“The House Where Cats Go” – Susan Wingate

What an honor to be included as a featured writer on Creative Talents Unleashed. I hope you enjoy the poem they chose of mine to feature.

Creative Talents Unleashed

The House Where Cats Go

I visited, last night, the house where cats go.

Its walls are smooth stucco and white and it sits on a hill with a chain-link fence that guards it.

The chain-link fence cuts off entrance from people who want to go inside.

And a flat black road climbs the hill and trims the row of houses and a set of concrete steps trims the road.

Cats there play together in this house.

They get in and out by way of a sprawling oak tree that sits, mashed, in front of the chain-link fence.

And when the cats are outside of the fence, they lead you to other houses with other cats and yards of grass.

Those houses have a few dogs too.

And the house on the hill has cats of all ages and sizes.

The fat black one, as black as Midnight, bumps her…

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Going for a Trip to Jolly Old England to Write

This is a re-post from my new blog site. All the same info and books, just a new platform.

http://www.susanwingate.com/to-write-in-jolly-old-england/

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The Mentor-Mentor(ee) Relationship & 7 Ways to Gauge Success

Mentor-TeacherEarly in my career, I met my own mentor, Michael Collins. He nurtured my writing and was key in the completion of my first novel. We worked together for two years and I feel that if I had not had his help, I would still be struggling through that first novel. Certainly, I would not have the personal, expert advice I received from Michael during that time. Right now, I’m working with one student who is a dream student–considerate, willing to try new things and to take advice.

So, how does the mentor-mentor(ee) relationship work? Well, for those published authors with the heart to help see other writers grow in their careers, all you need to do is mention that you wish to work with a mentor student and you’ll have several knocking at your email within hours.

Conversely, for emerging writers searching for mentors, it’s a little more difficult than just a mention but don’t fear. I’ve included this topic as part of my 7-part discussion on the mentor-mentoree relationship.

  1. Finding a mentor–It’s not all that difficult, really. If you attend writing workshops and conferences, all you have to do is go up to an author presenter, someone you feel you could learn from (this is key) and ask if they ever accept or are accepting mentor students. If they do not mentor, move on to someone else. Also, ask authors you may know via your social channels (Facebook, Twitter, LinkeIn) but keep asking until you find someone to work with. Finding a mentor sometimes takes perseverance but it will be worth it to your writing career.
  2. Setting boundaries–Boundary-setting is as simple as stating how many times per month you will meet (or e-meet) with your student. As a published author you are busy not only writing but marketing your published work so the student will need to fit into your schedule and not the other way around. Next, decide how long each meeting will be and where–whether in a cafe, via email, the phone or on Skype. Stick to your scheduling as closely as possible. You do not want to send mixed signals about the meetings or their times. Although sometimes issues come up and you may have to postpone but try to stay on a fixed schedule.
  3. Goals for you as the mentor–Mentoring emergent writers is one of the greatest and most fulfilling activities I do as a career writer. My time spent with mentorees not only affords them information I have received from my many (many) years writing and working in the publishing industry, but it also tests my knowledge. I learn so much as we discuss writing and the industry as we work through our meetings.
  4. Goals for the student–The best mentor students come with set questions and goals for their writing. Of course, every writer wants to hurry up their careers and to become published but sometimes the hurry-up part isn’t the most important. Sometimes learning craft is or learning business issues (approaching a publisher or agent, writing the query letter or proposal). However, one thing I wish I had known, before venturing into this whole writing thing, was to be patient. I tripped and made many stupid mistakes along the way and have suffered for those mistakes. This is one lesson I try to instill in my mentor students who seem to suffer from impatience as I did. And then, of course, to answer their set of questions about publishing, marketing and writing.
  5. Tracking progress as the mentor–The mentor can either track progress on paper or simply by asking from time-to-time if the mentor student is still benefiting from the meetings. But make sure the student doesn’t feel like you’re trying to get out of the relationship unless, of course, it has become onerous or toxic, because every once in a while the mentor will get into a relationship where the student is refusing to apply concepts to their writing or is not doing the work you’re setting out for them. If you (as the mentor) are feeling anxious about each meeting then maybe it’s a tell that you should get out. Maybe you should move on and let the relationship end. If this happens, do it kindly but truthfully.
  6. Tracking progress as the student–Likewise to tracking progress as the mentor, the student should be the true beneficiary of the mentor’s knowledge. Sometimes, however, the student will be intimidated and not as upfront about how they feel sessions are going, or how much they are benefiting from the relationship. As a mentor student, you must tell the teacher what you need to learn but you must also tell her if she’s not fulfilling what you need from her. This is why goal-setting is such an important part of the mentor-mentoree relationship.
  7. Mentor relationship success–Progress checks with each other are critical to gauging success between the mentor and student. I find out by asking my students these questions: (1) is there is anything they are not getting from me that they want from me (aside from a publishing contract, that is); (2) if they are still feeling inspired and motivated to write; (3) if they are still happy with the relationship; and (4) if they are feeling stuck on a subject or in their writing. I guess one true way to calculate success comes after the relationship ends. Several of my mentor students have sent me emails letting me know that they have since become published. What great news! And what a wonderful way to gauge the success of our relationship.

