– A member of the Write By The Rails group and the author of From These Ashes
Readers, let’s welcome Tamela, the wandering storyteller to my blog. She’s agreed to visit and share with us today some dreams, some advice, and some reading recommendations.
Tamela, thanks for agreeing to be here today. Most interviews start off with bios and such, and while I’ll get to that, let’s start with the important stuff!
If you could have any pet (real/fantasy/no-allergies/no worries about feeding it) what would it be?
Oh man, start with the hard ones first! For a real pet? This is going to seem boring, but I’d really just like a dog. I’ve lived with dogs for most of my life, but I’ve never had one that was mine, ya know? I just really want a dog who loves me best. Lame, I know.
Oh, oh, wait, any pet? With no worries about logistics? A dolphin. Not to own really, not in a cage or anything. But seriously, how cool would it be to hang out with a dolphin? Or a unicorn? Wait, what if it turns out unicorns are sort of douches? That would suck.
Yeah, I’ll stick with a dolphin, thank you.
Puppies and dolphins? You have good taste in pets! Assuming, of course, they’re the friendly ones and not the jerk-faces. Next up, a more standard question.
What do you write and how did you get started?
I write small stories about everyday people who have been marginalized or forgotten. I give voice to the voiceless.Or I try.How did I get started writing? I honestly don’t remember I time when I didn’t have stories in my head. I do remember I was 10 the first time I wrote one down.
I get that, Tamela, and I’m probably not the only one. Now, as readers ourselves, to find out if your tastes and preferences align with ours, next up is the all-important question — not that there’s a right or a wrong answer, just a sense of…harmonic resonance.
What do you like to read?
Ahhhh, easier question is what don’t I read. There’s no rhyme or reason to what I read. Right now I’m on a YA kick. I just picked up local authors’ PM Hernandez and Mara Mahan‘s books last weekend and I’m looking forward to checking them out.
I really love going to the library and pulling down books and checking them out based on their cover, their blurbs without knowing anything about the author or any buzz about the book (all the things that marketing types tell you that no one does). Makes me feel like I’m discovering a new treasure. Even if it’s not true.
Last time I found a book I loved that I thought no one else had heard of and that the whole world needed to read, it turned out that it had already been turned into a movie.
*pouts* Well, that answer didn’t really narrow it down for us.
*grins and winks* Good for you! Now, the next two questions are for the writers reading this blog.
Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that doesn’t work for you.
The oldest piece of writing advice there is, so old that it’s more a cliche than advice and it’s almost cliche to disagree with it. “Write what you know.”
I mean, I get why it’s advice and there are definitely stories that could have been better told by someone who had more experience with the situation or particulars.
But I’ve found a writer only needs two things to be able to dodge this writerly rule: access to Google and a strong sense of empathy.
The empathy is for the heart and soul of the story about people who aren’t you, Google (or more specifically–research) is for the facts. In this day and age, there isn’t anything you can’t learn more about, nothing you can’t find someone willing to share their experiences about. If you don’t have a healthy sense of empathy, well, you’re probably in the wrong field anyway, so you just stick to what you know… or become a journalist.
And, of course, the flip side!
Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that they can pry out of your cold, dead hands.
Tamela, thank you for taking the time to share with us. I really appreciate you stopping by and hope my readers did too. Now, did you have anything you’d like to share with us? Because it’s now…
Shameless Self-Promotion time!
My first (and only so far) published novel From These Ashes was published in 2013 by Vagabondage Press. My latest published short story, “Quantifying Momentum” can be found in The Piedmont Journal of Poetry and Fiction’s anthology Tracks.
Today’s post is from Katherine Gotthardt, talking about how editing your word choices can make your writing SHINE!
Guest Blog: Choose the Right Words (And Live to Tell About It)
By Katherine Gotthardt, M.Ed.
You’re a writer. I don’t have to convince you that words hold power. If you didn’t believe that already, you wouldn’t have bothered to pick up the pen or put fingers to keyboard. But what you probably ask yourself all the time as you’re writing is, “Is that the right word?” How do you decide?
In my decades of battling with words, many times losing, I’ve learned that the right words are too often elusive. But in spite of this, I’ve also learned following a few guidelines helps me maintain a steady stream of at least half-decent writing, whether it’s poetry, articles, social media posts or something else. Here are some methods I use when I’m fighting to find the right words.
Banish Wimpy Wording
In your heart of hearts, you know wimpy wording when you see it. “Very,” and “nice” don’t say a whole lot, for example. They kind of take up space with their banality, clogging up the works while stronger words shift back and forth on the soles of their feet, impatiently waiting their turn. Be specific. Be courageous. Tell that “very nice” lady she’s “uncommonly agreeable,” and then decide what that means in the larger context of your work. You might realize “very nice” is not very nice at all, and now you’ve got the start of a more complex character in your novel. Or you’ve created a conundrum in that article you’re writing about the jewelry store owner the next town over, and you’d better watch your tone or you’ll get your publisher in a pickle. But by evicting the weakling words, you’re moving past trite and forgettable writing.
