WORDS WITH POTENTAIL


WORDS WITH POTENTAIL

Natalie Bright

At last week’s critique meeting, we listened to a story that had been written many years ago. Even though this writer has improved greatly, it was solid—very entertaining and horrifying—we loved it! The potential is even greater based on the feedback. Written as a short story, it’s going to be part of an anthology. I think this author is on the right track by compiling several of her strongest short stories together in one publication. ( I can hardly wait to buy that book, Nandy Ekle!)
Whatever your work in progress might be, whatever fire is burning in your gut at this very minute, whatever idea deserves your attention, those words can become something entirely different in the future. Keep your mind open to the opportunities. For heaven’s sake, don’t delete it! Even bad writing has potential. You can’t edit a blank page. (Wish I had all of those stories and poems I wrote in college. I tossed that journal years ago.)
After I found my way back to writing, a story I wrote about a cowboy called Cecil was accepted in an anthology published by TCU Press almost 13 years later. There is no way I could have known that I would meet a ranch hand with the same name! Meeting the real-life, horse-riding cowboy named Cecil just added more depth and color to my short story. It needed work and it needed a critique from WordsmithSix peeps, for sure. The story became better because of my experiences a decade later. With the help of my critique group, that short story became good enough for publication.
You may be at a point in your writing when it seems rejection is a clear message to give up your dreams of becoming a published author. The very first words by David Morrell, creator of Rambo, keeps echoing through my brain after I heard his talk at an Oklahoma conference,

“Don’t question the why.”

I share this because I have spent, actually wasted, too many years questioning the why. And now I’m asking myself, why for different reasons. Why didn’t I finish that book? I’m staring at a stack of sticky notes and marked up articles for blog ideas, so why didn’t I write them? There’s no way that I could have known back in 1999 that I’d need material in 2017 for two blogs and three orgnizational newsletters. I would have never imagined that I’d have a talented critique group who could boost my confidence and my words. The struggle to write never ceases. Now I’m faced with a part-time day job that will probably go back to full-time soon, and I’ll be frustratingly juggling writing time. What crazy life is this? Opps, there I go again—questioning the why.

The story is in us. The story picked us. We can’t possibly know why. I have to keep reminding myself to stop stressing and find joy in the process.

“Every story I’ve written was written because I had to write it. Writing stories is like breathing for me, it is my life.”
RAY BRADBURY

Find Natalie’s blogs and articles here:
Blogging every Monday about writing life at wordsmithsix.com
Blogging every Friday about the Texas Panhandle at “Prairie Purview”. Read her blogs at nataliebright.com or on the Amazon Author page.
Sign up for here for the newsletter: nataliebright.com
Natalie is editor of “The Window”, the official newsletter of one of the oldest writing organizations in the country, Texas High Plains Writers, org. 1920 in Amarillo, Texas. Here’s the link. panhandleprowriters.org.

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Ten Steps to Crafting A Picture Book


Ten Steps to Crafting A Picture Book

Natalie Bright

The step by step process I used to create and publish a nonfiction photo-illustrated picture book for Amazon Kindle using PowerPoint.

1. Words. Write the words first. After slogging through various processes to create a kids’ book series, for me, it all begins with the words. Picture books are typically 1000 words or less, and have a solid beginning, middle and end. Edit your story until every word is an absolute essential jewel. Involve you critique group and BETA readers in this process. The owner of the animals featured in my books became the editor to ensure accuracy.

2. Images. Match the images to your words. While writing, envision what types of photos you need such as royalty free pictures, scanned art work, or graphics. If you use your own photographs, be aware that you may have to obtain releases from the recognizable people in those pics before you publish. Research any legals issues that might apply specific to your situation. I used a combination of my own photos, partnered with a professional photographer, and created clip art specific to the series.

3. Edit. You may have to adjust the text, swap out a few pictures or two, or stay on the hunt for the exact photo you need. You can find picture book templates online. A storyboard tacked to the wall or taped to a dry board can give you a whole new perspective. Stay with the theme and don’t rush the creative process. This is the fun part. Absolutely the words are important, but the pictures enhance the telling of the story.