Remember, discouraging critique causes confusion and dwindles the spirit. Whereas, motivation and encouragement will create in your mentor student a sense of achievement and the will to win.

Here are some links to help you find a mentor:

American Writing Programs: https://www.awpwriter.org/community_calendar/mentorship_program_mentee

Writer’s Relief: http://writersrelief.com/blog/2014/01/find-writing-mentor/

Goins Writer: http://goinswriter.com/find-mentor/

I write books and some of them are bestsellers. ~Susan.

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Day 1 of Crime Scene Investigation for Writers: 5 Major Activities

CrimeSceneTapeI started writing mysteries and thrillers way back when. Writing the detective procedural is one of my favorites because they involve so much detailed information.

I’m sure a bunch of you crime and mystery writers know a lot more about this subject than I do. But to help others I’ve listed some of the information below for those writers who may not know the 5 elements to “attack” a crime scene–for real and in your novels. The first step below shows detailed info about the process of the first step when arriving at a crime scene. I’ve only summarized each other activity but, in the coming days, I will further flesh out (ew) the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th activities with actual step-by-step processes for crime scene investigators.

So, here we go. First you must know that there are several levels of Crime Scene Investigators (CSI) and I’m sure that with every city, county, parish, and state they have their own way of setting up these designations differently. I’ve researched most of my information about different employment levels of CSI from the Phoenix Police Department’s Crime Scene Response Site because my next novel is set in Phoenix. For Phoenix, there are 5 levels of CSI and they are designated as “specialist” levels 1, 2, and 3 with an additional two supervisory roles called Shift and Scene Supervisors.

The First Step involves the initial response when CSI arrive at crime scene
Paperwork – There will always be paperwork. When we write about governmental entities such as the police department and crime scene units (CSU) someone will be asked to fill out some paperwork for the receipt of information and for legal entry into the premises.
Safety Protocol – Everyone at the scene will be expected to follow safety procedures set out by their departments.
Emergency Care – Emergency services for living victims will be given.
Secure and Control Persons at the Scene – There should be investigators at the scene who will act to keep the scene as close to as it was when the crime was first committed. These people are responsible for boundary control. They will tape off the areas deemed pertinent areas of the crime scene and will protect the boundaries they’ve set up. Which leads to the fifth protocol.
Identify & Establish Boundaries, Protect and Secure – Need I say more?
Turn Over Control of the Scene and Brief Investigator(s) in Charge – Detectives or other levels of police will arrive at (or enter) the scene after the initial responders “lock down” the crime scene. Once they go through, they will then turn the scene over to the investigators of the scene, such as detectives in charge or other branches of the police department (note: typically murder scenes are given the highest levels of attention where a breaking & entering scene might get less attention and even lower CSU investigators arriving at the scene)
Document Actions and Observations – Someone in the CSU will be charting what is being seen by the knowledgeable CSI. Usually, lower level CSI who are working up to higher grades of pay will take these notes.
Set-up a Command Post and Take Notes Throughout – This step could well be done upon arriving at the scene and is used in circumstances where a major crime has been committed. Think a bomb going off, here or a plane crashing (the National Transportation Safety Board would handle a plane crash). A truck careening into the side of a bank would initiate authorities to set up of a command post.
Manage Any Witnesses at the Scene – Of course, people who actually witness the scene are only required to remain at the scene as their consciences will allow. There are those people who will not become involved. But more often than not, witnesses will step up and help police with their investigation. When they do, they need to be controlled. For one, they should be separated from the scene and other witnesses–in order to avoid homogenizing their statements. Then, they should be questioned and paperwork should be drawn up for each witness statement.

