Killer Nashville packed with informative panels, best-selling authors

Killer Nashville logo

by G. Robert Frazier

This weekend’s Killer Nashville writer’s conference, which actually gets underway Thursday, promises four days of education, networking, and fun for mystery and thriller writers.

Now that I’ve decided to attend (and catch the Austin Film Fest next year), I’m faced with another set of choices. Like many conferences, the event features a number of panels running concurrently with one another, which means I will have to pick and choose which ones to attend and which ones to skip.

Not exactly an easy task, I might add.

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Around the Web: Supergirl, NaNoWriMo and words to live by from … Wil Wheaton?

by G. Robert Frazier

Every day I scroll through my news feeds, Facebook pages, and favorite websites in search of interesting articles about books, writing, and anything else that might inspire me. Because I’m such a swell guy, from time to time I feel compelled to share these articles with you. Here then are some interesting reads from the past couple of days:

The new Supergirl TV series premiered Monday night. I haven’t had a chance to watch yet, but I’m eager to see how they’ve approached the character and whether it is a series I will want to keep watching. Entertainment Weekly did a decent interview with show producers Greg Berlanti and Ali Adler about the politics of making a female superhero.

While we’re on the topic of entertainment, I must pass along this item from the New York Post:  “The Force Awakens” is not the experience you’re looking for http://nyp.st/1PDG0yu.

The Atlantic magazine posted an interesting article Sunday about Why reader fees are a bad idea. The article points out an alarming trend among literary magazines to charge writers a fee for reading their work. The submission fee is designed to help cut down on the number of unsolicited submissions facing their editors and encourage readers to submit only their best work. But in doing so, the magazines are ostracizing poor writers (which is just about everyone) as well as their own efforts to be more diverse.  As if literary magazines didn’t already have an elitist attitude when it came to what makes good writing…

Publisher’s Weekly posted an in-depth interview with author Umberto Eco about his new novel Numero Zero (Houfhron Middlin Harcourt) and other topics.

Author Garry Craig Powell offers an interesting article about writing to the craft versus writing with inspiration. All the writing books and colleges teach craft, and they teach it very well, but he says what sets apart the best fiction is the inspiration that authors put into their works.

For writers out there preparing to take on the National Novel Writing Month challenge of writing a book in a month, K.M. Weiland offers some advice on setting and meeting realistic goals in this article. Weiland’s Helping Writers Become Authors website is one of the best around if you are looking for useful articles and advice on everything from story structure to scenes to character arcs.

Finally, if you are looking for an inspiring article, Wil Wheaton (yes, he of Star Trek The Next Generation fame) tells us how to reboot your life. Some really eye-opening thoughts about life, writing, and more. To go along with that, here’s a video from Wil in which he talks about his personal battle with depression and mental illness and his quest for a happier life.

Seen any good articles online to share with your fellow authors? Post a link in the comments section!

Time to get serious about writing, exercizing

I finally have an accountability tracker.

After several days – nay, weeks – in which I accomplished nothing of importance and after complaining about my failings over and over again, my brother had enough of it. In response he has created a nifty Excel document that I must fill out every day to track how I spend my time.

Points are awarded based on how much time I put in, in a specific area. I get points for posting book reviews. I get points for reading scripts. I get points for attending writing classes or meetups. I even get points for doing chores around the house.

But the bulk of the points available are earned for each hour of writing and exercising. Getting published is a major goal of mine, as is getting in shape, for obvious health reasons.

Sands of Time (1024x576)

An hour of writing will earn me 16 points. Submitting a short story to a magazine, anthology, or querying a literary agent will garner 10 points.  Posting a book review or post to my blog is worth six points, as is reading and rating scripts for the Austin Film Festival. Chores around the house earn four points. I can earn a maximum of 80 points in a day or 400 points per week. I can “cash in” my points for rewards at the end of the week, or bank the points toward a larger prize later on.

Prizes include movie tickets, books, a steak dinner, concerts, clothes, and more.

By tracking points across all areas I can see how I’ve been spending my time and what’s keeping me from my main goals.

