Are you a Part-Time Writer Looking for Inspiration for 2014? You’ve Come to the ‘Write’ Place!

I’m starting of the year with a guest post from Nikolas Baron, from Grammarly.com. Have you heard of them? It’s a great site for writer’s who need help proofreading their work. From blog posts to essays, they’ve got the tools you need! But first, get inspired to start 2014 off the ‘write’ way!

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The Part-Time Writer

part_time_writerBeing a writer is, for many, a lifelong dream. Writing for payment is a thrilling accomplishment, but it’s usually soon followed by the realization that most writers do not make a living from writing alone. In fact, many writers pursue a separate, unrelated career while writing part-time, whether as a hobby or as a secondary source of income. For the part-time writer facing deadlines, a quality online spelling, grammar, and plagiarism checker can be a valuable tool. Saving time is just one aspect of creating success as a writer, however. Writing takes dedication, patience, and a willingness to learn the craft.

Being a writer is an admirable goal, but it’s not a realistic one. How does one become “a writer”? There is no pill, no bottled potion to be ingested, that will magically bring about the transformation. Becoming a writer begins with picking up a pen; but, having taken that first crucial step, the aspiring writer will discover that the journey has just begun. First, the writer must decide what type of writing he or she wants to do. Fiction or nonfiction? Short stories?

Articles? Novels? Each type of writing requires a unique skill set, and there is a distinct path to follow to the individual definition of success for every writer. It’s important to study the craft and read within and outside the genre to become a well-rounded reader and a better writer. Wanting to be a writer isn’t enough. It’s important to decide upon a genre and a style that best suits the writer’s individual dream. Becoming a writer is a dream. Transforming an abstract desire into a concrete success takes deeper thought.

Once the budding writer has decided upon writing mystery novels, for example, the next step is to set some goals. Novices may want to keep the goals reasonable, setting themselves to the task of writing for a set amount of time per day or obtaining a certain word count, depending on the time that can be found in between other obligations. Some professionals suggest that writing every day is critical to success, while others claim that a certain amount of time must be invested. The truth is somewhere in the middle. Time and discipline are important, but the definition of success is an individual one that only the writers themselves can create. Goals create personal milestones, giving the writer a measuring stick against which to check progress. Setting the goals is entirely up to the writers themselves.

Time can be a precious commodity in our fast-paced world. Between work, family obligations, hobbies, volunteer work, and other commitments, the idea of finding time to write might seem out of reach. However, it can be done. It may be necessary to write out a simple schedule, noting work, family obligations, and other time constraints, and then consider the blocks of time that are not already committed to other pursuits. Television viewing might have to be sacrificed. Getting up a little earlier in the morning, for a morning person, or staying up a little later in the evening, for a night owl, might be an option as well. Moreover, a shorter lunch break might provide some time to indulge the muse.

Time, however, is not always the only consideration. Many writers need to “warm up” to the page, to shift gears from their day jobs into the mental work of writing. It is necessary not only to find time to scribble a few words on a page but also to find long enough blocks of uninterrupted time suitable for writing. Indeed, protecting the quality of one’s writing time is as important as finding time to write in the first place. If writing is not a priority and if the commitment is not as firm as the Saturday-morning golf game or the monthly martini lunch with the girls, it will never get off the ground.Marjorie Facklam, author of numerous children’s books, began writing while raising her five children, with several still in diapers. If a harried mother of five can find time to research and write rhyming science picture books like Bugs for Lunch while chasing toddlers and maintaining a household, any writer can find time in their schedule. Often, the question isn’t one of time, but of commitment.

Connect with  Nikolas Baron on Google+      Plagiarism Checker

nick-Grammerly Guest posterAbout the Author:

Nikolas discovered his love for the written word in Elementary School, where he started spending his afternoons sprawled across the living room floor devouring one Marc Brown childrens’ novel after the other and writing short stories about daring pirate adventures. After acquiring some experience in various marketing, business development, and hiring roles at internet startups in a few different countries, he decided to re-unite his professional life with his childhood passions by joining Grammarly’s marketing team in San Francisco. He has the pleasure of being tasked with talking to writers, bloggers, teachers, and others about how they use Grammarly’s online proofreading application to improve their writing. His free time is spent biking, travelling, and reading.

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Thank you for stopping by! I love to make new friends. Got questions or comments? Leave a comment, or connect with me online!  If you’ve enjoyed this post, sign up for the monthly newsletter and follow this blog!

MJ

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A Fun Way to Learn How to Write From the Male and Female POV and Perspective- Part 2

Pad of Paper & PenDid you miss yesterday’s video share and breakdown on writing POV? If so, visit this link before you continue!

A Fun Way to Learn How to Write From the Male and Female POV and Perspective- Part 1

Now to pick up where we left of….

PERSPECTIVE: the state of one’s ideas, the facts known to one, etc., in having a meaningful interrelationship

(Definitions via dictionary.com)

Now that you have determined what character’s POV is will be used and when, it’s time to determine how much information will be shared by that character and when.

As the definition above says, perspective is the story according to what a character sees, hears, feels, and experiences. Character A can have a totally different view of the same events than Character B, as seen in the Date Night video.

Let’s revisit Couple A:

THE BREAK DOWN:

HER POV: The Date SUCKED!

Woman A was looking forward to a romantic interlude. She did her hair and make-up, took the time to prepare a meal, and set the table. She expected her date to arrive looking nice, probably bearing a vase of flowers, and taking the time to appreciate her appearance and the meal. Next would have come some small talk, flirting, and no doubt, some personal fun time.

What did she get?

A quick hug, no compliments on her appearance or the meal. Instead he made a beeline for the food, woofed it down without any conversation besides grunts that seemed to ruin her appetite. And when it came to fun time…well, let’s just say Mr. Happy was there and back again in less than 3 seconds, or as she said, before she could unhook the back her dress. And to top it all off, he finds his way to her bed and passes out from what has to be over eating and rapid blood loss to the brain.

His POV: IT was AMAZING!

Man A wanted exactly what he got: A good looking woman who cooked for him (free food), had nothing to say, and stood there long enough for him to get his rocks off. Oh yeah, let’s not forget the comfy bed. In his eyes, major score!! And he got to leave with his needs satisfied in time to watch the big game at home without interruption.

