Newbies :: Live as a Writer Does

It’s a series on Advice to Newbie Writers. This will last a while. Enjoy.

Advice to Newbies ~ Live and Learn

Herewith, a continuation of my response to a Newbie Writer’s concerns. (See the 9/1 post to read her second email. Names are changed to protect the innocent.)
This series began back in July, and I offered that Newbie Writer 7 mistakes along with ways to avoid them. August followed with 3 Newbie Notta Mistakes, because everyone with a little sense goes into something completely new with background research.
Since she popped a much longer email to me for more information about Advice to Newbie Writers, my response to that one became the September posts … and those responses are continuing here in October.
She sent a third email, which I posted on October 1 (Remember, names changed!).

In the last post, we looked at the Self-Publishing World, and I closed that post with the 6 parts of publishing: Write / Covers / Edit / Format / Publish / Market.

This post looks at that first step.

WRITE THE NOVEL

My epic self-publishing journey began in 2013, when I finally noticed how the Kindle was affecting the readers marketplace.

You can notice things like this when you turn off all the social media and TV and do something that lets your brain meander around. A thunderstorm killed power to the house. I had daylight but little more, so I crocheted, and my mind turned

  • to wishing I could read,
  • to thinking about the indie writers on my Kindle,
  • to wishing I could be like them,
  • and then to realizing that I could be like them.

So I decided to enter the electronic publishing market. I had a handful of completed manuscripts—five fantasies and two historical romantic suspense and several partials.

Once the power came back on, I pulled out all of those completed manuscripts then picked one fantasy and the two historical romantic suspense. Over the next few days, I mulled over two pen names, one for each niche market.

On Saturday following the storm, I started preparing the first manuscript. None of the three needed drastic revision, just bringing them up to date with my writing skills since I first penned them.

So the tail end of 2013 prepped the fantasy, and the beginning of 2014 prepped the two HistRomSuspense novels.

As I completed the revision of the second HistRom suspense, I decided to write a 3rd HistRomSusp while I looked for a cover designer whose aesthetic I liked.

A Word of Advice

When writing, save your work. Don’t just save it to the Cloud or your Hard Drive. Save three separate and distinct electronic copies EVERY TIME. I use my hard drive and two more separate places, a flashdrive and a separate hard drive.

Reliance on the Cloud doesn’t suit me. My local internet service until three years ago was highly unreliable. Now when the internet goes out, I turn my phone into a HotSpot. Unreliability of the internet service means that I don’t depend upon it when I want to write.

I’ve been around computers since the mid-1980s. I can remember using MS-DOS, but not for long. The advent of the Icons to find files. I can remember being excited about WYSIWYG, What You See Is What You Get. I remember being totally excited when the memory drives of computers did not require you to put in a floppy disk to start the program and save work to another floppy disk (an endless round of one disk then the 2nd disk over and over in order to save documents). I remember Windows 3.1; I fell in love with that operating system and its Word program. Great days.

Since I’ve been around computers for that long, I know that electronic files get corrupted or can decay. (Magnets!) Thus, multiple places to save documents. I also print out, chapter by chapter, each draft.

My work process currently follows this process:

Sketch ideas and develop the tagline and basic character information

Write the rough draft and create the MasterBook while writing. This rough draft will follow the best plot structure that I know, presented by Christopher Vogler in his The Writer’s Journey.

Write the good draft. Adding details for depth, for sensory experience, for character development and interaction and relationship building, and more.

Rounds. Edit the first time for plot holes and character discrepancies. Then edit the second time for content. Correct 1. Proof and correct 2. Let sit for a bit. Proof and maybe edit then correct 3. Enlist other eyes. Final proof and correct, as needed.

Publish.

Market consistently.

PROMO

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DiscNovel Analysis Charts pdf

DiscNovel Foundations Charts pdf

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MMO of Free Verse

Free Verse >> Means / Method / Opportunity

Free Verse offers varied options to structure our poems. While free of rhyme and rhythm, free verse by master poets gives us our own MMO.

