Monthly Archives: March 2016

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speak no evil in your writing

Eff This: The Trick to Using Profanity in Your Writing

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Using Profanity in Your Writing

Stephen King is perhaps one of the most outspoken advocates of using foul language in writing. I once attended a lecture given by him in Virginia, just before the release of his blockbuster Misery. He ranted about banned books and censorship (his books had been roundly censored in schools for descriptive vulgar language). He defended his generous pepperings of expletives by noting he was writing about “real” characters, and, quite frankly, real people swear. This is true. And I don’t have any problem with you (or Mr. King) using profanity in your writing. But you must do it judiciously.

I recall having read King’s 1,076 page behemoth Under the Dome. If I hadn’t invested so much time in it, I would have quit half-way through because I got so tired of everyone in his small, fundamentalist town having such a potty mouth. Not because I am offended by such language — but because it’s just not believable. The very thing King claims his use of rough language does–creates believable characters–was the thing I felt his language fell short of doing. It is not believable that nearly every person in a highly religious small town swears profusely, so the story ends up seeming overdone and forced.

I know, I know — who am I to criticize the Master of Horror? A reader, that’s who. And you must consider your readers when choosing colorful invective to add spice (and realism) in your writing. Perhaps your natural inclination is to cuss every time you open your mouth. That’s well and good–some people do this–and I suspect Stephen King is probably one of them. However, not all people speak this way, so neither should all, or even most, of your characters unless you are writing about a specific group that would naturally share this characteristic.

Using Vulgarity Wisely

So how should you know when to take the profanity plunge? Here are few quick rules that can help you decide whether or not to let loose.

Know Your Audience

Are you writing a Christian romance or a children’s or young teens’ book? Then perhaps you’d be best served by leaving off the crude talk. Your audience realizes that $**t happens, but they are probably not interested in hearing it.

Make Sure the Crime Fits the Character

If you choose to use profanity or a facsimile thereof, make sure it fits the profile of the character spewing it. A twenty-something thug is not likely to say “dang” and the kindly elderly lady next door is probably not going to drop the f-bomb. Unless there is some compelling reason for your characters to speak, well, out of character, then keep the language appropriate to the person.

Use Sparingly for Best Results

Like any good spice, profanity, crude language, and sexual double entendres are best used sparingly. Yes, Stephen King, we’ve all heard kids whose every other word was an f-bomb and guess what: It makes them hard to understand–even in real life. So if you have a hard-living, hard-swearing baddie in your word pile, let him or her use invective in specific instances for the biggest impact and so you don’t run the risk of irritating your readers with relatively boring streams of cuss words.  Remember, a kid whose parent swears constantly learns to tune them out, but when the kid whose parent never cusses drops the f-word, everyone stops and pays attention.

What do you think about profanity? Do you use it in your writing? Why or why not? I’d love to hear!

See you on the next page!

Nikki Bee

 

 


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Here's your horror writing prompt--what's in your closet tonight?

March 26, 2016: Horror Writing Prompt

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Today’s horror writing prompt explores the monsters in your closet. Are there skeletons (real or imagined) in there? What does your closet look like? Is it a dark, cobwebby compartment in your mind or is it a very real space in your childhood home, current home, or even a motel, hotel, cabin, or hunting lodge.

How will you deal with your closeted monster? Will you feed it and help it grow or will you try to exterminate it? Have you tried to seal it in only to find it with its eye at the crack of the door jamb, watching you intently?

So, what’s in there?

Go–write!

See you on the next page!

Nikki Bee


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how being antisocial can improve your writing process

How Being Antisocial Can Improve Your Writing Process

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Current marketing wisdom denounces the life of the solitary writer, claiming that introverts can’t win in today’s crowded market. But what if I told you that being antisocial is the perfect way to improve your writing process?

While there’s no doubt that social media has its place in a writer’s marketing plan, many people waste a lot of writing time being distracted by the internet as a whole and social media in particular. Add to these the distractions of chores to be done, errands to run, family obligations, and ringing phones and you have a recipe for busy day in which you accomplish practically nothing on the writing front.

