Happy April! It is no fooling that I enjoy sharing my favorite top ten links with you all every Monday. This week I have a wonderful batch of links for you to enjoy that are mainly writing tips. Have a great week and try not to prank too many people this April Fool’s Day.
Author Jennifer Arntson is a dreamer first, a writer second, and a sworn enemy of Caillou forever. Please give her a warm welcome to No Wasted Ink.
A typical day for me starts like any other: I rush kids off to school, feed the dog, and the such, but what happens after that can be just as random to me as it is for anyone else. Sure, I’ve got a laundry list of tasks to be completed, but there are times that list goes untouched because of rain, feral pigs, or the local wandering domesticated dog pack we call ‘the puppy squad.’ Why? Well, I live on 160-acre ranch in southern Texas. Did I start here? Nope. This summer I moved from the Pacific Northwest (Go Hawks!) to follow my dreams. As such, I hunt pecans, pigs, invasive species vegetation, and shade in the triple digit weather.
When and why did you begin writing?
Like so many other authors, I had a dream I couldn’t shake. I never thought it would turn into anything, honestly. Because I’m a list person, I thought if I wrote my ideas down I’d be able to forget about them and go on with my day. As I did, the story flowed from my mind, down my fingers, and into page after page on my computer. My mom called me one afternoon and asked what I was doing, and when I told her, she asked to read it. It wasn’t done of course, but I sent it to her anyway. She called a few hours later and asked, “Where’s the rest of it?” There was no more, though. “Then I’m hanging up. Go write more.” So, I guess you can say my mother made me do it.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Oh…the day I held my book in my hands. I still remember the smell of it. You know, that new book smell? It was like that only better. My name on the cover made my head spin. In fact, my husband recorded the moment I opened the proof copy (and posted it online, ergh) and I said, “It’s real.” That’s when I knew. Looking back on the whole experience, I realize I was a writer long before that. The moment I sat down at my computer was when I became a writer. Silly how we need proof.
Can you share a little about your current book with us?
My new release is the fourth book in the Scavenger Girl Series. Each of the novels follows a Scavenger named Una for a single season. She and her family have been convicted by the Authority and forced to live in the fringes of society, and as things change…so does she. When asked to describe the series I tell people it’s as if Twilight and Hunger Games had a baby delivered by Christian Grey, in a hospital run by Quentin Tarantino. While you won’t find vampires, shapeshifters, or child assassins, you will find a world that breaks the boundaries of traditional genres. Full of suspense and mystery, Una’s world is shrouded with classic dystopian elements and of course a bit of romance!
What inspired you to write this book?
At first, I wanted to get it out of my head. Now, it’s as if the characters themselves want their story told. They won’t let me be until I do.
Do you have a specific writing style?
No, not really. My writing style is thinking things up and writing them down. I know I should have something eloquent about which author has inspired me, but that’s like saying which dish made me like the taste of food. All of it, none of it. Honestly, I write what I like to read. Perhaps that’s why it’s so hard to stay within a single genre.
How did you come up with the title of this book?
Here’s a secret: This wasn’t the original title! My initial beta readers kept referring to Una as ‘that Scavenger Girl’ and it stuck. Since each book is about a season, we added that. In an effort for people to know what order to read them in, we put roman numerals on the cover and the rest fell together easily.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Many people say a person’s future is what they make of it, but that’s not always true. It’s also not the most important thing. Family, honesty, friendships…these are the true treasures worth pursuing.
Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Much of what you’ll read from any author is an amalgamation of their experiences, worldview, and assessment of things happening around them. While Scavenger Girl isn’t about a specific person or place, it is about the spirit and strength that we all share, and the parts of us we try so desperately to hide. I believe what we see in others is a product of their experiences and we judge it through a filter we’ve spent our whole lives creating. Perspective and grace go a long way.
What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?
I’m a huge fan of fantasy, though I sometimes get bogged down in the details. In the last five years or so I’ve discovered some extremely talented indie authors that dance in multiple genres. They are the ones that gave me a long leash to explore. My love of reading flourished once I started writing. I started eating, breathing and sleeping books. I think the stories that took me out of my daily grind were best. Our world touched with a bit of magic…that’s what I like. Still, I’m looking for fairies (even though I’ve learned they are trouble!)
If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?
I consider everyone I read to be a mentor. It’s funny…when you’re a writer, you’re not reading only to be entertained or to find an avenue for escape. When I read, I’m actively learning. What do I devour? What makes me wince? Is a turn of phrase they use to provide an essence I find missing in my work? Oh, that word is perfect; I’m going to use it. It is said that art inspires art. I now understand what that means.
Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?
My husband and I did. We have backgrounds in graphic art and prefer simple statements in creative communication. The standalones that are coming out this year have a bit of a different look, though.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Keep writing. Don’t listen to your doubt. Pay for a good proofreader.
I’ve been lucky to have a huge on-line support group of highly talented people. That has been the best gift, really. Early on I realized there are a lot of people out there willing to take advantage of new writers and the seasoned professionals I met through Facebook groups and the like, made all the difference.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I have nothing but gratitude for everyone who has invested in my work. As an author I know I’m asking for two of your most valuable resources: your time and your hard earned money. Because of that, I promise I will always provide you with my very best, and I will never forget that it is because of you that Una lives. Thank you for taking this journey with me!
San Antonio, TX
Scavenger Girl: Season of Atchem
Happy Monday! It is time for another batch of writers links from No Wasted Ink. This week I found several great articles about the craft of writing in addition to author marketing advice. I hope you enjoy the selection.