One of the best parts of all this is I don’t need a key fob to be scanned or have to log in to a website to monitor my points progress. Instead, my brother is serving as the guardian/keeper of the accountability/rewards. I must show him proof of my deeds. So if I say I wrote for two hours, I will present him with a stack of pages to read. I’ll even post my weekly point totals on this site as further proof of my accomplishments.

I could have come up with this tracker on my own, of course, but like everything else I kept putting it off.

Now that my brother has devised this system, I have no more excuses.

If this doesn’t put a spark under me to get things done, I may have to resort to more drastic measures. I don’t know what those are yet, but I’m sure my brother will think of something.

What do you do to track your time spent on your  writing goals? 

Reading and Writing for the Web 7/22

Every day I scour the web for articles on reading and writing to further my education about my craft and try to share the best of those articles with you here. Today, I thought I’d focus on reading.

One of the most common, reiterated pieces of advice for writers of any sort — be it novelists, memoirists, poets, or screenwriters — is to read. But don’t just read for entertainment — although that works too – you need to read with a critical eye toward learning. Reading is one of the best, if not the best, ways to study your craft in action, to see what works on the page, how it moves you, and how emulating another author’s style of writing can elevate your own writing. Read widely, read voraciously, read with a critical eye.

One way to do just that is to write book reviews. I came across Blogging for Books some time last year and have been reading and reviewing books for their website and this blog ever since. I’m averaging about one book per month. I also started reading books this month for Killer Nashville, an organization dedicated to the mystery/thriller genre. My first review (of Chris Knopf’s Cop Job) is slated to appear on their website on Sept. 1. One of the neat things about both sites: free books! And, as an added bonus, exposure to new authors whom I otherwise would not have picked up. Both sites are looking for additional readers, so check them out.

I’m also a first-round reader for entries in this year’s Austin Film Festival Screenwriting Competition. The gig came about thanks to a referral from the fine folks at the Nashville Film Festival, for whom I’ve read scripts for the past two years. If you are interested in screenwriting, reading screenplays is one of the best ways to learn the ins and outs of the craft.

Speaking of reading, I came across a cool online sweepstakes where you can enter and possibly win a collection of 80 Penguin and Penguin Classic titles. I’ve already got or have read a few of them, but there are a lot more on the list of books you could win that I don’t have. (Not that I will ever have time to read them all, but, hey, if it’s free…).

Finally for today, let’s all bid a fond farewell to an influential author, E.L. Doctorow, who passed away Tuesday. Doctorow was the man who brought us the critically acclaimed, award-winning novels Ragtime (which inspired the hit Broadway musical), Billy Bathgate (which became a hit movie starring Dustin Hoffman), and The March, to name just a few.

Remember, if you come across any interesting articles on reading or writing, you can post them in the comments section.

 

Reading and Writing Around the Web for 7/21

Has this ever happened to you? Today I had as many as 16 tabs open on my computer at the same time in my web browser, and, naturally, the browser crashed. Fortunately, when you reopen the browser there’s a neat little tool called Recent Tabs that, once you click on it, will go back and fetch the tabs that were last opened. Of course, I foolishly brought this crash on myself by having too many tabs open in the first place. Hey, I’m doing it all for you, the faithful reader. So, herewith are some cool sites and articles about reading and writing I explored today:

Author Sarah Waters offers up Ten Rules for Writing Fiction, courtesy of the Aerogramme Writers’ Studio.

According to Dave King, who is co-author of Self-Editing for Fiction Writers and a former contributing editor at Writer’s Digest, “the most effective stories are completely transparent, with readers blithely unaware of the author’s behind-the-scenes manipulations.” Learn more about the art of transparency in your writing here.

Whenever I bring pages to my Nashville Writers Meetup groups, one thing that everyone agrees stands out is my dialogue. That’s enough to encourage me to think about entering this year’s dialogue-only writing contest  by Bartleby Snopes Literary Magazine. Entrants are asked to create an original story of up to 2000 words composed entirely of dialogue. The magazine’s editors are also good enough to include some helpful tips on writing dialogue. There are even links to past winners in the contest, all of which I intend to read and digest fully. You should too.

Since we’re talking about dialogue, here are a couple more articles from Bang to Write answering the question, “Is good screenwriting about great dialogue?” Join the debate: Click here for Yes or here for No.

