When editing your fiction manuscript, one thing you must watch out for are word repetitions. This might be a favorite word you overuse, or it might be a specific word or phrase that you use twice in one paragraph. You want to clean these up so they don’t pull your reader out of the story. Here are a couple of examples: Perish by Pedicure The sergeant smirked, as though he knew all her secrets. “And then?” “Then she called to tell me about the job opening. I offered to put her up at my house, so we could visit while she was here.” “So she arrived on…?” “Friday. I drove directly to the convention hotel so we could check in. That’s when I met Christine Parks for the first time. She brought down the rest of the staff for a preliminary meeting so we could go over the schedule.” “How was her demeanor on this occasion?” “Very much in charge.” Chris wore flashy clothes to attract attention, Marla wanted to add, but she bit her lower lip instead. “Did her behavior seem off-kilter in any manner?” “Not really, and she appeared to be perfectly healthy,” Marla said, anticipating his next question.
<><><> In this passage, note how many times I use the word SO. It is a favorite word of mine in conversation, too. Currently, I’m revising my backlist titles. This book had already been through several rounds of edits at my former publishing house and through my own multiple read-throughs at the time. How come I picked up on this now? Maybe because I’m more aware of this word’s overuse. Whatever the reason, it popped out at me this time.
<><><> Easter Hair Hunt (Work in Progress) “This Fabergé egg belongs in that spot.” Lacey pointed a shaky finger at the case. “Someone must have stolen it and substituted a plastic pink Easter egg in its place.” Marla saw what she meant. Her stomach sank as she realized the significance. Somebody had taken the valuable Fabergé egg and substituted a fake one in its place.
<><><> A software program that will help you pick up on word repetitions is Smart-Edit. Otherwise, you can do a search and find if you’re aware of your foibles in this regard. If not, a close edit of your manuscript may turn them up.
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As your series grows in the number of books, it becomes critically important to keep track of your timelines. This came home to me recently when writing my latest work, tentatively titled Easter Hair Hunt. Hairstylist Marla Vail’s stepdaughter Brianna will be leaving for college soon. I wrote that she was a senior in high school but then realized I’d better check to make sure. The story takes place in March. The last one, Trimmed to Death, took place in October. Brianna was only in the eleventh grade in that story. She wouldn’t have graduated yet. Whoops. I went back and made her a junior for the current WIP. So what sorts of things do you need to keep track of from book to book? Here’s a handy list: Character Ages Character Birthdays Grades for any school-age children Notes on secondary characters regarding their current status Dates for Holidays For Easter Hair Hunt, I determined the holiday would take place in late March. I set Passover a week later. But was this plausible? I looked up dates on the Internet and found this: Easter Sunday can fall between March 22 and April 25. Easter is March 23 in 2008 but then Passover is April 20 Easter is March 27 in 2016 but then Passover is April 23 Easter is March 31 in 2024 but then Passover is April 23 I picked one of these dates for Easter in my story and had to remove Passover since it didn’t come until a month later. Marla attends the egg hunt on a Saturday. She celebrates Easter with her interfaith family on Sunday. Monday is her day off, and that’s when she begins her snooping into the latest murder mystery. So for each individual book, you also need to know these factors: Month your story takes place Days of the week for each chapter or scene. Using one of those free calendars you get in the mail might be helpful. Special events you mention in the story that will be coming up, such as a bridal shower for one of Marla’s friends. Here’s an example of my timeline notes forTrimmed to Death: Date: OCTOBER Marla is 38 (BD Feb.). Royal Oaks, her housing development in southwest Palm Haven, is four years old. Dalton is 46 (BD Nov.) Brianna is 16, is in 11th grade as of Sept., and has her driver’s license (BD March). She takes acting classes to help with public speaking, belongs to the drama club and debate team at school. She’s aiming for college in Boston. Mentions a boy named Jason in Trimmed. Jason has an older brother who plays in a band. Tally’s