When I first began attending workshops for writing fiction, there would be a question-answer session after the presentation. Invariably someone in the audience would ask the author-speaker, “Where do you get your ideas from?” The reply was basically “If you have to ask that question, you aren’t a writer!”
At first, I agreed with the assumption that you’re not a writer if you can’t come up with ideas because I never lacked for ideas. Then it dawned on me that the people asking the question of where do you get your ideas from, didn’t know how, or had never been taught, how to look for and be aware of ideas with story potential.
To be aware is to have or show knowledge or understanding or realization or perception. So, in a nutshell, the secret to generating story sparkers (ideas) comes from awareness—either on a conscious or subconscious level.
Awareness is also about sensory perceptions coming into play. For instance, take the sight perception of seeing and reading a newspaper headline at the bottom of page ten: “Bank Safe Explodes.” The awareness factor strikes, you pause and re-read the headline. The mind begins to extrapolate— what caused the vault to explode? Who would put a bomb or chemicals, or explosives in a bank vault box? What if instead . . . maybe after the bank was evacuated because of a wild fire, thieves came in, robbed the safe, tossed in explosives, then got away.
You then read the news item and become enthralled by other possibilities—ones based on the reality of the situation. And so the what-ifs multiply and the idea blossoms and intrigues even more. This is exciting stuff that stories are made of.
As to awareness on the subconscious level, remember the subconscious is always in the background recording and noticing things. Therefore, anything noted by the subconscious might trigger a heightened reaction of awareness that sparks an idea for a story. However, when it comes to outside-the-box concepts and ideas, the subconscious mind is an innovator. The subconscious has a penchant for randomly mixing-and-matching things or relishing in the juxtaposition of elements and concepts. Good fodder for stories.
The hard part about getting ideas is determining if the idea has merit enough to spend the time and energy writing the story. It’s about asking “will this idea sell?” That is, is there a market for such a story? Another problem with vetting an idea is figuring out what kind of length the story will end up as—flash fiction or a novella, novel, or saga. In truth, a story will end up being whatever length it is when drafted. It’s in the revision process that length can be adjusted, or not.
It’s also important to reflect on the idea and ask “Has anyone else beaten me to this story idea? If so, how can I make mine unique and more appealing?”
Even though anything can spark a tale, the bottom line is that to become a producing writer of worth, you need ideas—lots of ideas. Generating more ideas means becoming far more aware of possibilities and to actively look at your environment with “new vision” and a “new sense of touch or taste” or listen for sounds or snippets of conversation. What follows is a list of 12 possibilities for increasing awareness and generating story sparks:
1. reading newspapers, especially headlines on interior pages because truth is often stranger than fiction
2. driving down a road, you see a sign or billboard, logo on a truck, a sticker on a vehicle, etc. that leads to a story spark (pull over to the side of the road and write the idea down, or dictate the gist of the idea into a voice recorder—but avoid texting and driving)
3. beginning with a crime. What is the crime (murder, theft, etc.)? Who would commit such a crime? Why would they commit such a crime? Who must solve the crime or seek justice?
4. looking at a landscape picture (on a calendar or from a magazine, newspaper, Pinterest, etc.) and asking— Would this make a setting for a story? If so, what kind of story? What kind of person or people could live on such a beautiful/harsh/exotic/sparse landscape?
5. reading poetry and discovering a zinger of an image or wording that awes
6. browsing the Internet (searching for something but coming across an interesting aspect that might spark a story)
7. being on the lookout for an animal that fascinates you *
8. being on the lookout for a flower or plant that amazes you *
9. being on the lookout for a fish that astounds you *
* these can be real (alive) or prehistoric, even drawings of the mythical
10. being on the lookout for a little-known ship or plane that had an amazing or unusual voyage in space or underwater
11. listening to snippets of conversation at parties, restaurants, etc. Ask: Who would say such a thing? Why?
12. visiting your local library and browsing the stacks for interesting titles or book covers, or looking through magazines you normally would never notice
Lastly, truth is often stranger than fiction. So, start with a reality and let your imagination ponder a fantasy worthy of a story.
Post Script — the list above is taken from “Story Ideas—32 Ways to Find Them,” which is available as a free “Writers Cheat Sheet“.
As one reviewer put it, Catherine’s stories are “brain candy for anyone liking action and character-driven stories.” Catherine writes lighthearted tales of phantasy realms and stardust worlds (fantasy, paranormal, and space opera/soft science fiction). Her stories are adventure-quests where characters are like real people facing real dilemmas. It’s where their journey (with or without a romance) has a satisfying ending.
Catherine began her writing career as a journalist and earned Pennwriters Published Penn status from articles and short stories. Her short stories have appeared in hardcover and online anthologies and magazines. Many of those short stories are in her anthology ADRADA TO ZOOL.
Her books include JEWELS OF THE SKY (sci-fi adventure), KARMA & MAYHEM (paranormal fantasy romance), and HEARTS AKILTER (a fantasy/sci-fi romance novella).
She has been giving online and in-person workshops and courses for more than two decades. At https://www.WritersCheatSheets.com, she offers free Writers Cheat Sheets and maintains a blog for writers at https://writerscheatsheets.blogspot.com/. Some of her courses are available as 1-on-1 Fiction Writing Courses (information is at https://www.writerscheatsheets.com/1-on-1-courses-for-writers-authors.html
Also available is “Terrific Titles—an all inclusive guide to creating story titles.” Her nonfiction guidebook for writers is REVISION IS A PROCESS – HOW TO TAKE THE FRUSTRATION OUT OF SELF-EDITING.
Join her Reader or Writers Bulletin List.