So You Want to be a Writer

I received a reply to one of my Tweets. “@DeanneDurrett, follow me back, I want to ask about writing.” I visited his Twitter page and found a young man who wants to be a writer. We exchanged a few tweets about writing. But there is so much to tell a young aspiring writer. Tweets of less than 140 spaces are not enough to even begin. So, @Leorachadian, this is for you. I’m passing on some advice I received when I was a young woman who wanted to be a writer.

1. You have to read to learn to write. Read. Read. Read.

2. You have to write to learn to write. Write. Write. Write. (I was told I would have to write a million words before I could expect to be published, so I started writing my million words.)

3. Learn your craft. Learn grammar and put it in practice. Every aspect of it. Spelling, punctuation, and the rules of grammar.

4. In the beginning, write what you know. Later you can learn what you want to write.

5. Writing is rewriting. To create a publishable piece requires many revisions. Keep revising until you reach the point where you can’t find anything to change that would make your writing better.

6. Join a critique group. Listen and learn from the critiques. Some criticism of your work will hurt. Develop a thick skin. Only make changes when the change will make your work better. Make sure your work remains your work. All changes should be your decision.

7. If you are writing fiction, learn the basics of creating plot, characters, dialogue, scenery, and environment. Do your research, be sure your facts are correct.

8. If you choose to write non-fiction. Learn the elements of an article. Do your research. Make sure your sources are reliable and you writing is in your words but remains true to the source.

9. Wait to submit your work to an editor until you’re sure it’s ready. As near perfect as you can make it. (It won’t be perfect in any editor’s eyes, even one that accepts it.)

10. For most, not all, the road to publication is a long journey with steep hills, sharp curves, and some places where the bridge has been washed out. FOLLOW YOUR DREAM. The want-a-be writers who get published are the ones who don’t quit. If you want it bad enough, work hard enough, and overcome discouragement, you’ll reach your goal.

 

Ten Small Nuggets to Make an Author’s Day Special

When you finish reading a good book, the curtain comes down but there’s no applause for the entertainer. The author doesn’t see your smile or hear your sigh. He or she will never know you appreciate the time, effort, and imagination that created the hours of reading pleasure… Unless you say so. The best way, to express your appreciation and encourage the author, is to leave a review or reader comment at an online book stores.

It looks a little scary when you glance at the other reviewer comments and see three paragraph book reports. Lengthy reports are appreciated and treasured by the author and readers (unless they give away too much of the plot). But, two sentence comments that tell other readers what you liked about the book are like gold nuggets. A few words of encouragement make any author’s day special.

Don’t save your review comments for the best book you ever read, that’s a once in a life-time experience. Comment on the ones you enjoy. Kindle Fire makes it easy to post your review comment when you finish the book, but you still have to think of the words to write. It’s not that hard, once you get started.  Here are ten phrases you might mix and match to make your own review comment about a book you’ve read and liked:

1.  Kept me up past my bedtime

2. Romance (mystery or suspense) with twists and turns

3. Very well written

4. Loved the characters

5. Hated the villain

6. Kept my interest from start to finish

7. The characters seemed so real I thought of them as friends

8. I just couldn’t quit reading until I found out what happened next

9. My kind of book; had it all —  romance, mystery, and suspense.

10. I highly recommend this book

Let these phrases start you thinking. Write a few kind words from your reader heart, we don’t expect perfection. 🙂

 

 

No More Rabbit Trails

I’ve been away from Ordinary Days way too long. When I started this blog I planned to post at least once a week. But… here’s the reality of the past few months.

After publishing ROGUE’S TRUST and WREN’S NEST, I needed to know what to do next. The marketing departments of my publishers handled the promotion of my traditionally published books. Those books were displayed in publishers’ catalogues that were sent to bookstores and libraries, and review copies went to reviewers while I wrote another book. But I’m on my own with these two indie Kindle releases.

So I Googled and followed a few rabbit trails. While learning to Tweet, acquiring likes for my Facebook author page, and creating an Excel spreadsheet for Hootsuite bulk upload I had an incredible learning experience.