baby Luke is 14 months. (BD Aug. 3). Tally is 38 (BD Aug. 28) Arnie, deli owner and Marla’s friend, is 42. Married to Jill. Robyn, Marla’s neighbor and salon receptionist, is 36 (BD is August) Nicole, a hairstylist at Marla’s salon, spends weekends at her boyfriend Kevin’s place. His parents and siblings live in Miami. Nicole meets them in Trimmed and then Kevin takes her to the Bahamas before Thanksgiving (Nov). What you want to do with each installment is add to this list and then copy and paste it to your next book’s files. It’s easy to get lost unless you keep detailed notes regarding these timelines. You could say the same for family trees. Figuring out who is related to whom gets even more confusing if you don’t draw a diagram or make notes. For the writers out there, what else do you include on these timeline lists? <><><> CLICK TO TWEET
Setting goals is critical if you want to get things done. For a writer, making a list of what you want to accomplish each year will put you on the right path. In an earlier blog post, I reviewed my goals for 2018. We discussed what got done and what didn’t. Authors can break down their goals into creative and business oriented tasks. So now let’s take a look at 2019. This might seem less ambitious than last year, but revising and reissuing my backlist titles is my main goal. That project could take the entire year, because I go through each book to tighten the writing and then do a full read-through once for any further changes and again to check for conversion errors after formatting. It takes time, because I want each book to be the best possible version. So I am not going to set myself too many tasks beyond this one. CREATIVE GOALS Reissue remaining backlist titles (6 romances + 4 mysteries) Write and publish Easter Hair Hunt, #16 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries Write and publish a Bad Hair Day recipe book BUSINESS GOALS Enter latest releases in writing contests Carry on with newsletter, blogs and social media Update website in terms of hosting and other behind-the-scenes decisions Bundle books into box sets Consider wider distribution for audiobooks LEARNING GOALS Learn how to use various book production tools as new opportunities arise Learn how to plan and promote book sales after all my backlist titles are under my control <><><> Five years ago, I wrote a list of long-term, five-year goals. I am pleased to say that I am on target with most of these items. Once this year’s goals are met, it will be time for a career reassessment. Only by resetting our overall goals periodically can we gain clarity on the best path to take next. What is the main item you want to get done this year? GIVEAWAY Enter to win a $25 Amazon/BN Gift Card atBooklovers Bench.
While doing research for my books, I love to learn about esoteric topics. For Trimmed to Death, #15 in my Bad Hair Day Mystery series, I focused the story on food. Hairstylist and amateur sleuth Marla Vail enters a bake-off contest that’s a recipe for disaster when a contestant ends up dead.
In considering the possible crime involved, I came across the topic of olive oil fraud. This led me to delve into the Florida olive growing industry and how olives are processed. Yes, I’m an olive fan. And now I’m more aware of fraud in the olive oil import business. Read on, and you can become more knowledgeable, too. Disclaimer: This information is based on my interpretation of the data so you are urged to verify the facts yourself. The Problem Olive oil scams rake in millions of dollars and involve fake labels and inferior products. The Italian extra virgin olive oil you paid a hefty price to buy? It may originate from somewhere else entirely. For example, a criminal ring from Italy passed off a blend of imported oils from the Middle East as authentic Italian extra virgin olive oil (EVOO). Italy’s authorities unraveled the scheme, which involved twelve companies and a certification laboratory. Thousands of tons of olive oil were fraudulently bottled and labeled as made in Italy. Just so you know, Italy may be the world’s largest importer and exporter of olive oil, but Spain is the largest producer. Much of what comes from Italy is merely bottled there. In another case, seven well-known Italian olive oil producers were investigated for falsely passing off inferior olive oil products as extra virgin. Italian authorities conducted operation “Mama Mia” and seized 2,000 tons of falsely labeled EVOO worth $14.5 million. Two months later, they seized another 22 tons of counterfeit oil. Italian newspaper La Stampa tested twenty of the most popular brands