Writer’s Guide to Military Culture


Writer's Guide to Military Culture

Former soldier and Desert Storm veteran Linda Maye Adams walks you step-by-step to help the civilian fiction writer understand how military culture works.  From enlistment to war, this book takes you on a tour of what it’s like to be a soldier.  Do soldiers curse non-stop?  Do they always yell, “Yes, Drill Sergeant!” after every sentence?  What is the difference between an officer and an enlisted soldier?  If you don’t know anything about the military, this book will tell you where you can research information without having to go through basic training yourself.

 

Available from your favorite booksellers for $3.99, including Amazon and Smashwords.

 

Pantser’s Guide to Writing: You Are Not Broken!


Cover for Panters Guide to Writing You are Not Broken

For writers who don’t outline—called pantsers—it’s hard finding anything on how to write that doesn’t involve outlining.

Author Linda Maye Adams, a pantser writer, cuts through some of the myths and may save you wasted time looking for solutions.

In this guide, Linda Maye Adams addresses the issues that derail pantsers and also provides tips to make the writing process easier.

Available on from your favorite booksellers for $3.99, including Amazon and Smashwords.

 

Pantsing 101: Story as a Direction


Not understanding story is one of the biggest reasons that a pantsed book can look terrible to a developmental editor or other writers or a publisher.  You throw everything in but the kitchen sink, including a 20-page scene that sounded cool, but fizzles out at some point.

Not having a story is like being out in the middle of the desert (having had way too much experience with the desert part!).  It’s flat.  There’s miles and miles of miles and miles.  Maybe there’s a cactus here and there, or an oil barrel someone’s dumped.   You wander over, have a look, but there’s nothing guiding you generally.

Story is like being a road.  On either side, you have curbs, or at least the edge of the asphalt and those bumpy things to tell you if you stray off the road.  You can still turn down that coolly named Aqua Ter (sounds like an underwater station) to see what’s there or check out what the heck the Stonewall Jackson Memorial is (not much, by the way).

You always have a direction, even if you aren’t sure where it’s going or ends up yet.

When you don’t have that direction, the story can turn into a mess and make you all that outlining advice be a siren’s call from across the sea.

But story is also a difficult concept to understand, and worse, it’s easy think you know what it is and have no idea once you make first contact.  I read just about every craft book out there and thought I understood story.  I did two novels, but during critiques of the second book, and other writers’ books, I realized how little I knew.

I’d like to say there was a craft book that could be read with a definition that gives you the lightbulb.  But it’s a surprisingly complex aspect of writing.  I think it’s something you have to come to your own understanding about.

So try taking a book that has been published, preferably a best seller, and read it cover to cover. Enjoy it.  Don’t nitpick the sentences for flaws.   If you want a book recommendation, try Michael Connelly’s The Lincoln Lawyer.  He’s a pantser, and he talks about the writing of the book at the end, so you get an extra surprise there.

Then go back to the first chapter and reread it.

After that, go to an online critique group and read the first chapters of those writers and mentally compare it to what you read in Michael Connelly’s book.  It’s not about having the inciting incident (a term that comes out of outlining) or a plot point (another term out of outlining).

It’s that you are going somewhere, even though you don’t know where.

**

Bonus tip: Type the first thousand words of Michael Connelly’s book.  This is amazing way to learn something new about craft.

Pantsing 101: What the heck is pantsing a book?


NanoWrite is coming up in just another month, and with it will be the debate: Outliner or Pantser?

I’m not sure why there’s a debate.  You write whatever way works best for you.  Period.  It shouldn’t matter.

Yet, if I search the internet for pantser, I get a lot of outliners scratching their heads and trying to define it, then concluding it really doesn’t work.

And they never tried it.

So what the heck is pantsing?

The name comes from “writing by the seat of the pants.”  It’s not a very good name for what we do, and others have tried to come up with better ones: Gardener, organic (does that mean outliners are inorganic?), non-outline people.

But it boils down to a writer who does not use an outline to figure out their story.  Instead, they write it like the way a reader reads a book—they discover it and the characters as they type the words.  One writer I ran across said:

He picked up a pen and started writing because that was natural to him.

Everyone’s different when it comes to writing like this:

  • They might know what the ending is.
  • They might have no idea who it will end (the case with my current book).
  • They might know what happens in the next scene.
  • They might have no clue what happens in the next scene.
  • They might write the scenes out of order.
  • They might need to write them in order.

But if you read most writing books, and probably hit the writing message boards, it’s clear that the general opinion is that writing without an outline is a Really Bad Idea.

Why does pantsing get such a bad rap?

Outlining is easy to teach, like in Evan Marshall’s The Marshall Plan to Novel Writing.  In the book, he gives step-by-step instructions on how to write a book by building an outline first (I tried this.  My book failed by the time I hit chapter 3 and my creative side gave up on me).

It is also hard for people who are used to outlining to comprehend how someone could write an entire book without having everything laid out in a roadmap.  People have told me that my first draft is the outline, or even that I must be lying about outlining, because they cannot comprehend that I start a story one word at a time.

But the biggest reason is a craft issue.  If the writer is doing a first book and doesn’t understand the concept of story—a distinct possibility—pantsing makes it look ten times worse.  Writer submits it to a developmental editor.  Editor sees the horrible mess resulting from the combination of a craft issue and pantsing and declares that pantsing is the problem.  So the writer thinks their way of writing is wrong and that they should outline.

There’s a lot of misinformation about pantsing out there.  It’s important to trust yourself and not listen to what everyone is saying you “should” do.  Outline or not, it doesn’t matter.  The only thing that counts is the finished story.

Creativity and Business


I always like reading business books and articles to see what else I can learn about business and apply it to my writing.  Sometimes I run across a quote that makes me stop and go, “Wow.”

