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Monthly Archives: January 2016

Writers’ group looks at Writer’s Block

Sharon A. Crawford's latest in the Beyond series

Sharon A. Crawford’s latest in the Beyond series

Who is more to be pitied, a writer bound and gagged by policemen or one living in perfect freedom who has nothing more to say?

– Kurt Vonnegut

You might not want to be arrested and charged by police but there are many options if you have a dose of writer’s block. Last evening, in a round circle discussion, members of my East End Writers’ Group came up with some novel ideas for well writer’s block when writing a novel – or writing anything.

Here are our words of wisdom, in no particular order:

Take a writing course, especially one taught by Brian Henry – you will get inspired and Brian gets you to actually write in his workshops, even during lunch.

Put the blocked novel, short story aside and write something different. Maybe your brain is bored with the same old story and needs something new, at least temporarily. But do come back to the original.

Have a roster of several writing projects on the go – to some extent; don’t over tax yourself – so you can move from one to the other when stuck.

Start reading. You would be surprised how reading another novel, short story, newspaper article written by someone else can inspire you to write. Don’t analyze the story’s style, just go with the flow of writing and let your subconscious absorb the writer’s style. You don’t want to copy it, but it will jar your inner creativity.

Freefall write – write anything that comes to mind and keep writing for at least 20 minutes. You can also use a word, a sentence from a book, a sound, something visual to get you going. Or if you are angry, worried, or fearful about something, write about that. Go where the fear takes you.

Do something completely different – preferably something physical – walk the dog or just go for a walk on your own, do some gardening (season permitting). Getting your body moving can help wake up your brain – often with a possible solution to your block.

One group member writes in different languages, so when blocked he switched languages. He also juggles several writing projects at a time.

And don’t forget to join a writing critique group. Even if you don’t always bring something to read for feedback, just listening to someone read their writing excerpt and listening to and taking part in the discussion, can be inspiring.

Let’s banish writer’s block where it belongs – buried in the snow.

Here are a couple of books to help you do just that with writer’s block.

The Artist’s Way – Julia Cameron

Unlock Writer’s Block – Paul Lima

Cheers.

Sharon

If you click on the book at the top, it will take you to my books,bio, etc on my publisher’s page. To check out the East End Writers’ Group go here.

 

 

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When your research and plot just don’t jibe

Beyond Blood_Final Ebook

Sharon A. Crawford’s latest in the Beyond series

You are writing what you think is a terrific story. You have done all your research – you think. Then, you find something crucial in your plot just would not happen in real life. You do have some leeway in fantasy and science fiction, but I’m referring to mysteries, romance, historical fiction and other commercial fiction, as well as literary. Let’s say you are writing historical fiction and a real-life character, well-known from the time you are writing in, is a part of your plot – maybe even crucial to the story.

But you goofed. Your story is set in the same time as this historical character lived, but you have just found out in re-checking your research, that no way could your famous historical character be in such and such a place when you have placed him there. At that time, he was living in France and your story takes place in England. You have set your story in the Victorian era, so you can’t just have your character take an airplane from France to England.

What can you do?

Delete this historical character from your story completely? Keep him in, but just as a reference to the times and something in your plot (music, government? Move some of your plot to take place in France? Change the historical time of your plot? Or?

Whatever you choose to do, it will require some re-writing. But you need to be accurate. True, for the purpose of your story, you have some leeway, but you can’t lie about history. If it were me, I would go for moving some of the plot to France, unless I decided this historical character didn’t need to play an active role in your plot.

I don’t write history – exactly. But my Beyond mysteries take place in the late 1990s, although the current one I’m writing just gets into the 21st century. So for police procedure and anything else – such as computers and cell phones, and medical (as there is some of that in the story) have to be what they were like back then. So I have to be careful with all that – including laws and even the names of courts. Gets tricky.

Currently I am fact-checking my research as it is incorporated into the novel. One of the characters suffers from a concussion. Fortunately there is a lot of information about concussions, both on the Internet (I’m referring to respected medical sites such as the Mayo Clinic) and books on the subject because of the current concern about sports-related injuries – many concussions.

The problem here is to make sure what the medical professionals do now was done in 1999. And also my character’s concussion is not from a sports injury.

Fortunately, the books on sports concussions go into details about past diagnoses and treatments. Studies and the like posted on the Internet often have references footnoted by number. (they all should have references), and I can cross-check the dates on those with the information in the study text.)

I also checked to see how the person’s head was “x-rayed” and found that CAT scans were around in 1999 – in fact they started being used widely in 1980. So my character had a CAT scan.

It never hurts to double-check your research. And remember, you may think you have done all your research before you write, but you probably haven’t. As you develop your story, “things” come up that you have to check on.

Now, I have to go back and research something in my novel’s climax for what one character does. What would she be charged with or would she be charged with anything? And in 1999, not 2016.

Back to my police consultant and to the Canadian Criminal Code in 1999. That might mean a copy of the CCC for a year or two before that, unless amendments were made and published in 1999.

But whatever the correct answer is, I should be able to change that part of my plot as needed.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

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Turning winter weather into fiction

Sharon A. Crawford's latest in the Beyond series

Sharon A. Crawford’s latest in the Beyond series

If you’re like me and hate winter with a passion, don’t just moan and groan about it. Write about it.

Not necessarily your hatred for the season itself. But set your story in winter. Take some of the weather highlights as white fodder for your stories. Follow news stories on the weather on TV or online from various media outlets. One of the best sources is The Weather Network. Both on TV and online, they feature stories in video and text (online) formats about some of the extremes in winter, as well as amusing incidents.

