Trouble writing your story? #Author Kevin A. Ranson has this #writingtip.

12182182_10153535926927702_9617671_nI had the pleasure of meeting Kevin A. Ranson at a Creatures of the Nyght local book club meeting a few weeks ago. In an industry where you meet lots of people who just want to know what YOU can do for THEM, not how you can be there for each other, Kevin was a refreshing change of pace. Definitely a cool guy, and an amazing writer to boot. I’m honored that he agreed to guest post on my blog. If you’re in a writing rut, Kevin’s got the skills to pay the bills…so check out his writing tip.

Without further delay…

Taking the Time to Write the Right Story

When people find out I’m a writer, I’m asked, “How long does it take to complete a novel?”

One book took me over two decades to write: The Matriarch, a vampire novel set in and around my old college town in central West Virginia.

Truth to tell, it wasn’t ready to be written. I was telling the wrong story.

The original main character’s name was Daniel, a young man lucky enough to have the love of a young woman. One evening while left alone, the young woman is attacked by something or someone but doesn’t remember what happened. As Daniel mistakes her transformation for severe illness, he is forced to watch as a person dependent upon him ends up no longer needing him. She becomes a creature of the night and destroys her maker in revenge. In the end, she asks Daniel to join her – forever – but he’s too afraid to trust and accept…and she is lost to him.

It was supposed to be an emotional journey, but it never worked. Fortunately, I knew just enough to know I didn’t know enough to make the story work. I had neither the real-world knowledge nor the writing skill yet. After two complete drafts, I shelved it…forgetting it ever existed for a time.

Life went on.

Twenty years later, I found and skimmed through the manuscripts again, realizing the biggest problem: there was no reason to care anything about Daniel. He wasn’t the protagonist; he was a narrator. He didn’t do anything. It was the young woman’s story, and the first thing I needed to do was to give it to her.

In my own life growing up, I had several matriarchs on both sides of my family, willful and capable women who 12182207_10153535927187702_1549625341_nsought their spouses as partners instead of rescuers. My new protagonist, Janiss, needed these qualities but also the opportunity to develop them. I recreated her as an only child encouraged by her father and groomed by her mother, but I also tempered her with a childhood spent with two neighboring brothers, one of whom was Daniel. Janiss had the capability and the means to become whatever or whoever she wanted to be, but there needed to be a catalyst to spark her vampire hero’s journey.

But what to do with former boyfriend Daniel: her safe bet for a normal, peaceful, and uneventful life? He had to die, of course…and Janiss would be the one to kill him. If he couldn’t be a good example, I was going to make him a dire warning. Yes, I tried to save him – I never intended for him to die – but I couldn’t see how he could survive because of the second story problem.

In the original draft, the transformation had been a cakewalk. The flu? Nah. Vampires, I thought, should be both dangerous and deadly, and that needed to be seen and felt immediately. The antagonist couldn’t make it easy for Janiss and neither could I. Killing the person she meant to spend the rest of her life with (after being murdered herself) was truly the loss of everything. Worse yet, how could she go to anyone for help when she might murder them, too? It made no sense telling a story about bloodthirsty monsters if they could too easily resist their killing nature; only living human blood would do.

Daniel’s death also served a greater purpose. The antagonist set Janiss up to choose evil, gift-wrapping the boy like a Happy Meal in a scheme to destroy who she was. Instead, she chose to cling to his memory, a reminder to keep it under control. Vampires in my world are cursed with a piece of the soul and memories of those they kill through blood drain. Daniel wasn’t just her first victim; he would always be with her. Most would call that a curse, but she embraced it to hold into her humanity.

Finally, there was a local legend, a century-old ghost story about a tragic event I knew about but hadn’t before fully researched. Names, places, and a still-unsolved mystery…every element ripe for fictionalization. The novel then took on a life of its own as well as retained a distinctly Mountain State flavor. I could no longer limit the story to one book! Fully formed characters appeared from nowhere that become integral to the series, all of whom were inspired by people or personalities I have known in my life. It’s more than I could have ever hoped for, and it often continues to surprise me what my characters do next.