THE BREAKDOWN

The characters depicted in this portion of the video didn’t have a back story as Man B did, so there is no way to know how their previous experiences affected them. But what you do get is the perspectives of a man and woman who experience the same events.  She thought everything sucked, while he had the time of his life. All of this from the same scene.

How can you incorporate this type of storytelling in a scene in your novel?

This was a challenge I faced when writing my first novel, A Heart Not Easily Broken. My stories are told using First Person POV voice and feature the viewpoint of both the male and female protagonist. Each chapter is told from whomever’s POV tells the most important points throughout the story. There are a few times when a third persons POV is shared in order to present an outsiders perspective and introduce the back story of the heroine in the next novel, Jaded. There comes a point in the story when each of the characters previous experiences intersect into one scene. And in this scene what happens next comes from each person’s view point based on the information they have received and how they see things happening around them.

I hope this gives you a useful outlook on how you can incorporate Point of View and Perspective in your work!

Chapter 37

(Yasmine’s POV)

“Mmm, that feels good, don’t stop.”

Javan’s large hand moved slowly, massaging my back. Even though we’d made love twice, the feel of his hands on my body ignited me like the first time. “So what do you think about June?”

His fingers froze. “For what?”

I rolled over on my back. He looked delicious. His thick dreads hung loose and masked his face. My eyes tracked to parted lips that waited for action, his deep penetrating gaze heavy with desire. I bit my lip as my thigh brushed over his arousal.

I glided my fingers over a handful of locks as he leaned down and kissed me deeply. I loved the way our lips locked together. They felt like heaven and sin as his kiss moved down and worked my chin, my throat, and my breasts.

“Oh, no,” I giggled. “You’re not avoiding this conversation. What do you think about a June wedding?”

Javan regarded me with eyes so filled with desire he looked confused at the topic at hand. His head ­ both of them ­ were focused on one thing.

His eyebrows creased. “Yasmine, that soon?”

“Javan, that’s nine months away. There’s so much to do. I’ve got to find a place for the wedding and reception. We’ve got to come up with a guest list. I’ve got to find a dress for the girls and for me. And we’ve got to find someplace to live. Both of us have roommates so moving in together is not an option. And, oh, God, we haven’t met each other’s parents yet.”

The expression on his face was comical. “I didn’t think about that.”

“Yeah, baby, it’s work to get married. But once we are, the benefits are…” I grinned wickedly. “Let me show you.” I pushed him on his back and straddled him.

“I like this part.” His voice went deep as he grabbed hold of my hips.

Our tongues were fighting their private war when heavy banging on the door startled us.

“Didn’t you put the ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door?” His annoyance mirrored my own.

“Yes.” My employees knew not to disturb me unless it was an emergency. Such as the hotel being on fire. “This better not be about the computers,” I mumbled and climbed off Javan to grab the guest robe from the bathroom.

Javan lay in bed smiling. His thick biceps were pronounced as he shifted his arms behind his head.

The banging continued.

“Go get ‘em, baby.” He chuckled.

I reached the door, twisted the lock, and yanked it open. “What the hell do you…Brian?” He had a murderous expression on his face. “What’s wrong? Is Ebony okay?” I pulled the lapels of my robe tightly across my chest.

“No, she isn’t.” His lips were drawn tight, his brows dropped low. “Where is he?”

I was really confused. Brian should have been with Ebony, but she didn’t seem to be around.

“Why do you─”

“Move.”

I stood firm. “No, not until you─” Brian shoved past me and headed for the bed where Javan lay.

“Your ass is mine,” he growled.

*  *  *  *

(Ebony’s POV)

“Do you want me to call the cops?” Kaitlyn asked. She held her cell phone in one hand and gripped the door handle with the other.

I drove wildly, trying my best to catch Brian at the hotel before someone got hurt. I struggled to keep from running red lights.

“Come on, come on…” My palm ached from pounding the steering wheel.

“Never mind. The way you’re drivin’ the police will just follow us in.”

“Kaity, I don’t know what to do. This is all my fault. I should have said something as soon as it happened.”

“Why didn’t you?” I saw her turn to face me in my peripheral.

I glanced at her, then burned rubber the moment the light turned green.

“Honestly, I didn’t think she’d stay with him this long. You know how Yasmine is, always with a new guy every few months. Brian didn’t need the distraction while he was on the road. He would have dropped everything and come home; it would have ruined his career. Plus, I was scared he wouldn’t want me anymore.”

“That’s just plain stupid,” she said. “Why didn’t you tell me?” Another quick glance revealed hurt feelings on her face. “We’re friends, Ebony. I could have helped you. You shouldn’t have dealt with this by yourself.”

Another wave of guilt hit me. “Honestly, Kaity, I didn’t want you to keep it from Yasmine. It wouldn’t have been fair to you. I’m sorry.”

She reached over and gripped my hand. “And you were pregnant?”

I sighed. “I don’t know, I could have been. Before Brian left we had a moment…and well, both of us were willing to accept the consequences. The next night Javan raped me and didn’t use protection. It scared me. I thought about what would happen if I ended up pregnant and the baby was his instead of Brian’s. I couldn’t live with that, so I did what I had to do. And I hate myself for it.”

Her grip tightened. “God, Ebony, I am so sorry. Whatever you need, I’m here for you.”

“What I need is to stop Brian from doing something stupid and destroying his career. I’ve got to get to him. I need him.”

“I’m gonna call the police.” She placed the call with her free hand.

The lights of the hotel loomed in the distance. I released her hand to grip the wheel and pushed the pedal to the floor.

*  *  *  *

(Brian’s POV)

“What the fuck, man!” Javan scrambled naked from the bed and reached for his pants. He hopped around on one leg to get them on. Only the king-sized bed separated us.

My mind went all over the place taking everything in. The fact Yasmine gripped my arm and shouted at me was insignificant to the hum of anger that buzzed in my ear.

I took one look at the bed and felt sick to my stomach.

This was the same room where Ebony and I spent the weekend. The room she cried in the moment I opened the door.

And then it hit me, a full shot to the chest.

She’d made love to me after she was been raped.

