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

About Me     Twitter     Facebook    Pinterest     Instagram  Google+      Goodreads     Linkedin     Email

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

My First Big Speaking Engagement!

webflyer3 (1)

Are you an Aspiring Author or fan of The Butterfly Memoirs who resides in the Atlanta area? Well, this one is for you!

 I am pleased to announce that I am participating in the Author’s Workshop being held by The Virtuous Women, LLC and co-hosted by Barnes & Noble on August 17th where I have been asked to be the FEATURED AUTHOR! Talk about existed!!!

 But before I talk more about the event, let me give you a bit of history about The Virtuous Women, LLC.

 The organization was formed a by Dr. Beverly Harris-Coleman, a Special Education Teacher for the Dekalb County School System. What started as a sisters and sister-in-law spa day quickly turned into more. The Virtuous Women, LLC is a Christian organization that looks to empower, educate, support, and help create businesses and opportunities within the community. They hold monthly meetings and events to share valuable information with the the goal of building a better community, one family and business at a time. For more information about to find out about upcoming community events, visit the website and get registered.

 The theme for this months event is The Author’s Workshop. The goal is to provide encouragement to aspiring writers who are looking to become published authors.

 Have you ever wondered what it takes to publish a book? Then this event is for you! There will be ten local authors who will be sharing their stories about why they chose to write, what motivated their project, and what challenges they overcame to see their project through to completion.

 During that time, I will have some great giveaways, and if you have purchased a paperback copy of either of my books, bring it and I will me more than happy to sign it! Got a Kindle or Nook and like to collect author signatures? I’ll sign that too! Don’t forget your cameras! For more information about the event, follow this link. I hope to see you there!

The Virtuous Women, LLC

 

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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

 

Deciding what genre you write should not be this difficult!!!!

Finding the Correct Genre For Your ProseOkay, admit it, we’ve all been there. You get an idea; invest time, tears, aggravation, and determination to write it all down. Then you struggle with letting it go long enough for a friend or relative to read it. You gird yourself emotionally (or at least you try to) while you listen to their feedback, then cry when in private. Despite however many edits it takes to tell your tale, one of the first questions asked by your reader is, “What genre do you write?”

You would think it would be easy to say, (fill in the blank), but not these days. Genres no longer carry the simple tags of Romance, Mystery, Suspense, Drama, and Sci-Fi. There are sub-genres to these popular book categories that muddy the waters when it comes to deciding exactly where your manuscript fits in. Not to mention, new categories seem to pop up every day. Ever heard of Science Fiction/Alternative History? Me neither, but it is out there!

So, how do you find out if your manuscript fits into one, or more, of these sub-genres?

Well let’s start with defining what a fiction genre is. Visit this link, Exploring Different Types of Genre, which is found on the For Dummies website.

To summarize, here are the two main types of literal and commercial fiction:

Commercial fiction: Attracts a broad audience and may also fall into any sub-genre such as mystery, romance, legal thriller, western, science fiction, and more. (Example: The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller. Popular authors in this genre include John Grisham, Sidney Sheldon, Danielle Steele, and Jackie Collins.)

Literary fiction: Appeals to a smaller, more intellectual audience. Works in this genre can fall into the above listed genres. The difference is the qualities it contains: excellent writing, originality of thought and style. These qualities raise it above the level of ordinary written works. (Examples: Cold Mountain by Frazier. Popular authors in this genre include Toni Morrison, Barbara Kingsover, John LeCarre, and Saul Bellow. )

The article goes on to describe the main genres, as well as list the sub-genres and its most popular authors. Visiting this link provides valuable information to help you discover where you fit in, as well as where to best promote your work when it’s published.  The site also provides links to the Writers of America website for each genre for more detailed descriptions and the accepted rules.

For those of you on a time crunch who don’t have time to read the full article, but want to find our more information about your genre, here are the links:

Mystery Writers of America        Romance Writers of America

Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America      Western Writers of America

So, where does my writing fit in? While I writer Romance, because I ‘break the rules’, the stories I tell fall into several categories.

The settings are modern day which puts me in Contemporary Romance.

Though I write from the female and male point of view, the stores are mostly about women’s issues and the ability to overcome, which places me in Women’s Fiction.

