personal and/or business pages

Twitter allows you to follow and connect with a target audience.

Tweeting about your writing with excerpts, answering questions, and offering helpful insights can help to build loyal readership.

YouTube is the top site for user generated video content. It’s a place to share your business by how-to videos, video readings, discussions, or simply a video introducing YOU.

Other social media sites use the medium of photos to share ideas and communication, such as Instagram and Pintrest.

Another type of social media platform is a B2B platform. B2B simply refers to a Business-to-Business platform. In another words a wholesaler to you as a business.

As a writer, you need access to editors, publishers, or agents. You might even need connections with an ink cartridge and paper supply company. You as a business can connect with others who offer services you need.

LinkedIN is an example of this type of platform and has a business focus.

Having the proper research and information, you can begin to formulate an idea of which social media platform to focus your attention.

With that in mind, next week we will discuss how to best manage your social media so that you will still have time to write.


Hometown Promotions

Hometown Promotions

By Natalie Bright

There’s a line in a country song that goes, “everyone dies famous in a small town”.

How many of your neighbors, coworkers, or in-laws even know that you’re a writer?

Local Fame and Fortune

We have a renowned New York Times Bestselling author here, who’ve I’ve known since she first became published. She now has a huge fan base, both locally and internationally, and she’s worked hard for it.

In the 25 years that we’ve been friends, I’ve known her to do many, many local talks for free, even though she commands major fees around the country. She rarely turns down an invitation to speak at local library fundraisers, book club meetings, or organization lunches. She’s become extremely popular with the Red Hat groups. Her programs include a tidbit of the characters and settings of her stories yet to be published. She’s not only selling her current list, she’s introducing herself and creating a fan base for works in progress. Her Fan Club has grown by leaps and bounds. Usually 100-200+ people show up at her local book signings for new releases.

Sometimes neighbors can be your biggest supporters. When I started out as a nobody writer several years ago, I’ve tried to emulate that train of thought.

Put Yourself Out There. Should You Charge?

Kid Lit authors are highly encouraged to decline school visits unless the school pays a fee because it sets a precedent in the area. I come from that small town mentality where everyone pitches in when asked and volunteerism is the way of doing things.

Right after college, I volunteered at our local historical museum where I spoke to thousands of kids during spring field trips. Today, some of those same teachers ask me to visit their classrooms. I can drop my kids off at their schools around 7:30, make it to the gig to talk about writing, and be back to my day job desk by 10:00. The kids get an inexpensive pencil with my website or a bookmark with my picture and bio. A 2nd grader told me last week, “I don’t want you to leave.” Another one whispered, “I’m writing a story, too.” For me, it’s about connecting with kids.

The publishing business moves at a snail’s pace. I’m making every effort to keep my name out there as a writer, and all it takes is my time and a .39 cent pencil. I’ve never considered charging the schools in our district, where my friends teach and my children have been enrolled since kindergarten.

Sometimes New Opportunity Means Practice

A friend’s daughter asked me to talk in the Dallas area for a reading event. The inner-city school had very limited funds so I agreed to talk for free. I’ve never done a power point for 700 elementary kids, but it seemed like a great opportunity since I’d be in the area anyway for a conference. This teacher is a tech-whiz so she helped with audio-visual set-up in the gym. I did my program for the first 300+, she offered suggestions to improve the clarity of content, and it went even better for the next group. I have the confidence to do it again. Sometimes new opportunity affords you a practice run, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Explore Your Town

Here’s that small-town mindset again: your time is free and it costs you nothing to give it away. Everyone you know can open doors to new opportunity. I usually say yes to everything because it always leads to something else. I’m not talking about selling out as a professional, hard selling, or pounding a group over the head about buying your book. I’m talking about networking and connecting with people who live in your neighborhood.

Show up, give them more than they expected, thank them for their time, eat the free meal, and leave your postcard bio. Odds are someone will ask if you have any books with you. Odds are good you’ll get an invitation to come back, or you’ll be asked to speak to another group because of the contacts you made. Odds are even better that someone will look at your website, perhaps follow you on Twitter or Instagram. Don’t forget to send a hand-written thank you note to the person who invited you. They may not buy a book today, but they know your name.

Selling Books

Marketing and promotion is a marathon, and who has the most depth and understanding about your stories? You can relay that passion about your novels better than anybody else. As authors, WE UNDERSTAND it’s business and all about building a platform and selling books, but not everybody has to know that.



Wedge of Writing

“I used to read Zane Grey, and Louis L’Amour books as a child and I absolutely loved them, with the western setting and the action. One thing that I felt was missing from these stories was the romantic relationships. When characters never really get involved with one another emotionally, it makes them seem less real. There are four great motivators of people—hate, greed, fear, and love. Many writers will spend entire novels involving their characters in hate, greed or fear, and leave the love out. Humans are not that shallow. Love is a huge motivating factor in our everyday lives as well as the lives of characters. To write a story and leave romance out makes the story seem empty.”

          — JODI THOMAS