#FineArtFriday: Dietmar Rabich, Autumn in Börnste

The Wikimedia Commons Image of the Day for September 22, 2017.

 


Dietmar Rabich / Wikimedia Commons / “Dülmen, Börnste, Waldweg — 2015 — 4649” / CC BY-SA 4.0 

This image was selected as picture of the day on Wikimedia Commons for . It was captioned as follows:

English: Autumn in the hamlet Börnste, KirchspielDülmen, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
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Crafting the final act #amwriting

In this series on the construction of the novel, we have discussed creating a strong opening act, and a powerful, electrifying middle. So, let’s talk about the all-important fourth quarter of the story arc—the final act.

At this point, the enemy’s plans are in place. Our protagonists have met the enemy and survived the encounter, but now they know they may not prevail.

If your work is not speculative fiction or fantasy, perhaps they’ve suffered a terrible personal setback.

Regardless of the genre, at the outset of the fourth quarter, the protagonists are at their lowest point both physically and emotionally. From the midpoint crisis forward through the third quarter, major events have funneled the players down the path to the final conflict. Now, they are scrambling, working against time and perhaps, with fewer resources than the antagonist.

In these chapters leading up to the conclusion, the protagonists have been pressed to the breaking point. Now they are at the end of their journey. They must rediscover their courage, find a reason to continue the fight, resolve the loose ends, and appear at the final showdown ready to do battle.

If you were not careful in the setting up the events that form the middle of the narrative, the story could fall apart here. Listen to your beta readers’ comments: even in your third draft, you may have to insert new scenes into the existing narrative to drive the action to the final conflict.

  1. At the outset of the 4th quarter, all subplots are resolved, and the final focus is on the enemy’s move.
  2. The enemy’s plans and their true nature must be shown.
  3. Someone who was previously safe may be in peril. Perhaps their fate hangs on a thread, and the outcome is unclear.
  4. The protagonists must face the fact that their efforts have forced the enemy’s hand in a way they never expected.
  5. Your protagonist may achieve their goal, but they will pay a heavy price for it, and return home changed for good or for ill.

If your editor asks you to write new scenes to get a flat story arc back on track, and you agree it’s needed, your task is to blend the new material into the existing story.

  • You must go back and insert foreshadowing in earlier passages, and some otherwise great passages that now go nowhere will be cut.

This is most important: any event that does not drive the plot to the end is a distraction. All side quests are being wrapped up at this point so don’t introduce any new plot threads. Emotions are key–of course for the characters, but also for the reader.

  • The higher the emotional stakes when the protagonist meets the antagonist for the final showdown, the more emotionally satisfying the final resolution will be for the reader.

The resolution should be final, with no loose threads. Cliffhanger endings aggravate readers who don’t want to wait a year for the rest of the story, so even if your book is the middle volume of a series, give the reader some reward for their faithfulness, and resolve most of the subplots.

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Crafting the turning point #amwriting

Last week we discussed the opening scenes of your story, taking it to the inciting incident. Today we are talking about the middle, a section that takes up about fifty percent of your story.

The middle is comprised of two acts joined by a major plot point, the midpoint event. Following the inciting incident is the second act, comprised of reaction to the inciting incident, and action, and more reactions, all of which leads to more trouble, rising to a severe crisis. All the action should relate directly to the core trouble, the quest.

At the midpoint, the protagonist and friends are in grave difficulty and are struggling. The midpoint of the story arc is the turning point, the place where there is no going back.

Consider J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit: At the midpoint, Bilbo is committed to seeing the Dwarves regain their home, and Smaug is routed, but at great cost. Now, he only sees disaster ahead of them, if Thorin continues down the moral path he has chosen.  Bilbo has been changing, evolving in to a strong and moral character, but now he shows his true courage, by hiding the Arkenstone. Then he takes matters into his own hands to head off the impending war.  Bilbo tries to ransom the Arkenstone, but Thorin refuses to see reason. He banishes Bilbo, and the battle is inevitable.