If you’ve been sitting on an idea for a book that feels unfinished, don’t fret; maybe you’re right. Your creation may not be ready for birth and you may not be ready to parent it into the world. Work on other things and live a little; revisit your idea from time to time. Inspiration is everywhere and in everything, so look for it all around you.

When you’re ready, it will be waiting.

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Kevin A. Ranson is a content creator, horror writer, and film critic.

Heeding a macabre calling listening to “Mother Ghost Nursery Rhymes” in kindergarten, Kevin started writing in grade school and filled countless notebooks with story ideas while touring the Mediterranean in the US Navy. He is the author of The Spooky Chronicles and the vampire thriller series The Matriarch at CedarcrestSanctum.com, creator/critic for MovieCrypt.com and “ghost writer” for horror host Grim D. Reaper. Jedi master of Google-Fu, Bing-Jitsu, and buttered toast.

Author Blog: http://thinkingskull.com

Social Media:

http://www.amazon.com/author/kevinaranson

https://www.goodreads.com/kevinaranson

http://twitter.com/kevinaranson

https://www.facebook.com/KevinARanson

#WritingTips From a Non-expert. #AskAuthor

This is a question I get asked often (at least once a week), so I’m reposting this from FB. Next time I answer it, all I’ll have to do is send this link. I’m all about efficiency.

Friend: Do you have any writing tips for me? I don’t even know where to start.

Dicey: *I am no expert, and I hardly consider myself a “successful” writer, but for some friends, I am the only one they know personally who has taken this dream of writing/publishing books and run with it. In that regard, they consider me an inspiration. I am humbled by that, and do not take it lightly. So I answer their questions as best I can…after giving my disclaimer. These are my tips on how to get started with writing a book. Feel free to share yours in a comment below.*

#1: Read a lot of books. Most successful (more so than me) writers will tell you this is the biggest factor in being a good writer. If you want to write fiction, you should probably stick to reading fiction. Just mix up the genre a bit. See who writes in the way you aspire to and learn from them by absorbing how they do it. Then tweak it until you’ve formed your own style.

#2: Be passionate about writing, and be passionate about the story you want to write. This will get you through writing slumps, being harsh on yourself when things aren’t going exactly how you want them to, and those times when you feel alone in marketing/promoting the work you’ve labored over but it’s not getting the support and attention it deserves. In order to be a good writer, it can’t be a passing fancy or just something you want to try. You have to feel in your heart that it’s a part of you.

#3: Write every day. Even when I’m not working on a book, I’m finding a way to put my thoughts into written word via blogging (more like Facebooking, these days), long debates on social media, emails, forums, you name it. When being a writer is who you are, you won’t have any other choice but to write. Do it daily.

#4: Get organized (writing space, materials, scheduling) and prepare to spend lots of time on each writing project. When it comes to organizing your writing, you’ll have to try different methods and see which one fits you best. Some outline their book ahead of time. Others write as they go. Maybe start with an outline and see how that works. Either way, START writing your book, and most importantly–FINISH it.

#5: Read a “how to write” guide, if you really have difficulty starting. I haven’t read it, but a lot of writers swear by Stephen King’s manual On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft: http://amzn.to/1wAAT57 He’s certainly waaaay more successful at writing than I am, so it’s probably worth checking out. You can read his top 20 rules for writers here.

Good luck!

Good And Bad Feedback Welcomed.

I have a confession: Some days are harder than others when it comes to expressing myself creatively. Sometimes the ideas flow smoothly like a river after several days of rain. Other days, there are things in my brain that get in the way. I’ve noticed a major influence on my state of mind is the feedback I receive from readers. When someone is overjoyed about my books, I’m on cloud 9, so I write like I have a direct link to the heavens. It’s hell’s fire on the brain when the feedback is harsh.

