Ten of the Best Writing Quotes from F. Scott Fitzgerald

Scott Fitzgerald was probably best known as the chronicler of the jazz age. Though he wasn’t considered a great success during his lifetime, now he is touted as one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century. A member of the “Lost Generation” of the 1920s, Fitzgerald published four novels: This Side of Paradise, The Beautiful and Damned, The Great Gatsby (his most successful and well known), and Tender Is the Night. His fifth, unfinished novel, The Last Tycoon, was published posthumously and recently made into a mini-series by Amazon. He also wrote four collections of short stories and published an additional one hundred sixty-four short stories in magazines. (He was also the inspiration for the name of my heroine in the Scotti Fitzgerald Mysteries.)

“Writers aren’t people exactly. Or, if they’re any good, they’re a whole lot of people trying so hard to be one person.”

“Cut out all these exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.”

 

“Mostly, we authors must repeat ourselves – that’s the truth. We have two or three great and moving experiences in our lives – experiences so great and moving that it doesn’t seem at the time anyone else has been so caught up and so pounded and dazzled and astonished and beaten and broken and rescued and illuminated and rewarded and humbled in just that way ever before. Then we learn our trade, well or less well, and we tell our two or three stories – each time in a new disguise – maybe ten times, maybe a hundred, as long as people will listen.”

“What people are ashamed of usually makes a good story.”

 

“You’ve got to sell your heart, your strongest reactions, not the little minor things that only touch you lightly, the little experiences that you might tell at dinner. This is especially true when you begin to write, when you have not yet developed the tricks of interesting people on paper, when you have none of the technique which it takes time to learn. When, in short, you have only your emotions to sell.”

“Life is a comedy for those who think and a tragedy for those who feel. Show me a hero and I will write you a tragedy.”

“Often I think writing is a sheer paring away of oneself leaving always something thinner, barer, more meagre.”

“Character is plot, plot is character.”

 

“The history of my life is the history of the struggle between an overwhelming urge to write and a combination of circumstances bent on keeping me from it.”

“Every author ought to write every book as if he were going to be beheaded the day he finished it.”

What’s your favorite quote or story from F. Scott Fitzgerald? Feel free to share them in the comments.

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Free Book Promo Weekend – Results

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As noted in my last post, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, I relaunched my first book False Witness by offering the book for free. For years, I’ve read of the impact and effect that a free book/give-away can have and was itching to give it a test drive.
When the rights to my book reverted back to me, I felt it was the perfect opportunity to try out this whole free thang.

So this is what I did prior to the freebie weekend:

  • Designed a new cover
  • Wrote a new blurb
  • Revised, edited and rewrote the book. The main problem with the original book was that there was a lot of head hopping between characters, which was probably a left over from my days of writing scripts. So the simple edit I expected to do turned into a major rewrite, while not changing the path of the story. It was a challenge and half the time I felt like Psycho Writer Girl, but when I came out the other side of it, I knew I’d made the right decision.
  • Assigned new ISBN
  • Did key word research
  • Uploaded the new manuscript, cover and book blurb to Amazon
  • Spent 2 days communicating with KDP about migrating my existing reviews to the new edition
  • Scheduled the promo
  • Created a promo email to my mailing list
  • Created and scheduled a Face Book post
  • Wrote and scheduled a post on my blog about the freebie
  • Put together an excerpt (guest) post here
  • Then we let her rip

It’s like a drug

I told myself that I would then go about my business and check the sales dashboard once or twice a day. Sorry, writers are just too obsessed to act that rationally. And yeah, I checked every ten minutes for the first day. It was like a drug, watching that stat graph go up, up, up. I just couldn’t do anything else. It was exhausting, but also very cool. By the next day I was able to only check every hour. By the last day I checked in a few times. Aside from seeing my graph going up the things that were cool:

  • I hit page one for sub category ‘cozy mystery’ in US, UK, DE & AU
  • I ranked #368 in the Free Kindle Store

So, the book was ‘visible’ for a few days. And that was very exciting.

Today I received an email from what appears to be a reputable book promotion site, asking me to do a promo deal with them. That’s a first. LOL. And I’ve decided to think of it as a win.

Expectations

I’ve seen blog posts where writers talk about thousands of books being downloaded during free promotions, but I had no such expectations. Though I certainly would’ve been delighted had that happened, I tried to be realistic maybe even pessimistic in my expectations. So I was pleasantly surprised that nearly 1,000 books were downloaded.

I write this post not to brag but to possibly help other writers see what they might be able to expect when doing their first free promo. If there are any other developments that come from the free promo, I will update you.