This arc is the same in every good, well-plotted novel: everything starts relatively well, but events soon push the protagonist out of his comfortable life and into danger. This peril can be physical, or emotional–after all, many things rock our world but don’t threaten our physical safety. Either way, the threat and looming disaster must be shown. At first, emotions are high, and the situation sometimes chaotic, but the protagonist believes he had a grip on it.

The Midpoint is the place where the already-high emotions really intensify, and the action does too. Toward the end of this section,  the protagonist suffers doubt, fear they may not have what it takes, and their quest won’t be fulfilled. From this point on, the forces driving the plot are a train on a downhill run, picking up speed, and there is no stopping it or turning back now. The characters continue to be put to the test, and the subplots kick into gear.

Within the overall story arc, there are scenes, each of which propels the plot forward, moving the protagonist and antagonist further along the story arc to the final showdown. Each scene is a small arc of action that illuminates the motives of the characters, allows the reader to learn things as the protagonist does, and offers clues regarding things the characters don’t know that will affect the plot.

As I mentioned in the previous post on the opening act, those clues are foreshadowing. Through the first half of the book, subtle foreshadowing is important, as it piques the reader’s interest, and makes them want to know how the book will end.

At the midpoint, another serious incident occurs, launching the third act and setting them back even further. Now the protagonist and allies are aware that they may not achieve their objectives after all. Bad things have happened, and the protagonists have to get creative and work hard to acquire or accomplish their desired goals. They must overcome their own doubts and make themselves stronger.

Just when the characters have recovered from the midpoint crisis, another crisis occurs, the event that launches the final act.

Someone may die. But be aware, random action, blood and gore, or sex inserted for shock value or just to liven things up have no place in a well-crafted novel. Blood and sex do have their place in some of the best stories I have read, and they were watershed moments in protagonists’ lives. I want to make this extremely clear: If those events don’t somehow move the story forward, change the protagonist profoundly, or affect their view of the world, you have wasted the reader’s time.

The middle of the story is also where we get to know the antagonist and learn what the enemy knows that the protagonists do not. We discover his/her motives and what they may be capable of.

By the final quarter of the story, the protagonists should be getting their acts together. They are finding ways to resolve the conflict and are ready to commence the all-important, final act, the moment where they will embark on the final battle to achieve their goal. They will face their enemy and either win or lose.

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#FlashFictionFriday: Copper Starbucks Cup

 

I carry my coffee in a Starbucks cup

To the silver minivan,

A kid-hauler, a family bus,

An old lady’s junk hauling van.

I carry my coffee in the copper colored cup

And hit the road again.

 

The smoothness of the new highway

Matching grayness of the sky

The scent of coffee in my cup

Feeding birds take wing and fly.

My coffee and the Starbucks cup

Passing cows and llamas by.

 

My copper colored Starbucks cup

Hurtling south, or north I go.

Grandma’s on the road again

Get in the van, let’s go.

Coffee, cows, birds, and fog

She can’t be stopped, you know.


Credits and Attributions

Copper Starbucks Cup © 2017 Connie J. Jasperson

image: Copper Starbucks Cup © 2017 Connie J. Jasperson (author’s own photo)

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The Strong Opening Act #amwriting

Every story begins with the opening act, where the characters are introduced, and the scene is set. This is where the author establishes the tone of what is to follow. The intended impact of the book can and should be established in the first pages. In this chapter, we want to:

  • Introduce the protagonist(s). Who and what are they?
  • Introduce the setting. Where are they?
  • Introduce the conflict. What does the protagonist want? What hinders them?

The best stories then kick into gear with the occurrence of the “inciting incident,” which is the first plot point.

Novels are not unlike a gothic cathedral–they are created of small arcs supporting other arcs, combining to create an intricate structure that rises ever higher. Because the strength of the story arc depends on the foundation you lay in the first quarter of the book, it’s crucial that you introduce a story-worthy problem in those pages, a test that will propel the protagonist to the middle of the book.  This event isn’t the main event, but it gives the reader a taste of what’s in store for them.

This is the hook. The author raises a question and sets the protagonist on the trail of the answer. In finding that answer, the protagonist is thrown into the action.