But I’ve been lucky, thus far. Most has been positive. In fact, all the reviews on Amazon have made me smile. Big. I’m not dumb enough to think it’s going to remain that way though. Last week, I made the Kindle edition of both of my books FREE for forty-eight hours. With over two thousand downloads, I was excited to gain the exposure. Excited to know there was that much interest. Excited, knowing more reviews would pour in. Eventually. Hopefully. There will be some good, some bad, and everything in between. I just know it.

So I’m putting on my mental body armor. Shielding myself from comments that will keep me up at night pacing the floor, doubting myself. The sort of comments that will make finishing this sequel difficult because in the back of my mind I’d be thinking about what others think.

My strategy? In addition to focusing on 1) comments from readers who enjoy my work and their encouragement to keep going, 2) my maniacal drive to be the best I can be at ANYTHING, and 3) my betas wrapping me tightly with positivism and good vibes, I’ve been 4) stalking following those that I deem successful in their crafts. Following them to see how they deal with everything people have to say about their creations. Following authors, business people, actors, talk show hosts, musicians, models, athletes–everyone–to see how they respond to positive  feedback and how they handle criticism. Folks like Oprah and Beyonce’, who get criticized left and right, but still manage to be at the top of any list they are featured on.

I’ve mentioned on my blog before how much I enjoy Larissa Ione‘s books. And as much as I consider them FIVE STAR readings, there have been many others who think the Demonica series and the Lords of Deliverance (Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse) series are trash. WTF! You mean, two people can read the same book and walk away from it with polarizing views? Amazing, isn’t it? That’s the very reason I asked her this via email:

Dicey: “Two people can read the same book with one loving it and the other hating it. Having readers love your books is awesome, but how do you deal with criticism?”

And she was kind enough to respond back with this:

Larissa: “Okay, how do I deal with criticism? Well, honestly, it depends on the criticism. Some of it I can laugh off. I recently got a review on Amazon to the effect of “There were so many curse words that I wonder if the author can write a book without them.” Heh. And he can stop wondering because the answer is “Why the hell would I do that?” 🙂 In all seriousness, criticism can hurt, but I’ve learned to avoid reviews when I can. Sometimes they find you, but I don’t go intentionally looking for them. Also, the skin does thicken over time. Reviews that KILLED me when I first was published now are barely shrug-worthy. It’s a process!”

Dicey: I am seriously fan-girling over this. Thanks!

You know what I take away from this? 1) Laugh it off sometimes. Whenever you can, really. 2) If it’s a matter of taste, they can get another book. Writers don’t change  contents for readers. 3) Criticism may hurt, so avoid reading reviews if you can. 4) I’m still new to the game, but it’ll get easier over time.

LOVE IT! No, I don’t get paid for this endorsement. I just really love her books. And I like that she’s accessible to fans. She also said she was going to read mine, which tickles me senseless. She could have just been saying it to be nice, but whatever. I’ll take it.

Okay. I said I was watching LOTS of accomplished folks, right? Well, Tom Hardy is my crush/muse of the week. Really going on two weeks now. I LOVE him! He’s so crazy. Has a totally unbridled tongue. Doesn’t care what anyone thinks. He says what he wants, and whatever happens, happens. That’s my kinda guy. I lifted this from an interview he did with Novid Parsi, Time Out Chicago on February 15, 2012:

Novid: You’ve been a straight talker in interviews, saying you want adulation as an actor, you’ve sexually experimented with guys—not typical things to hear from a rising film star. Is it getting trickier to remain that publicly frank?

Tom: I have to be more careful about how outspoken I am, which is a shame ’cause things get taken out of context. And at the end of the day, 30 percent of the people are gonna hate you, 30 percent are gonna like you, and another 30 percent of people just don’t give a shit, so you’re really only talking to one in three.

Dicey: Oh, God. How can I meet Tom? We’ll make it a double date. Bring Charlotte. I’ll bring the hubby…

But seriously, he made a good point. One that’s been mentioned time and time again, without his sexy British accent: you can’t please everybody. *turning the finger back to myself* Dicey, you can’t please everyone. Don’t try. Just be grateful for the ones who get you.