How about you? Have you done a free promo with any of your books? How did it go? Were your expectation met? Were you surprised with the results or disappointed? Feel free to share your war stories in the comments.
Annie

How Blogging Saved my Sorry Writer’s Ass

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Started out innocent enough. A writer friend was going on vacation, could I cover his blog while he was gone? A blog? WTF is a blog? He showed me the ropes:

  • Where to find images
  • How to post a blog
  • What categories and tags were
  • How to respond to comments

Back then you needed a handle, a blogger’s name, an avatar. Because you know, back then we didn’t use our actual names. Privacy and all that, right? So for lack of a better idea I went with Writer Chick (who knew it would stick?).

So….I blogged for him. I wrote about whatever came into my head. My first post was called Cream Boogers.  Surprisingly, people liked it.

After a week of this, I kinda got the blogging bug. So when he came back I started my own blog. I was scared. It was weird. I mean, who’d want to read what I thought about anything? I had no idea…

Writer rebooted

I’ve written stories pretty much all my life. Words were always my friends – especially written words because I didn’t stutter and stammer over those. I didn’t burn bright red when I wrote words, only when I tried to speak them. I could let the words do my talking and really it was better that way.

And I always ‘dreamed’ of being a writer. Of writing books, movies, TV shows, poetry. Yeah, all of it. But life always got in the way. There were jobs to work, rent to pay, relationships to nurture. Whatever, always some reason I should put it on the back burner. Or I could do what I really wanted to do someday. And I had periods, maybe you’d call them spurts where I was ‘being a writer.’ Got an agent, yeah I was going to hit the big time baby. Meh, not so much.

I gave up a lot of times. I decided it just wasn’t meant to be. I wasn’t good enough or just didn’t have the guts or something. But I always missed it when I wasn’t doing it. I always thought about it when I wasn’t doing it. Every time I read a book I thought, “I could do that. I could’ve written that story…”

So this blogging thing – that I did for a friend – forced me to write. Not dream about it. Or think about it. Or long for it. But to do it. I couldn’t let my friend down, right because he was depending on me so I did it.

So I figured if I had my own blog I could make myself ‘be a writer.’ I could make myself write. So that was the deal. I started blogging to see if I could make myself write everyday. No. Matter. What.

And I did it

I wrote a blog post everyday for 18 months and somewhere along the way I realized I was a writer. And always had been a writer. And I’ve been a writer ever since.

So just by writing this silly blog I:

  • Got into the habit of writing daily
  • I got a lot better at writing
  • I learned a lot more about writing
  • I got work as a writer
  • I became a freelancer
  • I published a book
  • I now make my living as a writer
  • I am currently writing a series (soon to be published)

And I was saved. From being the 9 to 5 grunt I feared I’d become. From keeping all those words inside. From being miserable.

So you just never know what a silly little thing like a blog can do for you. So I say, if you have a dream, find a way. Find something that helps you to walk toward that dream. Do something that reinforces it. That validates it. That makes you better at it. Gives you more confidence in it. Helps you prove to yourself that yes, you are that thing that you want to be. Because nothing creates being like doing.

So what about you? Did blogging save you too? What’s your story?

Writer Chick

Ten Ways to Ruin Your Blog

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Yup, I think I’ve done all of them.

Stop blogging about what you want to blog about in favor of the advice of experts whom you do not know. The problem with experts on the Internet is that everyone is an expert. This can confuse us. While there are many people who do give sound advice on Internet marketing you might want to check them out before taking their advice.

Worry about value to your readers so much that your blog posts are incomprehensible and even you don’t know what you’re saying. I remember a few months back I was trying to get back into regular blogging and so read tons of articles and advice, most of it stressing value. I became so stressed out about my ‘value’ that when I wasn’t in apathy about writing a post I was chewing my fingernails down to the stubs worried that whatever I produced was not valuable enough.

Imitate what the big bloggers do so you are a poor imitation of them. I think we’ve all done this. Tried to imitate CopyBlogger or some other big blog in our niche. I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t pull it off. Can you say disaster?

Blog about what you think others think you should blog about because what you want to blog about you don’t think anyone will think is cool. Look, you started your blog because you had an idea. You had something to say in your own voice, from your own point of view. Now after reading all the how-to articles, that enthusiasm, that joy of creating that you felt is like a cold super-sized side of McDonald’s fries churning in your stomach. See if you can go back and find the thing that excited you when you first started.

Write about a topic as though you are an expert but about which you know nothing or you know something but not enough. Lots of people think, well I can (fill in the blank) so I can assume the view of an expert – and in fact I’ve seen that suggested in marketing advice. But when you try to write the post it doesn’t fly. It doesn’t sound authoritative or experty enough or whatever. Might work better if you approach the topic from the view of ‘this is how I do (fill in the blank).”

