The Writer’s Block Tip#3 by Jason Rekulak

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To outline  or not to outline  by Jason Rekulak

Outliners are most common among thriller and mystery writers, for obvious reasons. Jeffery Deaver (The Bone Collector) claims that the surprising plot twists of his suspense novels wouldn’t be possible unless he plotted out all of the details in advance; he usually spends eight months researching and writing the outline, and four months writing the manuscript itself.

But non-genre writers use outlines too. John Barth wrote: “I don’t see how anybody starts a novel without knowing how its going to end. I usually make detailed outlines; how many chapters it will be and so forth.”

On the other side of the fence are writers who prefer a more organic approach to their craft; Aldous Huxley wrote, “I know very dimply when I start what’s going to happen. I just have a very general idea, and then the thing develops as I write.”

If you are suffering from writer’s block, try changing your approach. Make a detailed outline of the story – or plunge headfirst into the opening paragraph without any idea where you are going. Either way, the change in routine may be surprisingly effective.

 

Readers, are you a planner (outliner) or a pantser (fly by the seat)?  Personally, I am a basic outliner, but I allow my characters to lead the story, which sometimes takes it into unplanned territory. One funny experience I had while deep in the writing of my 2nd novel, Town Without Mercy, the dialogue between the two protagonists seem to write itself. When I was done, I laughed out loud, saying “That is not what I had in my outline at all.” But the story was better for it.

What have your experiences been in stepping out of your routine? Surprising outcomes?

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9 Ways Dating Has Changed In The Thirty Years I Have Been Away

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Candy Cooper McDowall

This is a Facebook post from my daughter that I wish to share with you (with her permission).  I am sure you will love it as much as I did. No author/writer lessons here today or  Author Interview. But I think you will find some wisdom and humor.

posted August 22, 2014 at 4:51pm

When I was a teenager, my father told me I was not allowed to date until I was 16. Yes, you read that right. 16. That’s not to say I didn’t hit the occasional basketball game with a “friend” or double-date for the movies (that we walked to). But for a legitimate date, one that involved alone time between me and A BOY, I had to wait until that magical age of teen maturity. Sweet 16.

I remember pretty distinctly sitting at the dinner table telling my dad that I had been asked out for my first date, and having to ask his permission to go. He tried to be funny. He failed. I will leave the out the details.

However, this was 1982 or thereabouts. There were rules. Some of them were imposed by my dad. Some were just, you know, how it was done. But there were guidelines we pretty much all knew ahead of time. It never occurred to me they might be variable. They just… were. Which, I suppose, was fairly naïve considering dating in the 8Os was not very much like dating in the 50s, which is equally not like dating in the 20s. Still, these were the times I knew, along with the rest of my contemporaries. We were trying to act all grownup in our awkward bodies with our rampant hormones and having no idea what we were doing, guessing at societal norms in order to know how to proceed. Whether we followed them or not is not the point. They were there.

Fast forward 30 years…or so…

Stepping back out into the world of dating as a single woman in her 40s, with almost grown children watching, has been daunting. I’ve changed. The world has changed. But the one thing I did not expect is that DATING HAS CHANGED. Caught me totally off guard with that one.

I was scared enough as it is, with my previously unscarred heart now battered and slightly bruised. But at least, I thought, this time I had experience. This time, I knew what was coming. This time, I am all grown up in my not-too-shabby-for-my-age body, possibly with some raging hormones (which are likely menopausal), having some idea of what I am doing, because this time I KNOW the societal norms that tell me how to proceed. Whether I follow them or not is not the point. THIS TIME at least I know the rules.

Hah. Ahaha. Ahahahahahahaha!  WRONG.

I give you…online dating.

If you had said the words “online dating”  in the 80s we would have wondered what laundry had to do with your love life.

And so at this time, I would like to enumerate for you lucky souls who are NOT negotiating this newly-laid digital landmine, or maybe those of you who are jumping into those waters again, what is it like to be a teenager of the 80s dating in this new millenium. For those of you already doing it, high five for bravery.