Nashville Writers Meetup member Sherry Wilds interviews guest author Ricko Donovan on the art of dialogue on this week’s edition of The Method and the Muse, a weekly online radio show all about the craft of writing.

Now that I’ve got you hooked on this new blog feature, take a moment to read up on why the hook is so important to writing a successful screenplay in this article from scriptmag.com.

Have you come across any great articles on writing or reading? Please share them in the comments section below and I may include them in the next edition of this blog, along with a link to your site!

Reading and Writing Around the Web for 7/20

I tried to keep the distractions to a minimum today and limit my time online so that I could do a little bit of writing. Couple of things did catch my eye and they are listed below for those interested in a bit of writerly advice or an interesting read:

First up is a thoughtful article about the psychology of flow in storytelling. There’s a fine line between keeping a reader’s attention and losing it altogether, and this article explores how writers can strive to keep that reader turning the pages.

One of Geoff Dyer’s top 10 tips for writers is to keep a private diary or journal. I started a daily journal back in December and kept forgetting about it. I’d add a few thoughts every couple weeks or so and try to recall all that had transpired in between. I haven’t touched it since April. On the other hand, I have at least been posting from time to time in this blog, so there’s that.

If you’re struggling with what to write next, actor Brett Wean recently shared how improvisation can provide your story the spark it needs.  The article addresses screenplays, but obviously can be put to work for your novel in progress as well.

In case you missed it, July 17 marked the 60th anniversary of Disneyland, “the eighth wonder of the world!” The Hollywood Reporter celebrated the occasion by reprinting an article published the day after the Southern California park opened on July 18, 1955. Admission, by the way, just $1 for adults and 50 cents for children.

Sticking with the theme of anniversaries, today marks the anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s moon landing.

And finally, author and NASA engineer Homer Hickam (of October Sky fame), shares his writing advice on his website at Homer Hickam online.

If you see something worth sharing, please do in the comments section!

Reading and Writing Around the Web for 7/19

Welcome to another edition of Reading and Writing Around the Web.

Every day I scour my Facebook feed for interesting articles and tips related to reading and writing. Some of these articles are too good to keep to myself, so I’m sharing my finds here. Bookmark the ones you like, read and discard the rest. And if you see something you’d like to share on the craft, by all means add it to the comments section below.

For those of you contemplating self-publishing your work, here’s some interesting things to consider before you do. Both come from author Derek Haines:

The rush to publish (or better yet, why not to rush!)

An essential list every author should read

Jane Friedman’s website included a couple of posts about SELF-e, a business that helps self-published authors distribute their electronic books to libraries. Unfortunately, authors can’t yet reap any monetary rewards from the program.

Another way to help promote buzz around your book is jump on the Pinterest bandwagon. Here’s how.

And now, for something completely different (to coin a phrase), here are a couple of humorous bedtime stories to enjoy (one for you and one for your little ones):

B.J. Novak’s The Book With No Pictures (all-ages)

Gwar’s Oderus Urungus reads Goodnight Moon (WARNING: adults only!)

If you adult readers still can’t sleep after viewing that last one, this one probably won’t help either (sorry):

The true story behind A Nightmare on Elm Street

You may be thinking about screaming right now. Before you do, here’s what scientists now know about screams.

Good night, all!

 

 

Today’s Best Writing & Reading on the Web

Every day I scour my Facebook feed for interesting articles and tips related to writing. I usually find a dozen or so articles that I open in separate tabs or bookmark to be read as I find time. Some of these articles are one-time only reads, meaning I’ll read the article and then close it and move on to something else. Sometimes I will bookmark the articles for future reference, particularly if they contain valuable writing advice or tips to markets.

As a writer and an avid reader, some of these articles are too good to keep to myself. So, starting today, I’m going to pass along links to some of the best reads I’ve come across.

The first item is from a panel discussion at this past weekend’s annual ThrillerFest in New York, about how the medical thriller has been more or less replaced by the medical drama:

Is the medical thriller in need of life support?

