Question of the Month – #IWSG

It is that time of month when I address a question from IWSG. June sixth’s question is: What’s harder for you to come up with, book titles or character names? I can easily say that character names are harder.

Titles for my stories and books have come organically. As I write, something just triggers in my mind and there it is. This doesn’t mean I don’t go back and change it ever. Originally I titled one short story, Bob. I liked the simplicity of it, but as I was writing I found it didn’t capture the depth of it so it became, Bob, An Ordinary Man. In the final edits, I still wasn’t satisfied with it. The final? Ordinary Man. Even though the title changed with my restless dissatisfaction with it, it was never stressful. It just flowed from what I wrote.

Names for characters, on the other hand, make me crazy. In April of 2018 I wrote a blog post addressing this very issue. That particular post addressed the difficulties I had with finding character names in The Manx. For any of my characters, I agonize over them. It feels like naming my children. At least when we named them, it was only for two kids rather than the populations filling my novels.

I have links to websites that list bay/girl names, Welsh, Manx, Irish, German, Polish, and on and on. I do rely on ancestry in many cases. It is fun to discover the rainbow of names. When I’m developing a character I have a list of traits that I want to match to a name. For instance, if I have a shy, mousy, female character who is so quiet people don’t know she’s even in the room, I would resonate with a name like Anne, Chris, or Sarah. The opposite character traits bring names like Debra, Monica, or Sheryl to mind.

There are many ways I drive myself nuts coming up with a character’s name. I really need to try and not be so possessive of their names. Just let all the Franks, Marys, Ethels, and Bernieces be who they are. Not every person is defined by their name. Just like anything in writing it all can be changed or deleted.

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This post inspired by:

Every month, IWSG announces a question that we, the members, can answer in our IWSG post. These questions may prompt us to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story.

The awesome co-hosts for the June 6 posting of the IWSG are Beverly Stowe McClure,Tyrean Martinson,Tonja Drecker, and Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor!

 

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Writer’s Block?

Imagine yourself with a clean sheet of paper in front of you. You have to write a short story about something, but no matter how long you stare at that crisp white piece of paper you have nothing. Zip. Ziltch. Not one word comes to mind.  What do you do? How do you get over the initial panic that comes with every new moment that a story won’t come to mind? You could throw your computer out the window and swear off writing, or maybe just get comfortable with yourself and do some brainstorming.

This morning, I met with several fellow writers and we talked about brainstorming and the techniques we each use to get or mojo flowing.  It was interesting that each of the five people had their own unique way to brainstorm.  Therefore, you too should look at each of these as an idea for you to mull over and in the end come up with a formula that works for you.

  • Look for intense moments from your life (or someone else’s): This can be a tough one depending on the situation. Some events in life are better left in the past, but some of them can make for a great scene, short story, or book.
  • Ask questions: Get out a sheet of paper and a pencil. I like pencils because they seem to be more connected with the paper. Plus, pens are too permanent – you can erase pencil. Getting back to your paper…. When a question pops into your mind write it down. Don’t take the time to answer it, yet. Keep writing them down until your mind feels empty of them. Now, go back and answer them.
  • Play with your attractions: What sort of things attract you? Do you love wine, bookstores, plants, hiking, rock climbing, or knitting? Any one of these are potential subjects.
  • Use pre-printed idea cards: Let’s say you are listening to the news and you hear a n odd story that you think would be interesting to write about. Jot it down on a note pad or an index card. These will become your idea cards.
  • Online themes: there are plenty of websites and social media that provide writing prompts, contests, and games. Writers Digest, Penguin Random House, and Creative Writing Prompts are just a few that I use when I’m stuck.
  • Word dumps: sit down and just write nonsense words. Keep writing them until you feel the flood gates open. Put them on index cards. This turns your word dumps into idea cards.

One of the keys to be successful in these exercises is to stay away from your computer. Handwritten words are powerful. There is a connection between your hand and your brain that isn’t present between the computer and your brain. According to an article in Time, “… creative people have greater connectivity between these brain networks that tend to work in opposition in most people. This messiness of creativity at the neurological level mirrors its real-life complexity.”

Creative minds like a little bit of disorganization. Handwriting is one way to provide it. Scribbling up the margins, scratching out mistakes, flipping the page over to write upside-down all contribute to a wonderfully, messy, creative mind. Next time you’re stumped for words, grab a piece of paper, napkin, or the palm of your hand and start writing. Your mind will do the rest.

