Nanowrimo

And it’s November. Where has the year gone? November brings crispy nights (snow if you live in the wrong areas), the smell of wood stoves in the air, football games on TV, Christmas merchandise in the stores (urgh!), thoughts of a huge, delicious meal for Thanksgiving and the desire to write. Nah, not the desire- the gut wrenching, caffeine laden, snack munching, compulsion to write. And not just write, but to cram fifty thousand words in thirty days on paper.
For those of you who don’t know or have been living under a writing rock, in the month of November millions of people world wide turn into Nano-ers. What is that you ask? November is National Novel Writing Month. Or nanowrimo for short. During this month you pledge to other writers (and yourself) to write fifty thousand words in thirty days. Yes, fifty thousand. That’s one thousand six hundred and sixty seven each day. Yes, each day.
Impossible, you say? Nah. Difficult. Time consuming. A labor of love. Yes. A contest between writers? Absolutely. Who can finish first? Who can finish at all? Competition and camaraderie. And the prize at the end? Mostly just bragging rights. Oh yeah and a great start on a novel.
I say a great start on a novel, because during the month of writing, the idea is to go for word count not quality. For once quantity not quality is the goal. So you learn to spell out all numbers (five hundred twenty three counts as four words as apposed to 5323 which only counts as one), separate compound words (can not counts as two words instead of one- cannot), and never, ever use contractions (do not counts as two words while don’t is one). And the best thing, most fun thing, and to most writers that like to use lots of adjectives and adverbs in their writing that eventually get cut by editors, you get to use as many of the wonderful, high descriptive and some times (see- two words) totally use less (another two words) words just to pad the word count.
Seriously though, I’ve participated in Nanowrimo for almost ten years. And won all but two of the years. Almost all of the ‘novels’ I’ve written during this month have a great beginning to a real novel. So when I pare down all of the added words and re-contracted the contractions, and stuck the compound words back together, I usually come up with about 25, 000 words. A really good beginning in any one’s opinion.
If you are up for a challenge and can put aside your inner editor for a month and just write… join the writing community world wide and write. Check out the website at http://www.nanowrimo.org Every region in the country has a group you can join. Spend time on the forums to meet people in your area (not too much time, since you need to be getting words on the computer), or even world wide. If you have a pressing question, there are literally millions of people who you can ask.
So don’t write alone, at least in November. Come join all the other crazy writers. And writers those 50,000 words for the fun of it. Or for a future published novel. Or even just for bragging rights.
Stay tuned.

Angela Abderhalden is the author of the Mel Addison Mystery Series and Acquiring Editor for Seventh Wave Books, LLC. They are looking for authors all the time. Check out the website at http://www.seventhwavebooks.com

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Book Review 2

It’s been longer than a month since I did a book review, so I figured it was time to write another one. I’m an eclectic reader and will read anything if it is interesting. I normally do not read memoirs. I don’t know why, maybe because I like fiction better. However, that being said, I have recently read a memoir that I liked.

Lucky Man: A Memoir by Michael J. Fox. Yes, I bought it because he is a celebrity. And I have never read any other celebrity memoir before. So this was a first for me. I bought it because I acknowledge Michael J. Fox’s contribution to making me laugh. I watched Family Ties, and Spin City. I enjoyed his movies. But he is also one of those celebrities that didn’t appear to be a douche. He always seemed to be genuine nice person. I could have been fooled but I don’t think I was. And his book seemed to confirm that.

Michael J. Fox doesn’t pull any punches. He shows us at his worst, when he is hung over, when he makes stupid mistakes and when he is taken in by the ‘Hollywood crazyland’. He shows us at his most vulnerable.

I enjoyed the glimpse of the real Hollywood. I got a glimpse of the inner works of some of my favorite shows without being stupid. I felt the pain of him finding out and could empathize with him. Although different, it still reminded me of my cancer diagnosis. His life is put under a microscope but he doesn’t do it in a whiny manner.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely. If you watched Family Ties or Spin City or Teen Wolf or what was that one movie or series of movies…. What was it? Uh…. Back to the what? Or yeah. The future. Back To The Future. Michael J. Fox uses humor and keeps thing from getting too maudlin. I enjoyed it immensely.

And good luck to Michael J. Fox. We’re behind you, guy!

Stay tuned.

Angela Abderhalden is the author of the Mel Addison Mystery Series and Acquiring Editor for Seventh Wave Books, LLC.

