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Excerpt for Writing 101 - How to Write for Yourself & Share with the World by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Writing 101

How to write for yourself and share with the world.





Theresa Jacobs © 2018

Featuring with permission:

Lucy Lombos, Karina Bartow, David Kummer.

All rights reserved.



With special thanks to my dearest friend, and new editor, Jacqueline Leahey.






Table of contents


Introduction

(Theresa Jacobs a 45-yr. old beginner)


Practice

Ideas

Scammers

Covers and editing

How to self-publish and market

Additional author’s input:

Lucy Lombos

(A Filipino writer who’s come to Canada)

Karina Bartow

(A writer with a different ability)

David Kummer

(A writer under 20)


                    Bonus Free story & judged results

                  Links, links and more links.







INTRODUCTION

(Theresa Jacobs a 45-yr. old beginner)



My Name is Theresa Jacobs and I am a writer. I wrote my first novel, Cataclysm, in 1994, but it wasn’t until I began self-publishing in December of 2015 that I started writing actively.  I have not yet tried the traditional route; it is a slow process and I have little patience. (Perhaps by the time you read this, that will have changed.)


So, who am I to tell you how to write?

Who is anyone for that matter?


Writing is not as complicated as we make it out to be. Most of the time it’s our own fear holding us back from sharing with the world. We are afraid of ridicule, afraid of success, afraid of the unknown. Writing is art, and art is baring your soul to the world.


No one can really tell you how to write. Not even writers who have found huge success, like Lee Child, Stephen King, or J. K Rowling. Sure, they can give you advice, just as I am doing now, but they can't tell you how to find your own voice, or how to find a story within yourself.


This tutorial is not about grammar or structure. You can Google that stuff–it’s all there, and it’s all free!


I’m here to tell you that I let fear hold me back for forty years and if this little book can help just one person, then I am happy.


I wanted to write since before I could even read or write, it's just something that you're born with, it's innate. Or it’s a new passion you discover along your path in life.  By the time I could read and write, I was already telling little stories and would draw crazy pictures to go along with them. My passion started showing more and more, so much so that my parents got me a typewriter one year for Christmas - yes, I'm old. I started in the game before computers and internet, a luxury you should not take for granted. I'm not going delve deep into my history, just know that when I got brave and published, my life changed.


 And yours can too!




Practice




Begin with writing practice.


When writing drafts don’t worry about grammar. A draft is simply the artist mind coming to life on paper. Let the words flow, create the picture, you can clean it up later.


In the beginning, finding your voice may take time and will only come as you write. You can't think about it, or force it, or ask someone how to do it. You have to write, write, write. Trust me, it will come on its own.


Also, remember that everyone has their own opinion. If you take four friends to a movie, each one of them is going to have a different opinion about it. Each perspective may be different from the others. One friend may hate it while you may have loved it. Keep that in mind when you're writing, don’t worry about what others will think, write your story.


Find places online where you can post even a paragraph at a time. Seek advice on your flow and your content, it’s simple things like this that help you get over that initial fear of people reading what you write. Have a thick skin and also have an open mind.


Join a writers’ groups on whatever your social media of preference is, whether it's Facebook, MeWe, or Google Plus, and search for groups that will give you writing prompts.


(For any new writers, a prompt is a picture that someone will post. It will literally be anything, from a puppy, to a wooded area, and they will say; “tell a 100-word story about this.” Generally prompt pictures invoke imagination.)


Even if a “prompt picture” is say, for romance - but you write science fiction - it doesn't matter! It’s still good practice. Write about that picture. Look at that picture, let your imagination wander, take in a simple shade of red and spin a story from it. Make the romance happen in space. Work with it, grow your imagination. Practicing any type of writing will make you a stronger writer.


If you post a 500-word story to a group and you ask for opinions, you are going to get a wide variety of commentary. Don't let any negativity dishearten you. If a number of people give you a similar critique, that's the tip to learn from. If everyone says something completely different, learn from the negatives and the positives, remember you need a thick skin! Look at it as a whole and say to yourself, “Where am I lacking? Where am I strong?”  Make corrections to strengthen your work.  


The best book I ever read on writing practice is “Wild Mind” by Natalie Goldberg. She gives you timed themes with prompts. It’s an actual writing book that gets you writing.


When it comes to practice writing all you want to do is let your imagination and your thoughts roam free. If you try to write and think, “I have nothing to say,” try looking around, if you’re at a coffee shop, check out the patrons. See an old woman sitting alone, pick her, write about her. Or create a story from her, who is she? Where is she from? What was her past like? Have fun with it, learn to let go and just write. Or if you’re home alone, the family just left, and the house is filled with silence. Perhaps think about the future you, how do you see your life evolving? Write a fantasy that you just won the lottery, and this is what your life looks like now. Or now is the time to get started on a blog.


Now you’ll say, “but I don’t have time to write.”


That’s not true. It’s your time, make it happen. Wake up a half hour earlier. Walk the dog to the park and sit for fifteen minutes, or while the kids do their homework. Tell the family you need a coffee break and go to a local shop alone and sit. Turn off the TV a half hour earlier than usual. Figure it out. It’s your writing, your zen, your voice–use it!


Another trick, if you’re too busy to hit a computer; while waiting at a doctors’ office, a fifteen-minute break at work, or stuck in rush hour (don’t write and drive), or as a passenger on a train, use the technology at hand. Literally! You have a cell phone, use it. You can use Google Drive, documents, notepad, apps, even Facebook Messenger yourself, whatever you prefer, and type out a story. Take notes. Plot ideas. Any form of writing while you wait is a perfect start.