4. PowerPoint. In my mind, an eBook is not a print book. A print picture book is not an eBook. Over the years, I’ve watched with great curiosity kids swiping through pages on their mother’s iPhones. This is a totally different experience than having a picture book laying across your lap. I kept this in mind as I thought about the animal stories I wanted to share with the world. After eight months and much trial and error with many different processes and multiple do-overs using various software options, I finally settled on Microsoft PowerPoint. The high def pictures are easy to insert, text boxes can be moved around, resizing is super easy, and graphics are a snap to add. Each slide would be one page in the eBook. The pictures I used in the Flash books were taken by a professional photographer because I wanted to capture those beautiful rescue horses in the best possible way.

5. Design. Now is the time to get serious about designing your cover and the pages of your book. I hired a graphic designer to design a professional cover and to provide guidance on compatible colors and layout. We purposely have a cover that looks like a regular thumb nail, but the inside of the book is landscape. Someone else helped with designing clip art and graphics, because honestly by the time I’d written the words and matched text with pics, my brain was fried. Having another pair of creative eyes speeds up the process. Compensation can be by the hour or a share of book sales. Make sure the creative team you’ve put together all share in your vision of the finished product. You are the conductor of this great

6. Facts. Work on front matter, back matter, bios of the contributors, a killer tag line and update all your social media sites. For kids books, I always like to include a glossary of terms and a fact section. Post a few teasers for a “book cover reveal” to Twitter and Facebook. Think about your target market and the key words you’ll need for Amazon. Add the book covers to your Amazon Author page.

7. Kindle Kids’ Book Creator. Here’s the best news: save your PowerPoint manuscript as a PDF and it opens right up into Kids Book Creator, which is a dream for indie authors. Book Creator is self-explanatory, but if you’re not sure about the how, there are several excellent help videos on YouTube (writers are such a giving lot!). After your book is in Creator and before you go live, be sure to use the review mode and view your book on all devices.

8. Launch. Yay, you did it!

9. Promote. There are so many options out there to promote Indie Authors, but readers can’t read the book unless they know about it. The Rescue Animal Series was launched in October 2016 with four books and more in the works for 2017. I know my little series will not be a runaway best seller at first, but I love these animals and I remain in awe of the people who care for them. I wanted to share their stories with the world, and hopefully we’ll reach the point where book sales can lend support to some of their efforts.

10. Holy Book Club, Batman, there’s a stinkin’ typo! Yep. That’s exactly what we found. After several people had read over that text many, many times, there it was. Ultimately, it’s me, the author who shoulders the blame. Thank goodness Amazon makes it easy to replace the previous manuscript. Go back to your PowerPoint file, make the changes, resave as a PDF 2nd version, re-upload to Kids’ Book Creator again to create a new Mobi file, and update the original manuscript in your Amazon KDP account.

You can do this! I hope this article saves you hours of trial and error. All the best for a creative 2017, and thanks for following WordsmithSix.

Natalie Bright is author of the Animal Rescue Series; true stories about animals with second chances.

What’s that Smell?


What’s that Smell?

Natalie Bright

Using the five senses to draw readers into your fictional world is probably something you’ve heard before.

THE SMELLS OF CHRISTMAS

What better time of year brings back more memories than the holidays? Last week the owner of our local Mexican food restaurant shared the memories of his grandmother’s kitchen. She lived in a small house, and kept plastic over the windows for added insulation against the cold winter wind. The smells from her tiny kitchen were overwhelming when he stepped inside. Flour tortillas, sizzling beef, cinnamon, sugar and hot chili peppers. As he described the scene it was almost like I was there. I really miss my grandmother’s kitchen too.

HIGH SCHOOL TIME WARP

About a month ago I was reminded how powerful the five senses can create emotion. I walked into my son’s high school band hall. BAM! It was as if I’d been transported through time.

The sensory overload swept me away. The dusty smell from feet taking countless steps on a carpeted floor. The scent of sweat, with 100+ bodies in one room. A few notes from a trumpet. The solid clank of a locker door. A scale of notes by a clarinet. The constant, unending chatter of young voices.

My heart beat a little faster and my throat closed. My eyes actually misted over. I froze. In my mind’s eye I was back there; the Dimmitt High School band hall. The faces of the Bobcat marching band floated through my mind. If we could only go back to those moments for one day. Would you? I certainly would. I would revisit every sight and sound and horrible smell, and I’d go armed with a notebook this time. I’d write it all down to keep that moment forever ingrained into my memory.