Once we see the MMO in action, we discover free verse is as highly structured as the pure and blank verse forms.

Let’s look at three different version of Free Verse :: Shaped, Catalog, and Classic. When we want our poetry memorable, we learn from the masters.

For each, we will have an example of an Old Master, On the 25th, we’ll look at New Masters.

Shaped Verse

The Old Master:  George Herbert’s “Easter Wings”

A first practitioner of shaped verse, Herbert did follow a rhyming pattern. He worked in the early 1600s. How’s that for age?

Our souls, in celebration of the Resurrection at Easter, are enabled to fly up to Heaven.

Catalog

The Old Master: Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself 26” (a selected series of lines)

Now I will do nothing but listen,

To accrue what I hear into this song, to let sounds contribute toward it.

I hear bravuras of birds, bustle of growing wheat, gossip of flames, clack of sticks cooking my meals,

I hear the sound I love, the sound of the human voice,

I hear all sounds running together, combined, fused or following,

Sounds of the city and sounds out of the city, sounds of the day and night,

Talkative young ones to those that like them, the loud laugh of work-people at their meals,

The angry base of disjointed friendship, the faint tones of the sick,

The judge with hands tight to the desk, his pallid lips pronoun-cing a death-sentence,

The heave’e’yo of stevedores unlading ships by the wharves, the refrain of the anchor-lifters,

The ring of alarm-bells, the cry of fire, the whirr of swift-streak-ing engines and hose-carts with premonitory tinkles and color’d lights,

The steam-whistle, the solid roll of the train of approaching car. . . .

Classic Form

Sometimes the Classic Form is called Simple Form. Hey, is anything ever simple?

The Old Master:  Stephen Crane’s “The Wayfarer”

The wayfarer, 
Perceiving the pathway to truth, 
Was struck with astonishment. 
It was thickly grown with weeds. 
“Ha,” he said, 
“I see that none has passed here 
In a long time.” 
Later he saw that each weed 
Was a singular knife. 
“Well,” he mumbled at last, 
“Doubtless there are other roads.” 

Wrapping Up

When we examine these poems, we see interconnections of ideas through the shape, through the catalog, through repetition, and through other rhetorical techniques.

In addition to other techniques, Whitman’s catalog uses anaphora and plays with alliteration while Crane writes a narrative. Herrick’s poem may rhyme, but the controlling shape lands it firmly in the free verse world.

Join us on the 25th, for the new masters working in free verse.

Answers for Newbie Writers

It’s a series on Advice to Newbie Writers. This will last a while. Enjoy.

Advice to Newbies

Herewith, the beginning of my response to a Newbie Writer’s concerns. (See the 9/1 post to read her email. Names are changed to protect the innocent.)

Question 1] What does self-publishing mean to you?

As you surmise, the publishing world has a full spectrum. On one end are the trad publishers; on the other the indie writers. We also have hybrids. The trad publishers have a spectrum, from the mega-dollar people to the one-and-done writers.

Most midlist writers were squeezed out in the 90s and early 00s; they usually publisher-hop now. Indie writers like Mark Dawson and Marie Force (she was hybrid but she is now going totally indie) are making lots of money while others are earning coffee money each month.

Success for trad writers depends on genre and writing craft and self-promotions. Most traditional publishers will force trad writers to sign non-compete clauses then refuse to publish more than one or two books a year. For this reason, trad writers who need to make money will have indie pen names or trad.pub pen names with other publishing houses.

Success for indies depends on genre and writing craft, promotions and speed of publication.

Whatever publishing you “go after”, you will have to promote.

Unless you receive a mega-dollar advance from a publishing house, as American Dirt did, then the publishing house will not promote for you.

Most trad-published writers, according to Dean Wesley Smith (see links in previous posts), manage one or two books for a trad publisher then are done unless they go after a pen name that the publisher doesn’t know. Even then, they don’t break out unless they have something that spurs growth.

