A #WriteTip for Fellow Novel Virgins

Stardate 94799.93

Short #writetip for my fellow #novelvirgins

I have been researching my first novel for seven months. Seven. Granted, I took a break over the Thanksgiving/Christmas period because it just became too much with normal life. But that’s the trick, isn’t it? Knowing when too much is just…too much?

I don’t know how it is for other first-time novelists, but I have found that I can’t research/write every single day. This past weekend I went through three volumes of non-fiction on the Homestead Strikes of the 1800s in one day. To quote the Wheel of Fortune game, THAT’S TOO MUCH!! (points if you know what I’m talking about!)

I have found my research and my epiphones come in waves. One line of research can inspire a whole paragraph chicken-scratched in the next page of my journal that had originally been earmarked for, well, more research quotes.

Knowing when to take little breaks has been learned the hard way. As a first-time novelist you know you are working at your own pace. You don’t have an editor or a publicist asking you for your next set of chapters, or if your book is going to be a trilogy, or potential readers (yet!) asking you questions you don’t know the answers to yet. Don’t let yourself burn out before you get to the meat of your idea.

It’s okay to take your time, you novel virgin! You’ll know when you’re ready to pick it back up!

#keepcalmandwriteon


Lazy Language: A Short Analysis of Linguistic Pet Peeves

Stardate 94777.46

Picture it.

You’re sitting in a café, in your favorite spot on the patio with your favorite drink when someone says it. That. Phrase. The phrase that sends chills up and down your spine. The phrase that your friends can’t understand why it makes you uneasy. I am sure that there is a psychological study out there that sufficiently explains why our bodies react the way they do but I am no neurobiologist who can find that easily. I can, however, sum it up into two simple words: Lazy Language. The problem is that everyone uses it, and everyone has their own pet peeves when it comes to it.

The “Delish” Culture 

Advertising is everything. Companies will be forever pushing the next season of products long before the current one has finished. When television shows coin their own terms, like “delish,” we all embrace it. Advertising has become so engrained in our American culture that it is almost expected. Catch phrases are so commercialized that companies spend millions to have theirs air during major sporting events. Can the think tank behind this be appeased by all of us turning our devices off to it? Most likely, no. But it is by no means lazy. Scores of research and debate goes into what is eventually put out. And while it’s not always steeped in proper grammar it gets stuck in your head. That’s why I consider advertising a pet peeve because every one of us buys into it on some level. The key: don’t let the ever-constant consumerism overtake your daily life and influence your decisions in the wrong way.

The “Thank You Much!” Culture

It is no secret that language changes with everything else. No one speaks Shakespearean anymore unless they’re in a literature class, an artist, or an aspiring play write. Who would walk up to a complete stranger and start using wherefores and thereofs? While it is completely romantic to fantasize about that period, it is rather impractical.

“If I profane with my unworthied hand
this holy shrine, the gentle fine is this:
My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
to smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.”                   ~Romeo~

Undoubtedly romantic, but outdated nonetheless. It’s been replaced by shortened phrases spoken out loud that should remain in text form, i.e. LOL, ROTFL, OMG, just to name the acronyms. “Thank you much,” in this writer’s mind, is just as cringe-worthy. We are starting to sacrifice daily conversation in the interest of getting things done more quickly. And in my mind, it just doesn’t work.


What are some words or phrases you hear in your daily lives that make you cringe? Perhaps it would be prudent to find out why they cause you so much angst. What’s worked for me is taking steps to eliminate the habits from my own life. I constantly resist the urge to use “lol” overbearingly in Tweets and texts (though not always completely successful), and I think carefully before I speak to make sure I don’t make any more linguistic faux pas to better verse myself in varied word choice.

But to each their own, I suppose. We can only focus on our own habits; we cannot force the world to always use proper grammar. Heaven knows this casual blog attempted to do so at 10 PM on a Sunday evening.

Happy reading.
Happy writing.
Keep Calm and Research On.


Puddled in Your Head

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Does it feel like you’ve been researching way too long without producing much?
Does it feel like way too much information has puddled in your head with no relief?