A band director snapped me out of my time warp. “Can I help you?” he asked.

I just stood there, gripping three cases of goldfish snacks. “They go around the corner. First door to the left,” he said.

My journey down memory lane was done. Reality crashed around me.

EMOTION IS A POWERFUL THING

There was one other time when a smell overwhelmed me with emotion. My father has been dead almost fifteen years. He owned a welding shop and I hung out there most every day. Several years ago, I toured a huge plant in New Mexico that made natural gas circulating systems as part of a work related field trip. The entire back portion of the plant was a welding room. I walked through the plastic stipes covering the door into a personal meltdown. The smell of heated metal was overwhelming. My eyes filled with tears and it was all I could do to not sob uncontrollably. My father had suffered a long, slow battle with cancer. He had died at home and the visual image of paramedics carrying his body out of the house will forever haunt me. I have no idea what our tour guide said. We took a slow walk through the space and I honestly did not know if I would be able to hold it together.

EMOTIONAL TRIGGERS

How powerful our emotions can be when something triggers those memories. Think about how this kind of sensory overload might be for your characters. Create a history for them and then bring them crashing back into reality. The memories can be good, or sometimes that smell might recall something horrific.

KICKING THINGS UP A NOTCH

A children’s author, in describing her process, explained that she makes one final pass of her manuscript to add sensory images. Wish I could remember who said that and give credit, but it was one of those invaluable tidbits I picked up at a writer’s conference. At the point her story is solid, she adds even more sight, sounds, and smells which bumps everything up a notch. The reader can’t help but be immersed even more into that fictional world.

May the sights, sounds and smells of the holiday inspire you!

Merry Christmas!

Nataliebright.com

The Power of Emotion through Words


The Power of Emotion through Words

Natalie Bright

A ‘spark’ for writers is the moment an idea is ignited in our mind. I have spark notes written on everything. Sticky notes, deposit slips, and torn bits of paper. I have numerous spiral notebooks and journals filled with spark notes. Some have morphed into written works, some are still waiting patiently. You just never know what those ‘sparks’ might become. In this case, one man’s sorrow becomes a beloved Christmas Carole of hope.

As I writer, I’m always fascinated with the history behind the words and how the environment at the time might influence the spark. Good or bad, joyous or devastating, a writer’s strong emotions can evolve into powerful words. The prefect example is a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Hopeful Words behind the Sorrow

In the case of Christmas Bells, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote the words to his poem on December 25, 1864. The music and words are up-lifting and it’s always been one of my favorites, recalling joyous holidays with my favorite grandmother.

The words came from a very distraught Longfellow during one of the worst times in his life.

Tragedy Strikes

Just three years earlier, his wife Fanny had tried to preserve her daughter’s hair clippings in wax. In a tragic turn of events, hot candle wax dripped onto Fanny’s dress, igniting it in flames. She ran into her husband’s study, where Henry tried to extinguish the blaze with a rug. He experienced severe burns to his face, arms, and hands. How they both must have suffered through that long night, only to have Fanny die the next morning. Henry was much too ill to even attend her funeral.

“A merry Christmas’ say the children, but that is no more for me.” reads Longfellow’s’ journal entry dated December 25, 1862.

Tragedy struck the family again in 1863 when his oldest son Charles, who was only 19 at the time, suffered a severe wound as a lieutenant in a battle. Charles had left without his father’s blessing, joining the Union cause in March of that same year.

The Christmas season of 1864 must have been a dreadful time for Longfellow, as he carried on to care for his motherless small children, Ernest, Alice, Edith and Allegra. The Civil War was raging, skirmishes had continued throughout the country as they were still months away from Lee’s surrender to Grant at Appomattox.

From the depths of his soul he wrote “Christmas Bells”, which some believe to be a pacifist poem roused by his grief upon hearing about his son. It was first published in 1865 in a juvenile magazine.

In 1872, five stanzas were rearranged by John Baptiste Calkin and put to the tune “Waltham”. Two stanzas referencing the war were omitted, and the poem became a beloved carol, sang and enjoyed by many generations.

