RSS

Tag Archives: Writer’s Block

Finding gold in partly written short stories

Cover of Sharon A. Crawford's mystery short story collection. Click on it for publisher's website

Cover of Sharon A. Crawford’s mystery short story collection.

One of my 2017 writing goals is to write more mystery short stories and submit them to contests and magazines for possible publication. As I’m registered to attend Bouchercon 2017 (in Toronto, Canada in October), I decided to enter their short story contest for possible publication in their short story book for the event.

I checked my files of unfinished short stories. The one I was thinking of needs too much work to make the January 31, 2017 deadline. Not a problem, I thought. A check through my other short-stories-in-the-works unearthed one that has been written and rewritten many times and shows a lot of promise. Of course it needs more rewriting, but there is time for that. Only one problem – the theme for the Bouchercon 2017 short story contest is travel and my story doesn’t even cover travel, unless you count travelling across a parking lot and inside a commercial building.

However, I am not one to give up – just change course if necessary. I decided to scrap the Bouchercon contest –  after all, I should be able to arrange to have my two published (so far) Beyond books there to be sold and I will be doing a lot of learning and networking there. So, I decided to focus on this one story and also did a big Internet search of possible markets. I have had short stories published in anthologies and also my first Beyond book – Beyond the Tripping Point – is a collection of 13 of my mystery short stories, five of them published first elsewhere and eight new. And who knoews? If I get going on writing and rewriting short stories, there may be another collection down the road. I already have on story published before that is not in Beyond the Tripping Point.

My point here is if you are stymied about what to write for a short story, don’t go crazy trying to think of  new plot with new characters. Check out stories you have already started. You might just find a gold mine there.

And as usual, if you click on the book cover at the top it connects you to more information about my books.

Cheers.

Sharon

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

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.

 

 

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Get motivated to write that novel or short story.

I

Amazon.com link to Sharon A.'s short story collection

Amazon.com link to Sharon A.’s short story collection

It is by sitting down to write every morning that one becomes a writer.
—Gerald Brenan

 

You want to start writing that novel but can’t seem to find the time. The kids need ferrying to their soccer games; you have to clean out the garage, and hey you are going on holidays in a couple of weeks and need to plan your itinerary. Or you are beyond hooked on social media.

Meantime that novel sits either deadlocked at Chapter 3 or the novel plot and characters are scurrying around you mind faster than mice in your house.

What do you do? Who do you call?

You need someone to help get you motivated to write. You can get another writer friend who can empathize with your predicament, join a writing critique group. Or hire a writing consultant.

I briefly mentioned in last week’s post that I coach clients in writing. But what exactly does that mean? What exactly do I do?

First I talk to the client (either in person or by Skype or regular phone) to see where they are at (or not at) with their novel, short story, or memoir. We talk about their goals and if that is nebulous we try to get the goals more concrete. I present suggestions for working with them – in person or via Skype or a combination of both.

So, what exactly can happen during the consult?

If the author hasn’t actually started writing, we discuss an outline for our time together based on their story outline. I may get them to write a synopsis of their novel just to nail it down. The next step depends on the client. With one client we brainstormed ideas for each chapter and she took notes. Then she went home, wrote the chapter, maybe with a revision, and emailed that chapter to me to look over before our next consult.

At this meeting, we first went through this chapter with me making suggestions, which we discussed and then she made notes to do so (if the client brings his or her laptop or iPad, he or she can make the changes right then). The rest of the session we brainstormed for her next chapter. And then the process was repeated as we did with her previous chapter.

Another client is well into her manuscript and just needs feedback on what she has written. We work either in person or with Skype. She emails me the chapter she is working on (often a few hours before our appointment) and I look it over. When she is “here” she looks at her copy on her laptop and I look at it on my computer. She gives me a brief synopsis of where this chapter will fit in her book (it is non-fiction), what it focuses on and what she hopes to accomplish with this chapter. I make suggestions and ask questions about the content. Often I will suggest moving something up for the beginning, rewording the beginning or the middle, clarifying different things, adding different things, etc. As we talk, she is making the changes or making note of changes to make if it will take some time to do so (for example, if she has to check her research or do more research). Once we are done with the chapter, if there is still time in our hour together, she might go into what she will be working on next in the book.