Earlier this week I felt the same way. With one-third of my journal filled I was feeling overwhelmed until I decided to bite the bullet and sticky-note it all. So I dug out my old college supplies, found those skinny Post-It strips, and got to work. Halfway through all the jumble I found my synopsis. And then halfway through the synopsis I found my characters’ route and from that I am finally able to start formulating my plot.

So don’t let the writing process frustrate you. That’s why it’s called the writing process; just give yourself time…especially if it’s a historical novel!


Why You Should Research Your Historical Novel

Stardate 94766.96: #writetip

Every writer has to start somewhere. Every potential author needs to know that they don’t know everything. That, quite honestly, is one of the cold hard truths of the fast-paced publishing world. When I started this book last September, all I had was one tiny idea. One tiny element that would eventually grow to be this beast of a project where I am consistently learning new things.

If you’re going to write about a certain time period, KNOW that time period. You can’t write on the mid 1800s if all you’ve seen on the subject is a single film version of Jane Eyre. You have to immerse yourself in it. Be analytical of the content you find and be extremely picky of what you choose to include in your own nonfiction.

For first-time writers the task can be daunting at first. It was for me when I realized how little I knew. Some authors can pick up their pen and crank out half a novel in a night. Don’t let yourself become discouraged if you find yourself getting stuck. That’s what the research there is for! If you’re not sure what type of hat your character could have worn, or why they believe what they believe, or if the town you chose for your backdrop is the proper setting for your climax, research it.

Another truth: readers will know, and want to know, why you chose the details you put in. Your readers will also be able to pick up on false facts, especially if you’re writing something historical. Granted, it will be your take on events that actually happened, but be prepared to be able to explain the why.

Is research daunting? Yes. But you will not only find connections in the process but gain a wealth of knowledge on your subjects that you may otherwise have never known.



Speaking of Libraries

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Stardate 94505.05: #WTOTD

If you are looking for a library to research in and you are in the Pittsburgh area, I suggest stopping by the Northland Public Library. Not only is their staff incredibly knowledgeable and helpful, but they have a tiny little snack store with a microwave where you can refuel if you want to keep working. Not only that but they offer classes on everything from basic computer skills to crafting, the Virtual Book Shelf, Bookmobile, meeting rooms and more. It has become one of my favorite places to visit for research material and it is consistently busy with several schools being nearby. So there’s my simple Tip of the Day. Nothing on this website is sponsored, but as I work more on my novel I’ll be exploring other local libraries.


Locations Locations Locations

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#WQOTD: Writing Question of the Day

Question: How many locations do I really want to attempt to squeeze into my historical novel? There are so many in one State alone that it is difficult to narrow it down. All of them have potential and fit into my time frame.

Answer: Outline. Outline outline outline. I believe I have passed the point in my research where it is time to hash out the chain of events necessary to get me from Location A to B to C. Remember:

Exposition – Rising Action – Climax – Falling Action – Resolution


Not All Writers Are Public Speakers

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Not all public speakers are writers and not all writers are public speakers. As much as I love typing I hate public speaking. I could never speak from an outline in high school or college. Every word always had to plan everything out verbatim in manuscript form if I had a presentation. That is probably why I can never write just a short story – most of them turn into novellas. Giving me a word count limit is like warning a toddler they have five more minutes with Doc McStuffins.

“That is probably why I can never write just a short story – most of them turn into novellas.”


Books vs E-Readers

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Have you ever noticed that books all, for the most part, have the same smell? When you walk into a modern shop the scent is that of new pages. Fresh. Where glossy and matte pages alike wait to be read for the first time. It’s in these establishments where new books are released, parties are hosted and coffee is brewed.

Let’s travel down the beaten side street to a place called…well…the name wore off the sign years ago but everybody local still knows the name. A bell tingles above as another shopper exits, book in hand, and holds the door open for you. You thank them as you cross the threshold and inhale deeply, letting the thick wooden door behind you click shut.