That being said, I welcome ALL feedback on my books. If you love ’em, tell the world. If you don’t, tell the world. Make sure you tell them why though. Too much profanity? Too much sex? Too many controversial issues (ie. abortion, rape, interracial relationships, abuse, gore, homosexuality, deviant sex…)? Believe it or not–somebody’s going to think that’s a plus. Oh, yeah. 🙂

As of today, there are fifteen 5-star and six 4-star reviews for Sleepy Willow’s Bonded Soul: The Narcoleptic Vampire Series Book 1 on Amazon. There are three 5-star and one 4-star review for Shameful.

This calls for celebration! Cheers!

Writing To Entertain, Not To Pass A Test.

I mentioned in my last post: “Negative opinions and criticism can be hard to deal with about something we writers work so hard to create. But it comes with the territory. We lay our souls and hearts and feelings on the line for anyone with a platform to shout out how much they love or hate our work. It can be brutal.” So today, I’d like to continue talking about some of the criticism I’ve received for my novel Sleepy Willow’s Bonded Soul: The Narcoleptic Vampire Series Book 1.

Most often I’ve heard “I love your writing style”, but once someone called it weird and felt words were missing. I learned that this person considered herself a writer as well, and all I can say is–I probably would not enjoy her writing style either. As with a lot of books, it would probably be too wordy for me. But that’s just me.

This is what I had to say about my writing style in the last post: “I write the way I prefer to read–in the most basic way of saying the most convoluted things. Bare bones. Choppy. Straight to the point.”

I learned this was the style I preferred to read during the year prior to writing Sleepy Willow–when I read FORTY-SIX fiction books.

So about my choppy writing style…

Let me just throw this out there right now–I know how to write. Throughout high school, undergrad, grad, and law school, writing was my STRONG area. I didn’t get straight A’s on writing assignments for nothing. I didn’t win national writing awards for nothing. Friends, colleagues, and professors didn’t come to me to edit their papers and journal articles…I didn’t ghost as a work-for-hire writer on assignments…or become a senior law review editor…for nothing. I know about subject and verb agreement, and that run-ons are a no-no. I can write as technical and as grammatically correct as the next one. I know how to dot the i’s and cross the t’s, how to spell, and how to use some pretty big words doing it. And what I don’t know–I know how to research to find the answer.

This is not me bragging, dear reader, because none of this has anything to do with writing fiction. Knowing the rules for writing a convincing legal brief does me no good when it comes to entertaining a reader looking for an escape into an exciting imaginary world. All those rules have to go out the window because they are BORING.

The first draft of my novel Shameful contained very few errors but it was 156k words. YIKES! There’s no way all those words were necessary. I had to edit and edit and edit and edit some more until I got it down to 95k. NOW it reads like a novel. Now, it can be enjoyed. Or hated, depending on how you feel about Joanne cheating with a sixteen-year-old.

I had to remember I was writing to entertain, not to pass a writing test.

I’ll use paragraphs from the first chapter to illustrate how I write.

1. I use fragments and incomplete sentences to emphasize points: “Once I heard the smoke machine fogging the stage and felt the spotlight center on my coffin, I slowly raised the lid and held it there to give their human eyes a moment to adjust to the fog. To focus on me in the darkness.” Here, I’m emphasizing that they have to focus on her in the darkness. And I combine sentences to keep from breaking the flow.

2. I omit useless and unnecessary words: “Couldn’t see Remi through the white wraps across my eyes, but I smelled him. Sensed his essence, his soul. He was alone at his usual table on the far left near the stage, wearing his usual intoxicating cologne. I smelled his cigarette in the ashtray and liquor in his glass. Knew I’d taste a hint of both in his blood later, but it would still be hot, thick and delicious.” I don’t have to say “I couldn’t see Remi” or “I sensed his essence and soul” or “I knew I’d taste”. It’s implied. Anyone with enough sense to read, has enough sense to get the implication. Without the extra words it moves faster. Pacing is important in fiction.