  • I learned this the hard way—long lead-ins don’t hook the reader. Long lead-ins offer too much opportunity for the inclusion of insidious info dumps.

My favorite books open with a minor conflict, evolving to a series of ever greater problems, working up to the first pinch point, the place where the characters are set on the path to their destiny.

The inciting incident is where the protagonists first realize they’re blocked from achieving the desired goal. They must find a way around it, and that leads to another crisis scene. The story arc is comprised of scenes, each of which propels the plot forward, moving the protagonist and antagonist  toward the final showdown.

Open with a strong scene, an arc of action that

  • illuminates the motives of the characters,
  • allows the reader to learn things as the protagonist does, and
  • offers clues regarding things the characters do not know that will affect the plot.
  • The end of one scene is the launching pad for the next scene, propelling the story arc.

The clues you offer at the beginning are foreshadowing. Through the first half of the book, foreshadowing is important, as it piques the reader’s interest, and makes them want to know how the book will end.

In the opening, focus on the protagonist and introducing their problem. Subplots should be introduced after the inciting incident has taken place. If you introduce them too soon, they can distract the reader, making for a haphazard story arc. In my opinion, side quests work best if they are presented once the tone of the book and the main crisis has been established. Good subplots are excellent ways of introducing the emotional part of the story.

Even if you open the story by dropping the character into the middle of an event, you will need to have a pivotal event at the 1/4 mark that completely rocks his/her world. The event that changes everything is what launches the story.

Following the inciting incident is the second act: more action occurs which leads to more trouble, rising to a severe crisis. For the protagonist, personal weaknesses are exposed, offering the opportunity for growth. At the midpoint, the protagonist and friends are in grave difficulty and are struggling.

Or, if they aren’t, they should be—after all, the struggle is the story. How long do you plan the book to be? Take that word count and divide it by 4—place your first major event at the ¼ mark. The following two quarters are the middle, and if you have set your plot up right, the middle should fall into place like dominoes.

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#amwriting: SW Washington Writers Conference, What I learned from @RobertDugoni

This last weekend I attended the Southwest Washington Writers Conference. I was also privileged to attend a class called Creating Plots for Page Turners, given by the keynote speaker, Robert Dugoni.

I say privileged, for this reason. Robert Dugoni is a bestselling author of thrillers, My Sister’s Grave being the book that caught my attention several years ago. Dugoni understands what makes a gripping story.

As I sat in the class, it became clear to me that attention to writing craft is integral to his work, but he also sees it from a slightly different angle. While he covered many things which I will discuss in my next blog post, several things pertain to recent posts of mine, regarding the first draft.

Bob asked a question I found intriguing: “What is your purpose as an author?” There were several different replies. He said, “Your characters must entertain the reader. Never stop entertaining.”

That was my thought, exactly. So how do we entertain our reader? What should we avoid?

One of the main pitfalls of the first draft is the info dump. These boring stretches of background info are mostly for you, the author, and are meant to set the scene in your mind. You know the rules, and don’t want them in the finished piece, but they slip into your work in insidious ways:

  1. Is the information you are about to dispense relevant to the character and his/her immediate need? Does it advance the story?
  2. Resist the urge to include character bios and random local history with the introduction of each new face or place—let that information come out only if needed. Dispense background info in small packets and only as needed.
  3. Resist the urge to explain every move, every thought your character has. This is probably the most annoying thing an author can do.
  4. Is a flashback a scene or a recollection? Recollections are boring info dumps. Scenes take the reader back in time and make them a part of a defining moment. Write scenes, not recollections.
  5. Opinions about the scene or the character, or anything—author intrusion is to be avoided.
  6. Don’t be lazy—show the story, even when it is simpler to tell it.

Points 3, 4, and 5 were concepts I consider in my own work, but never really thought about and hadn’t articulated them. They are critical and do bear mentioning here.

A question Dugoni asked was one I have often considered and discussed here. “What is a story?” The answers varied, but the one he wanted, and with which I agreed, is the story is the journey.