The 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th Steps are outlined below and will be covered in the coming days. These 4 additional steps are:

  1. Preliminary Documentation and Evaluation of the Scene
  2. Processing the Scene
  3. Completing and Recording the Crime Scene Investigation, and
  4. Crime Scene Equipment

As well, I will be listing several equipment items used by the CSU. For now, I’ve listed 10 interesting items that a proper CSU will use on a day-to-day basis. In fact, there are hundreds of items. But, I will list the equipment in shorter, more digestable amounts.

Initial Responding Officer(s) should bring with them items such as:

  • CrimeSceneEquipmentConsent/search forms,
  • Crime scene barricade tape,
  • First-aid kit,
  • Flares,
  • Flashlight and extra batteries,
  • Paper bags,
  • Personal protective equipment (these are items are considered items of high importance and should be kept in police vehicles or readily available for the initial responding CSI),
  • Audiotape recorder, and
  • Camera with flash and extra film, if not digital camera

I love writing procedural mysteries, if not for the research alone.

I write books and you can find them all here on my website or on Amazon and B&N or simply click on the image below to zoom over to Amazon.

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Other sites with great crime scene and forensic information can be found at the following links:

http://www.forensicmag.com/articles/2013/10/crime-scene-documentation-death-scene-checklist

http://www.feinc.net/cklist.htm

http://www.policeone.com/investigations/articles/2142763-Investigating-property-crimes-A-checklist-for-success/

9 Elements that Make the Movie BIRDMAN a Success and an Academy Award Winner

BirdmanFortunately, I watched BIRDMAN this past Saturday. The movie was being aired on one of Dish’s Pay-per-view channels. It was certainly worth the $4.99 to see. I wasn’t sure what the movie was about. I’d not read anything except the blurb on PPV so when it began, I was a baby. New to the story. Expecting nothing.

I’ve listed 9 items below that, in my humble opinion, make the story a successful one.

