Aug 23

Mischa Eliot

So. Many. Things.

There are so many ways to enhance your writing abilities. It doesn’t matter if you want to improve your writing for work, for yourself, or in order to become an author, it just matters that you want to improve. There are so many “authorities” on writing. Yes, there are hard grammar rules. While I am not a top-level grammar nazi, I do have issues with misspellings and grammar errors that make me pause and say ‘really?’ However, I tend to auto-fix them in my mind.

Yes, there are those who genuinely have typos. I do myself. And I’m also one of those who will do the whole ‘corrected spelling’^ in chat, in text, and sometimes even on Twitter. (Though usually any tweets with typos are immediately deleted and recreated if I find them immediately. Otherwise, screw it.) As I sit here drinking a cup of my incredible Gevalia Chocolate Mocha coffee (one of my few indulgences) I am thinking about the steps I have taken to improve my writing and thought it would be pretty awesome to share it.

First, you need to write and you need to read. You also need to not be afraid of Googling that word you aren’t quite sure you know the meaning of and the context it has been used in didn’t really give you much insight. If you enjoy learning new words, you can also buy one of those Word-A-Day calendars, or if you want to be more technical about it, you can sign up at http://dictionary.reference.com/ or http://www.merriam-webster.com/ to receive their word-a-day in your email. Go to your local library and, if you don’t already have one, get a card. Then start looking at the reference section on all things writing. (Trust me, it’s cheaper this way.) When you find books that you would like to have access to all the time, those are the ones you buy digital or physical copies of. Don’t worry, if you like highlighting, making notes, and bookmarking certain portions of books, you can also do so using most e-readers.

There are many ways you can educate yourself without having to pay for it. 

Second, you know what authors you love to read. You like the style they write in, the point of view they’ve chosen, the adventure you’re taken on when you are so deep into the book that someone has to yell your name and shake you before you notice they are even there. So go searching on the world wide web and find out if they put out a newsletter. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter. Some authors are pretty awesome and will answer questions you send them. Also, there are authors who put out newsletters, who teach workshops, or have some form of boot camp. Sign up for the newsletters, check out the workshop information to see if it will work for you (don’t pay for anything without researching it) and go from there.

Third, look at Amazon.com (or B&N.Com, or whatever site you buy your books from) and find writing books that are geared for the type of writing you’re doing. Sometimes you can find deals where they are on sale and grab them to have and hold forever and ever. I love the Kindle App. I have it on my laptop, on my phone, and I use their Cloud Reader, too. It’s pretty awesome. (Make sure you read several reviews before purchasing anything. I am a firm believer in doing research before spending money!)

Fourth, if you can, find a writing group who is interested in new members. This can help you with having your writing critiqued and you can learn how to critique well. We want constructive, not destructive criticism. If you can’t find something constructive to say about someone’s writing, tell them it wasn’t your cup of tea, or shot of whiskey. Although, if you have good grammar and spelling skills, you could still help them with proofreading and asking questions when you didn’t understand something might help them see something they missed. (Authors know things Readers don’t and sometimes forget that.)

If you can’t find a writing group in your physical world then start looking in the digital world. I’ve recently signed up for Scribophile.Com and, while I haven’t earned enough Karma to post my own work, I have found people who are pretty amazing when it comes to writing and critiquing. They also have a section for some educational topics that are quite helpful. I’ve utilized this section many times. You have to critique in order to earn Karma points to post your own writing, but that just means you have to work for what you want. It’s easy to earn Karma points, I just haven’t spent enough time on there to do so at this time.

