Posted in For the Aspiring Writer, This Writer's Life

Twitch Writing Community

Did you know that Twitch has a tight-knit writing community?

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I had no idea until just recently and I’ve been watching my favorite gamers stream on the platform for years.

A few weeks ago, I stumbled across an online article written by author and streamer Scott Wilson on the Writers Digest website that discussed how writers were using Twitch to connect with fans and other authors. It was eye-opening to see how many creative types used the platform that has, thus far, been the major hub for video game players.

Intrigued, I followed the links provided and introduced myself to several writers listed in the article.

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The first stream I landed on was RabenWrites, a writer who was quick to engage me in the chat feature Twitch offers. I found out that the TWC (Twitch Writing Community) is happy to encourage others who wish to stream and not at all standoffish like I expected. RabenWrites, with his dulcet tones reminiscent of a young Bob Ross, answered my questions with grace, all the while mapping out his current writing project onscreen for my viewing pleasure.

I decided to give it a go and jumped headfirst into the streaming process. With my four-year old headset and ancient webcam, I set up a stream via Streamlabs OBS and went live. I shook the whole time, checking my viewer numbers with trepidation every few seconds and didn’t get much writing completed at all.

An hour into my stream, I was raided by AuthorBrianLou who flew into my stream with his paper-airplane wielding crew. My nerves went though the roof! I went from 1 viewer (my husband) to 11 and all were offering words of encouragement in my chat. It was exhilarating and from that moment on, I was hooked.

In the last few weeks, Brian has supported my attempts at streaming with thoughts on how to get my software communicating properly and ideas on how to push my performance anxiety out the window. I have never found another community who was so quick to embrace others in all my 40 years.

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Other quality streamers I’ve found are TravisTavernTalk, BrenNailedIt, CoffeeQuills, and AshleyBPedigo, along with a myriad of others. They each have a different style and offer varying points of interest to the craft. If you are a writer and enjoy conversing with other creatives, please look these folks up. You won’t be disappointed.

Of course if you’d like to check out my stream and giggle at my learning curve, please do. If you get there by way of this article, I implore you to comment and introduce yourself. Even if you are nervous to make yourself known, I’d love to meet you–even if it’s via keyboard.

Happy Writing, fellow creatives!

Posted in For the Aspiring Writer, Uncategorized

How to Bring Fictional Characters to Life

On the subject of character creation, a majority of writers across the Internet will advise you to start from a blank character sheet. You’ll be instructed to envision the character in your mind to determine what they look like, what they sound like… You’ll need to come up with their age and occupation, as well as hobbies and favorite foods. Finally, you’ll be told to jot down adjectives that describe the character’s nature. Is she kind? Is he honest?

That’s great. It’s important to understand the type of person your character is, but the one thing I can’t fathom is how you’re expected to list out all of these qualities for someone you’ve yet to meet.

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Other writers will tell you that you need to first determine what your character longs for. What will their main character arc be for your short story, novella, novel, etc?

How on Earth can you come close to truly knowing what your character wants without having ever been introduced?

My process for the creation of a character is very much different than the typical advice listed above.

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When the idea for a novel comes, whether it be the dream-like tendril of a soft caress upon my mind or a slam-dunk, freight train of a whopper that hits like lightning, the first thing I do is determine what sex of protagonist I wish to create for this fiction. This helps me to focus my internal camera–just a smidge, mind you–upon the former blob of a character I had just a moment before.

When I’ve determined that, I picture the ordinary world in which my character currently belongs.

For this example, just to make it easier to follow along, I’ll say my novel idea revolves around a commune in the 1970s. The leader of the commune is suave, personable, yet enigmatic. My protagonist will be a fledgling reporter, who has found out a secret about the leader and wants to infiltrate the commune in order to get the story.

In the few seconds it took me to come up with that premise, my mind is already whirling with ideas. Writing about a working-class female, especially in the 70s, would be something I could definitely get on board with. I’d love to explore the gender differences of that time period, as well as use my female character’s wiles in order to go undercover and solve a puzzle.

What do I know about my character at this very moment?

She is a female. She is a reporter. That’s it.

I don’t know her age, her personality, her looks, nada. I don’t know whether or not she works at a large newspaper or for a small-town print.

I would never consider to assign her personality traits at this point. Why? Because we still haven’t met. Don’t worry, I’m about to introduce myself.

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At this point, I’ll open up a new document or pull a fresh sheet of paper from my desk drawer. I bet you think I’m going to start a list, don’t you? No. Lists are for groceries and baseball coaches. We’re writers so… let’s do what we do.