How was that even possible? How could she want to be with me after that violent act? After having her will of what happened to her body stripped from her?

The hatred for the man I considered my friend for the past ten years blazed out of control. The logical part of my brain clicked off and went primal.

I scrambled across the bed, grabbed him, and threw him against the wall with force I prayed felt twenty times worse than what he’d done to Ebony. I held him in place and with my free arm, reached back as far as I could and pounded his face.

“Brian! Oh, my God! Stop, you’re hurting him!” Yasmine grabbed my fisted arm and put her full weight on it, slowing me down.

“You son of a bitch! How could you do that to her? Why?” I got a few more licks in and a kick to his groin before Yasmine managed to knock me off balance.

Javan slipped out of my grasp and slid down the wall, groaning and holding his sack. It wouldn’t be long before his jaw, eye, and lips were black and blue. The sight of blood pouring out of his nose and cut lip gave me a small amount of satisfaction, but it wasn’t even close to what I wanted to do.

“Oh, no, Javan, baby…” Yasmine pushed past me, ripping the sheet from the bed to blot the blood running down his face. “Brian, what the hell is wrong with you?”

“Whatever she said, the bitch is lying,” he spat out along with blood.

“Call her bitch one more time and you’ll be picking teeth off the floor,” I growled while I paced the room. I wanted to push Yasmine out of the way and get to him again, but there was no way I’d put my hands on her.

“What the hell is going on?” she shouted.

“Brian’s woman is a liar.” Javan struggled to get up.

Yasmine looked at both of us in confusion. “Ebony? What are you talking about?” When Javan didn’t supply an answer, she turned to me.

“He raped her.”  Saying the words again shot a pain to my stomach and chest. Anger like I never felt before flared before my eyes. I wanted to do nothing more than grab Javan’s throat and keep him from breathing.

Yasmine’s eyes flashed in disbelief.

Javan moved to get up again.

“Sit your ass back down before I put it down for good,” I warned.

Yasmine turned to him, an expression of confusion on her face.

“Your girl is a ‘ho. She wanted me to─”

I stepped over to give him another helping of personal justice, but Yasmine beat me to it by giving him something akin to a bitch slap. His head spun around, dreads swinging through the air as his head hit the wall. I wanted to punch his teeth in, but her slap sufficed for now. “Don’t talk about her like that. Why would Brian burst in here and say that? Did you rape her?” she asked.

I could not see her face, but her voice sounded pained.

“Because the bitch─”

Yasmine’s hand shot out again, but this time he caught it and twisted her wrist. She yelled in pain.

“Don’t ever hit me again, bitch,” Javan growled.

I got in his face in two strides. “Let her go,” I said through gritted teeth.

My hands fisted in a handful of his dreads as I snatched him up off the ground, thankful for the excuse to exact my revenge. He released her, shoving her away; she stumbled to the floor. Javan swung at me, his fist connected with my face and doubled back for my gut. Adrenaline pumped through my veins; I didn’t feel a thing.

His next swing missed as I dodged, leaned down, and rammed my head into his chest. I wrapped my hands around his waist and slammed him back into the wall. He pounded my back while I retaliated, throwing punch after punch into his gut.

“Brian!”

In the midst of the yelling, grunting, and crashing of hotel furniture as we fought, Ebony’s voice rang crystal clear in the room. I managed to turn my head enough to see her standing horrified in the doorway with Kaitlyn on her heels.

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Thank you for stopping by! I love to make new friends. Got questions or comments? Leave a comment, or connect with me online!  If you’ve enjoyed this post, sign up for the monthly newsletter by following this blog!

MJ

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A Fun Way to Learn How to Write From the Male and Female POV and Perspective- Part 1

Before reading any further, take the next three minutes to watch this video. Get your laugh on, then watch it again and get your learn on. Not only will you be entertained, you’re going to learn something new because afterwards, I’m going to break it down!

DATE NIGHT! -THE VIDEO

(Video via Facebook share)

Hilarious, right? It’s the typical men see things differently than women story of a date through the eyes of two very different couples. The difference? The back story. Knowing what each character is going through before, during, and after a scene helps you, the author, know what experiences should be included in a scene and how to present them.

Remember those pesky and time consuming character outlines I’m always referring to? Well, here is how they work for the characters in this short video.

THE BREAK DOWN:

COUPLE A:

HER POV: The Date SUCKED!

Woman A was looking forward to a romantic interlude. She did her hair and make-up, took the time to prepare a meal, and set the table. She expected her date to arrive looking nice, probably bearing a vase of flowers, and taking the time to appreciate her appearance and the meal. Next would have come some small talk, flirting, and no doubt, some personal fun time.

What did she get?

A quick hug, no compliments on her appearance or the meal. Instead he made a beeline for the food, woofed it down without any conversation besides grunts that seemed to ruin her appetite. And when it came to fun time…well, let’s just say Mr. Happy was there and back again in less than 3 seconds, or as she said, before she could unhook the back her dress. And to top it all off, he finds his way to her bed and passes out from what has to be over eating and rapid blood loss to the brain.

His POV: IT was AMAZING!

Man A wanted exactly what he got: A good looking woman who cooked for him (free food), had nothing to say, and stood there long enough for him to get his rocks off. Oh yeah, let’s not forget the comfy bed. In his eyes, major score!! And he got to leave with his needs satisfied in time to watch the big game at home without interruption.

 

COUPLE B:

HER POV: Most ROMANTIC DATE EVER!

Everything about the evening was different than being with any other man. First, he paid for a cab. Dinner was an amazing experience. After, instead of hailing a cab, they took the scenic route, walking along, holding hands, and experiencing the night life from another point of view. At his place, the romance continued with lit candles to set the mood, a very intense love making session that lasted longer than anything she’d ever experienced. And the best part, he didn’t pass out when they were done. They lay there wrapped in each other’s arms and talked all night.

In a nutshell, everything was magical and perfect, just what a girl could ever want.

 His POV: EPIC FAIL!!!!