The first thing I learned is: Don’t forget your background. I’m an experienced researcher (22 nonfiction books) and in my admiration for those who have successfully marketed their indie fiction eBooks, I temporarily forgot that anyone can call themselves an expert. And marketing methods that successfully promoted a specific eBook back then, probably won’t apply to my book in this time and place.

The second is: I’m a country gal who should know that rabbits dart here and here, the purpose of their trail is not to reach a goal, it’s to avoid prey.

The conclusion is: I’ve created my own meandering rabbit trail without reaching my goal. Hours of blood, sweat, tears, and a couple of hissie fits haven’t increased my eBook sales. .

I learned to Tweet, I know how to get “likes” for my Facebook page, and I created that blasted spreadsheet. Hours, and hours, and hours of non-enjoyable tasks that left no time for the thing I love most… writing.  No chapters added to Lucy’s Mansion, and no posts to Ordinary Days.

 

So, big decision. I budget for two writer’s conferences every year. Some years I only attend one. But, for now, the writer’s conference money is tagged for book promotion. I’m looking for a new trail with a goal to find the appropriate promotion strategy for my book. I have to stop behaving like there’s a coyote on my heels, focus on my goal, and let someone else do the work I’m not equipped to do.

I’m a writer. I sit at my computer in my pajamas, dream up scenes, and create characters to carry them out. Uh… That’s not exactly how it happens. I loose the imaginary characters in my mind, they tell me their stories, and I write the chapters. They are calling me and I’m returning.

Fred

I was thinking about Fred this morning. I need to get “in the zone” and figure out what Amy K is wearing. My conscious mind seems to be bogged down with other stuff and temporarily dedicated to procrastination. So creative activity is at a standstill. What is Amy K wearing? Pajamas. I think Fred knows the details but he isn’t talking.

While thinking about Fred and this dilemma, I had a flashback to the 2010 OWFI Writer’s Conference. I’ll always be grateful to K.D. Wentworth for  one of the most memorable conference sessions I ever attended.

I had three choices for the 11 o’clock session on Friday: Book Editor’s Panel, Freelancing for Newspapers, and Accessing Your Imagination. It was a toss-up. Although I thought I was pretty good at accessing my imagination and I had little in common with an award winning science fiction/fantasy writer, I had to choose something and it was the best of the three. So, I found the room, took a seat about three rows from the front, and waited.

I wasn’t too impressed when K.D. Wentworth stepped behind the podium.  When she began to speak in her soft voice, I was glad to be near the front; but her monotone made me wish I’d sat near the back so I could slip out. About three sentences in, she delivered a line that sent a wave of chuckles around the room. She gave us a little bio and her writing history. And, a couple of sentences into her topic, she had us memorized with her dry humor, perfect delivery, and valuable information.

She told us that writers, no matter what genre we write, have a common need. We all need to access the fountain of ideas hidden in our subconscious. And then she introduced us to Fred. It was my understanding that Fred is the name she gave that small voice that speaks from her subconscious.

She told us how Fred solved plot and character problems while she slept. I’m not sure if he visited her in her dreams or whispered to her in the morning. Maybe some of both. Anyway, when she woke up in the morning, suddenly knowing what should happen next in her story, it was the wonderful work of her subconscious, Fred.

She said we all have one and we can name it anything we want. It can be male or female. The important thing is to free the subconscious to do its job and then learn to recognize the voice.

A few days after returning home from that conference, I discovered that Fred had followed me home. I saw no reason to change his gender or name. I liked Fred, now that I knew he existed. I love his visits and those mornings when he whispers in my ear. Dan is even impressed. “What did Fred say?” is a frequent question when we’re discussing a writing dilemma. Dan is a very good assistant when I need my math checked or some other left-brain analytical input. But, Fred… he’s my right brain associate.

After that conference, I vowed that I’d never miss an opportunity to hear K.D. Wentworth speak. I’m so sad to report that no one will have that opportunity. I learned from a Google search this morning that she passed away in April 2012. Thank you K.D. Wentworth for introducing me to Fred. I’m so sorry you’re gone, but you left a good memory and a gold nugget of information.