80s Rule #1 – If a boy asks you out, he probably likes you.

I mean, he had to get up the nerve, look you in the eye (or write you a note), get made fun of by his friends, and then wait nervously for you to say yes. You don’t do all that for somebody you aren’t really interested in. It’s too nerve-wracking.

2014 Version – If you see a picture of someone you find interesting, and he sees yours, you might start a conversation. You will probably be emailing or texting for awhile. This might lead him to ask if you possibly want to get coffee or something. Maybe. He might just flirt. Or be cautiously distant so that you aren’t sure if he is interested or just bored from sitting home alone. And then right about the time YOU are ready to ask HIM if he wants to get coffee or something, because, you know, you are a modern confident woman and he already said he likes coffee, he will suddenly disappear and delete his profile. Likely in the middle of the conversation you were having and probably right after he just asked you out for that coffee.

80s Rule #2 – Your date must pick you up at the door.

There was no way in hell my father was going to miss out on the chance to terrorize any potential suitor of mine, even while being polite. I think it was the smile that threw them off. The anticipation of meeting The Father was likely much worse than the experience of meeting The Father himself.

2014 Version – Your date must not know where you live for a very long time.

It’s very possible you don’t have a good idea of what your date really looks like, since those pics he uploaded were from when he still had hair. (Side note: Beware the naked bathroom selfie. That would have gotten you arrested in 1982.) And since you are a single woman now, probably alone in the house in the primping hours prior to any first date, for safety’s sake, a new guy can’t get within 100 yards of you without a room full of caffeinated strangers, who may or may not be looking up when you walk in, but could at least call 911 if they heard screaming.

80s Rule #3 – Your date pays for dinner.

His dad probably slipped him a 20 on the way out the door, and reminded him to tip the waiter.

2014 Version – You get there early enough to buy your own coffee so there is no awkward reaching for your wallet as he reaches for his, not knowing if he really wants to buy your coffee or just feels socially obligated. Or he buys his own coffee and leaves you standing there feeling like a dolt for assuming those were together.

80s Rule #4 – If it is a nice date, he might ask you out again before the night is over.

I mean, you like each other. It was fun. Why not?

2014 Version – If it is a nice date, he will likely wait until he gets home, and then text or email you a day or two (or 5) later to see if you would like to go out again.

I had a guy say to me in all honesty, “I never ask a woman out for a second date while we are still on the first date, because then it avoids the whole awkward refusal thing.” Because truthfully, the chance of being turned down for the second date is much higher when you don’t know each other to begin with. I can’t exactly fault the guy. So you might be waiting for awhile for that second request. Or it might not be coming at all. Hard to say.

80s Rule #5 – If it is a nice date, there might be a goodnight kiss.

There might not, if one or both of you is shy. But there was little chance of more happening on that first date than a bit of awkward groping in the driveway. Not to say that more wouldn’t happen later, but much first date action was unlikely.

2014 Version – You have to state in writing on a public forum whether or not you are willing to have sex on a first date.

I wish I was joking.

80s Rule #6 – Once you are a couple, it is ok to slide across the bench seat and sit next to him while he is driving.

2014 Version – First, you probably aren’t even in his car for awhile. See Rule #2. But if you have made it that far, the bench seat is long gone. The best you can do is try to hold hands over the console between the bucket seats and hope you don’t lose feeling in your wrist.

80s Rule #7 – If your friends like him, he’s probably ok.

2014 Version – If he’s ok, your friends might like him. But not necessarily.

80s Rule #8 – If things don’t work out, there is probably an emotional breakup in person, but if he’s a real heel, it might be over the phone.

But if he did that.. COWARD! Couldn’t even look you in the eye. (spit) And then all your friends and family get to say mean things about him, and he wasn’t worth your time anyway.

2014 Version – If things don’t work out, a text message is a convenient and efficient way to get out of a potential relationship without having to bear witness to the other person’s heart breaking right in front of you.

But then, all your friends and family get to say mean things about him, and he wasn’t worth your time anyway.

Some things don’t change that much at all.