This one comes from Always In Fashion: From Clerk to CEO — Lessons for Success in Business and in Life: From Clerk to CEO — Lessons for Success in Business and in Life by Mark Weber

Creativity without knowledge and business skills is very limiting.  Learn as much as you can about every aspect of the business and the industry you’re in.

Very appropriate, even for writers. 

And it’s a fascinating book to read.

Typos Should Not Be Drama Queens


On one of the writing Facebook pages I’m on, a ruckus has erupted—over typos. After a writer corrected another writer for the purpose of “learning,” the moderator stepped in and said to leave the grammar police out. The purpose was to make the place a safe zone.

Of course, that outraged several writers who thought it was their job to inform others of their typos so they would know they made them and supposedly learn not to do it. (They were banned.)

I was surprised at how much that brought back old feelings of frustration over typos. Not at making them. I know I make them.

But at how some people overreact to them.

I don’t have problems when someone flags one and says, “Hey, there’s a typo in paragraph 2.” I’m cool with that.

But I’ve also had a long history of run-ins of people who are very intolerant of typos. It’s like they’re looking to be a drama queen over something unimportant. There’s nothing worse that going over something 4-6 times, running spell check and doing a final check, and that person catches the one typo I missed and yells that I’m sloppy, incompetent … well, you get the idea.

Then there’s the lecturers, which is what prompted the moderator to speak. The lecturers see writer and puff themselves up, officious tone in hand. Obviously, that writer was not smart enough to realize she was making typos and needs someone to explain the error of her ways so she can learn how to not make them.

I had one pop in on the blog. A copy editor published a lecturing comment citing “numerous typos” in one post and sternly admonished that I needed to proofread. I use Dean Wesley Smith’s cycling method on everything I write, so it’s a constant back and forth. Then I spellcheck and proofread. I make a lot of typos, but I catch most of them.  It’s still hard for me to let something go because I want to check it one or two more times for typos and make sure I didn’t miss any, though I know I will miss one.

So when I saw the comment, that old doubt caused by all the Typo Drama Queens popped up. Had I really missed that many? I was envisioning six for some reason.

The “numerous typos” was ONE typo. I’d flipped ‘or’ for ‘of,’ which is a hard one for me to spot.

I used to berate myself when someone else found a typo, wishing I could be better and wondering why I didn’t catch it. But one of my past jobs has largely broken me of that. I’ve seen a lot of paperwork with extremely embarrassing mistakes.

What’s your drama queen typo story?

Writer’s Guide to Military Culture


Writer's Guide to Military Culture

Former soldier and Desert Storm veteran Linda Maye Adams walks you step-by-step to help the civilian fiction writer understand how military culture works. From enlistment to war, this book takes you on a tour of what it’s like to be a soldier. Do soldiers curse non-stop? Do they always yell, “Yes, Drill Sergeant!” after every sentence? What is the difference between an officer and an enlisted soldier? If you don’t know anything about the military, this book will tell you where you can research information without having to go through basic training yourself.

Smashwords edition

When Fiction Writers Blog


When I first started blogging, I was somewhat late into it.  I was cowriting then, but wrote most of the blogs then.  Everything we saw online said “You have to be an expert” and “you have to have a platform.”  I was a fiction writer.  Exactly what was I supposed to do with it?

I could see how the advice related to a non-fiction book writer because they came with those parts as a function of what they were doing in their business.  But fiction writing?

Ah ha!  Writing!

* Sigh * Yeah, I fell into doing writing how-tos for a while.  Surprisingly, it’s a rather boring subject.  There just isn’t a lot of versatility in it.  I’d write on them for about a year and then run out of topics.

Plus, all we got were other writers, not potential readers.

After I broke up with the cowriter, I moved the blog to where you’re reading it now.  Still continued the how to posts, but it was often a struggle.  I did the A to Z Challenge one year using writing as a topic.  I tried to stay away from how-tos, but it was still hard to come up with enough topics, and I didn’t finish.

I took a blogging writing course that was for writers, thinking that would help.  The emphasis of of the course was to find your own voice — but not do how-tos.  The other writers eagerly flocked to everyone’s blog at first, posting comments and eagerly cheering people on.

Mine was the first one they dropped.

It took about two weeks.

At the time I was very frustrated.  What was I doing wrong?

In hindsight, it was probably because I did stop doing the how-tos.  Everyone else still did writing topics in addition to other topics.

But the one thing I did do was use it to figure out how to manage writing time.  Even then, I wanted to write full time, so it would be training.  I tend to write at the same time most days, so I picked a time when I normally wouldn’t do any writing to do posts.

It also cheered me on to writing fiction faster.  I could put out a post almost as fast as I typed.  Why was it so much harder on fiction?  But writing posts helped reinforce in my head that I could write faster.

I also had an additional problem that was a bit of a challenge:  My name.  It’s kind of ordinary, and a lot of other people have it.  At the time, there was another writer with my name who turned up on searches.  But if I kept producing new posts, I would turn up higher in the search.

So I kept writing and trying to reinvent myself.  But I kept writing the posts, kept them mostly to a schedule.  The sheer act of doing the writing and trying to find other topics besides how-tos is how I found my blogging voice.

But the process to get there was really hard.  I kept watching how low the numbers were for a long time and despaired at one point that maybe it wasn’t a good time investment.  I debated giving up the blog several times.  But I kept returning to the problem of my name and that a blog was probably the easiest way to keep my name showing up.

I think that’s a lot like writing fiction.  A lot of writers expect to write one book and have it turn into a best seller so they can kick back and never work again.  The more I’ve written, the more I can see what else I can write.

The most important thing is to write.

Inspired by a blog prompt from The Daily Prompt

What’s the most important (or interesting, or unexpected) thing about blogging you know today that you didn’t know a month ago?