Let’s Talk about Endings.


Let’s Talk about Endings.

Natalie Bright

Do you have an idea the ending before you start writing?

Are you a total pantser, allowing the characters to take you on their journey and realize the ending when you get there?

My brain does not work in pantser mode, I’ve discovered, after a workshop with Kathleen Baldwin, who explained the difference. I work with numbers and deadlines at the day job, and for the time I have at the keyboard writing, I like structure. My characters are well defined and I have a general idea of the ending; then I can begin writing.

The final scene is the big yellow ribbon on  your plot. It ties up the story in a satisfactory way for your readers and answers all of their questions. Make it big, make it bold, play that last climactic scene for all its worth.  This is your ultimate test, proof that the main character is worth their time and worth saving.

In bad fiction the ending may seem forced. The plot and characters have been manipulated. As a reader it is unsatisfying, maybe a bit annoying. In good fiction, plot and characters meld together and the climactic ending seem inevitable.

Happy writing!

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DIALOGUE FOR KID LIT


DIALOGUE FOR KID LIT

Natalie Bright

 

When the critique group works on my kid lit stories, I remember how annoying it sounds when I read the work out loud with every bit of dialogue having a “said” after or before. That is normal for most books targeted to beginning readers.  Every spoken line needs clarification and an origin as to who said what. The same rules apply for kid lit as it does for adult, as in ‘said’ is an invisible word.

Most children’s stories are heavy with dialogue. Kids do not like a lot of narrative. Fill the pages with white space. Short sentences, short paragraphs and pithy bits of talking. Chapter books are very important to beginning readers, but remember chapters are short as well.

Don’t use your word count for empty words that do not move the plot along. For example, the phone rings:

“Hello,” Jenn said.

“Hello, Jenn?” Todd asked.

She answered, “Yes, this is Jenn. Is that you, Todd?”

People do not talk in long sentences, especially here in Texas. Make your dialogue ring true for the era and for the setting of your book.

Read your dialogue out loud. Is it believable for that age of character? On occasion my critique partners will point out that my twelve-year-old character would never say that word, for example, and they are always right. Stay true to the age of your characters.

Since I write historical westerns, I have to be careful about modern day lingo that can sneak into my writing. I have caught myself using “give me call when you get there.” (Ugh.)

Still having trouble? Go to a local gaming center or sports facility and listen to kids talk. My office is right next to the high school, and my son and his friends sometimes stop by to hang out and grab a Dr. Pepper from the fridge I keep stocked. Honestly, I have no idea what they’re talking about most of time. It’s amazing how fast they can move from one topic to the next and everyone seems to keep up with the conversation, except me. Their use of slang terms are more than interesting, and highly educational, to say the least.

Happy writing, and thanks for following WordsmithSix!

Natalie

 

Dialogue Tags


Dialogue Tags

Natalie Bright

Dialogue is spoken communication between characters. The purpose of a tag line is to let your reader know which character is speaking.

Most commonly used dialogue tags:

Said

Asked

Yelled

Hollered

Whispered

As a reader, we hardly notice the tag lines. “He/she said” is boring, and our eyes are used to reading said. We want to know what’s between the quotation marks.

Seriously, can a person “screech” or “Sigh” or “acknowledge” words? Can you “laugh” a sentence? Instead use descriptive words to create motion or response in your characters. Over use of anything besides “said” can be annoying. Think of how you can use narrative in place of tag lines.

One of the best resources for an explanation of dialogue is the book WRITING REALISTIC DIALOGUE AND FLASH FICTION by Harvey Stanbrough. I highly recommend this book as an addition to your writing reference library.

Here’s an example from Mr. Stanbrough’s book:

She approached him cautiously. “Come on now, Baby,” she cooed. “You don’t want that knife. What are you going to do with that?”

He swung the knife in a wild arc. “I just can’t stand it anymore!” he exclaimed. “I’ve had it?”

If you read the same passage above out loud omitting the tag lines, it reads the same. In fact, we might even say that the tag lines of cooed and exclaimed are somewhat annoying. You could add a he said or she said if you want, but the action and narrative helps us know who is talking. The imagery is still the same no matter what tag lines you use.

Happy writing and thanks for following WordsmithSix!

natalie

Characters & The Five Senses


Characters & The Five Senses

Natalie Bright

 

The main character Hassan in the movie The Hundred Foot Journey, is a culinary genius whose talent propels him to a world-renowned chef.  The title refers to the distance between Hassan’s family who relocates to France because of a tragedy and opens an Indian restaurant across the road from a traditional French restaurant. I have watched this many times, and I always tear up at the same scene.

The Power of Taste and Smell

One of my favorite scenes is the perfect example of how the power of taste and smell can be used to create powerful emotion.

While sitting in his darkened, closed restaurant overlooking the Paris skyline, Hassan hears a young co-worker on break. He raises his head, pauses, and then slowly rises from the floor. The young man is eating. “Do you want some?” he asks.

As Hassan dips pieces of fried bread into the dish, the young man explains that his wife cooks the traditional Indian way on an open fire in the courtyard of their apartment using spices from their homeland. Tears well up in Hassan’s eyes and you can see the emotion and internal conflict on his face. His mother, who had died in a fire, was the one who had taught him the use of spices. The family’s relocation from India to France had been a struggle of cultural differences. All of this is visible as Hassan buries his face in his hands and sobs. You understand the conflict that is going through his mind. There is no dialogue. He doesn’t voice his pain, but you know. It is a very powerful scene triggered by smell and taste.

INCLUDE THE SENSES

Characters should experience several of the five senses in every scene. This pulls your reader into the emotion and setting and reveals the conflict that the character is experiencing. During the editing process, I find it’s easier to deliberately focus on enhancing the five sense during one pass. As I read every scene, I think about the reality for that character. What more can be revealed? For example, the smells of food, the sounds of nature, the feel of satin fabric, etc. Dig deep into the slightest, most minute detail of what that character is experiencing. Maybe it’s good as written, but maybe it can be better.

Here’s Your Homework

Think of your favorite movie and watch a scene that triggers emotion based on any of the five senses. If you have a particular scene in mind, be very specific with your search terms to find it on YouTube.

Watch the scene several times. Now, turn off the video and write that same scene. Be descriptive about the senses that trigger the emotion. Fill your pages with emotion and rewriter the scene.

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!

Granting Rights to Your Work


Granting Rights to Your Work

Natalie Bright

One of my nonfiction books gained the attention of a small press, and a standard publishing contract arrived in my inbox. “Excited” hardly describes the feeling of realizing that somebody wants your work. You dare to dream about all of the possibilities for your book and your writing career. And then I read the Rights Granted section.

Keep in mind that each and every one of these rights listed below can be negotiated separately. This is exact verbatim from the contract with some of the legal ease edited out for easier reading.

1. Rights Granted. The author hereby grants, transfers, and assigns to the Publisher for the full term of copyright the exclusive right to publish the Work in hardback and paperback editions and to sell throughout the world in all languages. …all electronic rights to the Work, with exclusive authority to license said rights throughout the world in all languages. …subsidiary rights as specified in paragraph 9.

Paragraph 9. The Author hereby grants, transfers and assigns to the Publisher for the full term of copyright the exclusive right to license, sell, or otherwise dispose of the following rights in the Work in all languages and throughout the world: publication or sale by book clubs; reprint rights; foreign rights; translation rights…; publication in anthologies, compilations, digests, condensations; serial rights … ; dramatic, motion picture, multimedia and televisions rights;  broadcast for radio; recordings; electronic rights …e-books, Kindle, Nook and other … ; audio, mechanical, and visual reproduction; computer programs; microprint, microfiche, and microfilm editions; syndication rights; permission rights (quotations, excerpts, illustrations, etc.); merchandising rights and in any media now known or hereafter created; and otherwise utilize the Work and material based on the Work.

I’m giving up all of this in return for Royalties of Ten Percent of sales. The smarter author works with a trusted literary agent or intellectual property attorney to help with negotiations

There is another option. Keep ALL of your rights, be your own boss, set your own deadlines, and publish as an Indie Author. If you like control of your career and you’re not afraid of learning new things and steering your own ship, self-publishing might be for you. It’s easier now than ever before.

If you live in or near the Amarillo, Texas Panhandle area, I’d like to invite you to an Indie Author Workshop in July. SAVE THE DATE: July 21, 2018. I’ll be moderating a panel of Indie Authors and small press owners to discuss the step-by-step process of self-publishing. Let’s get real. We’ll include the bad and the good, and answer all your questions. Rory C. Keel, one my WordsmithSix critique partners will be on the panel too. Sponsored by Texas High Plains Writers, meeting starts at 10:00 AM, Amarillo (Chase) Tower, 600 South Tyler Street, in downtown Amarillo, Texas. We’ll be on the 9th Floor in the Ed Davis Room.  Bring your questions and be prepared to leave inspired!

 

PROMOTING YOU: Amazon Author Central


PROMOTING YOU: Amazon Author Central

Natalie Bright

Frontiers in Writing conference, hosted by an Amarillo writer’s group,
featured Debbie Macomber as the keynote speaker many years ago. If this name
is unfamiliar to you, Macomber is one of today’s most popular women’s
fiction and romance author, with more than 200 million copies of her books
in print worldwide. As a newbie writer, I was definitely star struck.

One of the best pieces advice I’ve ever heard, and something that stuck with
me, came from Macomber. She said, “Do one thing every day that will promote
you or your writing, no matter how big or small. At the end of the year
you’ll have a list of 365 things done.”

Over the next several months, I’ll be blogging about “Promoting You” with
topics ranging from big things that might take you several hours, to not so
big things taking you several minutes. In the end, it’s all good and it’s
all important to your career as an author.

AMAZON AUTHOR PAGES

If you have books listed for sell on amazon.com, right under the book title
is your name. If you hover over the name, a window should pop up with a link
to your Amazon Author Page. Every author can access this feature,
traditional or Indie.

Join at https://authorcentral.amazon.com and sign in using the Amazon
account where you publish your books. Be aware that Amazon has rules regarding multiple accounts for sellers.

Once you have set up your account, “Add a book” which can be searched by
ISBN or title. It will appear on your Author Central site within 24 hours,
usually less, has been my experience. Approval from your publisher may take
several days, if you are not self-published.

You can post or edit original content at any time, such as a picture, add
your bio, pictures of author events, videos, and link your blog with RSS
feed. Your blog posts will automatically appear within 24 hours. There is
even an events calendar.

To Do this Week:

1. Set-up your Amazon Author page at Author Central.
2.  Create an Amazon Author Page URL link and let everyone know by tweeting
the link.
3. Tell us about it, too – post the link in the comment section below.

THE END! Now what?


THE END! Now what?

Natalie Bright

We had a great discussion at WordsmithSix meeting about the next step, after you’ve edited and polished your manuscript. You are ready to publish: now what? Several of our members have finished, or are in the home stretch with their manuscripts, and have a very big decision: a) shop their book with agents and editors and pursue a traditional publishing deal, or b) become an Indie Author. We try to keep it real here at Wordsmith Six, so here’s your reality check:

Today’s publishing environment is exhilarating and exhausting. It basically boils down to the following issues, assuming you have a polished and edited book ready for publication.

A. Traditional Publishing

1. Author receives 10% royalty from sales (+/- depending on deal).

2. Author pays 15% from their share to a literary agent, who negotiates the deal.

3. Publication date: years (some smaller presses move faster)

$. Advance: possible, but not guaranteed

6. Sign on the dotted line and give up ALL rights to your novel, characters, cover design, content. You are out of the process, which is a huge relief and appealing to some authors. Go write the next book.

7. Big name publisher assists with promotion (minimal for first-time authors, but invaluable if you are at best seller status). Authors maintain website and social media.

8. Publication Date: Years from now.

9. Validation from a traditional publishing house and the writing community (this is exciting because we all have big dreams).

B. Indie Author

1. Author receives 70% cut of sales (+/- depending on venue)

2. Author learns how, or pays out-of-pocket for professional editor, formatting, cover design, promotion. Most indie authors agree, the work is 50% writing and 50% business owner. You maintain complete control.

3. Go wide as in world wide eBooks and/or Print. You identify the target markets and you design promotion that best connects with your readers.

3.Publication Date: within weeks from this very minute. You decide launch date.

4. Validation from family and local community. Your cousin doesn’t care if the publisher is Me Writer, LLC or Random House, they just want to buy a copy of your book. The local book club is excited to hear your talk.

Have I left anything off of the list that might be significant to newbie authors based on your experience?

