WRITING TIPS: MAY 2018

CREATING CHARACTER BIOS FOR YOUR STORY

Here’s a tool that some writers may use and some others may not – writing character bios.

I usually write some kind of character bio for the main characters in a novel I’m working on. Some of my character bios are more detailed than others, some may consist of a paragraph, and others might run a page or more. I usually create the bios when I’m working on the outline. The bios I create are usually pretty simple: the character’s name, age, basic physical description, where they live now and where they grew up, what they do for a living, and usually a little bit about their past.

I don’t like to write every detail down about a character’s life and history because usually a character will change as I write the first draft, that character taking on a life of his or her own as I write, so I like to keep the bios pretty simple. There’s a magic that happens as you write the first draft that will cause you to stray a little from your outline and character bios as new ideas form and the story kind of takes over on its own. As I’ve said before, an outline (and a character bio) aren’t blueprints set in stone, but more like a vague idea of what the story is about before you begin the first draft.

If my bios are really simple, maybe a paragraph or two, then I will include them in  my outline, especially for minor characters. I recommend trying character bios while working on your outline, but as always, it’s up to you.

Hope this helps someone out there. Next month I will talk about building a world for your story. Also, at the end of the month, I’ll write a six month progress report for my writing goals in 2018.

Until next time . . .

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WRITING TIPS: APRIL 2018

TO OUTLINE, OR NOT

Some writers outline and some don’t. Some writers outline some stories, but don’t outline other stories. Some writers create vague outlines, and some create very detailed outlines.

None of that’s right or wrong.

There are some writers who say they never use an outline (sometimes these writers are called pantsers – meaning writing by the seat-of-your-pants). These writers often say they see a character in their mind or the beginning of a story, and then they just start writing from that point, seeing where the story takes them.

I wish I could write like that. But I can’t.

I’m going to tell you what I do, but I do what works best for me, and I recommend that you do what works best for you whether it’s outlining, starting from the beginning of a story and seeing where it takes you, or something in between. I outline, plain and simple. I need to outline before I begin working on a project. I need to know the basic structure of the story I’m writing: the beginning, the middle, and the ending. I need to know a lot about the main characters. I admit that I spend a lot of time on outlines, sometimes weeks or even months before I begin the first draft. My outlines can get pretty detailed, sometimes ten or twelve typed pages, where I break the story down into “scenes” or “beats.” And, for me anyway, having a pretty detailed outline (and character bios and some basic research) helps the first draft come out pretty smoothly and quickly.

Well, usually the first draft comes out pretty quickly.

That’s not to say I haven’t struggled with some of my stories even with a fairly detailed outline. For me, some books are just easier to write than others.

I don’t want you to think that an outline is something etched in stone. I like to think of an outline as a fluid thing, more of a list of suggestions rather than a blueprint. Most of the time my stories or books take different routes from the outline I’ve written, sometimes resulting in very different scenes than I had anticipated – that’s the beauty of writing; it can take on a life of its own once you start putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). Most of the time, characters will come alive and take on lives of their own, taking me down a path I wasn’t expecting. But, with that said, I still already know the very basic structure of the story I’m writing beforehand.

So it’s up to you. You could experiment with outlining one of your books before the first draft and see if it helps. Or you could just start with an intriguing beginning and run with it, see where it takes you. I always recommend some form of outlining, even if it is a basic page of notes on the story, but that’s just because outlining in some form or another has always helped me.

Hope this helps someone out there. Next month I’ll talk about creating character bios for your story in the writing tips for May.

Until next time . . .

 

NOW AVAILABLE – THE VAMPIRE GAME

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Just wanted to let everyone know that THE VAMPIRE GAME is now available on Amazon/Kindle – it’s only .99 cents for a short time.

You can find it here:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07C2M72X9

Thank you, and please feel free to share this post.

The Vampire Game. Is it a myth? A legend? Damon and his friends are invited to play the game. The rules are simple: one, they must complete each task that is sent to them, and each task leads deeper and deeper into the world of vampires; and two, once they are in the game, there is no getting back out.

Cynthia (Cyn), Damon’s girlfriend, quits the game, and now Damon and his friends are stalking her. Cyn’s parents and the police don’t believe her about the vampires, so she turns to the only person she can think of to help her – Theron Metcalf, a former washed-up cop and now a private investigator.

Theron doesn’t entirely believe Cyn’s story, but the first night he meets with her, he sees something he can’t explain. The more Theron learns about the Vampire Game, the stranger things get. Soon, like Cyn, Theron will venture too far into the world of vampires.

 

THE VAMPIRE GAME

So excited to reveal the cover for my newest book – THE VAMPIRE GAME.

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I’m hoping to have this one available on Amazon in the next week or so, and it will be on sale for a short time for .99 cents. I’ll let everyone know when it’s available.

I hope you’ll check it out. Thanks!

WRITING TIPS: MARCH 2018

READ A LOT, WRITE A LOT

Read a lot, write a lot. This might be the best and most succinct advice I’ve ever heard about the writing process – the E=MC2 equation for the writing world. That advice is from Stephen King’s brilliant book ON WRITING, which is one of the best books about the craft of writing I’ve ever read. Even if you’re not a Stephen King fan or a horror writer, I still believe every writer should read this book.