My character is currently sleeping. What happens when her alarm clock goes off? Does she even own an alarm clock? Perhaps she lives out in the middle of absolute nowhere and wakes up when the rooster crows. Her options at this point are limitless.

I begin to write. Flash fiction at it’s finest right here. This is how I breathe life into my character and allow her (or him, or whatever pronoun I’m using) to reveal themselves to me. What happens when she wakes up? Does she make her bed or leave it messy? Is she a shower or a bath girl? What does she eat for breakfast and who does she talk to while she does it? Does she live with anyone or by herself? Why? Does she have a tendency to dally and have to rush to get off to work or does she stick to a self-imposed schedule and make sure she’s at her job on time?

I will continue this piece of prose until I’ve come to the end of her day. Does she creep into her bed clad in risque lingerie or does she flop into the unmade mess, clothes from the day still upon her frame?

This is how I meet my character.

At some point throughout the writing, the hazy blob I had at the beginning will start to focus. Like she’s standing in front of a lens being shifted millimeter by millimeter, her outline will come into view. I’ll realize that she’s a waif of a girl, with long, stringy blond hair reminiscent of the top of a cornstalk. (She is from a rural area but did indeed own an alarm clock with no cock-a-doodling within her hearing range.)

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She is soft-spoken and intelligent. She lives in a boarding house on the outskirts of a medium-sized city. She lives by herself at the young age of 22. Her parents were–and still are–members of a organized cult in Iowa. That is where she grew up. She fled at 16, a victim of sexual abuse and indoctrination, to Wisconsin where she now goes by a false name.

She began her career at the local newspaper as a night-shift janitor. In her spare time, she began to pen the memories of her life within the cult and realized she had an aptitude and love for the written word. She procured her current position by leaving poignant articles covering the town’s current events on the editor’s desk nightly before she left at the end of her shift. (She makes her bed every morning and, at night she climbs in gently, wearing an old t-shirt and loose-fitting shorts, by the way, not a negligee. Also, she has to wear socks at night or she gets too cold. Wisconsin, am I right?)

At this point, I have envisioned how she holds her fork, how she takes her coffee (black, it’s the cheapest), how she gets to work, how she reacts to co-workers, her typical lunch and what she wears as she goes about her day. My character is real to me, not a white sheet of paper on the desk labelled CHARACTER SHEET. I can envision the beginning of her arc but I would never–louder for those in the back, NEVER– lock her into such growth. She has so much more to show me.

You learn who your characters are by writing about them. Allow them to speak to you through your typing (or frantically scribbling) hands. I swear on the Girl Scout Handbook, if you allow your character to find their own voice instead of assigning them one, that character will spit things out you never dreamed of.

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Give your creation–your characters–the ability to make magic. You’re not the puppet master here; picking up strings and dropping them to make your characters move. You’re the stage.

Let them dance as they will.

Posted in For the Aspiring Writer

How to Hone Your Writing Skills

“For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.”

Aristotle

Isn’t that the truth?

You can read all of the How-To manuals you want, you can peruse YouTube tutorials until you’re blue in the face, but the greatest way to learn something is to roll up those sleeves and just… do it.

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The old adage of “practice makes perfect” will never, ever apply to writing. However, if you devote time each and every day to hone your craft, you’ll find that “practice makes better”. The more effort you spend on actually writing, allowing your imagination to manifest onto paper, you’ll find that the creative process will become easier as days, weeks, and months pass.

That being said, throughout my writing journey I’ve found a few exercises that have helped me to become a better wordsmith and I’d love to share them with you.

  • 5 Minute Manuscript – Set a five-minute timer and immediately begin clacking away on your keyboard. It doesn’t matter where your brain starts, the goal is to have a short piece of flash fiction by the time that bell rings. This was hard for me in the beginning but as I continued to practice the exercise, the ideas came quicker and now my fingers fly across the keys. I have hundreds of pieces of flash fiction from this activity, many which have given me fodder for longer works.
  • Explore Reddit Writing Prompts – The Reddit Community has a continuous stream of Writing Prompts just awaiting your creativity. Find one that interests you and create a short work of fiction that can be shared via commenting or kept to yourself. (I recommend sharing your work! It’s fun, albeit nerve-wracking, to know that your writing is being read all over the world.)
  • Edit Another Author’s Work – Pick the nearest book and edit a chapter or two out of it. I rewrote Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and made it my life’s work to remove every adverb and weak adjective. That being said, it changed the entire voice of the book. Would it have been as popular without all the -ly, -ing, very, most, and quites running rampant? The world will never know.
  • Re-write Your Own Work – Pick one of your ancient pieces of writing that never went anywhere. Open it back up and work on it with the knowledge you’ve garnered through practice. Chances are, you’ll find easily rectified mistakes and a few cringe worthy passages. Possibly, you’ll find a good idea buried somewhere and approach it with new eyes.
  • Submit Your Writing to Publications – Online or printed, you can find thousands of publications requesting submittals from unknown authors. I receive emails from Authors Publish Magazine with those requests sent directly to my inbox. I find the magazine to be an extremely well organized literary help. When I find a call for submissions that piques my interest, I take the time to create and edit a short piece of fiction and submit it to the publication before the deadline.

