THESAURUS


THESAURUS

Natalie Bright

One well-known author is quoted saying that if you have to look up words in a thesaurus, then it’s the wrong word. As a writer juggling a day-job and family, as many of you are, I think having word lists handy are a life-saver. Sometimes I know the word, but it’s late at night and the right word just doesn’t come. The only option is to reach for help.

Here are two of my favorite that I’ve found extremely helpful.

THE EMOTION THESAURUS by Angela Ackerman & Becca Pugllisi.

“A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression” is an alphabetical list by emotion. The term is defined by physical signals, internal sensations, mental responses, and signs of acute cases. I kept writing that my character feels nervous, but I wanted to show her nervousness. The list of physical signals is lengthy and can be used throughout the scene. This is a comprehensive tool that writers of every genre would find useful.

CHILDREN’S WRITER’S WORD BOOK by Alijandra Magilner & Tayopa Mogilner

If you write for children, a grade-leveled word thesaurus is particularly handy. This one has word list groups by grade and reading levels for synonyms.

Happy writing!

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Learning Online with MasterClass


Learning Online with MasterClass

Natalie Bright

 

As I write book #2 of the Trouble in Texas series, I’m watching MasterClass with R. L. Stine during lunch breaks. Stine is the author of the Goosebump Series for kids.

Learning online at MasterClass.com is easy. The first class I took was James Patterson, which is an excellent video series about his writing process. Also included in the price is a workbook which you can print or download. The short videos fit into my already busy day.

Although I do not aspire to be a screenwriter, I paid the additional fee for the All Access Pass to unlock every class. I’ve just finished learning about character development from Shonda Rhimes. Listen to her as she breaks down the inspiration and writing process for her characters in Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal. Go back and watch the pilots for each show. It’s fun to witness genius at work.

Lunch breaks are spent at my desk watching R. L. Stine’s videos, and I print the PDF worksheets from each short segment, jotting notes of the specific changes I’ll need to do to improve my story. I work on edits when I get home.

Interestingly, R. L. Stine does not keep an idea journal. Using character and plot ideas, he formulates a chapter outline. He most always knows the ending before he starts, and then he writes from that outline until it’s done. The key word here is DONE. Finished. The end. I can never get there because I give in to the many ideas swirling in my head. My process is to stop, start this, and then jot notes about that. Those days are over. I’m going to finish final edits on Book #2 of the Trouble in Texas series, THE GREAT TRAIN CAPER, before I start something new.

Mr. Stine has been very inspiring. One class costs $90, and the all access pass is $180 per year. I’ve discovered I didn’t have time to read the writing magazines I used to subscribe to several online magazine, and attending SCBWI conferences is a huge investment. If you want to learn more story craft, consider MasterClass. Next up for me on MasterClass.com: Judy Blume.

Happy writing!

Writing Quote


“Who wants to become a writer? And why? Because it’s the answer to everything. … It’s the streaming reason for living. To note, to pin down, to build up, to create, to be astonished at nothing, to cherish the oddities, to let nothing go down the drain, to make something, to make a great flower out of life, even if it’s a cactus.”
—Enid Bagnold

Characters have Secrets


Characters have Secrets

Natalie Bright

 

Grey’s Anatomy has me captivated again. Since first premiering on ABC in 2005, I’ve got thirteen yeas of writing experience and I’m watching the show in a whole new frame of mind. A writer’s mind. And thanks to Netflix or Hulu, I don’t have to be patient for another season to begin. Binge watching is extremely inspiring for a creative soul.

The characterization in this medical drama television series is brilliant and addictive. This show is the perfect example of developing depth in fictional characters. One of the ways you can make your characters leap off the page is to give them secrets. Real people have secrets. We have things buried deep within us that we’ll never tell. What we say out loud is not always reflective of what we may be hiding inside.

You’ve probably heard the story craft tool of throwing everything at your character. Conflict keeps the plot moving and holds the readers’ interest. As authors, we are all border line sadistic when it comes to the things we put our characters through.

Let’s look at the characters and their secrets in the show Grey’s Anatomy:

Meredith Grey: central protagonist, is hiding her mother’s illness, who was a brilliant surgeon herself, and is sleeping with her boss while trying to succeed under her mother’s shadow.

Izzie: feels unworthy of her smarts and success because she grew up very poor in a trailer park.

Christina: sleeping with her boss and she has an almost unhealthy obsession with cutting people open.