Frequently, stalled creativity is the result of the author having lost sight of the character’s journey, both the physical and the emotional journey.

Dugoni offered a solution for when that is the case: Ask yourself, “What is the character’s physical journey/quest?” You must ensure each character has a journey, a quest, but Dugoni adds third aspect–a dream. That idea that the journey/quest is also a dream that must be fulfilled resonated with me.

Then, consider the emotional journey. Why do these people continue in the face of great challenges? Is it love, anger, fear, duty, greed, honor, jealousy, or some deeper emotion that drives them?

Find that emotion, and you will find your character’s motivation.

Then ask yourself what happens if they don’t succeed? What are the consequences of failure?

  1. What is the public risk?
  2. What is the private risk?

Something important is at stake, or there is no story. Once you discover what it is and how it affects the characters’ emotions, the story will come together.

Classes like this are why I attend writer’s conferences. Robert Dugoni, Scott Driscoll, Cat Rambo—these people have the knowledge I need, and they are wonderful, accessible people who freely discuss all aspects of the craft in seminars, frequently at conferences I can afford and which are near me.

The companionship and support of other authors has been invaluable to me, and I have made every effort to repay their many kindnesses by supporting them in their endeavors. The friends I have made through this career are as dear to me as any I grew up with, and that circle widens with every conference I attend.

You may meet writers who are local to your area, and they will know of good writing groups near your home. They will also know about resources you can draw on, reference books you may not have heard of. If you are serious about the craft, you will seek out the company of other writers.

Find a conference in your area, and see what turns up. You may find yourself learning from a master.

Robert Dugoni’s most recent book, Close to Home launched Sept 5th and has garnered well over 65 customer reviews on Amazon in the first week alone and maintains a 4.5 star rating.

THE BLURB:

New York Times bestselling author Robert Dugoni’s acclaimed series continues as Tracy Crosswhite is thrown headlong into the path of a killer conspiracy.

While investigating the hit-and-run death of a young boy, Seattle homicide detective Tracy Crosswhite makes a startling discovery: the suspect is an active-duty serviceman at a local naval base. After a key piece of case evidence goes missing, he is cleared of charges in a military court. But Tracy knows she can’t turn her back on this kind of injustice.

When she uncovers the driver’s ties to a rash of recent heroin overdoses in the city, she realizes that this isn’t just a case of the military protecting its own. It runs much deeper than that, and the accused wasn’t acting alone. For Tracy, it’s all hitting very close to home.

As Tracy moves closer to uncovering the truth behind this insidious conspiracy, she’s putting herself in harm’s way. And the only people she can rely on to make it out alive might be those she can no longer trust.

*

Robert Dugoni is the critically acclaimed New York Times, #1 Wall Street Journal and #1 Amazon Best Selling Author of The Tracy Crosswhite series, My Sister’s Grave, Her Final Breath, In the Clearing, and The Trapped Girl. The Crosswhite Series has sold more than 2,000,000 books and My Sister’s Grave has been optioned for television series development. He is also the author of the best-selling David Sloane series, The Jury Master, Wrongful Death, Bodily Harm, Murder One, and The Conviction. He is also the author of the stand-alone novels The 7th Canon, a 2017 finalist for the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award for best novel, The Cyanide Canary, A Washington Post Best Book of the Year, and several short stories. Robert is the recipient of the Nancy Pearl Award for Fiction, and the Friends of Mystery, Spotted Owl Award for the best novel in the Pacific Northwest. He is a two time finalist for the International Thriller Writers award and the Mystery Writers of America Award for best novel. His David Sloane novels have twice been nominated for the Harper Lee Award for legal fiction. His books are sold worldwide in more than 25 countries and have been translated into more than two dozen languages including French, German, Italian and Spanish.

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#FineArtFriday: San Gabriel Mountains in the Haze

 

Today’s image is brought to you by Wikimedia Commons. It is an image of the San Gabriel Mountains in California rising out of the smoggy haze, taken by Doc Searls. In my mind it evokes a fairytale place, a somewhere full of possibilities. A writing prompt? Perhaps, but mostly it is a peaceful image, designed to rest the mind, a visual place where ideas are born.