 

Woe is Me!

What happens next? That question is beginning to haunt me and I need an answer fast. Readers are asking – Does the romance between Becca and J.T. continue? Is there more?

Of course there is. It has a title and the draft of three chapters. But…

When I finished ROGUE TRUST, I knew the rest of the romance story. I have the draft of the first three chapters and last chapter is hiding somewhere in my files. But, there is a lot of story between chapter three and the last chapter. Why didn’t I write LUCY’S MANSION while Becca and J.T. were talking?

There was another tale in my mind screaming to have a print presence. It’s Joe Chandler’s story and a companion to ROGUE TRUST that could  take place almost in the same time frame. I had originally planned to weave these two story lines together in one book… but I didn’t find managing a thousand-page manuscript appealing and I didn’t think readers would either. So, the first two books  are “out there” but the synopsis for the third is mostly in my head. Unfortunately, Becca and J.T. have slipped into the shadows. They aren’t talking to me and I’m facing the blank page.

Woe is me!

I can’t panic – have to get rational. What’s new about facing the blank page? During the creation of the first draft of every book, every day begins with a blank page. You could say: a writer’s ordinary day always begins with a blank page; words make it special.

So, if I want this day to be special, I need to cajole Becca and J.T. into opening up. Maybe I’ll ask some questions.

Becca – You’re anxious for J.T.’s kiss but… are you fooling yourself into thinking you’re a widow instead of a wife in mourning? Are you sure you’re ready for another man in your life? Is Amy K?

J.T. – What about that fancy office in Chickasha? Will your prospective clients be willing to step through the door into all that luxury? Can you compete with the ghost of Walter McGee? Do you have to?

Can the two of you find time for romance when City Hall has declared war and you’re the enemy?

Me – Little mention of Amy K in the first three chapters. Where is she?

Okay. As soon as I have some answers to these questions, I’ll put some words on that blank page… I hope they’re special enough to stay.

Someone is whispering to me… I’m not sure who. Oh, yeah! I know what the problem is – in the last five months I’ve been formatting manuscripts for Kindle Direct Publishing and Create Space. I’ve tackled book cover design with PhotoShop Elements, and I’ve taken a crash course in Twitter. All left- brain stuff… I’ve just been reminded that Becca and J.T. reside in my right brain. Soon as I find the button to make the switch from left to right, I’m good to go. The search is on!

Are You a Dreamer?

“Follow your dream.” That’s the best advice I have to offer. It can change your ordinary future into something special.

While I was writing nonfiction for kids, I wrote several biographies of successful people including Norman Rockwell and Jim Henson.  These men had a dream and a passion for their work. They wanted their next project to be better than the last and kept working toward the perfection they knew was out of reach.  Jim Henson wanted to be a master puppeteer and bring puppets into adult entertainment. Rockwell wanted to keep improving his art. Even after he became America’s favorite magazine illustrator, he dedicated himself to giving 110% to his next project. These men were never satisfied, always following a dream and setting new goals.

I wanted to blog about following dreams, thinking everyone should have a dream. I asked my husband about his dream and he looked at me as if I’d just asked him where the diamonds were stashed. Dan let me know that some people are not “dreamers.” Some are analytical and their goal is to achieve in their chosen career field, analyzing the situation and choosing which opportunities to follow. Dan is an analytical achiever. He’s the left brain and I’m the right brain… I think we’re a matched set.

What about the other biographies I wrote for kids: Dominique Moceanu, the youngest member of the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics Team – her parents started her gymnastics training before she was old enough to have a dream yet she won gold at the Olympics. Was she following her dream or that of her parents? I think their dream become hers. Jonas Salk is credited with creating the polio vaccine. He was in competition with others but he was first to succeed. Was he following his dream… or analyticaly choosing which opportunities to follow as he mapped out the direction of his research.  The list goes on and it seems that… maybe… it’s artists and writers that need dreams for setting goals and when one goal is reached a new dream is a must.

