Oh, how I love words!

Enjoy this wonderful TedTalk about the power of words.

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Yoga for writers

The last year has been pretty crazy for me. One of the many ways I’ve used to maintain some level of sanity (still not sure I can call it that, but I digress…) is by doing yoga.

I’ve noticed the benefits of yoga in many areas of my life, but in terms of writing my practice has inspired, challenged, and encouraged me when I’ve needed it. Because I tend to become focused on writing and will often stay seated for hours on end, I cramp physically and emotionally in many parts of my body. But yoga allows me to take time away, clear my mind and muscles, and jump back into writing that is quickly more effective than if I’d remained solely in my writing chair.

There are some great yoga videos on YouTube that are fast, fun, and more importantly, calming when you need it. Because life is crazy, I know I sometimes need to be reminded to breathe. Yoga does that for me.

I’ve included some amazing links below to some practices that have helped me. These instructors also have numerous other videos available if you subscribe to their channels, which I highly recommend. You’ll also notice that the videos go from about five minutes to an hour, which allows you to choose the length and intensity (and even muscle group or area) that is appropriate for you.

Let me know if you enjoy any of these practices or ideas—or if you have other yoga, exercise, or practices that help you through your writing day.

Here are two of my favorite yogis:

Happy writing!

 

 

Mix tapes: the perfect writing playlist

Writing comes easily for me when I’mixtapesve got music that matches or enhances what I’m writing about. But I can’t just put on a radio station that plays some of my favorite tunes. While this may work for a time, I find when I’m more deliberate in my music selections, the writing is better overall.

How do I choose what music will work for each project?

There was a time when I actually made mix tapes, which then became CDs, and now has become playlists using an online program. While I still use CDs sometimes (like when I’m in the car for instance and don’t want to lose the inspiration), the online program works well since I’m usually at my computer anyway.

Here are some tips to help you create your own amazing writing playlist:

  • Genre
    • Select a genre you like and are familiar with anyway. This will make it easier to choose music you like and can sing along with, but because of your writing, you may also hear this piece in a new and interesting way
  • Tone, emotion
    • What is your piece about? Even if you haven’t written a word yet, you likely have some idea of character, goals/ motivations, scenes, and even dialogue that will appear in your story.
      • What songs enhance or support these areas? Do other songs by this artist work as well? Will this song reflect earlier or later emotion or tone of your work?
    • Character
      • What kinds of character development will happen in your story? Even the sweetest, best-behaved characters make stupid mistakes- so let the music reflect what they might have been thinking in those moments
    • Order counts
      • I don’t always do a great job with this, but I try to consider what songs would fit at the beginning, middle, and end. While you don’t want to take a large amount of time stewing over these areas, a little thought goes a long way.

Music is essential to my writing process. I have written several novels and screenplays, all of which have a soundtrack attached to them that I listened to pretty religiously as I wrote. This was sometimes to the annoyance of those around me, but as a writer, I can be a bit eccentric sometimes, right?

How do you use music (or art, poetry, or anything else) to encourage and inspire your work? Comment below!

Marketing your novel

I’m a novel-newbie. So, I’m walking through this whole marketing thing in a fog with a blindfold on. But, I’m learning and- if I’m honest- loving it.

Here are a few things I’ve done that have been helpful so far and I’ve seen an increase in sales because of them:

  • Social media
    • Sites like canva.com are helpful in creating images/ posts that reflect the tone of your novel, and they interest people to like and share your posts
    • Excerpts
      • It goes without saying that few people (besides your relatives and friends) will buy your book if they don’t know what it’s about. But, if it’s well-written and an interesting story with solid characters, pick a great section and share to intrigue readers to buy
    • Tag people who influenced the work or might want to read it (ideally those who have a good following)
  • Media
    • Radio- local radio stations might have book talks or other ways of helping promote your book
  • Newspapers- write a press release and distribute to all local papers. Perhaps someone will pick it up- and hey, free advertising for your book
  • Donate!
    • Local library
    • Nursing home, hospital, care centers- any place that might have an audience- and potential fan base- for your work
  • Author’s page
    • Giveaways, contests
    • Questions for readers to engage in conversation
    • updates on writing progress, etc.
  • Share
    • Ask friends to post on their social media
      • Ask friends to tell friends about the novel
    • Ask readers to share reviews on Amazon and goodreads. The more, the better!