S.GabrielHaze, by Doc Searls from Santa Barbara, USA – 2007_06_24_iah-lax_71.JPG, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7737446

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#amwriting: #Interview with @Aaron_Volner, author

Today I am interviewing my good friend, indie author, Aaron Volner. A screenwriter, game designer, and playwright, Aaron is launching his first published novel, which I must say is an awesome debut. Chronicles of the Roc Rider has all the hallmarks of a great fantasy adventure, with the flavor of the wild west.

CJJ: Tell us a little of early life and how you began writing: What books influenced you most as young reader?

AV: Hi Connie! Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me, I really appreciate it.

I was influenced by a wide range of titles as a youngster. My parents made sure I read widely, everything from “Hank the Cowdog” to “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.” I would have to say one of the books that has had the largest lasting impact was “Watership Down” by Richard Adams. For a novel about rabbits, you can learn so much of human relationships from it, and it’s one of the few books I’ve reread multiple times. The “Animorphs” series by K.A. Applegate rings in right up there with it. However the books that really inspired me to start writing my own fantasy were “The Wheel of Time” series by Robert Jordan. My lifelong passion for fantasy began there.

Early life was spent buried in books and playing make believe a lot longer than most kids do, with a healthy dose of video games on the side. There were a number of factors that first influenced me to start writing, but one of the strongest was the example of my sister, Heather. She wrote what I remember as truly wonderful poetry when she was in Junior High/High School, even having some of it published. Much of it was serious, inspired by our pet rabbits and grandparents, and some of it was funny for the sake of it. Through her I learned how much fun playing with words and the language could be.

CJJ: How did these books influence your early writing?

AV:  The first novel I ever started writing (in about 5th or 6th grade) was a blatant Star Wars ripoff with my friends and I under different names as the swashbuckling crew of a rebel starship, one of whom could change into different space animals because of how obsessed I was with the “Animorphs” books.

My first completed novel was inspired by “The Eye of the World,” but I wanted to take a different spin on things. I chose to deliberately explore fantasy without “The Dark Lord,” but a regular, albeit unusually powerful, person with terrible ambitions as the antagonist. At the time, I thought this was a really new and novel idea, hahaha. I also have a scene in that book inspired by “Watership Down,” where one of the main heroes discovers he can communicate with animals to a degree. He strikes a bargain with a local rabbit warren to have his compatriot with plant-based magic provide them a great feast in a safe spot in exchange for sending a rabbit sentry forward to scout out information they need.

CJJ: What inspired you to write Roc Rider?

AV:  I’ve always had something of a fascination with falconry and birds of prey. I suppose, given my penchant for fantasy, it naturally followed that I fell in love with the idea of rocs, the elephant hunting birds of middle eastern legend, as well. I realized a few years back that there weren’t as many rocs in fantasy as I would like, and decided to do something about that. I started thinking about how humans and rocs would interact, where a roc would realistically fit in the food chain, how a human who rode rocs would be perceived by others. The characters and the story naturally flowed from those musings.

CJJ:  Tell us about your main character, Tanin Stormrush. Who is he as a person, and what is he capable of?

AV:  When we first meet him Tanin has suffered a terrible loss. His wife and his original roc partner have both passed away, leaving him to raise his new roc partner, Zera, alone. His first roc partner died laying her final clutch of eggs. His wife died protecting one of them from the man who murdered her. Tanin is on a quest to find the man who killed his wife and discover what happened to the other egg from the clutch, at her final request. So in Tanin we see a man who is undergoing several stages of grief at once, while trying to raise an animal partner with care and compassion at the same time. In a way his quest is a form of bargaining, in that he hopes to make everything right in his world if he can just find the egg. But in some ways, it’s also a form of denial.

