WWI: To End All Wars

HochschildMy novel in progress, American Gold, is based on the lives of my Czech immigrant grandparents and takes place in the 1911-1913 timeframe. As part of my research, I recently read To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918 because it includes the period leading up to that war. (Plus, you never know, I might write a sequel.) I ended up reading the whole book.

I don’t normally read history, but I enjoyed this WWI book because it wasn’t page after page of dates and dry history. Like other good nonfiction, it told about the war through the experience and motivation of people involved- the soldiers, the generals, the politicians, the protestors, the victims. It’s written from a British perspective and wraps up the war quickly after Americans get involved. Because 2014 is the 100th anniversary of the start of  WWI, you’ve probably seen a lot of WWI books and articles about it. This book was released in 2012, not a come-lately entry. I highly recommend it. You’ll learn things you never learned in school.

Getting from Character to Story

Let’s face it, writers are always looking for story ideas. For me, fiction stories start with a character, but I sometimes struggle developing good stories around those characters. The character sheets we’re told to fill out strike me as sterile and stifle creativity more than aid it. Sure, it’s important to remember what eye or hair color different characters have, but that’s not what bring them to life.

Thanks to Hope Clark and Dicy McCullough, here’s a method I recently found that helps enliven my character and story ideas. And it’s so much more fun than a plain old character sheet! Maybe it will work for you, too.

What’s Hot: YA and Diversity

I’ve posted before about the hot YA market, but the latest newsletter from Kristin at the Nelson Literary Agency really drives the point home home. Agent Sara Megibow at that agency is targeting diversity: authors with a diverse background and/or books starring characters of a diverse background.  http://nelsonagency.com/newsletters/june-2014/#kristinmessage

Why not combine the two?



Plan and Track Blog Posts with Scrivener

For anyone who uses Scrivener, you can use it to plan and track blog posts. Just create a project called “Blog” or whatever you like.  Within that, your top level folder is the year, next level below is each month. Each blog post within a month corresponds to the “scene” level. Here’s a link that gives you a visual: http://allindiewriters.com/free-scrivener-template-for-bloggers-manage-a-single-blog/

Entries on the corkboard screen give you an overview of a month and can show when a post is scheduled or if already posted. Here’s a visual on that: http://traceyambrose.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/blog-planning.jpg  This author got pretty fancy with Scrivener, using color codes and such, but you don’t need to do that.

I just read about this last week and plan to start using it this weekend. It’s so much easier than keeping a list in Word or Excel!


Not Knowing Is Good for Creativity

According to Donald Barthelme, “A writer is someone who, embarking upon a task, does not know what to do.” In fact, Barthelme thinks that not knowing is essential to the creation of art.

Think about it. If you know exactly what to do, you simply do it. You don’t consider alternatives, you don’t ponder “what if,” you don’t look for a better way. Out of the meanderings of the mind, creativity is born. That is where uniqueness lies, where your voice is waiting to be found, where the spark that inspires and fires up a piece comes to light. Not knowing is good when it leads you down a new path.

Ignorance may or may not be bliss, but it can definitely be opportunity.



What is Women’s Fiction?

Regardless of where a bookstore shelves Women’s Fiction, to a publisher seeking that genre a book isn’t Women’s Fiction just because it’s something a woman is likely to read or because it has a female protagonist.

It isn’t Romance. A romance focuses on the relationship and the developing romance, and it must have a “happily ever after” ending. If it’s Romantic Suspense, the suspense helps drive the romance.

The theme of Women’s Fiction is understanding women. What is it like to be a woman? What are her hopes and dreams? Does she have a goal in life? How does a woman deal with challenges? How do experiences change her? It may or may not have a romantic element. It might have sex scenes, but not necessarily. The “happily ever after” ending? Not required. Readers can relate to the real life situations in these books, where Romance often has a element of fantasy about it.

Although the definition may blur for some publishers, Women’s Fiction is a popular genre separate from the traditional romance and one well worth considering.

Tips on Mystery Writing

Here are some useful links if you’re writing mystery:

 There is a Yahoo group for fiction and nonfiction crime writers where you can ask and get answers on crime scene investigation, applied forensics, and police procedure questions. You can either go to yahoogroups.com and search on “crimescenewriter” or just click this link.

The Practical Homicide site has some articles that might be helpful.

30 minute NPR interview with mystery writers Tana French and Louis Bayard on How To Write a Great Mystery  

Thirteen free online mystery writing lessons from Gillian Roberts, author of the Amanda Pepper Series

There’s a treasure trove of advice for mystery writers at Writing World.

15 mystery writing tips courtesy of Writers in the Storm

Mystery cliches to avoid

Effectively leaving clues in a mystery from Literary Library

Any links for mystery writers you’d like to share?