Mix it up! Not one of the these ways will work all the time or for every author. Be creative and do different things daily and weekly to ensure your novel is reaching all potential audiences.

These are just some of the tactics I’ve used so far to get the word out about my debut novel, Picking Daisy. I’m curious what other  methods you have used – what has worked and what hasn’t- or any other marketing tips you want to share.

Happy writing!

Shh… listening to learn dialogue

It’s tremendously frustrating to be in the thick of reading a great novel only to become stuck when the dialogue doesn’t ring true. Bad dialogue can ruin the emotional impact of a great scene and draw attention to itself that means your reader is no longer invested in the story, but instead is concerned with the way your writing has strayed from reality.

Today, I’d like to give you a few tips for writing effective, natural, excellent dialogue:

  • Listen to the way people actually speak-
    • This doesn’t mean you have to write with all the fillers like ‘uh, um, well,’ etc. What it means is that you should pay attention to the word choices people make. For instance, how often do people actually refer to one another by name? If you listen to conversations in real life, you may notice it isn’t that often- therefore, it shouldn’t happen all that often in your dialogue, either.
  • Word choice matters
    • Some words are easy and natural to read, but are not often used in dialogue or actual speech because they’re cumbersome—or more likely, there’s an easier, more natural word to use. During the editing process, ask yourself if each word is one you’d hear someone say, or if you’ve included it because you thought it sounded more intelligent.
  • Cheap words are better
    • The previous point leads to this one- people usually speak with economy. We’re more inclined to use an easy word over a more difficult one in conversation. There are some caveats to this, of course, but consider the nudge anyway
  • Reveal what you need in that moment only
    • A writer can use dialogue to reveal things like a character’s education, economic status, what is important to them/ motivation, and a host of other things as well. But, you don’t need to smack your reader upside the skull to let them know your character is smart. Be subtle. Conversation usually is.
  • Less is more
    • Readers usually prefer to read snappy dialogue that moves things along. Use your dialogue well to do this- but don’t overdo it. Some writers rely too heavily on dialogue when the novel, for instance, gives you a chance to get inside the character’s mind too. As example, I usually use the first draft to ‘get it all out’ then I cut and cut (and cut some more) and end up with the dialogue that actually words
  • Be smart in editing
    • In addition to the above points, use your editing time well. Read the dialogue out loud to hear how it sounds (and if it’s a screenplay you’re working on, you should do this anyway to make sure the words are easy to say together). You might also consider during editing whether each dialogue exchange is necessary or if it would be more effective if handled another way.

While I certainly haven’t exhausted the many ways to write better conversations into your work, these are some of the main methods that work for me. You, too, can use these tips to write (and edit) your dialogue more effectively.

Please comment below if any of these ideas worked for you, or with your own dialogue tips/ tricks.

An excerpt from ‘Picking Daisy’

Here’s a little excerpt from my recently-published novel, Picking Daisy. If you like what you read, you can purchase a print or Kindle version of the entire book on Amazon (I’ll include the link after the excerpt). Thanks!
daisy cover 2

Daisy stared at him as he held the phone out to her. He was now one step ahead of her and he wasn’t even aware. Still, she thought about telling Nick that Robby was there and let him deal with his inconsiderate nephew. If Nick knew Robby had shown up drunk…

“I am not going anywhere with you…” she muttered as she reached for the phone. Once again Robby yanked it away from her, irritated. 

“Really? There are millions of women who’d do any number of things for a ride in my truck.”

Daisy rolled her eyes. “Well, call one of them!”

Robby placed the phone back on top of the refrigerator with an irritated sigh. “Your friends said Nick was asking for you. Don’t you care?”

His words cut Daisy to the core. She glared. “Nick means more to me than you’ll…never mind. It’s too complicated to bother explaining to…you.”

Robby grinned again before slowly stepping toward her. He placed one hand on either side of her so that he was nose-to-nose with her. He smelled heavily of expensive, masculine cologne that made her dizzy. Daisy’s chest constricted and she reminded herself she needed to breathe.

He wasn’t going to kiss her. Not that she’d mind…but surely even Robby had his standards.  But it had been such a long, long time since anyone had even hinted at kissing her. 

Robby continued smiling and gently brushed the hair back from her face. “Come on. Let’s go for a visit. I have a feeling he’d be happy to see you,” he whispered. “You’ll be home in time for Duck Soup. And Uncle Nick will love that I’m so thoughtful I brought his good friend.”