It’s been a long day full of one frustrating event after another. Failure to pay his light bill lead to to spend money taking her out instead of having her come over. After paying for a cab, dinner was so expensive he could no longer afford a taxi cab home. He plays off the whole broke thing by suggesting they ‘sight see’ and walk to his place, (is this chick gullible or what???). No electricity leaves him improvising again with candles. Frustrated by the series of mind numbing fails, he has too much pride to say let’s call it an evening and tires to play it off by ‘making love’ when what he’s really doing is stalling for time to work himself up for that magic moment. By the end of it all, he doesn’t feel like finishing the act, but he’s literally ‘in the game’ and has to figure out how to play it off, because hey, Ms. Gullible is having the time of her life. Again, frustrated, pissed off, and ready for it all to be over, he can’t sleep which means he has no choice but to be subjected to Ms. Chatty Cathy.

This date sucked so much he probably would refuse to see her ever again.

Pad of Paper & Pen

 

 

 

Now, how does all of this tie into writing?

First, let’s review the definitions of Point of View and Perspective:

 

 

 

 

 

POINT OF VIEW: The position of the narrator in relation to the story, as indicated by the narrator’s outlook from which the events are depicted and by the attitude toward the characters

PERSPECTIVE: the state of one’s ideas, the facts known to one, etc., in having a meaningful interrelationship

(Definitions via dictionary.com)

DETERMINING USE OF POINT OF VIEW:

When telling a story, you must know which character’s voice you want the readers to experience. If the entire story is being written from one character’s POV, then it’s simple. Everything that happens comes from them. If your story is being told from more than one character’s POV, then you must decide how much of is being told and from who’s POV. This can be done in several ways:

  • An entire scene or chapter is told in one character’s POV
  • A scene or chapter is told in split POV’s
  • A section, or portion (meaning more than a few chapters in a row or Part 1, Part 2, etc. of the manuscript) are told from various characters’ POV

Knowing the story your telling (story line) and what your characters experience and how those experiences will affect their decision making (back story) determines who’s POV is shared at certain points. The character’s reactions to their environment and scenarios they face will be based on that back story.

Of the four characters portrayed in the video, the best example would be Man B from the second couple. An unfortunate event (failure to pay his light bill) led to changing his date night plans (paying for cab, expensive dinner, walking home, candle light sex, aggravation to the point of failure to perform for an extended point of time, and sleeplessness). Lack of electricity set off a catalyst of events that when told from his point of view, led to the date from hell. His POV was much more entertaining than Woman B who saw things from a fairytale perspective.

Now, how does perspective come into play?

Come back tomorrow where I’ll break down that portion of the video, as well as share a scene from my bestselling novel, A Heart Not Easily Broken, where I demonstrate the use of perspective from three characters POV in one scene. Until then, Happy Writing!!!

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Thank you for stopping by! I love to make new friends. Got questions or comments? Leave a comment, or connect with me online!  If you’ve enjoyed this post, sign up for the monthly newsletter by following this blog!

MJ

About Me     Twitter     Facebook    Pinterest     Instagram  Google+      Goodreads     Linkedin     Email

#WritingTips- Use Your Microsoft Word Doc Tools to Make Writing Easier!

When my Muse wakes me up in the middle of the night, or I have an epiphany of a new scene to add more life to my manuscript, the first thing I do is search for any means of recording my thoughts. Paper and pen, notes on my iPhone, voice recordings if I’m driving, or sometimes I just grab my laptop, open up a blank word doc, and let my fingers fly over the keys. Then I file it away until I’m ready to work on it again.

I am a plotter with a hint of panster. I take my time when I write, letting my stories marinate as I decide what trials to put my characters through. I spend even more time discovering who they are. When my research is complete, my outlines written, and I’m ready to add dialogue, the last thing I want to do after spending hours bringing my story to life, is have to go back and reformat the entire manuscript before editing it.

Let’s face it, authors, the mere thought of the words edits, editing, or editor are daunting, especially if you are new to writing!

I remember those days! But, have no fear! Since then, I have learned when you put in the work, the editing process can run so smooth, it’s nearly as fun as watching your story come to life from the blank page!

Okay, okay, stop laughing!  Let’s keep it positive people! 🙂 I’m about to share a tip that will have you grinning from ear to ear! (If you had no idea about it, that is!)

Did you know there are tools built into Microsoft Word that can cut down the amount of editing you or your editor need to do if used while you write?

I learned this while working on my first manuscript, (A Heart Not Easily Broken), and my dear friend and fellow author enlightened me to these amazing settings. I can’t lie; I am NOT a tech savvy person. What I’ve learned to do with my laptop, be it building my webpage, (the one you’re visiting now), or surfing the web, all of this has been because of being pointed in the right direction by people who discovered these shortcuts and shared them with me, or by taking the time to keep hitting buttons and trying over and over again until I figured it out. In other words, HOURS of frustration mixed with patience, coffee, and chocolate!

Now it’s my turn to reciprocate!  If any of this is new to you, I hope you find this information useful, and that it makes writing easier!

***NOTE: The following directions and screen shots are based on Microsoft Word 2010. Similar functions can be found for 2007, though they will not be as detailed. For more advice, I suggest searching Google or YouTube for instructional videos on how to use your editing/proofing features.***

Unknown tricks to Word 2007 and 2010 to avoid unnecessary editing issues (AKA – Quick Access Tool Bar). Let’s face it, we all didn’t sit down to read the manual…

IMG_0438[1]

Screen shot of the steps below. Daunting, but well worth the work!

Use of this function will allow you to set up Word to point out common editing issues as you type, allowing you to rethink your sentence before you continue, or make it easier to find some of the editing issues that make your writing passive. To customize this feature, follow these steps:

  • Open up a blank Word Document
  • Select the REVIEW tab at the top of your screen; Right Click and select CUSTOMIZE
  • Select PROOFING. (Here you can choose what kind of typing issues you want Word to ignore or point out to you).
  • Look lower in the box marked: WHEN CORRECTING SPELLING AND GRAMMAR IN WORD
  • Select WRITING STYLE, then click on the drop box, choose GRAMMAR & STYLE, then click SETTINGS. (From here you can have Word point out EVERYTHING!!! From punctuation issues, misused words, fragment and run-on sentences, to the use of cliches phrases, and so much more. Using this feature to help point out issues you need to correct before submitting your manuscript to an editor will make the editor quickly fall in love with you!)
  • Be sure to select OK before exiting to save your settings.