For example, JK Rowling managed to get into Scholastic which sells to students. Word of mouth drove her early sales. Her megabucks didn’t come until the third or so novel when big-release dates stirred up publicity. By the fourth novel, Rowling began to license her stories to the wider entertainment industry, games and toys and films. Her megabucks came from the licensing deals. Most people think her success came immediately without actually studying her approach. Yes, she had bigger and bigger publishing contracts based on her increasing sales, but the real money is in licensing, especially the films that drove and still drive more sales of her books.

For me, self-publishing means that I write the novel, I contract covers, I contract for the last edit, I format, and then I publish. I market. I have held off on major advertising until I had a strong “backlist”.

A backlist drives sales figures up.

Look at these steps. Which of these can you do?

  • Write. Got that one!
  • Covers. Graphic artists know much more than I do about images and fonts and typography. I’ve picked up some things; teaching journalism forces you to learn a few elements about typography so you can teach advertisement layout. However, to become more-than-good with covers—and lousy covers are out there, killing books—I decided I would need to contract that one.
  • Edit. Partially on my own. Story development and content editing I can go and am happy to do. I need help with the last proofreading but not the first ones. Having more eyes to find typos and grammos is always helpful.
  • Format. Word and Powerpoint were my go-to software applications for decades. I even taught classes for these two. With a little guidance, this one should be easy.
  • Publish. Check!
  • Market. Still working on that one, but as I said, a strong backlist helps drive sales, so building a backlist became the #1 priority.

Promo

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The Guiding Lamp edition.

 

Types of Poetry

Poetry is SOUND before it is SIGHT.

This rule is especially true of songs. Notice how Dolly Parton carefully uses elements of her voice to convey the meaning of the words in her famous “I Will Always Love You”. This is one of the earliest versions of the song.

In special cases, however, Poetry is SIGHT before it is SOUND.

SIGHT becomes an important element when the poet decides to play with the position of the words on the page.

Shifting the position of the words is one of the hallmarks of free verse. When a single word is placed on a line, with other lines presenting longer phrases or sentence elements, then that single word carries a gravitas far greater than its mere meaning and connotation.

The typography of the words *can* capture us visually before the ideas capture us. If the *shape* of the letter ensnares us, we will stay to read the ideas.

One of the earliest poems (that I am aware of) which plays with the typography is George Herbert’s “Easter Wings”

The soul is in flight to Heaven, and wings help us understand this. Then we start to realize Herbert’s hidden point: on Earth we are like caterpillars, inching along. We enter a cocoon state (death) prior to our soul’s in Heaven being transformed into something new and gloriously wonderful—just like with butterflies.

Lewis Carroll does not have such a deeper image in his Mouse Tail (Tale), yet he plays just as strongly with the typography.

With free verse, it is the SIGHT, the typography, that captures our attention.

Divide to Conquer

The realm of poetry can be divided in two different ways:

1st, the purpose of the poem.

  • Lyric (songs of emotion, virtually everything we hear in music)
  • Narrative (story songs, lot of the hits by the Eagles: “Lying Eyes” and “Hotel California”).
  • Dramatic (story without exposition, folk ballads like “Lord Randall”).

2nd, the method of the poetic structure.

  • Pure Verse
  • Blank Verse
  • Free Verse

These three methods are our focus in this season of blogs.

Pure Verse

This is the poetry we are conditioned to accept. It is controlled by Rhyme and Rhythm. The poems of childhood and the songs of our everyday life fall into this method. Even rap music has an expected rhythm (beat, cadence, meter) as well as rhyme. This is Dolly Parton’s “I will always Love You” or George Harrison’s “What is Life”.

Blank Verse

This is Rhythm WithOut Rhyme.

Blank Verse is usually intellectual. Think Shakespeare, especially the major dramatic speeches: Macbeth’s “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow” and Hamlet’s “What a piece of work man is” or “To Be or Not” soliloquy. Think Robert Frost at his best and most unexpected, in “Out, Out—” or “Once by the Pacific”.

