What If …

images-5                 I’m convinced that the best sellers are those that ask the question, “What if?” I admit that I’m a little partial to a Mystery or a Whodunit. However, what a reader really wants is to be taken on an adventure. I also happen to like learning something new or being challenged in some way. So let’s examine what would happen if …

Christmas is the perfect time to ask this question and many of our beloved holiday stories start with this premise. Frosty the Snowman asks the question, “What would happen if a snowman came to life?” Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer asks, “What would happen if one of Santa’s reindeer had a red nose?” The Grinch Who Stole Christmas asks, “What would happen if someone stole Christmas?” I followed this same formula with my own children’s story, I Wish For Snow. I was curious to know, what would happen if a little girl asks for snow on an island?

I Wish for Snow Cover

The next time you are having difficulty with a theme or plot twist begin with a question – What if? Exploring all the possibilities and even the impossibilities of a situation will open the story up to intrigue. The best way to give your characters an interesting dilemma is to examine how they would respond if the rug is pulled out from under them. The most interesting characters are those that are a little abnormal in some way.  Edward Scissorhands was one of the most unusual Holiday tales that asks, “What if a man was created with scissors for hands?” The answer, is what makes this a classic story.

Until Next Time,

Nicole D.P. McLaughlin

Book Trailer for I Wish For Snow by Flye Books

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National Novel Month

The Great Gatsby

November is National Novel Writing Month. If you’ve been wanting to write a great American novel, this is your month. There are programs that promise that if you follow their method, you can write a novel in 30 days. Whether you write fast or slow, I encourage you to get started writing this month. If you’re like I was when I began writing my first novel (which I’m still working on), you may wonder how to get started. Here’s my simple tips on how to write your first novel in the next one to six months.

  • Choose an engaging theme
  • Create interesting characters
  • Chose an attractive local or setting
  • Make sure the plot has plenty of things at stake for your characters
  • Leave somethings to the imagination of the reader
  • Show don’t tell
  • Write dialogue that mimics the natural rhythms of speech
  • Add an element of surprise
  • Give the reader a satisfying conclusion

Once you’ve done all of this, it’s time to edit and re-write and craft your writing. If you’ve every read a novel in a weekend, it was because the writer was a master a their craft. They kept you wanting to know what happens next. They created characters that you cared enough about to keep reading until the end. And if you really enjoyed the book, they ended it in a way that was satisfying to you. In order to write like this, you will need to know a few things.

  1. Your Audience
  2. Your Genre
  3. Your Craft

All of these things can be learned and improved upon. Writing is one of those things you learn by doing. You also learn by reading the kind of books you want to write. My novel, as I mentioned is not complete. The story is complete but the word count is about half that of an average novel. I could put it out as a novella, however, I believe that I can expand it. So in honor of National Novel Month, I’ll be revisiting my novel. I probably won’t finish it this month because of all the other things I’ve got going on. I may finish by the end of the year, if I get focused on it.

If you are going to start or complete a novel this month, I want to hear from you. Please leave a comment and let me know your title and the name of your main character.  At the end of the month I’ll check back in with you to see how it’s going.

Until Next Time,

Nicole D.P. McLaughlin

Focus

Today’s post is about how to make it as a professional writer.  Most artistic types are  resigned to struggle and barely make it in life.  I for one have never wanted to be a starving artist, and so I’ve done my best to find ways to make money writing.  I know a hand full of writers who like myself, are at various levels of making it. I also know many other writers who would love to write for a living but for now, writing is basically a hobby. The difference between writing as a hobby and writing to pay the bills is an issue of focus.  If you know anything about self-actualization, you know that what you focus on the most is what will manifest. So where is your focus?

If your focus is off, try adopting some of the following practices to renew your focus.

  1. Write everyday. Give yourself a word limit and do it everyday.
  2. Read something everyday. Preferably in the genre you want to write in.
  3. Learn the business. Everyday research and learn something new about the publishing business.
  4. Enter writing contest. If you’re writing everyday, you should have enough material to enter several contest every year.
  5. Travel as much as you can. Journal about your experiences and the people you meet.
  6. Attend book fairs, writer’s conferences, and any gathering of authors and or publishers. Get to know people who are already doing what you want to do.

Until Next Time,

Nicole D. P. McLaughlin

You Are What You Read

images-1In the same way the food you eat literally builds and shapes your body, the books you read shape your mind. What you read, forms the basis for your beliefs, and serves as your base of knowledge. Books color the way you view the world and how you interact with people. Words have power when spoken but they have just as much power when read. Did you know that the type of books you like to read says more about you than the clothes you wear?  One of the tools that FBI agents use to learn about the mind of a serial killer is to review the list of books they have checked out from the library.

What have you been reading? I challenge you to take a look at what you like to read? List the top five genres that you read regularly in order of importance to you. Then ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What is it about the number one genre that I like the most?
  2. Do I primarily read for information or entertainment?
  3. If you could not complete the list because you only read one or two types of books, what don’t you like about other genres?