***By the way, once these settings are saved, they stay that way  for every document you create, until you go in and reset them.***

I touched on this a few posts ago when sharing tips for writing query letters, but again, putting this simple step into practice BEFORE you write one word will make the rest of  your writing experience pleasant.

The Universal Settings for your Manuscript (or Prepping you MS for Query Letters and you Editor)

IMG_0440[1]

Your screen should look like this when selecting your font type and size.

Set your Font:

  • Open a blank document.
  • Select the HOME tab.
  • Choose TIMES NEW ROMAN Font with a 12 Point  size.
  • Save and exit

***Check these settings for each new document created! They do not always stay the same!***

IMG_0441[1]

This is the easiest fix!

To Set Page Borders/Margins:

  • Select the PAGE LAYOUT tab.
  • Choose MARGINS.
  • Set to NORMAL. (1 inch border on both sides and top and bottom)

***This usually the normal setting, but it never hurts to make sure it’s set correctly. Technology is funny, and can revert back to the original settings  without warning!***

IMG_0439[1]

Set your page to automatic indent and line and paragraph spacing.

  • From the HOME tab, select PARAGRAPH.
  • In the INDENTION box, choose HANGING.
  • In the SPACING box, choose DOUBLE, and change the  AFTER PT to ZERO (O)
  • Check the box below to avoid  spaces between paragraphs
  • Select OK to save changes.

***Again, check this feature with the start of any new document. The default settings are not the same as what you need when writing. Any new document created will not have your new settings.***

 Other Advice:

Here are a few more things you can do to make your writing cleaner:

  • Make sure you have clean chapter breaks. In other words, when Chapter 1 ends halfway down the page, Chapter 2 should start on a fresh page. The final page of Chapter 1 should not have the first part of Chapter 2 .
  • Italicize words meant to stand out for emphasis, do not highlight or underline.
  •  When inserting a scene break in a chapter, use ### or *** to show the break in time, or the start of a new scene and/or location. Which ever one you use, stay consistent throughout the MS, do not flip-flop.
  • If you have already written you MS and have not used these settings, there’s no need to type it over again! Simply go to page one, hold down the CTRL + A buttons; it will highlight the entire manuscript, from page 1 to 1000+. Follow the steps to set PAGE MARGINS and FONT while highlighted, and it will fix all of your work. Be sure to scroll through in order to separate your chapter headings on fresh pages, or else, some of them may find their way into the previous chapter. Don’t forget to save and back it all up when you’re done!

I know, I know, if you are technically challenged, the whole idea of learning how to properly format your work is daunting. But believe me; editors appreciate working with authors who take the time to learn how to use their writing programs. It cuts down on the amount of tedious stuff they need to do to get your work up to par, and allows them more time to focus on the real work, the mind-numbing technical side. And who knows, less work may end up saving you money!

Happy Writing!

MJ

 

What Makes a Woman Independent?

(This was originally posted on The Butterfly Memoirs Blog on 5/1/12)
Independence. It’s something everyone, male or female,  yearn for as a child, even more so when they reach their teens. High school graduates are anxious to move out of their parent’s homes and spread their metaphorical ‘wings’ as they break free of their cocoons. No longer larva, or caterpillars, they are now butterflies. The word independent has various meanings, twenty, according to dictionary.com. Yet, when it comes to the sexes, independence is a word with both positive and negative connotations, especially for women. Let’s explore a few of those meanings.in*de*pend*ent (adjective)1. not influenced or controlled by others in matters of opinion, conduct, etc.; thinking or acting for oneself: an independent thinkerPretty self-explanatory, it could go for both men and women. This is the level teens strive for when separating themselves from their parents.

2. not subject to another’s authority or jurisdiction; autonomous; free: an independent businessman 

If your self-employed, you have this mindset; you have to in order to make ends meet.

3. not relying on another or others for aid or support

This could go either way, male or female, depending on whether or not they are financially able to take care of themselves without combining their income with others (roommates; renting a room)  in order to make ends meet.

4.rejecting others aid or support; refusing to be under obligation to others

Again, this could also be a male or female. This way of thinking is about  pride not allowing them to do otherwise. Even if that means running up every credit card, or worse, becoming enraged when others offer them assistance.

5. expressive of a spirit of independence; self-confident; unconstrained: a free and independent citizen

This one, in my opinion, would be where most independent women, (those who feel there is no need for a man in their life or significant other), tend to fall.

Is this type of independence the kind every woman dreams of? Is it what they truly want out of life? Or do they feel or act that way because of what life has thrown at them? Are the daily challenges they face forcing them to take on that mentality in order to survive?

Does a woman really want complete independent from romantic attachments for the rest of her life?

That is one of the questions asked throughout the The Butterfly Memoirs Series.

In the first novel, A Heart Not Easily Broken, we meet Ebony Campbell.  She is smart, independent, and focused on reaching her goal. Since graduating high school, she has made it her life ambition to get her degree of Doctor of Veterinarian Medicine so she can get her dream job of becoming a veterinarian at the Los Angeles Zoo.  For seven years, she hasn’t allowed a relationship to distract her.

In Ebony’s Words:

“I don’t have time to get into a real relationship right now.  Finishing this last year of college is my focus. I’ve got to get that veterinarian job at the zoo, I’ve worked too hard to mess up now. Besides, I don’t need a man to take care of me. Financially. Having a nice body to lie against is a different story.”-Ebony

With that mentality, would it be possible for her to abandon that way of thinking  if the right man came along? What would he have to say or do to make her feel differently?  Buy a copy of A Heart Not Easily Broken in order to find out.  But I must say,  this is NOT your typical  romance! Life, love, tragedy, and triumph are the subject matters of my novels. But despite it all, there is a happy ending along with life lessons learned.

This  one is for all my independent ladies…Independent, by  Destiny’s Child. When you done singing and shaking your grove thing, be sure to leave a comment!

