TSM Recommends: Blog Posts on Marketing, Editing, and Writing

TSM Recommends

The Internet is full of writers looking for and offering an array of tips to make it in the writing industry. This past month, I’ve read a few blog posts via Twitter (and Tweeted them myself) that give some interesting insights and advice on marketing, editing, or writing. Below you’ll find a few of them. Of course, you’re always welcome to see what the Muses have been writing about this month, too!

71 Ways to Promote and Market Your Book by Kimberly Grabas:

This article is from 2013 and I know the market is always changing, but if you’ve published a book and want to find ways to give it an extra promotional push, maybe you’ll find something new here to try.

How Writers Can Remix the Past by Drew Chial

Some good advice from a previous script reader. This post illustrates how to use and balance events from the past to the advantage of your story and probable misfortune of your characters.

Top 7 Ways Authors Are Using Instagram by Adrienne Erin

Let’s face it, many people respond better to visual stimuli. That’s one reason Instagram works so well. Curious as to how it works for writers? Pick up some tips from Adrienne’s article.

4 Ways to Plan Your Writing by Jacqui Murray

I’d say most writers are familiar with the plotter/pantser terminology, but I’d hazard to guess that at some point, no matter what kind of writer you are, some planning will come into play when developing your story. If you’re curious to know of a few ways to go about this, check out Jacqui’s post.

Five Ways to Spot the Wrong Proofreader by JuliaProofreader

If you’ve finished a story, you’re familiar with the process that comes after: betas, editing . . . more editing. But after the editing phase, what’s next? Proofreading. You want your manuscript as polished as possible. JuliaProofreader gives some advice on what to look out for when choosing your proofreader.


Have anymore post suggestions? Share below! We’d love to check them out!

 

The Sport of People Watching

(c) hotblack

(c) hotblack

Characters abound in everyday reality outside of the realm of fiction. One just has to know how to find them.  Human interaction floods everyday senses, and for most people, the experience passes without a thought. But not writers. Not writers. We feed off the essence of other humans, absorbing personalities, quirks, facial reactions, likes / dislikes, features, looks, clothing. Every day human beings taking shape and form in a writer’s mind to influence characters that reside in poems, stories, novels.

All authors should partake in the event of “people watching”. It’s a rather addicting sport once you start, and one that can be done at any time, anywhere in public.

There is very little equipment needed to partake in people watching. All one needs is their favorite writing tools:  Pen & notebook, tablet, laptop, smart phone, blood on your t-shirt… well maybe not that last one. Best to remain inconspicuous whilst people watching. The goal is NOT to draw attention.

How to people watch:

Essentially you have to become a wee bit “stalker-ish”.

  • Find a nice comfy place to sit,
  • Arrange yourself with your favorite writing tool,
  • Don’t draw attention to yourself,
  • Hone in on a subject,

And then take it all in:

  • Observe interactions with one another.
    • How are two people communicating? Are they laughing, arguing, staring romantically into each other’s eyes?
    • How does a large crowd of people act? Are they boisterous, jovial, fighting, or singing their hearts out?
    • How does a person on their own act? Is she tucked away in the corner, is he confidently out in the open, is she reading a book, is he staring at his smartphone?
  • Watch facial expressions.
    • What kind of look is the subject making?
    • What is causing them to react in such a way?
  • Pay attention to little movements, like brushing hair behind an ear or fiddling with a ring.
    • What is motivating those actions?
    • What kind of emotion does the person emit when they make these motions?
  • Listen to conversations.
    • What kind of conversation is it? Friendly chatter, romantic sayings, heated arguments?
    • How is each person handling their side?
    • What kind of reactions or little movements are the subjects making during the conversation?
  • Inhale and take in the scent of the atmosphere around you.
    • Is the smell of the location influencing your subjects, like in a coffee shop or bakery?
  • Feel the temperature of the location.
    • Is it too hot because there are too many people around?
    • Is it too cold because there are only a few?

What are the benefits?

There are too many benefits from people watching than I could possibly list, however, for the context of today, the main benefit is that people watching helps to develop characters and build scenes. It provides a catalyst of inspiration to those who may be struggling to get a character formed, or it provides enhancement for others who are trying to write a wider of characters. Scenery can also be fleshed out whilst observing people. Since an environment has an impact on how one is acting, pull some of that influence from the scene in reality to enhance a scene in your fiction, connecting that with how your character exists within that scene.

How often should this be done?

As often as need be. The thing is, once you become obsessed with the sport of people watching, you sometimes struggle to turn off the channel. You will soon catch yourself observing everything and anything around you. And it will all become embedded in your brain. Not only is people watching going to help you grow as an author, it is also going to help you grow as a person. You will learn to better analyze those around you.

So go forth and take in all that people watching has to offer.