Given all the profanity and grit in the chapter, that may be all the illustrations I should include here. That’s enough to make my point though, right? Or perhaps my use of profanity and grit is illustration #3. 🙂

There you have it. I prefer writing this way. Since my betas love it, I think I’ll stick to it.

Of course, there is no ONE right style. Authors should do what works for them. Readers should read what they most enjoy. Our differences make us interesting.

More criticism/feedback with author commentary to come. Examples: 1. Where are the black men in your story? 2. Willow gets her butt kicked WAY too much. 3. Your story’s well-edited. What’s your secret? I also have a comment or two from other authors on how they deal with criticism. Larissa Ione, one of my faves, took the time to write me back about this, so look out for her thoughts on it.

If you have read my novel and have something you’d like me to address, by all means comment below. I’d be happy to. You know me by now–no topic is off-limits.

Writing Sex Scenes Part II.

I’ve only completed two novels–that’s the disclaimer. Readers have commented on how much they love the sex scenes in my books–that’s my validation. That’s what qualifies me to give tips. I don’t purport to be an expert. I don’t pretend these will work for everyone. I’m sure others write better scenes…or ones more suitable to particular tastes. But I have had some experience with it. And since I’m still a lowly indie author, I’ll actually take the time to share my techniques with you.

WARNING: This is another post for the grown and sexy. Do NOT read further if discussions about sex offend you…and you happened to have missed the title.

Last week, Thomas Bryant and I discussed writing sex scenes. It was short. It was funny. And it was a good intro to today’s tips for writing sex scenes. You can read it here.

After said post, fellow indie author, Alesha Escobar, had this to say: “Okay, I confess I’m still a wimp when it comes to this. If I’m feeling awkward, it’s going to come across in the scene–then I just look like a dork. I know I’m supposed to stay away from purple prose and laughable metaphors. So any advice? :-)

Thomas Bryant’s advice: “I did mention a bottle of wine, didn’t I, Alesha?”

I agree with Thomas. Wine does help.

Here are some other tips for writing sex scenes:

1. Enjoy sex. Enjoy talking about it. Enjoy watching it. Enjoy reading it. Enjoy writing it.

Why? Because…

a. If you enjoy sex and make it a daily part of your discussions, thoughts, and lifestyle, that passion will translate on paper.

b. If you don’t enjoy it, you’ll hurry through a scene. You’ll have a bunch of words with no depth. You’ll just be going through the motions and so will your characters.

c. The more you enjoy sexy situations, the more you will write them. The more you write sex scenes, the better you get at sex writing sex scenes. 🙂

Downside: you may go overboard. I have been told by one reader to tone DOWN the sex a bit. So, take my tips with a grain of salt. Decide how important your sex scenes are to your story and prepare accordingly. My characters are sexy, wild, daring, and risky. So sex is pretty integral. I keep the characters in mind, not readers. My target audience will love the characters AND the sex scenes.

Which leads me to…

2. Forget everybody else. If you’re thinking about what your mommy, preacher, children or whomever are going to think, you won’t be able to let your characters go in order to do what they want to do. You’re writing fiction. Later for whoever doesn’t get that.

3. Get in a sexy mind frame before you start writing a scene. If you’re doing #1, this will be easy. And this is where Bryant’s suggestion of wine helps. I like to create a sexy atmosphere. Visualize what my characters are going to do. Then describe it as if I am in the moment with them. Freaky? Maybe. But it works.

4. Read lots of sex scenes. Figure out who writes the ones you enjoy the most. Figure out why. Learn from that author.

I’ve read LOTS of books. Discovered I liked books with sex in them the most (which is why YA is not my favorite genre). Disliked the overly sappy ones. Disliked the solely erotic ones. Enjoyed a good plot with good sex scenes the best. Once I started reading J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood, I was ruined for other authors. I discovered I liked the choppy style. The fast-paced, raunchy way of describing the acts. And that’s where I adopted my style from. It’s uniquely mine, but highly influenced by hers.