A to Z Challenge – Reflecting Back

What a month April was for the A to Z Blog Challenge. I did write a blog post everyday during the challenge and worked out a few kinks for my book (that was a big bonus for me). You, my followers also got a peek into The Manx and learned about the Isle of Man. I hope you go visit one day; I know I will.

The challenge was also about marketing and spreading the word around about the challenge and about my blog, K.J. Scrim, Writer. Looking at my stats I did get a big bump in readership for the month. I came out with 260+ visitors during the month whereas a normal month is about 35.

The comments were a little lagging, but I enjoyed those who took the time to say something. Thank you.

I understand that the more who people interact with your blog (through comments) the higher your algorithms bump you up in status. With over two hundred participants in the challenge I was expecting more. I did blog hop to at least 5 new blogs a day, but it did get a little too much to try and comment on everyone of them so I understand why that part didn’t work out as well.

All in all, I had a great time doing the A to Z Challenge. It got me writing everyday. It got me thinking about my book and working out those lose ends. The real bonus? It introduced me to a few blogs that I would have never known about before. Will I do it again next year? I plan on it. Until then, enjoy this blog as it will be a little more active than it has been in the past.

SURVIVOR!!!!

What Season is More Productive?

I have never had this question posed to me. When do I write the most? I have never paid very much attention to my productivity in the past, but I can say that this year I have written more the first half of 2018 than any other time I can remember.

The first burst came in February for the 28 Days of Writing Challenge. It is hosted by Leap into Writing and your’s truly, me. I started this challenge about three years ago because I liked my sanity…NaNoWriMo is in November. Really? For me, this is one of the worse months of the year. I can easily say that November and December are zero-productive months so NaNo was out.

On the other hand, February is one of the most boring months of the year, and it’s short. Leap into Writing was born during the last Leap Year, along with 29 Days of Writing. (Obviously, every other year is 28 days so I renamed it the next year). This challenge is to write every day of the month. No days off allowed. Write as many words as you can and you’re golden. We also do weekly challenges (Word Wars is my favorite) to get the word counts up, along with writing prompts to get the creative juices flowing.

A second burst came in April with the A to Z Writing Challenge. This just finished up a couple of days ago, and I now have 26 blog posts more than I would have had without it. I enjoyed trying to come up with a blog subject based on a letter of the alphabet, and I hope you enjoyed reading them too.

Last, a big inspiration for this time of year is Pikes Peak Writer’s Conference. PPWC is always an inspiration and a great way to kick off the summer to write. If you are a writer, I encourage you to attend a writing conference near you (or take a vacation and travel to one far away). Here are just a few suggestions:

I’m sure there are many, many more. If there is a conference you love to go to please list them in the comments below.

For now, I am in the most productive stage of my writing career. I am excited! What about you?

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This post Inspired by:

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Our amazing co-hosts for the May 2 posting of the IWSG are E.M.A. Timar, J. Q. Rose, C.Lee McKenzie, and Raimey Gallant!

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Y is for YOY? (Why Oh Why?)

Tonight I am asking myself, Why oh why did I wait until 10:00 at night to write this post?” I could have pre-written it, put up it on the scheduler, and had it automatically post today. But did I do that? No. So, here I am, 10:00 at night (yes I know, that’s not late to most people) writing my ‘Y’ post for the A to Z blog Challenge.

Why did I wait? I blame it all on the Pikes Peak Writer’s 2018 Conference – #PPWC2018. What an awesome event. Pikes Peak Writers hosts an annual conference where they bring a few hundred writers together, throw them in a hotel for three days with authors, publishers, editors, and agents who teach all these writers an amazing amount of writerly things.

I have come to PPWC for the past four years and love it. I have not only gained a wealth of knowledge from the facilitators, but I have made some lasting friendship as well. Each year I leave PPWC with my mouth hanging open and my brain bursting from all of the amazing things I have learned. WOW.

This year, I was not disappointed. Just to list a few classes I attended:

  • Perfect Placement – Debbie Maxwell talked about where to put the power words. When power words are at the end of a sentence, scene, or paragraph this compels your reader to keep reading.
  • Busting the Block – MB Partlow guided us through ways to overcome writers block. My favorite ideas were to have one of your characters pull out a gun. Even if that action isn’t relative to the story that’s ok. It is an excersises to get the creative juices going again.
  • WordPress for Writers – Kristy Ferrin took us, step by step, through the process of setting up WP. Even though I have been on WP for several years, I finally found out how to use some of those “things” (like what the heck is a plug-in?).