Quickly Daisy gathered her wits and managed to push his hand away, knocking him off balance as he tried to stand. 

“Don’t you ever touch me again,” she said, moving away from him. Incredulous, Robby regained control and resumed his original stance, his eyes blazing.

 “You have no idea who you’re dealing with.” 

Daisy laughed, pointing to her backpack. “You don’t either. Thanks to your uncle I’m a darned good shot.”

Angrily Robby reached for her and lifted her from the wheelchair, surprising them both as he held her close. 

“I don’t play games…Rose. We’re going to see Nick… and before this night is through I bet you’ll beg me to take your songs.”

As Robby started for the door alternately kicking the wheelchair in front of him as he went, Daisy was beginning to come to her senses, which, for a moment anyway, completely escaped her. 

“My name is Daisy!” she shouted feebly. “Put me down!” she beat against his solid chest but to no avail. They were outside in the cool night air before she even thought to scream. 

It didn’t matter. There was no one to hear. 

Hope you enjoyed this excerpt from ‘Picking Daisy’- If you’d like to read more, grab a copy from Amazon

 

Am I really a writer now?

In recent weeks, I’ve seen my first novel, Picking Daisy, come to publication on Amazon.com through my publisher. I’ve been offered a contract on my second novel (that is finished) and today I submitted a novella per my publisher’s request. As a full-time professor, I have almost no time to write during the school year, so I’m hitting the writing life hard this summer, knowing it will soon be at an end.

But now people are asking questions like, ‘how did you come up with the story?’ and ‘how long did it take you to write the novel?’ While they may be aware of my other writing endeavors, the only one that really shines for them, like the tip of an iceberg with all the real weight of the thing below, is the novel they can hold in their hands or read on their Kindle. The rest is a mystery they don’t need or want to solve.

The sheer fascination in their voices tells me something clearly. Since my goal has been to see my novel published, I was under the false assumption that I’d come full circle. And more importantly, I was in real danger of losing the awe regarding my craft.

In other words,

writing is never done– and even when you’ve completed a stage of it like research or character creation, you will likely return to these stages later when your writing is open for others to see (a whole other frightening area I should probably unpack in another blog post).  At this point, people will want to know the ‘behind the scenes’ work you did months or even years earlier. It’s fun, and humbling, to go back.

But at the same time you’ll be moving forward. In my case, I had the novel published, was working to prepare a novel for submission, and in the back of my mind I was thinking about the edits I needed to make to the other novel that’s been finished but waiting for me for about two years.

My conclusion?

merry go round

Maybe because I never reached this stage before (except with academic writing, which is a whole other area of work), I didn’t realize that writing is cyclical. We get on the merry-go-round and won’t get off until we stop writing.

So strike up the music and hop on your horse (you know the kind that moves up and down while you hang onto the useless strap?)- and get writing!

 

Editing 101: Sharpen your story

With a little tweaking to your editing process, you might find significant improvement in the outcome of your story/ novel/ screenplay or other writing.

Below are some ideas from my writing and teaching experiences, as well as thoughts from a professional editor.

  1. Get the story finished! – Feel free to make minor edits as you write but the best practice is to finish the story so the structure is already in place. Overall this makes the editing process more effective (and easier!)
    • And take time away from it
      • This will allow even the best editor to see clearly what is not working in the story, characters, dialogue, and so much more
  1. Replace some of the following words where appropriate
    • Feel/felt, have/ had, hear, knew/ know, see/saw, just, then, than, maybe, look, watch/notice/observe, so and very
      • You may be shocked at how often these words (and others) appear in your work
  1. Does your timeline make sense?
    • If ‘three days pass’ between one event and the next, is it possible for your character to do what you say she/ he is doing? (like going to the bank, for instance, which may be closed on a Sunday)
  2. Read your story in print
    • Different than reading on a computer or on a Kindle
    • You might catch mistakes that otherwise could be missed
  3. Share it with a friend and get his/ her insights
    • Fresh eyes can be incredibly helpful in the process
      • May help you to see where logic problems, typos, or other questions are apparent
  1. Cut yourself slack
    • No one is perfect. You may not catch every mistake
      • This.
  1. Fight for your story
    • You don’t have to make all of the recommended changes from a friend or your editor
      • Some will be preference issues
    • You know your story better than anyone
  2. Have fun!
    • Editing is making your story stronger and better!
    • I mean it. Really.