in Italy and discovered forty-five percent was falsely labeled. As much as eighty percent of olive oil labeled as extra virgin may be diluted with lower grades of oil. These can include refined oils that have been processed with heat or chemicals. Or the EVOO may be adulterated with processed seed oils, such as soybean, peanut or sunflower. These seed oils can cause potential allergic reactions. Sometimes the extra virgin olive oil is cut with stale oil left over from earlier crops, or it may even be sold rancid. The market is rife with fraud, with estimates that nearly seventy percent of all store-bought EVOOs sold in the United States are falsely labeled. What is being done about it? The U.S. Congress ordered the FDA to begin testing imported oils for adulteration and misbranding. Italian producers have created their own seal of quality that says 100% Qualita Italiana. California producers have a California Olive Oil Commission (COOC) 100% Certified Extra Virgin seal. The North American Olive Oil Association has its own certified logo. What can you do? Check the label and see if the country of origin is listed. Look at the date for when the oil was pressed or harvested and try to buy it less than a year old. Ignore the “bottled on” date as well as “use by” a certain date. See if it has one of the certification seals above. Look for specialty olive oils produced by local olive growers in Florida and California. Shop at specialty stores that provide information about chemical analysis, olive variety, where and when it originated. These shops do tastings and sell in small quantities. Once opened, olive oil deteriorates quickly. So it’s better to buy two small bottles than one bigger one. <><><> TRIMMED TO DEATH Savvy hairstylist and amateur sleuth Marla Vail enters a charity bake-off contest at a fall festival sponsored by a local farm. While she waits to see if her coconut fudge pie is a winner, she discovers a dead body in the strawberry field. Can she unmask the killer before someone else gets trimmed from life? Recipes Included! Get your copy here: Amazon Print: https://amzn.to/2xXmY57 Amazon Kindle: https://amzn.to/2Kb7oIK Apple Books: https://apple.co/2xWHSRP BN Nook: http://bit.ly/2sH9vcH BN Print: http://bit.ly/2lEUhkB Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/trimmed-to-death GIVEAWAYS Enter Here Dec. 1 – 15 to win a signed hardcover of Peril by Ponytail along with a DVD of “Author’s Anonymous” and a bag of microwave popcorn. Two Runners-up get either a signed paperback of Shear Murder or Hanging by a Hair. Enter Here Dec. 1 – 18 to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklover’s Bench.
I’m excited to announce the release of Writing the Cozy Mystery: Expanded Second Edition. Do you want to write a cozy mystery but don’t have a clue where to start? Or are you in the middle of a story and stuck on the plot? Perhaps you’re already writing a series, and you need tips on keeping your material fresh. Writing the Cozy Mystery will help you develop your characters, establish the setting, plot the story, add suspense, plant clues and solve the crime. This Second Edition contains more examples; additional writing exercises; expanded sections; and seven new chapters including The Muddle in the Middle, Romance and Murder, Special Considerations for Cozy Writers, Keeping a Series Fresh, Writing the Smart Synopsis, Mystery Movies, and Marketing Tips. You’ll find everything you need to know in an easy-to-read, clear manner to write your own mystery and maintain a long-running series. Recommended for cozy writers, mystery fans, and creative writing classes. Just in time for your holiday gift bags! “Too many writer’s guides focus on style and how to write; but Nancy J. Cohen’s Writing the Cozy Mystery: Expanded Second Edition doesn’t limit itself to literary mechanics alone. This makes it a highly recommended pick for all levels of writers; from those who enjoy mysteries and need a clearer definition of ‘cozy’ and its applications; to writers already well aware of the genre, but who need tips on how to sustain suspense or sprinkle believable clues throughout a cozy production.” D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review If you are thinking about writing a cozy mystery, read this book first! Nancy lays out all the necessary steps in an interesting and informative way that is easy to follow. This book was an invaluable tool when I wrote my first cozy. Highly recommended.” Catherine Bruns, USA Today Bestselling Author “Nancy J. Cohen offers clear examples, practical writing exercises, and friendly advice designed to help the beginning cozy author start—and finish!—a saleable book. Even seasoned cozy writers can find helpful hints for building better characters and story.” Diane A.S. Stuckart, aka Ali Brandon, NY Times Bestselling Author of the Tarot Cats Mysteries “If you want to write a cozy mystery—or really, any kind of mystery—this is the book for you! Everything you need to know in one handy volume.” Victoria Thompson, Bestselling Author of the Gaslight Mystery Series Digital Edition:ISBN 978-0-9985317-2-4, $3.99, Orange Grove Press