I don’t think you need to be a recluse à la Salinger or Faulkner, but as introvert author Cormac McCarthy once said:

“If you spend a lot of time talking about a book, you probably shouldn’t be talking about it, you should be doing it.”

Unfortunately, just being introverted doesn’t solve the problem of time-wasting in this modern era of cell phones and social media. Writers that need to get down to business often need a little help to carve out some truly private time. If you want to make some changes to your writing process to get your ink flowing more freely, read on.

Schedule Time for Your Writing Process

Treat your writing like a job, not a hobby and you will see your success infinitely magnified. Even if you are a part-time writer, schedule time in your day specifically for writing and then stick to it. Write it in your calendar. Think of it as non-negotiable. And then simply spend that entire time writing.

Prepare for Maximum Distraction

Don’t just sit down to write thinking that because you’ve scheduled your time everyone will respect it. You have to take charge of your own destiny to some extent. First, turn OFF your cell phone. It’s hard to write if you’re being constantly interrupted with calls or social media notifications. The world won’t end if you don’t respond to a text for an hour or two, I promise.

Many writers are easily distracted by the internet, since most are working on a computer as they write. If you must do research as part of your writing process, it’s even more likely that you may wander off on a tangent as you’re searching through information. So:

  • If you don’t have to do any research, KEEP YOUR INTERNET BROWSER CLOSED! Only have your writing program (Word, Pages, Scrivener, Storyist, etc.) open while you’re working. Make that a rule and stick to it!

If you use social media for marketing or personal reasons, this can bring an even greater impact to your schedule. This post from Technori shows how just an occasional social media “check” can turn into over 2 hours of wasted time in an 8-hour day. Incredible! If you have trouble keeping yourself from sneaking a peek at your social media accounts during writing time, try this:

  • The Anti-Social App that will block social media and targeted websites that you determine for as little as 15 minutes or as long as 8 hours. Best of all, it works with both Mac and Windows operating systems. Another app, Self Control, is free but is limited to Mac users. A similar program for PC users is Freedom.
  • If you want to monitor how you’re spending your time, try FocusBooster (for Macs and PCs). It’s based on the Pomodoro productivity technique that I outline in this post.

You can use any or all of these techniques, but the most important thing to remember is that your writing process represents your livelihood; your career. Be serious about it. Protect yourself from distraction and give yourself the time and space you need to write the amazing words you’re capable of!

See you on the next page!

Nikki Bee

 


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indie book of the month author profile murder in absentia novel

Indie Book-of-the-Month: Murder in Absentia

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indie author assaph mehrIndie Book-of-the-Month Author Profile: Assaph Mehr

My indie book-of-the-month for March is the fast-paced genre-busting novel Murder in Absentia, by talented Aussie author Assaph Mehr.

Assaph has been a bibliophile since he learnt to read at the age of five, and a Romanophile ever since he first got his hands on Asterix, way back in elementary school. This exacerbated when his parents took him on a trip to Rome and Italy – he whinged horribly when they dragged him to “yet another church with baby angels on the ceiling”, yet was happy to skip all day around ancient ruins and museums for Etruscan art. 

He has since been feeding his addiction for books with stories of mystery and fantasy of all kinds. A few years ago he randomly picked a copy of a Lindsay Davis’ Marcus Didius Falco novel in a used book fair, and fell in love with Rome all over again, this time from the view-point of a cynical adult. His main influences in writing are Steven Saylor, Lindsey Davis, Barry Hughart and Boris Akunin. 

Assaph now lives in Sydney, Australia with his wife Julia, four kids and two cats. By day he is a software product manager, bridging the gap between developers and users, and by night he’s writing – he seems to do his best writing after midnight.

What is the book’s genre?

Straight to the hard questions… The short version is “historical fantasy” – it’s a semi-historical setting mixed with fantasy elements.

The more complete description would be, “an Historically-themed Urban High-Fantasy Noir Detective Mystery (with a splash of Horror)”. Or, as some readers told me, “Harry Dresden in a Toga”.