My characters are not all from one race. The heroines in the first three novels of The Butterfly Memoirs are an African-American, Caucasian-African-American, and Caucasian. The heroes are Caucasian, African-American, and Hispanic. This puts me in the Interracial Romance category. Unfortunately, this is a relatively new category that is just now being acknowledged by the publishing industry. (Here’s a great blog post written by a fellow author on this topic: Interracial Romance: The Most Popular Genre No One’s Heard About.)

And last but not least, because I am an African-American author, anything I write, regardless of the topics, writing style, or genre, I am automatically placed in the African-American genre before anything else is considered.

So, where does YOUR story fit? Good luck with figuring it out!

MJ

MJ on Writing: Viewpoint Tips and Tricks

WritingOne of the first things I learned about writing was the correct way to write a scene. After years of reading I had become accustom to what is known as ‘head hopping’. For those who may not be aware of what that is, ‘head hopping’ is where two characters point of views are shared in the same scene. This is not to be confused with conversation. I am referring to the scene starting with the heroine’s POV and then in mid scene, it switches to the hero’s POV, and back again or to another character without a change in the scene or start of a new chapter. Sound confusing? Imagine how it feels to a reader!

That style of writing is no longer accepted in manuscripts today, unless of course your one of the old school authors who were allowed to do it years ago. Chances are they haven’t been forced to change. In fact, I know they haven’t. One of my favorite romance authors who have been around for years still does it in every new book. But for the new author, agents and publishers are looking for a more polished style of writing, starting with characters whose POV’s are the only one featured in a chapter. Even if you plan to self-publish, taking these extra steps to polish your writing will make your work stand apart from the rest!

So how do you make this happen? Here are a few tips and tricks to make sure you stay in one viewpoint from the beginning to end or your scene! (I write in 1st Person POV, so I will write these examples in both 1st and 3rd POV when needed.)

Make sure your reader knows who is speaking.

The easiest way to have this done is by having them addressed by name by another character in the scene. Doing this in the first few lines of the chapter will let your reader know who’s speaking:

Example:

(1st Person)

“Hey, Sara, how are you doing today?” my brother asked.

“Things could be better.” I grimaced while holding my stomach.

Or

(3rd Person)

“Hey, Sara, how are you doing today?” John asked.

“Things could be better,” she said while holding her stomach.

As mentioned above, NO HEAD HOPPING!

Doing so destroys the tension your building by staying in one character head. You know the saying, ‘the right hand can’t know what the left is doing?’ When sticking in one POV, it’s the same way. If Phil has a secret that he is trying to hide from Bob, his actions and what he says should say that to the reader, but the reader can’t know that Bob already knows that Phil is guilty.

Example:

Correct:

Phil’s eyes darted from side to side in an effort to keep from looking Bob in the eye. There was no way he would admit to eating the last slice of grandma’s apple pie. He tried his best to ignore Bob when he asked another question, and continued to stare out the kitchen window.

Incorrect:

Phil’s eyes darted from side to side in an effort to keep from looking Bob in the eye. There was no way he would admit to eating the last slice of grandma’s apple pie.

Bob knew Phil was guilty, because he refused to look at him. It didn’t matter if he answered his question or not. He was going to tell grandma.

Phil knows he’s guilty, but tries his best to hide it. If we are only in his POV, he can’t know what Bob is thinking, only assume, or in this case ignore Bob all together. What he thinks Bob knows or doesn’t know is not important. You only want to share Bob’s thoughts if/when his POV is addressed in another chapter.

Describing your character from their POV.

Every now and then it’s necessary for a character to tell the reader what they look like, what they are wearing, or describe their expressions. You have to be careful their voice does not slip into the voice of another character that may be looking at them. Try some of these tricks:

  • Have your character stand in front of a mirror and talk about what they see, but don’t be technical (and it should be relevant to the scene!)
  • Use feelings and descriptions to guide your reader into visualizing what the character is trying to say about themselves.
  • Quote another character’s thoughts about their appearance.

Example: Here’s how my character, Ebony Campbell, describe herself in the opening chapter of A Heart Not Easily Broken: (1st Person)

I smirked (facial expression) before sipping my margarita. Yasmine’s light-skinned complexion, slender ballet dancer body, long legs, and B-cup breasts suited her personality. There were times I wished my body was more like hers, though. It would make shopping for clothes a lot easier. As it was, I had been blessed with the shapely figure my Nana called ‘bootylicious’. According to her, and her photo albums, I looked just like her when she was my age, with caramel-colored skin, perfectly proportioned hips, a butt that drew major attention, and D-cup breasts, making it hard for a man to look me straight in the eye. (Opinion of others)

And last but not least, select ONE character to focus on in a scene!