80s Rule #9 – If it all goes well, you gaze happily into each other’s eyes, put your picture in the newspaper, and start planning that over-the-top wedding with the giant cake and people from your dad’s office you’ve never met.

2014 Version – If all goes well, you slowly introduce each other to your respective children, quietly move in together one dresser drawer at a time, and maybe sneak off in a private little ceremony to tie the knot at some point. But not necessarily. Let’s not move too fast here.

Wish me luck. At least now I know the rules.

Candy Cooper McDowall ©2014

 

Sci-fi catches up with today’s world to become a modern day thriller in The Janus Code

It is my pleasure to have my friend, Judy Loose with us today on Author Interview Friday. I love the tag line to her book – which always gets eyebrows raised at book events.  “What if the ultimate computer firewall protection turned out to be the ultimate computer snooper?”

Tell us when you first knew that you wanted to be a writer and was there a particular inspiration to get started?

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I started making up stories practically when I started talking. I started writing them down when I learned to write.

Do you have a background in writing or take any special writing courses that helped you along the way?

I had a teacher in high school who made me write a 2000 word essay every time I acted up in class. He was meticulous in his grading and editing of what I wrote.

I took an adult-education writing course at the age of fifty, which got me back on track with writing after not writing anything except business and technical for many years. Most of the members of that class ended up on a writers critique group that stayed together many years. Critique groups and writers groups have been very helpful in keeping me writing and hopefully doing it well.

How long did it take you to publish your fist manuscript?

My first published novel, The Janus Code (self-published on Create Space in August 2013), was written in 1995 as science fiction or speculative fiction. Technology has caught up; much of what I predicted in the novel is happening today. So I dug out the manuscript, rewrote it for today, and published it.

Shortly after taking the adult-ed. writing course, I started publishing poetry and short stories. I wrote five complete novels before trying to publishing one.

Do you always write in the same genre?

No, I write across various genres and I use two different author names. The Janus Code is an international tech thriller published under my maiden name, J.C. Ferguson. The next novel I plan to publish, Mangrove Madness, is a humorous female PI adventure that I have sent to publishers as Judy Loose. One of my unpublished novels is a romance, one is women’s fiction.

Many of us cross over genres and it is difficult to pinpoint one to fit our books. For the book we are promoting today, what shelf would we find it on if it were in a bricks and mortar bookstore?

I believe it would be on the mystery or thriller shelf.

Are you published through a traditional publishing house? If yes, how did you find your agent and publisher?

I have another novel, Mangrove Madness, which has been with an agent and a couple of publishers for a long, long time with no answer as to whether or not it will ever be published. I found my agent by sending out many (close to 100) query letters. My agent contacted the publishers.

Why did you choose to go the self-publishing Indie route this time in lieu of traditional publication? What were the deciding factors to choosing your publisher? Would you recommend that same Indie publisher to a colleague?

One of the reasons I decided to self-publish is because of the length of time it takes to get a response from traditional publishers. I decided to use Create Space after researching the options and listening to the stories other authors tell of their experiences in self-publishing. To me, Create Space is the easiest, most flexible, and least expensive way to self-publish. I would recommend using them to any author.

Do you always write in the same POV or narrative or do you switch it up in different stories?

I wrote The Janus Code in third person past. I do switch POV for different stories. I like to write in first person present (Mangrove Madness for example). I have not yet written a novel with multiple points of view. Maybe I’ll try it with my next one.

What does  finding your “voice” mean to you and how did you find yours?

I think “voice” has to do with a writer’s personality and view of the world. I’m not sure I could say how I found mine. I just start writing and the characters in my stories take over.

Do you follow a structure pattern such as staying in chronological order, or alternating points in time or different POV’s?

I write from beginning to end and then go back and fix what doesn’t work, editing many times. Structure? What’s that? The books seem to be coherent when I finish. The closest thing to structure that I use is  –  try to make every chapter end so that the reader wants to continue with the next chapter.

What was the hardest part for you in the writing process; the outline, synopsis, query or building the story itself?