These five examples above are just a drop in the bucket when it comes to finding your own style and practicing your skills. The main goal of each is to keep you writing and energize the right side of your brain.

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Tons of resources exist if you wish to learn more about the writing process. On my workspace, I have copies of: On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King, The Chicago Manual of Style, and Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel (Before You Waste Three Years Writing 327 Pages That Go Nowhere) by Lisa Cron.

Sidenote: I’m looking for How to Write Best-Selling Fiction by Dean Koontz so if you happen to see a copy that’s not over $200, let me know in the comments below.

No matter how much I’ve gotten out of reading the books listed above, I feel like my actual writing style and voice has come from years of sitting at my computer and putting words on paper (or screen, as it were.) The more you put into practicing, the more results you will see in your writing. It’s that simple.

I’d love to hear about your creative writing process! I’m always looking for new ways to grow as a writer and would enjoy hearing your feedback. Feel free to join me on Facebook and let me know what has helped you to expand as a storyteller.

Posted in For the Aspiring Writer, Uncategorized

Things To Remember As You Write

While preparing for NaNoWriMo 2019, I read more books in October than I had all year. I looked at each novel with an Editor’s eye in order to better differentiate what works and what makes a manuscript get shelved before finishing.

The amount of words my brain has trudged through in the past month is vast.

In no particular order, here are the five main story-telling problems I found during my Great Book Devouring Event of 2019:

  • INFORMATION DUMPING – This was the biggest problem I had and would shelve a book almost immediately if the author cheated and dumped a ton of info on me right away. Let your reader find out backstory via dialogue and short tidbits from time to time. Copious amounts of text explaining what happened in the past is a cop-out. Good writers are better than that.
  • EXTREMELY DETAILED SETTING AND WORLD BUILDING – Show me the world, don’t tell me about it. A good writer knows that the reader is going to devise their own idea of what the environment looks like in their mind. Don’t try and force your made-up world onto someone else. Share the mood, atmosphere, and locale with your reader and let them create their own landscape. You will draw in a reader much more effectively once they have put some work into the story and created their own stage together in their imagination.
  • SWITCHING FROM POV TO POV – Some authors can do this properly. Many can’t. If a writer is of the latter group, there is nothing that confuses the reader more than a poorly-strung-together story from various points of view. (I recently picked up a cozy mystery where three different POVs occurred within two paragraphs. It was so confusing, I shelved it after only halfway into the first chapter.)
  • DIALOGUE THAT SOUNDS FAKE – When editing your novel, read the dialogue aloud. Have friends read the dialogue aloud. Read it aloud again. If the words on paper sound silly when you actually speak them into existence, re-write it.
  • PLOT THAT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE – It kills me when a main character acts against his/her nature and nothing in the story explains why that choice was made. Also, subplots that trail off and never come to a conclusion are maddening. If you leave your readers open to a “how/what/why?” question once they are done reading your book, you have done them a disservice.

I would love to hear reasons why you shelve books before finishing! Feel free to leave a comment or join my Facebook author page to expound.

I hope this helps as you continue with your novel creation! If you are currently participating in NaNoWriMo, I wish you good luck and ample writing time. ❤️

Posted in For the Aspiring Writer, plot ideas

Romance Novel Plot Ideas

I have so much fun thinking up new ideas for plot and story lines, I thought I would share!

Here you will find my running list (I add to it constantly) of romance novel plot ideas:

  • World War 2 Nurse from America falls in love with an injured German in a POW camp.
  • Two dog walkers get tangled up on neighborhood bike trail and one of them is bitten.
  • Person falls for their soon-to-be-ex’s divorce attorney.
  • Cat Burglar falls for subject in portrait they are hired to steal.
  • Person attends high school reunion and is charmed by the person that made their school life a living hell.
  • Author enamored with a real person they are researching for a non-fiction novel.
  • Small town resident is smitten with the owner of a traveling circus.
  • Big shot CEO is rear-ended by a hippie driving without insurance.
  • Mall janitor plays piano on break and is “discovered” by talent scout.
  • Spouse decides to save their failing marriage by having their significant other fall in love with them all over again.