I do this all the time. I even wrote an entire chapter in one of my novels while I spent three hours getting my tattoo. No excuses, if you want to write, make time to write! There are text to speech apps, and a microphone in messenger too. I use mine while I’m cooking dinner, walking the dog, or sometimes even in the tub. If I’m inspired, I find a way. Recently, I’ve been wanting to enjoy the cool evenings, but I have a novel to write. So instead of sitting in my home office after being at work all day, I'll take my tablet along with a Bluetooth keyboard and go outside with my family. I’m still writing, as well as spending time with them, and enjoying my summer. Technology is a beautiful tool.


The next thing to decide, is what type of writing do you want to do? Write novels? Plays? Screenplays? Articles for magazines? Being a writer is legitimately writing. Whether you’re published or not, it doesn’t make it any different. Writing is writing.


Begin where you feel the most drawn. I began with poetry online just to get a feel for sharing. As my confidence grew, I moved to short stories. I found contests and magazines looking for submissions and began submitting.


This is where you will need to find patience. Submitting to a call online can take months to get a reply, and many times there will be no reply at all. Make sure to read all of their guidelines and submit to the exact requirements.


While you wait for replies keep writing, keep sending out different stories to new places. On occasion, you will get lucky, and an editor will respond personally to you with feedback. Remember that not everyone likes the same style/ writing technique. With any advice, stay tough and stay open minded. If they are a good editor, you might get a good and a bad critique, you’re lucky if you do. Take the advice, think about it rationally, and use it. It isn’t a personal attack, it’s to help improve your writing. If you get a nasty editor, don’t respond, but still consider the advice. Perhaps share it in your writer’s groups and see where they stand on the critiques given and pull out of it what you need to grow.


DON’T GIVE UP


The best writers’ group I’ve found is called The Write Practice (I’ll have links at the back of the book). Personally, I can’t afford the monthly package, but they offer many ways to stay in touch and work together. If you want to try your hand at a contest, this is the best place to start. It’s the only group I’ve ever been in that allows the writers to create their own story and share it with the other contestants prior to the contest beginning. The writers all go into a forum, paste in our stories, read, then critique each other. You’ll meet amazing people and even make some new friends. Often times you will join them in Facebook groups to stay connected. It’s an excellent community that varies from novice to expert writers.


They offer a great bonus as well. You can pay a bit extra to get the judge’s feedback on your story at the end of the contest. This is huge! You will learn what puzzle pieces you’re lacking to possibly win future contests, instead of blindly guessing at every loss – this can be very beneficial information to you.


I am going to share what happened with you on the last story I entered, and the judge’s feedback so you can see firsthand how it works. This was my fourth attempt over the last year and a half. From this last contest, I learned through the judge’s feedback that had I added what they call a loop, where a hint of danger at the start will wrap up how the end transpires, I was one or two paragraphs away from possibly winning! (You’ll find it at the back of the book, so as not to distract from my points on writing.)


As you find different avenues to write in, you may just wander from one path to another. For instance, I started with poetry, then moved to flash fiction, then published my first novel. One day, a friend I met online told me about a horror magazine looking for writers. My first thought was, “NO! I’m not good enough for that.” But then I thought, “Wait, you published a novel, why aren’t you good enough?”  So, I applied - with butterflies in my stomach believe it or not - and was accepted as a contributor! And now, here I am a year and a half later still writing weekly articles for 1428elm.com.


Another venue I’d never even had any interest in, but was asked to do is script writing.

What?

Yes!

I have scripts that are currently in production, (sadly I can’t share until they debut). If you were to follow me beyond this book, you’ll find out. It just goes to show you, once you start, the entire world of whatever you want to write about is wide open and there for the taking!


So, what are you waiting for!? Finish reading this guide, of course, and get practicing!



Ideas



People often ask where my ideas come from.


They come from everywhere and anywhere. Working on the aforementioned practice helps hone your imagination.


My first full-length novel actually came from an idea when I was a child. I opened my eyes in the middle of the night and at the end of my bed were two glowing red eyes staring at me. At that moment I thought there was some beast coming to kill me. Then after the clouds moved passed the moon, creating light in the room, I realized it was my cat casting its eye shine back at me. I carried this idea with me for years until I wrote a novel based on it. (If you want a hint at that idea check out the sample pages, on Amazon, of Cataclysm, links at the end.)


Ideas come from all around us, pay attention to them.


One day I heard a commercial that said, “download our app,” and BINGO, a voice in my head said, “Death, there’s an App for that.”  Right at that moment, I had an entire story formed in my mind. I was so excited by how instantly it popped up that I began writing immediately. Before I realized, I had written Sudden Death, a novella, in 30 days.


On a side note, rushing to write is great! Get that first draft out of your head – but make sure to take your time with rewriting and editing.


Another way to generate ideas is just to listen to people, and I don’t mean eavesdrop, I mean open your mind during even the most mundane conversations.


For example, we happened to have a tradesman at our house working, and he mentioned that swingers use a certain trick to entice like-minded people into their homes, (not sure what he was hinting at, but) BINGO, I thought, “that’s a good way to invite a killer into your home without anyone knowing it.” My next book idea was brewing. Of course, now if you plan on reading it, I’ve given away part of the plot.


But that is truly how ideas are born. Ask a painter how they come up with their abstract beauties. Ask a musician how they create new sounds. It’s just inside of us, and you need to free your mind to let it all out. There is no singular, secret answer.


The next question is usually; but how do you take it from an idea to a story?


For me, it’s like watching a movie in my mind. The story plays out before me, and I just have to type what's happening and try to keep up. It’s no easy feat let me tell you. There are moments where I might get stuck and not know what's going to happen next, yes this does happen, especially when the story has to move from an exciting scene to a new transitioning mundane one.