Dr. Burke: begins a romantic relationship with an intern.

George: is secretly in love with Meredith and is extremely smart,  and not the goof-ball that the world sometimes sees.

Alex: cares deeply about his career and relates to patients on a deeper level, as opposed to the A-hole, shallow attitude he sometimes displays.

Dr. Webber: Surgery chief hides a medical issue with his eyes and had an affair with Meredith’s mom when they were in medical school.

Dr. Shepherd is married and does not tell his girlfriend Meredith, who is an intern.

That barely scratches the surface as the show develops, but you get the idea. The fun part is that we know their secrets as an audience, and we can’t help but watch to see if, and when, they will reveal all to each other. It’s very entertaining and can be applied to the characters in your books.

In season 2, Izzie prepares a Thanksgiving meal for everybody. She explains to Dr. Burk that she wants just one day where they can be normal and act like everybody else. Dr. Burke mumbles, “A day without surgery.” That one line says so much about him as a character and about the entire theme of the show. You have to watch carefully and pay attention to those one-liners. When I first watched the show every week thirteen years ago, I was caught up in the medical issues of the patients. Now I’m focusing my attention entirely on the characters.

As an added bonus, Shonda Rhimes explains her writing process and development of the series at MasterClass.com.

Happy writing, and thanks for following WordSmith Six!

 

ELEMENTS OF A MIDDLE GRADE NOVEL


ELEMENTS OF A MIDDLE GRADE NOVEL

Natalie Bright

The following list of elements for middle grade novels was a handout from a writing conference. The name or origin of the information is not on the handout, so apologies that I cannot give credit. It’s a helpful list as you are crafting your story for middle grades, defined as a core audience of 8 to 12 year olds or 3rd through 6th grades.

 

  1. Drama!
  2. Imagination.
  3. Use humor.
  4. Write to the age level.
  5. Make place a character.
  6. Make each word resonate.
  7. Bring history alive.
  8. Mix genres.
  9. Craft prose carefully.
  10. Let joy spill out!

Scenes Defined


Scenes Defined

Natalie Bright

Does your scene in your book play like a movie in your head while you write? It takes some concentration and the ability to block out the world around you, but I love it when this happens. I try to focus on every detail, no matter how minute, as I focus on the “moving picture”.

The scene is the unit of story, and in a book usually starts with a character arriving and ends when something has changed. A scene propels the story forward.

  1. Scenes in a book are anchored in a certain place and certain time.
  2. A narrative summary can describe the specifics of your scene.
  3. Scenes usually contain some type of visible action, not just internal thinking from the character.
  4. Do not use italics for internal dialogue, or what your character is “thinking”. Once the standard norm, the point of digging deep is writing inside your character’s head. This one is hard to break. We’ve discussed this several times in our critique meetings. Next time you read a recent release, notice that italics are a thing of the past.
  5. Keep the scene and action moving. No backstory in the first chapter (maybe two). Hook the reader and save the backstory for later.
  6. Skillfully weave your backstory into the story, these can be tension filled scenes into itself.
  7. End scenes (chapters) with a hook—a punchy, pithy statement.

 

Book Review


Book Review

Natalie Bright
HOW TO MARKET A BOOK, Third Edition by Joanna Penn, is a comprehensive step-by-step guide to launching your book.
Every author has to devote some effort into marketing. We have to tell people about our book and hopefully make it appealing enough that they will want to read it. Finding people to read your book sounds simple enough, but as we all know this is a marathon and can take as much time as our writing.
As Ms. Penn suggests in her book, “If you re-frame marketing as creative and fun, you will find yourself enjoying it more.” Her book definitely provides you with a place to start as she covers many options.

INDIE AUTHOR MINDSET


INDIE AUTHOR MINDSET

Natalie Bright

Several weeks ago, at a Western Writers of American conference, I pitched an idea for a book featuring pictures of a cattle ranch, an explanation of the work Texas cowboys do, and original recipes from a ranch house cook. The editor told me that bookstores will never know where to shelve it, and she is absolutely right. She raised several good points that I had never thought about. My idea doesn’t fit with cookbooks because it has picture of cowboys, not that much food. Maybe ranching related, but it’s not a coffee table book because I’m not a professional photographer and my name wouldn’t be the draw. What about regional or local history, but it has recipes.