As you read the words out loud, think about the emotions of a distraught husband and father, who is seeking peace and hope in a life that is filled with sorrow.

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

 

I heard the bells on Christmas day

Their old familiar carols play

And mild and sweet their songs repeat

Of peace on earth, good will to men

And the bells are ringing

Like a choir they’re singing

In my heart I hear them

Peace on earth, good will to men

And in despair I bowed my head

There is no peace on earth I said

For hate is strong and mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good will to men

But the bells are ringing

Like a choir singing

Does anybody hear them?

Peace on earth, good will to men

Then the bells rang more load and deep

God is not dead, nor does He sleep

The wrong shall fail, the right prevail

With peace on earth, good will to men

Then ringing singing on its way

The world revolved from night to day

A voice, a chime, a chant sublime

Of peace on earth, good will to men

And the bells they’re ringing

Like a choir they’re singing

And with our hearts we hear them

Peace on earth, good will to men

Do you hear the bells they’re ringing?

The life the angles singing

Open up your heart and hear them

Peace on earth, good will to men

Peace on earth, Peace on earth

Peace on earth, Good will to men

My all time favorite version of this song is performed by Casting Crowns. You can watch them signing Christmas Bells on YouTube.

 

NaNoWriMo


“There is no perfect time to write. There is only now.” – Barbara Kingsolver

NaNoWriMo.org

Natalie Bright

This year I officially registered to write a novel in the month of November. Several of my critique group members are also attempting to do this, so I’m motivated first of all by the fact that I’ll have to tell them how far along my book has come. We meet again next week.

Also I’m inspired to work by the fact that this book idea has been on my mind for several years, and it’s going to be such a relief to actually have a first draft down on paper. Staying in the chair for long periods of time with my fingers on the keyboard is the hardest thing for me. Maybe NaNoWriMo will be the motivation I need.

The progress graph on the NaNoWriMo website is fantastic. It’s encouraging to be able to update my word count, see the progress, but it’s self-defeating at the same time. Saturday, the day we were supposed to double-up on word count, was a total bust for me. I had three places to be, errands to run, plus two teenagers texting me, which resulted in zero words. There are those days when life takes over and nobody cares about your novel in progress.

TRICKS AND TOOLS

Here we are seven days into writing a 50,000 word novel in a month and I am definitely not where I had planned to be. The good news is that I’ve discovered some pleasant surprises in this experience. The story really flows when you FORCE yourself to focus. It has been a struggle to block out the real word and stay at it until I have my 1500 words or more a day. If I stay at it during lunch, I can crank out 1000 words. I’ve been able to type the rest during shorter sessions here and there, whenever I could manage.

To speed things up for me, I cleaned off the white board next to my desk and wrote character names and setting details. This is book two of a series set in the Texas frontier and it totally stops my forward momentum when I have to look up the name of the trading post on main. Having those details that will be carried throughout the series at hand really saves time.

Is there anything you have done to help with the flow of words for NaNoWriMo? Please share.

I’m thankful for a new week. Carry on writers!

TWEETS AND HASHTAGS


TWEETS AND HASHTAGS

By Natalie Bright

Twitter is the birthplace of the hashtag. Jack Dorsey (@jack) sent the first tweet on March 21, 2006:

“just setting up my twttr”

Dorsey and his business associates were searching for a way to text on their cell phones, and the word “Twitter” defined exactly what they hoped to achieve.

Twitter has since evolved into an invaluable social media tool for communication and information sharing. The hashtag, pound sign (#) followed by short subject links, has become a way to organize that information.

Today Twitter boasts 200 million users with 140 million daily tweets. It’s an active social media gathering place.

For writers, you can include your tweet as part of the community or group conversation by using hashtags. Your tweet will the become a part of the online chat and is now a searchable link.

For example, tag you might tag posts with:

#writinglife

#kidlit (the genre you write)

#readromance (to link to readers or your genre)

#books

#mystery

#crimefiction

For researchers, discover and follow specific subjects, and find information you need by searching hashtags specific to your needs or genre.

I see a lot of hashtags with broad appeal that are popular and trending, but why not boost your tweets on a local level? Within your city, state, or a tri-state area, you can connect with new fans of your work by using specific hashtags. Spark a conversation, or perhaps build relationships that can turn into a business venture down the line. Do this by using hashtags for local public places, the city names, or topics specific to your book.