Many times, what I will do is sleep on it. I’ll start playing back where I am in the story before I go to sleep. It's much like meditating. See the last moment and envision the future for the characters. Then a new moment arises, and I go to sleep with that in mind, then wake up excited to get into writing again.


Many authors use outlines or make plot charts.


I can't tell you how to outline. I have tried to do it, and it just doesn't work for me.  Here’s a sample at my attempt to outline. I created four points for the entire book and never looked at it once.

This was for my sci-fi, Kept.



If you Google, outlining, planning, or novel writing, you will get hundreds of hits. Try some of them, there are even templates or apps to use.


Everything is learning.


Use the free tools that work best for you. That’s all writing is, try it, does it work? If not, try writing it differently! It’s your work, and no one knows you better than YOU.



Covers and editing


Yes, you need a good editor and a strong cover. I have tried different ways to get both free to save costs.


If you are like me, and most of us ‘Indies’ are, you have zero cash. The best thing you can do is ask for help.


Time to get back onto social media and put yourself out there. Start with as many beta readers as you can find. Send them your file and be bold, ask for everything, edit notes, storyline, plot, readability, even spelling and grammar. Some people will return the bare minimum, a few may not even respond at all, and others will go out of their way to tell you everything you did wrong. Believe it or not that is incredibly helpful of them to do. That’s all okay, you won’t improve unless you get honest feedback. Take it all in and learn as much as you can. If you absolutely don’t agree with the tougher beta’s, then it’s time to buck up–for real–and find a true editor. Again, ask around most charge per word.



And don’t be afraid when it comes to your next book to shop around again, you never know whether you’ll appreciate an editor’s fit to you until you’ve used more than one. Even with my highest paid editor there were people who nit-picked my grammar and editing in reviews. I’ve gone through three or four rounds with a professional editor and someone still says it needs editing! I completely ignore those people as grammar savants and most of us won’t notice what they do.  Stick with your own instincts, it’s your work after all.



I’ve used Canva.com to make some free covers. If you are going to do this, keep them simple, less is more.

These are the ones I’ve made.

Shrouded Voices, Spewed thoughts, Cataclysm, Handsome, and this one.



Otherwise once again it’s back to asking for help online. You’ll get hit after hit of recommendations, or even maybe friends wanting to help.  A cover is the number one selling point for your book.


The cover and editing, plus a good blurb for the back, will be required before you move on to publishing. I know it sounds overwhelming, but take it one step at a time, and you’ll find it’s not that difficult.



Scammers


On to my next point - don't fall for the scammers!


I’m talking about those courses that say “I made $100,000! My first book is a best seller, this is how you do it- Just pay me $379 to find out how.


You know what most of them are going to tell you?  The exact things I'm telling you now for FREE! You read it absolutely right. This information is all FREE for the taking.


The only exception is that they may include tricks and tips on Amazon’s ‘how to list your book to get the rankings’. You know what? All of it is actually out there for FREE as well! I'm going to put some links at the back of the book that will give you all of these things.


So please DO NOT fall for it! Save your money for an editor and a cover because that is where you’ll need it most.


Think about this, if all those scammers, or “teachers” were so rich and famous from their books, why would they be tricking others into buying bogus packages full of nothing? They would be too busy hitting book signings and writing more books. RIGHT?  


Do yourself a favor and ask questions on your social media.

Thousands of people will give you advice for free.

Research everything. It’s all at your fingertips free.


Build your fan base. Build your website. It’s slow and time-consuming but it will come.


If you need courses, take real ones such as; English, grammar, a college course on writing. Again, don’t waste it on the scammers!



How to self-publish


There are many platforms available. D2D, Amazon, IngramSpark, Apple, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Scribd, Lulu, and more.


Places like D2D and Smashwords are the best as they will take your file and share it to the rest of the above for you – plus more. You have to research which one you want to use the most because they’re so similar. You can use both, but read all the rules first. Read about them and make your own best choice.



Of course, that said, Amazon is the most popular, but they have the most rules.



You can use both D2D and Amazon. Or Smashwords and Amazon. Unless you want to join Amazon's “Select Free Program”. This is a program which gives you some advertising promos that gains hits, but then you have to publish that one book with them exclusively for three months. This is the key - you can’t sell through any other distributor for this time.


Some people, like myself, will use both, then put a book exclusively on Amazon for the few months, and pull it to return to using multiple platforms. Doing the amazon “Select Program” will allow readers the book free and gain more reviews quickly.

It’s all research, trial and error, and following easy steps to do any or all of the above.


You can do your research by googling, “Self publishing platforms,” and read all the hits.


Or go direct to D2D or Smashwords, and the steps walk you through it.


If you want to use Amazon, go to their main page and scroll all the way to the bottom, and look for this link



And away you go. There is no need for me to walk you through it all, the sites do that themselves. And never fear, nothing you enter is locked in stone, you can change your information as needed.


Once you get your book ready to publish, all polished, cover ready, locked and loaded to go live, there is still another step: now you have the joys of marketing ahead.


Again, I am not going to overwhelm you here with a ton of information. Everyone has their own niches, start with those. Friends, family, coworkers, and your social media groups. As you gain confidence, you can start researching if you want to pay for ads, and where you want to use them.


The best marketing guru I have come across is The Kindlepreneur, (link at end of book) he gives you everything from kindle keywords, to comparisons between sites, to free–yes FREE–how-to videos. This guy is the real deal and worth checking out. He will even compare D2D, Smashwords, and Amazon for you. It’s a real timesaving site.