In other words, don’t split up your chapter into two different points of view. Extend the scene, or shorten it, with chapter breaks instead of scene breaks. Doing so will keep the reader from missing the POV switch at the break point, because sometimes inserting *** just doesn’t do it. Doing so generally means there is a change in the scene itself, not POV.

I hope this helps! For more tips on writing, check out my page with links to previous articles on writing. Until next time, Happy Writing!

MJ

To Blog or Not to Blog?

blogThere was a time when I didn’t spend much time on the internet, much less read or follow a blog. Yet, in the last 3 years, I’ve become an avid blogger! Who knew? During this time my blog has undergone several revisions…from colors, to layouts, blogging platforms…and most importantly, what I blog about.

So, why did I start blogging? The answer is simple….to become a better writer.

Sounds crazy, right?

When I started blogging in 2009, I had no idea what I would write about. I mean really, at the time I was a stay at home mom who was attempting to write a book. What did I have to talk about? Hmm…kids, the community, my dogs. BORING!!! Who wanted to read that? LOL! In the beginning I had about 4 people who stopped by to read what I wrote. And that was only because I asked them to check it out. I had no idea how to format a blog post or how long it should be. Adding a picture was a hair pulling experience (did I mention I wasn’t THAT computer savvy?). Yep…suffice it to say I didn’t blog very often. Those blogs are still available if you’d like to read them:

 Four Miles and Counting….(my very first post!)

…Two Pit Bulls, One Paper Clip and a lap top to put it all in! (the next daring endevor!)

I know, I know, the big question is: did it actually help your writing?

The answer: YES!!!! (Seriously, take a look back then and now and you’ll see my writing technique has changed though my voice is pretty much the same.)

What are the benefits to writing a blog? As I stated above, writing a blog helped me find my writing voice, or rather, get comfortable with writing something, having people read it. Getting used to receiving comments and feedback about my blog post helped me get used to the idea of reading reviews as a published author. You can’t please everyone and of course everyone will not agree or like what you have to say. As writers, we have to get used to that idea. Why not do that with a blog?

And as they say about anything you strive to get better at: PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE and you will improve. I strongly suggest that if you are an aspiring author looking to practice the craft of writing, start a blog! Find a topic or subject that is important to you (your writing platform or niche), and use it!

As time went on, I gave up on my blog for several months until I discovered my blog niche was writing about my experiences as an aspiring author. The more information I ran across, practiced, or new technique I found, I wrote about it. Sharing my story led me to other writers who were doing the same thing I was. Forming connections with other writers lead to networking, networking lead to learning new writing techniques from more experienced writers…and well, here I am today! It took a lot of work and continues to take a lot of work to keep this blog going, but I am proud to say that as of right now, I have over 900 blog followers.

I guess what I have to say and share means something! Thank you guys!!!

The question I am asked most by writers who would like to start a blog but fear they will never have a following is: “I have something to say, but who is going to read it? How do I promote my blog?” The answer is simple. If you’re tied into the major social networking sites: Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Linkedin, Stumbleupon, etc., your potential readers are right there waiting. Choose a snazzy topic, a witty title, develop your layout, and use those free social networking tools. Before you know it, you’ll have a blog following, too!

Good luck and happy blogging!

MJ

Guest Post: How I Cracked the Mystery Novel by A.T. Hicks

 For all of you writers out there who have found mystery writing as your Muses calling, author A.T. Hicks is here to help you! Read today’s guest post and find out how she cracked the mystery novel formula!  Thanks for sharing A.T.!

Mystery writing to me was as complex as the Di Vinci Code and as befuddling as Egyptian Hieroglyphics. I didn’t understand how those clever writers did it. How they came up with their daring plots and sub-plots, their nefarious characters and the resolving of the crime at the end. In other words, becoming a mystery writer was as far from my goals as climbing Mount Everest. It just wasn’t gonna happen.

But alas, my own creativity told me, I was wrong…

Now, I’m a very curious person and I’m arrogant enough to believe that I can solve any puzzle I put my mind to work on. Last year–February 2012 in fact–I told myself I was going to learn to write cozy mysteries. You know–those stories where a woman in a small village or town digs out the pie thief and the murderer of that pretty girl next-door–all while knitting mittens and drinking hot toddies. Very cute, right? But I wanted to write my own mysteries; one that was a bit more risqué. A not so cozy mystery series, if you will.