What are your keys to editing success? Share them in the comments!

Author interview: Susan Baganz

Susan Baganz is a writer and editor who is well-versed in the Christian publishing industry. Please enjoy this week’s interview with her and check out her lasusantest book, Bratwurst and Bridges.

Biography

Susan M. Baganz chases after three Hobbits and is a native of Wisconsin. Susan writes adventurous romances.

Susan speaks, teaches and encourages others to follow God in being all He has created them to be. She understands the complexities and pain of life as well as its craziness. She likes snuggling with her dog while reading a good book, or sitting with a friend chatting over a cup of spiced chai latte.

You can learn more by following her blog http://www.susanbaganz.com, her twitter feed @susanbaganz or her fan page, http://www.facebook.com/susanmbaganz

Writing background, education (if applicable/ relevant)

I have a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Il. My undergrad was a double major of graduate prep psych and philosophy. Let me just say that my brains aren’t what got me through school – it was my ability to write well. That was also what enabled me to work well as a Case Manager for a Community Support Program as well as Admissions and Discharge Coordinator. We supervised chronically mentally ill adults living in the community. Again, good writing skills helped me do my job.

I started writing fiction in 2009 through National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo.org). Fell in love and have won it eight years running (anyone who finishes 50,000 words in 30 days in November wins

Latest project- give a brief synopsis (200 words or less)

Bratwurst & Bridges

bratworst

Pastor Dan Wink has suffered his greatest loss. His best friend, Sharon, died a year ago. He’s ready to walk away from ministry…and life. But the men he’s ministered to over the years won’t let him. Sometimes accountability sucks. And the redhead next door with her precocious children brings up desires he thought had died with his wife.

(http://amzn.to/2upJPCH)

Sometimes, God uses our deepest pain to build bridges to His blessings.

 

 

Book excerpt

Skye agreed to meet him at a ski resort not far from Milwaukee. Old habits were sometimes good ones and for the sake of appearances, he would not ride in a car with a woman alone. Sure it might start out as nothing…but gossip and also opportunity for any kind of slip up were to be avoided. He rented boots, skis, and poles. The gal working the shop helped him get wax on the skis that was right for the snow they made. It had been a cold winter and while there was snow on the ground, fresh powder was nice, and this resort aimed to please.

Skye met him in her lavender ski outfit. “Looking good, Dan.”

“You didn’t need to go to any extra expense.”

She shook her head. “No. I was pleasantly surprised that my gear still fit after all these years. Guess that Zumba helped. How do you feel?”

“I was sore the first day, but better now. Shall we hit the bunny trail?”

“Bunny trail? Is it Easter already?” She let out a full belly laugh. She wiped a tear and grinned. “How about a beginner trail. There’s one over there with a tow lift to the top, but before I do that I should show you some basics, like how to stop, steer, and avoid getting your skis crossed.”

“Can you help me avoid hitting a tree or careening off a cliff?”

“You really don’t have to worry about cliffs on this section so we can skip that for now. As for trees? If you don’t head in their direction they will generally leave you alone.”

“Ha. Ha. Ha. Well, let’s get this done. I’m eager to try these out.”

Skye guided Dan through the basics and up the hill for the first run. “I’ll go down and you follow.”

“Are you sure I shouldn’t go first so you can pick me up?”

“I’ve already shown you how to get up if you fall down. I think you’ll be fine.”

“You’re mean.”

Skye grinned. “Good. Maybe it will keep you from getting hurt.”

“Why did you ever stop skiing?”

“I fell for a boy and got sucked into the wrong crowd. Doing anything healthy became a thing of my past. Recreation became about sex and drugs…not skiing, art, reading, or even Zumba.”

“You consider Zumba recreation?”

“I get to go dancing a few days a week without someone trying to buy me a drink or proposition me, so, yeah, I do.”

“And you get paid for it.”

“Right, without it being a strip club.” She winked at him. “Catch you at the bottom.”

What inspired you to write this story?

Pastor Dan Wink pops in and out of previous stories in the Orchard Hill series and I wanted to explore what it would be like for the attractive pastor to not only grieve his losses, but find new love—and give him an attraction from someone who might not fit the normal “pastor’s wife” image.

