Writers Beware!

Although my writing column Writer’s Cramps (for which this blog was named) is now dead, er defunct, er inactive, I decided this was worth a very brief revival.

There are so many scams out there ready to pull in novice writers. I’ve talked about them in my writing workshops from time to time (ahhh, I’m being pulled to start them up again online… *sigh), and I’ve had people ask me questions about publishers and how to get published at some of my book signings. One question I often get is, “How much did you pay to get your book published?” I’ll give you the same answer I give them: you don’t pay publishers, they pay you!
(And there’s a difference between vanity publishing and self-publishing, but I won’t go into that now. Perhaps I’ll revive the writing column again some time to go into that!)

And now on to the blog post which was the point of this whole thing:


If you write and want to be published, you need to become aware of these scammers. One great resource is Preditors & Editors. Check them out and bookmark the site.

And good luck with your writing!



Greetings to my few followers!

I had intended on continuing the Writer’s Cramps column with new articles as the Fiction Writing classes started in a virtual world due to open this fall, but alas, that’s not to be in the foreseeable future.

I am, therefore, putting this column to rest until after the Christmas holidays. I’m sorry for the month-long absence without explanation.

Hopefully, I will have some news after the holidays.

I hope the rest of this year is filled with blessings and writing successes for you!

Voice in Dialogue

I’ve talked about various facets of dialogue before, but I want to specifically address the vocal aspect of written dialogue.

I’ve read dialogue that was so bland I couldn’t tell anything about the characters behind it. Don’t let that happen! Writers needs to put character into their characters. Examine each of your characters: where they’re from, their background and education, their personality. Such things can help decide accents and patterns of speech.

Ever read J.R.R. Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring? In the Council of Elrond, we have many different speakers of different races, cultures, ages—each one has their own voice. He did an amazing job. It sounds more like he was merely a reporter sitting unnoticed in a corner taking notes than an author writing dialogue.

So, how do you go about creating that uniqueness in your characters’ voices and dialogue? What helps you in the process? Do you have tricks such as casting actors in the roles to give a face and voice to the character?

Capitalization in Dialogue
Say What, er, I Mean, How?
Using Speaker Attributions Properly
Talking about Dialogue

Why Do You Write?

I teach at Young Authors Conferences every year, and always open with the question: “Why do you write?”

As I anticipate the reopening of UOT in YowNow, and resuming my Fiction Writing classes, I began musing that question, since I will be asking it of my online students.

So I thought I’d share it here.

Aspirations of getting published, getting that huge advance, being rich (and don’t forget famous!) are nice, but if they’re the reason you write, you’re on the wrong road. It’s hard work, and if you haven’t got passion, discouragement and disillusionment will catch up with you fast.

Publication is a logical goal for writers, but perhaps not for all. You can write just for fun – for your own personal satisfaction or to share with a few friends, as a way to relieve stress, for a project (such as plays for a local theatre group) or online (machinima anyone?) – there are many ways to write without the end result being “published.”

But whether you wish to be published or not, if you are a writer, you write because you must. Because the voices of the characters in your head make you. Because when you drive down the road, or are in the shower, or some other odd place, characters and plots zap into your brain and won’t leave you alone until you write them down. You couldn’t quit if you tried (and perhaps you have tried). You just can’t not write.

So now tell me: why do you write?

And what are your goals?

Emotional Connection

I just read something Marc Martel (of the band Downhere) wrote about his songwriting: “…if the song doesn’t connect with people emotionally first, then there’s not much point to it.”

This isn’t true just of songwriters. I’ve known writers hung up on the mechanics – and don’t get me wrong, that’s important. Writing is a craft that must be honed. But you can have a manuscript that is technically perfect: proper grammar, punctuation, fantastic hook, showing not telling, great plot arc, wickedly tight writing – everything today’s publisher is looking for, and still have something that is void.

I’ve seen this many times in slush piles and in crit groups. Yes, get all those things I listed above correct, but that’s not enough. You must get your readers to connect with your characters, care about them. You want your readers to connect, be emotionally involved.

This last year, my favorite writer released the latest book in a series. It was great as usual, but the ending (although we’d had hints this was going to happen) shocked me, and I literally burst into tears and threw the book across the room. (No spoilers, in case any of the three or so people who follow my column might have a clue of the writer and series in question.)

Can you get your readers that emotionally connected to your stories and your characters?


Are Publishers No Longer Necessary?

Our world keeps changing dramatically – and the publishing world is no different.  There are varying opinions of where things are going with the publishing industry. Here are just two, from different sides of the coin:



Being a SF author, not a seer nor a time-traveler, I can’t say I have any definitive answers. I guess I’ll just stand aside and watch. When I have my next books (I have two WIPs at the moment) ready, I’ll have to make a decision. Until then,  I’ll keep writing (and teaching Fiction Writing *grin*).

What do you think is the future of traditional publishers?

Just Write!

I know I’ve written about this before, and taught it over and over in my Fiction Writing classes, but it bears repeating. If you want to write, then make yourself write.

Hectic day? Too much to do? Force yourself to set time aside – perhaps early in the morning, or late at night if you’re a night owl. Find a time that you can set aside – skip an hour of television or online gaming (yikes!) and write!

What’s that you say? Even when you sit down to write, you can’t write? You just stare blankly at the screen. Well, just use the keys, press them down, engage the keyboard even if you aren’t engaging your brain – or your muse. Even if it’s dreck and you delete the whole thing, you need to make yourself write. It’s like priming a pump so it doesn’t go dry.

Other writers have said they can write about anything to keep that writing pump primed. For me, it doesn’t work well. I can write all day long, but fiction writing is different. I immerse myself in that world, I feel like I’m there. So writing other things (like this article, for example) don’t really work that well for me. I must write fiction. But whatever works for you – do it. Write. Just. . . write!