Writing

Writing about writing.

Progress Report on Forthcoming “Bell Witch” Title

I’ve been busy typing away on the update and complete rewrite of The Bell Witch: The Full Account, scheduled for release on October 13, 2013. The book’s first edition debuted on Friday, October 13, 2000. Yes, Friday the thirteenth of October, in the year 2000.

The 2013 update, which is a full rewrite available in both paperback and eBook formats, coincides with the book’s thirteenth anniversary. There’s just something about that number–thirteen.

Two weeks have elapsed since I [finally] located the book’s original file–created in Word 97–and opened it for the first time in thirteen years. I could’ve sworn my computer’s screen turned yellow and began to smell musty, it has been that long. Here is what I’ve done over the past two weeks:

  • Reduced the page count from 406 to 348!
  • Removed three entire sections (not reflected in revised page count).
  • Added 24 new pieces of new information about the case.

The copy and developmental editing will continue over the summer. New covers, both front and back, will also be added. The promotional campaign will begin in May. Also this year, I have two more books to finish and a busy lecture/signing schedule. Please send prayers and coffee.

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#Authors #Indie #Twitter Twitter Hashtags for Authors

Many writers ask about marketing their books on Twitter. I’m not a Twitter expert, but I’ve enjoyed mild success by marketing by books on Twitter. How? It’s simple. It’s about good manners and hashtags.

I try to tweet once every day or so; I don’t overdo it. That’s my biggest challenge, as I don’t like moderation. “If something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right, and worth doing BIG–to the max, to the limit, over the limit!” is one of my many “patisms.” If you can’t, or won’t, give something 250%, 500% of the time, then don’t do it! Okay, enough. But I digress….

One day, I’ll tweet about the weather; the next day, a fellow author’s book; and the next, my writing progress. Then, about once every week or so, I will tweet to people that one of my books is currently on sale (which it is). I’ve tweet-promoted my books more frequently, but with no results. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that while people love to hear about good books, they don’t like having books shoved down their throats. “Buy my book!” “Buy my book!” tweeted 30 times daily, by the same author, not only makes an ass of the author, but also irritates his or her soon-to-be unfollowers. Be humble. Be nice. Remember that Twitter is a social interaction tool, and should be used to SOCIALIZE with people. There’s nothing wrong with advertising your books, but a little moderation and more socialization–personal socialization–go a long way. And, so do hashtags.

I’ll spare you from my long, ad-nauseous definition of a hashtag, and say, simply, go check out http://www.hashtags.org . You’ll learn what a hashtag is, why it’s important, which hashtags are “trending,” which hashtags have the most activity, and a thousand other points to consider when hashtagging your tweets. Once you’ve learned what hashtags are (assuming you don’t already know), see my list, below, which can be helpful to authors.

PLEASE consult hashtags.org and RESEARCH any hashtag you plan to use. Understand what it is, what it isn’t, and when, and when not, to use it. If you misuse a hashtag, you’re subject to embarrassment and ridicule from the Twitter gods.

Basic Book Stuff –
#novel #new #paperbacks #short #story #greatread #whattoread #books #nonfiction #storytelling #book #mustread #writers #pubwrite #writetip #fridayreads

Indie and eBook Stuff –

#ebooks #epublishing #epublishers #epub #digitalpublishing #selfpub #readanindiefriday #indieauthor & #indieauthors #indiepublishing #indiepub

Authors to Authors (shop talk) –

#AmWriting
#AmEditing
#WordCount
#WriterWednesday
#WritersLife
#YALitChat
#LitChat
#MemoirChat
#BookMarket
#WritingParty
#IndieAuthors
#WriteChat
#epubchat:
#kindlechat:
#vss
#webfic
#weblit
#wip
#wordcount
#writegoal
#writequote

Quote from your book-
#Novelines

Genre Stuff –
#RomanceWriter
#SciFiChat
#KidLitChat
#RWA (Romance Writers of America)
#ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers)
#SCBWI (Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators)
#MemoirChat
#LitFic
#HistFic
#HistNovel
#ShortStories
#WomensFiction
#Science
#Futuristic
#Crime
#SciFi

The Book Industry –
#WritingTip
#WriteTip
#GetPublished
#PromoTip
#SelfPublishing
#Publishing
#AskAgent
#AskAuthor
#AskEditor
#EBooks
#IndiePub
#BookMarketing

Creativity-
#WritingPrompt
#StoryStarter
#WordAThon
#Creativity
#WIP

Reach out to Readers (IMPORTANT!!!!!!)-
#FridayReads
#BookGiveaway
#MustRead
#LitChat
#StoryFriday
#MustRead

Online Booksellers-
#smashwords
#bookbuzzr
#fReadO
#amazon
#kobo
#nook

Marketing-
#bookmarketing
#bookbuzz
#special
#free
#freebie
#FictionFriday
#FlashFriday

eBook Formats-
#kindle
#sony
#nook
#ebooks
#kobo
#ipad
#ereaders
#ebook
#kpd

Ok, I’ve let the cat out of the bag and given you my secret. Again, PLEASE consult hashtags.org and RESEARCH any hashtag you plan to use. Understand what it is, what it isn’t, and when, and when not, to use it.