The fiction-writing client and I met once a week. The non-fiction-writing client and I meet twice a month. Sure, there is a fee, but the feedback I get from my clients is that it is worth it for them to get going at their writing.

These writing sessions establish regularity in writing and because the author also has to write outside the sessions, a few meetings may be all she needs before she embarks on writing that novel, that memoir, that short story collection, without someone on her case. I see where these sessions also help the writer gain some self-confidence that she can actually do this, and actually write something. The latter ties in with the writing critique part.

So, if you don’t want to hire someone to coach you in your writing, join a writing critique group – it will motivate you to write if you have to produce something for critique every couple of weeks.

 

Sharon A. Crawford

 

You can read about my characters and their stories in my short story collection Beyond the Tripping Point (Blue Denim Press, 2012). Click on the book at the top and it takes you to Sharon A. Crawford’s profile – including book reviews – at http://www.amazon.com.
More info on Sharon A.’s upcoming gigs, workshops, guest blog posts, etc. at http://www.samcraw.com/Articles/BeyondtheTrippingPoint.html And keep checking http://samcraw.com/Articles/BeyondBlood.html for the latest news on the release of my first mystery novel Beyond Blood, also published by Blue Denim Press http://www.bluedenimpress.com More info on the Beyond Blood page as we get closer to the date. And remember that clicking on the book icon at the top gets you to my Amazon profile.

 

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Book Review of Unblock Writer’s Block by Paul Lima

Cover of Paul Lima's Unblock Writer's Block

Click on Cover of Paul Lima’s Unblock Writer’s Block for Paul’s blog and sale places

The desire to write grows with writing.

–          Desiderius Erasmus

In Unblock Writer’s Block: How to face it, deal with it and overcome it, Paul Lima not only debunks some writer’s block myths, but provides some creative exercises to get writers writing. He compares his former writer’s block to “walker’s block,” i.e., not exercising, his situation until his wife got a dog. He started walking daily and the story ideas began arriving – a good thing for a freelancer with 35 plus years of experience writing newspaper articles, corporate, and fiction, who  is the author of 12 books, including the best selling How to Write a Non-fiction book in 60 Days. Lima also writes prolifically and quickly to deadline.

If you are doing other things to avoid writing, Lima says you are procrastinating, not suffering from writer’s block and you need the equivalent of a dog – writing exercises – to get you going on the write track. Lima emphasizes when you write the draft, ditch the editor in your head and just write. He also gives the option of “cherry-picking” exercises to get the most die-hard blocked writer going – a good idea because of the large and varied selection. When reading Unblock Writer’s Block, I kept flipping files to create story ideas. Lima recommends starting with  how you are feeling because you have to have emotion in your writing to connect to your reader. He has exercises for unlocking emotions focusing on the individual and his past, followed by three chapters with activities on freefall writing, directed free-fall writing and clustering – the three parts Lima advises readers do.

Ensuing exercises deal with the actual craft of writing such as plot, characters and point of view in fiction. My favourite exercise is one that could help POV problems. Lima suggests readers write a letter of apology to someone wronged and then switch POV to the other person and have him or her write back and perhaps letters back and forth will follow.

Although Lima uses examples from other authors such as novelists Margaret Atwood and Alistair McLeod (the latter’s cheese story is funny), I would have liked to have seen more Paul Lima stories, although the one where Paul apologized to a telephone pole when he bumped into it (Note: apologizing for everything is a Canadian trait) is priceless. The other bits of humour interspersed add spark to the writing wisdom presented.

Unblock Writer’s Block fulfills Paul Lima’s intentions, i.e.

“Our goal throughout this book is simply to do some writing—to see that we have the ability to write over, around and through whatever may be blocking us. You may not have produced anything you want to continue writing about. You may not have written how you want to write. But that’s not the point. The point is to write no matter what, and to be open to where your work may (or may not) lead you.”