Find your influence. Roll with it.

5. Don’t be awkward. Be fun. Be sexy.

How?

Remember that sex is a natural part of life. As far as I know, we all come with genitalia and the urge to use them for more than bodily functions. In fact, with nearly seven billion people in the world, it’s obvious there’s a lot of sex going on. It should be celebrated. Revered.

Don’t feel embarrassed. Don’t feel shy. Keep in mind you’re writing about something everybody does…or wish they did. It’s what people do behind closed doors. And that’s where they’re going to read your books with YOUR sex scenes.

6. Write the scenes as your characters would experience them. You’re just the narrator. They are the participants. My character, Joanne, in Shameful does some bad stuff…but none of that is as bad as what my character, Willow, does in Sleepy Willow’s Bonded Soul. Why? Because Willow’s a vampire based in fantasy and Joanne’s a wife and mother based in reality. Willow and Joanne both have sex, but their experiences are very different because of who they are.

These are tips from the top of my head. I’ll do a Part III when I think of more. If you’re an author with a tip to share, by all means–leave a comment.

Writing Sex Scenes.

Well-known authors and those published through traditional publishers, get plenty of exposure. And though I’ve read, and still do read many of those books, I also support indie authors. In fact, I intend to feature several on my blog via guest blogging, interviews, and reviews.

Today, Thomas Bryant, indie author of LONG GONE, answers a few questions about writing sex scenes. You can follow his blog here.

And this is where I post a WARNING TO READERS: IF YOU ARE OFFENDED BY DISCUSSIONS ABOUT SEX, STOP READING NOW.

Because that is what Thomas and I are discussing. I mean, the title should have been a tip-off.

You’ve been warned.

1. How do you prepare to write a sex scene?

Thomas: I get out a bottle of wine and make sure I’ve a condom or five. LOL seriously I put myself in the frame of mind of the partners. This will vary, depending on whether it’s married sex or single-sex. Married sex might go something like this: Marge came out in her good robe and when she bent over, I thought ‘hell I can watch Bonanza any time.’ And single-sex might go something like this: There she was, with a saddle and a pair of jumper cables.

Okay, this time I’m really serious. This is the scene that I wanna do as soon as I begin writing for the day because my energy is high and, like sex, I want to take my time. I will expend a lot of energy on this scene as my partners take each other in with all of their five and maybe even six senses.

Dicey: Okay. Honestly, you really had me rolling with the first line.

2. Do you find it easier or harder than writing an action scene?

Thomas: I wouldn’t classify it under easier or harder. I would say it is a lot more time-consuming and more critical than any other scene. More than any other scene, my words have to flow like poetry. And it is most critical that my characters and their surroundings appear absolutely vivid and multidimensional while the tempo in my writing must reflect the rhythm and pace of the scene as well as the characters.

Dicey: I find pacing and vividness very critical too.

3. Is there anything you refuse to write in a sex scene?

Thomas: Yes! I could never write scenes that might be considered kiddie porn or male homosexual sex. I have to be able to put myself in the frame of mind of my characters and that would be impossible to do in these scenarios. Now, I know what you’re thinking: ‘well what about lesbian sex?’ And the short answer is, I could write those. I never have, but I know that I could put myself in between those characters. I think most guys have put themselves in that position, in fantasy or reality at some point. I’m sorry, did I say short answer? For some reason, I seem to have belabored my point. And I meant to say in the frame of mind of those characters and not in between them. Must’ve been a Freudian slip.

Dicey: LMAO! Belaboring your point was effective in this instance.

I do have to say that we differ on the male homosexual sex though. I can’t wait to write an upcoming scene of the sort. I love reading these scenes from other authors and this will be a first at writing one for me.

And man…I sure hope the scenes in my novel SHAMEFUL between Joanne (39) and Alex (16) aren’t considered kiddie porn.

Thanks, Thomas!

More indie authors to come.

Read Part II here.