Tanin comes from a proud tradition of warriors on the wing, but one that has been declining for many, many years. Tanin’s early life after learning the ways of the roc rider was spent flying campaigns with various armies to protect against invasion by the Narn, a mysterious religion that rules the lands beyond the desert to the north. It was there he developed his own code of honor, based on Roc Rider values but combined with his own worldview. Tanin doesn’t speak of this directly in the book, but we do see hints at it throughout. There are moments when Tanin is more than capable of muscling his way through a situation to get what he wants, but chooses a different path even if it costs him. I intend to explore this a bit more in the second book, with Tanin’s code being challenged more openly in situations where he must decide if it’s worth the pay off to break with it.

CJJ: Do you have a specific ‘Creative Process’ that you follow, such as outlining or do you ‘wing it’?

AV:  So far, my process changes quite a bit from book to book. I do wing it in a lot of respects, however I’ve always had a tendency to plan ahead at least somewhat. My first fantasy book began with me writing out the rules for the magic system and then diving in and discovering the character and story through a few chapters. Throughout that book I would periodically stop writing altogether to try and get my thoughts together in my head for where the story was going. I never wrote them down, just got a plan in my mind and then pressed forward a week or so later once I liked what I was thinking.

My second book, on advice from a writers conference, I wrote an outline before I started writing. That didn’t go so well. The book turned out good after major rewrites, but I discovered that written outlines and I have some issues and just don’t work well together.

With Roc Rider, I had a notebook and spent a few weeks riffing ideas in it. A lot of world building, character, and potential plot stuff. Whenever I faced a question I would write that question down and then riff possible answers. Obviously, the majority of what’s in that notebook never made it into the final product but it served as an invaluable resource when crafting the first draft of the story.

For the second Roc Rider novel, I’m going to do the same thing with one added step. Last year I took part in the 3-Day Novel Contest while Roc Rider was out with my beta readers. Since preparation is allowed for that contest, I tested out writing a story treatment for that book and loved what it added to the process.

A story treatment was something I had just recently learned about. A technique used mostly by screenwriters, it involves writing out the story in prose but in a succinct, descriptive fashion. I don’t have the space in this interview to explain it well, but I think of it as sort of a hybrid between writing an outline and simply diving into the first draft. You can dive into a story treatment like a ‘pantser’, but the treatment lets you see story problems and fix them before you start writing the first draft itself. Best of both worlds, in a way.

Anyway, after my notebook riffing I intend to do a story treatment for the second Roc Rider book as well. I believe it will help me get the book out more quickly and be better for the storytelling in the end.

CJJ: I love that. A story treatment is my way of getting a story off the launch pad too. But now, this is the question I hate to be asked, but here I am asking you: how does your work differ from others of its genre?

AV: This is a doozy of a question, isn’t it? But I’ll try.

I think my work is a little different in how it develops themes. A lot of fantasy is either aimed at a specific theme and the stories, characters, even sometimes the magic system is built around that theme. Other fantasy tries to be purely escapist and not speak to any specific theme at all.

I’ve always been dedicated to what I call organic theme development. This is a process that happens both in the writing and the reading of a work. I have certain ideas I want to explore. Not full themes, really, just human ideas. I attach them to elements I want to include in a story for escapist reasons and allow those ideas to develop as they will in the telling of the story. The result is generally a tale that can be interpreted any number of ways. The ideas get layered throughout the story in the writing, allowing themes to develop in the reader’s mind as they experience it.

Some read my first novel and see a story about the resilience of the human spirit. Others read the same book and see a cautionary tale about trusting your instincts and challenging authority.

Probably the best example, though, was my stage play “Behind Stone Masks”. That play follows a German soldier during WWII, who has a Jewish best friend and is later forced to take part in Kristallnacht (“The Night of Broken Glass”), when German soldiers were ordered to ransack Jewish neighborhoods in civilian clothing and the Holocaust began. Audiences had an almost staggering array of reactions to the play. Some saw it from a political perspective, others saw it through the lens of friendships and human relations. I had countless audience members express how they felt it was a poignant reflection of today’s world, but each in a different way.

I know organic theme development isn’t a unique idea and I’m sure there’s other fantasy authors who use it. But nevertheless, it’s what I feel sets my work apart.

CJJ: Why do you write what you do?