  1. Unique story–the idea is new to me for the genre of family drama. I was brought up reading Tennessee Williams and continue to read stories written by authors such as Garth Stein, Karen E. Bender, and Jodi Picoult. But this was a fresh take in a genre that tends to fall back onto realism. Birdman mixes surreal qualities to a very real-life tale. The closest of my reading to this story might be with Maxine Hong King’s “Woman Warrior” where King imagines the protagonist as an ancient Chinese woman warrior on horseback. Birdman tells the tale of a flagging Hollywood super hero movie star who seems to have leached super hero qualities from this past favorite role. I’m not surprised that this movie received the esteemed Best Movie award in the Academy Awards last night.
  2. Actors reach beyond themselves–In Birdman, Michael Keaton’s acting outdoes any previous role with this single one. And I’m surprised Keaton did not nab the award for best actor. His character felt real. Riggan (Keaton’s character) had been punched down so many times and from every angle–in his personal life, his spiritual life and his professional life. I never once sat back and thought, “this is great acting.” It was only after the movie ended that I got a chance to absorb what the actors succeeded in doing and to compare each actor in their role. Edward Norton put on a great performance as the Broadway star and love of everything New York. Juxtaposed by Keaton’s Hollywood megastar and loathed by New York critiques as adamantly as they loved Norton’s character. Norton plays an opportunistic, self-consumed, method actor who is professional in procedure (knowing his lines; showing up for work on time) while being as unprofessional as they come (breaking character in front of an audience; becoming sexually-aroused while on stage). Keaton’s problems manifest with Riggan (Keaton) potentially at risk of losing his promiscuous daughter to Norton’s character, and losing his family entirely–a far greater stake than loss of a career or fame.
  3. Super hero theme–Initially, we see his powers exhibited in the very first scene, an odd scene that leaves the viewer wondering how and what and why (an awesome hook scene)–with questions answered soon enough when we realize how greatly influenced Riggan has become by his previous role as The Birdman. The writers of this film have given nuance to the movie by slipping in visions of the character as his former super hero role, in full costume, antagonizing Riggan, and exhibiting the full extent of the role complete with telekinetic power and the ability to fly.
  4. Underdog struggle–Keaton’s aging character, Riggan, is your archetypal underdog and is a dimming light that previously shone brightly in mega-blockbuster movies. Instantly, the audience sympathizes with him. Nothing has gone right for Riggan in a long time and we end up pulling for him. We long for him. We hope he wins just once before he dies. But the writers continue to drop bombs onto Riggan’s circumstances until we really believe Riggan will end it all.
  5. Utilizing a Well-known Author’s Previous works–I felt the story device was unique, something used most recently in the movie “Midnight in Paris” which was based lightly on Hemingway’s “A Moveable Feast.” Birdman utilizes this device with Raymond Carver’s novel “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.” Although in Birdman, the play within the movie which will open in just days, is largely based on Carver’s story. Here’s a side note: I just read in Publisher’s Weekly how Birdman has propelled the sales of Carver’s books across titles but mostly for “What We Talk About.”
  6. A New York Story–It’s a given in the publishing industry that more stories are sold (as books and viewed as movies) if they are based in New York City. Having visited NYC several times, these stories definitely draw me to either read them or watch them. In fact, the decision to write my latest collaborative boxset, entitled Detective Ink, was based largely on statistical information of New York stories outdoing others simply because they were set in New York City.
  7. A Hollywood Story–Equally, stories about Los Angeles and Hollywood have always garnered more readers and viewers than, say, a novel set in Ames, Iowa. I’m not to saying that lots doesn’t happen in Ames. Certainly that would be untrue. What I’m saying is that the draw isn’t as widespread as a story set where movies are filmed and starlets are born. Both NYC and LA are centers of the entertainment world. The draw is understandable.
  8. A Real Villain–We have discussed the protagonist, the setting, technical devices and now we have finally arrived at Birdman’s villain–the antagonist. She appears a bit later in the film but has undertones and foreshadowing as soon as the movie begins. This villain has long been a maker or breaker of Broadway shows. Yes. I’m speaking about the theatre critic. The actor, Lindsay Duncan plays Tabitha as if Hollywood itself were responsible for the genocide of all children. I actually called the character a scathing name when I caught Bob up on the story–he came home three-quarters into the film. I hated Tabitha. Duncan is awesome. You will loathe her, exactly what the director wants from you. They had me hook, line and sinker and I was loving it.
  9. A Satisfying Ending–So we get to the ending. I will not spoil it for you. I will not say that the ending was open or tightly-wrapped up. I will not say that it was a happy ending or a sad one. I will not say anything much about the ending because so much happens that I would have to write a dissertation to fully examine the intent, the outcome, my perceptions, and my hopes about what might have happened to the characters after the end of the movie in order to give full credit to the ending. I will say that brilliant comes to mind. Because, honestly, how can an ending story of such high caliber not be cheapened by discussing it and this ain’t cheap. What I will say, is that my reaction was, “Oh man! Perfect.”

I write books. To read any of my books, just click on the book image below.

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How to Add Pandas into Your Daily Mix of Writing: 5 Easy Steps

Writing new work for me is a time of creativity and exploration. I certainly have many more starts of stories than I have finished pieces but I never feel as though I have wasted my time writing those unfinished starts. Why? Well, because I tend to view any writing as time at practice of my craft.

So, here’s my promise to you today. The answer to that gnawing question: how do I include Panda bears in my daily writing? I think we might all agree that a certain amount of stick-to-it-iveness will be employed. But, really, the reason for this post is because of the video at the end. I saw it on Facebook and simply had to include it in today’s how-to-write article.

Normally, when I begin writing a story, I think in terms of the beginning, middle and end.