For example, this week, a motorist parked his car beside Lake Erie in south western Ontario. Then we got a flash freeze and snow. If you can’t imagine what happened (no the car didn’t fall into the lake, check out the story here). From that you can let your imagination run wild with story ideas. Maybe there is a dead body in the car – froze to death or murdered before and left there to die? Somebody in an emotional turmoil – failed relationship, terminal illness, etc. – decides to end it all. Somebody wants to save their body for posterity to come back in a later century and finds a unique way to “preserve” his or her body.  Or? Well, you get the picture.

The main idea is to take the actual story, not copy it, but use it for inspiration for your story. And be original.

You can also do the opposite of what is written. In my story “The Couch” from my short story collection Beyond the Tripping Point (Blue Denim Press, 2012), I took a theme from many private eye stories – the PI who is having trouble making ends meet. (If you want a recent TV series on that one, watch the British series Case Histories). My story had a young, mid-20s PI who had just the opposite happening – too many clients. So my story took this dilemma and spun out a tale of how this PI tried to reduce the number of clients. It wasn’t that straightforward as the story has many twists and turns and a surprise ending.

And that’s all I will tell about “The Couch.” If you want to read it (warning, short plug coming here), you’ll have to read “Beyond the Tripping Point.” Click on the book cover below for one place it is available besides the usual Amazon (yes, it’s available there, too)

And use that blizzard keeping you indoors for time given to write your story.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Beyond the Tripping Point Cover 72dpi

 

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How Writers in Residence can help your writing

Sharon A. Crawford's latest in the Beyond series

Sharon A. Crawford’s latest in the Beyond series

What are the advantages of having a Writer in Residence look at your writing and give feedback and marketing advice?

I’ve had the good fortune to be involved  on both sides. For two sessions I was Writer in Residence for the Canadian Authors Association Toronto branch. In that position, I have helped writers with advice on marketing their manuscripts, writing a query letter, editing and evaluating their manuscript – up to a point.

One thing about a Writer in Residence is he or she only evaluates/edits up to 20 or 30 pages – either for free or at a lower rate than normal fees. But it is worth every dollar (we don’t have pennies anymore in Canada), Euro or whatever denomination your country has. It is also worth your time because of the vast experience of Writers In Residence. They are published authors in various genres and if you pick your Writer in Residence to match your area of writing it can benefit your writing.

The process varies, but generally it involves submitting a few pages double-spaced of your writing-in-the works and then meeting with the WiR to get his or her feedback, ask questions and get some advice on how to make your manuscript sparkle and perhaps some marketing tips.

Recently, I had the experience of being on the other side of the fence. I am a member of the Toronto Heliconian Club and one of the benefits is the Writer in Residence. Just before Christmas I met with her – Dawn Promislow –  not for critique of my new Beyond novel in the works, but for an assessment of a five-page personal essay. I didn’t have to pre-submit the manuscript, just brought a couple of hard copies – one for her to look at and one for me – while we chatted.

And it was more than just a superficial chat. First, Dawn read the manuscript, then did a general overall evaluation including summing it up as good and more professional than she expected. (Note: this essay had been rewritten more times than I have fingers.) Then we went through it all line-by-line and discussed what worked, what didn’t, what could be expressed better and in fewer words, and what could be deleted. One of my concerns was to make it shorter so I could submit it to markets that require a shorter than 1300 personal essay. Previous to meeting withe Dawn I had shortened it from 1500 words to 1300 words.

It was a two-way discussion, none of this just giving advice with me listening. That’s important because the bottom line is it is my story and if I don’t have some input in the critique, I won’t really understand what needs to be done. The whole meeting took about an hour and 20 minutes.

So, besides CAA and clubs like the Heloconian, where can you find a Writer in Residence?

Try your local libraries. The Toronto Public Library system has two Writers in Residence programs a year, alternating locations with the two largest library branches – Toronto Reference Library and North York Central branch. I have submitted manuscripts over the years to WiRs at both branches. You have to have a library card for this – but library cards are free and renewed annually.

And submit is a keyword here. You have to submit up to a certain number of pages double-spaced to the library by a certain date. Then the library gets the manuscripts to the WiR and you will hear back from the library with an appointment time and date to meet with the WiR. Currently the TPL WiR is poet, memoir author, former journalist, etc. Brian Brett at Toronto Reference Library. For this session, Brian Brett will be focusing on poetry.

That’s another key. Submit something you are writing in the area of the WiR’s experience. Unlike me, who once submitted a chapter of my memoir to a literary novelist and poet. My memoir was part literary in style, but this author just didn’t get it. Another time, much earlier, I submitted one of the original chapter versions of the memoir to a well-rounded in writing experience WiR – Austin Clarke and got some excellent and thorough feedback. It was also a two-way discussion and it was Mr. Clarke’s feedback that helped me decide to actually write more chapters in a memoir.

So, a few tips for submitting your work to a Writer in Residence.

  1. Follow any submission guidelines.
  2. Make sure you match the WiR to what you are writing.
  3. Rewrite, rewrite your submission – a loose draft won’t do.
  4. Show up on time for your appointment with the WiR.
  5. Listen to what the WiR says but don’t be afraid to question and add details about what you are writing – it is not a one-way street.
  6. Don’t be afraid to ask related questions that are pressing – such as markets, copyright issues, and in the case of memoir (one I always find comes up in my memoir writing workshops) –  naming names and the fear with writing your story.

Good luck. The WiR can be the experience that helps you get your manuscript focused and inspires you to keep at it.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

To find out more about Sharon A. Crawford and where her Beyond books are available click on the Beyond Blood book above.And visit her website

 

 

 

 

 

 

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