AV: I write fantasy because as a reader fantasy is what brings me the greatest joy. Creating it myself adds a whole new level of enjoyment, and allows me to hopefully bring some measure of that joy to other readers through my words.

CJJ: What are you working on now?

AV: I am already hard at work on the second Roc Rider book (notebook riffing stage), which I intend to release in 2018. I have also been working on a text-based choose your path adventure game for my website, but that project is in development limbo while I address some technical problems with it. I am toying with the notion of choosing one other prose project to write on the side. Maybe short stories or one of my other books. But I haven’t decided yet.

CJJ: When it comes to publishing, I know why I chose the indie route for my work, but I’m curious as to why you’ve chosen this path.

AV: I have a bumpy mental history with independent publishing. As a teen writer, I always swore I’d self-publish if I couldn’t find a publisher. I later became an indie skeptic after learning the ins and outs of traditional publishing and the view on indies at that time. Then along came the kindle and I once again got excited by the notion of going indie… until I learned that publishers at that time wouldn’t consider you if you had an independently published book.

However, once things changed and agents/publishers became more than willing to consider indie authors for traditional deals I started seriously considering it again. I guess at the end of the day I just didn’t want to pursue indie if it meant cutting out traditional as an option. I was sold when I realized there really is almost no downside to indie publishing anymore, as long as you put in the work to produce a quality product. Further, based on my research, the majority of writers these days who are breaking into fiction and being successful enough at it to make their living are the ones pursuing hybrid career models. Meaning they have both indie and traditionally published works. Why cut yourself off from either world when both have so much to offer?

CJJ: What advice would you offer an author trying to decide whether to go indie or take the traditional path?

AV:  Ask yourself why you want to go indie and why you want to go traditional, and how either is likely to impact your writing. Be as honest with yourself as possible. I want to stress that there’s nothing wrong with wanting success, but at the end of the day you should choose the path that’s better for your writing. For me, choosing to go indie with Roc Rider helped focus me in a way that really helped me improve as a writer in a number of ways. My productivity and decisiveness in editing being two major ones. However, I know there are some writers whose writing would suffer from the decision to go indie. They’d feel compelled to rush the process to get something out, for example. Once you have a good, completed book in hand you can always change course if the one you’re on isn’t working out for you.

>>><<<

Thank you, Aaron. You are a joy to know and to have as a friend, and are an integral part of my personal writing life. About Aaron Volner:

Aaron Volner spends a lot of time creating interesting places in his mind and getting irretrievably lost in them. Fortunately, he managed to find his way back long enough to write this book. He lives in the high desert of southwest Wyoming, where if you don’t like the weather, all you have to do is wait ten minutes.

Writer by night, librarian by day, Aaron also enjoys reading, acting, gaming, crocheting, golf, and doting on his dog.

He is also the author of Behind Stone Masks, a two-act stage play first performed in 2013 that follows a German soldier through the events of Kristallancht (the Night of Broken Glass) when the Holocaust began.

>>><<<

Aaron can be found at these places:

Website – http://www.aaronvolner.com/

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/aaronvolnerauthor/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/aaron_volner

Google+ – https://plus.google.com/u/0/111301735131803935026

Amazon Book Page: Chronicles of the Roc Rider

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#amwriting: Citing Sources and Image Attribution

Writing blog posts isn’t that difficult per se, as I can knock one out in less than an hour if I’m fired up about the subject. The real challenge of blogging regularly is finding interesting content. But that is also how you grow in the craft—you become a better writer when you write on a variety of subjects.

I write posts for several other blogs besides Life in the Realm of Fantasy. The way I handle my blogging commitments is this:

  1. During the week, I make a note of any interesting topic that might make a good blogpost. The only day I write blog posts is Sunday, but I write the entire week’s posts that day.
  2. If there is research involved, I make footnotes at the bottom of my composition document as I go. Getting five articles ready on my busy weeks could take the whole day. Usually writing the posts for the week only involves the morning.

For a blogger who posts once a week, it should only take an hour or so.

So WHY did I mention making footnotes? Isn’t that just for academic stuff?