Seventh Wave Books, LLC is looking for authors. Check out the web page: http://www.seventhwavebooks.com

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Book List

Recently I was asked how I learned to write. I jokingly replied, “In grade school.” Seriously though, it did start in grade school. My first short story I wrote in fifth grade. I still have it. It was called ‘The Monster In The Alley’. It had suspense, mystery, lots of showing and not telling and a twist at the end. Okay, it wasn’t all that great, but it had potential and it did have all of the above, just not very well written.

I did taking composition in high school. And I was an English major in college. However, I’ve never had any real writing ‘instruction’. So how did I learn? The best teachers were other authors. From when I could read to this very day, I’m a voracious reader. I read everything. No, I’m not kidding. If it keeps my attention, I read it. Any genre, fiction or non-fiction.

And included in that reading, I read every writing book I could get my hands on. Not genre specific either. I literally read every writing book in the Boise Library system. (I don’t live in the area anymore but they have an excellent selection.) I also began buying those books that I found particularly helpful. I studied, and restudied them. To this day I usually reread them about once a year or so.

So today I’ve listed the best of my book shelf here for you. These aren’t all of them and they aren’t my genre specific writing books.

First there is a series that I love. Elements of Fiction Writing by Writer’s Digest
Plot by Ansen Dibell
Beginnings, Middles & Ends by Nancy Kress
Conflict and Suspense by James Scott Bell
Scene & Structure by Jack M. Bickham
Description by Monica Wood
Characters & Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card

The Comic Toolbox by John Vorhaus
The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler
Teach Yourself Body Language by Gordon R Wainwright
The Elements of Style by Strunk and White
Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One & Never Lets Them Go by Les
Edgerton
The Chicago Manual of Style by University of Chicago Press Staff

That’s just one shelf. I have a whole shelf of just mystery writing and reference books to help with writing mysteries. I also have a number of books for inspiration from other writers; the best one by Stephen King, On Writing.

So there, you have a glimpse of my book shelf.

Stay tuned.

Angela Abderhalden is the author of the Mel Addison Mystery Series and Acquiring Editor for Seventh Wave Books, LLC

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Active vs. Passive

It’s the fight of the century! Sunday! Sunday! Sunday! Come and see the pugilist fight that has been going on for centuries. Who will win? Come find out.

Sorry, it’s been a long day and I was being silly, but the fact remains… Active has been fighting Passive since man began writing. For beginners, let’s start of with the basics. What is the definition of both active and passive?

Active simply put is thing doing the action + verb + thing receiving the action.
Passive simply put is thing receiving the action + (be) + verb + (by) + thing doing action.

By looking at nothing else by the simply explanation, you can see that the active uses less words and is faster (hence the reason it’s called active). The passive uses more words, longer sentences, doesn’t engage the reader and can be vague.

Let’s look at an example:
Active: Bill hit the ball. We see that…. Bill (thing doing the action) hit (verb) the ball (thing receiving the action).
Passive: The ball was hit by Bill. We see that…. The ball (thing receiving the action) was (a form of be) hit (verb) by Bill (the thing doing the action).

Active moves the story along. It engages the reader. It will use showing not telling (remember from last blog?). This is important to keep the reader reading. And it can still be improved. Let’s think about it. Bill hit the ball. Boring. Bill slugged the ball. Bill ruptured the ball. Bill thwacked the ball.

Passive voice uses the ‘be’ words. Try to eliminate ‘be’ words when you can. Use active verbs for better sentence structure and easier reading. It’s okay to have some passive sentences or to use some ‘be’ words. Just be judicious with them in your writing.

Many times passive writing is used in reports and more scientific writing. But in fiction, especially in genre fiction it is best to use active sentences. Active sentences make the story interesting. Interesting stories sell better. And that is what most of us are after… to sell tons of books, make lots of money and write full time.

Active might just equal more money!

Stay tuned.

Angela Abderhalden is the Author of the Mel Addison Mystery Series and is an Acquiring Editor for Seventh Wave Books, LLC.

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Show, Don’t Tell

If you’ve been a writer for more than a few days, you’ve heard the saying, ‘Show, don’t tell.” It’s one of those things that every writer hears- over and over and over again. It’s an axiom, a chant, a truth… a law.

And although some laws are made to be broken, don’t break this law. At least most of the time. As a new or beginning author, you need, no you must have this law on your mind at all times. Here’s why- Show is active. It engages the reader in the story. Telling is passive. It doesn’t make the reader part of the story. (More about active versus passive in another blog real soon.)

Let me give you an example:

Telling—
John was mad. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Wally had tried to calm him down but John wouldn’t listen.

