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If “Stan” were nonfiction, it’d still be a travelogue… just drier

Time to stretch a bit. The prompt Day 12 prompt for the 5-Week Author Blog Challenge asks our bloggers to “think differently” on our subject matter. All 35 posts for this Challenge will be focused on writing, publishing, and book marketing. I hope you’ll stick around through all 35 posts. And if you want to take part, come on in – the water is great! You can register here.

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Day 12 writing prompt:

If your book is fiction, how could you change it to make it a nonfiction book? If your book is nonfiction, what could you do to turn it into a story?

I know a guy in his 50s who’s still trying to make it as a musical artist. He had about 27 minutes of fame for his creepy audition on The X Factor, combined with the snarky comment he made to one of the judges. Thing is, he was attempting to be something he’s not, recording funky pop music that tweens and college kids prefer. When I asked him why he’d left his punk rock roots to make music so outside his natural interests, his answer was that pop music is “where the money is.”

But he was immediately spotted and called out as a scammer, because people knew he had no passion for this kind of music. The same, I believe, is true for authors.

Meg Cabot

While I don’t think I deliberately set out to do this, looking back on my novel writing process, it seems inevitable that I would write something I wanted to read. I mean, who doesn’t? Children’s authors, maybe. But don’t you think you’d HAVE to write a book that you, personally, would like? Otherwise, it would feel forced and fraudulent.

Whether it’s a book or a film, I am driven by characters, always. I don’t have to like them, but they have to be fully developed enough that I at least understand them. And I’m also drawn to real stories – things that might actually have happened. One of the best books I ever read was We Need to Talk About Kevin, a fictional account of the relationship between a mother and her teenage school-shooter son. Even as I was mesmerized by the story, I remember thinking that the author must have had some personal involvement or insight into a real school shooting in order to have portrayed it so seemingly accurately.

While my story is not nearly as dramatic, I strive for the same thing in my writing, to make the Jorge and Andydetails as accurate as possible. For instance, in my novel, the main character and his best friend attend a baseball card signing event as kids. This is a fictional episode, but I made sure that the two members of the New York Yankees farm team the boys meet, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte, were actual playing with the living, breathing Albany-Colonie Yankees at the time.

So, in many ways, my novel already has many nonfiction elements in it. I think my best description is that this book is part travelogue, part social commentary, and part fiction. If I were to make it entirely nonfiction, I suppose it would be a travel guide for first-time world travelers. Suggestions on where to stay, what to eat, security tips, places to visit off the beaten path. I’ve never personally enjoyed those kinds of books or articles – but they definitely have an important role, or at least they used to, pre-Internet. Since beginning Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World, I have picked up many a travel book at thrift stores, book sales, and used book stores, as even with five books about Athens in front of me, each contains different details.

Please be sure to check out my next post, which will be a commentary on critique groups.

And for the record, I’d love your feedback on my Author Blog Challenge posts! And, of course, would really love to have you support all of the bloggers in the Challenge. Find their links here.

Here’s to changing things up every once in a while!

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________Anatomy of a Book Launch

If you’re getting ready to launch your book and would like help to put together a successful event, download my free special report: Anatomy of a Book Launch. Then CALL me at 602.518.5376 to schedule your complimentary 15-minute consultation. It’s never too early to begin planning!

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Writers block cure? Keep writing!

Day 7 of the 5-Week Author Blog Challenge brings to light a condition all writers likely face at one time or another: writers’ block. All 35 posts for this Challenge will be focused on writing, publishing, and book marketing. I hope you’ll stick around through all 35 posts. And if you want to take part, come on in – the water is great! You can register here.

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Day 7 writing prompt:

Do you ever experience writer’s block? What do you recommend to help overcome writer’s block? Any foolproof tricks that always work for you?