Not at all, Grasshopper. We must give credit where credit is due. It’s your legal obligation, but there is a moral one here too: if you wrote something good and someone quoted you verbatim, wouldn’t you want to be credited?

First let’s talk images:

When we first begin blogging, sourcing images seems like no big deal. You google what you want, see what images pop up, right click, copy, and use them, right?

WRONG! You can get into NO END of trouble that way. A friend recently pointed a telling blogpost out, and it bears being referenced here again: The $7,500 Blogging Mistake That Every Blogger Needs to Avoid!

An excellent article on using Creative Commons Images can be found here:

I use Wikimedia Commons and Public Domain images. Wikimedia makes it easy for you to get the attributions and licensing for each image. Another good source is Allthefreestock.com, where you can find hundreds of free stock photos, music, and many other things for your blog and other projects.

Sometimes I need images I can only get by paying for, and I go to Dreamstime or Canstock, and several other reputable sources. For a few dollars, usually only two or three, I then have the right to use the image of my choice, and it’s properly licensed. The proper legal attribution is also there on the seller’s website, clearly written out with the copyright and artist name, so all you need do is copy and paste it to your footnotes.

I keep a log of where my images are sourced, who created them, and what I used them in. I also insert the attribution into the image details on my website so that when a mouse hovers over the image, curious readers can go to the source. (In WordPress, you must be on the WP Admin dashboard. Click on the image and go to ‘edit details’). If you can do this, you won’t have to credit them in your footnotes.

We may want to quote another blogger or use the information we have learned from them. Plagiarism is an ugly word, and you never want to be accused of it. To that end, we cite our sources and only use images we have the legal right to use, also citing their source.

Citing sources:

First, I open a document in my word-processing program (I use Word), save it as whatever the title of the post is in that blog’s file folder, and compose my post the way I would write a story.

  • Composing the body of my post in a document rather than the content area of the blog-template allows me to spell check and edit my work first, and I feel more comfortable writing in a document rather than the content-window.

I keep a log at the bottom of my page of what website, who the author was, the date of publication, and the date I accessed it. I have found the simplest method is the Chicago Manual of Style method:

Purdue OWL Online Writing Lab,  General Model for Citing Books in the Chicago Notes and Bibliography System, Copyright ©1995-2017 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All rights reserved.

Website: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/717/03 Accessed Jan 10, 2017

When you quote from Wikipedia, you can click on the ‘cite this page’ link in the left-hand column, which is a menu of items pertaining to Wikipedia in general and to that article. ‘Cite this page’ is listed under ‘tools.’ Clicking on this link takes you to a page offering citations for that page in CMoS, APA, or MLA style, whichever suits your need. All you need to do is copy and paste the one you prefer into your footnotes, and your due diligence has been done.

All this information for your footnotes should be inserted at the BOTTOM of your current document, so everything you need for your blog post is all in one place. When my blog article is complete and ready to post, I will insert a line to separate the body of the post from the credits and attribution notes.

When readers view my blog, if my post were one that I did research for, they would see this at the bottom of the post:

Authors need to blog about who they are and what they do because they can connect with potential readers that way. Using pictures and quoting good sources makes blogs more interesting and informative.

Photographers and artists are just like writers—they are proud of their work and want to be credited for it. Protect yourself and your work by responsibly sourcing your images, giving credit to the authors and artists whose work you use.


Credits

Portions of this article and the screenshots first appeared on the Northwest Independent Writers’ Association  Blog in January of 2017, written by Connie J. Jasperson, All Rights Reserved.

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#flashfictionfriday: Foggy Autumn Morning Sunrise

September first has come to stay,

Summer’s moving on,

Cold and chill the break of day,

But we still greet the dawn.

Webs are hung with mist and dew,

Sparkling on the lawn,

I drink coffee on the porch with you,

And watch the rushing throng.


Foggy Autumn Morning Sunrise, © Connie J. Jasperson 2017, All Rights Reserved

Foggy Autumn Morning (sunrise) Arto J [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

 

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Filed under #FlashFictionFriday, Poetry, writing