Last, if you have the extra cash, or can save the extra cash, look into taking a writing class or two. There is a local campus (literally 15 minutes away) that offers online courses through Ed2Go. While some people say that these classes aren’t real classes (meaning you only get a certificate and there aren’t any credit hours) I have found them to be quite helpful. I took a course called Writerrific and it helped me hunt down my Muse and drag him through a 6-week intensive rehabilitation to get him back into shape. Since then I have been writing my ass off (or at least writing a hell of a lot more now then I was prior to the class). Currently, I have signed up for Romance Writing. It was very difficult for me to pick the next course. I thought about taking Beginning Writer’s Workshop but I felt I was a little more advanced. Then I thought of jumping right into Advanced Fiction Writing or Write Like a Pro. In the end, I decided on the Romance Writing since that is the genre I am aiming for. I figure if I feel that I need more after this course, I can always save up the money and take another one.

I’ll tell you though, I learn just as much from the newsletters I am subscribed to as I do from the classes I take. Why do I take them? Because I feel that it’s a way to refine the skills I have into being MY skills. I don’t want to write like the authors I am subscribed to, I want to write in my voice and taking these courses help me find just that.

I’ve also subscribed to Writer’s Digest Magazine. I enjoy looking through the articles and interviews and so much more. I am a little irked with them because they do not offer a digital Kindle version, unless it’s on your phone, and while I have a larger screen, I don’t want to read a magazine on my phone. (Plus, for whatever reason, the app says I have to update and my phone says it’s up to date… so therefore it doesn’t work.) They do offer a digital PDF version, but that offer started after I signed up for the paper version.

Another, silly thing, I’ve done is downloaded a shitload of desktop wallpapers with quotes by authors. I love seeing these quotes when I boot it up. I have them change every fifteen minutes. I’ve also setup a writing area, and while not complete, I know that when I go there, I am supposed to be WRITING, and not screwing around on the world wide web. I also turn on Pandora and turn up the volume. I did a little Music vs. Silence forum post on Scribophile and found that while most people write listening to music, they edit in silence. It was pretty awesome to learn the processes of others.

I’m also a Scrivener for Windows 8 user. Yes, I did pay for the program, and I even did so before the trial was up. I highly recommend downloading the trial. It isn’t your normal type of trial, either. It is for 30 non-consecutive days and I even figured out that there is some sort of timing involved, because I swear I opened the program for, maybe, 3 – 5 hours one week, and didn’t lose a day. It was pretty awesome and was one of the reasons I chose to purchase it. You can find the software at https://www.literatureandlatte.com/. I promise, it’ll be worth it, but as always, research what is right for you. There are many other programs out there that you might prefer over this one.

Thanks for your time! Now get out of here and go write something. Why are you still here?

Aug 20

Mischa Eliot

Abusing the Muse

There are so many days I feel that my Muse has gone off on a bender and is bar-hopping, black-out drunk, hitting on women who think he is just a sleazeball.

Then there are the days where he is excruciatingly sober and my light bulb completely explodes because someone, either in conversation or in passing (or maybe overheard…) says something and sends me on my own form of bender. My version of a bender equates to Reality No Longer Exists because I have to get these characters actions, thoughts, words, and emotions onto the digital paper RIGHT. NOW. Not hours from now, like when work is over, because oh dear god, that might not work and it’ll be all gone.

Luckily, I have many ways of doing this and somewhat free access to my personal online cloud systems.  I can log in to any one of them, unless I am in a meeting (eek!), to type up some quick notes about whatever popped into my head. Which helps later on when I go over them and think ‘wtf was I thinking?’.

Although, more often than not, I find some seriously excellent ideas for some steamy, dreamy, very sexy storytelling. And that is the goal. Whip your Muse into shape, let him or her run off the rails and wreck everything now and then, because when the Muse comes home, you’ll get some exploding light bulbs of stories to write.

 

Aug 16

Mischa Eliot

One thing I’m very, very good at…

I have always wanted to be a novel writer. I wanted to grab a reader by the throat and keep them entranced until they finished every single word and when they put it down I wanted them to not only feel satisfied with the ending, but also that they went on an adventure. I think the most into a story I have ever gotten is 15 chapters. And then I threw it all away. I don’t even know why I threw it away. People kind enough to read it, people I had been gaming (RPG Online) with told me they were enjoying the story and wanted more. I believed them because I was writing about the character they knew from our gaming.