If you publish traditionally you must have an iron clad genre, theme and target market. That question will be asked of you in the pitch appointment. By the way, my roommate and I had practiced our pitches several times. Yes, she shot down my book, but I wasn’t nervous or offended, and I really appreciated an editor’s insight on my project. Business is business.

The mindset for Independent Authors is slightly different than taking the traditionally published route. I understand retail selling and bookstore shelving labels, but on the other hand as an Indie I can turn my idea into a book anyway. My target market is the local ranching community, a group I am very familiar with. I would sell it at library and book events in my area. Will it be worth my time and expense to have a book in hand? I’ll have to do the math and give it some serious consideration.

In the Indie world of publishing, I see myself as a writer with a gazillion ideas that cross all genres and numerous markets. I want to monetize my work in every way that I can. Parts of fiction books become short stories in anthologies. The theme for my nonfiction book can be rewritten for the magazine market or as a children’s book. Related topics would make great blog posts. If you’re bound by a literary agreement, you are limited in turning those characters, themes, or ideas into something new.

The mindset of a traditionally published author is slightly different which involves a literary agent and publishing house editor. You may have heard traditionally published authors advise, “pick a lane“. It’s valid advice. I am a fan of numerous best-selling authors who write only one genre and do it extremely well, resulting in very successful careers. Write, write, write, and keep writing what you’re good at. It’s a gamble for those who stray. What if your regency romance readers hate your new young adult fantasy? Will it cause your fans to stop buying your books all together?

A good story is a good story. That will never change for readers. Today’s readers don’t care if you’re traditional or self-published, and probably don’t really understand the difference. They just want to be entertained.

Indie Authors are free spirits in many ways. We don’t write to any pre-set list of rules. Indie Authors can define our own story elements such as word counts, settings, characters, and plot lines regardless of publishing trends set by acquiring publishers. We acknowledge the characters that wake us up at night. We set our stories in the places that call to us. We write the stories of our heart, and that can make for a very satisfying work day.

www.nataliebright.com

Opportunities to Promote Your eBook


Opportunities to Promote Your eBook

Natalie Bright

There are a variety of opportunities to advertise and promote your eBooks for minimal amount of money. Here a few links to several great articles about promotion sites for your eBook.

Best Promotion Sites for 2018

https://www.lincolncole.net/tools/best-paid-book-promotion-sites-for-indie-authors

https://blog.reedsy.com/book-promotion-services/

https://the-digital-reader.com/2018/01/21/nates-big-list-free-paid-book-promotion-websites/

There might be one slight road block you have to overcome though; many of the promo deals require a minimum number of reviews.  Sometimes it’s not necessary that you have all 5 Stars, because it’s the numbers of reviews that can boost you in the algorithms, not the star ratings.

Here’s my problem:  I get the nicest comments on Facebook or through emails from people who enjoy reading my books, but they don’t leave a review online. Some people are just not comfortable with the process, I think.

We’re all writers here, so let’s spread the love. Leave a review for your favorite author. Share a new release by someone in your writing community and remind your friends to leave a online reviews for their favorite authors.

 

Writing Life Struggles


Writing Life Struggles

Natalie Bright

 

Is there any other profession that you can think of in which, once you’ve achieved the knowledge of actually doing that work, the entire universe conspires to prevent you from doing the work? I might be whining, but good grief. A new week is upon us and I did not write one word on the current WIP in the previous week. It’s very frustrating.

I’m reading an excellent self-help right now, OVERWHELMED WRITER RESCUE by Colleen Story (review forthcoming). As a writer, I think most of us struggle to fit writing in between life, because life can’t be shoved out of the way. Our writing is the thing that becomes flexible. Our obsession becomes the thing we can’t achieve.

At the beginning of this week, I’m at the cross roads again between family and my writing. Do I adjust my scheduled air flights to leave a writers conference early to attend another function? That’s two days spent at a five day conference, and two days spent in an airport instead to attend one event. The writing conference is very important to me because of the knowledge gained and the connections I might make. I’ve had this on my calendar since last year. The other event is a last minute invite, has nothing to do with my writing, but is important to someone else that I be there. The people in my life are important too, but I can’t be in two places at once. Why should we have to choose?

That is how my writing journey has been; guilt wins out over the characters in my head every time. The struggle is real. But this time I’m choosing me. I’m acknowledging the deep, very selfish desire to become a more successful author. I choose words and story and hanging out with people who understand the struggle. Have I chosen well? I’ll let you know in a few weeks.