Free Verse

Poetry which is Neither Rhyme Nor Rhythm (but plenty of reason). The poet controls the line in other ways than the expected.

A Word on Line Structures

Songs become memorable when key elements are emphasized. Emphasis through unusual punctuation and capitalization are not acceptable means for our minds unless our minds truly love puzzles.

*Emily Dickinson and e.e.cummings break the punctuation and caps “rule”, but they are purposeful with their rule-breaking. It’s not communication anarchy.

Come back on the 15th for a closer look at the MMO of Free Verse.

Symbols

Writers Ink is on a much-needed vacation.

This blog post contains generic information about symbols and their use in two modern poems. Archetype questions are also included.

Print this document and use it when crafting poems (or even prose, since symbols and archetypes can be guides for story and for nonfiction).

The information in  this post and the previous post on archetypes formed a very, very rough basis for a chapter in Discovering Sentence Craft, covering concepts of figurative language. Yes, symbols and archetypes are types of figurative language.

Symbols assist you with crafting your writing, much as we discussed at the Three Unities post, on August. 25.

color number symbol poems

Celebrate *Discovering Characters*!

Celebrate with Writers Ink! Discovering Characters is 1.

One of the hardest things to do in writing is to create characters that readers  will care about, that will make them have to read on. ~ Noah Luke

Discovering Characters is like investigating a house we want to buy.

No, I’m serious. Characters have an exterior façade that we comment upon as we drive past. Through the windows we catch glimpses of interior lives.

Even in cookie-cutter boxy cliques, characters have individual characteristics, just as the suburbia ranch houses have their garden plantings and the urban row houses have their painted doorways. These small touches create individual homes in neighborhoods.

Some characters enjoy the bright city lights. Some are loners, nestled against a national forest.  Characters, houses—each have individual personalities. Some are blingie, with the latest décor while others enjoy the comfort of yoga pants and old sneakers.

As writers, we capture these individual characters and save them from the cookie-cutter boxy stereotypes. We delve into interior rooms for glimpses of formative baggage. Finding their backstory is a search through attics and cellars, storage closets and garages. Characters hide their pain and fears, painting them over and adding distracting artwork.

Our job as writers is to find every detail of our characters then use snippets so our readers will see our characters as they drive through our books. We hint at the foundations while opening doors to their plans and purposes.

Discovering Characters is designed to help writers find the exteriors and interiors, public and private. We’ll dig around the foundations and climb to the roof. We’ll explore the open rooms and the storage closets. We’ll peek into rooms inhabited by such characters as diverse as Elizabeth and Darcy, the Iron Man, Aragorn and Frodo, Travis McGee, Medea, Macbeth, and Nanny McPhee.

Five areas comprise this guidebook. Just as characters—and houses—are individual, this info is individual. You won’t need every bit. Dip in and out, skim around. When you reach locked rooms, come back and explore to discover the keys to your characters.

  1. Starting Points ~ offering templates and character interviews
  2. Classifications ~ common and uncommon ways of discovering characters
  3. Relationships ~ couples, teams, allies, enemies, mentors, etc.
  4. Special Touches ~ progressions, transgressions, and transitions for character arcs
  5. Significant Lists ~ archetypal characters and much more

Discovering Characters, with 44,000-plus words, is the second book in the Discovering set, part of the Think like a Pro Writer series for writers new to the game as well as those wanting to up their game.

Click this link to take advantage of special summer savings.

Writer M.A. Lee has been indie-publishing fiction and non-fiction since 2015. She has over 25 books published under her pseudonyms. Visit www.writersinkbooks.com to discover more information.

Archetypes

Writers Ink is on a much-needed vacation. This blog post contains generic information about archetypes.

Archetypes work like symbols in your writing. They are unconscious triggers for your readers. Use them as touches of details.

Print this document and use it when crafting poems (or even prose, since an archetype could be a guiding symbol for story and for nonfiction).

Archetypes assist you with crafting your writing, much as we discussed at the Three Unities post, on August. 25.

Archetype Notes