From the time I was in maybe sixth grade all the way through high school, I hated on-the-spot writing assignments. The teacher would give us a topic and tell us we had the rest of the period to write; the paper would be collected at the end of the class. In a 50-minute class, I would spend the first 20 to 30 minutes doodling, going to the bathroom, cleaning out my book bag – anything but writing! I’m not sure why, but I was never able to just put pen to paper and scribble out an essay. I’d watch the clock, baiting it to keep ticking. Then, at the last possible minute, I’d start writing and pour out an essay, dotting the final I’s and crossing the final T’s just as the teacher said, “OK, pens down. Pass your papers forward.”

beautiful journalist looks typewriter

I think there’s a distinction to be made between writers’ block, where the words simply will not flow, regardless of the genre, subject, or deadline looming, and procrastination, where you could write if you tried, but you’re just plain putting it off. My episodes in junior high and high school were obstinate procrastination, but I don’t think they could have rightly been called writers’ block.

For many years since high school, neither writers’ block nor that kind of intense procrastination about writing were a problem for me. Of course, as I mentioned in yesterday’s post, nonfiction is easy! Fiction is another animal entirely. Presently, I find that I’ve created a scene in my novel-in-progress that is very difficult to write through. I’ve considered eliminating the scene, erasing it entirely from the story – but I don’t want to do that for a couple reasons. For one thing, it adds to the travelogue/personal discovery aspect for the main character, Stan. Secondly, I’m bigger than this small episode of writers’ momentary challenge. I will vanquish the writers’ block and be done with it for good!

NOTE: I paused writing this blog post to go and actually write the scene that was giving me so much trouble. Really! In writing about my writers’ block, I realized how easy it would be to just finish, so I opened the file, went straight to the last unfinished paragraph of the scene in question, and added the 169 words it took to finish it. Whew!

So, do I have any suggestions for overcoming writers’ block? Well, I just shared what worked eternal strugglefor me: describing it in detail. Maybe you can try it, too? Other ideas include free writing (write anything for 5 or 10 minutes, without picking up your pen(cil), even “I wish I knew what to write. I wish I knew what to write. I wish I knew what to write.”); writing in a different place than usual; writing in a different way (e.g., longhand if you typically type on a computer, or vice versa); taking a walk; playing music; having sex

I think the only answer, really, is just to write.

Check back tomorrow when I’ll be dishing on my favorite literary characters.

And for the record, I’d love your feedback on my Author Blog Challenge posts! And, of course, would really love to have you support all of the bloggers in the Challenge. Find their links here.

Here’s to whatever it takes to let the words flow!

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________Anatomy of a Book Launch

If you’re getting ready to launch your book and would like help to put together a successful event, download my free special report: Anatomy of a Book Launch. Then CALL me at 602.518.5376 to schedule your complimentary 15-minute consultation. It’s never too early to begin planning!

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Music-lovin’ night owl writes when the mood strikes

Day 6 of the 5-Week Author Blog Challenge focuses on the writing process. All 35 posts for this Challenge will be focused on writing, publishing, and book marketing. My writing process for my novel is a bit scattered. Nonfiction is a different story entirely! I hope you’ll stick around through all 35 posts. And if you want to take part, come on in – the water is great! You can register here.

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Day 6 writing prompt:

Take us through your writing process. Do you keep a regular writing schedule? Do you write on your laptop or longhand? Do you have a favorite place to write? Are you most inspired in the morning, afternoon, evening, or middle of the night?

Oh, how I’d love to tell you I am an organized, orderly writer. We have prompts coming up about the outlining process and about where the idea for our book originated – in hindsight, those probably should have come first, as there’s overlap, to be sure. I was amazingly organized in my outlining and will share those details on Day 10.

writing at night

When it comes to writing, however, I’m more of a “when I have a few minutes” … “when I look at the calendar and feel the time ebbing away since the last time I sat down to add a couple of paragraphs to Stan’s travels” … “when I have a new idea” … “when I want to re-read a section to see if I got a detail correct” kind of gal.

About 10 months ago, I went up to a friend’s home in New River – a town about an hour north of my home in Metro Phoenix – to stay in her guest house, isolated from TV, laundry, and other distractions. I got a lot of writing done in those two days, and probably need to make another similar mini writing sabbatical soon.