     

 

Here’s some food for thought…..
“A woman does not need a man to feel complete. Neither does she need to be single to be independent.” ~Mariluz Lozada
So, are you and independent woman? 
MJ


Finding Inspiration: Part Three- Characters Close to Home

Building Real Characters: How to Bring Them From the Page and Into Your HeartWriters find inspiration anywhere; at the grocery store, the bank, even the activities of driver sitting next to you at the red light, can get the muse flowing. Then of course there are my favorites: family and friends.

If you have a Facebook account, I’m sure you have seen the pictures posted by someone at least once a month that says: (in a nutshell): BEWARE, I’M A WRITER, ANYTHING YOU SAY CAN AND WILL BE USED IN MY NEXT BOOK.  I was at the bank the other day and had a lively conversation with my banker. Upon completion of my transaction, she asked me, ‘is this going to be in one of your stories?’ I laughed and said quite possibly.

It seems no matter how hard I try; my Muse is always working, always observing and cataloging the statements and actions of others, especially when it comes to my kids.

In the last few weeks, my children have shocked me with their ‘Remember when…’ tales. Being an only child, it never ceases to amaze me what  my four kids get into when they are unsupervised in their bedrooms. First, there was the ‘broken-glow-in-the-dark-stick incident’ that led to fluorescent yellow liquid being splashed over bedroom walls. (According to them, it wore off withing minutes, thus leading to doing it again in order to illuminate the room.  No evidence was left behind. Imagine my horror!!!) Of course a lot of sibling smacks upside the head, and then the sneaking to cut hair or trim their eyebrows disasters that ended with bad results. (Those I knew about, but it still makes me laugh to remember the results.) Funny stories that made my eyebrows shoot into the hemisphere and start to give the ‘you know better’ speech. But then I realized the issues happened months, even years ago. What’s the point?  All that’s left is ‘don’t do it again.’

Once the kids go about their evening activities, my Muse sorts through the information, while not inspiration for my adult characters’ lives, they make great character back story.

***Back Story: Insight into the protagonist nature or history through reflective flashbacks, scenes, or dialogue. This information is used to show how a character will react to certain situations.***

There are various ways to use back story.  Some authors like to use flashback during a scene or as a scene to show an incident that explains the reason for their character’s actions during the course of a story. (Think about the show LOST, whose episodes focused on the back story of a character’s life, decisions, made, and how they related to the present situation). In novels, the most common use is having a character allude to their past through dialogue, thought, or peppered in by the omnipotent voice. (Dialogue is the best way to share this information without slowing down your prose and boring a reader.)

How do you know what your characters back story will be?

By writing character outlines.

If you have  followed my blog, you know a large portion of my writing begins with focusing on deep character development. I love writing characters my readers can relate to either through their own personal experiences or someone they know. Creating well-developed back story can do that. Knowing where your characters have been, what experiences have affected them – good and bad – will give your characters a strong voice that makes them stand out.

Even if it starts from when they were kids.

In a nutshell, a well-developed back story lets you know your characters. Knowing and understanding your characters will explain their motivations. Motivations are what set up a plot. Reactions to plot twists/turns are what provide scenes. Scenes mixed with reactions are what create drama.

Whew!  Sounds like a lot of work, right? It is, but as with all things in life, you get what you put in. Taking the time to sit down and understand your characters will show in your writing. It will help you understand why they interrupt your writing, and no matter how much you want the story to go one way, they hijack your manuscript.

For more on writing character outlines and finding writing inspiration, visit my previous posts:

M.J.’s on Writing- Helpful Advice for Aspiring Authors

MJ

#SampleSunday- A Heart Not Easily Broken- Talking to Brian’s Mom

#SampleSunday: A Heart Not Easily Broken-Talking to Brian’s Mom

Meeting your boyfriend’s family can be a nerve wreaking experience. Ebony spent hours stressing over how Brian’s family would view him dating a black woman.  She is pleasantly surprised by the warmth of their reception. And as with any relationship, there comes a time when you find yourself alone with your boyfriend’s mother. And as you know, moms have a habit of letting things slip.

Excerpt:

“Forgive me for asking, but did you really pick my son up in a bar?”

I laughed. “No, ma’am. I was at the bar when he picked me up.”

“That’s what I thought. He doesn’t usually do stuff like that. Well, not as far as I know…” She glanced away, apparently embarrassed by what she’d said.

“I know what you mean.” I smiled. “To be honest, he picked me out of a crowd watching the band play. He came up to me, and I politely brushed him off.”

Mrs. Young laughed.

“A few days later, Brian showed up at my house, hired by my roommate to cut our lawn and well…here we are. I can say one thing, he’s very persistent.”

“Oh yes,” she agreed. “As a kid he used to flash those blue eyes at me all the time to get cookies from the jar before dinner. He’s got eyes just like his father.”

“He knows how to use them,” I agreed. Brian did indeed have the same swag as his father who was strikingly handsome.

I glanced up and saw her smile.

“You are the first woman Brian’s brought around here in a long time, Ebony. He likes you. I hope you feel the same way about him. I’d hate for my son’s heart to be broken again.”

I paused, mid-slice of an onion, and frowned.

“Oh, dear, I’ve said too much.” Laura turned her focus to a pot on the stove.

Brian’s heart had been broken? He’d never mentioned it to me when talking about previous relationships.

“I like Brian. I love his confidence and his desire to reach his goals, and he supports mine. That’s why I’m with him. I don’t know where our relationship is going to go, but I’m willing to stick around and find out.”

We studied each other before she nodded.

“I can understand why he likes you. You speak your mind. That’s a good thing. He doesn’t need a woman who’ll back down. Keep that up, and you’ll be fine.” She smiled briefly and turned back to the stove.

####

BUY your copy of this Amazon Bestseller for $3.99 today! For REVIEWS, SAMPLE CHAPTERS, and LINKS of all formats…all with just ONE-CLICK! 

 

Thanks to everyone who visited Peggy L. Henderson’s blog post this week and commented on my interview. Now, as promised, the winner of this month’s $10 AMAZON GIFT CARD is…………………

TASHA  SMITH!!!!!

CONGRATULATIONS!!! Check your email soon for further information!