Unblock Writer’s Block is available in paperback and e-copy. To find out where and more about Paul Lima and his books, go to  http://www.paullima.com/books/wb.html.

For Sharon A. Crawford’s upcoming events with Beyond the Tripping Point, go to her Beyond the Tripping Point page– http://www.samcraw.com/Articles/BeyondtheTrippingPoint.html I continually update it.

Today (Thursday, March 28), from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. I talk about where my characters come from and read from Beyond the Tripping Point at the Leaside Branch of the Toronto Public Library. (See the above BTTP link for more details.)

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Getting your book noticed with book reviews

Cover of Sharon A. Crawford's mystery short story collection

Cover of Sharon A. Crawford’s mystery short story collection

There is creative reading as well as creative writing.

–          Ralph Waldo Emerson

Even before your book goes to market you need to stake out possible book review sources. That applies for trade published books, self-published books whether in e-copy, print or both. Often you are ignored but sometimes serendipity steps in and you get a review or two or three, etc.

That happened to me – twice – and from the same event last year. My short story collection Beyond the Tripping Point had a publisher and I had a copy of the contract. But the contract wasn’t signed as I headed into the Bloody Words Conference last June in Toronto. My publisher’s instructions were: get the word out about your book and get some book reviews.

I did it –couldn’t shut up about it even though I felt a little strange doing it all so far in advance of publication. The first reviewer freelanced mystery book reviews for a daily paper from a neighbouring city – Hamilton, Ontario. Before I even got more than my name and I had a book coming out he asked, “So you want a review?” And he took down the particulars. The mini-review came out in print and online December 22, 2012 in The Hamilton Spectator at http://www.thespec.com/feature/article/857834–mini-reviews  (scroll down, it’s the second book reviewed and the newspaper, in error, left out the reviewer’s byline. It’s Don Graves).

The other review is the big serendipity one, thanks to persistence in networking. The book reviewer for Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine – one of the biggies for publishing short stories from mystery authors from around the world (the magazine is published in the United States) was a guest panelist at Bloody Words and also sat at the head table for the banquet. I missed talking to him after his panel gig, but on his way out after the banquet I “accosted” him (read: stopped him, introduced myself and my upcoming book and asked for a review). He gave me his business card and the name of  Jon Breen, the freelancer who does an annual review roundup of anthologies and short story collections. I gave him my card and thanked him. I did have to do a follow-up email to get the email address of the other book reviewer.

Then I emailed the other reviewer my pitch.

And he was interested. So my publisher sent him a pdf. It’s paid off. Recently  my publisher emailed me that he had received the hard copy proofs for that part of the May 2013 issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. A mini-review by Jon Breen of Beyond the Tripping Point  appears in it. It’s already available online at http://www.themysteryplace.com/eqmm/jury/ Scroll way down – it is there, 12th in the list of books . And it links to http://www.amazon.com

Those two make up for the nonsense trying to get a review in the big Toronto dailies and Quill & Quire, the Canadian publishers’ Bible. The Toronto Star got as far as email communication between me (initiated by me) and back with the reviewer who does mini-reviews of new arrivals. That didn’t happen despite me bringing the book down to her office in person. Some of us authors joked about the supposed big room where the Star stashes all the unreviewed books that come in before disposing of them – and how they do so was pure speculation.

So, what is an author to do to get a review? Besides this combination in-person and pseudo-social media and yes, social media, too, with the latter we can review each others’ books. If like me you have an author profile with your book on amazon.com, Goodreads, etc. this can be done. Just troll the sites to see who’s there. What about other bloggers you follow? You can also at least get interviews about your book on other authors’ blogs. You can do book review trades with other authors – they read and review your book; you do the same for theirs and both of you post your review on whatever social media you can. I’m currently doing this with another very prolific writer, Paul Lima, reading and reviewing his book on Writer’s Block and he’s doing the same with Beyond the Tripping Point. My publisher sent him a Kindle copy of my book and Paul sent me a pdf of his book as that’s what I requested.