  1. 14PandaBabiesAnd, typically, I start writing at the… wait for it… the beginning. Voila! I start by doing some free writing in order to uncoil images planted in my subconscious brain. As I travel through this beginning journey, I usually come to a stopping point and must consider why readers might care about the characters in this beginning. What is the character’s problem and how will she solve that problem. In this beginning time, I write until I stall out on how the story is unfolding. When questions begin to outweigh the story coming forth, I stop and move to the next step…
  2. EndangeredPandaI jump to the end and ask myself: is this going to be a happy story or a tragedy? I know. Right? I didn’t go to the middle first. It’s okay. Don’t call the writing police. If this process doesn’t work for you, no worries. Proceed with what works best for you at finishing your novel. During this second step, I ask several more questions. They are: what is the ultimate action outcome (i.e. does someone die, does someone have a child, does someone get married?). Other important questions include: what will the character learn at the end of the story? What will immediate other characters learn? What will the community learn? But most imperatively, I ask: what will the reader learn?
  3. panda-hanging-from-treeAfter considering the end, then I consider the story’s climax action–the big blow-out, the major point at which we see the protagonist pitted against the antagonist. This occurs at the very end of the middle part of the plot–as close to the end of the story as possible. Because to have a bunch of stuff happening after the climax is just… anticlimactic.
  4. After the first draft is a time when you can weave in elements you deem important to your story such as theme (pandas), metaphor (pandas) and mood (pandas).
  5. Mood can move throughout the story, for instance, we might first see playful baby pandas. Then, later on, we might see (skip to the 3rd image) a panda thriving in the wild. And by the end of the story we can see redemptive images of humans feeling bad about the blight we have placed on pandas. By the end, you have successfully woven in several elements all pointing to the end. What has the human character learned? What has the panda learned? And, most importantly, what has the reader learned?

So, that’s how you add pandas into your daily writing. Maybe I have fulfilled my promise? And… maybe not. But I had fun!

Now, here’s a little extra panda wonderfulness that you should view. Enjoy!

And, you can buy my latest book #1 Amazon bestseller THE DEER EFFECT by Clicking Here!

5 Online Ways to Increase Your Author Presence

  1. BuildingBlocksBuild a website–To me this seems silly to post but you have no idea how many authors I know who still have no websites. They rely on their Amazon pages or nothing at all to direct their reading public to their books. I suppose this will work for some but for those who want to control content on their sites, you will not get that with an Amazon author page if you wish to categorize your books or if you wish to have a bio, a contact page, a newsletter, or a blog. Amazon pages are limited to what is uploaded to each book and a small amount of personal information like your bio and your social sites. WordPress, Blogger, and Wix (there are many others too now) allow you to customize your “store front” to your exact specifications and not Amazon’s or Barnes & Noble’s.
  2. Blog–If you can, blog on a regular basis whether you post once a week or five times a week. You accumulate followers by telling people in your social networks that you now are blogging. Hurray! As well, you accumulate followers when you follow other bloggers because they will tend to follow you back. It’s a synergistic way of gathering readers and getting your name out to the ethosphere. And each time you blog, your followers will get an email notification telling them you have posted an article. Once people begin to “like” or to comment on your posts, interact with them in meaningful ways. Don’t just say “Thanks!” and dash off. Tell them their comments strike you somehow. That they are kind to have commented at all. Be personal with your followers and they will share you with their followers sometimes by reblogging your posts! Or by sharing your link on Facebook and Twitter. Kindness goes along way with people. It certainly does with me. And, don’t forget to include buy links to your books.
  3. Social media–If you’re not already on Facebook and Twitter, you are missing books sales and referrals from these social avenues. I can’t say enough about getting accounts on social networks. Here are a few more obscure sites you might think about joining too: LinkedIn, Tumblr, Reddit, StumbleUpon, Ning, Vine, MeetMe, Flickr to name only a few. Of course you’ve heard of them but how many of you are actually active on these sites?
  4. Easy access to book content–Make sure the landing page on your website contains a book image (or images), reader reviews, and links to your buy sites as well as any book trailers and other videos of or about you or your books.
  5. Book sampling–This is what I’m talking about when I refer to book sampling… “You can find the first few chapters of my latest book, The Deer Effect, by CLICKING HERE.” These days authors must make their samples available online much like we would sample books in the bookstore. You can even use images of the back blurb to make sampling your book a more visceral experience to potential buyers.