Guest Post: Sara Barnard- A Heart Broken

Every marriage faces trials and tribulations, but perhaps none more than military families – those of yesterday as much as those of today. We are a military family, so just like in A Heart on Hold, most of this book is written from experience, as well. Whenever duty calls and the time comes to part, it is only natural to attempt to make the parting as picture-perfect as possible. Unfortunately, life usually disagrees and one or both spouses are left with a bad taste in their mouths after a sour goodbye. Instead of having a sweet, passionate send-off to remember during the duration of the absence, all they have to hold on to and reflect on is the vows they promised, the love they had, and faith. Faith in God, faith in their marriage, and faith in each other. This premise is the cornerstone of A Heart Broken. Even when couples survive insurmountable odds (as in A Heart on Hold) and appear to come out stronger, the tests to their love and their commitment continue and are bought on not by outside forces, but by themselves.

A Heart on Hold started the series off out during the Civil War years and in A Heart Broken, we are taken in the aftermath of uncertainty that followed the War. The following two books in the series, A Heart at Home and A Heart Forever Wild, will take us up through my favorite era in American History – the Old West – where Charlotte and Sanderson will rub shoulders with some of the people who made the Old West what it was: wild.

Interview with Sara Barnard!The war is over, Sanderson is home, and life is good – until the Army comes knocking. They have charged him with the murder of his former captor, Lieutenant Lantz. With the help of Jerry Thomas, Sanderson must track down and kill the notorious outlaw William “Bloody Bill” Quantrill- or hang for murder while Charlotte is left to endure a rash of hydrophobia that threatens the countryside- her Sanderson included.

BUY your copy today!!!

Sara Barnard pic 2

Sara Barnard, author of the historical fiction series, An Everlasting Heart, has been reading children’s books her whole life. First, she read then as a child then she read them to her four beautiful children! Sara has her Bachelor’s degree in history, has had her work included in numerous anthologies, and has written several other books to date. Sara and her family make their home in the historic hills of Oklahoma along with their three dogs, three cats, and eight chickens.

Author Contact Info:

Website      Blog    Twitter     Facebook      Email

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interview with Denise Moncrief!

Today I welcome another talented author with 5 Prince Publishing, Denise Moncrief, as she shares a bit about herself, her writing process, and wonderful advice for aspiring authors!

Denise Moncrief author pic

 Welcome, Denise!

What inspired you to write?

I began devouring every book I could get my hands on in high school. I’ve been a prolific reader ever since. All of that reading has fed my imagination. For years my daydreaming made me feel somewhat guilty. I had no problem imagining myself in other places, with other people, doing other things. One day I got the idea of channeling all my daydreaming into a manuscript. That was nine, maybe ten years ago, and since then I’ve been writing practically non-stop with only a few short sabbaticals due to a recalcitrant muse refusing to cooperate and give me a fresh spurt of inspiration.

What genre do you write? Did you choose it, or did it choose you?

I started writing romance, but I found an element of suspense slipped into the plot line every single time no matter how I manipulated my characters and their actions, so the suspense genre grabbed my imagination and wouldn’t let me go. I love suspense and that’s what I write.

I bend and blend genres. My stories are usually suspense and _________. My daughter tells me I can’t write anything without including at least one dead body in the story line. Well, I don’t know, maybe that’s true. Aside from traditional suspense plot lines, I find there’s an element of suspense in any conflict, a moment when the breath catches. I strive to portray that one thing in any situation that will affect the heart rate, tug at emotions, and make the reader anxiously turn the page to read what happens next.

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

I have a part time accounting position, so my weekday mornings are spent crunching numbers, but once I get home I divide my time between taking care of my family and pursuing my career as a writer and editor. My evenings are split between writing, editing, and marketing. Lately, it’s been difficult to squeeze working on my current work in process between editing and promotion deadlines, but thankfully, the new manuscript is within 5,000 words of being complete. I’ve never been a scheduled writer, writing for a certain amount of time at the same time every day. Now, that I’ve also been hired as an editor, I’ve had to schedule chunks of time to get alone and write for several hours at a time. If I don’t do that, the editing and marketing pursuits will swallow all my free time. So it’s definitely become a balancing act.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

Hum…A writing quirk? Am I quirky? I’m not sure about that. Well, I don’t write in my polka dot pajamas, sip herbal tea, or listen to any particular style of music. I don’t have to have the house quiet either. I put on a pot of coffee and slip into my most comfortable jeans and a t-shirt. I might write on my bed or at my desk or on the sofa in the living room. Perhaps my biggest quirk is that I don’t do rough drafts. I’m probably obsessive compulsive or a raving perfectionist or something. I edit as I go because I can’t stand the thought of overlooking something that needs a tweak. I’ll write a few chapters and then edit. Write a few more and reread from the beginning, editing as I go. I find this gives me a greater sense of continuity and helps me fine-tune my plot and my characterization.

Are you a pantser or plotter?

I imagine the opening scene of the story and decide how the story will end. Between the beginning and the ending, I am a certified pantser. I let the plot evolve as it goes along, letting my characters and their developing personalities decide what to say and how to react in any given situation, as long as they get to the end of the story right where I want them to go.

Are your stories based on experiences of someone you know, or are events in your own life reflected in the characters/stories you write? Can you share an example?

No, I can’t think of any instance where I’ve based a plotline on my own experiences or the experiences of anyone I know personally. However, the underlying theme of all my stories is forgiveness and reconciliation. I heard someone say one time that unforgiveness is the poison one drinks with the hopes of injuring someone else. I believe this to be very true. I’ve experienced personally how destructive unforgiveness can be, not only to the offender, but to the offended.

Do you have any suggestions to help new authors become a better writer? If so, what are they?

I remember well my first rejection. I submitted a series of four stories to a publisher. He very kindly suggested I should continue to hone my skills by perhaps going to a writer’s workshop. It was an excellent piece of advice, because I did as he advised and realized how much I didn’t know about the craft of writing. That was years ago. An author should never believe he or she has learned all there is to know about the art and craft of writing.

Commonly accepted style evolves and changes over the years. Be aware of trends. The trends readers preferred ten years ago might not be what keeps a reader’s interest today. For instance, a common trend is to use as few he said/she said type dialogue tags as possible, replacing the tag with action beats.

When you finish writing your baby, after pouring all your heart and soul into plot and characterization, put the manuscript aside for a few days and then come back to it. Read it aloud with the critical ear of a reader, not the emotionally attached heart of a writer. The exercise often reveals glitches in the flow of the narrative.