Is Murder in Absentia your first novel?

It is indeed. However since writing it I have published several (free) short stories on my blog (Nikki’s Note: Check out Assaph’s website here and get a taste for his writing with some free short stories!), and am now working on the second novel. Each one is a different “case”, so they are semi-independent.

How long did it take you to write it?

The first draft took just over four months. It took about the same to edit, plus another couple of months for the publication process. Pretty nifty, though somehow I find it harder to find the time now. I blame the baby (born just before I published J)

What led you to this storyline? Did you have an “aha” moment?

When I started writing, I knew the twist in the end – but not exactly how it was done (think of it as a sort-of locked room mystery). I kept complicating things for the protagonist. At some point in the novel, one of his friends still says he has to explain the impossible. That was half a note for myself…

But then it all came together beautifully. The mystery with its underlying twist marrying the rich world-setting, for a truly unique and satisfying resolution.

What kind of research have you done for this book?

A lot! I have read a lot of material about ancient Rome (have been for year), both online and from published historians (like Adrian Goldsworthy and others). I have looked particularly for accounts about Roman daily life – from the calendar system to the cuisine. Everything from the sword-fighting techniques, to the dishes served, to the curses and profanity is historically accurate!

What would you do differently in writing or publishing your next book?

Get more reviews from ARC readers ready for the publication time; get a professional cover done ahead as well.

If you could offer one piece of advice to other indie writers, it would be…

Never skimp on a good editor or a good cover artist! Find experienced professionals you are comfortable working with, and make sure your book is polished and professional looking.

One surprising personal fact about you…

I’ve been training martial arts for almost 30 years. Started with Krav Maga (the Israeli Military martial art), did some Tae Kwon Do, Kung Fu and a bits of pieces of other arts in between. I know do an internal branch of Wing Chun.

Yet despite all that, I am a pacifist at heart. I like martial arts for the sport that taxes both mind and body, but I’ve never actually used them.

What’s next in your writing career?

The next Felix mysteries. I have ideas for at least two or three more books.

After that… I will probably try something different. A retelling of the Crimean War – with steampunk elements thrown in. One thing for sure – writing is addictive, and I aim to continue for as long as I can!

Thank you, Assaph, for your candid answers and for taking the time to chat with us today. I’d like to encourage everyone to support this talented author (and get a thrilling read in the process) by downloading a copy of Murder in Absentia now by clicking on the cover:

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Join me for Indie Book-of-the-Month in April when author J.S. Burke takes us on a flight of fantasy through her novel, The Dragon Dreamer.

See you on the next page!

Nikki Bee

P.S.

If you’d like your novel to be featured in the Indie Book-of-the-Month author series, please contact me at gottabeeme@gmail.com. Just give me a brief summary of your novel and the genre, point me to where it “lives”  (Amazon, a personal website, brick-and-mortar bookseller) so I can pick up a copy, and include a short bio. Please DO NOT offer me a free copy (unless you are currently running a special on your novel). I like to support my fellow indies and I also prefer to be able to operate free of perceived bias!

Please give me two weeks to answer all queries — I don’t have “people” to help me out yet, so things can move slowly at times!

Thanks so much for you interest and for your support of other indie book authors!

 


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boxing gloves for fierce writing

5 Elements of Fierce Writing (#5 Will Make You Smile)

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Every writer is a warrior deep down inside. We want to blaze new ground with our writing, innovate within a genre, or add a crazy new flavor to the hum-drum vanilla prose that’s out there. We want to stand out and be heard–to resonate with our audience. We want readers to say, “Hell, yeah!” when they read our stuff.

But how do we razzle-dazzle ’em? Let’s face it, we share the words available to us. It’s how we put them together that makes us shine or marks us as drab imposters. Here are a few ways that you can take your writing from faded to fierce:

Be passionate.

Nothing is more deflating than a writer who isn’t interested in what they’re creating. Choose genres or topics that really light your fire–that glow will be translated to your audience through impassioned, lively prose. Is fantasy your shtick? Then shtick with it rather than trying to write a romance; even if the romance genre is currently popular. If you must write about a topic you’re not interested in (many non-fiction freelancers fall into this category) then try to find an interesting or little-known fact about your topic to share with readers.