Recently I even created my own Google map page, this allows people to Google - books or bookstores - and find me!


Here are my August 2018 google ad results:


Google AdWords Express                         How you did in August.
CLICKS ON YOUR AD VIEWS OF YOUR AD
              172                             82,244

(Info from my Amazon Report)

245 Kindle Reads

4 Paperbacks sold



When it comes to marketing, try it all and stick with what works for you.


And don’t freak out at this point... don’t think that you can’t do all this! Or I don’t want to do all this! The big picture looks overwhelming, but as the old adage says, don’t look at the forest for the trees.


Take it one step at a time.


Write your book.

Edit it.

Have test readers.

Edit it again.

Make a cover.

Get it uploaded.

Share it.

Learn something new every day.


Some people are excellent at marketing. They have tips and tricks, and network themselves. While others hate it and do the bare minimum, like share on Facebook, then ignore it then start writing another book. I personally ebb and flow, sometimes I’m a marketing maniac, and other times I ignore that side and just write. Whatever you want to do will determine your own success.



Another tip, don’t forget to utilize free online newspaper ads. I use Locanto for example and post my stuff worldwide. Whether people buy or not I can’t track, but free is free, and any sighting is better than no sighting!



Additional author’s input:

Lucy Lombos

(A Filipino writer who’s come to Canada)

First of all, I’d like to take a moment to extend my gratitude to my family, my spiritual and educational institutions, my two homes - The Philippines where I was educated and Canada (my second home) where I formed new friends, met fellow writers and book supporters, most especially Ms. Theresa Jacobs who gave the support that I needed to make my books possible. In particular, Theresa gave me an excellent blurb for Happiness 365 and ¼ Days, a biographical book of the Philippines’ Happiness Guru, Mr. Jimmy Belleza. She is also my co-author in The Seed, another biographical books. Furthermore, she wrote a brilliant blurb for my novel, Rose of Calapan, which is not yet published as of this date.

I thank Theresa for believing in me as a “writer.” You had no idea how beaming my face was; and how my heart leapt for joy when I received an email from Theresa Jacobs, requesting me to contribute something valuable to this book. She boosted me up. Until she reached out to me, I felt as though I was the beautiful sun shining up in the sky while people stay in bed or are too busy in life and go without ever seeing a sunrise. I felt unnoticed, unappreciated. Nevertheless, I continued to pursue what I really love, writing in English. Although it is not my Mother Tongue, which makes it more difficult for me to write, I refuse to quit. I keep on creating my “sunshine”… and that’s writing.

Just to give a brief background of myself, my name is Lucy Lombos. I am from Muntinlupa City, Metro Manila, Philippines. Growing up I had always wanted to become a nun, so when I finished High School, I completed my religious formation at Don Bosco Seminary College. Unfortunately, I did not end up becoming a nun. I studied at the Divine Word College of the SVD (Societa Vivi Domini). After my college graduation, I began teaching high school students at Puerto Galera Academy, a private school in Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro, Philippines. Puerto Galera is one of the World’s Most Beautiful Bays. It was during my first year of teaching, as I would write lesson plans and list activities for the students, that I began writing for the school newsletter and school programs, which was essentially the start of my writing journey.

A river of time flowed, bringing me to different ports. I juggled several roles in life such as - an obedient daughter, a caring sister, a loving wife and mom, a patient academy directress, and a law-abiding citizen; plus, a writer and the Philippine delegate-journalist for Puerto Galera-World’s Most Beautiful Bays Club. To remember, too that I became the Principal of Prince of Peace Montessori during the time of late Aristeo Atienza as Mayor of the town. I resigned from that post after a year. I had opportunities to work abroad, but I turned it down because I knew “brain drain” was already felt in our country. *Brain drain means that many professionals go abroad and get employments in other countries instead of working in their homeland. Nevertheless, I did not go out of the country those years. I wanted to contribute something lofty for our country. I felt as though the Lord God made me an instrument to serve as to put up my own school in Muntinlupa City. I was fortunate to manage my school well with the help of other Incorporators. The school eventually grew big, enough to become the top private school in Muntinlupa, besting giant, exclusive schools in 2010. (It was sort of competition that time.) In line with this, my constant writing of memos, circulars, other forms of communication and newsletter enriched my writing skills.

Life endlessly offered surprises. In 2010, my husband migrated to Canada to spread new roots for our small family. He spent almost four years alone in Canada as we waited for word that it was time to leave the Philippines to join him. Finally, on the afternoon of June 3, 2014 my children and I arrived in British Columbia, Canada. After settling, I worked toward my TESOL, Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, Certificate along with the other writing courses. Now, I belong to great Writers’ groups such as - The prestigious Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators; including the Writing Academy, USA; Storyteller Academy, USA. I also began using my Facebook account as a networking platform- through this, I belong to Indie Authors, Authors and Illustrators Working It All, Write Away, Mommy, Unstoppable Writers, Authors and Readers Share All, and Writers Moms. And for almost two decades, I’m a member of the International Literacy Association, based in USA.

Long before I started writing books in Canada, I had already written and published a book in the Philippines, as well as short stories, essays, poems, and articles. I have even written a few songs. But, I think my pen and the expressions of my heart are mightier than my diaphragm and singing voice.

My genre or literary composition shifts. But it is often characterized by my chosen writing passion that manifests my style, form, and content in different categories of Children’s books. I also write biographical books. My tagline is- Children. Creativity. Connections. And a Cup of Coffee.

I struggled to write these, but hey, just for your information I’m the author of the following books–

1. “Ang Tinago Kong Piso” or in English, “The Peso Coin I Kept”–That was bilingual, a promotion of our national language, Tagalog and then, English. It was written and published in my country of origin, The Philippines.