Write the same post everybody else is writing. Is this tempting or what? You subscribe to lots of blogs, read a few of the big ones and everybody is posting about a certain topic, news story or current event. So you figure you’ll do it too. I’ve done it and it didn’t work. I say, so what if everybody is talking about the fight with Hachette and Amazon, if you want to blog about red-haired girls and their best looks then write about that. It’s your blog, your voice, your little condo on the Internet. Do it your way. Who knows you may even set a trend.

Write posts based on titles you get from a title generator. Okay, I haven’t done this one but you can tell who does. Because you see the same titles/headlines everywhere, slightly edited but still…

Write nothing about which you have an opinion, feel passionate or have any interest in. Can you say instant death? Blogging about things you don’t have any strong feelings about is about as exciting as watching milk go bad. If you don’t love it, chances are nobody else will either.

Write a blog for the sole purpose of collecting readers for your future books. I know, I know, most of us are writers. Most of us write books, stories, and poems and we want people to read those books, stories and poems. But people can tell if you’re just trying to sell them rather than have a conversation with them. And who knows if the conversation goes well, they might want to buy your books, stories and poems.

Have lots of ads, pop-ups, flash animation and everything else you can think of to keep people from being able to read your posts. This one I did for about five minutes. I didn’t go full-bore flash animation but I ran the ads. I made no revenue whatsoever and even I was irritated by them staring back at me.

So my friends, there you have it, ten surefire ways to ruin your blog. Have you ever done something that ruined your blog? What happened? Did you fix it? How?

Oh yeah, and Happy Tax Day to one and all 😀

Writer Chick

To Plot or Not to Plot – That is the Question

to plot or not to plot

While I have been writing the first draft of my novel, plot has played a significant part of the scheme.  Naturally, stories have plots, so what’s the big deal?

It all started with an outline.  It has never been my process to write an outline.  Sure, I’ve jotted down notes and have been known to write extensive character profiles but the jumble of notes, snatches of dialogue, and ideas about scenes even in its aggregate could never have been called an outline.

After reading a pretty good case for outlining written by J.A. Konrath in the Newbies Guide to Publishing I became convinced there would be benefits galore to my writing an outline, and among these benefits were:

  • After devoting a week to 10 days to an extensive and thorough outline, I could finish a first draft in a month
  • My daily output could be more than doubled
  • I could write two to three books a year using this method
  • I would probably never write myself into a corner again

To be fair, I wasn’t promised these benefits, I did infer them but still, it was these inferred benefits that spurred me on to write the outline.

The first bump in the road

Unlike J.A. my outline didn’t take a mere one week to 10 days.  It took over a month.  And to be honest, I never finished it because by the time I got through the second act plotting I was losing the juice that inspired the story in the first place.  So I just decided to start writing, lest I end up with an outline and nothing else.

I have to admit the outline did get me started but somewhere around the fifth chapter the characters decided the outline was crap and insisted on going off-script.  No matter how many times I herded them toward the outline, they bolted every chance they got.  I also spent a lot of time consulting the outline before writing, which made me and the characters pretty impatient and I found the sequence was often wrong once the story started to gain steam.

To my shock and awe I also frequently found myself in a corner and then had to re-think things to get back on track.

Including the time spent writing the outline; I am now three months into the project and still haven’t completed the first draft.

Then I ran out of outline

And, of course, since I didn’t bother to outline the last act I ran out of outline.  So there I sat, stuck and wondering what to do, where to go, and how to get there.  I knew the ending; I just didn’t know the path that would get me there.

Since my own method – the jump in and just start and make it up as you go along method – typically takes me about three months to produce a first draft, I had to laugh.  This new method that was supposed to (in my mind) make things go smoother and faster was taking about the same amount of time.

Life doesn’t have an outlined plot, why should a novel?

Then it dawned on me.  Life has no plot.  Oh sure in hindsight maybe.  But we all know that the best laid plans rarely work out as we expect.  We all know that no matter how much we plan and stick to the plan that things we couldn’t possibly anticipate happen.  And then we have to adjust.  And then we have to rewrite our plan.  And then we have to figure out where we go from there.  Life isn’t a plot but a maze we have to navigate.

So, the other day I just said, “Screw it,” and stopped thinking with the plot.  Instead, I started thinking with the story, with the characters, and with what was happening right then.  And things started to shake loose.

By letting go of the plot I can now see how to get to the end and what’s going to have to happen to get there.  But it’s not carved in stone.  It’s not etched in indelible ink that defies erasure.  It’s a sense of direction, it’s an understanding that like life, we can never predict with total certainty what direction things will take or how we’ll react when life or characters veer off.  It’s just being okay with the fact that vigilance and persistence gets you through to the end.