The next item explores the lifelong story of the original author of the Nancy Drew detective series:

The original ghost writer behind Nancy Drew set standard for YA fiction

I’ve been waiting for this one: the new online issue of Killer Nashville magazine. Always some interesting reading about writing, authors, books and more:

Killer Nashville Magazine – June/July

These next two are useful articles on the craft of writing:

How to create tension in your writing – from NowNovel.com

How to pace a crime novel – from NowNovel.com

For all the screenwriters out there, be sure to listen to the newest episode from John August. In this episode he uses examples from existing scripts to show how to write effective descriptions:

Everything but the dialogue

And lastly, here’s a helpful article for your writer’s toolbox on describing your character’s hair:

53 Adjectives to Describe Your Character’s Hair  – from The Writer’s Circle

Feel free to add your best writing and reading-related finds in the comments below.

Last Discworld book by late author Terry Pratchett on sale Sept. 1

Quote

“Stories of imagination tend to upset those without one.”

Terry Pratchett, 1948-2015

UPDATE: Aug. 26, 2005: New Discworld book hits stores Sept. 1

Fans of the late Terry Pratchett will be happy to know his latest (and sadly last) Discworld book, The Shepherd’s Crown, will hit bookshelves Sept. 1. His assistant, Rob Wilkins, says Pratchett had notes for four other novels in the series. However, the family has no intentions of seeing those novels finished. His daughter, Rhianna, said: “I’ll work on adaptations, spin-offs, maybe tie-ins, but the books are sacred to dad. That’s it. Discworld is his legacy. I shall make my own.”

Go here to read an excerpt from the new book.

Guardian Review: Pratchett moves away from pure fantasy into moral and social exploration

Terry Pratchett remembered

Terry Pratchett in quotes

Terry Pratchett and, well, everything

Tools of the Trade: Spiral-bound notebooks still a favorite

By G. Robert Frazier

Quick show of hands: Which tool do you writers like more, the spiral-bound notebook (along with a good old-fashioned pen) or a computer and keypad?

For quick notes, character sketches, and random scenes that come to me in the middle of the night, I have to go with the former.

Notebooks

For one thing, you don’t have to get out of bed. You don’t have to take time to turn anything on. You just grab the notebook (which I conveniently keep on the nightstand beside my bed), flip to an open page, and start writing. You don’t have to worry about saving your work midway through by giving it a file name, finding a folder on your computer to save it in, and hitting the save button. You aren’t distracted by the lure of email messages, tweets and Facebook posts. And, perhaps most importantly, you aren’t compelled to go back and retype a sentence or correct any typos you’ve made along the way.

Your mind is free and clear to just write away.

I have reams of notebooks filled with goodies for my work in progress, as well as other story ideas, scenes and outlines. I use sticky notes to mark what I’ve written, so that I can find what I want again. I use a larger sticky note on the front of each notebook to create a sort of index. I keep the notebooks together in a small plastic tote and pull them out as needed. (Note: I stock up on notebooks dirt cheap every summer during the back to school sales.)

I am impressed by the volume of words and ideas I’ve managed to get on paper in this way. Any time I get discouraged by the word count on my work in progress on the computer, I can look to the tub of spiral notebooks for some reassurance. I am writing. I am making progress.

Of a sort.

When I get stuck in my writing, I can also flip open the notebooks to find inspiration or ideas that might provide a spark to get writing again. There are treasures there that I want to get back to; ideas I’d love to develop into full-fledged stories, once I get done with the novel at hand.

I also look at my hasty scribbles as a way to cleanse my thoughts. When I have time to transcribe the words from the notebook into the computer file, I find I can fine-tune or elaborate on the writing along the way. I can easily skip over anything I think is a bad idea or repetitive, or embellish a quick spark of a thought into something more.

There are, of course, downsides to the spiral notebook method of writing. First among them, finding the time to transcribe my words from the notebook to the computer. As you can see by the photo accompanying this article, I’m a bit behind in that regard. Secondly, there is the problem of reading my own writing. I’m not the neatest when it comes to writing with pen and paper, especially when I get in a hurry. I tend to write in a sort of hybrid printing/cursive pattern. I can make it out, for the most part, but sometimes even I have trouble trying to decipher my own chicken scratch.

My spiral-bound notebooks also take up space. A computer file doesn’t.

Still, the notebook method works for me. I like it.

Which method do you prefer in your writing? Use the comment box below to share your thoughts.

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Other reading:10 Famous Writers Who Don’t Use Modern Tech to Create