Another Writing Tip

Where possible, write in the active voice. The active voice occurs when the subject PERFORMS an action; for instance, “A tornado toppled Uncle Frank’s barn.” In contrast to the active voice, the passive voice occurs when the subject RECEIVES an action; for instance, “Uncle Frank’s barn was toppled by a tornado.”

The example written in the active voice is shorter (by two words), simpler, and more on point. It reads better, and it moves the scene at a faster pace.

Is it “wrong” to write in the passive voice? Not always. While it doesn’t read as well as the active voice, and it often necessitates more words to convey a thought, the passive voice still isn’t literary taboo–you just need to watch it carefully. Is the passive voice ever the “correct” approach to a piece? Yes. It’s good for achieving effect and emphasis; for example, to make sure that a particular word receives the greatest emphasis (by forcing it to the end of the sentence).

When it doubt, go with the active voice. It tightens your prose, gives it more punch, and moves your story along.

#Ghosts #Paranormal #AmWriting How to Write a Ghost Story (My Way)

But first…. Ready for fright season? Get your copy of “Ghostly Cries From Dixie,” TODAY! Kindle and paperback editions available. Click here! Pleasant dreams.

Checking my stats this evening, I noticed someone had found my site by using the search term, “how to write a ghost story.” How to write a ghost story? I’m flattered, indeed, but I’ve yet to offer any insight into writing about things that go bump in the night. Until now.

What is a ghost story? A story involving a character(s) of a ghostly, paranormal nature? A story about a ghost that swipes cookies from the kitchen, wakes you up, and sucks all the energy from your body while regurgitating said cookies? Could a ghost story be a journalistic approach to solving, or trying to explain, a haunting? I suppose it could be any of the above, but I deal only with the latter, the journalistic approach. Neither a believer nor a skeptic, my unbiased approach to a haunting entails digging up lots of information (records), analyzing the information to separate fact from hocus-pocus, and presenting my findings–anything factual or noteworthy–to my readers.

Assuming I’ve completed a five-day trip to a haunted location 1000 miles away, and analyzed my findings, the example below is how I write the story. The example is NOT a perfect (edited) story. It flowed from the top of my head to my fingers, and then to my keyboard, as I thought it up. The example is based on a historic hurricane, but I know neither the date nor the particulars–I only know it happened at one of my favorite places. I borrowed the example’s main character from my book, Ghostly Cries From Dixie, changing her name from Marie LaVeau to Madame Treme’. Without further ado, here’s how I write a ghost story.

The Intro
The Intro sometimes includes a ghostly hint before transitioning into the main story. By “story,” I mean the story of a real-life tragedy that caused the haunting. Here is an intro with a hint:

For years, people have heard the thunder of Voodoo drums and seen scantily-dressed characters dancing along the shore of Lake Pontchartrain. The eerie thumps and fervent apparitions fade into the early morning fog when approached, leaving witnesses terrified and searching for answers.

The Story
Other times, the intro goes straight into the story (no intro):

For over fifty years, Madame Treme’ led exotic Voodoo rituals involving animal sacrifices, drunken orgies, live boas along the shores of Lake Pontchartrain. These rituals would begin around 10 o’clock at night and last until daybreak.

 

The Tragedy (the reason for a haunting)
Ok, let’s assume we’ve done the intro and a three-page story, thus far. Now it’s time to seal the story with a tragedy:

Just before daybreak on a sweltry October morning, Madame Treme’ and her followers experienced what they thought were the gods. Thunder boomed and roared, the howling wind picked up, and lightning crackled in the usually dark sky. Weather warning systems didn’t exist in 1835; people were left to fend for themselves when they saw bad weather approaching. At night, there was no way to tell how bad an approaching front would be, until it was too late. The Voodoo ritual grew more intense as sheets of rain swept the now whitecapping lake and trees buckled. Within five minutes, a powerful hurricane changed the face of Lake Pontchartrain forever and buried Madame Treme’ and her followers in the lake’s murky depths.

The Transition (get your spook on)
Tragedy accomplished. Boo hoo. Now, let’s transition to the paranormal and create a ghost story:

Long lost, but not forgotten, Madame Treme’ was the most notorious Voodoo queen in Louisiana history. Men loved her, women coveted her, and the organized clergy cursed her. She weilded sceptre over those who followed her, sacrificing to the Loa, manipulating the human psyche, and destroying those who dared to cross her. And now, almost 180 years later, Madame Treme’ still wields her sceptre, more forcefully than ever, from her watery grave!

The Evidence (why we think there’s a ghost)
Paranormal transition accomplished. Now that we’ve got our spook on, we need to provide evidence to back our claim.