Showing—
“What?” John slammed the door and stalked over to Wally’s desk. He deliberately placed both hands flat on the desk, leaning closer to Wally. “What are you talking about? How can-”
“Calm down, man,” Wally said holding his hands out, palms toward John. “It isn’t that bad. The last thing-”
“Calm down! Calm down! That contract was mine. That little weasel-”
“John, would you listen to me! The contract is still yours. Fred only went-”
John pounded a fist on the desk cutting Wally off. The red flash brightened on John’s cheeks. His voice deepened even as it ratcheted up a notch in volume. “No one is supposed to work my contracts. No one!”

Do you see the difference? The first one, telling, doesn’t engage the reader in the story. Very passive. Is the reader caught up in the action in the telling? No.

But with the showing, the reader gets involved in the action. The reader figures out that John is mad and won’t listen. The reader might even put themselves in the scene because everyone can relate to being this mad at something. You are engaging the reader in the story. Absolutely vital.

Since the reader is engaged they are less likely to put the book down or stop reading. And this is something that you never, ever want your reader to do.

Stay tuned.

Angela Abderhalden is the author of the Mel Addison Mystery Series and is an Acquiring Editor for Seventh Wave Books, LLC.

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The Middle

Now that the beginning chapters are out of the way, it’s time for the middle. This is the meat of the story. Here is where the characters are developed, the main plot evolves, sub plots are wound around the main plot, etc. This is another place to lose your reader too.

You’ll hear the term, the sagging middle. After the great action beginning, and everyone knows the ending is always great… there is the middle. Don’t let this sag or not live up to the expectations of the beginning. How to do this? There is no formula or outline that works all the time. You have to feel your way through it. (A great book to read on this subject is The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler. This is a good ‘structure’ book.)

The middle needs to be like a rising stock market graph. The story is always trending upwards. There should be peaks and valleys in the story but always heading upward to the final climax. Why valleys in the middle of the story? Well, you can’t have the tension all the way through the story. You have to let the readers rest sometimes in the story. Give them a break to catch their breaths before you send them up the next peak, right back into the action.

Again, everything leads to the climax. Everything. You can wrap up some sub plots earlier in the story. Or you can have them wrap up with the climax. Watch out about having them wrap up after the climax, because it might confuse the reader as to when the real climax is. Or best… Let a few sub plots dangle, not being answered at all.

If you are writing a series, then letting sub plots dangle is a good way to write. You never know when a sub plot in one book will lead to a major plot in another book. Or you can write more in a European style where not all things get resolved in the end. Unlike the American style of writing where most things get wrapped up.

By using the upward trending graph style of plots, it ensures that the reader stays involved in the story. The reader is given momentary breaks but always heading to the ever important climax. There are no sagging middles. And no lost readers. Action. Movement. Reader involvement.

Stay Tuned.

Angela Abderhalden is the author of the Mel Addison Mystery Series and Acquiring Editor for Seventh Wave Books, LLC.

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Keep Writing

Writing is not easy. Any writer can tell you that. Everyone thinks that they can just sit down and write a novel. And the beginning is usually the easiest to write. But it takes perseverance to work all the way through a full manuscript.

As you work through the first couple of chapters of the book, you must expand the plot, bring out character flaws, create drama, conflicts, sub-plots, etc. And at the same time you have to weave all of these together into a cohesive group of words that not only makes sense but also keeps the readers attention at all times and make them want to keep reading. It’s a complex and time consuming job.

There’s a famous saying that goes like this: ‘Writing is easy. All you do it sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.’ This was said by Gene Fowler. And it is so true. There are many times that it truly does feel like this. Don’t let it discourage you, keep writing. Keep that blood flowing.

Another thing about writing that no one tells you, is the soul searching that you must do as you write. Every character takes a piece of you. Each and every one. And there are scenes that in order to make them believable and true to life, you must dig deep inside of yourself and touch a part of yourself that you don’t want to. Many writers will take the easy way out and just skim the surface, but not if you want to be a successful writer. You must dig and bleed and put it on paper so that your reader will also feel the same. You must feel, so that your reader can feel too.

If you aren’t willing to expose your deepest, darkest secret, at least sort of, then don’t even start your manuscript. You must put yourself, literally, into each and every scene. If you cry, laugh, cringe or whatever, at a scene then so will your reader.

It is that important. Really. Bleed on that manuscript. Make yourself cry. Laugh. Be embarrassed. It will be important in the end when you hear from your readers that they could really understand what the character was feeling.

It makes all the effort worth it. So right now, don’t take the easy way. Keep writing with feeling. It will pay off.

Stay tuned.

Angela Abderhalden is the author of the Mel Addison Mystery Series and Acquiring Editor for Seventh Wave Books, LLC

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