That’s the fiction side of things. When it comes to nonfiction, I’m in my zone! I’m organized and write straight through until a blog post, paper, or book (OK, increments here) is finished. This makes sense, if you think about it. Nonfiction has a specific message that must be conveyed in a particular order. If you know your material (and/or work from a well-developed outline), you know what comes next. Fiction, on the other hand, is always a work in progress. It develops little by little, one character or scene at a time. Unless they’ve got an amazing imagination and a photographic memory, no fiction author knows every detail that’s going to unfold until they sit down to write.

I most definitely write on my laptop – a machine without which I cannot fathom getting any work done. How did we do it when we were strapped to a desk? When our phones had to plug into one wall and stay there? Without research of the world available at our fingertips via the Internet? Without the unobtrusive communication mechanism of email?

My hours are, without question, nocturnal. I’m not one of those who complains that a 7 a.m.

Night Owl Society

Night Owl Society

meeting is too early, but you won’t find me scheduling meetings at that hour. I’m usually sitting down, ready to work no earlier than 11 a.m. – but then, again, I’m awake and often working into the wee hours. There’s a fascinating piece on HuffPost about night owls – one characteristic of which tends to be creativity. It also mentions a guy who created a group called the Night Owl Society, which is dedicated to creative freelancers who are regularly up late.

I tend to prefer working to music. If it’s Pandora, it’s usually the U2 station or Celtic Radio. (Just an aside, I also have Chicago Radio on my playlist – but every time I listen to it, they play three Eagles songs for every song by Chicago. WTF?!) I have a graphic design colleague who says he can’t work with any music or noise at all because it’s too distracting. For intense editing or really focused writing, I would agree. Any work of graphical nature is only enhanced by music, in my opinion.

What about you? Do you have a special writing space, hour of the day, or ambiance enhancer that brings your muse to life? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Check back tomorrow when I’ll be discussing writers’ block.

And for the record, I’d love your feedback on my Author Blog Challenge posts! And, of course, would really love to have you support all of the bloggers in the Challenge. Find their links here.

Here’s to whatever it takes to let the words flow!

Laura

__________________

We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________Anatomy of a Book Launch

If you’re getting ready to launch your book and would like help to put together a successful event, download my free special report: Anatomy of a Book Launch. Then CALL me at 602.518.5376 to schedule your complimentary 15-minute consultation. It’s never too early to begin planning!

__________________

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Does your writing influence your reading, or vice versa?

Today is Day 5 of the 5-Week Author Blog Challenge, for which all of my posts will be focused on writing, publishing, and book marketing. It’s interesting how my new book has influenced my reading, though I’m sure my reading has influenced the book, too! I hope you’ll stick around through all 35 posts. And if you want to take part, come on in – the water is great! You can register here.

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Day 5 writing prompt:

There’s a Stephen King quote that says: “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” How do the things you read impact your writing? What do you love to read? What do you avoid reading at all costs? How would your writing change if you read more of the things you typically avoid?

toilet reading

This picture used to be me, all the time. Now that reading is so readily available at every turn (Want to know when Nineteen Eighty-Four was released while on a cross-country driving trip? Check the Google!), I’m one of the few people I know who can walk out of the house without my smartphone and not drive 10 miles back to get it. I think all the social media and blogging distractions are doing a disservice to my reading actual books. I like ebooks well enough (I have a Kindle), but I generally skim them, as opposed to sitting down to read them. Which you would correctly deduce to mean that I don’t read a lot of fiction ebooks.

I enjoy fiction quite a bit (see yesterday’s post about some favorites), but over the years have been drawn more to nonfiction of all types. If it’s interesting and well written, I may give it a chance, even if I don’t finish the whole book. Like Bill Soroka (another ABC participant), I usually tend to have many books going at one time. But one always wins, and I wind up reading more of it and finishing it first. I keep books in the bathroom, on my night stand, in the car, in my handbag, near the couch, on my desk … almost anyplace I spend a concerted amount of time.

