Writing Tip — Guest Blogger, Rebecca Waters

BeckySo happy to have author Rebecca Waters guest blogging again. This time, she isn’t here as a novelist. She’s discussing writing advice from her book The E’s of Writing. Good to have you back, Rebecca!

Exercising the Writing Muscle

There is a difference between being a writer and being an author. Writers may write as a hobby or as a therapeutic measure. The casual writer may share his or her compositions with family or friends. An author publishes. An author expects a much wider audience.

It is an important distinction. If you are seeking to be a published author, you need to view your musings as a business instead of a hobby. And while, yes, I recognize that yours may be a “non-profit” business by choice or not by choice in the beginning, it is a business.

A business offers a product or service. I often meet people who want to talk about the book they have in mind. But they don’t write. They don’t have a product to market. That movie based on the best seller they are certain they could write will never happen because they don’t take the time to sit down and do it.

In the handbook, The E’s of Writing, I outline five healthy practices or habits for the soon-to-be-published author. The first of these “E’s” is Exercise. To get you started, I am sharing a brief description here of three exercises to build your writing muscle. These three you can start doing today. Note, to be effective, you need to exercise your writing muscle at least four days a week.

Think of it as training to be a world class weight lifter. In training a lifter starts with small weights to build those muscles needed to lift more. The same is true in becoming an author. You must exercise your writing muscle. In the process, you will create a product worth marketing; Words worth publishing.

Start with these three exercises:

  1. Use writing prompts. One way to warm-up or get your writing brain in gear each writing day is to use a prompt. Write for a sustained ten to fifteen minute interval. You can download prompts, start with a book of quotes, or write about a calendar photo. One author I know writes her way through the alphabet, choosing a word for each letter of the alphabet and crafting a story around the word. When she finishes with Z, she starts back at A. I’ve seen bloggers take on a similar challenge.
  2. Craft a query letter. This exercise is particularly helpful if you want to write non-fiction. You can start to build your audience by writing for a magazine or journal. Research a topic, outline the main points of the article and craft a letter proposing the piece to a magazine or journal you think would find your work interesting. If you’ve never written a query letter before, you may need to do a bit of online research to see what an editor needs from you. And if the editor offers you a contract to write the piece, you’ve already done the research!
  3. Writing contests. Every year journals, editors, agents, and conferences offer writing contests. I encourage new writers to download the guidelines and spend their exercise time working on an entry. Judges will often offer feedback to you to help you improve your writing. Some may require you to attend the conference for them to even read your entry, but the exercise of following the guidelines, crafting a submission, proofreading, editing, and revising helps build your writing muscle. And if you are interested in crafting a novel, one “contest” you may find challenging is NaNoWriMo. It stands for National Novel Writing Month. One month to draft a novel. Now that is heavy lifting!

Ready, Set, Go! Exercise that writing muscle!

I like writing prompts, which is why I offer Monday Sparks once a week. Thank you for describing those three writing exercises. Great ways to stay in creative shape.

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writing with e's Edd 3A writer writes. An author publishes. If you want to be a successful writer you need to first learn to exercise the writing muscle, learn to self-edit, seek to educate yourself about writing, engage with others in the writing community, and regularly engage in self-evaluation. Successful writers become published authors when they turn these practices into highly productive habits.
In the third book of the Writing to Publish series, author, educator, and speaker, Rebecca Waters offers new writers practical strategies to employ these five practices in sustainable ways.

Click here to go to Amazon.

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Rebecca Waters has been a writer most of her life. Her first published work was a short story in the school newspaper she wrote in second grade. For many years Rebecca used her stories as illustrations in school and church settings or to entertain her own three daughters. Her professional writing included educational articles and research. Following her retirement as a professor of education from Cincinnati Christian University, Rebecca turned her pen to the world of fiction. Her latest novel, Libby’s Cuppa Joewas released in March 2019. Her Writing to Publish Serieshelps beginning writers become published authors.

Visit her blog, follow her on Twitter, or like her on Facebook.