They say self-examination is good for the soul. However, the answer to these questions will lead you to some important insights as to the type of person you are becoming. For example, If you only read nonfiction/self-help books and you primarily read for information, you are most likely looking for a solution.  I know people who don’t like reading newspapers or magazines because bad news and current events depress them. There are other people who have to read dry academic writing for work and so when they sit down to read for pleasure, they only read fiction, because they need to escape.

If you want to be a well-rounded individual and writer, you should read a balanced mixture of fiction and non-fiction and several genres.  I tend to lean toward non-fiction, so I on occasion will make myself read fiction. I’ve also recently tried my hand at writing my first novel, just to prove to myself that I can write fiction. I prefer a good mystery, but have challenged myself to read a sappy love story. Sometimes I’ll ease into a genre that I’m not as familiar with by reading what I call a hybrid genre. I’d rate Science Fiction as last on my list, but a Sci Fi Whodunit might grab my attention.

Next time you reach for a book consider that maybe it is not you that chooses the book but maybe the book has chosen you.  There are times when I’ll find a book at the precise time I need to read it. Then there are books that I’ve bought and could not read them until years later. But when I did, I found I was in a place to receive the information, whereas I may not have been when I bought it.

Until Next Time,

Nicole D.P. McLaughlin

 

Three Words

As a writer we are often asked to sum things up in 200 words or less. Writing lean is something I’ve been blessed to do. It was very seldom that my teacher’s complained that my papers were too long. If there was not a specific word count the odds are they would be too short. I’ve found a way to use as many words as it takes to get my point across and then I stop writing. However, when it comes to writing promotional materials and other book related copy, I some times find myself complaining that I need to write more.

How good are you when it comes to summarizing your work in 50 words or less? A good exercise, that I’m sure you’ve done on some level is to choose three words that best describes X.  If you had to distill your 250 page novel or 400 page self-help book into three words, could you do it? Challenge yourself with this: Take the synopsis or maybe a review written about a work that you’ve read and tell the story with three words.

Being brief is a good skill to practice. If you want to use social media to market your books, you’ll need to catch a reader’s attention in a few sentences. If you’re giving an elevator speech, you need to capture your listener’s imagination in as little as 30 seconds. Most readers will not continue to read beyond page three if they are not drawn into the story by then. Attention spans are short and getting shorter with every new piece of technology that becomes available.

Make it a practice to never use two words when one will do. Get to the point and get there quick. Once you have their attention, then you can take your time. But remember readers have questions, like ” why should I care” and “what is this all about.” The quicker you answer their questions, the more likely they are to want to stick around and learn more.

Until Next Time,

Nicole D.P. McLaughlin

The Perfect Query

Icon apps query

The word query means question or to ask a question of someone about something. When it comes to writing query letters to editors, agents, or publishers, you’ll do well to keep this simple definition in mind. The question that you, the writer, wants answered is, “While you accept my work?”  This is a valid question. In order to craft the perfect query letter,you must also answer the major question that your reader will have, “Why should I accept your work?”  A good query letter has to do a few things, very well. They are:

  • Introduce yourself and your book
  • Pitch the concept or idea of your book
  • Elicit a favorable response from the reader

You can break your query down into three sections; the introduction, the pitch, and the call. Let’s examine each section and outline what information should be found in each.

Introduction

This is the opening paragraph in which you state your name and give the agent a little information about yourself. Share with them any experience you have that would make you the ideal person to write the book that you are proposing . Also let them know why you have chosen them to represent you and your book.

Sales Pitch

During the pitch, you’ll give a brief synopsis of the book. Tell them the intended audience for the book. Also share any plans you have for marketing the book. I call it a sales pitch because you have to sell him or her not only on the ideas in the book, but also on you as an author. After reading this part the agent should feel confident that you are the perfect person to write this book and that a publisher will want to buy it.

Call to Action

Any thing you write will get a response from the reader. Sometimes it’s good and other times it’s bad. When it comes to the perfect query you want  the response to be positive. The agent should want to respond right away. End your query with a short call to action. Give them the next step in how to reach you and close the deal.

Until Next Time,

Nicole D. P. McLaughlin

 

Banishing Writer’s Block

If ever there were two words that should never be put together; writer’s and block.  But it happens all the time or at least we think it does.  I have a theory that writers always have something to say.  We write even when we are not at our computer.  I can be in the grocery store, washing clothes, or sleeping and an idea will come.  A persistent idea that I can’t get away from.  Call it inspiration, call it genius but when it’s flowing you know it.  I like to think of those times when it’s not flowing as lack of motivation as opposed to being blocked. Ways to Banish Writer’s Block

  1. When its flowing write it down.  You can always turn to these bits of inspiration to remove a block.
  2. Always keep many fires going.  Work on several projects at once and that way you’ll always have something you can work on.
  3. Learn to relax.  Often times a mental block is really the manifestation of a physical block. Especially when deadlines are looming learn to walk away and relax so you can come back fresh and ready to write.
  4. Simply refuse to be blocked.  Remind yourself that you are a writer and writing is what you do.  Stay positive and confident that you can get the job done and you will.

Repeat after me.  No More Writer’s Block.  Never again will I succumb to negative thoughts about my talents and abilities.  I will relax and recharge instead.  When I return it will be writing as usual. Until Next Week, Nicole McLaughlin