There is an abundance of information and guidance available to aspiring writers on how to hone writing skills. Not all suggestions work for every writer. Research editing and writing. Read blogs and books on the subject of writing. Build relationships with other writers. A writer should test different approaches and find out what works best for her. For instance, I’ve read more than once that a writer should write straight through a rough draft, then go back and edit. This approach clearly doesn’t work for me.

Are you self-pubbed, indie pubbed, or traditionally pubbed?

I have been published or have been contracted by three wonderful indie publishers, Still Moments Publishing, 5 Prince Publishing, and Crooked Cat Publishing.

What are your current projects?

My last single tile release was Deceptions of the Heart, a full-length paranormal romance suspense novel from Still Moments Publishing. Crisis of Identity is romance suspense with a humorous bite, scheduled for release this week from 5 Prince Publishing. My current work in process is paranormal romance suspense set in the Pacific Northwest of the United States with the working title The Memory Catcher.

My full library at Still Moments Publishing, including Deceptions of the Heart, can be purchased at http://www.stillmomentspublishing.com/p/ebook-store.html, Amazon, Barnes and Noble Nook, Create Space, or Smashwords. My new release, Crisis of Identity, when it becomes available this week, can be purchased at http://www.5princebooks.com/buy.htm and Amazon.

CrisisOfIdentity

Tess Copeland is an operator. Her motto? Necessity is the mother of a good a con. When Hurricane Irving slams into the Texas Gulf coast, Tess seizes the opportunity to escape her past by hijacking a dead woman’s life, but Shelby Coleman’s was the wrong identity to steal. And the cop that trails her? He’s a U.S. Marshall with the Fugitive Task Force for the northern district of Illinois. Tess left Chicago because the criminal justice system gave her no choice. Now she’s on the run from ghosts of misdeeds past—both hers and Shelby’s.

Enter Trevor Smith, a pseudo-cowboy from Houston, Texas, with good looks, a quick tongue, and testosterone poisoning. Will Tess succumb to his questionable charms and become his damsel in distress? She doesn’t have to faint at his feet—she’s capable of handling just about anything. But will she choose to let Trevor be the man? When Tess kidnaps her niece, her life changes. She must make some hard decisions. Does she trust the lawman that promises her redemption, or does she trust the cowboy that promises her nothing but himself?

 Buy your copy today!!!

Author Bio:

Denise wrote her first story when she was in high school—seventeen hand-written pages on school-ruled paper and an obvious rip-off of the last romance novel she read. She earned a degree in accounting, giving her some nice skills to earn a little money, but her passion has always been writing. She has written numerous short stories and more than a few full-length novels. Her favorite pastimes when she’s not writing are spending time with her family, traveling, reading, and scrapbooking. She lives in Louisiana with her husband, two children, and one very chubby dog.

Connect with Denise on the following links:

Twitter   Facebook    Google+    Goodreads    Blog/Website   Amazon   Email   SmashWords

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop!

Thanks to Carol Fragale of 4 Broad Minds for tagging me for this honor! I have had the privilege and sharing blogs with her and several other talented Women’s Fiction authors on Goodreads.  So…let’s play!

Ten Questions About My Latest  WIP:

Autumn landscape1. What is the working title of your book? Jaded, Book Two of The Butterfly Memoirs (Currently in the hands of my editor.) Release date is March 7, 2013.

2. Where did the idea for the book come from? The story line is based on a secondary character in my first novel, A Heart Not Easily Broken, Yasmine Phillips, who is the best friend of the heroine, Ebony Campbell. Though the  novel focuses on Ebony, there are a few chapters where the reader is introduced to Yasmine to show where she is in her life. She’s ambitious, a hard worker, and full of self-confidence, especially when it comes to her relationships with men. She’s all about friends-with-benefit. During the course of the story, she winds up engaged to her main hook up. Everything seems to be working out until Ebony drops a bomb on her happy moment and she discovers her new fiance is not the man she thought he was. Jaded picks up two months later when we find Yasmine still reeling from the heart break of her engagement. Shes decided to give up on relationships of any kind and focus on finding herself.  She’s been working on a business  to start her own small business. Entrepreneurship is nothing new. She’s grown up watching her parents build and maintain their own business, a Bed and Breakfast chain of hotels, since she was in high school. Upon graduating collage, the chain expanded opening a second location. She’s managed the hotel for the past three years. During the course of the novel, Yasmine finds herself in a relationship that has her struggling to decide whether she is ready to open her heart up and give love another chance.

3. What is the genre of this book? Contemporary Romance, Women’s Fiction, Interracial Romance

4. Which actors would you choose to play the characters of the movie rendition? Oh, that’s easy! My male lead would be Columbus Short! He is exactly how I pictured Zachariah Givens while writing. For Yasmine, it would be a mix between Zoe Saldana or Megan Good.

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? After heart break leaves Yasmine devastated, she must decide if fighting for love is worth the risk of  losing the woman she’s become.

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency/publisher? I am Indie published through 5 Prince Publishing.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript? I outlined the novel first, but from there it took 29 days to write my rough draft, complete with errors and no edits…about 85,000 words.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? I would have to say the first novel in the series, A Heart Not Easily Broken. I have worked hard to develop my own style of storytelling, so I can’t think of anyone to compare it to.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book? My stories are based on themes and ‘what if’ scenarios. Jaded deals with several themes: women as entrepreneurs, reaching your goals without the support of family, opening yourself up to love after heartbreak, friends-with-benefits relationships, dealing with sick family members, and knowing when to trust yourself to follow your heart.

10. What else about your book might pique the readers interest? If you’ve read A Heart Not Easily Broken and got to know Yasmine, the truth she learns at the novels end will have you wanting to know what happens to her. As I said before, one moment she’s in her happy place, then without warning her outlook on love will never be the same. You will want to know if and how Yasmine Phillips finds her Happily Ever After.

Whew! That wasn’t too bad!

The three authors I’d like to tag to introduce their Next Big Thing are: Nia Forrester, Candace Shaw, and Sharon C. Cooper!  Enjoy!

MJ