Anglers frequently report seeing an older Creole woman wandering the shores of Lake Pontchartrain at daybreak. When spoken to, she smiles and quickly turns in the opposite direction, then disappears. In 1998, two college students who had camped in the woods near the lake reported hearing Voodoo drums and seeing people dressed in Voodoo attire late one night. The figures danced near the shore and wailed repeatedly. The drum’s beat grew softer over the course of five minutes, and the mysterious revelers faded into the fog.

That’s not much evidence. For a real story in a book, you will need to interview more people. Make sure to get their names and make them sign releases, too. Now we need to present possible theories:

The Theories

Some say the anglers and campers were smoking crack, and they hallucinated. A local scientist says the mysterous dancing figures, which are hard to discern at night, represent concentrations of methane gas, and that the drumbeats are the rumbling of nearby towboat engines. However, most people in the hamlet of Port Manchac feel the eerie sounds and apparitions are none other than Madame Treme’ and her followers, trapped in the worst hurricane on record, and trying to complete their rituals.

The Close

Despite many oft-conflicting theories and generalizations, one thing is certain. Something is wrong, very wrong, on the shore of Lake Ponchartrain. Is it evil? Is it religious? Will it hurt you? Your children? Should you dare to find out for yourself, make sure to carry a cross and watch our back.

And finally, if you’d like to see detailed examples–REAL ghost stories–you can snag a copy of Ghostly Cries From Dixie at Amazon for only $2.99 (Winter Special).

Pleasant dreams.

My Second Draft Checklist

My approach to editing is likely considered strange by most accounts.  I perform my biggest, most radical revisions during my second draft, and fine tune them even more during my third, fourth, and fifth drafts.  My writing’s “holy grail,” however, comes in the form of a checklist that I use during my second draft.

First things first.  My first draft entails committing my thoughts to paper (or digital media).  I’m not concerned with editing; I focus on documenting my thoughts.  My first drafts usually range from 400 to 500 pages, and my second drafts range from 200 to 300 pages.  You read that correctly!  For my second draft, I whip out my machete and cut 200 pages on average–and sometimes more, when I can get away with it.

To me, writing is 30 percent committing to paper (or digital media) and 70 percent revising what I’ve committed.  Revision involves not only finding the right words or combinations of words, but also getting the words “right”–the right time, place, order, tone, and context.  When you find the right words and get them right, you achieve, among other things, efficiency–saying more with fewer words.  Give your readers a bang for their buck by giving your writing a bang for your words.  The all-important second draft, where I mercilessly excise 200 or more pages of fluff, is where my quest for efficiency begins.

Writing my second draft–a revision of my first draft–entails cutting unneeded chapters, paragraphs, characters, and scenes–the usual big picture things–and “tightening up” anything that survived the blade of my ruthless machete.  This refinement is my first “technical edit,” where scenes become clearer, conversations more realistic, characters more human, and so on.

Words, paragraphs, and phrases that survived my machete’s first pass did so because they contribute to the story, and not because they’re written correctly.  Regardless of how well a scene, sentence, or paragraph fits into a story, attention is often still needed at the technical level.  Many writers defer the technical edit until their third or fourth draft, but a story that’s readable and relatively free of clutter makes later drafts easier to work with–for me, at least.

Once I’ve performed the customary “big picture” revisions, I use the following technical checklist to help me tighten up my writing:

  • Does the paragraph, as written, move the story forward?
  • Does it hold the reader’s attention?
  • Does it express a complete thought?
  • Are transitional elements present near the beginning and end of the paragraph?
  • Are words or ideas requiring emphasis placed at or near the beginning or end of a sentence or paragraph? Is the paragraph’s most important point made at the end of the paragraph?
  • Have I removed all instances of the “being” verbs (am, is, are, was, were) that I possibly can–and perhaps even more?
  • Do sentences contain strong, concrete nouns with precise action verbs nearby?
  • Are my sentence lengths varied?
  • Does my story contain unnecessary instances of the passive voice?
  • Have I used clauses to correctly promote and subordinate ideas contained in complex and compound sentences?
  • Is dialog tagged and punctuated properly? Is it realistic?
  • Do opportunities exist for parallel sentence structure?  Assonance?  Alliteration? …and all those other writing tricks?  …without overdoing it?

That’s a fair sampling of my checklist.  If I had to pick the most important points, I’d go with “verbs of being” and “passive voice.”  More on those later if anyone’s interested in my take.  Hopefully, my checklist will help you add some bang and kick to your writing.

Thanks, and take care……….   pf

Mark Coker’s 2013 Book Publishing Industry Predictions

Mark Coker’s 2013 Book Publishing Industry Predictions

I found Mark Coker’s predictions interesting, but not surprising.  I would encourage other writers–especially independents who produce eBooks–to read the article and take heed.  Mark’s predictions usually end up being right on the money.  Click the title of this post to read the article.