Any special research you had to conduct?

I didn’t have to do much research for this as I’ve served in ministry in the church and worked closely as an administrative assistant to a Senior Pastor in the past. While I haven’t lived the life of a pastor, I’m aware of how challenging it can be to be serving others when you’re limping yourself.

Interesting writing quirks/ habits while writing this piece? How did these help the story progress or increase your investment in your narrative or characters?

The hardest part of this, and one that I asked for prayer about, was wanting to be honest about the messiness and beauty of the church. I didn’t want it to be painted as a place with perfect people, but we are all at different places in our growth. But I also didn’t want the troubles that can crop up from imperfect people, to make a reader, perhaps who is not involved in a church fellowship, never want to participate.  The ultimate romance is between us and Jesus anyway.

What is your favorite aspect of this story and why?

I love how Skye is honest about her struggle to believe in God and isn’t afraid to “poke the bear” as it were, calling the handsome pastor out on his own internal hypocrisy. She’s not awed by his “title” or position – and that it even extends beyond him to call it out on someone else from church who doesn’t act in a manner that reflects Christ well. It’s fun to see how this challenge to Pastor Dan is part of what develops an attraction between the two of them.

What previous works have you done?

This is book five in The Orchard Hill series. Each book stands alone, but are even better read in order. They all take place against the backdrop of a fictional church called Orchard Hill. The stories in order are: Pesto & Potholes, Salsa & Speed Bumps, Feta & Freeways, Root Beer & Roadblocks. After Bratwurst & Bridges is Donuts & Detours (May 2018) and Truffles & Traffic (Nov. 2018). I’m working on ideas for more in the series.

What projects are you working on now?

I have another series, historical (not hysterical) called The Black Diamond Christian Gothic Regencies. Whew. Who knew the early 1800’s were not all as sweet as Jane Austin painted it? The series has a novella prequel that is currently out but will get a new cover, called The Baron’s Blunder. It will re-release with the new cover in October as will book #1 in the series, The Virtuous Viscount, to be followed quickly with Lord Phillip’s Folly. Subsequent titles due to release in 2018 are: Sir Michael’s Mayhem, Lord Harrow’s Heart and The Captain’s Conquest. While each book stands alone—there is an overarching storyline that weaves through the books and culminates in the final novel. There is a sweet Christmas Regency novella, Gabriel’s Gift, releasing this December as part of Pelican Book Group’s Christmas Extravaganza.

Any special thoughts or insights on this current process?

Sometimes I feel like a juggler – and the biggest challenge is juggling the revisions for my own stories with editing for authors I work with as part of Pelican Book Group’s imprint: Prism Book Group. Well, that and trying to get my mind in or out of the 1800’s so that the language doesn’t get mixed up. You’ll never hear someone say, “I’m OK.” In 1812!

What do you enjoy most about writing?

I’m a “panster.” I start with an inciting incident and two main characters and some idea of where I want them to be—obviously a happily-ever-after ending. I just never know exactly how they are going to get there. The process is like riding a rollercoaster for me. Once the characters take over I just write as fast as I can and buckle in for a wild ride. Writing that first draft is equally thrilling and terrifying.

What do you find to be the most frustrating about writing?

I don’t get writer’s block. I hit what I call a wall of fear. In a full-length novel there always comes a point where I’m bored. I don’t know where the story is going and my mind starts telling me things like: This is the stupidest thing you’ve ever written. It’s crap. No one is ever going to want to read this. I’ll feel like I’ve written myself into a corner. Once I acknowledge the fear, I pray and force myself to just write—even if I don’t’ know where I’m going—I’m fine. I cannot tell you, in the 18 manuscripts I’ve completed, where that spot was.

Links for Susan’s blog, website, etc.

http://susanbaganz.com

http://facebook.com/susanmbaganz

www.pinterest.com/silygoos

http://google.com/+SusanMBaganz

www.youtube.com/c/SusanMBaganz

www.linkedin.com/in/susanmbaganz/

Final thoughts?

Writing and editing is exceptionally difficult work as it is a long process and requires more time and concentration than you can imagine (if you’ve not done it). If you purchase a book you’ve helped an author tremendously. An extra blessing is if you take the time to write a review on Amazon. Even a short one helps and blesses that author. And tell others about it. Word of mouth is the best advertising we can get.