Print Edition: ISBN 978-0-9985317-3-1, $9.99, Orange Grove Press
Cover Design and Graphic Illustrations by Boulevard Photografica Print Pages: 130 pages. Word Count: 28,000 words
Nonfiction – Reference – Writing Guide Order Your Copy Now: Apple Books Amazon Print Amazon Kindle BN Nook Kobo Universal Link Booksellers and Librarians: This title is available at Ingram. Note: Amazon will not link the 190+ reviews from the first edition, so I need ALL NEW REVIEWS on the book’s Amazon page. Please take a few minutes to say how this book helped you if you find it a useful read. CLICK TO TWEET
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I’m a big olive fan. When I was younger, I used to eat cream cheese and black olive sandwiches for lunch. Now I like to eat olives as an accompaniment to any kind of sandwich, or olive tapenade on crackers as an appetizer. I like green olives, but they can be saltier. Then we have Kalamata olives, which I enjoy along with nova on a bagel or in a Greek salad. In Trimmed to Death, my hairstylist sleuth Marla Vail goes to interview a person of interest at an olive grove. Along the way, she learns more about this fruit from the olive tree. What’s the difference between green and black olives? The olive is a stone fruit, in which a fleshy outer covering surrounds a pit or stone, which in turn encases a seed. The outer flesh of an olive contains up to thirty percent oil. Olives grown for the table are different from olives pressed for oil. Raw olives have a bitter taste. They need to be processed before we can eat them. They can be sun dried, but more commonly they’re treated to remove the bitter compounds and make them more palatable. Green olives are picked before they ripen and are soaked in lye. Then they’re washed in water to remove the caustic solution and transferred to fermenting vessels full of brine. The brine is changed on a regular basis to help remove the bitter phenolic compound known as oleuropein. Fermentation occurs by natural microbes present on the olives that survive the lye treatment. These bacteria produce lactic acid that lowers the pH of the brine. This helps stabilize the product against unwanted pathogens. Once fermented, the olives are placed in fresh brine and acid-corrected before going to market. Black olives are picked after ripening. Tree-ripened olives turn purple due to an accumulation of anthocyanin, a purplish pigment. These ripe olives need treatment before they’re edible. Salt-cured olives, produced in certain Mediterranean countries, are washed and packed in alternating layers of salt. This draws the moisture from the olives, dehydrating and shriveling them. Once cured, they are sold in their natural state without any additives. Oil-cured olives are cured in salt and then soaked in oil. Otherwise, there’s the fermentation process described above. California black olives, although labeled as ripe on supermarket cans, are really green olives that have been soaked in lye and washed in water injected with compressed air. This process is repeated until the skin and flesh are oxidized, turning the olives black. Then the olives are washed and put into a fresh brine solution. Ferrous gluconate may be added to set the shiny black color before these olives are canned. What is a Kalamata olive? The Kalamata olive from this region in Greece has a deep purple color and is meatier than other varieties. These olives are placed directly into fermentation vessels full of brine until they appear almost dark brown or black. Most Kalamata olives are split to allow the interior to absorb the flavor. Beware these olives are usually sold with their seeds. Even if you get olives that are supposedly pitted, small bits might remain, so be careful when eating them. Why are black olives sold in cans and green olives in jars? Early California black olives sold in jars caused cases of botulism. As a result, the industry switched to a canning process. The artificially-ripened olives are heated to 240 degrees. A canned item can tolerate this temperature, but not a glass jar. Green olives don’t undergo the