2. “The Class Lady Bug”- It’s about anti-bullying. I, myself, was bullied as a child. Hence, I am “The Class Lady Bug”.

3. “The Star of the Sea: A Boat Ride”–is all about an adventure of a family in Puerto Galera, Philippines; and the boat ride is an analogy to life. My favourite line in this story is- It’s my twist on the popular saying: “Whatever floats your boat.”

4. “Happiness 365 and ¼ Days”- is the life story of Jimmy Belleza who was officially marked as the Philippines’ Happiness Guru last October 28, 2017, at the Childhaus Foundation. This book has 8 HapiNETS in life. Its book sale proceeds went there at the Childhaus Foundation where children afflicted with cancer are confined and treated. Through his bio book and hard work, he became more famous. He got a “Gawad Filipino” award as the Ambassador for Happiness in the Philippines, last July 21, 2018.

5. ‘Ter and Ter’ (The Turtle and the Eagle)- I started writing it last in May of 2017; It’s about the passion in arts and music, love of the family and friendship portrayed by the turtle and the eagle. Place setting- Puerto Galera, my most-loved place in the world. My favourite line in this book is- “Mom and dad, you will be my masterpiece!”

6. I have four more upcoming books- “The Joys of Junior,” “Swanie’s Bag,” “Pinky Oinky,” and “Noshi, the House Fly.” All of which were written in Canada.

7. Next year, “The Seed” will hit the market. It is the life story of the Founder of Lombosco Academy, featuring the subject’s 3 Kernels in Life. Ms. Jacobs is my co-author here. She did a great job.

8. At the moment as mentioned earlier, I’m writing a novel, “Rose of Calapan.” I hope to publish it next year as well. Ms. Jacobs helped me in editing this Christian Romance fiction and as a promise to me, she added a blurb, which was done beautifully! I’m so fortunate to have found my Canadian-Angel Writer. Indeed, writers support one another.

Most of my books were written in Canada and are available on Amazon.com, USA, or you can call LOMBOSCO ACADEMY, located in the Philippines to reserve a copy for yourself. Phone number:  842-7992 or 842-6519.

Are you in Beta Mode? Ready to read further? This is the opportunity to write books. I will share with you my WRITING WISDOM- 12 tips to write a story.

1. First of all, read a lot. Reading will give you an idea of the author’s style and form of writing. The message of your genre should be inspiring, one of a kind. And you learn first by reading books.

2. Choose your genre. Fiction or non-fiction?... Children’s books, young adults, novels, sci-fiction, romance, horror, religious, poems. WOW, there are a lot! ... As for me, I decided pretty quickly what I wanted to write. I was inclined to write prose, and I’m leaning on poetry as well. Hence, I have a poem anthology entitled “Pearls In The Box.”

3. Know your reader-audience. Is there a specific target? Male or Female? Maybe both... or the LGBTQ. Take note- There are a variety of categories in writing children’s books, as well.

4. Determine a target-age group and use the appropriate vernacular and vocabulary for them. Vocabulary is important as well as the intended age group. Word count may play a role depending on that.  

5.  You have to sit down and have the discipline to write. Let’s say you stay up late, or you wake up early morning, aim to write for an hour or to write for 10 minutes do whatever works for you.  

6. We say that “Practice makes perfect.” Are you amenable to that?... A skill is perfected when practiced, so, practice writing. Scribble, write words, poems, songs, quotes, Facebook captions- anything, try for something every day. An exposure to words is a kind of reading and writing.

7. “Good people make bad things; Bad people make good things.” - This is a nice writing quotation. It makes a story interesting.

8. Your main character should possess a stunning imperfection, perhaps a self conflict. In other words, he /she should not be perfect. Otherwise, the story is boring.  

9.  There should be a problem in the story. That’s realistic! (Search plotting for full tips.)

10.   The problem or problems in the story should hinder a target goal. (Search plotting for full tips.)

11.   Write. Write. Write first. Anything that comes into your mind write them down first. Let’s say you stay up late, or you wake up early morning, aim to write for an hour or to write for 10 minutes. Do whatever works for you.

12.  Edit. Rest. Edit. Rest. Edit. Rest... until the time you feel that it’s ready to be published. You need fresh eyes! Rest, then edit and repeat. ‘Tis the reason writers take so long to publish their manuscripts.

In closing, I leave you with this line - “Writing and reading can change lives, even for one reader.”

Good luck to all writers. To your empowerment and success, cheers!  

Lucy Lombos,

July, 2018 (See links at the end)

 



Karina Bartow

(A writer with a different ability)




Knocked down, then up, again… and again, and again, and…


Everyone’s heard the statement, “Life has its ups and downs,” but in my case, it’s been a bit more literal than in others’!

It’s not uncommon for parents to watch their toddler fall time after time on the adorable, wobbly journey, toward learning how to walk. My parents, however, became more accustomed to it than most. Following my Cerebral Palsy diagnosis, I was put into physical therapy, in an effort to help develop my motor skills. To the age of thirteen, my therapists strove to train me to stand, walk, and—as a safety precaution—I was even taught how to fall. In spite of all of that, I’ve still had more than a few unsuccessful brawls with gravity!

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that when I heard Chumbawamba’s hit “I get Knocked Down,” I jokingly adopted it as my theme song. It would become appropriate, not only to my struggle with balance but also in my attempts to become a published author. After hearing a children’s book author speak at my local library when I was nine, I knew that was the career I wanted, and I didn’t waste much time in trying to make it happen. I wrote a couple of children’s stories in the four years following and was brave enough to send them to two publishers. Both rejected me, and due to my young age, I didn’t pursue it any further… at that time.