Write in 3D
Human beings live sensory lives. Even when we’re alone in our own heads, we use taste, touch, smell, sight, and sound to make sense of our surroundings. Our memories are made up of perceptions brought to us through nerve endings and cortex, creating meaning from stimuli. We’re wonderful processors of the sensual. Take advantage of that. Use the senses to write in 3D. Don’t tell me there’s a gray dog on the corner. Show me what’s ahead: a bristled beast with iron-colored fur, lifting its leg, leaking on the fire hydrant, the sun beating a rhythm of mirage on the street’s pavement. Oh. Maybe I should cross the street because I’m not especially sure that’s a friendly Fido out for an afternoon romp. Now you’ve created something besides the image. You’ve created conflict – the archetypal “man versus nature.” Superb. Have your characters react accordingly. Move the action along, no matter what you’re writing.
We writers do it all the time. We end up using the same words over and over and over and over and… It bores readers, and when we notice we’ve done it again, it usually horrifies us. How could we have overlooked our repetition of “let’s” five times within four sentences? Ugh! Okay, forgive yourself. It’s easy to make this error, especially when deadlines are screaming from the Google calendar, the cell phone and the land line are ringing at the same time and your pug is barking at the Amazon delivery guy. It’s not cheating to use the tools given to us by the tech demigods. A thorough grammar check should slow you down long enough to help you see the error of your ways, even if your grammar tool doesn’t specifically point out repeated words. And when your brain feels like bubble wrap? Use the thesaurus. I promise you, the Amazon guy won’t tell.
If after using these three techniques you still find yourself losing the war to find the right words, it really is okay. Get up. Stretch. Take your dogs for a walk. While they’re watering the grass, you’ll have time to rest your brain. By the time you return, you’ll be ready to jump back into the trenches. And if you’re still losing the battle?
Thankfully, there’s always the option to edit. Again.
I recently joined a local writing group and decided to participate in their blog hop.
As a theme for the posts, I asked for writing tips, since that’s the primary thing I like to blog about. It just so happened that my first guest post is from Jan Rayl, the President of Write by The Rails talking about WHY one should join a writing group.
Get in a local Writing Group!
Morgan thanks for asking me to guest blog about writing tips. I hope your writers will find the inspiration in the synergistic effects that being involved in a writing group can bring.
There are a plethora of “writing tips,” to be found with google searches. So, what sets this idea apart? This tip is not a solitary event. Writing is generally done alone which lends itself to distraction and wandering off track. Morgan and I regularly meet as part of Write by the Rails, our local writing group. The first time we met was at a coffee shop over the topic of marketing your book.
As an unpublished author, having the expertise of those that have gone before you is invaluable.
Find a group that is encouraging to new authors. You may want to join a specialty group for your specific genre such as romance, poetry, fiction, non-fiction, etc.
As President of Write by the Rails my biggest joy has been to have an unpublished author come to a meeting looking for help in publishing a book. Time and time again I have watched members step up to give them ideas and encourage them to come read a few pages at one of our open mic nights. I have members that will be beta readers and give invaluable feedback.
As an unpublished author, it is easy to get taken advantage of.
The expertise in a solid writing group can literally save you thousands of dollars. We have had first time published authors come in excited thinking they got a real deal. They have told us how they were able to get their book published for $2,000 to $5,000. Had they been involved with a writing group from the beginning we could have saved them this costly mistake. Money flows to the author!
To have an excellent product you will need to pay for some professional editing.
Unless you are an artist as well you will need a cover designer. The other aspects of getting your book published can now be accomplished by the traditional big publishing house or by YOU! It is now possible to get excellent book sales due to the massive increases in self-publication. Look for a writing group that has representatives of several publication methods.
You want to look for a writers’ group that has the depth you need to accomplish your goals.
For example, Write by the Rails holds regular meetings for the sole purpose of encouraging writers and sharing ideas. We share marketing ideas, help each other with marketing our writing. We were instrumental in starting a local open mic night to read and celebrate the written word. We have been able to get “local author sections” in several of our local bookstores. Write by the Rails has also published two anthologies which have been a great way for writers to get their first work published. We cheer each other on and attend book signings and encourage our friends and readers to attend as well. Write by the Rails started the Poet Laureate for Prince William County which has been held by many members of our group.
Recently our member, Alan Bonsall, self-published his first book. He had come to his first meeting about a year ago with a wonderful idea for a book about the Johnstown flood told through the eyes of a couple of young adults. He worked on his book with encouragement from members. Another member who is a professional writer and book designer, designed his cover. He came to a meeting full of excitement to show us his new book. We all shared in his excitement as we felt we had a tiny part in getting his book in print. Then he came to a meeting even more excited because he outsold a seasoned writer at a book signing event. Now that several of us have read his book, Young Heroes of the Lost Lake: A Johnstown Flood Novel, we are begging for a sequel!
Write by the Rails is a very encouraging group that balances encouragement for unpublished authors and accountability for the seasoned author.
We hold writing seminars and workshops to help us become our very best at writing. Talk about results, our club has more than fifty books published by members in the seven years we have been around. I hope that you will consider becoming involved in a writing group near you.
*****Jan Rayl is in her third term as President of Write by the Rails. Write by the Rails is the Prince William County, Virginia area Chapter of Virginia Writer’s Club which celebrated 100 years in 2018. Jan has been published in numerous nursing journals and the Write by The Rails anthologies, New Departures and No Additional Postage Necessary. Jan blogs on travel, book reviews, and other musings check out her blog at https://write4jan.wordpress.com.