addition of oxygen and are packed in brine. The salinity is high enough and the pH levels are low enough to inhibit bacterial growth, so they don’t have to be sealed in metal cans and cooked. These olives remain edible for many years stored in jugs, crocks, or jars. No refrigeration is required until opened. Excerpt from Trimmed to Death Hairstylist Marla Vail is talking to a Florida olive grower. “Some olive varieties may be edible off the tree if they are sun dried first. Otherwise, the curing process can take a few days with lye treatment, or a few months with brine or salt packing.” “What do you mean, with lye?” Marla wrinkled her nose at the thought. “Lye processing is mainly used with green or semi-ripe olives,” Ben explained, as they crossed over to another row and then headed back toward the main complex. “The olives are soaked in lye for eight to ten hours to hydrolyse the oleuropein. Then they’re washed in water to remove the caustic solution and transferred to fermenting vats filled with brine. Or, you can avoid the lye process and put them directly into fermentation vessels. There are other methods as well. One technique involves artificially darkening the olive to make it appear black.” This was news to her. “Are table olives different from olives used to make olive oil?” “Yes. Some olives are grown to cure and eat, while others are prized for their use in making extra virgin olive oil. Olive mills press the oil, and the sooner you get the product to consumers, the better the quality of the oil. Demand has increased since the health benefits of olive oil have been recognized. In the U.S., we currently import about ninety-eight percent of the millions of gallons we consume per year. You’re not always getting the product you think you are with these imports. Fraud has become a multi-million dollar enterprise.” Olive Oil Scams are a topic for another time. I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about this fruit and are now eager to check out the varieties in your local grocery store. Disclaimer: This information is based on my interpretation of the data I read. Any errors are unintentional. Are you an olive fan? If so, which variety do you like best? <><><> TRIMMED TO DEATH Savvy hairstylist and amateur sleuth Marla Vail enters a charity bake-off contest at a fall festival sponsored by a local farm. While she waits to see if her coconut fudge pie is a winner, Marla discovers a dead body in the strawberry field. Can she unmask the killer before someone else gets trimmed from life? Recipes Included! Get your copy here: Amazon Print: https://amzn.to/2xXmY57 Amazon Kindle: https://amzn.to/2Kb7oIK iBooks: https://apple.co/2xWHSRP Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/trimmed-to-death BN Nook: http://bit.ly/2sH9vcH BN Print: http://bit.ly/2lEUhkB Smashwords:https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/900157
Your main goal in writing a mystery, or any kind of fictional work, is to create story questions in the reader’s mind. This creates suspense that you need to propel the story forward. Even as you are plotting the book, assuming you’re a plotter like me and not a pantser (figuring it out as you go), you need to keep asking yourself ongoing questions. Let’s take a story I have in mind as an example. The setting is a historic house. Suspects may include the head docent, the owner or owner’s children, a board of trustees if they own the place, the gardener, café manager, and gift shop lady. Objects are being stolen from this house one at a time so the theft won’t be noticed. So here we come to several questions. Why is someone stealing valuable objects? The thief needs money. What for? Gambling debts (a bingo addict? Horse races? Jai A’lai games? Illegal online gambling?) Medical care (expensive medications for a hidden disease? Medical treatment for a loved one? Nursing home care for an aged relative?) To pay back a loan or to pay blackmail money Greed (he’s not getting paid enough) To hide financial losses Or the thief is stealing out of a sense of entitlement. The culprit feels these items should be rightfully his because the former owner (a distant relative?) swindled his father out of his inheritance. Or was his father cheated by a business partner, the former owner of the estate? Note that you can assign one of these motives to each suspect without deciding which one is the killer. It’ll make them all seem guilty. Next question would be: Who has access to the house? This could be any of the above named suspects, plus the cleaning staff, repairmen, or other minor players. So the thief steals these