So, I’m through with plotting and back to writing

I mean no disrespect to any writer who does outlines and loves them.  It’s just that I’m not one of them.  Maybe you aren’t either.  Maybe your passion for the story gives you the instinct to follow the path that leads to the end without having to plot the course first.  Life is an adventure and so in my mind, is writing.

What do you think?  Outline or not?  What’s your process?

Writer Chick

Copyright 2013

 

 

 

Where do writers get their ideas?

Ask any writer where they get their ideas and you’re likely to get a variety of answers. Each writer has their own process, likely evolved over many years of writing and practice.

However, there are a several approaches to story idea that may help you get kick started, including:

  • What if. What if is the process of asking yourself questions geared toward fleshing out a story idea. For example; What if the perfect man arrived into our heroine’s life? He was handsome, strong, successful, funny, caring, intelligent and crazy about her but…. What if he was obsessed with numbers and had devised formulas that had to be followed in order for him to go forward with anything. He could only make business deals on the 13th or the 17th. He never went out on dates on odd-numbered days. He could only drive seven miles above or below the speed limit. This particular what if exercise might not result in a viable story idea but using what if has produced countless great story ideas for writers since writers have been writing.
  • Headlines. Reading the news, whether in newspapers, your favorite online news source or on television can give a writer many ideas. Particularly crime and mystery writers. News stories about mysterious disappearances, crimes and murders can easily inspire a mystery writer to get a story going.
  • Starting with a character. Starting with a character is my favorite way to flesh out a story. I start to think about something quirky I notice in someone then I start thinking about a character with that quirk, what kind of person is this? What is in their history that gave birth to that quirk. Who are their friends? What kind of work does this character do? Developing character almost always lends itself to an interesting story. Once you have created this character’s world it is often easy to see what type of conflict, trouble and victories he or she may experience.
  • Writing prompts. Writing prompts are popular as a means to get creative juices flowing. There are hundreds of websites that provide writing prompts including Writer’s Digest. Writing prompts can be challenging too, particularly if they are one or two word prompts.
  • Other people’s stories. As the saying goes, if I had a nickel for every time a person offered me a story idea, I’d be rich. It’s actually amazing to me how often a new acquaintance offers me a story idea when they discover I am a writer. I have to say my usual response is that since the person is so invested in the idea that they should write the story themselves – and I’ve never been offered an idea I’ve acted upon. However, even anecdotes told by friends can be inspiring, an interesting story from their childhood, or a harrying experience they’ve had or someone in their family had. Listen when friends tell stories from their lives, there may be gold in them thar hills.
  • Memories. Speaking of anecdotes – most people have dozens of their own stories, whether amusing, sad, happy and frightening. Think about your own life. Things that have happened to you and your loved ones. Is there a story to be told there? Chances are there is.

Inspiration is everywhere and if you’re a writer you should have your ears and eyes open at all times. You never know when inspiration might tap you on the shoulder and hand you a story that only you can write.

In the meantime, try the above methods to see if you can get your mind going and your keyboard smoking.

What about  you? Do you have a special method for fleshing out a story or coming up with story ideas? Feel free to share them in the comments section.

Writer Chick

Copyright 2011

Dreaming

Like most writers (probably) I have often read there is benefit in keeping a dream diary. I suppose the point is inspiration or just to get in touch with your inner images, thoughts, intuitions? And I have done dream diaries from time to time but mostly when I was much younger and much more impressionable.

In search of inspiration (as writers are wont to do) I stumbled upon this free writing course on the internet. In fact, I stumbled upon several but for some reason this one spoke to me. If you are looking for some good information on story structure as well as inspiration, I recommend you check it out.

One of the first things Steve recommends is starting a dream diary. So, I figured what the heck, let me try it. And I have been jotting in it every morning since I started it – although, I’m not sure what ideas or inspirations I might derive from it because seriously my dreams are not that interesting…

Saturday – I dreamed of a sorority where people had special powers and rooms were facades.

Sunday – I dreamed of battling confusion and fighting for a cause (unknown).

Monday – I dreamed about social security and how it was killing people.

Tuesday – I dreamed about NASA redistributing wealth and a teacher with magical powers that she was teaching writers.

Wednesday – I dreamed about marching men in black masks and a naked Bill Clinton adapting to something.

Thursday – I dreamed my room mate turned his house into a bar and grill and inn. It made me mad because it endangered my email address. And apparently the FBI was onto him.

Friday – (last night) I dreamed about dancing and a cat with magical powers and there was a room I wanted to get into but couldn’t.

In looking these over, it seems there is a central theme of magical powers, disappearing rooms and things not being what they seem. Hmmm….what kind of writing might that inspire?

How about you, what do you dream about?

WC