Me? I was raised in a time and place where girls became wives and mothers. My mother was my example. Her job description as a wife included pregnancy, childbirth, and keeping Daddy happy. As a homemaker her tasks included -cooking, cleaning, laundry, childcare, animal care, gardening, yard maintenance, first aide, Bible teaching, and she was in charge of community and family relations. Did she have a dream? Maybe. But, with all this, there was little time for dreaming, I’m not sure she slept. And, this is what I thought my life would be until… At the age of thirty, I saw my words in print. It was love at first sight; my first dream was born and my passion activated.

Which are you? Analetical acheiver or passionate dreamer?

If you’re an analytical achiever, what’s your motivation and where’s your passion?

If you’re a dreamer, what’s your dream? Your heart’s desire? Your passion to strive? Every writer, young and old, needs a dream to follow toward a goal. When one goal is reached, a new dream is needed – a new book, a new beginning with hope for perfection. Don’t be afraid to follow your dream…

Rogue Trust Free for Kindle Jan. 18-20

FREE KINDLE DOWNLOAD FROM AMAZON.COM  1/18-20/2013

The unexpected beneficiary to a trust fund created to honor a Vietnam War hero, Becca McGee struggles with the changes sudden wealth will bring to her ordinary life and its influence on her twelve-year-old daughter. Facing a challenge to her faith, she’s bombarded by questions she can’t answer. And, her common sense seems to have vanished. The lawyer retained to settle the trust proves himself a jerk, acts like a stalker, and appears to be an impostor. When someone prematurely leaks the details of the trust to the press, steals her cat, and threatens her daughter… he’s her prime suspect. Still, she finds him incredibly attractive.

J.T. Harrison’s plans to practice family law are derailed when a large firm offers him a position in its probate department. Fresh out of law school and studying for the bar, he can’t refuse the income. Now he’s a political hire moonlighting for his rich uncle, well paid for doing menial tasks—delivering manila envelopes and overseeing floral deliveries. But why is his elderly uncle secretly sending yellow roses to a woman half his age who could easily steal J.T.’s heart?

As the story unfolds, an old man’s obsession mixes romance with a touch of suspense and mystery as it threatens every aspect of Becca McGee’s life. J.T. must settle the Rogue Trust while his ailing uncle still lives. Becca has stolen J.T.’s heart, but she’s quick to condemn. And, with his knack for falling victim to circumstantial evidence, it seems unlikely that J.T. can settle the trust or win Becca’s hand.

 [amazon_enhanced asin=”B008VTNT2S” /]

Happy New Year!

Farewell 2012… Welcome 2013!

My wish for you in 2013 is that you enjoy your ordinary days and that those days made special will leave good memories.

As for me, I’m always glad when the Rose Bowl marks the end of the season. January 2 is a happy day for me, as I slip into the new year. I’m ready to go back to my normal routine and back to uninterrupted writing. (That’s a dream I probably don’t want to come true. I welcome interruption- need real people in my life to help me deal with the imaginary ones.)

January offers an opportunity to let some things slip into the past as we move on with a promise for a  new beginning and hope for the future.

For a writer, and many others, those are just words that sound good but have little meaning. I open a new planner but it’s just another day. Unfinished work doesn’t slip into the past. That novel that went on hold as Thanksgiving approached is waiting to be finished. The next blog calls and the business side of writing won’t wait.

But, there is an upside. In early January, we have about two months of winter ahead… but we’re rolling toward spring. The days are getting longer, more daylight hours give the sun a greater opportunity to peek through the clouds.

Best of all, when it’s cold and dreary outside, what could be better than curling up under a warm throw with a good book where you can escape to the place of your choice? How about a little romance in Myrtle Hill, Oklahoma where a reluctant heiress finds all sorts of circumstantial evidence indicating the charming attorney retained to settle the Rogue Trust is anything but… So, why does she find him so attractive? [amazon_link id=”B008VTNT2S” target=”_blank” ]The Rogue Trust (Ordinary Days in Myrtle Hill)[/amazon_link]

Navajo Code Talkers

I was privileged to write [amazon_link id=”0803224567″ target=”_blank” ]Unsung Heroes of World War II: The Story of the Navajo Code Talkers[/amazon_link], a book about a select group of Navajo recruited for special duty in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1942. On this Veteran’s Day, 2012, I want to honor them and their code – a National Security asset that remained classified decades after World War II ended.