With shelves climbing to the ceiling you are transported to another dimension, one where adventure is itching to happen. This place doesn’t sell digital media, vinyls or 8 tracks. There’s no electronic card catalogue and the labels on the spines are from a sticker pricing gun. This is more like it. That smell reminds you of your grandmother’s bookshelf that housed copies from the 1970s. Their bindings are weak but your grandma still lets you read the one about the Loch Ness Monster for the twentieth time. You bring the book to your nose and inhale, bringing you back to the shop you’re in now. The clerk asks if you’re looking for anything in particular. “Not today,” you reply. You’re just looking. Who knows what you may find. She nods, understanding, and goes back to her own read.

Enter in digital media.

Libraries have always been supported by communities as places to gsther, learn and preserve history. Without libraries, or museums for that matter, it is feasible that much knowledge would have been lost. Without ink and parchment there would have not been the movable type. Without the movable type there would have not been the printing press. From there we gained mailing services, mechanical computers, and every invention in between that led to the modern day tablet.

In the 1930s a man by the name of Bob Brown dreamt up the concept of electronic books. He dubbed the device:

A machine that will allow us to keep up with the vast volume of print available today and be optically pleasing  (Bob Brown, ‘The Readies’)

And boy did we deliver…seventy years later. We have the Kindle by Amazon, the Sony e-reader, the Kobo, the Nook and more. Let’s not forget the countless apps that enables amateur writers to showcase their own writing and read others as well.

As a pre-teen I remember worrying that there wouldn’t be any pages to turn because I did not like the idea of an e-reader. I remember thinking it was silly for Barnes N Noble to advertise something like the Nook in a place that sold actual books. What is also interesting to note is I was (and still am) fully in support of a world where Star Trek could one day exist. Where all information was stored for instant access inside data cores. So you would think that I would have been open to the idea of having something like that to carry with me.

You are wrong. I was afraid that bookstores would disappear forever and I, without a doubt did not want to contribute to that. While some larger book chains have been downsizing printed books are not disappearing as quickly as I feared. Authors and readers who grew up like I did still love the feeling of a cover beneath our fingers. But, in this digital age, there are a few advantages to having electronic books available. Let’s take a look at a few of them now:

1. Convenience. So you finally booked that summer flight to Florida beach for R&R and you’re preparing to pack. What is spread out on the bed before you? Clothes? Check. Toiletries? Check. Travel info? Check. Books? All the ones you have chosen will cause your bag to go over the alotted weight limit. What do you do? You know you can easily go through one or two a day. Seven days. Seven books. Not enough space. Enter in the e-reader. Once you purchase a book and save it to your device, it is yours to keep. You can reread it like any physical book because you paid for it. And because you know you have at least two new reads ready to go you toss it in your purse instead.

Disadvantage: Making sure to remember the power cable.

2. Encouragement. For most bookworms it is almost unfathomable to hear someone comment that they don’t read. Don’t READ?! How is that even possible?! Illiteracy still exists in the United States amongst all the age groups. And there are others who know how to read who just choose not to. The e-readers, especially those with access to more apps, I feel greatly encourages them to think about trying the reader app out. Instant access to all levels of books and material supports readers and authors alike, and maybe if they begin to enjoy ebooks they will come to support libraries as well.

3. Innovation. A perfect example of ebook innovation comes from the recent reestablishment of Reading Rainbow (no, this blog is not sponsored by then whatsoever. They are just a great, current example of modern technology). From 1983 to 2006, Reading Rainbow opened the world of imagination to generations of young minds. I was greatly amused as a child that LeVar Burton taught us about books by day and repaired starships as Geordi LaForge by night on The Next Generation. There had always been the hope that Reading Rainbow would return but instead we got something even better. LeVar and the R.R team began a Kickstarter campaign to begin a new concept – online learning tools to teach a new generation to love reading. Without platforms such as tablets and e-readers, and without the fervent enthusiasm of the donors to support them, Reading Rainbow would have remained a thing of the past. It is encouraging, interactive and, as with any learning tool, constantly changing.

4. Library Supported. Not only is there the above example of reading apps, many libraries also have e-books available for borrowing add well. All you need is a library card, an account through their website and an app that supports their format. Many moms I know love the ease of it, especially when it is not always convenient to get to a physical library.