items. How does he sell them? Does he go through a person acting as fence? If so, how did he gain this criminal connection? Has he been incarcerated, which is where he got the idea for thievery and learned these skills? Or maybe the culprit is a woman lonely for attention who’s been seduced by a bad boy? What about security? Are the valuable items in locked display cases? Is there video monitoring, motion detectors, glass-break alarms? Or are the objects in plain sight in various rooms guarded by security personnel until closing time? Now we come to the next big question. Who is killed and why? Did the victim witness the thief in action? Maybe he saw the crook hand off the item to his fence in exchange for a wad of cash. Or he stumbled into the culprit and the stolen object tumbled from the thief’s jacket onto the ground. Either way, this appears to be a crime of opportunity. The sleuth finds the body. What is the means of murder? Where does she find the victim? Let’s say the sleuth also discovers one of the stolen items on the estate grounds. How does it get there? Did the thief mean to get rid of the evidence, or did the item fall from his pocket accidentally? Now let’s turn everything around. Thefts have been taking place at this estate, and the suspects all seem to be hiding these secret motives we’ve discussed. But what if the victim’s death was premeditated? The autopsy reveals that this act was set in motion even before the day’s events began. He died from poison, not the knife wound. Plot twist! Now your sleuth has to reexamine all the motives, the access to the victim, and the specialized knowledge needed to commit the murder. If you’re a mystery writer who likes to plan things out in advance, you need to answer all these questions before you begin writing the novel. You might be a pantser who starts with a story crisis and keeps writing, being surprised along the way. But as you can see, a plotter can be surprised as well when these plot twists pop up. I call this process story magic coming into play. The point is to keep asking questions. These same questions will plague your readers, and that creates suspense. When one issue is settled, you’ll need to raise more questions to keep the tension going throughout the book. For more on this topic, see my previous posts on Writing the Mystery CLICK TO TWEET NEWSLETTER I am sending out a newsletter on Tuesday to celebrate my new book release. This will have bonus materials for subscribers only, so sign up now at https://nancyjcohen.com/newsletter/ GIVEAWAY Sept. 17 – 26 Women Sleuth Mysteries Enter Hereto win 30+ Women Sleuth Mysteries, including my book HAIR BRAINED, along with a new eReader. And you get FREE reads just for entering!
Do you get so caught up in reading blogs, webinars, and posts and/or listening to podcasts, that you get nothing else done? I have been catching up on reading newsletters from my professional writing organizations, trade journals to which I subscribe, plus blogs on marketing and other business aspects of writing. If only I could clear my Inbox, I tell myself, I’d turn my focus to the nine backlist titles that I still have to reissue. And yet the more of these articles that I read, the more that keep popping up in my email. Moreover, reading this advice makes me feel terribly guilty. Why am I not able to do all these things? The articles offer wonderful marketing strategies and tips, and yet I’d need to be either thirty years younger to have the energy or three clones to manage it all. Meanwhile, I am accomplishing nothing else. Is it because I’ve lost my mojo? Or is it that I can’t move on to new material until I get these backlist titles done? Then again, maybe it’s burnout and time for a break. It used to be that I put my writing goals first in the morning before glancing at email or social media. What happened to this self-discipline? So I’ve decided to skim these articles, file the information for later, and do only what I can for now. It’s more important to move on to the next project. This means I need to practice BICHOK more often – Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard. Get off the couch, and go to work. This goes for you, too, my fellow writers. Let’s pay less attention to the “should” demons (i.e. the things you should be doing) and more time to the work we can control. Your success is only as good as the next book. It’s not dependent on how many social media posts with cute memes you’ve posted. GIVEAWAY Enter Here Aug 9 – 23 to win a signed advance reading copy of TRIMMED TO DEATH, #15 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries.