The first 29 Navajo Code Talkers were young men with little education. For some, it was their first time off the reservation. They were chosen because they each met some unique requirements needed to protect American National Security – they spoke a little known and very difficult native language, they were fluent in English, and they were loyal Americans ready to defend their country.

The day they graduated boot camp, they boarded a bus to a secure location where they received their assignment — Develop a battlefield code based on the Navajo language that the Japanese cannot break. They didn’t know where to begin this overwhelming task. The Japanese were breaking the tactical codes produced by experienced and well-educated military minds as fast as the codes became operational. Still, these unique young Navajos were honored to be chosen for this special assignment and they were determined to carry it out. Within a short time, they impressed their superior officers with their amazing success.

The Code Talkers and their code were operational by the time the Marines landed on Guadalcanal. They were fast. They were accurate. And, they made a contribution to the war effort in the Pacific. They returned home with orders to keep the code secret. And ,they did until the Navajo Code was declassified in 1969. Since then, they have received honor and recognition for their contribution to victory in the Pacific from Presidents, Congress, and the American people.

Today, Chester Nez, the last of the original 29  is still making history.  http://bit.ly/RJtRcQ

I wrote Unsung Heroes to honor them and offer my salute for their determination, skill, and courage.  However, they are only a few among many men and women who have gallantly fought to protect America.This weekend we honor all Amereica’s veterans for their contribution to the security of our great nation.

[amazon_image id=”0803224567″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Unsung Heroes of World War II: The Story of the Navajo Code Talkers[/amazon_image]

Click book cover to buy

 

Support Your Starving Authors

Encouraging words bloom like a rose and last much longer.

The time to pull a book off the shelf or download an eBook can be measured in seconds. But the thinking, plotting, researching, writing, deleting, and revising probably involved years. After investing all this time, making a bestseller list is only a dream for most authors, yet their work may bring joy to many readers. When you’re a satisfied reader, please reward the author.

A few kind words warm the author’s heart, boost her spirit, and inspire. More than that, reviews and comments draw attention to the book and sales help feed the starving author. 

I know reviews are hard to write and bring back memories of those high school book reports days. The good news is, you can leave the full-blown reviews to those who love to write them. Your reader comments are extremely valuable. So, I’m offering a quick how-to for any of you who would like to encourage, inspire, and help feed the authors you like.

Think of a one sentence answer to the questions below. Combine a few of those answers to create comments and post them on the book page of online bookstores, your Facebook page, Goodreads, or Twitter.

  •  Did you love, like, or enjoy the book?
  •  When did you get into the story? (Hooked on the first page.  Or, Ease in, getting to know the characters and becoming comfortable in the setting.)
  • Was there a character you’d like to know in person?
  • Did a character remind you of someone you know?
  • Did one character seem like you?
  • Was there a villain you wanted to strangle?
  • Did the romantic line make you feel loved?
  • Did the hero remind you of the man of your dreams?
  • Were you sorry when the story ended?
  • Do you want to read another book by this author?
  • If this book is not your kind of book, do you know someone else who would love it?

Now, take a few of your answers for inspiration and write three or four lines to show your appreciation to the author and help promote the book. Always mention the author’s name and book title.

A helpful comment might be something like this: Deanne Durrett’s [amazon_link id=”B008VTNT2S” target=”_blank” ]The Rogue Trust (Ordinary Days in Myrtle Hill)[/amazon_link] kept me reading past my bedtime. I shared Becca’s fears and suspicions and couldn’t wait to see how she worked things out. If you ever imagined becoming suddenly wealthy, this book will shed new light on your daydreams.

Your words might inspire the author and her next book might be one of the  best you’ll ever read.