Over the course of three days there are over 60 workshops to choose from, panels, queries, critiques. Then there is always Write Drunk, Edit Sober. This prompt driven writing session is very popular too.

So, here I am, sitting on my bed in a hotel room, computer in my lap, and I’m no longer wondering Y-O-Y did I wait to write this post? I’m glad I did. I’m glad I could share just a little bit of this wonderful weekend with you. Next year, you all will be here too!

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This post inspired by – Y

Z is for Zoo

N is for Names

In choosing names for The Manx I used surnames that were listed in the census logs of the Isle of Man. I went as far back as I could find records for so that the names were as authentic as I could make them. Kaitlin Manning is named for the island, Mann (as it is sometimes spelled). Her first name is not of Manx origin, but she was born in America so I leaned toward something that would fit here in the states. Donal Kennaugh’s surname is one of the oldest I could find, plus I just liked it. His first name is of Manx origin and means “world conqueror.”

The book also takes us back into Manx history. King Magnus the Barefoot was king of Norway 1093-1103, during this time he was on the Isle of Man. King Magnus was ruthless in the battles he waged. He dominated much of the coastal area around the Irish sea. He had forts built on Man and he spent much of his time there while he was busy conquering the Irish Sea. His daughters, Ragnhild and Tora (I changed this name to Thora in the book), will play major parts in the past as well, along with a few other characters from his court.

The extent of historical accuracy does end there. I have used the names from the past  and taken a lot of artistic liberty with their characters. I also followed some of the historical narrative to build personalities for them, but that’s about it.

There have been days that I spent hours looking for names getting lost in the histories and the side trips of the internet. I am still building new characters so if you are Manx and know of a few good places, or people, that you think should be included. Leave a comment. I’d love to learn more.

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This post inspired by – N

O is for Osran

Writing a Book Review

Writing a book review is not just about how much you liked or disliked a book, but an opportunity to have a more in depth look into the writing itself. When you are asked to write a book review your first step, obviously, is to read the book. Every word of the book. No matter how poorly it is written, you still have to read the book in its entirety.

As you read, take notes to jot down some of the areas you found to be thought provoking, or if you notice your emotions being tickled in some way. If you come across a passage that is quote worthy, write it down to have in your final written review. Consider what the author is trying to accomplish in the story. Here are a few questions to consider as you are reading:

  • How does the story flow?
  • Does it carry you along on an unforgettable journey, or are you pitched about with no rhyme or reason?
  • How invested are you feeling?
  • Do you care about any of the characters, where they are, and the challenges they are facing?
  • Are there any gaps or unexplained holes in the story?
  • In the end, are all the loose ends tied up?

Once your reading is done, review your notes then set it all aside for a day or two. You may not feel comfortable doing this because you might loose the spark and excitement you felt while reading the book. Or, you might find that this is a good time to breath and allow the story to sink into all the nooks and crevasses. You may find yourself more objective in your review.

You have taken the time you need to absorb the book and now it is time to write a review. Most reviews contain the basics: Title, author, publisher, date of publication, genre, page or word count, ISBN. Once the basics are in, then tackle the body of the review. Be sure you are reviewing the book that was written, not what you wish had been written. To whine about what you wanted defeats the whole purpose of a review, which is to inform a potential reader if this is a worthwhile book to read.

Tell your audience what you thought of the book and why. Just saying “it’s a good/bad book” is not much help. Give examples of what made it good or bad (remember the notes you jotted down?). Were there so many grammatical errors your head was spinning, or did the story sweep you away to another planet where you could taste the grit and feel the oil in the air? These added details will give the reader a better idea of why you liked/disliked the book.

Many reviewers will include a brief synopsis of the story so the reader has an idea of what the book is about. If your review is going to be listed on Amazon, Goodreads, or Bookbub, you may not need the story intro because it is already there. But, if you are reviewing it on a blog or for a magazine it is a good idea to give a quick introduction to the story.

Including something about the author is another option. Is it a debut novel, or the final in a 10 part series? Maybe the author usually writes scifi and this is a break out historical fiction. These little tid-bits add interest for the reader and will keep them reading your review. In turn, they will read the book you have just reviewed and the author may ask for another from you.

Keep your comments as balanced as you can. No matter how horrible a book is, there has to be something good worth mentioning. Authors have pretty tough skin, but make an effort not to send them out to the slaughter. They have spent months – or years- on it. Give them some nuggets they can grow with as an author. Your review should teach as much as criticize.

Your review is not about you and your taste in genres. It is a way to help a possible reader know what a book is about and why they too might like to read, or pass to the next choice.