Writing Tip — Researching Local History

libraryw-2824901_1280Not everything about history can be found online. If you are interested in historical fiction set in America, researching local history at a library where your historical fiction is set will produce resources you can’t find anywhere else.

As a test, I visited a local history room of library near where I live. I’d still be there, trawling through the trove information like each piece was a jewel from a treasure, but I had a blog to type up. Here are some of the resources I discovered.

  • City directories — From 2000 back to 1859
  • Yearbooks of the local college — Going back to 1909. The college library is another place to check for local history
  • Genealogical indexes — These covered two counties
  • Books of the census — Covering one county, these went back to 1835. I also found it a great source for unusual names, such as Justice T. Calhoun, Zelotes Jones, and Ev Narden.
  • Histories of local churches
  • Book published in 1891 — Portraits and biographies of “prominent persons” from the county up to that time.
  • Spooky tales of a neighboring county
  • Index to Common Please Court — These were arranged both by plaintiff and defendent
  • State phone books on microfiche
  • Fiction and nonfiction by local authors
  • Family histories
  • Card catalog with obituaries — How many of you know what a card catalog is? It’s the paper way libraries indexed their collection. This one had cards arranged alphabetically by the last name of a deceased person, often with a newspaper obituary cut out and taped to the card.

The library had another room, locked, run by the county genealogical society, with hours listed when volunteers are available to help researchers.

Researching  local history may also take you to old newspapers. The library I visited in Parsons, West Virginia, last summer had the local newspaper on microfilm. While scrolling through an edition from the late 1940’s, I discovered why the bridge I drove across was a memorial bridge. It was dedicated to a sheriff who was murdered on duty.

The microfilm was difficult to use and make copies of, so I asked the librarian if any of these newspapers were online. She said they weren’t. My only option was visiting the library.

What kind of resources have you found helpful when doing research?

 

Writing Tip — Favorite Stories — The Daughter of Time

daughter of timeAs a fan of mysteries, I had come across The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey on lists of the best mysteries ever written. When I finally settled down to read it, I found it to be one of the most engrossing stories I’ve ever had the pleasure to discover. It expertly combines two of my passions: history and mystery.

nypl-digitalcollections-99a6ed7e-0d3c-0e0d-e040-e00a18061e25-001-rWritten in England in the 1950’s, the novel features Inspector Alan Grant, laid up in the hospital with a broken leg and bored out of his mind. His actress girlfriend knows his fascination with faces and brings him copies of photos and portraits to study. When he find the portrait of Richard III, he can’t reconcile the face with the man’s reputation as the murderer of his tween age nephews. The girlfriend contacts Brent Carradine, young man doing historical research, and he and Grant begin to believe that the story handed down for 500 years about Richard III being a merrily murdering monster is false.

Although the characters and setting are fictitious, the mystery is not. Edward V and his younger brother Richard did disappear sometime after June 1483. Their uncle Richard, who became king when the boys were declared illegitimate, is the most likely culprit. But Henry Tudor, who killed Richard III in battle and took the throne, also had a motive.

Even more involving than this mystery is the one of how people interpret history. In the novel, Grant and Carradine stick to contemporary sources and must examine the motives of the authors. Was he a sympathizer of the York family, the branch of the royal house Richard III belonged to? Or did the author favor the Lancaster side, of which Henry Tudor was a member?

The two characters also discuss how people lie about events to further their own agenda. I found all this analysis of history so inspiring that I want to use the novel in my own murder mystery. My main character use the techniques of research outlined in the book to investigate a 70-year-old mystery in his rural West Virginia county.

If you want to learn more about Richard III and his nephews, click here for the Wikipedia article. Many books have been written about the mystery, and it’s difficult to find ones that are biased. As I stated in one of my earliest blog posts, the authors tend to be either ardent Richard III supporters or detractors. Very much like the people who wrote about Richard in 1483.

What other novels have you read that blend unsolved real-life mysteries with fiction?

 

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