Since then, I’ve had a very hard time writing anything over 5,000 words. I couldn’t seem to figure out what I wanted to happen in the story and I wasn’t really paying attention to what the characters wanted either. A lot of what I write tend to be short erotic scenes. I’ve shared those as well over the years and people have told me they want more, that it’s turned them on, that they couldn’t wait to see what I come up with next.

Several years went by that I didn’t write at all, other than my personal blog, and even that I rarely touch now. I still have characters begging for my attention in the back of my mind. Conversations I have about ‘what-ifs’ and dreams make me think ‘that would make a great story premise’. One of those I am currently writing about. And last night I just pounded out over 3,000 words on another idea I had and I couldn’t concentrate on any other writing until I got it down. By the time I got it down I was wrung out and exhausted, but totally satisfied. I shared that with one of my close friends who is being kind enough to tell me what works, what needs to be fixed, and ‘try wording it this way’ opinions. I don’t think he knows just how much I appreciate him.

Every dream, every idea, every character, that comes to me now that says “WRITE ABOUT THIS” has been gathering on my list of things to write about. There’s a niche I might even be able to exploit since it seems to not really have all that much in it from what I have seen. I haven’t researched it yet but when I go to write for it, then I will.

I grab a lot of novels when they are on sale by authors I love, new authors I have never heard of, and freebies when they peak my interest. Usually, I grab them without reading reviews and with some of them I end up wondering why I didn’t read the reviews. (Especially on the freebies!) Some people truly weren’t meant to write, or they pantsed it and didn’t take the time to have it workshopped or revised. Or maybe they did and it just ended up still being terrible.

I did download a novel, which I haven’t opened yet, and then went back to read the reviews. The first two shredded it. The ones after that were in love with it. It was free, so I haven’t bothered looking at it to give my own opinion. I may have skipped out downloading it if I had read the reviews first. Sometimes, they are worth reading. I won’t know until I open it which ones would apply to me.

Anyway. I’m very good at writing short, hot and sexy scenes. However, I am hoping that with a timeline/outline that I can put my skills into a novel-length romance story. Currently, I am up to 8,132 words. Most of that will end up being backstory that gets sprinkled through the rest of the novel. That’s okay, though. I like knowing things that happened in the past so that I can use it in the future.

Aug 11

Mischa Eliot

All In A Name

What is in a name you ask? Sometimes, it all can depend on a name. If you name a character and that name didn’t exist until 20 years later, there are people who will know. It might be less than a handful, but somewhere out there, they will know. And they might call you on it.

What about your name though, the name you want to publish under? I suppose it all depends on what you are writing. Is the writing you want to publish something you’d be fine with your family reading? What about your high school nemesis? When you show up at the reunion are you going to be proud of that novel or a little embarrassed that you wrote such a thing?

If you’re writing something steamy or hardcore that uses words you don’t want your grandmother realizing that you know, then the best thing you can do is to publish under a pseudonym. If you are writing something that you’re proud of and want to shout to the world from the rooftops, then publish under your own name.

Honestly, though, it is your choice. Regardless of what you write, as long as you are proud of it, and are proud to say “I DID THIS!” then it doesn’t matter what name you choose to put it under.

If you decide to choose a pseudonym, do some research. Find out if others are publishing under that name. Find out if there are other people wandering around the internet with that name. This way you can make an informed decision about it.

You wouldn’t want to choose a name and then realize that there is someone out there in the world with that name who almost, but not quite, looks like you, and has a terrible reputation. So, just like you should do a little research before naming your characters (for time-period purposes), please take the time to research the name you want to publish under.

There are three people in my area with my name that I know of for sure. One is a news anchor, the other works at the bank I use, so I’ve chosen to use a pseudonym because there are over 33,000 people with my first and last name. If you want to know how many people have your name, check www.howmanyofme.com to find out.

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