Tag Archives: example

Exposure

Something happens every time I join a website or start a writing project: I start to think about getting my work out there. Sharing more often, submitting it to places, finding a way to get it out there. There’s something about seeing other people succeed in getting the interest of others, and the quality writing all around, that makes me want to do more and go farther.

Then, rejection happens, or I realize that I’m not half as popular as I thought I would be, or as others. That I’m just sort of another cogwheel in the great scheme of things that gets overlooked because my work is hardly different or groundbreaking.

It is, however, my work. My sentence structure, how I write, the language I use, the tones and the feel of everything I go through in passages, that’s mine. That is unique to every writer, it’s something you seek out in an author. To be able to so easily dive into the book and its atmosphere and the protagonist and their troubles, to be in another world, whether it’s wildly out of this galaxy, or it has few differences.

There are many ways to get your work out in the world, depending on what it is you write. Websites and anthologies seek people to write anything from erotica to horror, fan fiction, non fiction, and news.

Last year, Friend and I submitted works to Crossed Genres web magazine, that specializes in minority characters and settings as the mains in non-stereotypical fashion. Another friend had gotten into freelance journalism for a major website. I was shown a website that was a database for erotica, where someone had written a 40+ chapter story and was still going. Forums exist for the purpose of sharing your writing an collaborating with others.

There will always be a way for you to showcase your art, so to speak. The real question is if that’s something you want to do.

A common reiteration is that you can still make money off of your writing. You can make it free and accessible, or you can go through self publishing, or even finding a publisher to take you on.  Whether it’s a buck a book, that can be anywhere from 5,000 to 25,000 words, or up to four dollars for a full novel, there’s a market to be taken advantage of.

Anthologies and web magazines, in my limited experience, have also paid for the work they use of yours. Crossed Genres offered six cents a word, I believe, and for any novels that they decided to take on, 6,000 for the entire thing.

Whether you’re paid for the work or not, the outcome is roughly the same: people see your talent. One is guaranteed to reach more people than the other. For free work, you can be lost in the stacks with hundreds of others. With work you’re paid for, you’re up at the front of the line.

Exposure comes in many flavors. Through the years, I have only felt like writing prose, and novels, fiction, have been harder to get recognition with than painting or drawing, because of the average attention span. If they see something they like in a glimpse, it’s easier, but making someone sit down for anything a hundred words or longer can be a task.

Which is why a thesis or grabbing statement can be so important. You’re tasked with making it as interesting as possible to hook them in and then the rest will follow.

Even something so much as this blog, which was made expressly to get my knowledge out while maybe getting some to see my talent for writing, is dependent a lot on an excerpt, typically right at the top of the post.

In the same vein, somewhat, is having a Twitter account, and getting into social media as a writer. According to a shortlived friend I had who was also an author, having a presence in social media helps your chances with publishers, because they see that you already have a bit of a following.

It can be tricky. I started this blog expecting not much, but even a small gathering of people who decide they like my stuff enough to follow me is a great accomplishment, honor, and flattery. I know I write well, but to write something that people like is a great feat, just as well. My track record for people liking my work, or what I have to say, or what I do, has been shoddy, so I usually end up expecting very little, and when trying new ways of getting it seen,  discouragement follows frequently.

It seems more likely, considering that, that I’ll end up like many others: only a couple thousand copies sold and then promptly dropped by the publisher.

That isn’t to say you shouldn’t try, of course. It’s always going to be worth it, but it’s easier to go in with the understanding that the road ahead will not be easy and to brace yourself for the bumps, however many or few they are.

– The Novice Wordsmith

(PS: Happy Easter for those celebrating!)

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Talking Head Syndrome

Created by a friend of a friend, Talking Head Syndrome is a serious disorder created by only specifically working on the dialogue and forgetting that your characters are in a place, with some kind of scenery, and that they have bodies.

Diagnosis is typically given from editors. While THS is not fatal to the character themselves, it can be to the interest of your reader in a certain direction, if you don’t have any other stimulants in the chapter/excerpt/story than the dialogue. Though the characters with THS can still feel, and express emotion with their faces, it is still detrimental to their body language.

Talking Head Syndrome can also dramatically decrease your wordcount, sensory details, and most of all, depth and personal atmosphere to drag the reader in.

Fortunately, there’s a cure! Found at high altitudes on the Mountain Descriptor, one can find scenic details, curious movements, slumping, whole-body exclamation, descriptions of rooms, idle motions, wanted or unwanted touch, animals in the immediate area, room details, and many more! These things can help fill out the empty spaces between dialogue, giving the chapter or story a more robust feel, and giving your characters more than just heads!

With all of the new filler pieces, you can help your story become like a fine painting. While dialogue alone can suffice in some situations, or must, there is always a plus to putting in bits of the surrounding area in as well, finding a way to blend it in.

Carly looked off just then, her mouth dropped open even after her sentence was finished, caught by the beauty of the orange and pink horizon. Joss’ continuation of the story caught her attention back before too long, and she resumed listening. 

Little somethings. Reach a hand forward, turn slightly, sigh with the whole body. The five senses come in handy here, too, especially! Don’t let yourself lose sight of it, even in a thrilling conversation that pushes the plot forward several spots. Remember that your characters, even if they’re robotic and non-human, have some kind of sense that allows them to take in what’s around them, or to move (unless they don’t, then ignore this post entirely!).

Don’t let Talking Head Syndrome get you down any longer! Take the steps and see a better story today!

-The Novice Wordsmith 😉

Guest Post: The Horror Show

October’s coming up, and as such the airwaves are full of Halloween themed ideas and the inevitable horror movie. And of course, with that sort of inspiration, some of us decide to try their hand at horror novels.