Where are some of your favorite places to people watch? What are some of the most bizarre things that you have observed that influenced a character in your fiction?

 

Crime Scenes for Writers: Introduction

Today’s juries are savvy. Today’s readers are as well. Writers of police procedurals, detective stores, and courtroom dramas need to know their subject. As readers become more sophisticated and enamored of shows like CSI, they expect the authors they select to provide factual information.

Devoted genre readers already know that television has its shortcomings. Though tests and lab procedures are getting faster and more accurate all the time, they are rarely instant, and always subject to the case load ahead in the line. The TV shows only make it look fast and easy.

Not all court cases include plentiful forensic evidence, particularly DNA. Other forms of evidence are just as important in determining guilt or innocence (or even the degree of guilt). This series will cover the most common types: the crime scene, finger prints, blood evidence, ballistics, trace evidence, and DNA recovery.

Just to debunk a few of the most prevalent myths before we get started:

  • Blood does not stay red or liquid for long.
  • Bodies begin to decompose immediately. They don’t stay normal-looking and “pretty” for the camera.
  • Rarely does a pathologist, criminologist (lab technician specializing in forensic testing related to crimes) or medical examiner participate in the detective work.
  • Crime scene technicians are their own department in most jurisdictions and do not work directly for the detectives or the medical examiner.
  • The position of coroner is an elected one in many communities. They aren’t always required to be a doctor.
  • Most autopsies are performed by pathologists. The ME acts as oversight and reviews both lab reports and autopsy results.
  • The Y incision you see on TV is usually inaccurate. I’ll cover that more clearly in the next series on the body of the crime.
  • While tests are getting faster and more accurate with advances in technology, most smaller communities don’t have forensics labs and must rely on state labs to handle their cases. It can take months to get test results.

These posts are intended as an overview. I am the first to admit I am no expert, but I’ve done my share of research and was fortunate enough to have conversations with police officers, a forensic dentist, and a former “lab rat” criminologist. I’ll try to provide links for more information if anyone is interested in launching your own research, and please keep in mind that procedures can vary by country. Also, should my information be out of date, I’d love corrective comments, questions, and shared information so we can all learn together and make our stories better.

Investigating crime may rely on the lab, but it always begins when your detective or officer steps onto the crime scene. Next time we’ll look at what can be determined from reading the scene itself.


As a writer and/or reader, how detailed do you like your crime scenes?

What’s Out There For Me? Part One — Writing Applications

There are so many different types of writing software in the market today that it can be a chore finding the one that best suits your needs. So over the next few weeks, I’ll be taking a look at some of the more popular tools available to us as writers. This week it’s the turn of word processing and note-taking applications.

Disclaimer: While I acknowledge that there are many more applications out there (OpenOffice and Storyist to name a couple), I’m only discussing the ones I’ve used personally. I, as an individual, and Sarcastic Muse, as an entity, are in no way affiliated with any of the below companies beyond having purchased their products.

1. Scrivener (Windows and Mac) – $45/£33.90 exc. Tax – Literature and Latte

ScScrivener writing applicationsrivener is so well know amongst writers that its name is almost synonymous with writing software. A behemoth of a program, Scrivener offers an all inclusive plotting, writing, and publishing package and, with so many users out there, it’s now so simple to find a template that suits your writing needs.

Key features:

  • Distraction-free writing,
  • Cork board,
  • Scratch pad,
  • Scriptwriting functionality,
  • Statistics and targets.

Free trial available.

2. Ulysses (Mac and iOS) – From $44.99/£34.99 – The Soulmen GbR

Ulysses-writing application

Ulysses is the distraction-free writer to end all distraction-free writers. The concept of this program is simple — you only need concern yourself with the words. Ulysses developers have removed all the complicated toolbars of the WYSIWYG editors, leaving behind a clean working area for you and your words.

Key features:

  • Built-in file library — all your documents in one place,
  • Seamless iCloud/Dropbox sync — take your writing with you,
  • Goals and statistics,
  • Downloadable themes and styles to quickly edit and publish.

Free trial available.

3. Novlr (web based) – From $10/£7 per month – Novlr LTD

Novlr-logo writing applicationDon’t let the fact that Novlr is a web-based writing program put you off. It’s functionality is easily the rival of some of the big hitters out there and the cross-platform capabilities are astounding. With a beautiful, minimalist writing area, offline writing mode, and room to store an entire library of works in progress, you’ll never have a problem snatching moments to work on your novel.

Key features:

  • Constant access to all your words — all you need’s a web browser,
  • Automatic saving and word count updates,
  • Automatic backups to GoogleDrive and Dropbox,
  • Writing statistics.

Free trial available.