The series would be penned A Peaches Donnelly Mystery.

But before all this fabulousness could start, I had to crack the Mystery Novel Code. After weeks of studying the structure of plot, development of character and general lay of the land of many mysteries, I had one of those illuminating moments where the mystery (no pun intended!) is finally solved. And it was oh, so simple. One can use this formula to write a mystery, suspense or thriller as complex as their mind, and research, can devise.

The Mystery Plot Rules:

1) Set from the very beginning who will be murdered and why. The murder can happen at any time, but you need to have a pretty good idea of who the victim, or victims, will be.  IE: Regina is found impaled with a spiked heel the day after her big promotion.

2) Decide who the murderer is. Now, this rule is a little flexible. I have had in mind one would-be murderer, then, after getting deep into the plot, found a better, less obvious murderer. This changes from writer to writer and in the end, you’ll figure out who the best murderer is for your stories plot.

3) Decide why the murderer has murdered this person and don’t give it away! The reason why someone killed someone else can again be as complex or rudimentary or hilarious as you want it to be.

4) Sprinkle subtle clues in from the very beginning and continue to consistently sprinkle clues in most chapters. The clues should always tie neatly–and sensibly!–into the storyline. Important: be sure different clues from the victim’s life or from the crime scene tie in with a word or a line or a theme about the murderer. IE: the deceased was immoral and slept with folk’s men. Show that the killer was a fiery Bible thumper or that the killer was a mousy woman with a gorgeous husband. But in no way should these people be at the forefront of the readers mind as a suspect. A light hand is required here.

5) Sprinkle in red herrings that throw the reader for a loop. These red herrings can be in the form of jealous spouses, angry co-workers or hateful neighbors. IE: Becky had always hated Regina and when she got the promotion she was after, a nasty argument ensued. Three days later, Regina was found murdered with Becky’s spiked heel. In the mind of the reader, this makes Becky a likely suspect. They can also be in the form of something that ties a particular person to the victim. IE: Regina’s ex-boyfriend was had a restraining order levied against him because he was stalking Regina. But remember, none of these obvious suspects should ever be the killer.

6) Don’t forget to summarize what the investigator has discovered throughout varying chapters where our heroine/hero interviews a suspect or discovers a clue(s). Now, this can be done in varying ways, either through a conversation with a sidekick or partner throughout the chapter, with a bit of a mental summery of clues discovered thus far, or a bit of both. This is stylistic and up to you. But it must be done. This way the reader doesn’t get lost in the book.

7) No matter what, move the plot forward! Everything you write should be moving the investigator, amateur sleuth or hard boiled detective inexorably to the killer. The clues should stack up, perhaps leading the reader astray at times, but always leading the reader forward. There’s nothing worse than a storyline that plods along!

8) The discovery of the murderer, no matter how ridiculous or hard-boiled, should always surprise the reader. This is the fun part where all your excellent writing comes together. It should be fast-paced, fun and exciting. It should take the reader on a roller coaster ride of ‘Ohhh–yeahhhh!’ They should be remembering your red herrings and clue summaries.

I view writing mysteries as a person who puts together a thousand piece puzzle would: piece by piece. Each piece should fit neatly into the other to give the reader a tight, seamless ending that makes sense and provides them with a feeling of satisfaction.

There you have it folk. I’ve cracked the Mystery Novel Code now you can, too!

Check out A.T. Hicks novel today!

Peaches and the Gambler Silhouette (1)What does a strip club, a dead man and a Dove ice cream bar all have in common? Peaches Donnelly.

Peaches Donnelly has a major problem: she’s just been fired. Unaccustomed to filling her days with nothingness, she embroils herself in the murder of a childhood friend. However, standing between her and the solving of this heinous
crime are two pesky daughters, a selfish opera singer sister, the diet from hell and two sexy men she can’t resist.

Add to this bubbling pot a hasty decision to go undercover as a stripper and you have a story rife with drama, laughs and a little dash of danger.

Follow Peaches and the always funny cast of characters in this first installment of a rollicking series of cozy mysteries.

####

About the Author:

When A. T. Hicks isn’t penning outrageous fiction, she’s shooing a renegade tomcat out of her garden, trying to prevent her escape artist dog from slipping out under the fence once again and negotiating with her teenaged daughter to complete her chores.

 Twitter     Facebook     Blog/Website     Amazon     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)

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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

 

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