Throughout high school, I continued to excel in writing, and several of my friends and family started to encourage my talent. I resisted a bit, unsure of my skill and afraid of more rejections. Plus, I didn’t want to do something just because it was one of the only jobs I could physically do. Hence, I didn’t commit to it upon graduating. I wanted to look into other opportunities that may have suited me just as well.

 As time passed my creativity plagued me, though, pushing me to put the pen to paper—or nowadays, the computer keyboard. Being in my late teens, I was now more interested in love stories, so I began one of my own the fall after I graduated. It went smoothly, until three months and just a few chapters later, my old-fashioned floppy disk “died,” and without a backup source, I lost it all, “knocked down” once more.


I “got back up again” in time and restarted the novel. Despite being able to type with only one hand, I completed it in under two years and thereafter, summoned the courage to shop it, resolved not to give up. To my disbelief, the very first publisher I queried expressed interest in it, asking to review the full manuscript. The process was supposed to take a year, during which I was not to contact them to inquire how it was going. My hopes high, I decided not to approach any other companies with it, either. The one-year mark finally passed, and I waited another month before contacting them about it. My optimism came to a disappointing end, however, when they reported that my submission was nowhere to be found.

Nonetheless, the publisher suggested I try it again four months later when their new editing staff arrived. As I prepared to do so, I realized their guidelines had changed, with their minimum word count increased 10,000 words. With my manuscript 8,000 words short, I went to work on it that summer. I finished right on time and sent out my sample with great expectations still, but was crushed a week later to discover they’d been bought out.


In spite of my utter frustration, I kept at my dream and continued to shop the story. I also kept writing, completing another love story and then a mystery, Husband in Hiding, I felt a satisfaction with the latter that I didn’t with my first two, so I focused all my efforts on getting it published. For nearly two years, almost every response I received was a rejection, tallying up to more than fifty, until the spring of 2015. A small publisher in Vermont, Splashing Cow Books, accepted it and sold nearly 300 copies.

I considered this to be my ‘happily ever after,’ but, that isn’t the case anymore. The company restructured in 2017, and despite my success with Husband in Hiding, they dropped me and my work. I felt as though I’d been knocked down again. I went to bed not knowing how I’d bounce back. Being an author was my dream, though, so with some encouragement from loved ones, I set back out on the market with the love story I wrote when I first started my journey … with some major improvements, of course. It floored me when, yet again, a publisher, Vinspire Publishing, bit on it right away! Within weeks, I signed a contract with them for; Forgetting My Way Back to You, and began preparing for its release the next year.

While none of this has been easy, I believe it’s because of my body’s resilience in overcoming my physical obstacles that has propelled me to succeed in pursuing my career. In every challenge that comes my way, I try to bounce back stronger, even if it takes me a little while. After all, I have to live up to my theme song and ‘never be kept down’!


Karina Bartow is the author of Husband in Hiding and Forgetting My Way Back to You. (Links at the end of the book.)



David Kummer

(A writer under 20)



How to Guarantee Your Book Sucks

(and you never sell a copy, except to your mom)


Step 1: Plan a boring book


The first and most important step to making sure your book sucks is guaranteeing your plot is boring. There are a few ways to do this, but I’ll walk you through the easiest ones. Keep in mind, the goal of this is to make your book as absolutely bland as possible. We’re talking middle-school-history-book type of bland. If you achieve that, it doesn’t matter how good you write. Nobody will pick it up.

An easy approach to planning a boring book is to make sure absolutely nothing important happens. No character development, no big plot point that starts us rolling. It just needs to be a slog of sentences where nothing ever really changes and the people don’t learn any lessons. When the book ends, it’s exactly like it began, and nothing happened in between. We’re just reading the daily lives of people, which happen to be absent of any exciting scenarios.

Love interest? Nope, scrap that. Relative going to die? Still too exciting. Some people might buy that. Cut out all robberies, nuclear bombs, wars, and life-changing events of any kind. Once you accomplish that, you’re all set.

Another, slightly different way to make sure your book sucks is to have a plot that’s so full of events people can’t understand it. This is a little more tricky to achieve, but works better when you want to cause an outrage.

Imagine… you pick up a fancy-looking book, with an amazing and enticing description, and the font’s all pretty and the chapter names sound cool. Then you start reading. Boom! Nuclear war starts. Boom! Main character’s mom is dying from cancer. Boom! His dog has rabies and ate the neighbor. Boom! There’s a ring of gangsters in town that are out to kill him, because of something his dad did. Boom! Don’t forget about the flying monkeys from space that want to steal his silverware. Boom! Nuclear war again.

If you really wanna make somebody mad, then write a plot like that. If you especially want to annoy them, only mention the nuclear war on the back cover. They’ll be so mad at all this needless, extra story, that they will probably burn your book and tell their friends not to buy it! Perfect! **Keep in mind, this route is only for the more experienced of self-sabotagers. It is more difficult, and should not be handled lightly.**

So, those are the basic two ways to have a boring book. Either 1) make nothing happen or 2) make too much stuff happen. If you can do that, don’t worry about the rest. Nobody will bother reading it.


Step 2: Use lame characters that nobody likes


Oh, you failed at Step 1? Well, that’s okay. Not everybody has what it takes. Even if you have a somewhat-interesting story, we can still make sure it’s horrible. Pay attention, and I’ll reveal to you the most important lesson.

When your story manages to interest some people and they’re like “Hey! I could really get into a story about ___ who goes and  ___,” then the only way to dissuade them is messing with that first ___, you see.