Doesn’t there seem to be an awful lot of pros to this “debate” in favor of e-readers? When you look at the overall picture, e-readers and physical Books have formed a symbiotic relationship:

Symbiosis: noun, biology. interaction between two different organisims living in close physical association, typically to the advantage of both. a mutually beneficial relationship between different people or groups.

While the definition of symbiosis is technically of a scientific nature it can be applied to the world of words as well. In this ever-changinf age of technological advancement it was inevitable that someone would bring Bob Brown’s prediction to reality. A true reader will be able to appreciate both forms of literature.

While I  still prefer connecting worth other readers in the physical realm of books, I do enjoy being able to find a series or author online that I otherwise would never have known. You can find readers everywhwre. You can find authors, bookstores, librarians, historians, preservationists…everywhere. even though e-readers don’t “smell” like a bookstore, don’t immediately dismiss such a useful tool without trying it first. You may surprise yourself. Just find the best fit for you. 


Don’t Worry. Just Write.

Stardate 94269.84

If beginning the writing process has taught me anything it is that writing takes time. This has been a hard lesson to learn because I know that I never figured that out when I was a kid. I always wanted the story to magically finish itself or I would play it out in my head and never put it to paper. I am positive that I have written hundreds of stories but was never confident enough to actually write them down.

My uncle often brought books back from his travels. He tours the world as an author, gave workshops and attended them. When he came back he would say, “Now this [book] is really popular in England.” I don’t think that I even have to tell you what one of them was. You could probably figure out that it was the first two books from the Harry Potter series – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. One time he brought back A Wrinkle in Time introducing me to Madeline L’Engle. When I was in high school he brought back Inkheart by Cornelia Funke. But when I read the most was in my childhood. That was when I realized that words can be powerful.

One thing I always appreciated about my parents is that they let me read them. (At one point I also owned almost the entire Star Trek Voyager book series. I wish sometimes that I still did!) I grew up in a Christian household so I often heard of the debates on the series from other parents in church, at school and on the radio. While Harry Potter does, of course, have the “mystical” elements to it so did the entire Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis. We viewed Harry Potter that also taught lessons as well being a well-written story. If you focused all your energy on one negative aspect, your mind can become closed to the other elements also in a story. That “negative aspect” was that some parents felt that the Harry Potter series greatly encourage kids to believe that they too were witches and wizards, poltergeists and goblins.

But is that not what good writing is supposed to do? A good show or film is supposed to do? Not discourage imagination but encourage it, as long as we know it is not real?

But is that not what good writing is supposed to do? A good show or film is supposed to do? Not discourage imagination but encourage it, as long as we know it is not real? That is why it is more than okay to take your time writing your first novel. You want your work to inspire, encourage and entertain. Every writer aims to have that ripple effect – the one where your breakout story will be latched onto by every reader the instant it is picked up. The one where your publisher cannot keep the bookstores’ shelving stocked because it is in such high demand. For most writers it is amongst their first thoughts with the initial keystrokes, ink on paper and pinned post it to a corkboard. The dream is in each word that is misspelled, scratched out and rewritten. The dream is in each scene or action sequence rephrased, completely deleted or moved to another chapter. The dream is in each step of the writing process and with each one of those the worry is there.

That brings me to the other point of my title – Don’t Worry. If you believe in your dream others will see it reflect in you. They will see the hours of hard work you put into it and books of research read. Writing is an art but it also takes time to hone and shape that art into something you know you can be proud of. Don’t doubt yourself because sometimes that is harder to pull yourself out of and you know you will never finish. Don’t worry about all that extra stuff and just WRITE. While networking, finding a publisher and putting yourself out there are all important things, don’t let all that extra stuff get in the way of what you initially started to do: WRITE. Write as though you are not aiming for publication but to begin and end a story. That’s the first step. The other steps will come later but for now work on your craft and don’t let others discourage you. You are your own greatest enemy.

You can do anything you set your mind to, regardless of if you are a seasoned writer or novice prose enthusiast.