This past Saturday, I went to the Texas High Plains Writers workshop by Indie Author Bethany Claire[bethanyclaire.com who has propelled herself and her Scottish time-travel series to best-selling status. She has become successful on her own terms, to the point that she was able to hire her mother as her assistant. They are developing an online class to help other indie authors who are serious about elevating their writing to the next level and who want to build a successful business.

After Saturday’s workshop, I feel better about a recent decision regarding my own work. At the end of last year, I turned down an offer from a small press. For the standard 10% royalty and no advance, I would have signed away an entire page and one-half listing of rights for my inspirational book. Sure, this deal might have propelled it in the market place, but I had to submit a marketing plan as well. Why do publishers want rights they never intend to exploit? That’s not to say traditional publishing deals are something I’d never consider. It depends on the book. For this one, I said no thanks.

Remove your author big-dreams cap for a moment and look at things through clear, sensible eyes. This is business. YOUR business. What process will be optimal for the book in hand, and for your continued success? You have three choices: traditionally published; an Indie AuthorPrenuer all the way; or a ‘hybrid’, which is an author who has published books through both options. It’s all good.

Keep writing, be excellent, and more importantly, get your work out there so I can read it!

Number 5


Number 5

by Adam Huddleston

Last week, my family and I welcomed a beautiful baby girl into the world; kid number 5 (if anyone’s counting). I used to write a bit of poetry, and while my skills are beyond rusty (and they were always far from sharp), I felt like dusting off the old lyrical portion of my brain and recording my feelings in verse. If you’ve ever spent those other-worldly hours in a delivery room, I’m sure you can relate. God bless and I hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving.

I know we did.

 

Cold steel, coats of white,

Nervous smiles, and gleaming lights.

Weary eyes, hearts beat fast,

Hours from now, we’ll meet our “last”.

Computers beep, the I.V.s drip,

The nurses float, the doctor’s quip.

….as pressure climbs,

“You’re doing great,” they say. “It’s time.”

The lovely face I see each day,

Begins to frown in tightening pain.

I hold her hand and kiss her brow

And tell her that “It’s not long now.”

The doc and nurses gather ‘round,

And do their job so smooth and sound.

Ten tiny fingers, ten tiny toes,

Two perfect eyes, and one button nose.

We hold our breath until she cries,

And grin so wide to know she’s fine.

We swaddle her in blankets soft,

Invite friends in to show her off.

Brothers/Sisters take their turn.

Pictures made and lessons learned.

We thank our loving God in heaven.

The Huddleston clan, now boasts seven.

 

Characters and Careers


Outtakes 232

Characters and Careers

by Cait Collins

Characters don’t just sit around all day shooting the breeze. They have jobs, careers, and education. But where do you start in researching careers? If you know someone in the profession, make an appointment to discuss the job description, education, salary, perks, lingo, attire and so forth. But if you don’t have access to an expert in the field, there are other sources to help you out.

When I first began writing fiction, I knew I would need handy resources. Writer’s Digest released Careers for Your Characters by Raymond Obstfeld and Franz Neumann a number of years ago. It’s one of the first books I purchased for my library. The volume covers 101 professions providing good information on common careers and some not so common ones. It’s has helped me better define some of my characters. Unfortunately, it doesn’t provide information on jewelry design and gemology. So it’s time to punt.

I started with pulling information from my college geology classes and labs. What equipment did I need for my hero? What would he have in his kit? Would he do some prospecting on his own? What is the process for filing a claim? And as the writer, what did I need to learn to create this character?

My local Barnes and Noble Booksellers provided a number of books for my research. Tom Jackson’s What’s that ROCK or MINERAL? guided me in rock and mineral identification. Smithsonian Nature Guide Rocks and Minerals by Ronald Louis Bonewitz provided information on gem properties and locations. Gemstone Settings by Anastasia Young gave me insight on the types of settings and lingo. I began comparing some of my personal jewelry with the designs in the book so that I could describe the various pieces in my hero’s line.

I then hit the internet to learn what gems one could find in Colorado. I also found fee sights where I could go to pan for gold and sluice for gems and minerals. I may need to make a trip to the state to put my book knowledge to work so that I can accurately describe the panning process.

What do I hope to gain from this research? I will be able to create more dynamic characters, settings and description. And in turn I will hopefully give the reader a really great story.