Reading a lot makes sense to me. I believe if you want to write in a certain genre, then you should be familiar with that genre – you should read a ton of books in that genre, and it should probably be a genre you already love to read. There’s a trend right now called writing to market, and that’s great, but if you’re going to try to write books in a “hot” market and you haven’t read a lot of books in that genre, then those readers and fans of that genre may be able to tell right away. I’m not saying don’t try to write to market, but I think it’s helpful to be as familiar with that genre as you can by reading a lot of books from that genre.

Reading a lot in the genre you write in is absolutely important. But I think it can also be beneficial to read books from other genres. I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was a teenager. I mostly read books in the genres I loved: horror, thrillers, and sci-fi. But I also forced myself to read outside of those genres, experimenting with other works, including literary classics. It’s hard for me to imagine a person wanting to write books who doesn’t read a lot and who doesn’t already love to read.

And now to the other half of the equation: write a lot. Writing is a skill. It’s like a muscle that needs to be exercised regularly so it can get stronger. Even for those lucky ones out there who are natural storytellers, writing is still a skill that needs to be honed. There are many naturals in the world of sports, but it’s the athletes who put in the extra hours of practice and watch the extra hours of film that seem to rise to the very top.

You, as a writer, must never stop honing your skills. You must never stop trying to improve. I wouldn’t advise going long periods of time without writing anything.

The 10,000 hour rule. It’s said that to become a master at any craft, you must put in at least ten thousand hours. That means if you worked at writing for forty hours a week, every week of the year, you would still have to work at your craft for five years before you became an expert at it.

Have you put in your five years yet – your ten thousand hours? If you haven’t, don’t feel discouraged. You still have plenty of time to hone your skill, but you must always be practicing and building those writing muscles.

When I first started writing novels in high school, they were terrible. My short stories were rip-offs from my favorite authors. But I had to push through those years of bad writing. I had to put in the hours, put in the years. It was the same thing when I first started to learn the craft of screenwriting. I had already put in my ten thousand hours of writing by then, but screenwriting was a whole new skill to learn, and I had to put in my hours doing that. My first three screenplays were horrible, but I wrote three more, and then three more. I learned the craft as I practiced, and little by little my screenplays improved enough so that producers were eventually reading them, and then some of those producers were optioning them.

So, keep reading a lot and keep writing a lot. There is so much more to learn about the business and pleasure of writing, but those two things are a great foundation to build from.

Hope this helps someone out there.

Until next time . . .

RAZORBLADE DREAMS ON SALE FOR .99 CENTS

RAZORBLADE DREAMS, a collection of twelve horror stories, is on sale for .99 cents on Kindle for a short time.

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Razorblade Dreams – where you’ll get a glimpse into a shadowy world of monsters and psychopaths, demons and ghosts, horrors and thrills, where nothing is what it seems. Stories include:

  • MR. BOONE – Two boys film a ritual to invite a dark spirit into their home. But once Mr. Boone is inside, how do you get him back out?
  • THE DISAPPEARED – A man wakes up to find that he’s the last person on Earth, or are there others waiting for him?
  • ZOMBIE HOUSE – When the zombie apocalypse happens, maybe the person you’re shacked up with is more dangerous than the zombies.
  • THE LIGHTHOUSE – How far would a father go to bring his child back from the dead?
  • RAZORBLADE DREAMS – A woman is stalked by a demented psychic in her nightmares . . . until she learns to fight back.

You’ll find those stories and much more in Razorblade Dreams.

You can find the book on Amazon here:

 

I hope you’ll check the collection out and help spread the word.

WRITING TIPS: FEBRUARY 2018

RESEARCH FOR YOUR STORY

Research – love it or hate it, sometimes it’s necessary in a story/novel that you’re writing. Some stories need more research than others. Research may be necessary to give your story more credibility, to make it more realistic. These little details that  you’ve researched may make the world you’ve built for your story believable enough for your reader to get lost in. You may not be an expert with firearms, or you may not know why a car might break down, or you may not know how the stock market works – but these may come up in one of your stories, and that’s where research will come in to make your story more believable and realistic.

If you come across a detail in your story that you’re not an expert in, you’ve got two choices of what you can do: You can do some research on those details/subjects, or you can make it up. If you decide to wing it, I can almost guarantee that eventually and “expert” will leave a nasty review where he or she calls you out on these “facts” that you’ve made up.

Research is easier than ever now that the internet is at your fingertips, just be sure that the research you’re reading isn’t something someone else has made up. Besides the internet, there are books and magazine articles written on the details you’re looking for. You could even visit locations in person and interview experts.

How much research should you do? This can be tricky. You can bog yourself down in research, which may show up in your writing. Doing too much research can be an easy trap to fall into, and it can take away from your daily or weekly writing goals.

A few other tips about research: Be careful that you’re not copying the research word-for-word in large amounts into your story; this could be blatantly obvious to your readers, or it could possibly infringe on copyright laws. You also don’t want to add every scrap of research you’ve labored over for the last few months into your story. All of those added details, while fascinating to you, may bog your story down (and I’m mainly talking about fiction here – obviously non-fiction would rely more heavily on research). Remember, research for your story/novel can be like seasonings or spices for a meal – you want to add just enough to give it flavor, not dump the whole container into the pot.

Thanks for reading, and I hope this helps someone out there. Please feel free to comment below if you want to.

Until next time . . .