So, there you go, 5 ways to increase your presence. I hope you employ these ideas now or soon. And, if you have success because of this short post, please pass me around to your friend. I write books too! ~Susan

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The Deer Effect by Susan WingateFor your Kindle book, go to: http://amzn.to/1AOB6a6

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10 Ways to Improve Your Writing Productivity

This post represents my beliefs as someone who has been writing full-time since 2004. First off, let me say that I don’t believe in writer’s block. I think writer’s block is an excuse to stumble. Productivity, or word count, must remain high on a writer’s list of most important things in their daily work. Why? Because with any business having a product to sell will determine whether or not you will succeed–not marketing, not social media. If you don’t have books to sell then you won’t sell any books. Pure. Simple. 02122015-IfOpportunityDoesntKnock-BerleQuote

So, how does a writer improve their word count? By improving their habits. And, as a side note, excuses irritate me. Don’t tell me why you can’t do something. Tell me how you can make it work for you.

I’ve developed the following list of 10 items to help improve your productivity and to add word count to your stories.

  1. Decide how many days a week you will write–Knowing your current schedule will limit your time to write. Some people rue over this, that all they can write is in the evening after the kids go to bed or only on the weekends, on Mondays and Thursdays, or on Sunday after Church. No need to rue when you have solid information that tells you, “Well, I can write between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday evening.” Basically, you’re turning your negativity and your limited time into a huge positive. When people have limited time for an activity–whether cleaning the house, playing a round of golf or writing, they tend to fit in the time for that activity. It’s all about choice here. If you want to write and you prefer to write, you will find time to write.
  2. Set aside time to work on your writing–Setting aside a specific amount of time each day to write will not only help improve your craft but it will also add word count to your story.
  3. Write in Segments–Segment writing will cause you to focus on what’s important about your current story. Break your writing up into several 15-minute chunks. Set a timer and begin and end with your timer. If you are not currently writing to a story, segment writing can be a great way to find a new story to expand into a longer piece. Segment writing is what I like to call “free” writing in that you can play around with new ideas, techniques, ways to format, new genres, poetics, and any other idea you want to practice on such as deepening characterization through voice, setting through applying different sensory perceptions, and conflict by employing hooks, foreshadowing and cliff-hangers.
  4. Read books about writing–Reading books on how-to-write or how-to-edit your work will make you a better writer. Much the way watching golf instruction on TV has made me a better golfer (no lie), reading within your craft about how-to develop character, setting, and conflict will strengthen your writing. Books like Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print by Renni Browne & Dave King, will help you avoid common writing mistakes before a real editor gets hold of your manuscript. Titles like The War of Art, and Bird by Bird are other books that focus on craft and the writing life.
  5. Writing-MotivationTake defined breaks–Defining your writing between stints at work and stints during breaks is key to being able to get back to writing. Allowing yourself “coffee” breaks of 5- to 10-minutes each, allows your mind to settle on what you have accomplished during your time at writing. Taking a defined lunch break allows you time to refuel your brain (see my “healthy choices” post). Eat, relax, walk the dog, read a book. Hey! You can even fold laundry or clean the toilet. All these things will fuel your writing mind to create better scenes with more visceral imagery to strengthen your story.
  6. Make sure to edit–Editing your work at the end of your writing session and again at the beginning of your writing session is always a good practice. At the end of writing, is when I catch all of my major boo-boo’s. I run my spell-checker to catch spelling errors and then go to my “usual” problem children such as to and too, they’re and their, hear and here–those problem children. I use the find and replace function in Word and fix those problems. When I come back the next day, I re-read what I wrote yesterday (or last time) and I edit for word choice and sentence structure. By the end of my story, my manuscript is fairly clean when I hand it off to an editor… can you guess what item #7 is going to be?
  7. Hire an independent editor–Editing your own work is great and makes your independent editor happy that she doesn’t have to delete or correct silly spelling errors and typos. It allows them to line edit for structure and grammar, syntax and clarity. Never send out your manuscript or self-publish without using an independent editor. Your work and your sales will suffer. Believe me, I know. I learned the hard way. Editors like Emily’s Eagle Eye Editing, Jim Thomsen, Jodie Renner, Renni Browne will strengthen your work and make it look professional when it arrives at the agent’s or the publisher’s desk. Put your best foot forward by hiring an independent editor to go over your work before sending it out.
  8. Set deadlines–Self-imposed writing deadlines will keep you on track. Sometimes. However, when you tell someone outside of you that you will be completed with a writing project within 6 weeks, you subconsciously make yourself accountable to that person. This works too, sometimes. So, why not make yourself accountable to your editor? Tell them you will be done with a project by May 13th (or whatever) and you will get them your MS on or before that date. What happens when you work with an independent editor is that they will clear their schedule for you. And you had better get them your work on or before that deadline or else they will lose money. Being responsible for someone else’s financial losses is a huge motivator but it can also be key for you to complete another project and get that story to an agent or a publisher for consideration. I like to set up deadlines for myself because when I meet the deadline I get a great sense of accomplishment in that I’m doing something to further my career by staying on track, by getting another story finished and by clearing the slate for my next writing job.
  9. Join a writing group–By meeting up with other writers on a regular basis will focus you to get work done on time. You will clear your slate when one or more authors are relying on you to give constructive comments about their writing in exchange for their comments on yours. I have been involved with several groups and the most successful ones are those who allow 5- to 10- double-spaced pages of work. Also, join groups where the writing is of fiction or nonfiction. Mixing genres can lead to weird dissatisfaction among members. Don’t ask me why but I have found that either fiction or nonfiction groups work well–but not both intermingled.
  10. Find a mentor–I often mentor fiction writers. I write fiction so mentoring students who write in nonfiction doesn’t work for me. I had a mentor early on in my career. Michael Collins will remain a key figure in my writing career. He gave me expert advice when I was flailing. He motivated me to write and encouraged me to continue a career in writing. He was honest sometimes brutally but I grew from our mentor-mentoree relationship. It was a priceless experience.