Even an interesting story can be turned into a slog-fest or a headache-inducing mess when you add in horrendous characters. This, however, is a much more subtle art. It takes a bit more time, just like having a bad plot. It is, at the same time, a much more effective and extremely aggravating way of destroying your book.

One way to go about this is making your characters flat, as in completely lifeless. No description. No real difference between them. The main way to do this is dialogue. If they all sound the same, walk the same, act the same; the reader sees the characters just as the sheets of paper they’re written on from one page to the next (in a way). When the characters are like that, the reader won’t care what happens, and off goes your book to the dump. Brilliant!

Like I said, dialogue is an important way to make your characters bland, but also lack of description is just as important. Don’t mention what they look like, at all. It’s even better if you don’t give them names. Refer to everybody as “the girl” or “the boy”.

If this seems too easy for you, then, much like making your story boring, kick it up to the next level and describe them too much. Every scene, remind us exactly how many freckles they have, and where, and what color their eyes are, and absolutely spend three paragraphs explaining how their eye color is important. That’s crucial.

Once you’ve described every centimeter of their body in very specific detail, bring on the accents. You gotta shove these right down the throat of your soon-to-be-annoyed reader. If they speak in a British accent? Make that British accent so unique and obvious that we can’t even understand the words without sounding them out ourselves a few times. It’s a great way to really get your reader involved with the book, and by involved, I mean hating it.

Don’t forget! You can also mix and match these. Have a really bland dialogue and no names, coupled with intense descriptions of the fabric of their inside pants pocket and we’re really in business. Nobody can stand that for very long.


Step 3: Write in a weird way that people can’t stand


You… failed again. Okay… well, it’s alright. Don’t worry. I’m sure we can think of something else. Those aren’t the only ways to make your book suck, after all. I can think of… at least three more right now. So let’s see if this one works. Third time’s the charm, am I right?

If it is not in the realm of possibility to force your reader into an unbearable cocoon of sadness and misery within the span of a few pages, using the meticulously-laid-out formulas I have shown you to be completely true before, then it is without a doubt in your best interest to apply the next difficult barrier. With this technique, your reader may not find themselves able to hurdle, despite their best intent at enjoying your story and your characters, which although bland and rude and crudely-crafted have somewhere gathered their interest, so that we now must force them into a bleary haze of despair, with sentences that are much too long for their own good, words arranged in ways that make no logical sense, and paragraphs that oftentimes must be re-read thrice before the meaning can be fully comprehended by said reader. It is in this sense that we will completely and fully lose the reader, as they will be so enveloped by the cacophony of words and sounds that have no meaning upon first glance that the reader will be forced to backtrack, and after going back a few dozen times they will fully hate you, the author, and make it their life’s goal to hunt down all of your works and burn them, while simultaneously explaining to their friends why you are such a terrible author, and why nobody in their right mind would ever read a book of yours, full of odd rabbit-trails and entire chapters that may only be made of a few dozen sentences, if all goes well.

Got that?

That was an example of the next way to kill your book. It is important, if you can’t write bad characters and your plot has found a way to be semi-interesting, that you write in an obscure and wild manner! The more difficult it is for your reader to understand, the better. They will forget all about the book and the story and the characters, and will focus instead on hating the pages in front of them. They need to feel like high-schoolers assigned to read a book from many years ago. They need to despise any more words in front of them, and hope that the book will end any instant.

If you can, through run-on sentences and big words and annoying phrases, send them over the edge, then you’ll be happy to find your reader becomes so agitated they never open your book. Even better, they might open it and rip the pages out.

The more annoying, look-down-your-nosey you are, the worse your book will come across. This is what we want, after all. They will hate you and your book, and we will bask in the pleasure that comes with being hated, with murdering the souls of your readers. Murder… Get to it.


Step 4: Do exactly zero editing


You… SERIOUSLY?? YOU STILL CAN’T… okay, okay. I took a few breaths. I’m calmed down now. I understand, sometimes, it’s hard to be annoying. It’s really ridiculous you still haven’t managed to… anyway. I’ll go over this one quickly, because it’s simple.

DON’T EDIT! In fact, do your best to make so many writing errors that your book becomes impossible to read. The more errors, the harder to read. The harder to read, the more likely they are to despise you and every piece of you. This is exactly what we want. Even better, try to sound unintelligent because of your errors! Maybe they’ll think you’re “one of those kids nowadays” who tried to write a book and con people out of their money. Perrrrrfect.

Ife yu cann just make yor booke a horribe thinge to read, somethig that’s happene is yor booke won’tt bee mucha off a storie. Thee peeple who read wille absoltuely hatee yu ande yor bookes.


Step 5: Ugly cover, bad blurb, zero marketing


I’m extremely irritated with you. If you can’t do something to make your book suck, then just go and write a good book! I can’t help you anymore. After all of the things I tried to do and help you, just… UGH. Fine. Here’s my last piece of advice.

If you can’t make the book inside bad, then you might as well make the outside horrible and ugly. Perhaps just… put the words on the cover. No pictures. No fancy font. Just make the thing as boring as possible, so nobody will ever think about buying it.

If you STILL can’t do that right, make your back blurb horrible and don’t market the book at all. When nobody hears about it, they won’t want to buy it. And if the back cover makes them want to throw it away, then they won’t ever buy it.

I’m done giving you help. Do these, figure it out, or else you might actually have a good book. That’s the last thing we’d want, after all. Make a bad book!


(Stay tuned to met David at the end.)



Bonus Free story

With Judges feedback from The Write Practice.