4. MS Word (Windows and Mac) – From $149.99/£119.99 for standalone licence – Microsoft

What can I say about MS Word that hasn’t already been said? This program is one of the most popular, and widespread, word processors on the market. It’s so widely utilised that almost all publishers and agents require electronically-submitted manuscripts in the .doc and .docx formats.

Key features:

  • Used industry wide,
  • Simple(ish) to use,
  • WYSIWYG editor with almost an almost limitless template library.

5. Pages (Mac and iOS) – From $9.99/£14.99 – Apple

Pages is Apple’s answer to the juggernaught that is Microsoft Word and, like its counterpart, I haven’t really got much to say about it. It’s a fully functional word processing software with Apple’s ubiquitous minimal design.

Key features:

  • WYSIWYG editor,
  • Cheaper alternative to MS Word for iOS and Mac,
  • Seamless iCloud syncing,
  • Works on iPhone, iPad, and Mac.

6. Evernote (Windows and Mac) – From Free – Evernote Corporation

evernote-logo writing applicationBefore I discovered Novlr and Ulysses, Evernote was my go to application for writing on the move. With its myriad of note-taking features (text, photo, ever audio notes) and cross-platform applications, you’ll never find yourself in a position where you can’t meet your daily word count (except through procrastination but that’s your problem, not mine).

Key features:

  • You can attach pretty much anything to a note,
  • Cross-platform syncing,
  • Web-clipping plugins allow you to keep all your research together.

What are some of your experiences with/thoughts on our featured software? Are there any others you feel need highlighting?


 

A Series of Style: How Stylistics Can Help Your Writing

The series I have planned for the coming months will focus on particular elements of style–word choices, rhetorical devices, syntax, and so on–and how these elements pertain to fiction. In writing these posts, I hope to emphasize how the language choices we make in our creative writing endeavors help construct the narrative we’re creating. And, most importantly, I hope to show you how to use them to your advantage.

What is stylistics?

Stylistics is, first and foremost, an academic discipline. But wait! Before you run away screaming, I have a secret to share. You come into contact with style constantly: in speech, at university, reading the news, even on social media. It makes sense, then, that style plays such a heavy role in fiction. Have you ever given your character an individualized or societal way of speaking? That’s style. What about debated the use of a word and then chosen a synonym because it “sounded better?” Again, style. Have you shortened your sentence length to pace an action scene and to “speed up” the feel of the prose? You guessed it. Style.Craft and Art

Stylistics is one of those disciplines that bridges into other disciplines and is not generally studied on its own. When I studied it for my master’s thesis, I predominantly focused on stylistics as the bridge between linguistics and poetry, but many of my sources handled prose as well. It fascinated me: how style, as both a field of study and an intuitive part of our writing, is inherent to a creative text. Here we’re mostly going to be looking at the latter.

Who? What? When? Where?

In both literary criticism and linguistics, it’s not uncommon to ask common WH-questions: Why was a theme used in a particular work? Which parts of our language have changed over time? Whose choices in a novel affect the structural process of the prose and subsequently the story? However, the thing about stylistics—and, more narrowly, of style itself—is that it doesn’t focus so much on the why or what of language, but on the how. How do we use language—vocabulary, syntax or sentence structures, sound play (alliteration, assonance), meaning variations—to improve the story we’re trying to tell?

How does style apply to my writing?

You don’t realize it, but you use style subconsciously every time you choose a word, construct a sentence, or even when you adhere to specific genre standards. In the case of “how” we’re using language, this is also applicable to how we write it and how we show it through our characters and prose. For instance:

  • How do we use dialogue in our stories to imitate regional dialects?
  • Does a character have a particular individual dialect (idiolect) that characterizes his actions?
  • How does sentence length affect the overall tone and rhythm of a piece? How does it carry the action of a scene?
  • How do particular word choices influence meaning and overall meter of sentences?
  • How does punctuation affect our associations of timing?

The list could go on and on, to be honest. The interesting part is seeing where and how it all connects when words and ideas and grammar meet. And how all these tiny linguistic connections build what eventually become a novel.

Think about it . . .

So what’s next? In subsequent posts, we’ll work on observing style in everyday fiction. We’ll discuss these through examples and (hopefully) understandable explanations.

Next up: How sounds works in your prose.

Additional Resources

If stylistics is an entirely new concept to you and you’re interested in reading additional material, I point you to the following resources:

The Sense of Style – Steven Pinker

A book for the layman, so to say. Steven Pinker is a cognitive scientist who has written several books about language and the mind’s way of using it.

A Dictionary of Stylistics – Katie Wales

This was the single most useful book for my thesis. I’m pretty sure it saved my life a couple times. Definitely applicable to more than just academics. In fact, that’s one of the reasons I really love it.


Have you heard of stylistics or studied it before? Are there any particular elements of style you’d like me touch upon in the upcoming months?

Let me know in the comments below!