Write from the gut.

Don’t just describe scenes, costumes, or people. Write about what moves them, how they feel, what roadblocks they face, what triumphs they enjoy. This works for place and setting as well as characters. Take this description of Victorian England from Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist:

It was nearly two hours before day-break; that time which in the autumn of the year, may be called the dead of night; when the streets are silent & deserted; when even sounds appear to slumber, and profligacy & riot have staggered home to dream.”

Here, Dickens attributes the human abilities of dreaming to activities like profligacy and riot. He even tells of how sounds “slumber” in the dead of night. This is gut-writing: placing emotion and feeling in otherwise mundane descriptions will tap your readers on the shoulder and say, “Listen up!”.

Embrace the unexpected.

Did your romance-based story line just wander down a dark, mysterious path? Don’t try and shove it back into place — embrace the change and see where it leads your characters and their stories. Pedantic writing professionals are fond of mentioning how there are only seven basic plots and nothing new under the sun. That’s as may be, but what if your little trip through the woods leads to a hybrid kind of story that no one’s ever seen before? After all, “supernatural romance” didn’t exist 20 years ago!

writers are artists who paint with wordsRemember, you’re an artist.

We often forget that writers are just artists who paint with words. Because language has “rules” and “guidelines” we often forget to color outside the box and end up stomping on our own creativity in the process. When you’re writing, be free and unfettered with your language and your ideas. Leave the editing for later.

Go a little crazy.

Creativity doesn’t thrive in status quo situations. Every now and again, you need to break out and shake yourself up a bit to get your ink flowing. Remember, though, you’re an individual–what’s crazy for one may be tame for another. If your idea of crazy is eating pineapple on your pizza one night, bravo! On the other hand, if you want to dye your hair purple and chant naked in the moonlight, then go right ahead (making sure that you aren’t breaking any laws or freaking out your neighbors, of course). The point is, learning to do things every now and then that are a bit out of your comfort zone will keep you from falling into creative ruts and lend your writing an edge it may not have had in your less kooky moments.

See you on the next page!

Nikki Bee

 


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meat loaf concert

Meat Loaf Wisdom: What a Classic Rock Band Can Tell You About Writing

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I’m tired of words and I’m too hoarse to shout.                     Meat Loaf, Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad

Ever feel like that? Tired of writing or tired of editing your words when they just don’t seem to flow? Meat Loaf felt your pain. As one of the most prolific and best-selling musical artists (Bat Out of Hell is the third best-selling record album of all time), he knew what it was like to be in a creative funk. In fact, he claims he couldn’t force his inspiration. In an interview in 2006, he said:

You can decide what you want to eat for dinner, you can decide to go away for the weekend, and you can decide what clothes you’re going to wear in the morning, but when it comes to artistic things, there’s never a rhyme or reason. It’s, like, they just happen. And they happen when they happen.

girl tired of writingWhile I don’t entirely agree with this statement, it does have merit. Sometimes it seems like things are just not happening for us when we write. Our words feel like they’re being painfully squeezed through a too-small hole and they drip out grudgingly, line by plodding line. My advice in these situations has always been to just keep going. Write, even if the words seem forced or trite. Often that dogged persistence pays off with the building of momentum and before you know it the creative floodgates are open again and you’re in the flow. Other times, you just plod on. The key is that you have something on that page.

Like a (Writing) Bat Out of Hell

Okay, you say. I have something on the page–now what? Now comes the best part (and the most fun). And guess what? Ol’ Meat Loaf has got you covered here, too. The best thing you can do for your troubled writing is to:

Let me sleep on it / Baby, baby, let me sleep on it / Let me sleep on it / And I’ll give you an answer in the morning. – Meat Loaf, Paradise by the Dashboard Light

sleepy puppyPut it aside and sleep on it. Maybe more than one night, even. I find 48 hours to be a “sweet spot” for review when it comes to my writing. Longer is even better in some cases, but I need at least two full days to make sure that all of the preconceived notions I carried about the piece are conveniently forgotten–or at least dimmed a bit.

