The Right Excerpt

32400961_sIt’s not as easy as I thought it would be.

For years, I heard my author friends complain about having to select, and in some cases, create appropriate excerpts for guest blogs and readings. I would politely listen, sympathizing but wondering what could possibly be the problem after countless rewrites and edits.

As I prepare to write a series of guest blogs and organize readings in the area, I realize that picking the right excerpt can be a daunting task. What looks good on paper does not necessarily work in a live situation.

I can still recall an Open Mic I attended several years ago. I took mental notes as brave participants ranging from pre-teens to seniors shared their poetry, personal essays and short stories. The most effective readings were the shortest, and many of us were disappointed when those presenters sat down. We did not feel the same way about the gentleman who rambled on for twenty minutes, determined to read his entire short story (at least ten pages). As I surveyed the room, I caught glimpses of polite smiles, yawns, and collective watch gazing.

Continue reading on the SMP Authors Blog.

The Writer’s Prayer

Yesterday evening, I joined The Artist’s Way group, facilitated by Lisa Browning of One Thousand Trees. One of the tasks in Week 4 involved creating an artist’s prayer. While reflecting, I found inspiration in the following prayer written by Sandy Tritt.

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Open my mind, Lord. Grant me the talent to write with clarity and style, so my words go down rich and smooth, like fine wine, and leave my reader thirsty for more.

Open my heart, Lord. Grant me the sensitivity to understand my characters–their hopes, their wants, their dreams–and help me to confer that empathy to my reader.

Open my soul, Lord, so I may be a channel to wisdom and creativity from beyond my Self. Stoke my imagination with vivid imagery and vibrant perception.

But most of all, Lord, help me to know the Truth, so my fiction is more honest than actuality and reaches the depths of my reader’s soul.

Wrap these gifts with opportunity, perseverance, and the strength to resist those who insist it can’t be done.

Amen

My Word for 2015

12082747_sThis past week, many of my online friends announced their words for 2015. While I had never participated in this annual exercise, I realized (much to my surprise) that I had inadvertently stumbled upon my own word for the year.

Toward the tail end of 2014, I encountered several personal and health challenges. My first responses were negative ones that fortunately did not linger beyond a day or two. I purposely chose to end the woe-is-me talk and steer clear of “whatever” or “It is what it is.”

Instead, my thoughts gravitated toward a different word, an old-fashioned word – ONWARD. The idea of moving forward, despite less-than-desirable circumstances, inspired me to consult other health professionals, tweak habits, and jump-start a prolonged writer’s block.

While many of my issues have been resolved, I have chosen to keep ONWARD as my go-to word for 2015, maybe even longer.

ONWARD ♦ AVANTI ♦ EN AVANT ♦ WEITER ♦ ADELANTE ♦ AVANTE

Have you selected a word for 2015?

The Right Hook

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After completing Between Land and Sea, I attended a number of workshops where the facilitators stressed the importance of a hook or logline.

What is a hook/logline?

Very simply, it is a concise sentence that answers the question: What is your novel about? An effective logline provides enough interest to prolong the conversation with a prospective agent or publisher, encourages readers to pick up the book, and creates tweetable buzz.

At first, I found it a daunting task. How could I possibly condense 69,000 words into 25 words or less?

Continue reading on Sophia Kimble’s blog.

What’s In a Name?

The topic of pseudonyms came up on a discussion board. Several writers expressed an interest in using pen names and wanted more information about the legalities involved.

I was surprised to see so much interest in the topic. I had always associated pseudonyms with female writers such as Mary Anne Evans/George Eliot, who used a male name to ensure that her work would be accepted by publishers and the public.

While researching the topic, I discovered many more reasons for using pen names.

Authors who regularly write in more than one genre use different pen names. Romance writer Nora Roberts writes erotic thrillers under the pen name J.D. Robb.

A pen name may be used if the author believes that his/her name does not suit the genre. Western novelist Pearl Gray dropped his first name and changed the spelling of his last name to become Zane Grey.

In some countries, authors use pen names to write about controversial topics that could be politically unsafe.

Writers of romance novels are often advised to use pen names to protect themselves against stalkers.

In the past, prolific authors were asked to use pen names to prevent flooding the market with too many books in one year. Stephen King published four novels under the pseudonym Richard Bachman. After critics pointed out style similarities, the books were reprinted with Stephen King’s name. One of his books, Thinner, sold twenty times more copies after the changes were made.

Some writers wish to keep their writing career separate from their everyday life. Comic book writer Stan Lee was born Stanley Lieber. He used the pen name Stan Lee because he intended to save his real name for more serious literature. His career as a novelist never materialized so he changed his name legally to Stan Lee.

A collective name or house name is used with series fiction such as the Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, and Bobbsey Twins series. The first book in each series was written by one writer, but subsequent books were written by ghost writers.

Collaborative authors like to have their books published under one name. Alice Alfonsi and Marc Cerasini write their Coffeehouse Mystery series using the pseudonym Cleo Coyle.

Last year, J.K. Rowling was outed as the author of Cuckoo’s Calling, which she published under the pen name Robert Gailbraith. In an interview, she commented: “”I was yearning to go back to the beginning of a writing career in this new genre to work without hype or expectation to receive totally unvarnished feedback. It was a fantastic experience and I only wish it could have gone on a little longer.”

Regarding the legalities…

You don’t have to file any forms or hire a lawyer. Simply put the phrase “writing as” on your manuscript and let the publisher know your real name to ensure that you receive payment for your work.

Any other interesting pseudonym stories out there?

When Less is More

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I reread the blurb for the flash fiction writing contest several times. It was the perfect antidote for the lingering writers’ block that was preventing me from moving forward with the sequel to Between Land and Sea. The entry fee was a bargain— three flash fiction stories for only $15—and the $500 prize added to the contest’s appeal.

After some reflection, I decided to resurrect two unpublished stories I had written last year. Only one problem—both were close to 1500 words and the rules for the contest specifically called for flash fiction of less than 500 words. While some writers may balk at the idea of trimming almost 1000 words from a short story, I welcomed the challenge of revamping both manuscripts. But before starting the whittling down process, I decided to research this style of fictional literature.

Continue reading on the Savvy Authors Blog.