The Vacation

Word Count: 1436

“HELLO?” Carey screamed once more. Her voice was growing fainter with each yell, her throat raw. Tears streamed down her cheeks and snot bubbled out her nose, but she didn’t care. The cloudless azure sky was no comfort to her dire situation. Distracted by her thoughts, she tripped on the pockmarked black lava bed, stumbled, flung her arms out and halted so she wouldn’t fall. The last thing she needed was to puncture her skin on the rough ground. Or worse, twist her gold adorned ankle and end up trapped close to the carnage.  

She glanced at the shattered plane. “Should I go back and check for food and water?” Among the wreckage, she spotted a woman on her back, one arm over her face as though shielding it from the blazing sun, the other outstretched beckoning Carey back. The thought of returning to the refuse made her stomach churn. Mangled dead passengers lay strewn across the black land, others still strapped into their seats. Bodies speared with metal, tongues lolling, eyeballs dangling, or as one body she came upon, headless. Recalling the scene of bloodshed and destruction she had clawed her way out of, she leaned forward and vomited bile.  

“I'd give my tits to find a resort right about now.” Her eyes glazed over as she visualized laying by a sparkling blue pool sipping a Mai Tai while she staggered away from the crash site.  

No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t stop her sight from being drawn to her left, where the overgrown jungle lay. With its canopy of dancing palms and lush, vibrant greenery. Carey knew a welcoming evil grin when she saw one. It called to her on the wind, a hush of whispering fronds, ​Come into my sheltering arms, you’ll be cool, we’ll keep you safe​. She shuddered, picturing massive tarantulas, writhing centipedes with a million rippling legs, or sharp-toothed salivating beasts, thirsting for her tender, pale flesh. When a tiny white spider, a brilliant speck against the obsidian ground, scampered close to Carey’s exposed manicured toes. She screamed and danced back two steps her body wracked by a violent tremor.  

“God damn it! Why me?” She hurried beyond that spot, praying no more spiders crossed her path today. She brushed at her arms as if an unseen web dangled from her delicate skin. “Just breathe Carey, breathe.” With another jaw clenching convulsion, she turned her sights to the water. It lay ten feet below on her right, the continuous roar of waves, at first annoying, now lulled her into a hypnotic walking sleep. The smoldering sun had dipped lower in the west, and the temperature dropped fast.  

Carey paused, ahead of her was a monotonous march of uniformity. In the jungle, an invisible-something, scuttled, rustling the impenetrable underbrush. She shivered putting two more steps between herself and the unknown horrors. Now close to the cliff edge, she sat and lifted her Fendi bag over her head, off her aching shoulder. She wished she’d been braver and gathered necessary supplies before heading off. Her stomach growled, her mouth was dry, and she felt her face and arms both burning hot and icy cold from the sunburn.  

“Son-of-a-bitch. HELLO?” Her voice didn’t even rise above the crashing waves.    

It was evident no rescue was forthcoming. She had lost all sense of time since leaving the crash site. She recalled the last time she’d looked at her phone before the gates of hell opened, it had been five am. Now the sun was dipping low into the evening hours. She had no more tears left; her tongue as dry as the lava bed beneath her, and her temples throbbed to the beat of an invisible drum.  

“Let’s go on vacation, he said. It’ll be fun, he said.” Carey’s lip curled, and she gave an angry middle finger back at the distant plane. “Asshole. Now, look at me! What am I supposed to do? now? HUH? WHAT?” Then thought, ​This is my punishment for vacationing with my boss. A lot of good the money will do me now​. She dropped her designer purse into her lap, opened the zipper and rifled around. Searching for anything that would help her situation. A makeup compact, a horsehair brush, a crystal nail file, all useless. Giving up, she opened her bottle of Motrin; thankful she always bought gel caps. In desperate need of pain relief, she bit into one. The bitter liquid coated her tongue. Gagging she held down the urge to vomit and bit into another, tossing the empty green casings aside. Exhausted she flopped onto her side, tucking her purse under her head for a pillow.  

“Just a little rest,” she said as she stared unseeing across the churning ocean. She imagined a Special-Ops helicopter as a black speck on the horizon, with a herculean seal team on its way to save her.  

*  

A light moan escaped Carey's lips as she reached out to pull the blankets over her cold shoulders. Her hand encountered hard rock instead of soft bedding. As she rose to consciousness, she felt the rough ground beneath her hip and reality flooded in.  

“Ah crap,” she said, wishing she could have stayed asleep. Her entire body ached. She had bumps and bruises from the crash; her feet were swollen and blistered from the walk. Her shoulders and face pulsated, and now her tongue felt three-times its natural size. Clutching her purse to her chest, she sat up with a body wracking shiver. The wind had a cold bite, and she had nothing to cover with for warmth. Carey braced against the next gust and looked to the shelter of trees behind her. The overgrown brush was as dark as Hades, and if she wasn’t willing to venture there during daylight, nothing would force her there now, nothing. No matter how cold she got.  

A groan emanated from the darkness on her left. Carey craned her neck, covered her right ear to block out the relentless hammer of the ocean waves and squinted into the dark.  

Yes! Her heart raced with anticipation as a lumbering form worked its way towards her. Carey jumped up, forgetting her aches and pains. She waved, calling out, “Hey over here! I’m here.”  

The person staggered across the uneven ground. They stopped, took two steps left and started again towards her. “Oh, thank God, I wasn’t the only survivor.” She mumbled and stepped over the rocky terrain towards the other person. She checked the distance between them and thought there was something odd about the person. They groaned as ceaseless as the waves and loud enough to be heard over them.  

Carey stopped as fear formed a hard knot in the pit of her stomach. More inky forms appeared in the darkness beyond the first straggler. One of them walked too far left and dropped over the cliff and into the ocean, without a scream.  


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