After your ideas have had some time to incubate, you’ll find you have a new enthusiasm for your writing project and a new eye for word flow, grammar, typos, and even storyline.

So, rock on, writers — let your hair down and write!

See you on the next page!

Nikki Bee

 


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Timing breaks for increased writing productivity

The 17 Minute Trick That Boosts Writing Productivity

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Not all writers have an entire day to devote to their craft, but if you do it’s worth it to figure out when your brain is at its best and take advantage of that time. While times of optimal productivity tend to vary according to individual biological rhythms, research has shown that mid-morning is a great time to tackle difficult tasks, which is part of the reason why I advocate writing in the morning (whatever morning means to you!)

But here’s the real kicker: the best way to be more productive is to…wait for it…take more breaks!

These 17 Minutes will Intensify Your Writing ProductivityThe Proof

It sounds counterintuitive, but recent research by the Draugeim Group showed that intense work sprints followed by lengthy breaks accounted for a significant rise in productivity among employees. Julia Gifford, the company’s owner, tracked employees using DeskTime, a productivity tracking app aimed at companies. She found that the top 10% of productive employees in her company worked “with intense purpose” for around 52 minutes and then took lengthy 17-minute breaks. They cycled on and off like this throughout the day. Supporting this theory is a study by Cornell researchers that showed even small breaks increase productivity by 11%, while research conducted by the Federal Aviation Administration found that breaks increase productivity by 16%!

Interestingly, when these employees were at work, they worked with a singular purpose toward their goal. And when they were on break, they did the same. They disconnected completely from the workplace, stepping away from their computers and choosing to chat, read a book, or take walks. This correlates with the philosophy of doing whatever you are doing “full-on”:

When you’re working, work; when you’re resting, rest.

pexels-photo (1)Applying This to Writing

You can incorporate this same productivity-boosting method into your daily writing sessions. Set a timer for 52 minutes. During that time, focus completely on the task you’ve set. No checking email, answering social calls, or searching the internet for cute puppy pictures. No glasses of water or bathroom breaks. Then, when the timer rings, set it for 17 minutes and get completely away from your desk. Read a magazine, water a plant, or walk the dog. Whatever you’d like do is fine, as long as it has no relation to your work.

I tried this myself and the results were pretty amazing. First, knowing that I was working for 52 minutes gave me a sort of “soft” goal that made it easier to be laser-focused on my writing. My word counts almost doubled working this way! The second thing I noticed was a sharp increase in creativity. Ideas flowed more easily after my breaks and I felt more refreshed and better able to tackle my tasks, even those that fell in between two and four — my personal slump time.

klok productivity trackingIf you’d like to try your hand at tracking your productivity like the Draugeim Group did, get one of the apps available for your computer. I like the time tracker Klok for OSX and Windows. It’s available for a small, one-time fee and there is a free version as well. Klok is a great way to see how much time you are spending on each project on your list. If you want to time your intervals like I did, there are plenty of simple interval timer apps available for both iPhone and Android. I like Medigong for Android because of the gentle gong sounds available for timing changes and the fact that it is FREE. For iPhone, there’s Pomodoro Time (free) and Pomodoro Time Pro ($4.99), pomodoro productivity appwhich are based on the Pomodoro Method of productivity. This method is similar to what what I’ve described, above, with shorter intervals (25 minutes working/5 minute breaks called Pomodoros with the reward of a 30 minute break after four “Pomodori”). You can try these shorter intervals, although I find them too distracting. I set the timer to 55 minutes for working followed by a 20 minute break, which is perfect for me. A University of Illinois study showed that 50-60 minutes is the optimal time to focus on any given task; after that concentration drops off, so take that into consideration when setting your intervals.

Sift through this information and see how you can make it work for you. Don’t forget to take your natural rhythms and preferences into consideration and modify your work/break schedule to make the most of the writing time you have available.

See you on the next page!

Nikki Bee

 


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