To learn more about which hashtags are currently trending and are the most popular, go the hashtags.org and where they also offer analytics for your business.

One of the consistently popular hasgtags on the list: #DWTS and yes, I am a fan. I enjoy watching Dancing with the Stars and reading everybody’s tweets during commercial breaks.

Social media doesn’t have to be stressful. It can be fun work and a great way to build your writing platform.

Tweet me @natNKB – what are some of your favorite hashtags?

SOUNDING OFF on Facebook


SOUNDING OFF on Facebook

As the final weeks wind down towards the US Presidential election, emotions are running high. More people, than ever before, are involved in the political process. In today’s world, people are not satisfied with sounding off around the dinner table to family and friends, they have this overwhelming need to blast it on social media as well.

As a writer and AuthorPreneur, are those few statements of venting worth offending current and future readers of your work? Is declaring your opinion worth the detriment to your business and livelihood?

GO BOLD IF YOU’RE GOING

At an Oklahoma Writer’s Federation conference in Oklahoma City, I attended an informative session by C.Hope Clark, blogger and author. She made some interesting comments about this very topic which gave me pause to consider.

Social media reaches a worldwide audience. If you are active on Facebook, Twitter, Blogspot, Google+, or maybe you guest blog on a regular basis, most likely you have followers from all cultural backgrounds. Everyone has a political opinion. Besides political leanings, more than likely, you have readers who are atheists, wiccans, Baptists, Methodists, and Catholics. They probably feel strongly, one way or the other, about any topic you could name.

As a business owner and professional author, trying to sell your book to as many readers as possible, why would you want to offend anyone?

On the other side of this topic (and there’s ALWAYS another side), you may want the attention. You may host a political blog and you want to be deluged with controversial comments and the arguments. If that’s the case, Ms. Clark says to declare your position loudly. If you’re going to say it, say it loud, say it bad, and say it bold, just don’t be offended by the results.

WORDSMITH SIX

When we started the WordsmithSix Blog, we agreed on several ground rules and one of those was to not sound off on anything religious or political or otherwise. You won’t see anything offensive here. Our hope is that this blog inspires and informs writers from all walks of life, wherever you are or whatever your world views.

Back to politics and Facebook, I get likes and comments from extreme liberals directly followed by comments from extreme conservatives, and everyone in between. I like that. It makes for an interesting mix of people I call friends, and I hope ALL of my followers will buy lots and lots of books.

Writing Onward (in a non-offensive way)

Four Years from Now


 

Four Years from Now

Natalie Bright

Are you advancing towards your writing goals this year? We are fast approaching a new year. Have you thought about what you hope to achieve in 2017?

OLYMPIC SIZED GOALS

Joanna Penn, with TheCreativePenn.com podcast, challenged her listeners to think about their goals in four year increments. How can you define your writing career this year, while the 2016 Olympics occurred in Rio? In 2020, the Olympics will be held in Tokyo. Where will your writing career be by then?

This makes perfect sense to me because the wheels of publishing moves so very slow. It’s difficult to realize tangible measurement year by year, but when you look at your accomplishments over a longer period you can see some results. Consider financial goals, completion of a series, or rough drafts of several stand alone novels that have been inside your head. Can you accomplish those goals in four years time? Of course you can!

FOUR YEARS AGO

Four years ago, in the Fall of 2012, I cut my hours to a part-time day job and signed with a literary agent who shopped my middle grade westerns. I’ll never forget that same week I worked the Scholastic book fair at my son’s intermediate school. I noticed that historical titles were missing from the bookfair shelves. It was concerning because the year before there had been an entire section. I asked the librarian about it, and she explained, “They just didn’t send me many this year.” That was the year dystopian, vampires, and with the release of the movie, Hunger Games ruled. My cause for concern turned out to be reality four years later. The stories I loved writing had gone nowhere through traditional publishing route. During that time I hadn’t stopped writing though. In fact I completed three more novels, but it felt like everything had come to a screeching halt.

2016 Rio: What a Party!

In 2016 I made the difficult decision to mix it up yet again and researched Indie Publishing. Seriously, I feel so relieved to be back in control again. There have been so many changes since I first self-published a book in 2010. Moving onward.