There are many more methods on how to become a more productive writer, I’m sure, but this list will help you right away. Basically, buckling down and pressing ahead are the ways to succeed in this industry. Try not to be discouraged and if you do, drop me a note. I’ll be your encouragement and will try to talk you out of your frustration. We’re all in it together. So let’s help each other the best we can.

I write books about God. Amen. 😉 ~Susan.

The Deer Effect by Susan WingateB&N-Button-LgAmazonImage

22 Fiction Publishers in 5 Fiction Genres

Here’s a little more help today with getting your books published. Below I’ve listed 22 publishers within 5 different fiction genres with click-thru”able” links. Most pay advances but check the submission guidelines to make sure.

!!!Remember, if you do not know how to approach a publisher or agent, or if you do not know how to write a query letter or a synopsis, please go to Writer’s Digest and other knowledgeable publishing trade magazines for help with the business side of books. I cannot stress this enough.

General/Mainstream Fiction

Young Adult/Children’s Books

Romance

Fantasy

Thriller/Mystery

Best wishes with your books and with your writing career!

I write books. You can check out my latest releases by clicking on the link below. And thank you for reading my work. ~Susan

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5 Essentials For Writers While Travelling

Old_Alaska_Airlines_logo_on_a_DC-3_(6194350906)I’m travelling this weekend, 2,000 miles south from where I now live. It’s not what I would call a happy trip although I’ll be seeing people who will make me happy just by seeing them–my sister, a girlfriend from times past, and my aunt who I feel is like a second mother to me. We grew up with her sons who were like the brothers my parents didn’t have. I remember these times with fondness and ennui. One of my “brothers” died years ago and my aunt is ill and this may be the last time I see her. So it goes…

But this post isn’t about why I’m travelling, it’s about how to travel… as an author.

I cannot impress to you enough, and above all else over clothing, food, or funds, take something handy to write on. Whether your writing equipment is your peripheral (smartphone, iPad, or other) or simply a memo pad and that old-fashioned thing we used to call a pen, always make sure to bring something handy with you to write on. You will inevitably find yourself waiting in lines or sitting at a terminal. Whenever you can, take plenty of notes. Doing so will help you with the following elements in a future story.

Characterization–Watching people interact and how they do so is key to characterization. I once saw a man in front of me yell at the security person checking people through. He asked her why she couldn’t hurry up and chastised her for her job, that it was a ridiculous job and worthless. He was demeaning and nasty. I think he might’ve been an author! I’m making that up. I have no idea what he did for work but I can feel sorry for those people he had to work with. I added my two cents about him and felt sorry for the gal he was giving it to. Now, here’s the thing: I have no idea what he was going through personally. All I saw was his treatment of other people. As an author (and a human being), I should ask questions of my characters, of what they might be going through that the reader isn’t aware of presently. Questions like these can add great subtext to your story.