This past weekend, writing coach Joyce Sweeney gave a workshop on The Plot Clock at the August meeting of Mystery Writers of America Florida Chapter. You can sign up for a webinar on this topic at her website: http://www.sweeneywritingcoach.com/. Here’s what I learned. Any errors are due to my misinterpretation. Start with this question before you begin plotting: What will happen to your protagonist so he has to change and transform? In a mystery, how will the murder challenge your main character? Act One of this four-act structure includes the Inciting Event. The person who doesn’t want to change meets an event that will cause him to transform. At this stage, he is reluctant to get involved. He fights against the inevitable until something compelling happens that he can’t avoid. This is called the Binding Point. Act Two finds the hero entering the special world of the story. In a mystery, this is when the sleuth commits to solving the crime. But the protagonist hasn’t changed yet and makes mistakes. Things go badly for him. As a writer, ask yourself what’s the worst thing that can happen to this character? He keeps losing ground and struggles to carry on until he reaches a Low Point. This happens in the middle of the book. In Act Three, the hero determines to improve and fight on. By doing the right thing, he gains ground. He may have followed the wrong path and has changed direction. Now he is on the proper trail. But we still need to escalate tension. As the protagonist gets closer to identifying the murderer, the bad guy reacts. More deaths may occur. Attempts on the hero’s life might threaten him. The sleuth is doing better at solving the crime, but the killer is now on to him. For every action the hero makes, the villain makes a countermove. The Turning Point comes out of left field and moves us into Act Four. Nobody could have anticipated this plot twist. It derails the main character so that he questions his purpose and wants to quit, or “turn away.” Here you must raise the stakes so he can’t quit. He rallies and “turns back” to solve the mystery. The Climax comes close to the end. You should be layering in the explanations about the suspects’ motives so the Denouement is short and doesn’t drag on. For more details, visit Joyce’s site at http://www.sweeneywritingcoach.com/ GIVEAWAY Enter Here Aug 9 – 23 to win a signed advance reading copy of TRIMMED TO DEATH
Writer’s Block is often interpreted to mean that a writer stumbles over what to write next. Or he comes to a complete halt due to outside distractions or loss of confidence. But what about when he has so many ideas, that he can’t complete a single one? This can be conceived as another type of writer’s block. “I have too many ideas at once, and I don’t know which one to pick,” an aspiring author wrote to me. “What is your advice on this issue?”
It’s great if you have lots of story ideas. It’s not so good if you allow them to distract you until you can’t write anything. Or maybe you’ll write a bit on each one but never finish a single novel. My suggestion would be to pick the one idea that excites you the most and keep writing until you finish the first draft. Yes, it’s that simple. “You’ve had two series going on together. How did you manage it, both mentally and during the actual writing? Was it difficult going back and forth? Is it easier to finish one at a time?” I can only work on one project at a time. Even when I was writing two series in different genres, I would focus on one book until it was finished and in the hands of my editor. When that book was completely done, I would turn to the next project.
What happens when you have so many ideas that they interfere with your concentration? Write them down. Keep a “New Idea” file or a “Plotting” file and jot down your notes. Then put them aside until you finish your current project. Set yourself daily and weekly writing goals for your story of choice. Then sit your butt in the chair and drive yourself each day until you meet your quota. Do not stop if one of those tempting ideas entices you. Concentrate on the book at hand. Later on, those ideas will either be viable or not. You’ll know better when you gain some perspective. For now, you have one project only that you need to finish. To reiterate: · Pick your project. · Set your writing goals. · Write down all the distracting ideas in your head and set them aside. · Begin on your daily writing quota. · Keep writing until you finish the first draft. Next come revisions, and that’s another topic we’ve already addressed here. Your book isn’t done until it’s done. Edited, Revised, Polished, and Submitted. Then and only then, you may turn to your list of potential new projects. If you’re writing a series, you will need to begin the next installment. If not, listen to your heart and determine which idea is calling to you. Your passion will shine through in your words. Have some ideas that don’t resonate anymore? Scratch them off the list. You want to be excited enough that the buoyancy will sustain you throughout an entire novel. One idea at a time. One day at a time. One page at a time. GIVEAWAY Enter Here to win a $25 Amazon/BN gift card from Booklovers Bench.