Let us know what goals you hope to achieve in the next four years. We will see you right back here by Tokyo 2020!

LISTEN TO YOUR CHARACTERS…Or They May Abandon You Forever


LISTEN TO YOUR CHARACTERS…

      Or They May Abandon You Forever

By Natalie Bright

My novel about a 14 year old boy set in the Texas frontier is a typical coming of age story, which involves him finishing the job of delivering a wagon load of goods after his father died. Ben has a run in with outlaws, is shot by a Comanche arrow, gets lost in the wilderness; just your typical Wild West adventure. The young Comanche brave would not leave me alone. The only thing I could do to get that kid out of my mind was to write key scenes in his viewpoint. I realized I liked him and instead of being my antagonist, the story changed. I inserted Roving Wolf’s scenes where they belonged in the already finished book. I now have two protagonists who become friends.

LESSON LEARNED

Here’s what I learned from that experience: you don’t have to write an entire book chapter by chapter in that exact order. For some of us, Point A to Point B is not how our mind works when it comes to creative fiction.

Don’t be afraid to explore those flashes of imagery in your brain. It might be a piece of dialogue. Maybe it’s a minor character that keeps nagging you about a scene you left them out of. It might be a place that flashes in your mind, and then poof, it’s gone again. You know someone was there and something happened, and you have to write it before you learn why that place is important. For me, it’s like an explosion in my head. The imagery of that character is so alive. Sometimes it’s a conversation that seems so vibrant and real, it can’t be ignored.

TALKING CHARACTERS

Some writers say that their characters never talk to them, and usually it shows in their stories. Their characters are flat, lifeless, with no personality. When you take the time to dig into your character’s head and heart, then their personality will become real. When they are real to you, they’ll be real to your readers.

DIG DEEP: HERE’S HOW

If your book is in 3rd person, rewrite several scenes in 1st person POV. Free write, in your character’s POV, about their childhood, favorite things or people, life experiences, greatest fears. The deeper you dig, their motives, desires, angst will become clearer. That protagonist will begin to tell you even more (truth!). I know, it’s a creepy, strange and glorious experience, so I wouldn’t mention it to your non-writerly friends. I promise, one of your characters will pop into your mind out of and tell you something wonderful. Keep in mind, that the majority of the things you learn about your protagonist and antagonist during this process will not make it into your manuscript. When you’re character is faced with a conflict, you’ll know exactly how he or she will react and that’s what endears them to your readers. We learn more and more as the story progresses.

Don’t be afraid to give your characters the attention they deserve. Allow them to tell you their secrets. Just make sure you’re taking notes.

BUTTON METHOD FOR WRITERS


BUTTON METHOD FOR WRITERS
By Natalie Bright

The Button Method for Writers combines the psychology of a creative mind along with plain ole common sense, and is easy to implement. It’s guaranteed that you will experience an unbelievable increase in productivity and quality of work.

The Button Method is best explained like this:

1. Butt-On Chair
2. Write

The more you do, the better you become at the doing. Isn’t that true with almost every career? I heard the Butt-on tip early as a newbie writer, but honestly I haven’t always applied the method.

Two of my writerly friends have, and they are a source of great inspiration for me. Linda Broday and Jodi Thomas are both New York Times and USA Today Bestselling authors. They’re currently writing series; Linda for Sourcebooks and Jodi for HQN. By writing, I do mean they’re ALWAYS writing. They both have set times every day, and rarely waiver from that schedule. They both practice extreme self-discipline.

I asked Linda one time how she manages to keep pushing herself, and she told me that when she’s writing, it’s the time she feels the most calm and relaxed. For her, social media and crafting blogs creates more anxiety than disappearing into her fictional world.

Jodi fell several years back and injured her wrist. During that same time, I twisted my ankle. We met for lunch and exchanged details and sympathies. Jodi says,” I asked the doctor to set my cast in a different way, because if I prop my arm on pillows I can still type with the tips of my fingers.”

I had planned to head home for aspirin and to prop my foot on pillows. Jodi went home to write.

Butt-On is the key.

Writing Benediction: Focus on the pure joy of crafting stories with words.