Building the story is the fun part. All those other things that come after (for me at least) trying to write a synopsis, query, outline, summary for the back of the book, a tag line, etc., are difficult for me. I still have problems with a 30-second elevator speech for The Janus Code, and I know the book inside and out.

It is not enough to write a book and wait for the money to start rolling in. What marketing techniques do you implement to increase your sales?

I’m a lousy marketer, so I’m not the one to ask. I need to hire someone to market my book. I have a friend who is a great salesperson and she does some marketing for me. I build websites, so I have a few that I created to promote my book.

www.judyloose.com

www.jcferguson.net

www.januscode.com

www.amazon.com/author/jcferguson

Are you a pantser or a planner?

I fly by the seat of my pants when I write. I may not have the slightest idea where I’m going when I start writing. I guess that makes me a “pantser.”

What advice would you give to new writers just getting started with their first manuscript?

Just sit down, write, and keep writing. Don’t look back. You can always go back and edit or fix after you’ve finished.

Was there a mistake you made in your writing process you could share with us?

My biggest mistake was not bothering to publish what I wrote for a long time. I think it was because I hated the thought of marketing. Don’t wait. It’s such a thrill to see your book in print.

What in your background gave you insight for writing your current book?

The Janus Code plot is based on technology. I worked in the high-tech industry, designing, installing, and managing computer systems and IT departments for 30-plus years. Even though I dropped out of the industry to work for myself a number of years ago, I still work with computers every day. I stay current with technology out of necessity. I try to write so that anyone, even those with NO computer savvy, can follow the story and don’t feel overwhelmed by techy talk.

Another aspect of the book is its international flavor. I have visited or lived in all the locations in the book. I love to travel.

I based the protagonist in the book on a friend who was bi-polar (although the character took on his own completely different personality as I wrote).

Please share a few paragraphs from your book to wet out appetite?

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The Janus Code

By J.C. Ferguson

Traffic was light but steady through the Schwarzwald at two a.m. Headlights cut the black ribbon of the Autobahn at a steady speed of two hundred and forty kilometers; flashing each time they approached other vehicles that moved quickly out of the path.

Maurice Vivant drove the Lamborghini Gallardo on instinct, his body an extension of the controls, his conscious mind barely aware of the wheel in his hands or the pedals beneath his feet, leaving him free to review and strategize.

–  –  –

A dark Mercedes blocked Maurice’s path in the high-speed lane, drawing his attention back to the road. He swerved into the slower lane, pulling ahead and around. The other car picked up speed, moved to his right, matching pace. Maurice peered at the Mercedes but couldn’t see the driver through the tinted windows. He imagined the driver as his opponent, taunting him. Maurice stepped hard on the gas and the Lamborghini leaped ahead. When the lights faded in the rear view mirror, he dropped back to the original two-forty.

–  –  –

Lights approached from behind, snapping him out of his reverie. He had crossed the border into Switzerland, slowing to accommodate the curves through the Alps. He increased speed to stay ahead of the oncoming lights, but they continued to gain. Allowing the other car to overtake him, he played with the driver on the mountain bends to see what he was made of, forcing him to stay in the oncoming traffic lane as they moved into a series of sharp turns. The view of approaching cars would be obstructed for several miles. He glanced at the vehicle to his left, recognizing the Mercedes that had raced him on the Autobahn.

Adrenaline pumping, he concentrated on the road and watched for the flicker of approaching lights. A glow appeared on the roadway, warning of a car around the bend. The Mercedes swerved into his lane, bumping the side of the Lamborghini. In the oncoming lights, Maurice caught a glimpse of the other driver, grinning at him, as the heavy Mercedes pushed the lighter car sideways. In the shock of recognition, he lost control. His car jumped to the right, front tire exploding as it dropped off the edge of the pavement.

He pulled hard on the wheel, but the gravel held the blown-out tire. Still speeding forward, the Lamborghini crashed through the guardrail and flew over the embankment, spewing gravel and vegetation as it launched into air. Time suspended for Maurice. The thrill of flying down the mountain into the black night consumed him, and he laughed out loud at this last challenge.