We all know what that means, really; naming our fears and writing about them in such a way that someone else can experience what someone would go through if they were afraid of such things.

But hang on a tick… most of our experience with horror is through movies, and novels don’t often relate well to this. A novel is something that has a different pacing, and is missing the visual element.

It is all too easy to make a horror novel about the same cliched tropes that we’ve seen before, in said movies, and then it’s less scary. It becomes expected. In theme. And it will lack the authenticity that a horror story needs to scare the reader.

I used to work in a haunted house; they no longer scare me. I’ve lost my suspenders of disbelief, so that I know that they’re just actors. I can be startled, but not scared. Not like when I was a child and the unknown darkness held menacing things.

Some horror authors use the terror that they felt in order to build up a story. But fear itself is often wordless; panic, fright, and the need to Get Away are things that defy easy description.

Impending Doom is a little easier to write; so is Pain, and Dread. Fear is an emotion, like anger; it just lends itself a little less easy to the mind.

Try this exercise. And it’s a tough one… write about a superstition, WITHOUT using the words ‘fear’, ‘afraid’, ‘terrified’, ‘avoid(ance)’, ‘scared’, and ‘phobia.’ Remember, a good author does a ‘show, don’t tell’, and using any of those words is telling.

Here’s my take:
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He couldn’t turn his back on the water, even though the sand sculpture demanded his focus. He could hear the sinister sound of the surf, rustling behind him like a beast in the bushes. The sculpture site he had been given was far too close to the sea for his liking, and he gritted his teeth as he had to lean down to add some detailing to the mermaid that he was creating out of damp sand.

Let others rely on doing runs to and from the surf to get more water for their works. He had a portable sand block press of his own design, and a wheeled dolly with plenty of purified water jugs on it, and an hour and a half to craft a winning entry. Plenty of time before the tide came in and erased it all.

The wind ruffled his hair; the sky was overcast, and it was a lousy day to be on the beach, but the event planners had set this up months in advance, and they couldn’t control the weather.

He tried not to think about the sign that he’d seen on the way to the beach: ‘Tsunami Warning.’ It had been there since the sixties; there had never been a tsunami off the Oregon coast in a hundred years.

But there always was a first time for everything. He’d seen the pictures of Indonesia and Japan; huge morasses of water, consuming everything in its wake. Cars and buses floating along in the water like some giant bathtub toys, houses collapsing under the unexpected deluge of water coming down the street.

He had been given one of the sites closest to the waterline. He hadn’t been given permission to change with someone else. The safety of the boardwalk was two hundred yards away, possibly closer to three.

He wanted to just quit the contest, because those clouds overhead and the sky had gotten darker. Wasn’t the first sign of a tsunami heavy clouds? He couldn’t remember.

Just the thought of being swept out to sea made him want to look over his shoulder instead of paying attention to the work in front of him.

Was the sea a little closer?

It was. It surely was.
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Balance the internal with the external. Fear is internal. Stimulus for fear is external. It’s something you see – or can’t see. It’s something heard which doesn’t match normalcy. It’s evidence of something Not Right. Or simply feelings of wrongness sometimes.

Think about something that makes you scared for a moment. You can feel your skin crawl, the tension, the want to hide somewhere where it’s safe, or at least lighted. Then try and put the character who is being scared in your own shoes. Can you make them feel that fear, in their own voice, in their own head, and in their own mind?

I think you can.

It’s uncertainty of their next moments. It’s worrying about what MIGHT happen before it does, and then what DOES happen is often unexpected anyway.

And it’s worse than they imagined.

Another element of horror is the fact that it’s drawn out. The inevitable chase scene. The character becomes the prey in a hunt. Trying to escape. Because as you well know, anyone who fights the beastie? Usually dies. Horribly.

In horror, the big bad nasty almost always has the upper hand. They make the protagonist feel mortal. Vulnerable. Weak. Because if they weren’t afraid of it, if they could outfight it, outrun it, or outthink it right off the bat? It’s not scary enough. Their confidence and skill will carry them through.

Of course, there’s always the reversal — the misplaced bravado route, where they think they’ve got it covered – and then they don’t.

Now that is the source of even bigger fear. Maybe they escaped with their life after being foolish enough to brace the proverbial tiger in its lair. And they are scarred by the near-death experience. (Possibly literally.)

That’s a key: any fear a character has is not something they can easily shrug off. Any horror that a character faces has to be something that they are already afraid of to begin with, or something that can apply that (un)healthy fear of that after that first encounter.

It doesn’t have to be blood and guts, or supernatural things thrashing people around, or demonic possession, or aliens, or zombies or vampires… I was rather surprised to see how many people are afraid of clowns.

But that doesn’t help you, does it?

What should be your horror vehicle? What should you make people afraid of?

Anything. You. Want.

A skilled enough writer can make anything menacing. Items can be cursed. Food can be poisoned – or worse. A normal person could turn out to have a hidden past. Or change right in front of their eyes. Sometimes the scariest things of all are things we take for granted to be harmless — until they aren’t.

The thing you want to keep in mind when writing horror is that the object of horror has to regularly keep pushing at the characters. It must continue to vex them, whether it starts eating them one by one or keeps them from leaving the proverbial island (or both), it’s got to be something that they can’t get around or away from that easily.

Just like things we’ve been afraid for for years.

You can be afraid of anything, really — heck, just check out the List of Phobias on Wikipedia, or phobialist.com. Pick something you’ve never heard of before as a challenge, and start from there… and don’t be afraid to write about it.