Right now, I’m reading How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes, The Sufi Book of Life, The Red Tent, and Broody New Englander, by fellow Phoenix author Ken Weene, among others.

I’m not much of a sci-fi or paranormal fan, and I steer well away from horror – same with the movies. I enjoy my tranquil existence and have no need to inject that kind of ick into it, even if it’s fictional ick. Guess I get enough of that following politics. That’s not to say I never read sci-fi or paranormal, on occasion. Sometimes a change from my own status quo is refreshing.

Stan and Isis in Liverpool

Stan and Isis in Liverpool

I’ve never been a big fan of travel writing, but now that I’m writing about a guy who travels around the world, I’m reading a lot of travel books and blogs. As with every genre, some are better (and more useful) than others. I would describe Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World as part travelogue, part social commentary, and part fiction.

I tend to avoid overly religious books and highly technical or scientific works. I think I’m getting better at reading outside my comfort zone, though. You never know where the next idea or tidbit to enhance a blog post, story, novel, or screenplay will come from. Not to mention that you cannot help but become a better writer by reading good writing across all genres. As I listen to a rap song (not my favorite genre) on a contemporary alternative radio station I happen to like quite a bit, I’m reminded that this must also be true of musicians, visual artists, chefs, and other artists of all stripes. Studying outside our niche arenas is important if we want to grow as artists, and doing so makes all of our work stronger.

Tune in tomorrow when I’ll be describing my writing process. Maybe I should come up with one by then! Kidding… I promise to impress you, even if it’s with smoke and mirrors.

And for the record, I’d love your feedback on my Author Blog Challenge posts! And, of course, would really love to have you support all of the bloggers in the Challenge. Find their links here.

Here’s to reading everything you can get your hands on!

Laura

__________________

We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

__________________Anatomy of a Book Launch

If you’re getting ready to launch your book and would like help to put together a successful event, download my free special report: Anatomy of a Book Launch. Then CALL me at 602.518.5376 to schedule your complimentary 15-minute consultation. It’s never too early to begin planning!

__________________

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There’s NO SUCH THING as a nonfiction novel!

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you may have come to know my penchant for, “This should go without saying, but…” THIS ONE definitely should go without saying, but there it was, on an indie book review blog:

This blog is for novels (over 50,000 words) by indie writers in any of the following fiction or non-fiction categories:  action / adventure / chick lit / drama / fantasy / historical / horror / mystery / thriller / romance / and science fiction.

Seriously. I’m not making this up. I’m not going to name the blogger here, but if you’re on the Google, you can figure it out with a few key strokes. HOW can someone post that they’re reviewing only novels … and then say they’ll accept books “in any of the following fiction or nonfiction categories”?

Let’s clarify this once and for all.

FICTION: Prose literature, esp. short stories
and novels (i.e., not poetry), about IMAGINARY
events and people.

NONFICTION: Prose writing based on FACTS,
such as biography or history… or science or politics
or music or medicine or publishing or sports or …

Thanks, Wikipedia, for the definitions.

Therefore, a novel can never be either fiction or nonfiction. It is always fiction. Period.

There is a relatively new genre known as Creative Nonfiction (also known as literary or narrative nonfiction) , which is described as writing that uses literary styles and techniques to create factually accurate narratives. It’s still FACTUAL, though, so it’s still NONfiction; however, it uses literary devices often found in novels and other fictional writing.

On the other hand, some novels are based on real-life incidents; historical fiction is one such genre. You may have seen TV crime dramas based on true stories and real characters; they are fictionalized versions of the stories on which they are based. One would never confuse an episode of Law and Order (fiction) with an episode of Cops (nonfiction). Fiction can contain real characters set in actual places the distinction is that the story is make-believe.

Are these the thing that are confusing people? I wish I knew. And I wish our indie book review blogger was the only person ever to make this blunder, but she’s not. Lots of people you’d think should know better have done the same. You, on the other hand, have NO more excuses.

Here’s to happy fiction and nonfiction writing!

Laura

P.S. The word “nonfiction” is not hyphenated. That’s another mistake you often see.

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