sstein-140-exp-Sol_photoScene-setting–Airports are great for scene-setting because they are usually so utilitarian. Airport settings make it difficult to use words other than loud, sterile, harsh. But these words are general terms. What if we used words and phrases like echo-chamber, surgical, bitter as descriptors? These are words that make readers sink their teeth into your writing. Sol Stein goes into great detail about word choice and scene-setting in his book “Stein on Writing.” Grow your scene-setting and you can build great, new worlds for your reader.sstein-140-exp-Sow_jacket

Tension–Tension is the thing that makes our heads turn and causes our skin to prickle. Tension makes our hearts beat faster and our palms become sweaty. Tension is a reaction to something that may or may not erupt in seconds–whether an actual bomb, a fight, or a sudden sorrow. Tension can lead to conflict but doesn’t necessarily have to. Sometimes tension is deflated. Sometimes it’s aggravated. Either way, tension makes us react physically to a situation that may become bad fast.

Taxis and airports are great for observing tense moments. In the taxi, and I don’t care how many times I use one, the taxi driver never fails my expectations of him–to drive like he’s the stunt man in the final scene of Thelma & Louise. Swerving the cab, back and forth, to the each side of the white lines as he tries to shimmy in-between two buses–both flying at sixty mph and so close to each other that they could be one bus. Or… the child on the airplane in the seat just behind you who will not stop chattering, crying and kicking your seat. Or… the man who has fallen asleep and is listing toward your soft shoulder as he breathes out last night’s garlic dinner into your air space.

The taxi ride becomes heart palpitations. The child becomes clenched fists. The man becomes nausea. Write that. Let things happen to you and write them down.

ClanoftheCaveBear-51eWZxrwarLConflict–Conflict is the thing that happens (and usually swiftly) after initial feelings of tension. Although sometimes conflict can happen quite suddenly and without forewarning. I remember reading CLAN OF THE CAVE BEAR by Jean Auel. After the first page of scene-setting comes, in an instance, sudden, unexpected conflict. It’s awesome. If you have read this story, you know what I’m talking about. Auel leads the unsuspecting reader along by the nose and then, Boom! she drops the bomb. I love this story and use it often as an example in my writing workshops. For one, it’s a perfect way to start a story and two, her conflict is utter disaster. Utter. Disaster. The reader has no other choice but to continue reading to find out what happens.

Conflict is the thing that makes a character choose either the right path or the wrong one. In novel-writing, we must make the character fail at least two times until the final conflict choice is set–always against our hero’s foe–and one our character has no other choice to do but to choose–to end all of the trouble, whether to live–think of my latest story The Deer Effect. Or, to die–think of Thelma & Louise.

Voice–Voice is one of my favorite elements of writing. It distinguishes authors. It creates sound and sets theme and can even be metaphorical if used correctly. Voice will separate your writing like nothing else. Ernest Hemingway was what I call a “voice-y” author. But his voice was found in authorial voice, not necessarily in character voice although he employed character voice as well. No, his voice can be found in his writing style, his word choice, his sentence structure, his poetics. I love the first line in his great novel A Moveable Feast. It goes like this: Then there was the bad weather.

He begins the story as though the reader has just walked in on his conversation with someone else. The phrase doesn’t particularly make you want to know what’s going to happen. Not really. What this sentence does do is make you want to know what you missed! Brilliant. You feel like saying to Hemingway, “What were you talking about?” But you’ve already missed that part of the story so you have to sit down and hear the rest. That’s genius.

Hemingway’s authorial voice distinguished him from other lesser authors of the time. How do you distinguish yourself in your writing?

Anyway, writing while you’re travelling will also give you something to do during the down times. And, life, as we know, can be filled with dull moments between the conflicts and tension. And, aren’t we blessed for those dull times. They are what allow us for introspection and meditation, for prayers.

But also writing while travelling is a means for you, you lovely authors, to get away from your usual writing spot. Writing while travelling will focus your writing, in ways your usual environment will not. You won’t have the cat wanting in or the dogs barking. You won’t have to stop to prepare the kids’ lunches and you won’t have to clean up the kitchen. What you will have is free time. Time to observe your new environment and all the new bodies taking up space in that environment. An airport, a train, a taxi ride are author’s smorgasbords. So, enjoy the variety. Taste how good these new sights can be. When you do, your travel will fly by and, hey, you will be writing. Go figure.

I write books. ~Susan.

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