So, next week we will revisit Writer’s Block with my review of Paul Lima’s book Unlock Writer’s Block. Paul has some very creative ways to get around this bane of writers.

Then I will have to follow my other advice above – start trolling Goodreads, Linked In groups, etc. to do and get more reviews. And in case anyone is interested in doing and posting a review of my book there or on Amazon.com, let me know. I have Kobo and pdf copies and can get the Kindle one from my publisher. And if you have a book published let me know and I might just review it.Of course, remember the unwritten rule for doing book reviews. The book is free of charge to the reviewer

For my upcoming events with Beyond the Tripping Point, go to my BTTP page on my website – http://www.samcraw.com/Articles/BeyondtheTrippingPoint.html I continually update it.

This evening (March 21, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.) I moderate an author publisher panel featuring Andrew J. Borkowski,  the 2012 Toronto Book Award winner for his short story collection Copernicus Avenue and his publisher Marc Coté of Cormorant Books. This panel is at a meeting of the Canadian Authors Association Toronto Branch – more details at http://www.canauthorstoronto.org/events.html

Next Thursday, March 28, from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. I talk about where my characters come from and read from Beyond the Tripping Point  at the Leaside Branch of the Toronto Public Library. (See the above BTTP link for more details.)

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Staring at the blank page

Writing is easy; all you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead.”

– Gene Fowler

Suppose for a minute you are sitting at your computer or with a piece of paper in front of you. You want to write something but all that stares back at you is the blank screen or page. You haven’t a clue what to write and that blankety-blank glaring into your eyes isn’t any help.

What do you do? Don’t give up. There are a number of ways to get over the hump of writer’s block.

  1. This is one of my favourites and one I use when writing nonfiction articles.  My late journalism instructor, Paul Nowak used to drum it into us about starting our stories with a good lead – one that will hook the reader. That got me into the habit of not going beyond writing the article’s beginning until I got the lead right – at least the gist of it – the wording might be changed slightly in the rewrite. Fiction – short story and novel – needs a good beginning to lure in the reader. Try focusing on writing a good lead.
  2. What if you are swimming around among several leads? This happened to me once with a story I was writing. I can’t remember the story itself but I do remember I had four leads written to express two ideas. Do you think I could decide which one was best? No. I phoned a writing friend and read all four out to her. She chose the best one to her ears. That’s the one I went with.
  3. If sticking with the lead isn’t your forte for the first draft and/or you can’t even get going at a first draft, try freefall writing. I mentioned this in a previous post with Brian Henry’s workshops. So, in a variation of that exercise, pick a word or phrase that has been lurking in your head (come on; you really don’t have a blank mind; only the screen or page is blank). Put the phrase on your paper or computer screen and keep on writing. Write whatever comes into your mind and go with whatever feeling is there – anger, sadness, joy. Don’t be afraid to go with the deep dark feelings. Unleash them and you will unleash your writer’s block.
  4. If none of the above seems to work, then try temporary avoidance but make sure you do something that relaxes your mind. Go into your garden and pull weeds or deadhead the dead flowers; sit out in your garden; do some Yoga; meditate, or go for a walk. Guaranteed, something will pop into your head, something you can write about. And you may be scurrying to get back to your pen and paper or your computer. This latter also works when you are mid-story or rewriting a story and for the life of you can’t figure out where it is going. I’ve done that many times with some of the situations my female private eye, Dana, gets into. In “Saving Grace,” I knew the beginning and knew the end but got into several tizzies in between, especially sorting the whys and wherefores of all the cars showing up in the story (You’ll have to read the story in the book to find out. I’m not telling).

Dana also has to deal with eccentric Great Aunt Doris in two of the linked stories in Beyond the Tripping Point. But that’s something for next week’s post – creating eccentric characters and making them work in your story without coming across as  too eccentric.

Meantime check out my publisher’s page http://www.bluedenimpress.com.The cover of my book and some more info is now posted there. Or click under My Publisher – Blue Denim Press from the links to the right. When I figure out how to get the book cover icon on this blog, I’ll do so.Hey, I’m a writer, not a designer.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: